The Unheard Third Vote 2013

Where do the candidates stand?

Explore this voter guide to see how the candidates for mayor compare on issues of concern to low-income New Yorkers — and to the city as a whole. Browse by topic using the tabs below, or click on the numbers to see additional questions. Learn More

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Helping Workers

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1. What are your big ideas for growing the local economy in a way that creates good-paying jobs that offer upward mobility for low-wage workers and expands the middle class?

First, I want to emphasize that the best social program remains a job, and for those men and women who are entering the workforce with limited skills, a low paying job is often the necessary first step towards greater economic opportunity. Our emphasis must therefore be on training all New Yorkers—particularly low income New Yorkers—with skills for the 21st Century economy. Since resources are limited, we should ensure that our job training programs are targeted towards growth industries in which New York City has a comparative advantage, in fields such as light manufacturing, support for the financial services and real estate industries, healthcare research and delivery, tourism and construction. For example, according to NYC & Co., the tourism industry alone generated a staggering 310,156 jobs and $17.3 billion in wages in 2010. As a result of these jobs, $8.1 billion in tax revenue flowed to the City of New York and New Yorkers saved $1,350 per household in taxes. As visitors to New York continue to increase (50.9 million in 2011 was the city’s all time record), these economic impacts will only increase. Second, we must develop a holistic economic development policy that emphasizes local community benefits in a meaningful way. Community benefit agreements, as well as innovative new ideas like tax increment local transfers (TILTs), can all be leveraged to help ensure that community residents receive needed training and access to good-paying jobs through large-scale development projects. Finally, as part of our economic development policy, land use and zoning regulations must be enhanced to ensure that they do not stymie the projects that would provide community benefits, and as such, good-paying jobs for low-wage workers.

We are currently waiting on a response to this question.

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2. Post- Sandy, the need for a 21st century power and transportation infrastructure as well as housing and schools that can withstand extreme weather events is clear. How would you invest in upgrading infrastructure in a way that stimulates local hiring? What is your position on a public works program that would create jobs for youth and the unemployed?

Local hiring is a critical element to ensuring that development projects are welcomed by host communities and that host communities share in the benefits of such projects. That being said, if the local workforce lacks the requisite skills for the job, no company will ultimately be able to hire locally. That is why our focus must be on ensuring that all New Yorkers—particularly low income New Yorkers—have the skills for the 21st Century economy. Local developers, local residents and local government all benefit from such a policy, because ultimately, it means that our economy will grow, our tax base will grow, and our quality of life will improve. A focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) must therefore be a top priority of our education system. We must elevate the importance and the rigor of STEM education in our public school system, and we must work to demonstrate to children and youth that hard work on these subject matters can translate into direct economic benefits upon graduation. Additionally, we should be developing innovative solutions to deal with infrastructure financing challenges. A National Infrastructure Bank (NIB) is one such solution. It would allow local governments—especially in places like New York City—to borrow money through a public-private partnership at discounted rates and allow benefits to flow to both the public and private sectors. To help ensure that residents of our community are properly trained to work on development projects, we can link the NIB to job training resources from agencies such as the Department of Labor, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Transportation, and other Federal agencies.

We are currently waiting on a response to this question.

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3. The City Council overrode a mayoral veto to pass paid sick time. Would you favor expanding this law to provide paid sick days to employees in manufacturing and working for smaller businesses?

As a recent study by the Partnership for New York City highlighted, 88% of employers in New York City already offer paid sick leave to their employees. The remaining 12% of employers (mainly the building trades, which negotiate such matters through collective bargaining agreements, and restaurants) have practices in place that employees prefer over having a mandated set of sick days. For example, waiters and waitresses often prefer the flexibility of swapping tips with co-workers on days when they cannot come to work, and construction unions often prefer to negotiate more overtime in lieu of sick leave. Mandating paid sick days for businesses with 5 or more employees is an example of local government overreaching and does not take into account the fact that even the most well-intentioned regulations can often have negative unintended consequences. For example, under such a law, businesses with five or fewer fulltime employees would now have an incentive to either employ fewer full-time workers or to increase the number of part-time workers at the expense of fulltime workers. In both instances, workers suffer. Government should work to help businesses thrive and expand so that they can hire more workers, and ultimately, provide more revenue to the city.

We are currently waiting on a response to this question.

