Questions for "The Final Debate"

Questions for "The Final Debate," held at Great Grace COGIC Church on the near west side of Syracuse Oct. 24, 2017

There are a number of ways to address these issues, but what will be your priority or the best practice in solutions that address poverty, specifically homelessness in Syracuse? (150 words)

A Marshall Plan for Syracuse: The city should develop a plan to employ people from the high-poverty neighborhoods to rebuild the housing, depressed business districts, and social services of their neighborhoods. The city should seek funding for the plan from the $500 million Upstate Revitalization Initiative and the State of New York.

Inclusionary Zoning: Require all new and substantially rehabbed housing developments to include at least 30% units for low-income people because that is the proportion of Syracuse residents paying more than 30% of their income on rent, the federal affordability standard. The inclusionary zoning ordinance should also have a minimum percentage of market rate units as well.

Public Development of Affordable Housing: The city itself should develop affordable housing rather than relying on private developers. It should scale up what the Syracuse Housing Authority is already doing to develop affordable housing utilizing the low income tax credits.

What are some ways that you would strengthen Syracuse’s job market or training programs, to take the unemployment rates to even record lows? (150 words)

Fair Shares of City-Funded Jobs to City Residents and Minorities: The fastest way to get living-wage jobs to the working poor of Syracuse is to ensure they get their fair share of the living-wage jobs the city already funds for its departments and its contractors through an Equal Employment Opportunity Program with enforceable goals and timetables.

Community Hiring Halls: Establish city-certified Community Hiring Halls where residents can sign up with their qualifications and get help upgrading their qualifications. Contractors and city departments would be required to go to the Community Hiring Halls as a source for qualified new hires on city-funded jobs.

Municipal Development Bank for Employee-Owned Businesses: Establish a public bank to plan, advise, and help finance locally-owned businesses in Syracuse. It should prioritize the development of worker cooperatives where workers receive the full fruit of their labor instead of the profits going out to absentee owners.

What is the best way to address these violent incidents and shootings in Syracuse, and how will you support existing initiatives? (150 Words)

Youth Outreach Workers: Reach out to the youth who are unattached to education or employment who do most of the shooting. Hire more youth outreach workers to work with these youth to connect them to what they need to reintegrate into society, from school, job training, and employment to counseling and drug treatment.

Community Policing: Assign every police officer should to a neighborhood beat where they are expected to get to know the neighbors and businesses and work to solve problems and de-escalate conflicts before they get worse. Promotion should be based on relationships built and problems solved rather than the volume of tickets and arrests.

Anti-Poverty Investments to Reduce and De-concentrate Poverty: Crime is high when poverty is concentrated. The city should focus its resources and policies on uplifting poor and working class people and de-concentrating the poverty by desegregating our city’s housing and schools by race and class.

What do you propose are viable solutions to addressing the concerns within SCSD, to make all of our schools safer, more effectual, and students with better educational outcomes? (150 words)

Desegregation: Nothing comes close to improving educational outcomes for all students than desegregation by economic class, which largely overlaps with race. The achievement gap on standardized tests closes. Middle class students still do as well. All the students – poor, working class, and middle class – do better on measures of intellectual self-confidence, leadership skills, problem solving, creativity, team work, and empathy and tolerance, characteristics that are vitally important when students leave school for life, work, and business.

Resist the State’s Test-Punish-and-Privatize Agenda: Nine of Syracuse’s 34 public schools are defined as “struggling” based on children’s standardized test scores. High-poverty schools inevitably score low and are being punished because they are poor. They will be taken over by the state next year and converted to privately-managed charter schools if the test scores do not improve. The city must defend our schools from outside takeover, which would be a financial and educational disaster.

How will you address the mounting need for mental health services and programs, what do you propose as the best practice in building awareness of these issues in Syracuse? (150 words)

New York Health Act: The city should lobby passage of this bill, which would provide all medically necessary services, including mental health and drug treatment services, to all New York residents through public single-payer insurance plan. It has passed the state assembly and is one vote short in the state senate.

Lead-Free Certification of Rental Units: Require landlords to receive lead-free certificates for their properties before they are rented out.

Safe Injection Site: In order to save lives from opioid overdoses, the city should open a safe injection site for heroin users, which will bring users into contact with medical and social services for overcoming addition without fearing arrest.

Drug Treatment at Emergency Rooms: The program at the Upstate University Hospital's emergency room to start treatment of addicts with short-term prescriptions of Suboxone that eases cravings and withdrawal symptoms should be extended to all hospital emergency rooms in the city.

