Platform

My top two priorities are Fiscal Justice and Jobs.

I will speak up for Syracuse to fund our city and schools. I will organize with the community, labor, and other elected officials to make the rich pay their taxes and the state share its revenues again. Fiscal Justice is how our city will get the money we need for good schools, living-wage jobs, safe neighborhoods, and a healthy environment. 

I will also focus my energies on getting 4th District residents their fair share of the city-funded jobs that already exist. I will fight to see that the Equal Employment Opportunity Program and the Living Wage Law are enforced and that Community Hiring Halls are created to make city residents the first source for qualified new hires on city-funded jobs.

- Howie Hawkins 

Fiscal Justice -- End the City & School Funding Crisis with Progressive Taxes & Revenue Sharing

City elected officials have every right and responsibility to speak up for Syracuse on state tax and budget policies because the city is dependent on state funding for a quarter of its budget and the school district for three quarters of its budget. 

Without progressive tax and revenue-sharing reform, Syracuse faces insolvency. A Financial Control Board will replace our elected city government with state-imposed managers who will cut our schools and city services and tear up city union contracts. 

The richest 1% in New York more than tripled their share of all state income from 10% in 1980 to 35% today. Meanwhile, state income taxes were shifted from the rich to working people: rates on the richest 1% were cut in half and doubled on the lowest income tax bracket. And increased state mandates combined with decreased state revenue sharing shifted the tax burden from the progressive state income tax to regressive local property and sales taxes.

The city's fiscal crisis has been manufactured in Albany and on Wall Street. If the rich paid the tax rates and the state shared the revenues like they did in the 1970s, Syracuse would have plenty of money to meet its needs.

Not enough money can be saved to avoid a Financial Control Board by the consolidations and cuts to public employee wages, benefits and labor rights that are proposed by the Governor, Mayor, and most major party politicians. But there is enough money for a well-funded city and schools in some combination of the following:

  • School Aid Formula: Fully implement the Foundation Aid Formula established by the Education Budget and Reform Act of 2007, which went part way toward establishing a relationship between state aid, the needs of students, and a district’s ability to raise revenue. The state is now $8.9 billion behind on this funding promised in 2007. The state aid formula needs to be further reformed in order to reduce gross inequities in per-pupil spending that remain across the state and provide resources to increase educational outcomes, particularly in high-need districts like Syracuse. 
  • Revenue Sharing: Restore the traditional 8% (now below 2%) of state revenue shared with local governments in order to pay for state mandates and to compensate cities like Syracuse for hosting big governmental, educational, and medical institutions that are exempt from property taxes. A four-fold increase in the current $72 million Syracuse receives in Aid and Incentives to Municipalities would immediately end Syracuse's fiscal crisis and give it plenty of money to restore our schools, fire department, and youth and senior programs and put the unemployed to work building affordable housing, clean energy, mass transit, and the other things our city needs. With progressive tax reforms, the state can easily raise the revenues to increase the $774 million it spends on Aid and Incentives to Municipalities out of a $181 billion state budget.
  • Stock Transfer Tax: The state should keep the over $15 billion a year from this tax, which has been rebated 100% since 1981. Enacted in 1905, the tax is just 1.25 to 5 cents per share.
  • Progressive State Income Tax: The state should restore the more progressive tax structure of the 1970s, which would cut taxes for the bottom 90% and still take in $8 billion more dollars in revenue.
  • Bankers Bonus Tax: The Wall Street financial elite has been paying themselves over $20 billion a year in bonuses since the federal government began bailing out their banks in 2008 and which it continues to do through a variety of Federal Reserve programs, now at a cumulative total of trillions of dollars. A 50% Bankers Bonus Tax on bonuses over $50,000 would yield about $10 billion a year.
  • Single Payer Health Care: A single-payer health care plan for all New Yorkers would take public employee health care costs off the city and school district budgets. Public employee health insurance costs $100 million in the 2013-14, or 15% of the combined city and school district budget. A 2009 study commissioned by the state found that the efficiencies of a single-payer public health plan, providing comprehensive coverage that is free at the point of delivery to all, would save New Yorkers $28 billion a year in health costs by 2018 compared to a private insurance mandate plan, like that adopted federally in the Affordable Care Act of 2010. A single payer "New York Health" bill (A.5389-a/S.2078-a) had 74 co-sponsors in Assembly and 17 in the Senate at the end of May 2013. It is time to get it passed.
  • City Income Tax: A small progressive income tax on ourselves – including on the incomes of over 62,000 commuters to the city – would be fairer way to raise revenues locally than hiking property and sales taxes. Commuters have most of the middle and upper income jobs at big institutions that don't pay property taxes: four levels of government, several hospitals, Syracuse University, SUNY ESF, SUNY Upstate Medical University, and many for-profits with special tax breaks like Destiny USA. But they all use city services: police, fire, roads, water, sewers, trash disposal, parks, and more. It's time they pulled their own weight to fund our city. A progressive income tax with an average rate of 1% on Syracuse's $3.7 billion annual payroll would generate $37 million a year, enough to more than cover the city's structural deficits going forward.