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4. The New York State minimum wage will be raised in steps to reach $9.00 in 2016. Is that an adequate wage for workers in New York City? Should tipped workers get the same minimum wage as other employees?

We should raise the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, index it to inflation, and be done with this issue. This is an issue that, like paid sick leave, can have negative unintended consequences (a higher minimum wage means that all wages at a business must rise), but unlike paid sick leave, it is about creating long-term economic prosperity for a greater share of New Yorkers. If working men and women cannot afford the basic things in life, they will ultimately seek more costly government assistance, which in the end, costs everyone—including business—even more money in terms of increased taxes. If we are going to have a minimum wage, it must be a living wage that is benchmarked to the cost of living in New York. By indexing this wage to inflation, we help to ensure that this critical issue is no longer used as a political bargaining chip in future political battles.

We are currently waiting on a response to this question.

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5. The efforts to make New York City a leader in high tech industries, including bringing Cornell’s new campus to the city, enjoy wide support. What other sectors could capitalize on the city’s comparative advantages while expanding middle-skilled jobs? How would you spur growth in these sectors?

Despite claims by some that New York City is too dependent on the financial services, insurance, and real estate sectors (FIRE); we cannot cede an inch in these three critical industries to other world cities such as London, Tokyo and Dubai. Each of these sectors provides thousands of high-quality jobs to New Yorkers across the income spectrum. At the same time, we should be broadening our economic base to include the industries of tomorrow—specifically information technology (IT). I call this expanding from a FIRE economy to a FREIT economy. Government has a role to play in helping to grow the footprint of these important sectors by easing the rules of doing business with the City of New York and ensuring that the services government provides to these businesses are cost-effective and efficient. Additionally, government has a role to play in ensuring that our primary, secondary, and higher education systems are emphasizing STEM studies. Just as it has done with the creation of the aforementioned Cornell campus, government can help realize this goal by serving as a partner. However, beyond building new higher education campuses, we need to consider a “Marshall Plan-like” investment in STEM education, beginning with today’s 7th grade students, who in 10 years will be graduating from college, and must be prepared to work in the new economy. We now import engineers and healthcare workers, and the highest wage earners are largely new arrivals to New York City. The best way to prepare a domestic competitive workforce is to intervene in middle schools today. Further, government can facilitate the transfer of abandoned and derelict manufacturing and warehousing space to light manufacturers and start-ups that need basic space close to the markets that they serve. This is something upon which I focused in the South Bronx. Finally, government can play a role in helping to defuse tensions between business and labor, instead showing the two sides the mutual benefits of collaboration. The developing partnership between the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) and the service union 32BJ is one such example of how historically combative interests are now working together for mutual benefit.

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6. Do you have a plan for reducing hiring discrimination for the unemployed, and those with credit problems or criminal conviction histories?

I support programs such as Second Chance, which through a combination of community service and sustained lawfulness, expunge low-level misdemeanors and other offenses from criminal records, giving thousands of men and women the opportunity to participate in the workforce free from the stigma that goes along with having to acknowledge a minor former misdeed.  Whenever an individual takes personal responsibility for their actions and works to correct their past, government should do its best to help them re-enter mainstream society and its workforce. If nothing else, such a policy makes good economic sense. It doesn’t make sense, whether measured economically or socially, to keep people who are trying to get into the workforce and be responsible citizens out of the workforce.  It’s absurd.

We are currently waiting on a response to this question.

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7. Mayor Bloomberg created the Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) to incubate and test initiatives for reducing poverty, which it tracks using a more comprehensive measure than the official poverty rate. With a growing number of New Yorkers—now more than one in five—living in poverty, what would you do to tackle this problem?

How we measure poverty in America is an ongoing challenge and we must begin by determining if our current metrics even make sense in today’s increasingly complex economy. That being said, we must make reducing poverty a high priority because it is morally the right thing to do and economically the smart thing to do. The impact of poverty multiplies quickly – through increasingly costly government services and a dwindling tax base. While we must remain committed to a strong social safety net, my emphasis is on improving the public education system with a focus on strong civic education, job readiness and college readiness. The best way to alleviate poverty is through work and the best social program is a job.

We are currently waiting on a response to this question.

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Public Safety

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1. How would you ensure that our city grows safer each year?

