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VOCAL-NY Action Fund
Voices of Community Activists & Leaders (VOCAL-NY) Action Fund
2018 New York State Candidate Questionnaire
The VOCAL-NY Action Fund, is a not-for-profit organization in New York and the nonpartisan advocacy and political arm of Voices Of Community Activists & Leaders (VOCAL-NY).
The VOCAL-NY Action Fund was created in order to provide a grassroots and independent voice for some of the most marginalized communities in New York through educational and electoral activity, including legislative advocacy, voter education, and community organizing to promote VOCAL-NY’s mission.
Drug Policy & Public Health
Harm reduction programs offering syringe exchange have reduced HIV infection among people who inject drugs by 83%, and reduced transmission of the more infectious hepatitis C virus by more modest degrees. However, after more than 20 years of state support for sterile syringe access to prevent HIV and hepatitis transmission, individuals are still being arrested for criminal possession of syringes. Especially amid an increase in heroin use around the state, this policy is a waste of resources that contradicts successful public health efforts to prevent disease transmission among people who inject drugs. Do you support repeal of the NYS Penal Law that criminalizes possession of syringes?
Syringe exchange and linked harm reduction services have been credited with a vast reduction in new HIV infections among people who inject drugs, as well as in providing primary healthcare, access to drug treatment, housing, and other needs to an underserved population. But major geographic gaps remain in New York, representing a missed opportunity to prevent HIV and hepatitis transmission, overdose, and other harms associated with drug use. Will you commit to providing funding and reducing regulatory barriers to promote harm reduction services in underserved communities?
Despite New York’s pioneering history in establishing and promoting critical public health tools, they remain out of reach for too many New Yorkers, including those living in rural areas and those without stable access to health care. We will not end overdose in New York until we prioritize connecting all New Yorkers in need to these vital tools. Buprenorphine and methadone are essential medications that stabilize people who are opioid dependent and help them move toward recovery. These medications are the gold standard for opioid use disorder treatment and should be fully supported as such. Will you commit to expanding access to buprenorphine and reducing regulatory barriers to improve broader access to methadone?
Last year was the 7th consecutive year of rising overdose deaths in New York - making it the deadliest year on record. The majority of fatal overdoses are experienced by people who are unobserved and using alone. Overdose Prevention Centers are sites where people can engage in harm reduction services, receive public health services, get linkage to housing and treatment services, and use pre-obtained drugs under medical supervision to prevent a fatal overdose. The Centers are a well-researched public health intervention, have existed for over thirty years with over 100 sites worldwide, and there has never been a fatal overdose in any of these sites. Research shows that Overdose Prevention Centers significantly increase people’s engagement in treatment, reduce the transmission of HIV and hepatitis C, decrease public injection and improper syringe disposal, and increase education and services for high risk people who use drugs. Do you support the implementation of Overdose Prevention Centers in New York State?
There is a growing recognition nationally that arrests and incarceration do nothing to curb the overdose crisis, nor do they help people struggling with substance use disorder. In fact, contact with the criminal justice system can exacerbate the struggles of people with opioid use disorders to find a path toward health and recovery. Given dramatically higher rates of overdose following even brief periods of incarceration, it is critical to reduce overreliance on arrest and provide meaningful pre-arrest diversion opportunities. A growing movement in New York and around the country has developed effective pre-arrest diversion models that link people to life-saving case management and support through harm reduction programs, including Law Enforcement-Assisted Diversion (LEAD). Will you commit to expanding pre-arrest diversion programs across New York State?
Hepatitis C, the leading cause of serious liver disease, affects 250,000 people in New York State, many through a history of injection drug use. Hepatitis C can cause disability and fatal liver disease and is a leading cause of death for people with HIV/AIDS. It is thought that half of New Yorkers do not know their status, and those that do are often not receiving care and cure, which partly explains the significant increase in hepatitis C related mortality in the past 10 years. Despite the scale of the epidemic, however, the Department of Health’s viral hepatitis programs have been flat-funded at less than $1.5 million for nearly a decade. Do you support increasing funding through the Department of Health to support access to hepatitis C prevention, testing, care, and treatment?
