Tomorrow's Neighborhoods Today

TNT Sector 8 (Southside, Southwest, Brighton, Strathmore, Elmwood)

Tomorrow's Neighborhoods Today (or TNT) are neighborhood planning processes that set up eight Area Planning Councils covering the city of Syracuse. This questionnaire was for a mayoral forum on June 1, 2017 sponsored by TNT Sector 8.

Office Sought: Mayor of Syracuse

Current Occupation: Truck unloader at UPS

Previous political experience:

Organizer in movements for peace, justice, labor, the environment, and independent working-class politics since the late 1960s.

Co-founder of the anti-nuclear Clamshell Alliance in 1976, which spearheaded the movement that stopped the construction of new nuclear power plants in the United States.

Co-founder of the Northeast Coalition for the Liberation of Southern Africa in 1977, which initiated the South Africa divestment movement on the U.S. university campuses and ultimately led to U.S. sanctions against apartheid South Africa in 1986.

Co-founder of the Green Party of the United States in 1984, which is now the nation's largest third party on the left.

Green Party candidate for Common Council, Mayor, Auditor, and NYS Governor many times since 1993.

Community Involvement:

Board Member and Treasurer, Southside Community Coalition

Board Member and Treasurer, Eat To Live Food Cooperative

Member, Teamsters Local 317

What will be your top 3 priorities if elected and why?

  1. Progressive Tax Reform: I will move to make the tax base broader and fairer to increase revenues so the city does not go broke and get taken over by a state financial control board. I support a progressively graduated tax on the incomes earned in the city by residents and commuters, increased state revenue sharing to pay for the state's unfunded mandates, countywide property tax sharing as proposed by the Consensus Commission, and a single-payer state health plan that will radically cut health care costs for the city and school district.

  2. Fight Discrimination by Race and Class: I favor inclusionary zoning in housing, desegregation in schooling, and improvement and strong enforcement of equal employment, minority contracting, and fair housing laws.

  3. Build Wealth in Low-Income Communities: I support city aid to develop worker cooperatives where the wealth of our labor creates stays with our families and communities through democratic ownership structures.

How would you deal with the high concentrations of poverty in the city?

Desegregate housing and schools so poor people are no longer concentrated in high-poverty neighborhoods and schools.

Make sure people in high-poverty neighborhoods get their fair share of city-funded jobs with city departments and contractors.

Develop worker cooperatives that uplift poor and working-class people because workers receive the full fruits of their labor as income and wealth.

What would be your approach to job creation and economic development?

Stop giving tax breaks to out-of-town private developers.

Invest in cooperatives where we own our own jobs and the wealth we create stays in our community.

Establish a Municipal Development Bank for planning, financing, and technically assisting new cooperatives.

Partner with the city's medical and educational anchor institutions on University Hill to provide markets, financing, and technical assistance for new worker co-ops in the adjacent low-income south side and near east side neighborhoods.

How would you address the city's high number of abandoned properties?

Use the Land Bank to foreclose on tax-delinquent absentee onwers, but work with home owners to help them stay in their homes.

Reverse race and class housing segregation by ending the concentration of low-income housing in poor neighborhoods and upscale housing in affluent neighborhoods.

Enact inclusionary zoning that requires mix of low income, moderate income, and market rate units in new housing projects.

Use the Municipal Development Bank to finance affordable home ownership for tenants who are now paying rents higher than would be their costs for home ownership.

What can the city government do to reduce crime and improve community relations?

Attack the root causes of high crime in the concentration of poor people in segregated neighborhoods. That means desegregating housing and schools, making sure poor people get their fair share of city-funded jobs, and developing worker cooperatives where poor people can build up their income and wealth.

Hire a new police chief committed to community policing and crime prevention programs. I mean real community policing – not a small public relations unit – where officers are assigned to neighborhoods and build relationships with residents and businesses.

Coordinate crime prevention programs through a well-staffed Office of Neighborhood Safety. Crime prevention programs should include youth jobs and recreation, approaching drug abuse as a health problem instead of a criminal problem, and working with gang members and the formerly incarcerated to help them secure education, employment, counseling, mentoring, and/or drug treatment.

Support the Citizen Review Board, including funding for investigators.

Diversify and localize the police force. The 1980 federal consent decree to remedy past discrimination against blacks by the Syracuse Police Department set a goal of 10% black officers in all ranks. Today only 7% of the police in any rank are black, Latino, Native American, or Asian in a city that is 28% black and 49% people of color. 92% of officers live outside the city. That is just unacceptable 37 years after the federal consent decree.

