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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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Christine Quinn Answers to DFNYC 2013 Candidate Endorsement Questionnaire

Christine Quinn, currently Speaker for the NYC Council, and a member from the 3rd District (West Village, Chelsesa, Soho, Noho and Flatiron) is running for Mayor of the City of New York. www.QuinnforNewYork.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’m proud of the work I’ve done as Speaker to make New York City’s campaign finance system the strongest in the nation, one that has been endorsed by independent groups like Citizens Union and the Brennan Center. It is a model that New York State is currently looking to replicate, and many advocates have promoted as a federal solution. The law I passed restricts pay to play contributions and raises matching funds from a 4 to 1 match to a 6 to 1 match. It has dramatically increased the role of small donors and limited the influence of developers, lobbyists and others who do business with the City. Just as important, our system has been able to stand up to legal challenges while the courts have ultimately overturned others, like the one in Arizona. New York City has a campaign finance system that encourages competitive elections, and limits the influence of big money and opportunities for corruption. It ensures that city funds are spent effectively and efficiently, and makes sure that small donors continue to participate. As mayor I will continue to make sure the system meets these important goals.

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 am proud to have a long record of supporting rent stabilization and rent control laws. As mayor, I would continue to push the State legislature to repeal Urstadt. And while the authority to enforce against landlords who break rent regulations lies with the State, as mayor I would have the Department of Housing Preservation & Development work with the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal to ensure necessary enforcement of the law. I would also continue to crack down on unscrupulous landlords of every kind, building on my record as Speaker. I passed the Safe Housing Act, which has already empowered HPD to make top to bottom repairs in 4,000 of the city’s worst apartments and send the landlords the bill. I passed the Tenant Protection Act, giving renters the ability to sue their landlord for a pattern of harassment. I partnered with HPD to create the Proactive Enforcement Bureau, and passed legislation giving them power to force landlords to correct the underlying cause of a problem instead of just the superficial damage. Recently I proposed the first top to bottom overhaul of the city’s Housing Maintenance Code since its creation, to give HPD even stronger enforcement tools.

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

On March 29, 2013, I announced an agreement on a paid sick leave bill that the City Council will pass at the end of April. This was a great victory for both workers and small business owners here in New York City, and I am proud that we will be able to provide sick leave for nearly a million New Yorkers while offering key protections for small businesses. This bill will guarantee that all New Yorkers can take time to care for themselves and their families when they are ill, without fear of losing employment. At same time it provides important safeguards for small businesses and ensures that if the economy begins to move in the wrong direction, its implementation will not lead to the loss of jobs for unemployed New Yorkers. Once again we were able to work together with New Yorkers on both sides of the debate, and found a way to do the right bill at the right time.

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?

The NYPD’s ability to keep our city safe depends in part on police having a relationship with the citizens they protect. Overuse of Stop and Frisk has jeopardized that relationship in many communities of color, but I believe with some reforms we can strengthen the practice and strengthen police community relations in a way that makes everyone safer. Through my advocacy on this issue we’ve already seen some progress. I worked with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to reach an agreement giving the CCRB power to prosecute its own cases. At my request, the NYPD has taken steps to improve training, monitoring, and protocols around SQF, and create an early warning system to identify officers who receive public complaints. Since then, we’ve seen the number of stops go down, but we clearly still have more work to do. That’s why I recently announced legislation creating an Inspector General that will increase accountability and oversight of police practices. With respect to Ray Kelly, I have said many times that whoever is the next Mayor would be lucky to have Ray Kelly as Police Commissioner. He has brought crime down to unforeseen levels and has brought new and inclusive strategies to areas like hate crimes, domestic violence, and sexual assault. As for political demonstrations like OWS, I will make sure the NYPD has the necessary resources, and is careful to balance civil liberties and the needs of the public at large.

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.)

