Howie Hawkins on education, public transit

Howie Hawkins on education, public transit

Standing in front of the (Boss) Tweed Court House, Howie Hawkins announced today in that he will run for Governor as the progressive alternative to the pro-austerity and anti-union policies of the Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo and his Republican challenger Rob Astorino.

Hawkins chose to announce in front of the NYC Board of Education to highlight his call for adequate funding for public schools and an end to high-stakes testing. Hawkins said, "High-stakes tests are designed to define the children, teachers, and schools of disadvantaged communities as failures in order to privatize their schools as charters for profit-seeking investors. Public schools are not for sale. It's time to stop the corporate privatization agenda."

Cuomo's budget left state support for local schools in the state at the lowest level in 65 years. Cuomo also rejected NYC's request to raise taxes on the wealthiest city residents to ensure adequate funding for pre-k, despite the fact that NYC has the greatest income equality of any community in America. Hawkins supports empowering local governments to make democratic decisions over issues such as tax policy and minimum wage.

Hawkins wants  increased state revenue sharing with local cities and governments, including NYC. Hawkins criticized Cuomo's underfunding of the MTA, including diverting tens of millions of dollars this year in earmarked funds. He supports the legalization of marijuana, an end to the war on drugs, and an end to the prison-industrial complex. Hawkins wants the state to take action to deal with climate change, creating a carbon free economy by 2030. He would save consumers and taxpayers tens of billions of dollars by making health care a right through a state single payer Medicare for All type program.

Hawkins called Cuomo the ringmaster of the den of corruption at the State Capitol, raising enormous amounts of money from wealthy investors in exchange for political favors that cost taxpayers billions of dollars. Hedge fund investors and charter schools are just the latest example. Just 242 individuals have each given Cuomo over $40,000, accounting for 45% of his $33 million war chest acquired since he took office in 2011. Hawkins said Cuomo's fundraising is why he has favored corporate interests over the needs of workers, attacking teachers and unions, impeding efforts to make the minimum wage a living wage, and largely ignoring wage theft which costs low-income workers in NYC alone an estimated billion dollars a year. Hawkins said the Cuomo's abrupt dismissal of the Moreland Commission shows how his call to clean up Albany was just a charade.

"Boss Tweed always was  happy to allow people to vote, just as long as he got to choose the candidates. Well Wall Street and the 1% got their 2 candidates, Astorino and Cuomo. The Green Party is the party that will fight for the 99%," Hawkins noted.

Hawkins will ask for the Green Party nomination at its state convention in Troy on May 17. As the Green gubernatorial candidate in 2010, he came in third out of seven candidates with 59,906 votes, well above the 50,000 votes needed to secure a ballot line for the Green Party for the next four years.

Opt Out of Corporate Educational Reform

Hawkins had harsh criticisms for Cuomo's education agenda for shortchanging funding for public education, pushing high-stakes testing linked to the Common Core Standards to evaluate schools and teachers, undermining teachers' professional autonomy, and favoring private charter schools over public schools. Hawkins would replace Common Core and high-stakes testing with common standards and diagnostic tests written by teachers, not corporate contractors. He opposes Cuomo's push to take away community control of schools and give it to Mayors.

"Cuomo and his Republican allies in the Senate have defied the courts' orders to fully fund the constitutionally required sound basic education. The cumulative shortfall on Foundation Aid to meet this constitutional requirement is now over $9 billion. The state is being sued for this failure. Cuomo's underfunding of education is forcing school districts, particularly those in inner cities and rural areas, to hike regressive property taxes, cut staffing and programs, and many will go broke," said Hawkins.

Hawkins said that Cuomo's hostility to public school teachers and their unions and his support for charter schools must be understood in light of his large campaign contributions from wealthy hedge fund managers who profit from the favorable tax treatment of investments in charter schools and who like the fact that most charters are non-union.

“The roots of low achievement for some schools and students lie in concentrated poverty, segregation by race and class, and underfunding,” Hawkins said. “Cuomo's high-stakes testing regime is designed to fail the underfunded schools and teachers of low-income children in order to privatize the schools and de-unionize and downgrade the teaching profession. It won't better educate disadvantaged students. It just punishes them for being disadvantaged,” said Hawkins.

Hawkins views education as a basic human right. He has called for expanding public education from early childhood through college. He supports statewide universal full day Pre-K and Kindergarten with certified and unionized educators. For public higher education, he supports free tuition at CUNY, SUNY, and community collegesHe pointed out that City residents had voted to make CUNY tuition free, a decision that was overruled by the corporate and political elite as part of deal to rescue the city from bankruptcy. He supports the Dream Act, viewing its recent rejection by the State Senate as an immoral assault on the values of America as the land of opportunity and a nation of immigrants. He supports access to college by prison inmates.