What is your understanding of the issues currently facing our education system and how would you address them?

Desegregate the schools by race and class. Start within the city while seeking inter-district desegregation with school districts near the city.

Martin Luther King spoke in Syracuse in 1965 and warned that de facto segregation was growing in the North. He said it would doom generations of black and poor children to inferior segregated schools. He predicted where metropolitan Syracuse ended up.

Desegregation is the only proven way to improve poorly performing schools and close the race and class achievement gaps. All the research and experience since the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 show this conclusively.

Class is the most important factor. Where schools have been desegregated by race but integrated only the poor of all races, all the problems of concentrated poverty still created poorly performing schools.

Adequate and equitable school funding, the quality of facilities and equipment, teacher expectations, and class size all help. The state and national test-punish-and-privatize policy agenda that promotes private charter schools defunds our public schools and is really about private profits, not public education.

Nothing has come close to improving educational outcomes for all students than desegregation by race and class. It is time to stop pretending otherwise.

What is your position on the city and county merger?

I oppose the Consensus Commission's merger proposal. It disempowers city residents by reducing the city to a special tax district to make us pay by ourselves for our segregated schools and the retirement benefits of former city workers. The Consensus Commission's winner-take-all elections will entrench a suburban and rural white majority with all the real power. It would be a consolidation of segregation.

But precisely because metropolitan government is the only way to desegregate our metropolitan region by race and class, we need metropolitan government to desegregate schools and housing. It's also how we can become economically and ecologically sustainable. Economically, because with a united community and tax base, economic development anywhere will benefit metro citizens everywhere. Ecologically, because it's the only way to have an enforceable county land use plan that protects green space and solves the interconnected problems of suburban sprawl and inner city decay.

So I advocate a metropolitan government based on the principles of federalism and proportional representation. Federalism means the towns and the city remain and retain important local powers, such as local planning and zoning decisions within a metropolitan land use plan. Proportional representation means each party gets representation in the metropolitan legislative body in proportion to the vote they receive. Proportional representation gives the ethnic and political minorities their fair share of representation and power instead of reducing them to powerless minorities as winner-take-all elections do.

Which I-81 option do you think is best for the city and why?

Tear down the elevated highway and rebuild the 15th Ward around the old community street grid as a residential and commercial neighborhood that is mixed-income, mixed-use, ecologically-designed, and well-served by public transportation.

Require that people displaced by the new construction from public and other housing in the area have the first right of return and that there is sufficient affordable housing for them to do so.

Prioritize worker and consumer cooperatives for the commercial development.

Do you believe that Syracuse should be a sanctuary city? Explain why or why not?

Syracuse should be a sanctuary city because it protects public safety and the freedoms that all of us, citizens and non-citizens alike, enjoy under the 4th and 10th amendments to the U.S Constitution.

Sanctuary city means local law enforcement does not arbitrarily search and seize people for residency documents and does not report undocumented people to, or detain them for, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) without a court order.

The 4th Amendment prohibits arbitrary search and seizure without a court-ordered warrant. The 10th Amendment prohibits the federal government from commandeering local officials to carry out federal policy, making Trump's threats to cut grants to Sanctuary Cities unconstitutionally coercive.

A sanctuary city protects public safety because it enables members of immigrant communities to report crimes and cooperate with law enforcement without fear of deportation.

Unfortunately, the county sheriff, who takes custody of people arrested by city police, says he will comply with detention requests from ICE. The courts have repeatedly ruled that detaining suspected undocumented immigrants for ICE past their scheduled release dates without warrants illegally violates their 4th Amendment rights. The sheriff's policy also contradicts the sanctuary city guidelines of the state Attorney General's Civil Rights Bureau.

Sanctuary cities thus comply with the law – they don't defy the law. The next mayor should urge the sheriff to change his policy because it is illegal and undermines public safety and constitutional rights in the city.

In what ways do you think you can best serve the Southside? Be specific as possible.

Increase city investments in the Southside's neglected housing and neighborhood business districts.

Re-open Coyne Laundry as a worker cooperative serving the industrial laundry needs of the hospitals and universities on University Hill.

Improve and enforce an updated Equal Employment Opportunity Program with goals and time tables for getting Southsiders their fair share of city-funded jobs with the city and its contractors.

Appoint more Southsiders as to the various city departments, boards, and commissions.

Outside of politics, what are some of your other interests?

Reading and writing articles about history, politics, economics, and environmental problems.

Hitting the gym after work.

Following SU and Golden State Warriors basketball, 49ers and Raiders football, Giants and A's baseball, and track at any level.

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