Marijuana prohibition has not been effective in its stated goal of stopping or curbing marijuana use across New York State. Instead, prohibition has fueled the growth of an illicit industry, has been disproportionately enforced in communities of color, and has been fiscally irresponsible. Marijuana possession is one of the top misdemeanor arrests in New York State—and has been for the last twenty years. The Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA) will address the negative impacts of the failed policy of marijuana prohibition by creating a responsible and well-regulated industry that will generate millions in tax revenue to bolster the state economy and support communities that have been most harmed by marijuana prohibition. It will also work to address some of the unjust consequences of marijuana prohibition by creating a process for both the reclassification of past convictions related to marijuana and for the resentencing of currently incarcerated individuals who are serving a sentence due to a marijuana-related offense. With an eye to lessons learned in other states, the MRTA does not contain broad felony disqualifications for licensing or employment, which will allow people who have been targets of the drug war to have access to an equitable marijuana industry in New York. Will you commit to marijuana legalization and championing the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act?
What is your vision for a public health approach to drug use in New York State?
The basic policy approach should be to end the war on drugs and mass incarceration by treating drug abuse as a health problem, not a criminal problem.
Drug treatment on demand should be covered by a universal public health insurance program, such as that proposed in the NY Health Act, which should invest in drug treatment clinics sufficient to meet the need.
Marijuana should be legalized, taxed, and regulated. Regulation should seek to encourage minority, women, small, and cooperative businesses and exclude big pharma, liquor, tobacco, and agribusiness from the market. Regulation should encourage organic production methods and protect consumers from pesticides and chemical additives. Industrial Hemp should be fully re-legalized for any farmer. Cannabis products should pay normal sales tax rates, excluding homegrown not for trade or sale.
For other illicit drugs, New York should adapt the successful drug decriminalization policy of Portugal to New York. Eliminate criminal penalties for low-level possession and consumption of all illicit drugs and treat these activities as violations. A person found in possession of personal-use amounts of hard drugs will no longer arrested, but ordered to appear before a local "dissuasion commission" -- comprised of a doctor, a lawyer, and a social worker -- who take a health-centered approach. They will determine whether and to what extent the person is addicted and refer that person to a voluntary treatment program or order payment of a fine or other administrative sanctions. Drug trafficking offenses should remain illegal and processed through the criminal justice system.
People convicted and/or in prison for non-violent drug possession and use offenses should be given amnesty and freedom. The savings from reduced incarceration should be dedicated to re-entry support for former prisoners and reparations for the communities most damaged by mass incarceration.
Please expand on your answers to this section here:
I support and have participated in the campaign for Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission, led by Alice Green of the Center for Law and Justice in Albany. It calls on the Governor to appoint a commission to address the impact of the war on drugs and mass incarceration, particularly on communities of color, take testimony from the people in the communities impacted as well as from expert witnesses, and issue a report with recommended policies to repair the damages. The hearings and process of developing the report will educate the public as much as the report itself and help build support for real solutions to this problem.
Although there are more New Yorkers living with HIV than in any other state in the nation, it is within our reach to end the epidemic that has impacted us for more than 30 years. There is still no cure at hand, but we now have the knowledge and means to dramatically reduce new HIV infections and promote optimal health for those with HIV. In June 2014, Governor Cuomo announced a Task Force to End AIDS in New York that will develop a strategic blueprint and plan in collaboration with the AIDS Institute to end the epidemic. This task force gives New York the potential to serve as a national model for ending the epidemic by making a long-term commitment to, and a strategic priority of, ending AIDS for all New Yorkers.
The momentum to bring the AIDS epidemic to a close in New York already exists. NYS has seen an almost 40% decrease in new HIV diagnoses in the last decade, with fewer new infections each year, despite there being no decline in the number of new HIV infections diagnosed nationally. Injection drug use had once been the cause of more than half of all NYS cases, but has been reduced by over 90%.
For these and other reasons, now is the time to develop and implement an action plan to end AIDS in New York.
Do you support allocating new funding for the NYS Department of Health’s AIDS Institute to implement any plan developed by the Task Force to End AIDS in New York?
Housing status is one of the strongest determinants of access to HIV care, retention in treatment, viral load suppression, and mortality. In 2016, thanks to a change in state regulations, New York City became the first jurisdiction in the world to guarantee shelter and housing assistance to homeless people living with HIV. Unfortunately, this NYS program of enhanced rental assistance is unavailable to most people with HIV outside NYC—in part due to inconsistent participation and administration by local departments of social services, but also because the amount of the subsidy is too low. As the result, an estimated 3,700 households with HIV in Upstate NY and on Long Island continue to be homeless or unstably housed—undermining their own health and our ability to end AIDS as an epidemic by 2020. Do you support policies to ensure all homeless and extremely low-income people living with HIV, throughout New York State, have medically appropriate emergency shelter and permanent housing?