How will you begin unifying the entire city; regardless of affiliation, civic knowledge, or geographic location; and chart a new course for voter access and participation? (150 Words)

Reach Out To Other Candidates and Their Supporters: All the candidates brought distinctive qualifications, experience, and ideas to the campaign that the next mayor should utilize.

Instant Runoff Voting: Voters rank their choices. If no candidate receives over 50% on the first count, the last place candidate is eliminated and their votes are transferred to their next ranked choice. That “instant runoff” process continues until the most preferred candidate receives a majority, which is unlikely in this year’s four-way race under the current system.

Neighborhood Assemblies: Bring the TNT planning councils back from exile as a separate non-profit into the structure of city government in a stronger form. Like New England Town Meetings, every resident would have a voice and vote in community planning and participatory budgeting. Break down the eight TNT sectors into about 20 Neighborhood Assemblies that correspond to the actual neighborhoods people have named and identify with.

Is your support for the I-81 expansion based on the commonality among county and state plans, or is there another infrastructure concern that should be prioritized instead? (150 Words)

Community Grid: This option enables the city to build a mixed-income, mixed-use, walkable neighborhood as an alternative to the concentrated, segregated poverty under which Syracuse now suffers. Syracuse Housing Authority is already planning this kind of design for its 27 square blocks south of Adams Street. The city must get control of the federal right-of-way under I-81 to have the leverage to build the same kind of neighborhood north of Adams and ensure city residents and minorities get their fair share of the construction jobs.

Water Infrastructure Improvements: The city should apply immediately to the $1.5 billion state fund appropriated this year for local government water infrastructure.

Sidewalks: Make the Department of Public Works responsible for sidewalk maintenance and snow removal as it is for city streets.

Neighborhood Assemblies: Empower these neighborhood governments as part of the structure of citywide government to ensure equal and adequate service from city departments.

What are your thoughts on this demonstration of servanthood? Why? How do you propose saving money for Syracuse, and then generating revenue? (150 words)

An Average Worker’s Salary for the Mayor: I will reduce my take home pay to the median household income in the city and donate the remainder, after taxes, to a Solidarity Fund to support social justice organizing. Elected policy makers ought to live with incomes like the people they represent.

Savings: The city should lobby for the New York Health Act, the single-payer public health insurance plan to provide all medically necessary services to all New Yorkers. It would save the city and school district $80 million a year in health care costs.

Revenue: The city must fight for tax relief from the state to avoid bankruptcy, a state-imposed financial control board, and further deep cuts to services. We need a restoration of previous levels of state revenue sharing and home rule for a progressively graduated tax on incomes made in the city by residents, commuters, and absentee landlords alike.

How will you create or support initiatives that directly impact or support some of the issues that are plaguing Syracuse? (150 words)

Funding: The city needs more revenue to meet the many needs of its people. It must be aggressive in lobbying the state for funding and savings in the form of increased state revenue sharing, home rule for a progressive city income on residents, commuters, and absentee landlords, passage of the New York Health Act, and full funding of Foundation Aid for our schools.

Desegregation: De-concentrating poverty through policies to desegregate housing and schools by race and class is how we begin to end the isolation of poor and working-class people from the resources, knowledge, and opportunities that middle-class people take for granted.

Coordination: The city should be pro-active in developing coordinated plans with non-profit agencies to address city problems. The city should be active now in developing its coordinated plan for the $30 million in anti-poverty funds from the Upstate Revitalization Initiative that has just issued its request for proposals.

Every candidate has made the claim that they are different than the former and current administration, as well as other candidates. OLD WAYS WON’T OPEN NEW DOORS. What makes you the best candidate for the job? What other model cities have you studied that have successfully overcome similar challenges that Syracuse faces? How will you be creative and innovative, to open new doors in your role as Mayor? (150 words)

I have been an organizer in movements for peace, justice, labor, the environment, and independent working-class politics since the 1960s. I have the political skills needed to unite Syracuse behind progressive reforms and to build coalitions with other cities, towns, and counties that can win needed reforms and funding from state government.

I will draw upon the experience of Richmond, California under a Green mayor, Gayle McLaughlin, from 2006 to 2013. Her administration undertook many important initiatives, but the most relevant one for Syracuse was an aggressive crime and gun violence prevention program that combined community policing and focused outreach to at-risk youth unattached to employment or education. Richmond had a murder rate for decades that was higher than Syracuse’s record last year. Over McLaughlin’s eight-year tenure, this crime prevention program cut the murder rate by 75% and property crimes by 40%. I want to bring that program to Syracuse.

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Howie Hawkins is the 2017 Green candidate for Syracuse Mayor
Hawkins for Mayor