Sunday, November 2, 2014

Review of the Gubernatorial Debate in New York

Election Day is this Tuesday.  In the race for governor of the Empire State, Republican Democratic nominee Status-Quomo -- I mean Andrew Cuomo and Republican nominee Robert Astorino jointly agreed to only one debate.  Included were Green nominee Howie Hawkins and Libertarian nominee Michael McDermott.  Because Cuomo is the incumbent and I back Hawkins, this recap of the event focuses on those two contenders.

Cuomo proclaimed in his opening statement, "[W]e have Democrats and Republicans working together again."  However, his conspiracy has helped give to the Democrats in the state legislature no choice but to compromise with their Republican colleagues in order to pass legislation.

The flag of NY in front of the State Capitol.
Hawkins remarked in his opening statement, "I call for a Green New Deal for New York...  Real solutions cannot wait.  The time for real change has come."

Cuomo soon touted some of his right-wing credentials, bragging that he has brought about the lowest corporate tax rate since 1968 and that, "We just won an award because, from a business point of view, NY went from #25 to #4 according to a conservative organization that studies taxes."  In an embrace of long-discredited propaganda of Reaganomics, he added, "So we've brought down taxes and that has brought up jobs -- 511,000 new jobs.  This state has more jobs than it has ever had."

Given the growth in population, growth in the mere number of jobs is unimpressive when one considers that the state's unemployment rate exceeds the national average.

Hawkins responded, "Trickle-down corporate welfare does not trickle down to workers and small businesses.  What we need is a bottom-up, full-employment, wage-led economic development policy that raises demand, [which] gives real incentive to business to invest and hire."  The Marine Corps veteran continued, "[T]he best way we can do that is to commit to 100% clean energy over the next 15 years...  [A] peer-reviewed study from researchers at Cornell and Stanford says if we were to do that, we would create 4.5 million... middle-income jobs in construction and manufacturing and would cut electric rates in half."

The Teamster further added, "Take healthcare off the business budget via a single-payer system for the state.  And... restor[e] the progressive taxes we had in the 1970s and the revenue sharing we had then.  Local governments would receive eight times as much [state aid] as they do now.  They could lower their property taxes and still pay for their schools and services."

Cuomo, although he accused Astorino of hypocrisy on hydrofracking, again refused to take a position on it until after the election.  Cuomo insulted our intelligence when he said, "Academic studies come out all different ways.  Let the experts decide."

("Democracy Now!")
His feigned ignorance was rebutted in Hawkins's next statement: "[W]e should ban fracking because it endangers the climate.  Burned gas heats up the planet because of the release of carbon and of methane, and pollutes water and land.  We already know that...  Five percent of fracking wells fail as soon as they're drilled, 50% within 15 years, according to a study of 41,000 wells drilled in southwest Pennsylvania recently.  Mr. Cuomo says he is waiting for the science.  But when some science came back from the US Geological Survey, his administration wanted to change the results."

McDermott espoused the idea of legalization of industrial hemp.  He explained that it "can't be smoked but can create jobs.  It has four crops a year, ...[and] needs no pesticides.  The cotton industry dislikes industrial hemp because it can be made into cheaper and better clothes."  (Hawkins's platform includes the same measure.)

Despite a request by Astorino, Cuomo did not disclose whether he has been subpoenaed as part of the federal investigation into his conduct with regard to the anti-corruption Moreland Commission.

Hawkins pledged to re-impanel it and to push for a system of clean financing of election campaigns, and argued that in order to reduce conflicts of interest, state "legislators should be banned from outside income.  They should work full-time for us."  He later stated, "Mr. Cuomo has sometimes said the Moreland panel was independent.  At other times, he said because he created it, he had the right to shut it down...  You have to wonder why he did..."

With the endorsement of the Buffalo Teachers Federation, the Plainview - Old Bethpage Congress of Teachers, the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Assoc., the Valley Central Teachers Assoc., the Lakeland Federation of Teachers, the East Williston Teachers Assoc. and fmr. US asst. secy. of Education Diane Ravitch PhD, Hawkins told us he, unlike Cuomo, opposes Common Core.  Hawkins explained, "I hear from a lot of teachers, students and parents that... this whole package is a regime of tests and punishment, not of support and improvement, narrows the curriculum, dumbs down to filling in bubbles, and ignores a lot of other things about education: ...questioning, collaboration, cooperative projects.  I want for local parents, teachers and school boards to make the decisions about curriculum."

Hawkins's running mate
is educator Brian Jones.
("Democracy Now!")
Astorino pointed out that Cuomo "tried to swipe $5[11]M from a... clean-water fund" in order to finance construction on the Tappan Zee Bridge.

Hawkins noted, "Rather than go to Wall St. and pay huge finance charges, a way to more economically finance infrastructure would be to have a state bank like North Dakota does.  The interest and principal would go back into the public treasury."

Astorino reminded us that Cuomo, although he claims to be a champion of women's rights, "disrespects women by supporting [Speaker] Shelly Silver, who used $500,000 in state money as a hush-money coverup for sexual assaults in the Assembly."  The county executive of Westchester added that "as attorney general, Cuomo signed off [on] and defended Silver's right to do that."

Hawkins articulated his stance against expansion of charter schools, elaborating, "Public schools fail because we're the most segregated state in the US, ...we have concentrated poverty, ...those problems come into the schools, ...they don't get the resources they need, ...then they're defined as failed by this high-stakes testing, ...then they're turned over to charters, where... there are a bunch of hedge-fund investors who take advantage of federal tax credits and make money even though those charters are nominally nonprofit.  This is a cannibalization of our public school system.  I'm for full and equitable funds for public schools."

McDermott observed, "Charter schools," which are supported by Cuomo, "are publicly-funded schools that have no local control."

Cuomo gave a non-answer to the question about this issue, then maintained his opposition to legalization of recreational marijuana, but Hawkins made the case "for the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana like Washington State and Colorado now have," explaining, "We have an enormous problem of tens of thousands of people imprisoned irrationally for nonviolent possession of and use of marijuana.  That imprisonment has destroyed communities, families, and individuals' opportunities in life, and is targeted at black and Latino communities so that -- while blacks, whites and Latinos use drugs at the same levels -- 94% of prisoners in the state penitentiaries who are there because of drug offenses are black or Latino.  For nonviolent drug offenders... and those who have gone through the system, I would provide clemency so they would not be branded when they go for housing, jobs and education.  I also call for a truth, justice and reconciliation commission to examine the damages and then make recommendations for how we can put these communities and families back together."

Hawkins, in his closing statement, pitched a living minimum wage of $15 per hour and a tax plan that would mean relief for 95% of the state's taxpayers but a 20% increase in revenue.  "I'm polling at 9%.  That's a record for a... progressive third-party candidate in NY history in a statewide election.  But we can go much higher," he said.  "If we get out the vote, and vote for what we want, we can win this election.  Vote Green."

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