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.

EndorsedLogo PlasticWe work both locally and nationally to ensure that fiscally responsible and socially progressive candidates are elected at all levels of government. We develop innovative ways to advocate for the issues that matter to our members and support legislation which has a positive effect in our communities.  We promote transparency and ethical practices in government.  We engage people in the political process and give them the tools to organize, communicate, mobilize, and enact change on the local, state, and national level.

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Reshma Saujani Answers to DFNYC 2013 Candidate Questionnaire

Reshma Saujani is running for Public Advocate. www.reshmafornewyork.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?

Yes. I believe that keeping special interest money out of politics is the key to ensuring fairness in the Democratic process. As Deputy Public Advocate, I worked with Bill de Blasio to build the Coalition for Accountability in Corporate Spending (CAPS) to put pressure on corporations to disclose their political giving and ensure more transparency in the system. As Public Advocate, I will continue to advocate for a progressive solution to our campaign finance system that ensures New York City leads the country in fair and clean 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. By removing apartments from the rent stabilization system, vacancy decontrol has caused a consistent erosion of New York’s affordable housing stock. We have also seen that landlords will use any measure of means – legal and illegal – to remove apartments from the rent stabilization system so they can further enrich themselves at the expense of New York’s working families. I will be a strong and vocal advocate for generally returning the right of housing self-determination to New York City residents, and for specifically repealing vacancy decontrol. In addition, with increased requirements for pro-bono work by attorneys in New York, I will set up within the office of the Public Advocate a volunteer legal corps dedicated to helping tenants stand up to unscrupulous landlords. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has done an admirable job identifying the city’s worst slumlords; I will use the Public Advocate’s office to hold them accountable.

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

Yes, I strongly support the effort to provide New York City workers paid sick leave. Growing up, I saw my mother, who didn’t have paid sick says, be forced to go to work when she wasn’t well or fear losing her job. I fully support the paid sick leave bill that has been introduced before the Council. If you or your loved one is sick, you shouldn't have to choose between staying home or losing a day's pay. This year's influenza epidemic likely cost thousands of hard working New Yorkers multiple days worth of wages or caused sick workers with no paid leave to go to work sick, which endangers the public health. I’ve editorialized on this issue, I’ve talked to small business owners about this issue, and I created a petition to organize New Yorkers to urge Speaker Quinn to introduce the Paid Sick Time Act. I will continue fighting for enhanced protections for workers and working families, including beginning the discussion in New York City on Paid Parental leave, working to change zoning laws to accommodate day care centers, and increasing child care tax credits throughout my campaign and as Public Advocate.

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?

Stop and Frisk: I support ending Stop and Frisk as it is currently practiced. The NYPD’s current Stop and Frisk practice is misguided, racist and wrong. I believe it is an ongoing civil rights violation that is not only unjust, but also harms police community relations and undermines public safety. When I am Public Advocate, I will not only support comprehensive legislation to end the abuse of this practice, but will use the powers of my office to shine a light and agitate around all civil rights violations in this city. OWS: I believe that the NYPD should have handled its interactions with the OWS movement much more differently than what occurred. Protesters felt needlessly harassed for exercising their constitutional rights, and I believe the NYPD and Mayor Bloomberg should have taken a more active role in trying to partner with protestors to address community and public safety concerns. Police Commissioner: I believe that the next Mayor should appoint a new Police Commissioner that is committed to restoring trust between local communities and the NYPD.

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 conditionally support extending Mayoral Control of the NYC Public Schools, if we enhance the voice of parents and communities in critical issues that affect our schools. Mayoral Control of schools in its current form has alienated parents and teachers and resulted in a public school system overly focused on standardized test results. Teaching to the test deprives our students of the education they need for college or a career, particularly in our growing knowledge-based economy that requires creative problem-solvers. Time and again, research shows that a greater emphasis on learning and a less pronounced emphasis on test scores produces smarter, more well-rounded students. The people who understand this the most, parents, teachers and their union, have been frozen out of the process by mayoral control at best, and have been publically demonized and ridiculed at worst. I look forward to working with the City's next mayor and class of councilmembers to create a solution that empowers parents and educational experts to prepare our kids for meaningful higher education opportunities and good NYC jobs. As the founder of Girls Who Code, a non-profit organization teaching girls computer programming skills, I am already working to prepare our students for good-paying jobs in technology-related fields, and as Public Advocate I will continue to bring everyone from parents and teachers to non-profit organizations and technology companies together to better prepare our kids for jobs of the future.

