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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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Antonio Reynoso Answers to DFNYC 2013 Candidate Questionnaire

Antonio Reynoso is running for NYC Council in the 34th District in Brooklyn. www.facebook.com/Antonio4Council

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 a change to full public financing. With public financing we can keep special interest money out of politics, which will create cleaner and fairer elections. It will also provide a more equal opportunity for those who want to be a part of the political system but whose voices are excluded due to a lack of connections to large donors.

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; the perennially low vacancy rates in our city spur high market rates for apartments, which price out middle- and low-income families. To ensure that New York City is a place that middle- and low-income earners can continue to call home, we need rent stabilization and rent control laws. I would call on the state legislature to repeal vacancy decontrol and the Urstadt Law. Further, I would help my community organize to put pressure on the state to repeal these 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 was happy to see that a deal was reached regarding paid sick leave. It was a long time coming, and I look forward to it passing the City Council with the overwhelming support it will need to override Mayor Bloomberg’s promised veto. It was unfortunate that the bill had to be weakened in order to reach a deal, but it is a good step toward better working conditions in our City.

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?

In recent years the NYPD’s use of stop-and-frisk has been abused through overuse; this contributed to a deterioration of community-police relations. We need to take a mend it, don’t end it approach to the policy in order to keep our communities safe while also treating residents fairly and with respect.

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 am in favor of making changes to mayoral control and will be a vocal advocate for these changes. A glaring example of an overreach of the policy is the Panel on Education Policy. Of the 13 appointees, 8 are chosen by the mayor and the remaining 5 by borough presidents. For controversial decisions this leaves the power in the hands of the Mayor. When we are talking about phasing out schools, co-locations or grading schools there needs to be more power given to communities, parents and others interested in the education of the City’s students.

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?

In order to have an effective evaluation, a system must be comprehensive; no single measurement can assess a teacher. Some traditional methods, improvement on standardized tests throughout the year and principal observations, coupled with innovative methods, like student surveys and peer evaluations, would provide us with a more holistic picture of a teacher. However, as advanced degrees are proving to be a less effective measure of a teacher’s efficacy in the classroom, these might not be as informative. By using a broad set of methods for measuring the ability of a teacher we will have a better understanding of how to strengthen professional development. In order to attract bright, competent people into the role of school management we need to empower them with the ability to shape their school. Unannounced observations of teachers are meant to be one way a principal can keep themselves informed of the happenings in each classroom throughout the day. However, these visits should only inform a principal of a teacher’s strengths and weaknesses and should not be the sole indicator of a teacher’s ability. I do not have experience negotiating labor union contracts.

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

The current charter school co-location policies are clearly a cause for concern and I am in favor of finding alternatives to co-location. We should not be taking resources from traditional public schools and I think that we can find a way to give space to charter schools without depleting the resources of traditional 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?

I am in favor of collecting wage taxes from any person currently benefitting from a loophole due to owning a second home and from employees who work in the city but live elsewhere. Using this revenue to reduce the wage tax of New York City residents would provide a beneficial tax break to the City’s working families.

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 support progressive taxation. I support Governor Cuomo’s plan for high tax rate on top income earners. With regard to property taxes in New York City, we need to create a path to homeownership for low- and middle- income earners while also holding wealthy homeowners accountable for their fair share of property taxes. I would support a financial transaction tax targeted to speculators where revenues would be used for education, quality of life improvements and job creation.

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

I will advocate for a less arduous process that will still be able to prevent fraud in our welfare system. It is telling that while the need for Food Stamps and Medicaid has increased, welfare has not changed to meet this new dynamic. If families are in need, we must find ways to get them the services and resources they require.

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

I will call on the next Mayor to implement policies and reinstate funding that Mayor Bloomberg has neglected or cut. Under previous Mayors, priority for affordable housing was given to homeless families, but this policy has changed under Mayor Bloomberg. Because the Advantage program was cut, which gave two years of funding to families for rent, we need to find alternative ways, such as Federal housing resources, to help families recover the stability that comes with having a home.

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 order to help rebuild after Superstorm Sandy we need to ensure that we are using resources effectively and fighting for funding that will be needed. I am opposed to hydraulic fracturing.

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 the entire proposal made by President Obama to improve gun control. I am in favor of gun buy-back programs, training programs for gun owners and improved access to mental health care as well as involving the business community in gun safety.

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 marriage equality and will be a vocal advocate in support of equal rights for the LGBTQ community. I support a woman’s right to choose and right to access birth control and will oppose any legislation that seeks to restrict those rights.

~ Antonio Reynoso, candidate for NYC Council in the 34th District in Brooklyn. www.facebook.com/Antonio4Council

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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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