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.
We 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.
You can download our bylaws here.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
Candidate for Re-Election to Governor of New York
2014 DFNYC State Candidate Questionnaire
1. Money in NY Politics / Fair Elections (McCutcheon v. FEC)
This year, Albany gave us a budget that failed to reform the role of big money in New York politics. The sky-high campaign contribution limits weren't lowered, disclosure of outside special interest spending wasn't strengthened, and public campaign financing was limited to the 2014 comptroller race. Responsibility for administering the public financing "pilot" falls to the state Board of Elections, which is regarded as dysfunctional, ineffective and underfunded.
a. 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 have supported and continue to support public financing.
b. What is your opinion of the Supreme Court’s decision of McCutcheon v. FEC and its potential impact on NY campaigns?
The Supreme Court decision speaks for itself. However, my Administration has repeatedly advanced proposals to reform the election system in New York to include a voluntary public funding system for campaigns and robust disclosure of political donors. A small donor matching system for campaigns allows candidates to raise money from ordinary citizens, rather than relying on a few wealthy donors. Further, requiring timely electronic reporting of contributions provides transparency on campaign financing. These reforms that have been advanced by the my Administration would boost accountability, curb corruption, and increase the voice of ordinary citizens in New York elections. I remain committed to exploring ways to improve the system in a new term.
c. What is your opinion of Governor Cuomo’s actions toward the Moreland Commission?
2. Tenant Protection & Cost of Housing / Home Rule (Rent Issue) / Real Estate Development
Do you support rent stabilization and rent control laws? What will you do to crack down on landlords that break the law? Do you support a repeal vacancy decontrol and, more generally, a repeal of the Urstadt Law, so that New York City – and not Albany – can enact its own housing laws?
My Administration strongly supports rent stabilization and rent control laws--passing one of the strongest strengthening of rent regulations in four decades. Affordable housing is essential to the fabric of the state, preserving communities and protecting New York’s middle class. The 2011 rent regulations proposed by my Administration and passed by the Legislature give tenants the strongest rent regulations in nearly 40 years and protect more than 1 million New Yorkers from skyrocketing rent. Among the important pro-tenant changes, the measure raises the deregulation rent threshold for the first time since 1993 and raises the income threshold for the first time since 1997. From 1994 to the present day, more than 238,000 apartments were removed from the rent regulation system, leaving middle class New Yorkers with fewer affordable housing options. Without this law, it is estimated that more than 100,000 additional apartments would have been lost to decontrol in the next few years. The regulations ensure that these units will stay in the rent regulation system and remain available for hard-working New Yorkers. The new rent regulations, which will be in effect until 2015, include the following pro-tenant changes: raises the deregulation rent threshold from $2000 to $2,500, raises the income threshold from $175,000 to $200,000, limits landlords to collect only one vacancy bonus per year, reducing the manipulation of leases in order to push units out of the system, and changes how improvements are calculated and verified for individual apartments, which will reduce a landlord’s ability to abuse these renovations as a tool to force units out of regulation. Further, as mentioned above, in 2011, New York passed the greatest strengthening of the state’s rent laws in forty years, and in February, my Administration created a new Tenant Protection Unit at HCR. This new unit is proactively preventing problems and rooting out fraud before it affects the lives of rent-regulated residents. The unit is now enforcing landlord obligations to tenants, and its ability to impose strict penalties for failure to comply with HCR orders and New York’s rent laws has already yielded an enormous increase in compliance, including the number of landlords now properly registering their properties with the state.
3. Universal Pre-K & After-School
Generally, we at DFNYC are pleased that Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio were able to come together and compromise on a bill for universal pre-kindergarten. While it calls for $300 million in funding for universal pre-K programs the final budget, many of us feel that the funding stream is not sustainable and the budget was unfair to many towns outside of New York City. Would you support state legislation allowing Mayor de Blasio to change the funding stream by raising marginal income tax on the wealthiest residents of the City in order to ensure the long-term viability of the programs?
My Administration has pushed for increased resources for pre-K programs ranging from legislation that authorizes school districts to provide transportation services to Universal Pre-Kindergarten students to legislation that expands funding for Pre-K program state-wide. My Administration remains open to explore additional ways that he can increase resources for pre-K programs statewide.
