BlogYour Interests, Not Special Interests

December 9, 20190
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BUILDING AN ALBANY THAT WORKS FOR YOUR INTERESTS – NOT SPECIAL INTERESTS

A government by the people and for the people is the foundation of our democracy. At every level – Federal, State, City, and County – we deserve to know that our representatives are working to further our interests, not special interests. In today’s world of Super PACs and lobbyists, however, it is obvious that special interests and big money have taken control of our politics. Too often, we see our representatives in Albany working to advance the goals of the corporations and special interests that bankroll their campaigns. We’ve become numb to the sight of another Albany politician being marched out of a courtroom in handcuffs after pleading guilty to their corruption and abuses of power. Every dollar that goes towards these special interest groups and corrupt politicians is a dollar that isn’t going towards Rochester’s fair share.  

Working in the White House, I saw how President Obama did everything in his power to ensure that he and his staff not only refrained from engaging in unethical behavior, but even the appearance of such behavior. That’s how he went eight years without any of the kinds of scandals that we’ve seen from the Trump Administration. In my time as Chief of Staff for the City of Rochester, we’ve been able to make government more transparent by creating an online Freedom of Information Request database, implementing body-worn cameras in the Rochester Police Department, and beginning to develop an open data portal. These are the kinds of initiatives I will continue to support as your Assemblymember.  

When our democratic systems fail to empower the people, special interests will block every attempt we make to demand the bold, transformational changes we need. True democratic reform is the key to progress in Rochester and New York State.

Here is my plan to begin to reform our democracy and build an Albany that works for your interests, not the special interests. As your representative, I will:

 

  • Refuse all donations from Political Action Committees (PACs) and corporations, and disavow spending by Super PACs. The first step to reforming our democracy is leading by example. As your representative, there will never be a question of whether special interest money is influencing my decisions – our campaign will be 100% grassroots funded.
  • End pay-to-play through meaningful campaign finance reform. New York State has some of the most absurdly high contribution limits in the country. Under current law, an individual can contribute up to $69,700 to a single statewide candidate in one election cycle. Hard-working Rochesterians can’t afford to compete with numbers like that. Our current system ensures that the wealthy become the well-connected and have their needs prioritized. New York State contribution limits should be brought in line with federal limits to fix this issue.
  • Expand access to early voting in Monroe County. Our democracy is better off when every person has the chance to exercise their right to vote. To make it easier for everyone to do so, I will advocate for the State to fund early voting polling locations based on a population formula, ensuring that every town has a minimum of one location, and one location for every 50,000 residents of cities. I will also advocate for expanded hours at early voting locations so working families have the same level of access regardless of their work schedule.
  • Support efforts to establish automatic voter registration statewide. With today’s technology, we have no excuse for making people fill out paper forms. When someone interacts with a State agency such as the DMV, they should be automatically enrolled to vote. Similar programs in 16 states and the District of Columbia have been extremely successful in increasing registration rates and civic engagement – something New York State sorely needs given the GOP’s unprecedented assault on voting rights.
  • End the abuse of travel reimbursements for lawmakers. Currently, State legislators are not required to return unused travel reimbursements, and can choose to pocket the taxpayer’s money. This is wrong. I will sponsor legislation to ensure that legislators are only using the money that they need to cover their travel, and not simply making money off the State.
  • Create a robust open data portal for State government contracts and spending. The State spends a lot of money on contracts and other initiatives – money that comes straight from workers’ paychecks. Doesn’t it make sense that the workers should be able to know how it’s being spent? I am proposing that New York State follow models from other states like California and create an open data portal that will allow the media, watchdog groups, and the public to better understand how State money is spent. When the light is shined upon public spending, corruption will surely be reduced.
  • Fight for fair redistricting. Partisan gerrymandering is a major issue across the country. I will fight for reform to how we draw districts. The first step will be to create a commission of experts who can provide guidance on what steps can and should be taken to ensure our representation is fair and unbiased.

 

Democratic reform is the basis for all other progress that we will make together. If we want to confront the challenges facing working people in Rochester, we need to make sure that their representatives are working on behalf of their interests, not special interests. I am excited to work for you, and I hope that other candidates and elected officials around the State will join with me in setting the example for how a new politics, by and for the people, can look in New York.

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