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Dunlea Running for Comptroller to Push Climate Change, Divestment from Fossil Fuels; Hawkins Leads Search for Jobs Created Through the Buffalo Billion

Dunlea Running for Comptroller to Push Climate Change, Divestment from Fossil Fuels; Hawkins Leads Search for Jobs Created Through the Buffalo Billion

For immediate release: June 21, 2018

(Buffalo NY) The Green Party candidates for Comptroller and Governor came to Buffalo today to call for increased action on climate change, which they say is the path to full employment.

They also called for reforms in the state’s efforts to create jobs, saying that presently economic development funds to often go to large campaign donors rather than to create jobs in communities where they are most needed. Several Cuomo administration officials and campaign donors are on trial in New York for allegedly rigging the bidding process for contracts for the Buffalo Billion. Cuomo and state lawmakers had stripped the State Comptroller of oversight of such contracts shortly before the Buffalo Billion contracts were entered into.

Mark Dunlea, the Green candidate for State Comptroller, said that the refusal of the current Comptroller to divest the state pension funds from fossil fuels is the main focus of his candidacy. For the last five years Dunlea has helped coordinate the NYC and state campaigns for 350.org to divest public pension funds from fossil fuels. NYC announced earlier this year that they would divest.

“Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity,” Dunlea noted. “It makes no sense for the State to continue to risk $6 billion in fossil fuels investment when the world has agreed to move away from fossil fuels and towards renewables. So far we have gotten 700 institutions worldwide to divest more than $6 trillion in funds from fossil fuels, but Tom DiNapoli thinks he will be more effective talking to Exxon, Chevron and the rest about climate risks,” said Dunlea.

Hawkins joined Dunlea to highlight the need to clean up the epidemic of political corruption at the State Capitol during the Cuomo administration. After the news conference, the Green Party candidates met with various community groups in the Buffalo area to determine if there was any evidence of local job creation as a result of Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion.

Dunlea also said that New York needs a comptroller who will be more aggressive in addressing the epidemic of political corruption in New York State. He said that as Comptroller he would investigate state contracts which were awarded to campaign contributions, otherwise known as pay-to-play. Dunlea said he would not take any campaign donations from individuals who have contracts with the state government and called on DiNapoli and other comptroller candidates to do the same.  Green Party candidates are already prevented by party rules from taking any corporate donations.

Hawkins said that the drive for 100% clean energy was the centerpiece of the Green Party's Green New Deal to revitalize New York’s public sector in health, education, human services, arts and culture, mass transit, housing, banking, broadband, and road, sewer, and water infrastructure. “We want public investment directly into the public services and infrastructure of our communities to rebuild the economy from the bottom up. It’s the Green alternative to the corrupt pay-to-play contracts, subsidies, and tax breaks to companies that donate to the Cuomo campaign. This corporate welfare goes to the top 1% and doesn't trickle down to the rest of us, the 99%,” Hawkins said.

Noting that Buffalo has seen the third fastest rise in rents in the nation and the highest in New York State, Hawkins said the Green New Deal for housing means a massive expansion of public housing alongside with giving all local governments in New York the right to establish local rent controls.

“Rent control is necessary but not sufficient to provide affordable homes for all. The don’t want the old-style public housing projects that concentrated poor and minority people in massive projects. We need high-quality public housing that is humanly-scaled, scatter-site, mixed-income, and powered by green energy, including solar and wind for electric power and ground-source and air-source heat pumps for heating and cooling. This public housing program will be a program for jobs, desegregation, and clean energy as well as affordable housing,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins said New York should learn from many Western European countries where public housing accounts for upwards of 20% of all housing, compared to less than 1% in the United States. With large sectors of public housing, rents in the private market are driven down to the real costs of providing rental housing. In Germany, for example, rents account for 10% to 15% of income. In New York State, according to report by the Office of the State Comptroller, half of renters pay more than the federal affordability standard of 30% of income and a quarter of renters pay more than half of their income in rent. European public housing is occupied by middle-income as well as low-income renters, making the projects economically self-sufficient.

Hawkins said directly building affordable housing as public housing produces more units per dollars spent than providing incentives such as the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit for private developers to build affordable units. The incentive programs for affordable housing like the LIHTC have failed to meet the demand for affordable units.

Dunlea and Hawkins also called for a public option in banking to finance energy, housing, and other Green New Deal public investments at lower cost than borrowing or bonding on Wall Street. With deposits of state and local government money, the public banks could issue credit at no cost to government. The interest, which accounts for 30% to 50% of the costs for most public works projects, would return to government instead of Wall Street banks along with the principal.

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