4. Teacher Evaluation
New York elected officials--through laws, regulations, and negotiation of union contracts-- have sought to enact meaningful evaluation of public school teachers. What is your opinion of using the following factors in evaluation of public school teachers?
a) Improvement in student test scores b) Professional observations by other teachers c) Student surveys d) Whether the teacher has an advanced degree) Classroom observations of the teacher by principals or other education professionals f) Principals’ unannounced observations of teachers.
A hallmark of my Administration has been the creation and implementation of the APPR--teacher evaluation system. The system relies on multiple measures (e.g. classroom observations, student artifacts, surveys, and student growth on assessments) which has been recognized as a fair and balanced approach and was supported by teacher stakeholders including NYSUT and UFT.
5. Mayoral Control of NYC Schools
Albany granted former Mayor Bloomberg's request for mayoral control of the schools in 2002. In 2009, Governor David Paterson and the state legislature voted to renew mayoral control until June 30th of 2015 (less than a year from now). The 2009 changes included requiring the DOE to keep parents better informed of what is happening in the schools, as well as more transparency in approval of large contracts. Mayor Bill de Blasio is the first NYC mayor to have mayoral control after Bloomberg and has indicated he will have a Department of Education that is different in many ways than Mayor Bloomberg.
• Letting mayoral control expire and going back to a pre-2002 system,
• Renewing mayoral control as is,
• Changing to a hybrid system, where power would be shared by the mayor and a school board, or
• Renewing it, but with significant changes to the current system.
b. One of the current parts of mayoral control that has caused the most controversy is the public hearing process. When the DOE proposes a change to a school or school building (co-location of a charter school, approval of a new school, phase out or "closing" of a school deemed to be failing), there is a joint public hearing (a "JFH") at the school building, where parents, teachers, students and other community members can voice their concerns. But the ultimate vote is later, with the city-wide Panel for Education Policy (the "PEP"), a Board of appointees from the Mayor's Office and the Borough Presidents' Office. Critics say far from being a democratic process, the structure of the PEP and its hearings make it essentially a rubber stamp for whatever the DOE has already decided. Even some supporters of mayoral control have conceded this point and found PEP hearings to be mostly a waste of time for all parties involved. On the one hand, government officials need to plan and make decisions about schools and buildings in a timely, efficient matter. On the other hand, important decisions about schools should have a public hearing process and be made with community input. What are your ideas for balancing these interests, specifically in terms of changing the mayoral control legislation?
My Administration would consider new proposals on mayoral control in a new term. The specific terms of any legislative proposal would have to be reviewed and analyzed.
6. Implementation of Common Core Standards.
The NYS Board of Regents recently gave New York public schools five more years to fully implement tougher academic standards known as the Common Core. Supporters have argued that the new high standards – which are internationally benchmarked – will ensure that students in the South Bronx will have the same expectations as students on the Upper East Side, and that all students in New York and across the country are college and career ready at age 18. Critics, however – which include a growing movement of principals, teachers and parents that are on the front lines of education every day - point to problems such as a huge amount of disorganization in the implementation in NY (lack of materials and training), concerns about teaching to the test, and the arbitrariness of using Common Core-based test scores to measure student, school and teacher performance.
My Administration continues to support Common Core standards in New York. However, my Administration recently advocated for and was successful in passing laws to protect students and teachers from the mishandled roll out of the Common Core.
7. Taxes: City Wage Tax, FTT and general principles.
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.
I have passed income tax reform in New York State to be more progressive and fair. These are all complicated budgetary and policy issues that are more appropriately addressed in the legislative and budgetary context. For example, progressive taxation cannot be appropriately evaluated without understanding the impact (if any) on existing or proposed corporate taxation structure and property tax structure.
8. Minimum Wage / Living Wage
New York State's recent minimum wage increased to $8 an hour, 75 cents above the federal minimum and the old state rate. It's the first of three incremental boosts that were approved by the Legislature and Gov. Cuomo . The minimum for most workers will increase at the end of 2014 to $8.75 an hour and to $9 an hour a year after that. The minimums for workers in the restaurant industry who get tips may remain $5 an hour, with employers able to raise the maximum tip credits to $3 an hour the first year, $3.75 the second and $4 after that. Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, and legislative leaders quickly shot down a proposal by Mayor Bill de Blasio to let New York City set its own minimum wage. Advocates for New York’s working poor were disappointed, saying the minimum wage should be $15 an hour and include workers who get tips. We at DFNYC feel no one should ever endure the kind of economic humiliation that comes with working a full-time job and making a less-than-living wage. Do you support State Senator Daniel L. Squadron’s bill to raise the minimum wage for many low-paid workers, calling for a $15-an-hour “fair wage” for employees of McDonald’s and Walmart and other businesses with yearly sales of $50 million or more?
