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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Marc Landis Answers to DFNYC 2013 Candidate Questionnaire

 

Mark Landis is running for NYC Council in District 6, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. VoteLandis.com.

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 am a strong supporter of the Clean Money Clean Elections approach to campaign finance reform, and I believe this type of reform is critical if we are to have any chance of restoring our democracy to the people. Elections need to be owned by voters, not donors! As a long-time Citizen Action activist (and former chair of its NYC chapter), I spearheaded educational, organizing and coalition-building efforts promoting CMCE in both NYC and NYS, and I will continue this work as a member of the City Council. We also need to address the impact of money inside the City Council. For too long, “lulus” (salary bonuses for Council Members) and the distribution of member items has been an actual or apparent mechanism for the leadership to exert power over members. I want to reform the Council rules to eliminate lulus and provide for allocation of member items based on community need, not politics. I do not believe corporations are people, and I disagree with the Citizens United decision; however, I believe that the greater underlying issue is the Buckley v. Valeo decision which equates money with speech.

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 thatNew York City– and notAlbany– can enact its own housing laws?

I support rent stabilization and rent control laws, as well as the repeal of vacancy deregulation. NYC does not have enough affordable housing, and the affordable housing that we have is becoming unaffordable at a record rate. The repeal of the Urstadt Law is essential to NYC self-governance; ultimately, I believe it will take Democratic control of the State Senate and meaningful campaign finance reform to ensure that upstate legislators release their stranglehold on NYC policies. I also advocate creation of a new “Mitchell-Lama” initiative focused on permanent affordable housing, as well as the development of affordable co-ops and condos to create more “affordable ownership” opportunities, and the use of mandatory inclusionary zoning to ensure that more affordable units are built. In addition to providing sufficient resources to enforce existing laws that govern landlords, I will seek to provide public funds to ensure that tenants in Housing Courtwho cannot afford an attorney will be provided with one.

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  Against 

I strongly support Intro 97-A, and I have worked closely with the WFP, A Better Balance and many of the other coalition members supporting it. The compromise version of the bill that was formally announced on March 29 and it anticipated to pass in April is not perfect, but it is an important step in the right direction. I will continue to work actively to expand coverage to employees of smaller companies. Some of my efforts have included bringing Democratic clubs into the coalition, circulating information and collecting hundreds of signatures at Upper West Side town hall meetings, recruiting small businesses to join the coalition, and blogging. See: http://www.votelandis.com/putting-people-first-its-time-for-paid-sick-time/ and http://www.votelandis.com/doctors-and-nurses-know-best-the-struggle-for-paid-sick-time-continues/.

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 am opposed to the current policy, and believe stop-question-and-frisk requires significant reforms, including an end to racial and other bias-based profiling. I am particularly conscious of the fact that my children and I are unlikely to be stopped because we are white, while New Yorkers of color – especially young men – are stopped for no reason at all. I have spoken out on this subject in public, and my 11-year-old daughter and I participated in the “Silent March to End Stop and Frisk” on June 17; I also recruited co-sponsors for the march including Citizen Action of New York, and participated in Borough President Scott Stringer’s Manhattan-wide initiative to call attention to the issue. Bloomberg’s tactics in dealing with Occupy Wall Street were reminiscent of Bull Connor’s approach to civil rights marches in the 1970s. As a Council Member, I will use our oversight role to ensure that peaceful political demonstrations will receive the protections to which they are entitled under the First Amendment.

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.)

I support the continuation of mayoral control of the public schools, but we need to ensure that there is meaningful accountability at all levels, collaboration with other branches of government (including the City Council), full access to participation in decision-making for parents, teachers and principals, and transparency in both budgeting and decision-making. The “hearing process” that exists right now is exactly that, a “process” which meets statutory requirements, while community voices are ignored once the public hearings have been concluded. Charter co-locations and the closing of so-called “failing” schools are merely the most obvious examples of this; others include policies surrounding the operation of special education, gifted and talented, Citywide and general education programs. Parents are understandably frustrated by the lack of respect and attention from the DOE. Mayoral control should not preclude the checks and balances that are important in every aspect of governance. We need to ensure that the voices of parents, teachers and principals are heard in decision-making, and to ensure that the Mayor’s views must earn support from other constituencies.

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?

One of the major disappointments of the Bloomberg administration has been its unwillingness to enter into good-faith contract negotiations with most municipal unions, including the UFT. Test scores are an inherently flawed tool for teacher evaluations; peer observations, principal evaluations and the like are much more relevant in evaluating a teacher’s performance and making constructive recommendations for improvement. The results of teacher evaluations in other states indicate that the vast majority of teachers are effective. The most important factors in enabling teachers to provide a quality education to every student are (1) reducing class sizes and teacher-student ratios so each student can get personal attention, and (2) ensuring that our teachers get the necessary resources (including our fair share of State funding pursuant to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case), without allowing the funds to be eaten up by central administrative costs.

