Thursday, January 5, 2017

I, ONE-TERM MAYOR


Activist and writer Josmar Trujillo wrote a piece in amNY yesterday about the upcoming mayoral election. In it, he discusses how Mayor Bill de Blasio—and the city’s entire progressive delegation, really—have turned out to be duds for the cause.

I don’t disagree, and I think their failures illustrate the real problem that's at work in New York and most of America: the interests that now run our political system are so deeply entrenched that it is no longer capable of delivering meaningful reform on our behalf. If candidates do try and say and do what needs to be done and said, like Bernie Sanders, for example, the establishment crushes them.

Even when elected officials that campaign for progressive change win, like Bill de Blasio, by the time they've stood on the podium and sworn the oath of office it’s already too late. They've already been co-opted. If they want to get re-elected, they can’t afford to alienate the interests that have the money, clout and manpower to put them there again, so they offer up mostly symbolic gestures, put their names on a few shiny things, and then it's business as usual.

Josmar, and many others I’m sure, have been thinking a lot about what a true progressive campaign platform would look like, one that would pursue and achieve justice for all in all of its forms—environmental, economic, housing, criminal justice, etc. At the end of his piece he wrote, “What the heck, run for office yourself. I’d rather vote for you than what’s currently on the menu.”

Well, I’d like to indulge in the fantasy of what would happen if such a thing were still possible for a moment. If I were to run for mayor in a world where a properly functioning political system existed, what platform would I unveil? Well, here goes (and spoiler: it would probably get me killed in our current political system):

  • I will accept no money, ever. Does not matter how high, or how far I go, in politicszero money. If people contribute anyway, the money will go straight to men and women getting out of jail and prison in the form of cellphones to call employers, suits and clothing to wear for interviews, MTA passes to get around town, vouchers to get a haircut, etc.;
  • My first act upon taking office will be to conduct a thorough review of all NYPD, NYC Corrections, NYCHA, ACS, and all other departments’ internal files. Any cases of misconduct where probable cause exists that a crime has been committed within the statutory period of limitations will be turned into a criminal complaint and charged. I’ll create a citywide public corruption prosecution team responsible for prosecuting these cases directly since the elected prosecutors in this city have proven incapable of doing their jobs time and time again;
  • During this review, we will also look at court files and civil rights violation judgments in federal civil court. Any officer or city employee who has three or more civil rights judgments adjudicated against her or him will be declared unfit for city employment and terminated without pay or pension;
  • Going forward, New York City taxpayers will no longer pay more than one civil judgment on behalf of city employees. The first judgment is on us. Accidents happen. Anything after that, the judgment is their responsibility to pay personally:
  • All NYPD and Corrections officers will be required to wear a functioning body camera that is recording at all times while on duty. If the camera is turned off when an incident of alleged misconduct occurs, the officer will be held personally liable for any resulting judgment or judgments. Same applies for officers who violate department protocols that result in great bodily harm or death. If you use a prohibited chokehold, for example, and cause injury or death, you will be personally liable for any subsequent judgments that may result against you;
  • All of the money saved from civil judgments and officers terminated for three or more misconduct judgments will be reinvested in programs that data have shown reduce gun violence and shootings with targeted non-law enforcement intervention;
  • Rikers Island and all city detention facilities will be turned into GED, diploma, college education, and job training facilities with seamless transitions to partners on the outside for people who are released before completing the programs inside. The programs will be made available for any and all inmates who choose to complete them, however they won't be compulsory;
  • Housing developers, if they want permits and tax breaks, will be required to hire 75% of employees from the neighborhood where they wish to develop, and they will be required to give, yes give, deeds to 10% of new units to residents of the area that have been displaced by new building, and 40% of units must be designated affordable as measured by an amount equal or lesser than the median income of said area’s residents for a period covering the last 20 years, with first rental lottery preference given to those residents who have lived in the area being developed the longest;
  • The NYPD will not spend one dime or commit one officer to protecting President Donald Trump. His security is the federal government’s responsibility, not New York City's;
  • The NYPD will be re-tasked with a new mandate. It will no longer make minor arrests for quality of life offenses. The homicide unit will stay, as will the sexual assault unit and child abuse unit. All other units will be disbanded or repurposed to seek out and conduct surveillance on groups data show are the most dangerous to American citizens on American soil: lone white gunmen and members of white supremacist hate groups. Any white supremacist or white nationalist who sets foot on New York City soil will be subject to indefinite detention and questioning, including David Bannon, Richard Spencer, and any and all others who have publicly or privately advocated for ethnic cleansing of particular races. Officers will be trained to look out for hate crimes and to fully investigate and prosecute perpetrators of racial and/or sexual orientation violence;
  • Cars will be phased out by the end of my first term. Year one the city will implement congestion charges like London does. Any cars not designated livery or commercial will be charged a $10 daily rate for driving within the five boroughs between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. In my second year the fee will apply 24/7. Third year it will double and also apply to livery and commercial vehicles, which gives them a two-year grace period to upgrade. Fourth year triple, and so on. This will only apply to cars that run on fossil fuel and emit C02. Hybrids will pay half the tax while natural gas, electric, solar, or Hydrgogen run vehicles will pay nothing. MTA yearly passes for residents will be distributed based on income. Low-income residents, artists and single moms, etc., will pay little, big wigs and fat cats will pay more;
  • The same will go for residential and commercial buildings. You will pay a graduating tax each year that gets higher and higher until you are 100% green. If you do it now, within a two-year grace period, there will be considerable tax incentives for you to take advantage of...


I could keep going, but as you can see, I’ve at this point already alienated just about every business interest and agency in the city. They'll despise me, perhaps even try to kill me, and there's honestly no chance for me to get re-elected because I’m forcing individuals and businesses to make huge sacrifices that will make them want to relocate elsewhere rather than stay. It’s a fun exercise, and it feels good to dream about what true justice for the people might look like, but it also reveals the problem here is not the political system.

The problem is that human beings are individually and collectively selfish. We don’t like to compromise our comfort, or risk our hides. We could easily implement every last one of these policies. None of them are difficult or hard to understand and all of 'em would likely result in a fairer system. But we haven't implemented them and we won't. Nothing changes not because the political system is broken, but because we are. The simple fact is that the majority of us would rather go with the flow and not rock the boat in order to get ahead, get elected, etc. Just ask Bill de Blasio and Speaker Mark-Viverito.

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