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by John Furman

TELL YOUR STATE LEGISLATOR TO REJECT THE PUBLIC FINANCING COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS

Following public outcry over big money in politics, the Governor and the Legislature created the Public Campaign Financing Commission to improve New York’s democracy. Thousands of New Yorkers demanded the Commission end the big money status quo and create a strong, people-powered democracy.

Instead, the commissioners created a flawed proposal that will not do enough to reduce big money’s dominance in our elections. The Commission also abused its power in an irrelevant and anti-democratic attack on New York’s minor parties by making it harder for them to stay on the ballot.

Tell your legislators to do the right thing and deliver for their constituents, not their big donors. Pursuant to the Commission’s enabling statute, we are urging the New York State Legislature to immediately introduce and pass “Fair Elections Fix” legislation that would do the following:

1. Further limit big money. Lower individual contribution limits to $7,500 for statewide races (from $18,000), $5,000 for Senate (from $10,000) and $2,500 for Assembly (from $6,000), and limit further contributions to participating candidates (New York’s public financing system should have limits more like the national average.)

2. Establish doing business contribution limits, and restrict candidates from carrying over funds from previous election cycles (“war chests”).

3. Fix enforcement. Administration and enforcement of this program should be outside of the Board of Elections. The heads of the agency and its staff should be held to the highest standards of ethics and nonpartisanship.

4. Launch the program in time for the 2022 elections. The attack on minor parties goes into effect immediately. There is no reason to wait for 4 years for the public financing program to go into effect for state legislative races, and 6 years for statewide races. Experts say there are proven ways to address mid-cycle implementation.

5. Reject all changes to party ballot status. Reject the increased threshold for party qualifications, new presidential race requirements, and increased signature gathering requirements.

We also request that the Legislature obtain and release publicly all of the information and data the Commission used to make its decisions.

Legislative leadership should allow for the introduction of “same-as” legislation by those who champion meaningful reform. A floor vote should be scheduled for the new legislative session. We urge all members of the Legislature to sponsor and vote for such a fix.

Following THE inability to pass Fair Elections legislation in early 2019 (despite those addressed here and majorities in each house being on the record in support), and the very apparent behind-the-scenes engagement with this Commission that has resulted in these shortcomings, every legislator should vote in broad daylight to make her or his position clear to the public. It is time for the Legislature to fix the Commission’s proposals and finally deliver the model for the nation New Yorkers were promised.

ELIMINATE 421A AND 485A, FULLY FUND PUBLIC HOUSING

In 2019, community groups throughout New York State fought hard to pass the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 — landmark legislation that is already reducing evictions in New York. But millions of New York’s tenants, especially those who live in public housing, still need greater protection.

Funding public housing must be one of your top priorities for the 2020 state budget. Public housing across the state is in severe disrepair, yet our state keeps funneling billions in subsidies and tax breaks to corporate landlords and developers. These issues are directly connected: subsidies and tax abatements for landlords and developers are coming at the expense of investments in repairing and rebuilding public housing.

The key culprits here are the 421-a and 485-a programs that cost our state upwards of $4 billion annually, but only benefit corporate landlords and wealthy developers. That’s why, to fund public housing, we’re calling on the New York State Legislature to eliminate 421-a and 485-a. They are costly, wasteful programs and harmful to tenants and communities.

In the 2020 budget, the State Legislature should invest the $4 billion that usually goes into 421-a and 485-a directly into fully funding public housing. The deterioration of public housing in New York is the result of decades of disinvestment at the federal, state, and local level. But there is plenty that state government can and should do with
$4 billion annually to improve conditions for public housing tenants.

The crisis of public housing is a statewide crisis.

At Johnson Houses, a large public housing development in Manhattan, residents are sick from mold and lead paint. Yet the state still fails to fund public housing, while one of the largest landlords in the world — the Related Group — enjoys 421-a subsidies to develop Hudson Yards: one of the most expensive luxury real estate projects in New York’s history.

Meanwhile, residents of Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority at 95 Perry Street live in unsafe conditions, while 485-a subsidies fund luxury housing at One Canalside.

The same story is true for thousands of other public housing residents in our state. In our incredibly wealthy state enough resources exist to ensure every resident has the housing stability that they need to thrive – including New Yorkers who live in public housing. But 421-a and 485-a completely undermine the fundamental goals of protecting housing stability and preserving long-term affordability. 421-a and

485-a cost our cities upwards of $4 billion annually, provide us with no benefits, and must be eliminated. That money should instead go to public housing and community infrastructure across the State.

Fully funding public housing is critical to healthcare, education, and economic stability for our state. It’s also one of the few sources of permanently affordable housing that can create a bulwark against gentrification and displacement in neighborhoods with rising rents. As a state, we must decide if our tax policy and state budget should continue to enrich billionaires, or if we can to provide dignified and truly affordable housing for those who need it most. In this year’s state budget, we urge the New York State Legislature to end 421-a and 485-a, and to fully fund public housing.

John Furman can be reached at 315.725.0974 or cnycitizenaction@gmail.com.

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