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?

Test scores alone should never determine the success or failure of our students, schools or teachers. I reject a system that is overly reliant on test scores for determining teacher pay, school achievement, and resource allocation. I believe that teacher evaluation should be comprehensively measured, including observations from fellow teachers and education experts; student growth as measured in by a combination of test scores and other assessments; and peer review. I question the value of unannounced observations, as teachers face enough challenges in their classrooms without worrying about surprise inspections, and the distraction caused by such a situation would undermine the validity of the observation. I also believe our teacher evaluation system should be targeted toward meaningfully improving teacher performance, not penalizing teachers who often work under extraordinary circumstances in New York City public schools.

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 support a moratorium on co-locations in the New York City public school system. Many of our schools are overcrowded as it is, and we need greater community and parent input before we consider any further co-location decisions. In general, I am open to public charter schools having public space, but only with appropriate community and parent input and not at the expense of existing public schools.

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?

Yes, I support ensuring that individuals who make considerable use of New York City services – from sanitation to public safety to transit – pay their fair share to the City. I believe in reinstating the commuter tax and cracking down on individuals who currently seek to avoid paying their fair – and legally required – share of city taxes. Finally, I look forward to working on efforts to reduce the tax burden on low and middle-income New Yorkers while ensuring that we are continuing to provide necessary services to the neediest in our City and making the investments in education we need for a strong economic future.

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?

Yes, I support a surcharge on the income tax for the wealthiest New Yorkers; elimination of tax loopholes for banks and other large financial institutions; and clawbacks from companies that get economic development subsidies but fail to create jobs.

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

Yes, I believe we should eliminate unnecessary red tape that hurts the neediest of our neighbors. We need to make HRA services as transparent as possible and to redouble our outreach efforts in low-income communities. City agencies should not be in the business of creating solutions for which no problems exist, and sanctions should not be applied as a blanket, first resort for the mere appearance of potential concerns.

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 historic rise in our city’s homeless population is unconscionable, and City leadership has not done nearly enough to address this growing problem. Instead, both State and City leaders have engaged in political posturing that does not point toward a meaningful solution for our homeless families. We need a comprehensive effort to reduce homelessness, including reforming our city shelter admission process, improving the pathways for homeless families to permanent housing solutions, and tailoring our interventions for specific groups experiencing homelessness, including LGBT youth, families with children and veterans. As Public Advocate, I look forward to convening stakeholders to determine not only where government must do more, but also how we can harness our civic infrastructure to provide job training, income and housing support to individuals experiencing homelessness.

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 Recovery: The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy continues to place undue burdens on too many of our families, businesses and communities. In the days following Hurricane Sandy, I organized a volunteer effort bringing hundreds of volunteers to Far Rockaway to serve hot meals, clean houses, and distribute desperately needed supplies. I also launched a coalition called StartUp New York to provide small businesses affected by Sandy with access to information on recovery resources and marketing opportunities to help recoup lost revenue. Without a doubt, more needs to be done. I will work to ensure that the voices of community members are heard not only in City Hall, but also in Albany and Washington. I will also help bring new partners into the rebuilding conversation to ensure that we are rebuilding in a smarter and more innovative way. A central part of the smarter rebuilding effort must be addressing both New York’s role in global climate change and the effects global climate change will have on New York. We should explore the innovative projects being implemented across the world, and not just enter into a contracting process that repeats more short-term thinking. Fracking: I support a continued moratorium on fracking and am open to a permanent ban. Protecting the quality of our drinking water is not just an economic issue, it’s a public health and safety issue. While the prospect of more jobs seems appealing, the energy industry has a proven track record of leaving behind environmental havoc whenever and wherever it suited their bottom line. We would be better off creating jobs in non-polluting industries that do not threaten our safety or public health.

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.

Yes. I support President Obama’s comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence, including a renewed assault weapon ban, banning high capacity magazines, and filling in the gaps of the inadequate background check system. I also believe we need to explore new innovative approaches to reducing violence, including BBP Ruben Diaz Jr.’s idea to create an online registry of gun offenders.

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 marriage equality for same sex couples, a woman's right to choose, and reproductive freedom for women including access to birth control.

 

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.

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