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.
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Cathy Guerriero is running for public advocate of New York City. CathyGuerriero.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?
There simply must be comprehensive campaign finance reform - now. Many of our elected officials talk about it when convenient but do little to further the cause of fair and open elections. Once they’re in office- whether it’s in the state legislature or the NYC City Council - the talk of reform ceases. The influence of big money in our political system is pernicious and it seems far too many of our political leaders look the other way when serious discussions are initiated. Loopholes exist in the NYC campaign finance regulations that are so large, the Empire State Building could easily fit through them. It will take a focused and determined effort to break through the resistance and achieve what so many advocacy groups have been rightfully pushing for years: reform, transparency and accountability. As Public Advocate, I will partner with these groups to raise the level of discourse and work to promote a new era in campaign finance reform.
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?
An ever-increasing number of NYC neighborhoods that once offered a fair amount of affordable housing are now home to gleaming luxury towers, and little else. I don’t begrudge the wealthy their right to live where they chose, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of our working class, who are often forced to relocate because of lax tenant protections and the glaring lack of affordable housing. They are forced farther and farther away from where they work, and their days are made more difficult by longer commutes. This especially impacts parents with young children, as day care and other necessary services are not always located where they reside. There is an “us versus them” mentality present in this issue, so we must break through that and seek common ground. We need leadership who will bridge the gap and bring government, landlords, developers and tenant protection advocacy groups together to create a master plan for affordable housing. As a strategic planner, I am ideally suited for this task, as I was the Director of Strategic Planning for the Archdiocese of New York. No one in this race has my experience, knowledge and expertise in dealing with planning for the future.
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 support the original legislation and purpose as put forth by the NYC Coalition, as I believe that the compromise legislation is too weak. It is a step in the right direction but with a pressing issue like this, we need bold leadership and swift action, not incremental baby steps.
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?
First, let’s look at the overall picture here. The NYPD does a commendable job in keeping NYC safe and secure. This is done despite the reduction in force of approximately 6,000 officers and a further 30% reduction in detectives. The Occupy Wall Street movement was/is a necessary part of the public discourse, and the issues raised are valid and relate directly to who we are as a country. NYC is often used as a platform for the birth and nurturing of societal change, and the burden falls on the city to ensure that those participating in these movements are allowed to freely express themselves, while the rights of property owners and area residents are not compromised. This burden rests on the NYPD and for the most part, they did a good job balancing the needs of those in OWS and those of downtown residents and businesses.
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 teach Education Politics at both NYC and Teachers College, so I have needed insight into this issue. Mayoral Control of the New York City Public Schools has effectively removed all power from its primary stakeholders – parents, teachers and principals, students and the community at large –while not significantly improving the lives of children in the classroom. I am calling for the deconstruction of this model and a replacement of a board in order to shift the power back to the community it serves. Mayoral Control has been an almost 12-year experiment that has removed any real participation from the true stakeholders on the ground – parents, teachers and the community at large. We have just experimented with one full ‘turn of the wheel.’ First graders who entered the Mayoral Control system in 2002 under then new-Mayor Bloomberg are now graduating high school. Are their lives better served? Are they achieving at higher levels? Is the system, as promised, more transparent? The answer is a resounding no. There is only one stakeholder at the table with the present system, and that is the Mayor of the City of New York. Such a system will not serve the future needs of my 3-year-old daughter, nor the underserved children of NYC or their parents. Co-location of charter schools, school closure lists, chancellors with little or no pedagogical expertise – this is what Mayoral Control has brought us. Last time I checked, this is not a kingdom, and I never elected a king.
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?
Good teachers – of which there are legion – want to be evaluated. The issue with the present context and tenor of teacher evaluation is that it is too tightly weighted to the test scores. The student scores are certainly part of the story, but clearly not the most important part of evaluating the value of a teacher, as they are most certainly not the entire story in evaluating the success of a child in the classroom. Furthermore, tethering test scores to the evaluation of special needs children is inherently flawed, as is the evaluation of the teachers that teach them. Multiple measures, although more complex, are the right-minded way to truly place a value on the most complex profession of teaching. Simple measures do not apply.
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 co-location of charter schools inside or on the grounds of pre-existing public schools is the “dirty little match girl” policy of the NYC schools, a divisive policy of framing the “haves and the have-nots” of our supposedly equitable school system. There is nothing equitable about placing a better-funded, less accountable school inside another one. Furthermore, the procedures of placing these schools inside others have been hidden, gauzy processes where access to information and decision-making has been taken away from parents and the community leadership of the very neighborhoods that they supposedly serve. We’ve had enough.