Mayoral control has brought a new level of accountability to the system, which is a good thing. I don’t think there should be any weakening of mayoral authority or power. I do believe that New York City should have full municipal control of our schools, and that the Department of Education should be a full city agency so that the legislative body that has the oversight of our schools is the City Council and not the State Legislature. I do not believe that decisions that affect our children should be determined by a Senator from Onondaga County, or that parents should be forced to travel to Albany to lobby for improvements to their schools instead of just taking the subway to City Hall. The more that New York City is both in control of and accountable for our schools, the more likely it is that parental priorities get addressed. I also believe we need to make our children’s education more of a collaborative effort. I’ve proposed a package of reforms called Parents Matter that will empower parents to continue their child’s education at home, and give them a greater voice in our schools. We also need to lower the temperature of the conversation between the DOE and the UFT, and begin treating teachers as partners again.

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?

I believe we must take a multi-faceted approach to teacher evaluations. The system cannot focus exclusively on test scores, but must incorporate more holistic measures like portfolio assessments and classroom evaluations. In all cases, our goal must be to help our teachers improve. That’s why I’ve called for a mentor teacher program, which would provide every new teacher in our public school system with a year of intensive hands-on support from one of our city’s best teachers. We’ll identify top teachers and offer them the opportunity to leave the classroom temporarily to take on the challenge and responsibility of mentoring our novice teachers. We’ll enroll them in an elite master class run by CUNY, where they share best practices and learn techniques for working with colleagues. After two years of service as a Mentor Teacher, they’ll return to the classroom, ensuring that we aren’t taking our best educators away from students on a permanent basis. Finally, when our city faced the loss of 4,100 teachers to budget cuts, I’m proud to have worked with the UFT to identify alternative concessions that allowed us to keep every one of those teachers in the classroom.

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 charter schools. To have charter schools you have to have co-locations, which are an important part of making charter schools work in NYC. That said, you know a system isn't working properly when both the proponents and the opponents say it's not working. As mayor, I would continue co-locations - both charter-district and district-district - but we need to have a consistent transparent process that is the same in every neighborhood, in every building, and for every operator around co-locations. I’ve seen the negative results of poor colocation planning in my own district. PS11 and the Clinton Middle School for Writers and Artists are great district schools that existed together well for a long time. But because the DOE didn’t properly anticipate the growth of both schools they ultimately outgrew the available space, ended up at odds, and the community was left scrambling to find new space to relocate one of them. Given all the data we have there is no excuse for not better preparing for and responding to these issues. In addition, we need to finally make good on the promise that charter schools would be laboratories for innovations that could be implemented citywide. This is just one of the reasons I’ve proposed a system wide success study that would identify best practices among all our best schools so we can apply those techniques to other schools that serve similar populations.

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 strongly support restoring the commuter tax. Many non-residents work in the City and enjoy the benefits of City services, and they should share some of the cost of those services. I would also support dedicating the revenue from that tax to mass transit, which might make it more politically viable in Albany. I absolutely support enforcing the tax laws to make sure that everyone who is legitimately a resident of NYC pays the taxes they owe. Finally, I understand that New York City has one of the highest tax burdens in the country for both residents and businesses. We should continue to look for ways to alleviate that burden, but we must always balance that effort with the need to protect core services that give our city good schools, safe streets, and clean neighborhoods.

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 fully support progressive taxation. Back in 2009, I proposed a more progressive personal income tax structure for the City: higher rates for the top 4% of earners - those making more than $300,000 a year - and the elimination of income taxes for families making less than $45,000 a year. I’ve also supported Governor Cuomo’s changes to the State’s income tax structure. Our current property tax system is incredibly complex, opaque, and riddled with inequities. However, changing it requires the State Legislature to act. Any wholesale systemic reform would need to be phased it in over a period of time, to avoid abrupt changes in people's tax bills. In the meantime I will urge the Department of Finance to administer the system with the greatest transparency and sensitivity to the needs of taxpayers. While we continue to work to diversify our economy in areas like healthcare and manufacturing, the financial industry still provides jobs for many New Yorkers and billions of dollars in tax revenue that support core city services. I would be reluctant to support a federal financial transaction tax, which would not necessarily have any revenue benefit to the City and could make us less competitive with other global financial centers. I believe we need regulations that keep Wall Street strong by making it more stable and less prone to continuous cycles of boom and bust. This is better for the industry, better for the city, and better for the country.

