About Democracy for NYC

Democracy for NYC (DFNYC) is committed to the ideals espoused by Democracy for America, the organization founded by Howard Dean, and the national network of local coalition groups dedicated to the same.

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Julie Menin Answers to DFNYC Candidate Questionnaire

Julie Menin is running for Manhattan Borough President in 2013. JulieMenin2013.com

Julie Menin's Answers to the DFNYC Candidate Questionnaire:

1. Money in NYC Politics. Large donors, specifically real estate developers and landlords, have a huge amount of influence in NYC politics due to their campaign contributions. While NYC’s matching funds programs is seen as one of the most innovative public funding campaigns in the country, many DFNYC members feel that big money donors still have too much influence and candidates still spend too much time fundraising. Would you support a change to full public financing of campaigns, similar to the Clean Money Clean Elections programs in Arizona, Connecticut and Maine?

I have chosen to participate in New York City's matching funds program because I believe in a level playing field for the candidates free from outsized influences. Time spent fundraising is better spent engaging with our constituencies and focusing on the issues. I wholeheartedly support Clean Money Clean Elections programs, and would support New York's adoption of full public financing of campaigns to the extent permissible by law.

2. Tenant Protection & Cost of Housing. Do you support rent stabilization and rent control laws? What will you do to crack down on landlords that break the law? Would you call on the state legislature to repeal vacancy decontrol and more generally, the Urstadt Law, so that New York City – and not Albany – can enact its own housing laws?

I support rent stabilization and rent control laws, and have been an outspoken advocate for the repeal of vacancy deregulation. Landlords should be obligated to prove their compliance with the law, health, safety and maintenance standards and a history of no harassment before being granted a rent increase. Home rule of our rent-regulated housing must be returned from Albany but must also be accompanied by overhaul of the RGB to increase the voice of tenants and our elected legislators. I have already released a policy paper detailing how we could build more affordable housing through instituting a master plan. The plan, found here: http://juliemenin.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Land-Use-Final-3.22.13.pdf, would ensure that school seats, affordable housing, open space, healthcare facilities and other needs are mandated with any new development project.

3. Paid Sick Leave. There is currently a bill in the city council that would require companies in NYC with 5 or more employees to give 5 paid sick days per year to each employee (if they do not already). While many councilmembers support this, it has not been brought to a vote. Supporters feel this is much needed public health legislation that would only minimally raise labor costs, while opponents say that it would be an unfair financial burden to small business. Do you support the bill and will you actively work to get it passed?

Sources:

~For: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/labor/news/2012/11/16/45152/myth-vs-fact-paid-sick-days/

~Against: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/why_we_reject_sick_leave_bill_03pE50CZMFiHFhXzasDMLL

I support the bill for paid sick leave, and I am delighted that the City Council was finally able to pass a version of this legislation. I agree that the bill would only minimally raise labor costs (8 cents an hour according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics), and it is also good for business by reducing turnover, increasing productivity, and minimizing emergency room visits. On a side note, I must state my disappointment with the compromise measures, such as delaying the effect of the law, tying implementation to the financial index, and reducing the amount of coverage by only applying the measure to larger businesses (15-20 employees or more). I hope that in the years ahead as the bill is implemented and is proven to not comprise the success of small business, we can collaborate to lower the employee threshold.

4. Fair Police Practices & Occupy Wall Street. The New York City Police Department has been highly criticized for its Stop & Frisk policy, which disproportionally affects racial minorities and poor and working class New Yorkers. The NYPD has also been criticized for its treatment of activists in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Do you support ending or modifying Stop & Frisk? If running for mayor, will you keep Ray Kelly or appoint a new police commissioner? Do you think Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD should have handled events in the OWS movement differently and what measures will you take to protect political demonstrations?

I have been a vocal critic of the Mayor's Stop & Frisk policy, and as Chair of Community Board 1 in Lower Manhattan, I worked to protect Occupy Wall Street's political demonstration. Stop & Frisk was responsible for stopping about 684,000 people in 2011, the vast majority being African-American or Latino. I believe that this calls for major reform, so that we ensure stops are being made only on the basis of suspected criminal activity, and not on the basis of race. As for Occupy Wall Street, I am proud of the work that I did to hammer out a "Good Neighbor Agreement" between the protesters and the community. I believe that this was the right approach, as we were protecting Occupy's right to protest while improving the quality of life for neighboring residents and business.

5. Mayoral Control of Education. Mayoral Control of NYC schools is set to expire in 2016, but the state legislature can renew it. If elected to city government, you will not directly vote on mayoral control, but you will have a ‘bully pulpit’ as renewal is discussed in the next 3 years. Do you support keeping Mayoral Control as is, letting it expire, or making changes, for example to the hearing process for controversial decisions? (Examples: Co-locations of multiple schools in one building, providing district school space to charter schools, phasing out schools that have been labeled as “failing” due to high dropout rates, low test scores, or other factors.)

