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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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Yetta Kurland Answers to DFNYC 2013 Candidate Questionnaire

Yetta Kurland is running for NYC Council in District 3, on the west side of Manhattan. YettaKurland.com. To see the list of candidates and other facts about this district, click here.

Yetta Kurland's Answers to the DFNYC 2013 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?

Yes. Clean Money, Clean Elections is by far the best system. The system should be crafted so as to work around recent (wrongly decided, in my legal opinion) court decisions limiting the use of “triggers” to discourage candidates from opting out. A CMCE system would not only eliminate dependence on big money contributors, it would save the City millions in compliance costs. Properly implemented, CMCE could also provide another avenue for ballot access, further democratizing our city elections.

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?

Yes. Yes. And Yes. Rent regulation is by far the largest and most important source of affordable housing inNew York City. As an attorney, I have worked with many tenants to fight against unscrupulous landlords and keep our neighbors in their rent stabilized and rent controlled homes. I believe tenants inHousing Courtfacing eviction have a right to counsel, and will work to make that a reality. Having worked inHousing Court, I know this measure could save many thousands of families from eviction per year. Vacancy decontrol encourages the worst in predatory landlord tactics. It should be ended. The Urstadt Law is undemocratic, and I will continue to fight for its repeal.

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

Against Paid Sick Leave: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/why_we_reject_sick_leave_bill_03pE50CZMFiHFhXzasDMLL

I have long been an advocate of paid sick leave. I am the only candidate in the 3rd District to have signed a Working Families Party letter calling on the Speaker to release the bill. As a small business owner, I know the value of healthy employees, and have always given my employees paid sick leave commensurate to their needs. The recent deal on this legislation is a step forward, but a disappointing one. I will work with the Progressive Caucus and others to see the policy expanded.

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?

As a civil rights attorney and activist, I have stood against NYPD abuses in the streets, in courtrooms and in City Hall. I am the lead attorney on major federal civil rights litigation regarding police misconduct in response to the OWS movement. My clients in the case include City Councilmembers Letitia James, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Ydanis Rodriguez and Jumaane Williams as well as several journalists, and we are seeking redress including federal oversight of the NYPD. I have also been a consistent critic of the practice of Stop-And-Frisk, and will use the powers of the City Council to ensure that the NYPD are part of our neighborhoods, not an occupying force. The streets ofNew York Cityare our streets. And whether we use them for political protest of merely walking home as an African-American or Latino male, we have the inalienable right to do so unmolested by law enforcement without legitimate probable cause.

5. Mayoral Control of Education. Mayoral Control of NYC schools is set to expiren 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.)

Mayoral Control was put into place to fix an old system of governance that was clearly not working. Now, it is the Mayor that is held accountable for the vast majority of the actions taken by our city’s government. However, I believe that in the past several years the voice of the community has not been adequately heard. We can reform this system so that if we retain Mayoral Control, we also give power to the people and a checks and balances in government so that there is accountability and community input.

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?

We need more authentic evaluation that is better at reliably and validly determining both student and teacher performance.

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 AgainstClick here for funding and space arguments.  In Favor: Click here for Funding   Click here for Space (pdf)

I do not believe co-location of DOE Public schools and Charter Schools has worked.

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?

In answer to Questions 8 and 9 -- Yes and the taxation inNew York Cityis currently unfair and regressive. NYC’s tax structure is currently built on a flat-tax model. This model has been shown to be inefficient in terms of revenue generation and economic stimulation – and places far too much burden on the city’s working and middle classes. A far bigger source of lost revenue are the unconscionable tax breaks given to large real estate developers. While some of this is controlled by the State Legislature, the City Council can work creatively to change this (as the revenue comes out of city coffers). Zoning regulations, for example, can require the inclusion of affordable housing, new school space and other resources in new development. This would obviate the need for costly 421-A and other tax breaks. I support a financial transaction tax at the Federal level.

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?