Research finds that the fastest rising number and proportion of HIV cases are among young gay and bisexual men of color and transgender women. Although this is trend is particularly concentrated among black and Latino youth, research indicates that differences in risk behaviors like unprotected sex or drug and alcohol use do not explain racial disparities in HIV infections. Do you support restoring funding cuts for homeless youth throughout the State with a carve out to specifically support for LGBTQ identified youth?
Please elaborate on other steps you would take to address the HIV epidemic among gay and bisexual youth of color and transgender women:
Create a comprehensive, medically accurate, and age-appropriate sex education curriculum to be taught in graders 1 through 12 in all public schools.
License supervised safe injection sites.
Public Safety, Policing, & Civil Rights
In New York, unlike most of the country, prosecutors and police are not required to provide police reports and other crucial evidence – known as “discovery” – to people accused of crimes or their attorneys until trial begins – months or sometimes years after an arrest. This is much different from the civil system, where discovery is produced in an open and timely fashion. More than 95% of criminal cases in New York never make it to trial; they either end in plea deals or dismissals. That means nearly everyone pleads guilty before seeing all the evidence collected by the police and prosecutors. The current system is prosecutor driven and prone to abuse as prosecutors and police withhold or delay evidence in order to build leverage to coerce guilty pleas. This system leads to mass incarceration, wrongful convictions and court delays:
- People wait months & sometimes years waiting for evidence to support the prosecutor’s charges.
- People are wrongfully convicted at trial due to prosecutors withholding evidence and innocent people plead guilty having no way to evaluate the strength of their case.
- While prosecutors and defense attorneys file motions and argue about access to evidence, people sit in jail and are prevented from moving forward with their lives.
Do you support Early, Automatic, Open Discovery for criminal cases as contemplated in S7722(Bailey)/A10135 (Blake)?
One of the core tenets of our criminal justice system is supposed to be that a person is innocent until proven guilty. However, across New York State that is not the reality as thousands upon thousands of people are currently trapped in jail simply waiting for their day in court -- most there only because they are not able to pay the financial conditions of release. In New York 200,000 people a year, 1 million over the past five years, are admitted into jails across the state – almost all locked up before trial. Right now about 25,000 people sit in jail, 70% pre-trial. This two-tiered system: one track for the wealthy where liberty interests are protected, and another for those without resources who go to jail, is one of the great shames of New York. Although the law provides nine forms of bail, judges typically use just two – cash bail and commercial bond – and do not responsibly consider people’s ability to pay. Being stuck in jail causes tremendous harm to people who may lose their job, housing or custody of their children, simply because they are poor. People of color bear the most abuses of this system. Even when people can pay, that ties up money that would otherwise be spent in the community on rent, food or bills. Jails are expensive and we could use that money for services in our communities. Do you support eliminating money bail, drastically reducing the size of the pre-trial jail population and eliminating racial disparities?
Only two countries in the world allow private industry to profit off of bail bonds: the U.S. and the Philippines. Nationally, commercial bail bonds represent a $14 billion industry with $2 billion in profits annually. In New York City alone, approximately 12,000 bonds are executed each year, syphoning approximately $20 million in legally-permissible fees – and likely millions more in illegal ones – from low-income communities (primarily those of color) with a total potential exposure of $237,000,000 for families. Several jurisdictions within the US have already abandoned the coercive practice of private bail bonds, and New York, which styles itself as a progressive leader, should join them. (Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon and Wisconsin plus Maine, New Jersey, Nebraska and the District of Columbia). Because the commercial bail bond industry operates within the confines of the criminal justice system, low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately affected by the industry’s predatory practices. Commercial bail bonds act as a tax on the communities that can least afford it. Unlike other states, New York has a unique bail statute that makes the commercial bail bond industry entirely superfluous. Partially secured or unsecured surety or appearance bonds, processed in court (Court bonds) are available and preferable options, because they include greater oversight and do not include non-refundable fees. Other totally non-financial options, such as telephone reminders, voluntary programming or supervised release are also available and important because 80 percent of people who go through NYC courts are indigent. Do you support the elimination of the Bail Bond Industry in New York State and, over the long-term, the elimination of all for-profit actors in the criminal legal system?
