GWEN GOODWIN'S PRELIMINARY PLATFORM ON THE ISSUES…
(…to be further expanded.)
- Gwen Goodwin is a complainant party to the Vote People lawsuit, associated with Craig Schley, the sole litigation so far seeking the invalidation of the City Council vote of April 30, 2008 purporting to enact the rezonement Harlem in favor of major real estate and financial interests. The lawsuit is based on the inadequacy of required public discussion of the measure, in that 1) the community was not sufficiently notified, and 2) on the orders of Council Speaker Christine Quinn, community-based opponents of the rezonement were ejected from the spectators' gallery prior to the vote. These actions, the complaint argues, violate required "sunshine" principles, and thereby invalidate passage. If the Vote People lawsuit wins, rezonement will not be allowed to take effect and would have to be reconsidered. In the meanwhile, the Urban Renewal program of 1968, under which development is slated to be implemented, may expire before such reconsideration can be completed, further inhibiting enactment and implementation.
- Gwen demands: Repeal and reverse City Council Rezoning of Harlem, and restore the zoning to its prior provisions.
- Gwen Goodwin was the first City Council candidate in 2005 to speak out against "Uptown NY", and in her 2005 City Council campaign stood out in her unconditional opposition to it and was significant in getting it scaled back and tentatively frozen. The Harlem Rezoning now brings Uptown NY back with a vengeance, and threatens to spread its monstrosity all across 125th Street.
- In addition to opposing the overall Rezoning, Gwen also calls for total disapproval of any of its components, parcels and packages while this repeal is pending.
- Gwen goes further, calling for a moratorium on all major development with exception of 100% low-income-affordable housing not involving the demolishment of already-existing housing, until everyone can afford a decent dwelling.
- Acceptable development must be at the grassroots initiative of the community and monitored against corruption, fraud and alteration of intent in every step of its construction and implementation.
- All aspects of development must be easily available, accessible and transparent to all members of the public, as opposed to the City Planning Commission's officially admitted (at the May 20, 2008, CB 11 meeting) secrecy now surrounding it.
- Finally, Gwen demands that by policy and law, eminent domain never be used to turn private property over to other, usually much richer and more corporately central private interests. This is in keeping with the 5th Amendment to the Constitution, specifically its public use clause, regardless of the Kelo case in New London, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled otherwise. In dissent, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner laid out that "the beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms." Gwen foresees that the Kelo decision will be reversed, and stand in shame alongside the Plessy vs. Ferguson decision, in which in 1886, the U.S. Supreme Court mandated racial segregation, and which it reversed in Brown vs. Board in 1954. The Kelo decision approved privatized eminent domain, but did not bar states and localities from refraining from it as a matter of law and policy. Gwen would fight for New York to so limit eminent domain. The City has promised it will use eminent domain only as a last resort if a 125th Street corridor business fails to sell. This is similar to a armed robber promising to shoot you, but only if you refuse to hand over your money. The threat of eminent domain which the City insists will be "on the table". But Gwen demands that this bulldozing "bargaining chip" forcing community-based current businesses to sell below value, must be removed.
- An engineered massive housing shortage, called Planned Shrinkage, after years of demolition, arson and decay, has created a supply-demand imbalance with the result initially of permanent triple rent, still spiraling up out of control ever since, with no relief in sight. As a result, "affordable" housing for for all but the super rich, is a rare exception, for anyone seeking a fresh rental. This forces many into homelessness, or one paycheck away, and others into precarious multiple apartment-sharing arrangements, often subject to landlord court-challenge, and contributing to trapping many in abusive relationships. Gwen Goodwin demands a break-out from this vicious cycle.
- Years of the condo and coop conversion has converted much rental housing into privately owned units. This has weakened the tenants' movement by significantly cutting down tenants' numbers, and their coherency in terms of an organizing perspective. In many cases, an illusion of ownership has allowed financial interests to gain assets in down payments and mortgage debt. Condo and coop boards are free of state and federal scrutiny as to racist and sexist discrimination. Apartment privatization has also heavily contributed to the new supply-demand relationship in rental housing, causing rents to skyrocket. The burden falls disproportionately on the poor, working class and lower middle class, who could not fork over or borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy an apartment. Those who had more money now pay much less in maintenance than tenants pay for rent, and when the mortgage ends, they will actually own the property while the tenants just go on paying.
- Gwen says, "strengthen Judicial Screening Panels for judges to be considerate of tenant rights." This is especially urgent now in the new legislative and economic climate. It is also important because after years of Republican rule in Albany and City Hall, many appointed judges seem practically deaf to the pleas and initerests of tenants.