A Green New Deal for New York

"I am calling for a Green New Deal for New York to establish the human right of all New Yorkers to economic security and prosperity, including decent jobs, living wages, publicly-funded health care, good public education from pre-K through college, and affordable housing, mass transit, and clean energy,” said Hawkins, a working Teamster who unloads trucks at night at UPS in Syracuse.

“The conservative economic policies of Governor Cuomo are fiscally and socially irresponsible,” said Hawkins

“His tax cuts and corporate welfare for the rich and tax caps and funding cuts for public schools and local governments have created fiscal mayhem and social neglect in our communities.”

100% Clean Energy by 2030

“A revitalized public sector and public investments in housing, energy, environmental protection, mass transit, and public services are the fastest and cheapest ways to create good jobs for the 1.5 million New Yorkers who are unemployed or working part-time involuntarily. The centerpiece of the Green New Deal is a commitment to building a 100% clean energy system by 2030,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins cited a report by a team of engineers and economists led by Prof. Mark Jacobsen of Stanford that makes the case that 100% renewable energy from wind, water, and solar sources by 2030 in New YorkState is  technologically and economically feasible.

“What is missing is the political will,” Hawkins said. “The clean energy commitment is also a full employment program because the Jacobson study finds that building the clean energy system will create 4.5 million jobs. All over the world taking action on climate change starts with voting for the Green Party."

Hawkins said that New York must play a more meaningful role in combating climate change. NYC is among the most vulnerable community to rising sea levels, and state and local officials did a poor job in responding to Hurricane Sandy. Tens of thousands of primarily low-income and disabled residents were largely abandoned for weeks. Rebuilding efforts have been slow and little action has been taken either to reduce the impact of future weather emergencies, or  to slow down accelerating climate change. Hawkins said he supported divesting state pension funds from fossil fuel companies responsible for climate change.

Hawkins supports the shut down of Indian Point and other nuclear power plants, and a ban on fracking for natural gas. His other energy proposals include: a carbon tax; funding mass transit and bike infrastructure rather than more cars and sprawl; sustainable organic farming; no new fossil fuel infrastructure, including gas pipelines and gas power plants; and no train and barge shipping of Bakken fracked oil and Alberta tar sands through New York State.

Reducing Income Inequality

As he has did four years ago, Hawkins will campaign to reverse the growing income inequality in New York, which is the most extreme of any state with the share of income going to the wealthiest 1% more than tripling from 10% from in 1980 to 30-35% in the years since 2007. As outlined below, he supports higher taxes on the 1%.

Hawkins wants the state minimum wage raised to at least $15 an hour, index it to inflation, and give local governments home rule power to raise it higher to reflect local living costs if they so choose. He supports more state funding for public housing, rent subsidies and affordable housing. He would strengthen rent control laws. He supports an increase in welfare benefits and that the state needs to start ensuring that local welfare departments deliver benefits to those who need him. He said the state's welfare to work efforts are among the less effective in the country, and he would replace unpaid workfare (WEP) assignments with paying jobs with access to education and training. He chided Cuomo for playing games with the effort to allow state shelter funds to be used for a rent subsidy program for homeless families.

“We need to enhance workers rights and support cooperatives and public enterprises that distribute the fruits of labor according to work, not ownership,” Hawkins said. Hawkins supports a robust women's equality agenda and increased efforts to address racism.

Instead of tax breaks and subsidies for investor-owned businesses, Hawkins would devote economic development funds to technical assistance and financing for worker and consumer cooperatives. He proposes a state bank to partner with local community banks and credit unions in financing for infrastructure projects and businesses, with a priority on cooperatives. He also favors public power in the energy sector to enable the democratic and decentralized planning and financing of a clean energy system based on distributed energy generation linked by an interactive smart grid.

Hawkins and the Green Party would protect and strengthen the rights of undocumented people, including passage of the Dream Act to increase educational opportunities for undocumented youth, drivers licenses for the undocumented, and prohibiting state employees from inquiring about a person's immigration status in the course of performing their duties.

Progressive Tax Reform and Revenue Sharing

Cuomo's Five-Year Financial Plan keeps revenue sharing with local governments flat at a time when scores of local governments and school districts are headed for insolvency and a takeover by state Control Boards. Hawkins said he would restore the tax and revenue sharing policies of the 1970s.