The city of today is a vastly different place than the city that I grew-up in during the 1970s, when public order was an afterthought and the police focused exclusively on responding to crimes. Today, the NYPD prevents crimes—from low level offenses to terrorist attacks—and it does so by remaining committed to a community policing model. The NYPD aspires to be a partner with local communities, and while much works still needs to be done—especially in communities of color and communities of new immigrants—the paradigm shift is real. I would continue to implement and expand the policing strategies of the Bratton and Kelly years, including a heavy reliance on data-driven and public order policing. We cannot yield an inch, or the gains of the past 20 years will be lost. We cannot revert to the New York City of 1978.

We are currently waiting on a response to this question.

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2. What is your position on the stop and frisk policing tactics used in the Bloomberg years?

We need the beat cop back in the residential neighborhoods of the city. The problem that we’re experiencing with stop and frisk is that we’ve taken that level of interaction between community and police out of the equation. The policy needs to be improved to include stop-question-frisk if necessary-respect. Respect of the civil liberties of all New Yorkers must always be maintained. There can be no gray area when it comes to this issue.

We are currently waiting on a response to this question.

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Education

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1. What is your top educational priority? What would you do to dramatically improve educational outcomes, particularly for low-income children?

Nothing but the children are sacred when it comes to education.  Improving the quality of a free public education is my top priority. Spending more tax dollars in our classrooms is not the answer, as we already spend more money per pupil than any other school district in the country. I am focused on attracting, retaining, and rewarding the best teachers; implementing a curriculum that meets the needs of the 21st Century economy; and ensuring that our public education system is constantly improving itself through managed competition, which comes from giving parents and students choices, including the choice of a star neighborhood school. When we make every neighborhood school a top-notch school, by applying the best practices of some of our recent innovations, we will succeed.  While I believe that schools should provide basic services such as quality meals and healthcare during the school day, nothing is more important than ensuring that each classroom in this city – regardless of the zip code in which it is located – is challenging our children to exceed the expectations that society has set for them. We cannot lose sight of what a school must be—first and foremost—which is a place of academic rigor and experimentation.

We are currently waiting on a response to this question.

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2. Some educators argue that the best way to help poor children is to expand school choice and competition; others favor increasing resources for schools in the neighborhoods where they live. What is your position?

Improving the quality of the classroom experience must remain our top priority in public education, and school choice plays a role in this process. We must focus on moving the best innovations that we discover, sometimes as a result of experiments outside of the traditional public education system, into traditional classrooms. Those innovations that work should be replicated and those innovations that fail should be discontinued. But we can never let testing take away from learning. Also, we must do a better job of bringing innovative classrooms to more New Yorkers. Right now too many students idle away valuable classroom time—as well as time that could be spent learning art, playing music, or participating in sports—traveling throughout our city to better schools. We must bring more quality classrooms to every corner of this city.

We are currently waiting on a response to this question.

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3. What would you do to substantially boost high school graduation rates and ensure that more graduates are career and college ready?

We must offer a better public education product if we are to expect our children to excel at school, and part of that means ensuring that we have the best teachers in the classroom and that we empower those teachers to be creative and responsive to ever-changing needs. Additionally, we must ensure that the curriculum that we are providing prepares students for future employment. Emphasizing STEM studies and dedicating classroom time towards career development is therefore also critical. But beyond this, we need to re-introduce civics so that our children feel more connected to their communities; develop robust sports programs, so that our children remain healthy and active; and facilitate exchange programs and increase language offers, so that our children can become global citizens. Our schools can do so much more if they are given more freedom and more opportunity.

We are currently waiting on a response to this question.

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4. How would you expand opportunities for black and Latino students to attend the city’s top selective public high schools and CUNY four-year colleges?

I benefitted from a HUD-funded scholarship that provided internships and a living stipend to get my Masters in Urban Planning.  Public Private Partnerships with local and national businesses can fuel such an initiative. It’s the best investment we can make. Just about every kid that gets into a top selective public high school goes through a test prep program.  These programs are expensive and clearly out of reach for so many low-income black and Latino families.  I would develop a low interest loan/scholarship style program, pegged to income, where it ranges from free to modest.

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5. What is your position on investing more in education programs for people incarcerated in our jails and prisons?

I am a supporter of policies that prepare incarcerated men and women for the workforce upon release, and whenever possible, filling this critical need through social entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations who specialize in serving these communities.

