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Candidate for Lieutenant 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.
Would you support a change to full public financing of campaigns, similar to the Clean Money Clean Elections programs in Arizona, Connecticut and Maine?
What is your opinion of the Supreme Court’s decision of McCutcheon v. FEC and its potential impact on NY campaigns?
I view the McCutcheon decision as one of several that weaken campaign finance regulations. I support campaign finance reform including public funding of campaigns and enhanced disclosure requirements.
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?
I come from a part of the state where the cost of housing is a fraction of that in New York City, and a small fraction at that. That reality underscores the importance of government's role in ensuring affordable housing options in a place where in the absence of strong rent regulations, tens of thousands or more would be priced out of the market. I support rent stabilization and rent control laws. In general I favor laws that ensure that affordable housing options be available for New Yorkers. I applaud the Governor for strengthening the state's rent laws and creating a Tenant Protection Unit in the Department of Housing and Community Renewal.
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?
I support universal Pre- Kindergarten. In Congress, I promoted tax fairness and opposed the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the super-wealthy. I am willing to work with the Governor to explore additional ways to 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.
Agree with the concept of using multiple measures to evaluate teachers. I believe Governor Cuomo's Annual Professional Performance Review Plan teacher evaluation system successfully built on that idea.
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.
When mayoral control of the schools is up for renewal next June, it seems likely that it will be renewed, but with significant changes. Do you favor:
• 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.
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?
I am open to adjusting the laws pertaining to mayoral control. I would want to review any specific proposals.
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.
Do you favor continued support of Common Core standards in New York? b. Do you support the Common Core curriculum that has been developed in New York? c. What will you do – or have you done – to assist parents, teachers, and others in the education community that have raised concerns about Common Core?
Despite its unsatisfactory rollout, I support the Common Core standards in New York. New York students should be prepared to compete with students from anywhere else in the country and the world.
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.
Would you vote 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?
Do you support progressive taxation?
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. In Congress I advocated for extending middle class tax cuts while allowing Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy to expire. I took this stand as a Democrat representing a highly Republican district. I would review along with the Governor individual proposals on a case by case basis, but my past record speaks to my mindset and priorities on this topic.
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 have always supported increasing the minimum wage. A reasonable minimum wage not only increases the standard of living for those earning the minimum wage and is a matter of basic fairness. The increase passed by the Governor and Legislature will increase through the end of 2015. I would gladly work with the Governor to look at other ways to promote fair wages.
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.
I view this issue as similar to the rent control issue- affordable housing is necessary for New York City to retain its diversity and is just plain fair.
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?
I support building green and applaud the Governor's Green bank 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?
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.
I support balancing the needs of business with those of working men and women whom the Scaffold law was designed to protect.
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?
State ethics laws have been strengthened in recent years and state officials have received greater scrutiny by prosecutors, the press and the public. The parade of legislators and state officials who have been arrested for corruption is embarrassing on the one hand, but also reassuring in the sense that the bad apples are having a harder time getting away with malfeasance. Corruption is not necessarily worse than it has been in past years- laws are tougher and law enforcement is more reliable. I would support still stronger laws.
11. Legalization of Marijuana.
Do you support passing legislation allowing the use of marijuana in New York State for medicinal purposes? Recreational? Both?
I agree with the recently passed medical marijuana law.
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)?
While not exactly the same situation, in Congress I defended the Muslim community when Republicans conducted a series of anti-terrorism hearings which unfairly cast all American Muslims in a suspicious l (or worse). I would work with Governor Cuomo to explore ways to address police practices that reflect racial disparities. I believe the Governor's past efforts to modify stop and frisk as well as bring party to the law regarding marijuana possession were sound, and I would work with him to further bring greater fairness to the law.
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?
14. Lightning 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.)
Abortion - Do you support a women’s right to choose? Yes.
Marriage Equality: Do you support same-sex marriage? Do you believe all 50 states should allow marriage equality? Yes.
Hobby Lobby: Do you support the "Boss Bill," which would update New York's labor laws to ban an employer from citing religious freedom as a reason to deny women reproductive health care — including access to birth control and infertility treatments? Yes
Do you believe corporations should have the legal status of personhood? No.
Do you support Net Neutrality, and are you willing to publicly state this position? (For example, in a petition or comment letter to the FCC.) Yes.
These are the responses of Kathy Hochul, candidate for Lt. Governor of the state of New York, to our 2014 issue questionnaire. To read the responses of her opponent Tim Wu, click here.