The 6th amendment of the U.S. constitution says everyone has a right to a Speedy Trial. But New York is the only state that does not actually have a Speedy Trial law. Instead we have a “ready rule” that sets time limits for when prosecutors must be “ready” for trial, but does not say when people must actually receive a trial. This set up puts all of the power in the hands of the prosecutor who can take advantage of the system to claim “readiness” and then take it back and delay cases for almost as long as they want. This leaves thousands of New Yorkers – some sitting in jails and others who are not – waiting for months and sometimes years for their day in court, unable to move on with their lives. This causes significant negative consequences like loss of jobs, housing or custody of children. Meanwhile it costs as much as $270,000 a year to hold someone in jail in New York State. Would you support legislation to create a true Speedy Trial rule in New York State that would mandate release from jail if Speedy Trial deadlines were not met by prosecutors?
The Broken Windows theory of policing is a racist, zero-tolerance policing philosophy introduced to New York City by Bill Bratton and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the 1990's. The theory says police can prevent serious crimes by aggressively cracking down on minor, 'quality-of-life' violations. However, researchers have not been able to prove that the theory works. In fact, in a 2015 report by the City's Department of Investigations, Broken Windows enforcement was shown to not have an effect on crime. In reality, Broken Windows theory has served police in an era of declining crime to retain a large headcount and high number of interactions with the public -- often for behaviors that do not justify a law enforcement response. In fact, Broken Windows policing encourages police to harass and racially profile mostly in low-income Black and Latino communities. This is often fueled by the NYPD's well-known quota system and results in mass arrests, mass summonses, jail time, lost workdays, barriers to housing, loss of child custody and even deportations. Do you support an end to Broken Windows-style policing and the reinvestment of police resources into communities most negatively impacted by decades of over-policing?
Please expand on your answers to this section here:
Statewide Public Defenders Office: Full funding for a statewide public defenders office, administered by an independent public defense commission, to guarantee the right to quality counsel.
Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform: No asset forfeitures without proceedings after a conviction is obtained.
Safe Parole Act: Shift the focus from punishment to incentives that help parolees reintegrate into society by establishing a transparent and accountable parole system that enables inmates to earn parole by successfully completing rehabilitative and educational programs.
Educational Opportunities for All Prisoners: Provide educational opportunities for all incarcerated individuals, from basic literacy and numeracy to GED to college courses and vocational courses. Re-establish Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) eligibility for prisoners and include prisoners in free tuition at SUNY, CUNY, and community colleges.
Child Victims Act: Enact this extension of the statute of limitations to age 50 in civil cases and to age 28 in criminal cases for survivors of child sexual abuse.
Ban Solitary Confinement: Enact the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement bill to establish residential rehabilitation units (RRUs) as an alternative to isolated confinement. Provide programs, therapy, and support to address underlying needs and causes of behavior, with 6 hours per day of out-of-cell programming plus one hour of out-of-cell recreation. Enhance due process protections before placement in RRUs, create a clear process for release from RRUs, and mandate greater training for correctional officers working in RRUs or adjudicating disciplinary hearings.
Ban the Box: End the practice of employers and public colleges such as SUNY using criminal history on initial applications, which automatically disqualifies applicants who are fully qualified. The right to know an applicant's criminal history would be deferred until a conditional offer of employment or enrollment is made.
Voting Rights for Felons: End the loss of voting rights for felons while in prison and on parole. Make participation in civic affairs part of rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
Right to a Trial by a Jury of Peers: Change state law so that defendants in cities have the same right as defendants in towns to a jury of their peers from the same municipal jurisdiction.
Ban Warrantless Drone Surveillance: Prohibit warrantless drone surveillance in New York airspace that violates our Fourth Amendment rights to privacy and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Alternatives to Incarceration: Probation or work release for paying fines, victim restitution, and community service. Work release and education release for prisoners preparing for re-entry into society.
Civil Rights Department: Establish a cabinet level Civil Rights Department within the executive branch constituted as a law enforcement agency with sufficient resources to carry out its mission of enforcing anti-discrimination laws and desegregation initiatives. It should be given an authoritative legal mandate, an independent funding source, the power to streamline procedures and cut across government agency jurisdictions, and the responsibility to recommend programs reduce race and class segregation and disparities in employment, education, housing, criminal justice, and other areas. In education, it should immediately address racial and class bias in school attendance zones within school districts and support programs for race and class desegregation across existing school district boundaries.