In answer to Questions 8 and 9 -- Yes and the taxation inNew York Cityis currently unfair and regressive. NYC’s tax structure is currently built on a flat-tax model. This model has been shown to be inefficient in terms of revenue generation and economic stimulation – and places far too much burden on the city’s working and middle classes. A far bigger source of lost revenue are the unconscionable tax breaks given to large real estate developers. While some of this is controlled by the State Legislature, the City Council can work creatively to change this (as the revenue comes out of city coffers). Zoning regulations, for example, can require the inclusion of affordable housing, new school space and other resources in new development. This would obviate the need for costly 421-A and other tax breaks. I support a financial transaction tax at the Federal level.

10. Poverty & the Social Safety Net. According to a 2012 report by the Fedration 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

New York Cityshould be a leader in caring for all of our neighbors. The system of sanctions and fees imposed by the current administration are bad social policy, mean-spirited, and penny-wise and pound-foolish. The additional costs imposed by families “slipping through the cracks” more than outweigh the savings from nickel-and-diming the hardest hit New Yorkers. These “sanctions” should be ended – as should the stigma on poverty that they represent.

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

Adding new affordable housing, and preserving our existing stock, are vital to the long term survival of the city we love. While that alone will not solve the crisis of homelessness, long term it will take tremendous pressure off the system. In the short term, the shelter system must be expanded. Families should be kept together, and no city funds should support agencies that do not welcome LGBT and other clients. Finally, access to healthcare facilities and substance abuse treatment on demand can provide the help many of our neighbors need to get off the streets and we must increase funding for LGBTQ youth homelessness and other at risk groups.

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?

After Super Storm Sandy, the effects of climate change are learer than ever. We will continue to see more severe storms. I have been committed to protecting the environment. InNew York, a key place to start is opposing the misguided efforts to open our state to hydro-fracking. On theLower West Side, I have vigorously opposed the Spectra gas pipeline in courtrooms and in the street. In the City Council, I will continue that fight. Immediately after the storm, I worked with a number of community groups, including TWU 100 and Transit Forward, to organize relief operations for thousands in our district and in hard hit places likeStaten Islandand the Rockaways. As the only 3rd council district candidate directly organizing relief city-wide, we were able to collect and distribute tens of thousands of cans, water and other needed supplies and distribute them both to our community and others. During the storm, the dangers of putting too much of our city’s resources on our waterfront was laid bare. I will work to see that our city – from NYCHA to our hospitals to sanitation to the MTA – are prepared for inevitable effects of climate change on New Yorkers. As we reallocate resources in response to the storm, we must be sure that heretofore public facilities are not relegated to private use as part of a redevelopment plan. Likewise, as we view safety plans, we must look at the whole city – and not just protect the wealthier, so-called core neighborhoods and facilities. To protect some neighborhoods at the expense of others would be to fail.

13. Gun Control. While DFNYC members have long supported gun cotrol, 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 am, and have long been, a firm advocate for tighter gun control legislation. I organized the rally in response to Rep. Gabby Giffords and others being shot in January of 2011 and have continued to be a voice advocating for gun control. I have worked to promote stricter and universal background checks, bans on military style weaponry and high capacity magazines and more can do a lot to reduce gun violence. I help organize the massive gun reform rally inHarlemthis year and advocated for the passage NY Safe Act. NYC has some of the best gun control laws in the country, but unfortunately, until real action is taken at the Federal level, real progress will be slow because we will always be as vulnerable as our neighbors are.

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 support full and equal marriage for all. I support a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices from contraception to abortion regardless of ability to pay or luck of geography. I was on the board of Marriage Equality and part of the coalition that won marriage inNew YorkStateand I sit on the board of MEUSA as we fight to repeal DOMA federally. I am also a longtime feminist advocating for women’s rights and proudly endorsed by EMILY’s List, Women’s Campaign Fund, and the Women’s Democratic Club of NYC.

~Yetta Kurland, candidate for NYC Council in District 3, on the west side of Manhattan. YettaKurland.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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