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2013 CITY COUNCIL HUMAN RIGHTS QUESTIONNAIRE
1. Many in the United States think of international affairs when they think of human rights. Our work emphasizes the applicability of the human rights framework here in the United States. Please share your thoughts on the domestic applicability of human rights, and discuss why human rights are important to you in the context of New York City and the City Council. Human rights are critical to any civilized society, whether in foreign lands or our own. Under the Bloomberg administration and oftentimes in partnership with Speaker Quinn, those who have not been able to advocate for or defend themselves have been left with limited support from governmental agencies and private charities. Part of our role as representatives in city government is to represent all of the residents of our Council District and New York City as a whole. It is our responsibility as the legislators of the City of New York to take action - and if necessary, challenge the power structure as a whole - in order to realize a positive outcome in addressing the enormous inequities facing our city. As an individual who aspires to represent an area that is one of the few truly middle-class sections of the city left - a sea-change from several decades ago, where large portions of the city would describe themselves that way - I believe that by focusing on the myriad of issues and needs for our low, moderate and middle-income communities, the city as a whole will benefit and can act as a model for the entire world. 2. How have you used current or previous professional positions to advance human rights? As an urban planner, historic preservation consultant and community organizer, my role during the past two decades has been to stabilize neighborhoods at risk throughout Queens and New York City. During the past two decades, I have contextually rezoned 85% of my Council District and close to 50% of the borough of Queens. By stopping overdevelopment, which stresses infrastructure, services and the environment, many neighborhoods are now protected from luxury housing and gentrification, allowing working and middle-class families to remain. Additionally, I have been a proponent of mandatory affordable housing in new high-density development in the city, as optional inclusionary zoning has been an utter failure. For a more detailed accounting of my work, please refer to my biography and CV at my website: http://www.paulgraziano.com/biography.html . 3. What will your top 3 legislative priorities be in your first term as Council Member? I have many more than just *3* legislative priorities. Please refer to my policy positions located at my website: http://www.paulgraziano.com/policy-positions.html .
4. What will your top 3 budget priorities be in your first term as Council Member? I believe that redistribution within the current New York City budgetary process is an essential part of equalizing income disparity. Hundreds of millions - if not billions - of dollars from the budget are used to give developers, corporations and other non-person entities tax abatements, tax breaks and other monetary gifts at the expense of funding for other critical agencies (Homeless Services, Senior Services, Health/Mental Health Services, Child Protective Services, Family Support, etc.). 1. Increase taxes on top wage earners in New York City to create a more fair and progressive tax structure, with new benchmarks between $500,000 and $5 million up to a maximum of 6.876%, or almost double the existing top rate. 2. Remove exemptions and enforce "clawback" provisions for large corporations, which currently cost the city more than $1.5 billion in tax revenue. 3. Subsequently increase funding for vital services as described in the first paragraph using additional funds generated by the above. 5. Do you plan to use participatory budgeting to allocate your discretionary funds? Why or why not? In its current form, I believe that participatory budgeting operates more as a beauty contest than anything else and unfairly focuses scarce resources on "sexy" projects. Additionally, with discretionary funding solely under the control of the Council Speaker, council districts receive wildly differing amounts of discretionary funding based upon loyalty, not need. In order for me to support participatory budgeting, there needs to be an institution of a modified needsbased formula - per district - which also includes not only socio-economic data but also the physical size, complexity and infrastructure of a particular district. 6. Please provide examples of recent legislation in Council that you believe promotes human rights. Some examples include the major immigration law passed in November 2011 which prohibits the Department of Corrections from detaining someone solely based on immigration status; a whistleblower protection expansion act, which protects city contractors from taking an adverse personnel action against an employee who reports fraud or mismanagement; and an actual amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law which protects those "not having a job, being available for work, and seeking employment" from deleterious decisions and discrimination by employers. 7. Legislation is only one of many ways in which Council Members can work to advance human rights. What ways other than through legislation will you advance the human rights of New Yorkers as a City Council Member? It is extremely important to coordinate with organizations that promote human rights issues, as societal changes often result when several different segments of society work together. Publicity and press are extremely important to shine light on a particular issue, and having an elected official allied or involved can raise interest and provide focus to specific subject matter.
8. Some advocates contend that the position of the Council Speaker has too much power over the progression of legislation. Please use this space to respond to that critique. There is no question that the Council Speaker, as a position in the city legislature, has amassed too much power. Scores of worthy bills have been stopped in their tracks particularly during the past decade, including paid sick leave until quite recently, by the current Speaker. This is simply unacceptable. There are mechanisms already in place, such as Rule 7.100 & Rule 7.130 (mentioned in your document) which have not been used by the membership of the Council due to their fear of - or collusion with - Speaker Quinn. Clearly, this needs to change drastically with the next set of elected Council members.