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 want to ensure that everyone receiving public benefits is eligible for those benefits. However, I believe HRA has been overly burdensome and punitive in the ways they administer some public assistance programs, and in my administration i would not continue policies that create unnecessary barriers to people in need accessing those benefits. A great example is the practice of fingerprinting food stamp applicants, which deterred tens of thousands of qualified New Yorkers from applying each year. I vocally opposed this policy for years, and thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership it is now no longer a policy anywhere in New York State. As Mayor I would also build on my commitment to helping more New Yorkers in need access public assistance. I’m proud that my Food Stamp Data Match with HRA helped enroll 50,000 more New Yorkers for food stamps. I’ve worked to make sure New Yorkers can use those food stamps to purchase healthy food at 40 additional Greenmarkets. I also passed legislation requiring HRA to improve their efforts to help young people receiving public assistance pursue educational opportunities while still meeting work requirements. Our goal must be to help New Yorkers get the skills they need to build a career, instead of forcing them to remain in low wage jobs that keep them reliant on public assistance.

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

There are currently 10,000 families with children living in homeless shelters in New York City. If these kids are going to have a fighting chance, we need to get their families back on the path to stable housing. But for many our shelter system has become a dead end. Without a rental assistance program for the homeless most families have no way to access long term housing. So I’ve proposed that the City create and fund a new voucher program to help families cover rent in private buildings. I’ve also called for dedicating a portion of NYCHA apartments and Section 8 vouchers for homeless New Yorkers, so we can get even more families into long term stable housing. This isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do as well. The average cost of a rental subsidy for a family of four is $800 a month. Housing that same family in a shelter costs $3,000. In addition, I would officially reverse Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to make it more difficult for homeless adults to access shelter, a decision that I have been successfully fighting in court as Speaker. This policy would have needlessly put thousands of homeless New Yorkers on the streets by requiring them to provide proof that they have nowhere else to stay. This is a wrong-headed policy that puts a burden of proof on people who need our help the most.

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 the weeks and months after Sandy devastated our city, I have been in neighborhoods from Far Rockaway to the South Shore of Staten Island, making sure people have access to shelter and emergency supplies and helping to monitor the city’s response. I was also among the first elected officials in the nation to outline a plan for rebuilding after Sandy and protecting against future climate change. My plan includes improvements to our gasoline distribution network, and our power, transit, and sewer systems. At my request, the NYC Building Resiliency Task Force has convened emergency sessions to look at possible changes to our building code. And I’m working with Mayor Bloomberg and Senator Schumer to secure studies that will determine what defenses, such as storm surge barriers, the City should construct. With respect to energy conservation and reducing our carbon footprint, I am proud of the City Council’s first-in-the-nation laws to green city buildings, which will save 30 billion gallons of water annually and reduce our carbon footprint equal to the total carbon emissions of Oakland, CA. While there is a clear need for alternative energy sources, I have written to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission expressing concerns with the proposed Spectra pipeline. In addition, the use of hydraulic fracturing in the New York City watershed is totally unacceptable, and I would never support a pipeline or other project that would transport gas extracted from the watershed using 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.

Year after year the NYPD has kept New York the safest big city in America, and I would make sure they continue to have the necessary resources to do so. As Speaker I restored funding in the budget to hire an additional 500 police officers, and maintaining and expanding the number of officers on our streets will be a top priority for me as Mayor. I provided funding to purchase state-of-the-art bulletproof vests for all police officers, and would continue to make sure our officers are safe. We also need to recognize that while crime has gone down, many communities still live with the threat of violence. That’s why I created a Task Force to Combat Gun Violence, made of community leaders and public safety experts. And we provided more than $4 million in funds to put their neighborhood-based recommendations into effect. This includes the creation of a new Shooting Incident Crisis Management system, which will provide immediate support after a shooting, and engage community members in the following days and weeks to reduce and de-escalate future incidents. As mayor, I will layer this community-based approach with Mayor Bloomberg’s national lobbying efforts, and continue to give the NYPD the tools they need to get guns off the streets. Additionally, I support all three of President Obama’s proposals aimed to prevent tragic events like in Newtown, Connecticut from happening.

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 long been a marriage equality and pro-choice advocate, and am proud of the Council’s efforts protecting access to reproductive health centers and birth control.

 ~ Christine Quinn, current Speaker for the NYC Council and a member for the 3rd District  (West Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Flatiron) and candidate for Mayor of the City of New York.  http://www.quinnfornewyork.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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