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6. In New York City, 180,000 young people, ages 16 to 24 are neither in school nor working. What would you do to provide these “disconnected youth” with a second chance at getting high school equivalency diplomas and jobs?

The public education system continues to fail our children. We must build a system that is responsive to the changing needs of today’s economy and citizenry. My response to this question is similar to my response to question #3: focus on the teachers and on the best subject matter, and help students recognize the link between applying themselves in the classroom and future economic opportunity. Specifically, we need to aggressively conduct outreach about the GED and connect our children to the fastest growing business sectors in our city and region. We should also charge the NYC Economic Development Corporation to make part of its portfolio a perennial mining exercise to help determine where current job skills gaps exist. This will help connect our children to high-demand jobs after graduation.

We are currently waiting on a response to this question.

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Affordable Housing

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1. What can be done to increase the supply of housing affordable to workers in the bottom third of wage-earners?

For too many New Yorkers, New York City has become a luxury good, increasingly out of reach for more and more New Yorkers. As Bronx Borough President, I helped to create over 40,000 new units of affordable housing—serving as a broker between well-meaning developers and well-deserving local communities—ensuring that developers met or exceeded affordable housing requirements and that they hired and sourced locally whenever possible. In essence, I worked to ensure that economic development was linked to community development. As Mayor, I will use the same template that led to the Bronx turnaround, a template that focused equally on community benefits for local residents and realistic profits for those developers who ultimately build the housing units this city needs.

We are currently waiting on a response to this question.

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2. What is your position on setting aside a share of public housing admissions and Section 8 vouchers for the homeless? What else can the city do to reduce our historically high numbers of homeless families?

We must remain committed to reducing homelessness, while ensuring that we get these men and women the immediate care that they need—from enrolling them in substance abuse programs to training them for basic jobs. Government programs that reward individuals for taking personal responsibility and keeping them accountable are ultimately the ones that work. Upon completion of these programs, these individuals would be eligible to stay in subsidized homes at a modestly increasing rent as they retain employment. Only when each side—the citizen and the government—are invested in the process can we solve the homeless problem.

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3. One hundred million in federal dollars needed for public housing repairs is now diverted annually from NYCHA’s budget to other city agencies. What is your position on continuing this arrangement? What steps would you take to improve public housing?

Government must stop misappropriating funds. It is not sustainable and it is not ethical. As Mayor, I would work diligently to ensure that funds are directed where they were intended to go, plain and simple. The operating and capital needs of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) are immense and we cannot afford to divert any resources.  In fact, we need to find creative ways of increasing revenue through leveraging the real estate we currently have, especially in some very high-value locations around the city.  Options include air right sales, advertising platforms, and long term leases for other uses, including retail and community facilities.

We are currently waiting on a response to this question.

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Health

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1. Half of the state’s 2.7 million uninsured live in New York City. What role can the mayor play to broaden access to affordable health care coverage?

The NYC public hospital system has been and must continue to be the safety net healthcare provider in our city. While we must remain committed to ensuring that anyone who comes into our hospitals without insurance can get quality care, we have to find ways to ensure that New Yorkers are taking full advantage of the benefits already available to them.  As Mayor, I will have a responsibility to ensure that all New Yorkers are aware of the various government services and programs to which they are entitled. By directing resources towards the best communication tools available—from enhancing the city’s 311 system, to incentivizing the creation of cutting-edge mobile apps—we can have a real impact towards ensuring that eligible New Yorkers better understand and have access to the new Health Benefit Exchanges. Additionally, by developing a comprehensive economic development policy that places community benefits at the core of its mission, we can ensure that more and more quality wage jobs get created, each of which often include health care coverage. At the end of the day, the best social program—and for that matter, the best healthcare program—is still a job.

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2. What would be your top health priorities? What are your views on the city's strong efforts to help reduce obesity and smoking?

As Mayor, I will expand an already aggressive effort to address obesity, heart disease, smoking cessation, domestic violence, and every other public health and wellness issue.  My top health priority will be to improve overall health and wellness through early and aggressive intervention in early childhood education, as well as general public education.  We also can address issues of wellness and health by making the city more pedestrian and biker-friendly, as well as improving the mass transit system, getting people out of their cars and leading more active lives. These efforts must be complemented by ensuring that our parks are more user-friendly, specifically with a focus on creating more venues for competitive sports activities.

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