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 support a moratorium on school closings and co-locations of charter schools in district public schools. Our commitment to excellence in education should be focused on providing desperately needed resources to teachers and students, not in allowing public school resources to be drained by privately-operated charters which are not held to the same standards of accountability. I am proud to have been a progressive Upper West Side leader on this issue; I organized students and parents at the Brandeis Educational Complex on West 84th Street and filed suit to block the NYC Department of Education from co-locating a charter elementary school inside a high school complex. As part of this litigation, we were also successful in preventing the DOE from conducting unnecessary and potentially hazardous asbestos removal during the school year.

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 support the reinstitution of the commuter tax to ensure that non-resident NYC workers pay their fair share of our municipal costs. I also support strengthened enforcement measures against those who cheat us by using second homes, parents’ homes and other tactics to avoid paying NYC income tax. I also support modifying the NYC income tax so that it is more progressive, and that high earners pay a greater share.

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?

As a supporter of progressive taxation, I am pleased by Governor Cuomo’s recent decision to extend the “surcharge” on high incomes, and believe that this change should be permanent. The NYC property tax is in need of significant reform. The property tax classes should be modified to ensure that a owner-occupied co-op or condo pays the same as the owner of a comparably-valued 1/2/3 family home; non-owner-occupied residences should be taxed at a higher rate, along with multifamily and other forms of investment property. I do not believe that a Federal financial transaction tax would be effective, as it would be too easy for electronic trading to be shifted overseas; ultimately, such a tax might drive more domestic corporations offshore. However, we should close other corporate tax loopholes to ensure that businesses bear their fair share of the burden.

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

When homelessness has increased dramatically and food banks have greater demand for assistance than ever before, it is abundantly clear that HRA has met Bloomberg’s goals of reducing spending. The issue of preventing fraud is a red herring – the incidence of fraud in these programs is low, and the human and financial costs of the current application process far outweigh any potential savings from fraud prevention. Studies show that many of the HRA-imposed sanctions are incorrectly imposed, but the consequences are immediate, and irreversible. Even when a recipient is temporarily non-compliant, the sanctions process only serves to further destabilize the recipient at a time when he or she is most vulnerable, and ultimately punishes children and others who are dependent on the recipient’s receipt of benefits. Validly imposed sanctions should be lifted immediately upon compliance, rather than being continued as a penalty. I support the abolition of ‘sanctions” that are used as a management tactic to close cases rather than return people to work. Intensive case management services should be used to protect at-risk families, not to slam doors on them. I would also seek to reform HRA policies and procedures to eliminate obstacles to receiving benefits, create meaningful job training opportunities, and expand child care options so parents can take advantage of job training.

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

The increase in the numbers of homeless individuals and families in NYC is driven primarily by economics – breadwinners who lose their jobs, and families who cannot make ends meet, especially given the lack of available affordable housing. The extraordinary expense of providing “emergency” homeless housing adds insult to injury. The only solution to addressing economically-driven homelessness is improving economic conditions for these individuals and families – providing transitional housing while moving people toward permanent affordable housing, providing job training, health care and other support services so that those suffering from homelessness get a helping hand to get back on their feet. For individuals who face the challenge of homeless as a result of mental or physical health issues, enhanced social services outreach, including case workers and health professionals, are needed to bring the necessary resources to those in need.

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?

I support the idea of a “21st Century WPA for NYC” which can utilize the extremely low interest rate climate to reinvest in the City’s public infrastructure and reduce unemployment, based on the Progressive Caucus rebuilding proposal which includes working with community stakeholders to develop and implement a comprehensive plan for investments in clean energy; public transit and transportation; drinking, waste, and storm water; below-grade infrastructure; storm surge adaptations; and green retrofits for public schools, housing, and buildings. I oppose hydraulic fracturing, and I have co-sponsored educational programs and action campaigns and testified against “fracking” and the Spectra pipeline. I have also participated for many years in coalition efforts to promote the use of solar, wind, water, geothermal and other clean energy sources; reducing our dependency on fossil fuels is both an environmental priority and an issue of national security.

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.

For many years, I have supported the restoration of the assault weapons ban, high capacity magazines ban, improved background checks, and gun buy-back programs implemented in consultation with community and faith leaders. I also support technological solutions such as microstamping and fingerprint-based trigger locks that would prevent unauthorized individuals from firing guns. Following the Newtown shooting, I organized a memorial vigil in which hundreds of Upper West Siders participated, as well as a community forum to discuss our next steps in advocating for Federal and state legislation. I also worked with coalition allies in co-sponsoring the Massive Mobilization Against Gun Violence that was held in Harlem on March 21. The tragedy in Newtown really drove home the necessity of controlling gun violence, and I hope and pray that this window of opportunity to make meaningful change is not wasted.

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)

Yes, I support full marriage equality for the LGBT community. Yes, I am proud to be 100% pro-choice. I support full access to contraception.  

~ Marc Landis, Candidate for NYC Council, District 6, VoteLandis.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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