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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Robert Jackson Answers to DFNYC 2013 Candidate Endorsement Questionnaire

Robert Jackson, currently a NYC Council member from the 7th District (Northern Manhattan) is running for Manhattan Borough President.  http://jackson2013.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 support all efforts to take money out of politics. My campaign is fueled by small donors, but thanks to the city’s campaign finance program with matching funds and a strict spending cap, I will have the same amount to spend as my opponents who represent much wealthier areas than I represent. While modifications can be made in the city’s system, I believe our efforts are better utilized working to reform campaign finance on the state level. With Governor Cuomo and Organizing for Action’s support, we now have a real opportunity to change the state system and we must not pass it up. Right now, the people’s voice in state government is losing out to the special interests. We need public financing and more transparency. Working together, we can change this and that’s what I’m fighting to do.

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?

Manhattan is big enough for all of us. We must preserve and create more affordable housing. We must repeal the Urstadt Law so that New York City can enact housing laws – and we will only get this done if we have real campaign finance reform on the state level. But there is also more we can do right now ourselves. We must give tenants more information and better support and protections when they are mistreated or displaced by greedy landlords. We must better survey vacant housing and put it to use as affordable housing and we must make greater use of inclusionary zoning to create more permanent affordable housing. As a City Councilman I have worked to protect tenants and promoted innovative affordable housing projects like the Sugar Hill development. We need more of these partnerships citywide and a real commitment to maintaining the affordability of this borough.

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 council members 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

From day one, I have been a supporter of paid sick leave legislation and support the compromise legislation reached last week. It is important common sense legislation that is good for families, good for business and good for the city. To now reach the point we have an agreement and a bill to benefit one million workers is a credit to the grassroots movement that kept the pressure on and never gave up. I am proud to be part of this grassroots movement and gratified that it looks like we will pass this legislation.

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 it is employed now, the NYPD’s stop and frisk policy raises serious concerns about illegal stops and racial profiling. As Chair of the Council Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, I’ve taken the lead advocating an end to this practice that the Department’s own numbers show that hundreds of thousands of law abiding New Yorkers every year are being stopped, and the vast majority are black and Latino. To successfully fight crime and guns, we need to build trust and meaningful partnership between the community and the police. These racial stops prevent this from happening and must be ended. However, done without racial profiling, proper oversight and limited in number, stop and frisk can be part of an anti-crime program. In addition, I believe it is time for a new police commissioner and an Inspector General to help restore trust, promote efficiency and ultimately improve safety. No doubt, OWS should have been handled differently.

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.)

Under Mayoral Control now, parents, teachers and students are shut out of the decision making process and it is more a “do as we say [not as we do]” attitude and system. We need a governance system, that respects the people directly impacted and all parties involved are stakeholders in shaping important education decisions. And our children need a Chancellor with significant and extensive educational experience like is required in the State Charter and a fundamental understanding of what goes on in the classroom. Unfortunately, choices like Cathie Black without this experience have been given waivers to the detriment of our school children. The Chancellorship needs to be the premier advocate for NYC public school students. I sponsored the Council resolution to put a moratorium on co-locations and school closings.

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?

Having worked for a union, represented union workers, taught a University class in labor and government and served as a City Council leader, I have extensive experience in union relations and contracts. While all of those strategies can play a role in evaluations, the goal of evaluations should to help teachers improve and students learn. Through this process, teachers can help teachers to better their skills and learn new methods. Creating this kind of mentoring program will do the most to benefit our children, and that must always be our objective.

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 sponsored the City Council Resolution to put a moratorium on school closings and charter school co-locations. While these co-locations can work, we must first change the way the DOE is now doing them. To be successful, they need a high level of community and parent involvement. Care must be given to the use of shared space like cafeterias, gym, art rooms, etc. In addition, the schools must be compatible and we must avoid creating situations with haves and have nots in the same building. We must return the focus to every child in every school getting an excellent education, rather than a special few.

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 the state legislature allowing NYC to collect the tax from people from the suburbs who work in NYC and benefit from our services. The commuter tax should never have been removed and it is only fair that it be reinstated. Given how much more we as city residents pay to the state compared to what we get back, a major campaign should be organized to make this happen. We also need greater enforcement on those high earners who seek to cheat the system.

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 the state legislature allowing NYC to collect the tax from people from the suburbs who work in NYC and benefit from our services. The commuter tax should never have been removed and it is only fair that it be reinstated. Given how much more we as city residents pay to the state compared to what we get back, a major campaign should be organized to make this happen. We also need greater enforcement on those high earners who seek to cheat the system.

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

We must make sure that those that need the help, are able to get the help. We can prevent fraud and abuse and at the same time pro-actively reach out to eligible low income families, remove obstacles, eliminate needless red tape and bureaucracy and provide meaningful 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

It is time we start dealing with the growth in our homeless in a real way. Right now, our city’s programs are not adequately serving the homeless and are not smart planning or fiscal policy. The only ones benefitting are rich, connected landlords profiting from a bad system. We need a plan similar to one advanced by Coalition for the Homeless that better utilize Federal and City housing resources to move homeless families and individuals from the shelter system into permanent housing, works with the State to create an effective State-City rental assistance program and removes barriers to shelter for homeless families and individuals. And we need to build more affordable housing, including using Sandy money, and create more, better paying jobs to reduce the homeless population.

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?

As we have in the past after disasters, we must use the federal money to comeback stronger than we were before with our homes and businesses secure and resilient from natural disasters. This includes ideas like the proposal from Scott Stringer and Brian Kavanaugh to create an East River Blueway that both improves and protects the Lower East Side. We need to insure that important power stations are protected and that buildings like hospitals move the generators out of the basements. And we need to develop a response plan that details where vulnerable seniors and others live and builds a volunteer corps and a plan to getting to them so seniors aren’t again stranded on high floors with no supplies. And we must look at big, long term protections like sea walls, bulkheads and flood gates; and soft infrastructure like sand dunes, wetlands and embankments. We must not sit back and hope this kind of storm will not happen again. Instead we must be smart and prepared and that is what I will do as Borough President. I am the lead sponsor of the City Council Resolution to ban fracking in New York State and think NYC should be on the frontline in reducing carbon footprint including investing in mass transit and increasing the use of renewable energy sources.

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.

We must reduce gun violence and I have been a longtime strong advocate for this. I have worked in the community with Jackie Rowe-Adams and the Harlem Mothers, sponsored gun buyback programs, and been a strong, active supporter of stronger state and federal legislation.

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)

1. Are you pro-choice? (Do you support a woman's right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy?) - YES 2. Do you support equal marriage rights for same sex couples? - YES 3. Do you believe corporations are people? Do you believe the Citizens United case on this issue was wrongly decided by the Supreme Court? Corporations are not people and the case has had a destructive and corrupting effect on democracy.

~ Robert Jackson, current NYC Councilmember for the 7th District  (North Manhattan) and candidate for Manhattan Borough President.  http://jackson2013.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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