If elected Manhattan Borough President, I would use my appointee to the Panel for Educational Policy to push for a strengthened role for parents in the oversight of public schools. I believe that Community Education Councils should be granted additional power concerning the review of space utilization decisions and dispositions which should also be made subject to ULURP. As a long-time critic against co-locations for charter schools, I feel we must do more to increase democratic participation and transparency when it comes to our schools.

6. Teacher Evaluation. A key area where the mayor has influence in public education is in the negotiation of a contract with NYC’s public school teachers. Please give your opinion on the following proposed ways to evaluate teachers for the purpose of tenure, salary and other job benefits: Improvement in student test scores, observations by other teachers, student surveys, whether the teacher has an advanced degree, a principal’s evaluation of a teacher. Should principals be allowed to do unannounced observations of teachers? Do you have any experience negotiating labor union contracts?

Any rubric for teacher evaluation should incorporate content knowledge, instructional delivery, classroom management, knowledge of student development, effective collaborative relationships as well as multiple measures of student learning such as growth on test scores, classroom work, presentations and projects. Principals should be allowed to do unannounced visits of teachers, but these visits should be informal and restricted to professional development purposes. As a former small business owner, I have experience negotiating a fair amount of employment contracts, and understand how to reach a consensus and bring opposing parties to the table.

7. Co-location of charter schools. City officials do not decide how many charter schools can exist, or grant requests to be a charter school. However, the Department of Education - currently controlled by the Mayor - may decide to provide charter schools with space, usually by "co-location" with district public schools. While more than half of NYC schools (not just charters) are co-located, it is a controversial topic when a charter school is involved. Critics argue that cash-strapped district schools should not be forced to share resources with charter schools and that co-location creates a morale problem when students and parents see the contrast. Co-location advocates argue that charter schools are public schools and should have an equal right to publicly owned resources such as buildings, charter schools do not receive funding for space and therefore operate at a severe financial disadvantage if they have to find private space, and that differences between co-located schools result from decisions the principals make about how to spend their per-pupil funding. Do you support the DOE giving public school space to charter schools? Sources: ~ Against - funding and space arguments: http://www.classsizematters.org/our-lawsuit-vs-the-doe-regarding-charter-co-locations/ ~In Favor: Funding: http://www.nyccharterschools.org/resources/school-funding-comparisons-nyc-independent-budget-office-ibo-2010-11 Space (pdf): http://dl.dropbox.com/u/87134745/media/nyccsc_colocation.pdf

I am against cramming charter schools and traditional public schools in the same building. In addition to creating a morale problem, co-locations often result in stripping public schools of much needed resources, such as art rooms, music rooms, access to gymnasiums, access to the cafeterias, etc. These inequities create visible tension among students, as it forces them into shorter playground periods, shorter library hours, and earlier lunch schedules to accommodate students enrolled at the co-located charter school. Furthermore, these charter schools enroll fewer English language learners and students with disabilities while receiving more in per pupil public funding than our district public schools. Lastly, co-locations contribute to increasing class sizes, significantly reducing the quality of education for public school students.

8. The City Wage Tax. New York City’s budget depends in large part on the city wage tax, which is only paid by residents, not everyone who works in NYC. Would you call on the state legislature to allow NYC to collect the tax from people from the suburbs who work in NYC and benefit from our services (police, fire, etc.)? Would you support efforts to collect the tax from people who actually live in New York City but use a second home (a loophole not available to middle class New Yorkers with just one home) to avoid the city wage tax? If these efforts work, would you be willing to reduce the city wage tax so that workers would have more take home pay, and there would be less incentive for people to move to the suburbs, reducing our tax base?

I believe we should cut the city wage tax for middle class New Yorkers, so that they do not leave the city and reduce our tax base, and raise taxes on those making more than $1 million. We currently tax our teachers making $50,000 a year at the same rate that we tax our CEO's making $500,000 a year. I believe we should enact reforms to make our tax system more progressive, so that our middle-class is not priced out. We should also be going after those who live in the City and are using their second home to avoid the city wage tax. Elected officials should be doing everything in their power to keep New York affordable for the middle class.

9. Other Taxes. Do you support progressive taxation? Do you support Governor Cuomo’s approach to the marginal tax rate on high incomes? What is your opinion on the current property tax in NYC? Would you support a federal financial transaction tax to either raise revenue, reduce the practice of high frequency trading, or both?

I am a big proponent of progressive taxation, which we have had in the United States since President Abraham Lincoln. I supported Governor Cuomo's approach to the marginal tax rate on high incomes, which also delivered a tax cut for middle-income earners. As for property taxes in New York City, I believe that we could do more to reduce the burden on renters, which according to the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University, pay much more in property taxes than homeowners. I am also in favor of placing a federal financial transaction tax on Wall Street to reduce the deficit and promote productive long-term investment by discouraging the high frequency trading that is currently driving today's financial markets.