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?
The purposefully confusing nature of our tax code system is especially vexing at this time of the year! A potentially large revenue stream could come from the enactment of a Commuter Tax which would help fund NYC public services. Unfortunately, that would have to be passed by the state legislature and given the composition of that legislative body, it is unlikely to pass such a measure. I have no problem with closing the loopholes for taxpayers who reside in NYC but file using their second home address – fair is fair.
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?
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
As in the case of the homeless, budget cuts and the lessening of grants at all levels of government are making a bad problem worse. While NYC excels in developing luxury housing, we are far less successful in providing housing for the working poor, and although there are a host of non-profit organizations/CBOs that assist our most needy, our social safety net fails to catch too many before they hit rock bottom. The excessive paperwork required by HRA makes matters worse, and their “sanction” system should be reformed. The Public Advocate, although limited in budget, can use the city-wide position as a bully pulpit, and help to spotlight the problems government faces in dealing with the poverty issue. Working in tandem with CBOs and faith-based organizations, existing coalitions can be made stronger and a more singular goal can be achieved: end poverty in NYC. I know first-hand the challenges in dealing with these issues, as I spent ten years as Director of Strategic Planning for the Archdiocese of New York, and as Director of Government Relations for Catholic Charities, where it was my job to not only serve the immediate needs of people in our care, but to look ahead and determine where our services would be needed five, ten and 20 years in the future. This experience makes me uniquely qualified for this role.
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
This important issue is tied to the federal and state government, as well as to our local city government. Budget cuts on all levels are exacerbating an already acute problem, and the record number of homeless is a constant reminder that we must do far better as a society in helping our most vulnerable populations. This ongoing “sequester” isn’t helping matters. One of the chartered mandates of the Public Advocate is to have an active Ombudsman unit, and I plan to aggressively expand that unit through the use of my Advocate Think Tank program, where I will get dozens of graduate students to serve as Research Fellows for the low price to the city of a desk and a computer. These Research Fellows will assist the professional staff at the PA’s office in doing intake, casework and targeted, thorough research focusing on the homelessness issue. All the city’s resources need to be brought to bear and as Public Advocate, I will certainly help lead the way.
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?
Most of my family lives on Staten Island, so I know first-hand of the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy. First, the federal response to this disaster was far too slow, due primarily to Republican legislators in other states holding up desperately needed aid simply because of coarse politics. NYC first responders did their jobs with distinction, and most city agencies helped rather than hindered recovery efforts. However, the fact that several months removed from the impact of Hurricane Sandy Rockaway residents here still have no direct subway service is extremely troubling. Add the unfortunate fact that that people here have to endure longer bus commute times to get to and from work and school due to the failure to resume subway service is downright infuriating. NYC was overwhelmed by the force of the storm, and multiple systemic failures spotlighted the need for comprehensive and revolutionary emergency preparedness planning. We can learn from others about flood control and storm surge protection, namely experts in The Netherlands. We can learn from those in southern coastal states why it is so important to preserve the natural barriers that help contain and repel storm surges (rather than build mere feet from high-tide lines). Zoning must be more rigid and variances less common. I am not in favor of the Spectra Pipeline. The EPA must be strengthened and its regulatory arm must have more clout. We need more people in government like Rachel Carson and less like Rand Paul.
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 believe the 2nd Amendment has been used for too long by a privileged and monied few as a justification to sow fear and misinformation (while driving up gun and ammo sales) – yes, I’m talking about you, leadership of the NRA. I support the call for common sense measures to protect our citizens from gun violence. Universal background checks should be the law of the land, something that most people including gun owners support. The Assault Weapons Ban enacted in 1994 should be reenacted. The fact that a relative handful in Congress has been able to stop the People’s will on this issue is shameful. I agree with both President Obama and Mayor Bloomberg and stand with them on this important issue.
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 believe that government has no business standing between a woman and her health care provider. Roe v Wade is the law of the land and I will uphold that law. Marriage is a civil right and any loving couple – gay or straight - should be allowed to join into that institution, so I fully support marriage equality.
~ Cathy Guerriero, candidate for public advocate of New York City: CathyGuerriero.com