Hawkins said the 1970s progressive income tax structure today would provide a tax cut for 95% of New Yorkers while raising at least $8 billion a year in additional state revenue. He would cut out tax breaks and subsidies for big business to save another $7 billion a year. He would end the 100% rebate of the state's Stock Transfer Tax to Wall Street traders, which cost the state $12 billion last year. (Cuomo was defeated this year in his effort to repeal the Stock Transfer tax.)  Hawkins said he would use the over $25 billion in additional revenues to restore revenue sharing to its original standard of 8% of state revenues, which is now at less than 1%, and to pay for his Green New Deal program.

“The theory behind the Cuomo/Astorino corporate welfare tax program,” said Hawkins, “is that by giving the rich more money, they will invest, create good jobs, and the benefits will trickle down. New York and the United States have been practicing bipartisan trickle down economics for nearly four decades. The result has been a radical redistribution of wealth and income from working people to the very rich.”

“The difference between the dominant forces in the Democratic and Republican parties today seems to be that while they both want to repeal the New Deal, the Republicans also want to repeal the Enlightenment with their rejection of science concerning evolution and climate change,” Hawkins said.

Clean Money, Clean Elections

"It's almost newsworthy when a week goes by without some elected official getting indicted or convicted. Despite Cuomo's bluster, all we ended up with is a flawed pilot program seemingly designed to recruit a Republican challenger to Tom DiNapoli. And in exchange for this pathetic program, Cuomo disbanded the Moreland Commission, which he claimed was going to be his hammer against political corruption. Hopefully the US attorney will be more forceful in prosecuting crime among politicians," said Hawkins.

Hawkins is a long time advocate of a “Clean Money” system of full public campaign financing like Arizona and Maine have. The partial public finance system touted by Cuomo and other Democrats provides a limited amount of public funding alongside unlimited private financing. Hawkins favors the Clean Money system where candidates who opt in to public financing qualify by raising a reasonable number of $5 donations to demonstrate support. They then receive equal public grants sufficient to get their message out to voters. They only use “clean” public money and cannot spend “dirty” private money.

Hawkins also supports proportional representation for legislative elections, instant runoff voting for executive offices like Governor, and an amendment the U.S. Constitution to overturn the Supreme Court doctrines of corporate personhood and money-is-speech that severely restrict regulation of corporations and election financing.

Green Independence Gives Political Leverage

Hawkins said the best way to clean up the corruption at the State Capitol is to throw out the two corporate-funded major parties.

“More important than the details of the Green platform is the Green Party's independence from corporate money and influence. The Green Party's goal is to organize and empower working people to act and speak for themselves. We reject the fusion policies of the other so-called third parties with ballot lines in New York State. They ask for votes for major party candidates on their party lines in hopes of influencing the major parties. The real message the major party candidates get is that our votes can be taken for granted because we will vote for them one way or  another,” said Hawkins.

Hawkins noted that Democratic elected officials who were also on Working Families Party ballot line include Cuomo, a virtually every Democratic legislators, and every member of the Senate's Independent Democratic Conference.

“The fingerprints of legislators who were on the Working Families Party ballot line are all over the Cuomo austerity budget just adopted that Working Families is now protesting," said Hawkins.

"The historic role of third parties has been to advance issues like abolition, women's suffrage, social security, minimum wages, and unemployment insurance. We have seen this in New York where the Green Party's initial calls for marijuana reform, marriage equality, a fracking ban, and measures to reduce income inequality came to be widely embraced," noted Hawkins.

Hawkins gave as examples the Green Party's 1998 ticket of drug policy reformers Al Lewis for Governor and Dr. Alice Green for Lt. Governor helping to launch the movement to end the Rockefeller Drug laws; Jason West and Rebecca Rotzler, the Green mayor and deputy mayor of the village of New Paltz, performing same-sex marriages in 2004 helping to spearhead the movement for marriage equality that is now New York law; Hawkins' own gubernatorial campaign in 2010 calling for a ban on fracking helping to convince the many environmentalists to support a ban rather than their positions at that time of promoting fracked gas as the “bridge fuel” to renewable energy or calling for a moratorium while fracking was studied.

About Howie Hawkins and the Green Party

Howie has been an organizer for peace, justice, labor, and the environment since 1967. A former Marine, he helped organize opposition to the Vietnam War. In the 70s and 80s, he was a leader in the anti-apartheid divestment movement to end US corporate investment in the system of racist labor exploitation in South Africa. He was a co-founder of the anti-nuclear Clamshell Alliance in 1976 and the Green Party in the US in 1984. He is a member of the socialist organization, Solidarity. Howie is a member of Teamsters Local 317 and active in Teamsters for a Democratic Union, US Labor Against the War, and the Labor Campaign for Single Payer Healthcare. He received 40% of the vote in his 2013 run for Syracuse City Council.

The Green Party of New York is committed to the principals of ecology, grassroots democracy, nonviolence and social and economic justice.

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