I signed legislation updating the state’s minimum wage law to align it with the cost of living in the state. The minimum wage will now be raised from $7.25/hour to $9.00/hour over three years, beginning with $8.00 by the end of 2013, $8.75 by the end of 2014, and $9.00 by the end of 2015. I strongly believe that a reasonable minimum wage increases the standard of living for the most vulnerable members of the workforce, reduces poverty, and encourages fair and more efficient business practices. My Administration remains open to exploring other ways to ensure fair wages for workers.
9. Real Estate Development / Reform of Scaffold Law.
a. We live in a city where livability is a major issue for the vast majority of its residents. There has been a major upswing in development of late, particularly in areas such as Brooklyn and now the Bronx. Residents are constantly getting displaced despite pledges to protect them from such treatment. For example, Bruce Ratner did not live up to his promise to provide affordable housing and aid to residents and small businesses displaced by the Barclay’s Center. What would you propose to ensure that big businesses and developers are able to achieve success at the hands of the rest of New Yorkers?
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that as part of the plan to accelerate affordable housing construction at the site, the City’s Housing Development Corporation (HDC) will provide financial support to ensure the delivery of two 100% affordable housing buildings, totaling at least 590 units, and construction will begin by December 2014. The buildings will accommodate a broader range of family incomes—including those with very low incomes—and feature a greater mix of family-sized units that reflect the community’s needs. Consistent with its affordable housing plan’s commitment to maximize the returns on every dollar, the administration secured nearly twice as many units of affordable housing for its investment compared to the first building under construction at the Atlantic Yards site.
A few months ago, my Administration announced a comprehensive plan to accelerate the development of Atlantic Yards, including a fast tracked timeline for delivery of affordable housing. The new plan will shorten the completion timeframe to build 2,250 affordable apartments by ten years, from 2035 to 2025. Additionally, the deal will create a board, the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, to provide input on development, housing, and community impact throughout the completion of the project.
b. Much has been made of Mayor de Blasio’s pledge to build or restore 200,000 additional units of affordable housing in New York City. However, another issue that has not received nearly enough attention has been the lack of sustainability in New York City. What would you propose to ensure more green buildings are built and greater energy efficiency is met in existing structures?
My Administration announced the launch of the New York Green Bank, which will help to catalyze the private market for clean energy. It is the largest green bank in the nation, with an initial capitalization of $210 million for the $1 billion initiative, using a self-sustaining business model. The Green Bank is seeking to remove market barriers for private financing of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Further, my Administration announced a nearly $1 billion commitment to NY-Sun over the next decade to help the industry grow and reach sustainability. Since launching the NY-Sun program in 2012, Governor Cuomo has quadrupled the amount of customer-sited solar power installed annually in New York. The New York solar market now employs over 5,000 highly skilled jobs across 400 companies statewide. In addition, my Administration has set aggressive targets for energy reductions and efficiencies in public buildings and the first ever state law to promote homeowners to retrofit their homes with the onbill financing program.
c. Another issue in New York City is a lack of sunlight caused by the amount of tall buildings. Would you support changes to zoning laws for thinner, smaller, greener structures being built?
Yes, under appropriate circumstances.
d. What is your opinion of NY Labor Law 240, otherwise known as the Scaffold Law? Contractors, property owners and insurers argue that the law is antiquated and prejudicial against contractors and property owners, and essentially absolves employees of responsibility for their own accidents, leading to huge settlements. The payouts, they contend, have in turn led to skyrocketing insurance premiums that are hampering construction and the state’s economic growth. But a counter-lobby of unions, workers’ advocates and trial lawyers argue that the law is essential to ensuring the safety of workers in some of the world’s most dangerous jobs, particularly those employed by shoddy contracting firms that cut corners to save money. The law, they say, holds developers and contractors accountable for keeping job sites safe.
My Administration has and continues to engage with business leaders and the labor community to attempt to address concerns that the Scaffold Law is increasing insurance costs for contractors and owners, which in turn has an impact on small businesses. Achieving a balance has been critical to obtaining legislative support.