Enact GENDA (Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act) to ensure transgender and gender non-conforming people have equal protections in education, employment, housing, credit, and public accommodations (including banks, bus stations, court rooms, hospitals, hotels, restaurants, libraries).
Housing & Homelessness
There are over 89,000 homeless people living in shelters across the state—the highest number ever recorded. Thousands more are living on the streets, in three-quarter houses, or doubled- and tripled-up in apartments. Since 2010, New York State's homeless population increased by 36%. While most attention has been focused on New York City, communities across the state have faced massive increases in homelessness: in Long Island homelessness increased by 20%; Albany has seen homelessness increase by 23%; Binghamton has seen homelessness increase by 31%; and Rochester has seen homelessness increase by 18%.
Historically, New York State has aided in reducing homelessness in New York City and statewide, through the funding and creation of affordable and supportive housing, sharing shelter costs with cities, and supporting housing subsidies. However, under Governor Cuomo, the state’s budget, tax, and policy priorities have led to a steady withdrawal of resources and a worsening homeless crisis each year.
Supportive housing breaks the cycle of homelessness by pairing permanent housing with on-site services for people with a history of substance abuse, and/or who have mental and physical health needs. The creation of supportive housing has been wholly inadequate, and in some cases delayed by or entirely withheld. If elected, will you advocate for the immediate release of funding to create a total of 20,000 units of supportive housing across the state, within the next ten years?
The Homes Stability Support (HSS) program is a new statewide rent supplement for low-income families and individuals who are facing eviction, homelessness, or loss of housing due to domestic violence or hazardous conditions. HSS would help bridge the difference between public assistance shelter allowance and fair market rents. HSS has been was introduced by Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi. If elected, will you work to pass and fully fund A8178?
New York State must ensure that any affordable housing it subsidizes, sets aside new housing units to homeless families and individuals, to meet the unprecedented need for permanent housing. Do you support a homeless set aside in all new state subsidized affordable housing projects? If so, please explain? How much should the set aside be?
The state should set aside enough funding to subsidize or build enough units to house the 89,000 homeless New Yorkers.
The state should fully fund 20,000 units of supportive housing that provides permanent housing combined with on-site services for people with problems with substance abuse, mental health, and/or physical needs.
Homelessness leads to poor community health outcomes, including incarceration, disease, mental health crises, socio-economic inequality. It prolongs historic oppression of the most vulnerable groups. What will you do to ensure that permanently rehousing more than 89,000 New Yorkers is one of your top priorities? Please provide concrete examples of how you will work publically and within government.
Start with the $20 billion Cuomo put in the budget in 2016 but has not yet used to subsidize or build homes to rehouse the homeless.
Expand rent control authority statewide and give home rule on rent regulations to municipalities. It makes no sense for upstate legislators to vote on NYC rent regulations. Close all the loopholes (vacancy decontrol, vacancy bonus, preferential rent, major capital improvement) in rent regulations that landlords use to decontrol units. Rent control will help prevent increasing homelessness.
To build sufficient affordable housing to meet the need, housing policy should prioritize rehabilitating and building new public housing over subsidies to private developers to provide some affordable units. More public housing units can be built with the same investment than using that money to subsidize private developers. The new public housing should be high quality, mixed income, human scale, scatter site, and powered by clean energy. It will be a jobs program, a desegregation program, and a clean energy program as well as an affordable housing program.
Our state has the resources to pay for ending the homeless crisis, turning the tide on record income inequality and poverty, and much more – but that takes stronger leadership and better government, too. New York’s tax brackets are based on income distributions from the 1970s and 80s, allowing billionaires, multi-millionaires, Wall Street and big corporations to benefit from explosive income gains, without paying their fair share.
Billionaire hedge fund and private equity managers on Wall Street use the carried interest loophole to pay lower taxes rates than teachers and truck drivers do. Will you support Assembly Member Aubry’s and Senator Klein’s bill, A3554, to close the carried interest loophole?
Fair share tax measures could raise billions of dollars in revenue for New York State. What other progressive revenue proposals do you support? Are there other ideas you support that have not been introduced by legislators yet?
More Progressive State Income Tax : Restore the more progressive personal and business income tax structure of the 1970s (Revenue: At least $10 more billion a year).