Jobs -- City-Funded Jobs for City Residents

The fastest way to get good jobs to city residents is to get them their fair share of city-funded jobs. 

  • Update and enforce the Equal Employment Opportunity Program, including re-establishing the Human Rights Commission to monitor enforcement of this and other civil rights laws.
  • Expand and enforce the Living Wage Law to cover all workers with city departments and contractors, including beneficiaries of economic development incentives.
  • Create Community Hiring Halls that make city job-seekers the first source for qualified new hires on city-funded jobs.
  • Create a Community Full Employment Program with the goal of providing a useful, living wage job to every working age person willing and able to work who cannot find private employment. Pending a state or federal full employment program, the city should enact a demonstration program, using what funding is available, to use revenue producing public enterprise, as well as public service jobs, to employ unused resources (labor, physical plant) to satisfy unmet needs (child care, youth recreation, snow removal, smaller school class sizes, replacement of imported consumer goods that can be made locally, recycling and reprocessing waste into raw materials, housing rehabilitation, energy conservation, city parks restoration, and so on). Like the city "work relief" projects of the early Great Depression years that demonstrated the need and feasibility of what became the federal Works Progress Administration, where cities and counties designed public works and public service projects that were 90 percent funded by the federal government, the city should plan such projects now, begin to employ the unemployed to the extent local resources permit, and seek state and federal funding for them.

Build Community Wealth

The best longer term strategy to create living-wage jobs and expand the property tax base is to build community wealth. It is time to stop giving tax breaks to private developers and start building community-owned enterprises where the wealth created is anchored to our community by democratic ownership structures.

  • Cooperatives: Prioritize city economic development incentives for worker and consumer cooperatives.
  • Municipal Development Bank to plan, finance, and advise cooperatives.
  • Public Power Utility to cut energy costs, improve customer service, and build clean, renewable energy sources.
  • Community Media Organization: Use Time Warner franchise fees to fund a community-controlled nonprofit organization that provides programming, staffing, and training in all forms of community media, including cable channels devoted to Public Access, Educational, and Governmental (PEG) programming, community radio, community newspapers, and web-based media.
  • Community Broadband Utility: Create a first-rate community-owned broadband system (internet, cable TV, phone) to provide faster, lower cost service than the corporate telecoms do.

 Grassroots Democracy

  • Neighborhood Assemblies: Create direct democracy in neighborhood governments that function like New England Town Meetings, where all residents meet to formulate policies and programs for their community and elect committees to implement them. The Neighborhood Assemblies would replace the current TNT Area Planning Councils and reflect the smaller natural neighborhoods of the city. 
  • Participatory Budgeting: Neighborhood Assemblies that meet established criteria for organization would have the power to allocate resources provided through city revenue sharing for neighborhood programs and projects.
  • Council of Neighborhood Assemblies: A council of representatives elected by each Neighborhood Assembly would coordinate inter-neighborhood projects and advise the Mayor, Common Council, Board of Education, and representatives to county, state and federal governments. 
  • Occupy Syracuse: As citizens of Syracuse, we should Occupy Syracuse by organizing Neighborhood Assemblies even before city charter changes can make them part of the institutionalized structure of city government. Occupy Syracuse was a popular assembly open to all, practicing direct democracy to formulate responses to the problems ordinary people faced in the wake of the 2008 economic meltdown. Its First Amendment rights of peaceable assembly, free speech, and to petition government for a redress of grievances should have been protected and encouraged, not suppressed. The city should apologize to Occupy Syracuse and the general public for forcibly removing the Occupy encampment in concert with a nationwide suppression of the Occupy movement that was coordinated by the Homeland Security Department in partnership with big banks and corporations. The excuse for the removal was a propane heater and tanks that were removed after the Fire Department said they were a hazard. The Mayor's order for removal was an act of collective punishment against the whole movement for the transgression of at most a few. It is a shameful blot on Syracuse's proud history of being a center for pro-democracy movements, including indigenous, abolitionist, women's, labor, environmental, and peace movements.  

Fair Elections

  • Proportional Representation: Replace winner-take-all elections with proportional representation on Common Council and Board of Education. Winner-take-all elections over-represent majorities and exclude minorities. Proportional representation gives each party its fair share of representation in proportion to the vote it receives.
  • Instant Runoff Voting: Replace plurality elections with instant runoff voting for single seat elections like Mayor and Auditor. Instant runoff voting elects the most preferred candidate. It requires a majority vote to be elected. Voters rank their choices in order of preference: 1, 2, 3, and so on. If no candidate wins over 50% in the first round, the last place candidate is eliminated and the second choice votes of the last place candidate are distributed and counted. This runoff voting process continues until the first candidate to receive over 50% of the vote wins.
  • Public Campaign Financing: Enact a Clean Money system of full public campaign financing in Syracuse. Candidates would qualify for equal public campaign grants by raising a reasonable number of $5 contributions from voters in their district to demonstrate support. The grant would be sufficient to get the candidate's message to all voters. Candidates who opt for public money could not raise and spend private money. They could only use clean public money. Our public elections have been privatized. We have the best politicians that money can buy. The developers and other special interests seeking government favors are financing our public elections. This private campaign financing is legalized bribery. Public campaign financing would cost taxpayers of few dollars each per year to fund. That's a small price to pay for fair and clean elections.