10. Albany Corruption
Albany has been the center of corruption scandals in recent years, during which more than a dozen New York assemblymen and senators have been charged with corruption or convicted. What measures, in your opinion, are necessary to ensure that Albany’s culture of corruption does not continue?
As Attorney General and as Governor I have and continue to support comprehensive ethics reform including requiring disclosure of clients doing business with the state that are represented by legislators before the state and disclosure of how much they get paid, requiring the creation of an independent body to provide oversight and enforcement of ethics rules because, as we have seen in the past, self-policing does not work, requiring lobbyists to disclose any business relationship with legislators in excess of $1,000 and stripping pensions from those public officials convicted of a felony related to the abuse of their official duties.
11. Legalization of Marijuana.
Do you support passing legislation allowing the use of marijuana in New York State for medicinal purposes? Recreational? Both?
Yes, I signed legislation to establish a medical marijuana program for New York State. The new law includes provisions to ensure medical marijuana is reserved only for patients with serious conditions and is dispensed and administered in a manner that protects public health and safety.
12. Police Militarization.
Eric Garner, a 40-year old African American man from Staten Island died suspiciously while in N.Y.P.D. custody. Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, was shot dead by police in Ferguson, Missouri. Entire mosques in New York and New Jersey were labelled as "terrorist" organizations by an N.Y.P.D. special surveillance unit, as reported by the AP in the fall of 2013. (Mayor de Blasio shut down that unit in April.) a. What strategies have you taken, or would you take, to deal with the problems of racism and increased militarization of local police? b. Would you be in favor of using the budget process to ensure that police are peace keepers, as opposed to a quasi-military force (i.e. by limiting local, state and federal budget appropriations for additional weapons)?
My Administration has and will continue to explore meaningful ways to address police practices that are racially disparate. For example, I introduced legislation a few years ago to modify the impact of stop and frisk. While stop and frisk can play an important role in the prevention of crime, there are also significant costs, including a deterioration of relationships between community residents and law enforcement, and the reality that stops fall disproportionately on communities of color and, in particular, on the young. Tangential to the stop and frisk problem is the rising number of arrests for marijuana possession. State law makes “open view” possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana a misdemeanor, while possession of the same amount of marijuana in the home is a violation—a non-criminal offense punishable by a fine. Police arrest 100 times more people for this offense and these arrests comprise the single largest category of arrests in New York City, accounting for 15 percent of all NYC arrests and 20 percent of NYC misdemeanors. The effects of those arrests fall almost entirely on Black and Hispanic individuals—82 percent—and largely on the young: 52 percent are under 25 and 69 percent are under 30. I sought to bring parity to the law and decriminalize public view with 15 grams or less.
13. Vision Zero
Are you in agreement with the Mayor that the state legislature should allow the city more control in the administration of traffic safety measures such as speed reduction? Are you in agreement with the three elements at the center of the Mayor de Blasio’s plan - reducing the citywide speed limit and increasing the number of cameras to catch drivers who speed or ignore red lights? The City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has been exploring initiatives to help further the Mayor’s goal of zero pedestrian deaths, such as installing black box recording devices to record driver behavior in TLC-licensed vehicles, forming an enforcement squad with speed guns to enforce speed limits, installing new technology in cabs that could limit vehicle speeds, warn of an impending crash, sound an alarm if the driver speeds and even reduce the fare or shut the meter if the driver is traveling too fast. However, as studies have shown, the crash rate as a result of taxis and livery cabs is actually lower than those of other vehicles. What do you think is most necessary to ensure vehicle safety on the roads and highways?
Yes, I signed a bill authorizing New York City to lower its speed limits from 30 to 25 miles per hour. The law seeks to lower the number of vehicle and pedestrian accidents in New York City and supports the State’s ongoing effort to make roadways safer. The law allows New York City to lower its default speed limit, which is the speed at which drivers should operate their vehicle in areas where the speed limit is not posted within the City.
14. Lightening Round:
Please provide a yes or no answer to the following questions. If you can’t provide a simple yes or no, please provide a brief explanation. (25 words total – all 4 questions.)
This are the responses of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to our 2014 DFNYC questionnaire. To read the responses of his opponent in the Democratic primary, Zephyr Teachout, click here.