Cut Income Taxes for Working People: Cut the lowest bracket from 4% to 2% of income, as it was in the 1970s. Adjust the brackets for middle income earners to ease the tax burden on earned income from work.
Multi-Millionaires Tax: Update the income tax brackets to reflect today’s income distribution in the millionaire class so that the income tax is progressively graduated as income goes from a few million to tens of millions. (Revenue: $2.3 billion)
Stock Transfer Tax: Stop rebating the Stock Transfer Tax (Revenue: $12 to $16 billion a year).
Cut Corporate Welfare (Savings: Up to $4 billion a year).
Unincorporated Business Tax: Enact a state surtax on high-dollar pass-through income from LLCs and other business vehicles in order to recapture some of the 20 percent deduction granted by new federal tax cuts to pass-through business income (Revenue: $1 billion a year).
Claw-Back Tax on Unproductive Federal Corporate Tax Cuts: Enact a “claw-back tax” on publicly traded companies that receive tax breaks under the new federal tax law but do not create jobs or raise pay of workers. Exempt small businesses and start-ups (Revenue: $1 billion a year).
Windfall Profits Tax on Opioid Wealth: An assessment on pharmaceutical company fortunes built by abusing the prescription system to explode sales and distribute dangerous opioid painkillers beyond their proper use could raise billions for overdose prevention, drug treatment, and public health.
More Progressive New York Estate Taxes: Add brackets with progressively higher rates for taxable estates over $10 million.
Internet Sales Tax: Expand the sales tax to cover all internet transactions in order to level the playing field for brick-and-morter retailers (Revenue: $160 million for the state, $160 million for the counties).
Circuit Breakers on Property Taxes and Rents: Refundable tax credits paid by the state to prevent low-income households from being overloaded with property tax or rent burdens.
Phase Out the Condo Tax Break: Condos are currently assessed at their rental value, while other homes and commercial properties are assessed at their resale value, resulting in an average 36% tax break for condos that shifts the property tax burden unfairly onto other property taxpayers. This condo tax break distorts the property tax, which is intended to fund local governments based on the value of property as a fair, proportional measure of each citizen’s ability to contribute. This tax break for condos, including single-family homes in condo associations, is inequitable and should be phased out.
Home Rule on Local Income Taxes: Give local governments the right to enact local income taxes – as New York City and Yonkers have been permitted to do – in order to diversity their funding sources and make the overall tax burden progressive.
Progressive Carbon Tax: Enact a progressive state carbon tax with rebates to low- and moderate-income households. The carbon tax will make polluters pay for their damages and make private investments in clean energy pay off (Revenue: $8 billion).
Land Value Taxation (LVT): Enact state LVT, which taxes rental value of land and levies no tax on improvements on the land like buildings. The revenues from a state LVT should be largely returned to local governments by an equitable formula, with a portion retained by the state for public investments and programs that benefit all communities. LVT is a fairer property tax because it returns to the public treasury the windfall of unearned value added to the price and rental value of a piece of land by social investments and improvements (such as transportation, water, and sewage infrastructure; nearby businesses, housing, schools, parks, and community gardens; and land-use planning decisions). These improvements are paid for by others – public and private investors – not the landowner. LVT returns this unearned income to the community for its public use.
General Experience & Partnership with VOCAL-NY
If elected will you meet with leaders and members of our organization to discuss organizational priorities?
Please use the space below to describe your past activities, accomplishments and experiences that demonstrate a track record of support for the issues of concern to low-income New Yorkers impacted by HIV/AIDS, the drug war, and mass incarceration.
As the state Comptroller candidate on the 1998 Green Party statewide ticket headed up by Al Lewis for Governor and Alice Green for Lt. Governor, our platform emphasized repealing the Rockefeller Drug Laws and legalizing marijuana.
I have continued to campaign to end the drug war and mass incarceration as part of the statewide ticket every four years since, the last two in 2010 and 2014 as the gubernatorial candidate.
In local politics, as a movement activist and candidate for city council, I was active in the movement to get a Citizen Review Board on police misconduct established in the early 1990s and to revive it from municipal neglect and strengthen its powers in the early 2010s.
From 2001 to 2013, the Green Party storefront in Syracuse hosted a weekly syringe exchange and free condoms program by AIDS Community Resources of Syracuse in conjunction with the adjacent South Side Newsstand, which was owned and operated by my sister. We both learned a lot about the issue from another sister who is HIV-positive and an HIV activist.