10. Poverty & the Social Safety Net. According to a 2012 report by the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, many struggling New Yorkers are eligible for welfare, but have not been able to obtain it due to onerous application requirements, and the excessive and arbitrary use of “sanctions” by the City’s Human Resources Administration (HRA). These obstacles have caused very little increase in welfare cases during the recent recession, as contrasted with large increases in Food Stamps and Medicaid. Would you change HRA to make it easier for eligible families to obtain cash assistance, connect them to jobs or meaningful job training, and reform the improper use of sanctions? How would you manage New York City's social safety net programs to ensure that people get the help they need, while at the same time preventing fraud? Report: http:/www.fpwa.org/cgi-bin/iowa/policy/article/218.html

If elected Borough President, I would use the power of the bully-pulpit and work with the mayor and city council to reform the improper use of sanctions and ensure that needy families have access to temporary cash assistance, jobs and meaningful job training. The administration should manage New York City's social safety net to provide access to reasonable financial support for those who are currently unable to provide adequately for themselves, while also addressing the barriers to financial independence faced by those who remain in need of support. The Human Resources Administration and private entities under contract to the agency should be providing timely, respectful, and proper administration of benefit delivery.

11. Homelessness. When Mayor Bloomberg first ran, he promised to introduce policies to drastically reduce the numbers of people who are homeless in our city. But during the twelve years of his administration, the numbers of homeless have increased dramatically each year. This is in addition to the approximately 50,000 people sleeping in shelters on an average night, according to a recent report by the Coalition for the Homeless. What would you do to deal with this sad situation?

Sources: http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/pages/state-of-the-homeless-2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/20/nyregion/20homeless.html

If elected Borough President, I would lobby Albany to reinstate rent subsidies to help families move out of the shelters and into permanent homes. The loss of the Advantage program not only strained our shelter system but places an additional financial burden upon the city. We need to be building more public and affordable housing and give those in shelter programs priority for these programs and Section 8 vouchers. A focus on the economy and job creation must go hand in hand with these strategies. At the same time as the swell in homelessness, New York's unemployment rate increased substantially. I want to work with young people, especially those in disadvantaged communities, to connect them with jobs and internship opportunities and put them on a track toward success.

12. Hurricane Sandy & Environmental Protection. The devastating impact that Hurricane Sandy had on New York City poses short term and long term challenges: immediate support for those who lost their homes and businesses, and climate change, respectively. What measures do you support for helping Sandy recovery efforts, as well as energy conservation and reducing the carbon footprint of New York City? What is your position on hydraulic fracturing and the Spectra pipeline?

In the wake of Sandy, I released a policy paper (http://juliemenin.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Lessons-from-Sandy-Readiness-and-Response-for-New-Yorkers.pdf) outlining the immediate things we should be doing to better our emergency response, including establishing a volunteer corps., expanding the reach of our emergency notification system, and mandating placement of emergency generators above grade, among others. I support energy policies that focus on alternatives, such as wind and solar power. The creation of a 21st century WPA for NYC would enable us to strengthen and green our urban infrastructure while stimulating the local economies devastated by this disaster. I am staunchly opposed to hydraulic fracturing and the Spectra pipeline, which I believe will have very negative effects on our environment, posing significant risks to New York's water supply.

13. Gun Control. While DFNYC members have long supported gun control, the December 14th shooting in Newtown, Connecticut seems to have changed the debate on the national level. Do you support the proposals President Obama made to (a) renew and fix the assault weapons ban, (b) ban high capacity magazines (limit the number of bullets that can be shot before reloading), and (c) improve the background check system? Please indicate any other methods you would support to reduce gun violence, including how you would implement them, for example: gun buy-back programs, training programs for gun owners, improved access to mental health care, and involving the business community in gun safety.

I have long been supportive of gun control measures, and am a big proponent of President Obama's initiatives. It is calamitous that the National Rifle Association has such a tight hold on Congress, and that we still do not have background checks for private transactions like those at gun shows and online, let alone bans on assault weapons and a ban on high-capacity magazines. We need to implement all of these proposals on a federal level to reduce gun violence, in addition to providing buy-back programs, training for gun owners, and improved access to mental healthcare. Municipalities should be partnering with the business community to help these programs come to life, as public safety is in everyone's best interest.

14. Choice & Marriage Equality. Please briefly state your position on the following three issues: marriage equality for gays & lesbians, a woman's right to choose, and access to birth control. (25 words or less)

I have been a long-supporter of marriage equality for gays and lesbians. I am also pro-choice and favor access to birth control.

~ Julie Menin, candidate for Manhattan Borough President, 2013.  JulieMenin2013.com

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A local coalition group of Democracy for America since 2004

Democracy for NYC (DFNYC) is committed to the ideals espoused by Democracy for America, the organization founded by Howard Dean, and the national network of local coalition groups dedicated to the same.

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