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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About Democracy for New York City



John Liu Answers to DFNYC 2013 Candidate Questionnaire


John Liu is running for mayor of New York City. www.JohnLiu2013.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 would support full public financing of campaigns to negate the influence of large donors in an election and I practice what I preach. My campaign has intentionally focused on smaller donations and I have imposed stricter limits on my fundraising than those required by law, including not accepting contributions from any entities doing business with the City. The average donation to my campaign is the lowest of the main democratic candidates and I have received the fewest $4,950 contributions (I have 11, while the other democratic candidates have anywhere from 221 to 440.)

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 do support rent stabilization and rent control laws because they are necessary to stabilize our middle class. I have traveled many times to Albany to lobby for the continuation of these laws. While a council member, I was a sponsor of a resolution calling for the repeal of the Urstadt Law and I will continue to fight for the City’s right to enact its own housing laws.

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 fully support paid sick leave for all NYC workers and have been advocating on its behalf. Forcing workers to choose between going to work sick or getting laid off is inhumane. Sick workers are less productive and forcing them to the workplace only increases the chances that their sickness will spread to their co-workers. Studies have shown that in San Francisco, their paid sick leave laws did not have an adverse effect on the economy or the small businesses. While I prefer the original legislation that would have covered all employers with five or more employees, the pending legislation is a step forward. In addition to paid sick leave I have been advocating for other measures to support workers in NYC, including the following: An increase of minimum wage to $11.50 an hour, phased in over five years, and pegged to the Consumer Price Index. An enrichment of existing Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI). This benefit allows a worker to draw cash benefits should they become unable to work beyond their allotment paid leave. This is a smart benefit, but the maximum cash benefit of $170 a week is not enough, an amount that has not increased since 1989. Employers and employees should both contribute to premiums that will allow a family to survive a temporary sickness to a breadwinner. Additionally, TDI benefits should be extended so that a worker can draw on its benefits to care for a loved one.

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 very vocal about calling for the abolishment of Stop and Frisk. Stop-and-frisk continues to deepen the chasm between communities and police, a relationship that is vital to maintaining a safe and secure city for all New Yorkers. Stop and Frisk offers an illusion of safety and erodes the public trust with police. Also, being stopped and frisked is not a minor inconvenience; it is deeply humiliating and absolutely offensive when based on skin color. More than 86% of people stopped are black or hispanic and 88% were innocent of any crime. There’s simply no place for racial profiling, by the police or anyone. It’s not what New York City is about. The administration should abolish stop-and-frisk, and stop it now. Don't mend it, just end it.

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.)

Earlier this year my office published a report related to school governance - “No More Rubber Stamp – Reforming New York's Panel For Education Policy”. In the report I offer recommendations that would create a more collaborative structure, and one that is more responsive to the community. The mayor and the chancellor would retain a large degree of authority and decision-making power in this system, but there would be important new components in place by which the public will be able to participate, be heard, and have influence. While the outward appearance of the Panel for Education Policy would be the same, the manner in which they are selected would allow for more input from the public at large. The Mayoral appointees would be selected from a PEP Nominating Committee that would be made up of elected officials, community, labor and education leaders. This would result in a PEP that represents the community and is not simply a mayoral rubber stamp.

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?

The current Mayor has placed too much emphasis on student test results to evaluate teachers. A more balanced approach, including observations by peers, student surveys, a teacher’s educational background, and supervisory evaluations would give a better picture of a teacher’s competency. I have not had the opportunity to negotiate a labor union contract, but as Comptroller, I oversee an agency of over 700 employees, many of whom are unionized.

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)

Co-located charter schools should pay rent. Overcrowding has gotten worse under the current administration because of its emphasis on allowing charter schools to take space in public schools. I would immediately stop this practice and begin collecting rent from charter schools that are co-located. I will work to ensure the success of existing public schools by giving them adequate resources, rather than inhibit them by reducing their available space.

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 have always felt that the repeal of the commuter tax was a mistake and I support reenacting it. This tax should apply to anyone who benefits substantially from City services, including those with second homes elsewhere. I would consider reducing the city wage tax if our economic condition improves enough to allow it.

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 have called for a more progressive taxation system and support taxing those with the highest incomes at a higher rate. My office wrote a report on income inequality last year that found that the top 1% of New York City income tax filers receive one third of all City personal income, a share that is twice the national average. It makes no sense that a family with an income of $50,000 pays nearly the same tax rate as a family that makes $1,000,000. Our tax system must be reformed so that the highest earners pay their fair share. My My progressive tax proposal would lower taxes for 99% of New Yorkers and may be found at http://www.comptroller.nyc.gov/bureaus/opm/reports/2012/NYC_PIT_FactSheet_v13.pdf. New York City’s property tax rates are low compared to neighboring counties and to encourage home ownership, I think we should only raise property taxes as a last resort. I would support a federal financial tax to raise revenue and reduce high frequency trading.

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

New Yorkers who need assistance should not face unnecessary obstacles to getting the help that they need, including cash assistance. One of the first bills that I introduced and helped pass into law requires certain social services agencies, including HRA, to provide interpretation and translation services, to remove obstacles for some New Yorkers seeking help. I think we can help prevent fraud by vigorously prosecuting those who commit fraud and recouping illegal payments and benefits.

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 major cause of homelessness is lack of affordable housing. I would work to increase the amount of low income housing and fight to increase the minimum wage, so that the working poor can afford a place to live.

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?

Sandy showed us that the City has to have a better plan to address similar future storms. It is unbelieveable that many of those affected by Sandy still cannot move back to their homes or have another place to live. We have to develop a plan to address the threat of Sandy-like storms in any rebuilding efforts. Since most of our energy usage and greenhouse gases are produced from heating and cooling our buildings, I think the City has to strongly incentivize property owners to replace inefficient, polluting equipment. I oppose fracking and the Spectra pipeline.

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 support efforts to ban assault rifles and high capacity magazines, and to reduce the number of guns on the street. I also support programs to ensure that those with guns are responsible owners. I think the business community would be interested in helping to improve gun safety because guns are generally bad for most businesses, except for gun stores.

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 strong and vocal supporter of these three important issues.

~ John Liu, candidate for mayor of New York City. www.JohnLiu2013.com

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Contact Information

Email: info -at- dfnyc.org


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.