If you missed the Black Leadership Coalition of CNY's Candidate Forum on October 18th, I'm providing here my written responses to the questions posed to us before the event, we didn't get to answer all of these live due to time constraints.
Q1. Please define what you believe are the issues that most affect poverty in Syracuse. What are your State Legislative priorities to tackle the problem?
Poverty in Syracuse is a generational issue that has resulted from systemic racism and runaway capitalism. Examples of this include redlining of neighborhoods, lack of financial services for oppressed communities, displacement from development, and high levels of incarceration for non-violent crimes.
My legislative priorities at the state level are parallel to local level legislation desires. First, we must move from regressive taxation bases such as property taxes and sales tax, to progressive income taxes based upon the amount of money an individual or household makes, with no federal cap. This is a change that could happen at the state level, but could also be implemented at the City level by obtaining a home rule decision to create a 1% capped progressive income tax for all who work in the city regardless of residence.
Second, we should legalize recreational marijuana use in NY State, and implement reparations for minority communities disproportionately affected by the current laws such as the City of Oakland and the State of Massachusetts have already done, that would provide preferred equity ownership and operation of cannabis businesses.
The City of Syracuse must also strongly advocate for the passage of the NY Health Act, which would provide full and equal health care to everyone in NY State. This would save Syracuse approximately $80 million dollars annually, lifting us out of our debt crisis, giving us the ability to finance our education needs, and creating healthier people and places.
Q2. What are your ‘red-line’ issues when it comes to budget votes?
Rather than trying to isolate individual issues, I will consider the budget a moral document and my red-line issues will be any that fail to provide for the dignified life of everyone in our City. Aside from that, I would also encourage a moratorium on financing private developments through tax breaks until our stricken neighborhoods are brought back to being safe and liveable for all. Lastly, I would work with the current Mayoral administration to develop the interest in participatory budgeting that they have, and which I have practiced and help manage for the annual $40,000 TNT special project sector awards, in order to implement it across the city for at least 10% of our total budget to be decided on use by the residents of the City of Syracuse.
Q3. At-large methods of election are often discriminatory because they, in combination with racially polarized voting, prevent voters of color from electing their candidates of choice where they are not the majority in the jurisdiction. What strategies would you employ to ensure the policies for which you advocate reflect all of your constituency?
We must have some form of proportional representation. This could come in many forms such as neighborhood assemblies, neighborhood representation on district oversight boards, or even an expansion of the number of current Council seats. This would likely involve some type of election reform to include ranked-choice voting, public campaign financing, and city-funded and led GOTV expansion.
I have also advocated strongly over previous years, and continue to do so, for full transparency, access, response, and engagement (TARE) - read more in my published opinion at https://www.syracuse.com/opinion/index.ssf/2018/02/syracuse_common_council_missed_the_boat_on_responsive_government_commentary.html
Q4. What are opportunities you see for the city of Syracuse to break up low income subsided housing?
We can implement inclusionary zoning which would link the production of affordable housing to the production of market-rate housing in new residential developments. It is also possible to create a community land trust to receive and hold properties from the Land Bank. This land trust would be managed by city residents, and enable the pooling of capital into a revolving fund that would allow interested individuals to obtain and renovate Land Bank properties when they are unable to do so currently due to lack of financial means.
Q5. With I-81 coming down, what is your vision for revitalizing the area in a equitable way?
First and foremost we must avoid displacement, avoid repeating the same mistakes and purposeful discrimination that were made when I-81 was initially built. Second, I will focus on the development of an incubator and support organization that involves the city in employee-ownership opportunities for residents. With over 50% of the current small business assets in our country owned by the Baby-Boomers, a large turnover and movement out of our cities of capital and assets, and potential loss of jobs will occur, unless we stabilize and anchor those businesses and jobs here through worker-cooperative and ESOP owner structures. The I-81 corridor could be a premiere stage for this innovative work to take place.
Q6. Gun violence is plaguing our city, young people are in need of opportunities rather than turning to gang violence. What legislation or projects would you advocate and pass in order to reduce violence?
My priority here is to only turn to policing as a last resort, and to turn to providing the essentials of a dignified life to our neighborhoods. Violence only appears to be endemic to high poverty neighborhoods. Statistics show that When people live in households that are struggling with poverty, they have a higher rate of violence that involves a firearm at 3.5 per 1,000 people compared to 0.8-2.5 per 1,000 people in middle-to-high income families. Therefore, we must immediately increase revenues, decrease costs, and then shift spending to a large-scale focus on neighborhood and individual health. This may include more police on the streets in “meet & greet” roles, becoming neighborhood fixtures and service providers.