Public Safety

  • Reverse Fire Department Cuts: Repair and reopen Station 7. Reverse the replacement of two engine companies at stations 6 and 7 with a single engine company at Station 1. Reverse the reduction of firefighters on duty from 69 to 65 per shift.
  • Increase Youth Jobs and Recreation Programs to cut crime and violence.
  • Increase Community Policing, including re-establishing a Police Activities League for youth educational, cultural, leadership development, athletic, and sports activities.

Equal Justice Under Law

"Equal Justice Under Law" is engraved on the U.S. Supreme Court building. But Onondaga County has the second greatest racial disparity in drug sentencing of all counties in the U.S., which has the most prisoners and highest incarceration rates in the world by far. The many costs of these dismal statistics hit particularly hard in the 4th District.

  • Stop the "War on Drugs" and Mass Incarceration: Redirect the money the city spends on enforcing drug laws to harm reduction and prevention efforts. Treat drug abuse as a health problem, not a criminal problem.
  • Create a Public Defenders Office: Fight for a fully state-funded public defender system headed by an independent public defense commission to guarantee the right to counsel.
  • Secure the Right to a Trial by a Jury of Peers: Fight to change state law so defendants in Syracuse have the same right as defendants in towns to a jury of their peers from the same municipal jurisdiction.
  • Ban the Box: Prohibit employers from asking a potential hire to check a box on the initial job application indicating if he or she has a criminal history. Employers would have the right to know an applicant’s criminal history, but the inquiry would be deferred until a conditional offer of employment. A Ban the Box law will stop the practice of automatically disqualifying applicants who are fully qualified. With over one-fourth of American adults having an arrest or conviction and with an even higher proportion of ex-offenders in Syracuse, a Ban the Box law will open up job opportunities to many in our community who are now excluded. Over 40 cities now have Ban the Box laws, including Buffalo and New York City.

Housing and Neighborhood Development

We need urban renewal, not urban removal. We need development without displacement and gentrification that reinforces race and class segregation. Development should raise up low-income people, not remove them through rising property values that price people with limited incomes out of their neighborhoods.

  • Ida Benderson Senior Center: Restore funding and find a convenient downtown location to re-open.
  • Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance: Require a minimum percentage of low and moderate income units in new or substantially rehabilitated developments of five or more units.
  • Community Benefit Agreements: Require developers to agree to negotiated enforceable performance goals for job creation, affordable housing, and compliance with civil rights, labor, and environmental laws as a condition of permitting and public economic incentives.
  • Support Community Land Trusts that protect low and moderate income residents and enable neighborhoods as a whole to benefit from rising land values when neighborhoods improve.
  • Transportation Justice: Better bus service and bike and pedestrian paths for the 4th District.

A Green Economy for a Sustainable Syracuse

Greater Syracuse can get ahead of the curve and prosper from leading the transition to the zero-carbon economy that the world needs to avert catastrophic climate change. City and county planning should promote regional organic food and clean energy self-reliance, as well as an ecologically sustainable and diverse manufacturing. It is time to bring together and employ the technical expertise and the idle labor, land, and buildings located right in the 4th District to build an ecologically sustainable prosperity.

  • Carbon Free by 2030: Develop a plan to power, heat, cool, and transport Syracuse solely with carbon-free clean energy by 2030, as a recent study of powering New York State only by clean wind, water, and sunlight sources shows is technically feasible and cost effective. A city-owned public power utility will be necessary to have the capacity to build our own clean sources of electricity and heat and help finance green building retrofits and electrified mass transit. With the state and federal governments stalling on climate action, cities like Syracuse must taked the lead to avert climate catastrophe.
  • Green the Interstate 81 Corridor - Build a New 15th Ward Neighborhood: Take down the viaduct, reroute through traffic onto I-481, and build a green neighborhood: a car-free neighborhood supported by mass transit, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure, with a central park surrounded by mixed-use, mixed-income, mixed-age development. Move commuters, shoppers, and tourists in, around, and out of the city and this core central neighborhood by building a first-class metro mass transit system instead of continuing car-dependent transit by rebuilding the viaduct or replacing it with a stop-and-go boulevard.

Constituent Services 

  • Responsiveness: Respond to inquiries within 24 hours.
  • Office Hours: Post and hold regular office hours for constituents.
  • Neighborhood Meetings: Hold regular public meetings with constituents in each of the district's neighborhoods.
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commented 2013-06-01 00:28:48 -0400
This is so needed in your neighborhood and the rest of the city!
Howie Hawkins is the 2017 Green candidate for Syracuse Mayor
Hawkins for Mayor