- The low-end apartment owners have lost tenant protections that given the latest twists and turns of the economy could result in easy evictions through foreclosures. Meanwhile, the changes have hollowed out many small landlords, so that housing is now polarized into another gap between the very rich and the very poor. Gwen Goodwin anticipates these problems, and calls for government to go to work now to create mechanisms for survival and relief.
- Gwen also demands that New York's unique housing problems be under New York City jurisdiction, rather than leaving them up to the Albany legislature, many of whose members represent rural districts who are out of touch with the City. In 1997, Senate Speaker Joe Bruno from Troy and Governor George Pataki from Poughkeepsie nearly abolished all rent control and rent stabilization. It was only narrowly renewed, and in a much weakened form. Gwen Goodwin calls for a strengthening of rent regulations and tenant protections, along with a rollback of rents to the 1970s level, and leadership from the City Council in reviving a fighting tenants' movement to make it a reality. Gwen calls for a repeal of the Urstadt Law, which currently restricts the NY City government from exceeding the NY State tenant protections passed in Albany.
- Gwen also demands the expansion of Mitchell-Lama and similar programs, which enables poor-to-middle-class people to afford decent housing in restricted coops. Also, Gwen calls for the defense and strengthening of Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) programs, which subsidize seniors and prevent more homeless among them, as well as the Federal Section 8 Program which has been drastically cut back and is still under attack.
- Last but by far not least, Gwen Goodwin calls for the massive construction of low-income housing to rebalance the supply-demand relationship, as an underlying condition that will favor the rent rollback mentioned above. If private enterprise will not invest in such a projection, then it must be incumbent on government to fill the gap, compensation for which to be provided by future high-volume low-rate rents.
- Gwen calls for the expansion of schools and educational facilities, especially in Harlem and her own East Harlem, where the City government has dismantled many educational facilities and cut others down, but which maintains falsely that East Harlem's schools are entirely adequate. This in the face of an 80% dropout rate, and statistics of adequacy are trumped up by paving over cluster areas including gyms, science labs, music rooms and art studios with homeroom "seats". Gwen calls for massive school construction that can restore public education to its past function and conditions, which have fallen behind for decades, and particularly, the restoration of the specialized cluster areas.
- Gwen's claim to fame includes having saved P.S. 109 in East Harlem from a demolition requested by the Board of Education, and already underway by its School Construction Authority. While the current administration, local Community Board 11 and all four current local elected officials (Council Member Mark-Viverito, State Senator Serrano, Assembly Member Powell, and Congress Member Rangel) officials have called for giving the school away to a Minneapolis developer of "artist housing", Gwen has all-but single-handedly prevented that would-be tragedy, and is fighting for the building's restoration as a public school facility, which could add 2,000 seats to the system. Hope is growing, since the developer has been unable to come up with projected financing, despite $2 million formed over by the City Council on the request of Mark-Viverito, and public opinion overwhelmingly favors the school over the artists' condo.
- Gwen calls for public schools to return to their earlier excellence, and to facilitate that calls for smaller class sizes and more and better trained teachers. This is especially important to today's job market.
- While free education through secondary school has long been the standard, Gwen calls for that approach now to include college, in recognition of today's job requirements, and also to strengthen the population in understanding political issues and fight back from a well-informed viewpoint.
- Educational health, Gwen stresses, can only be achieved if the curriculum and spirit of the school is linked to the special needs of the communities from which the pupils come. Therefore, Gwen wants community influence and control, within required curriculae, should be increased, which would inspire learning and reduce dropouts.
- New York City has seen drastic cutbacks and deterioration of health care. Emergency Rooms are packed beyond capacity. Hospitals are closing. Harlem Hospital was slated to close several years ago, but instead cut drastically back on the number of beds and the type of treatments. Nearby ambulance cases were diverted to Northern General. Authorities have attempted to justify the cutbacks by saying that there are still empty beds, so that the hospitals are underutilized.
- Not that long ago, the complaint was that the hospitals were overcrowded. Why is it now, that the more the hospitals are cut back, the more empty they look. Is it because people are healthier, or no longer get sick or injured? The answer is that many people need health care, but cannot pay for it. What kind of society is it that cannot provide housing or health care at an affordable rate?
- Gwen says that if we had done it in the past, we can do it better now, insists that we set no lower a standard. There should be a hospital bed for everyone who needs it, and this has to be made a number one priority, rather than an area to search for further cutbacks. If private hospitals become unprofitable, is too much to ask that they stay open at a loss, giving some of their former years of immense profits back? Can't the pharmaceutical industry afford it. If not, Gwen feels that the only remaining rational choice is for the government to maintain the hospital function. Health care cannot be held hostage to the fluctuations of the market.
- The closing of health care facilities is also a major contributor to the elimination of jobs and the creation of an army of unemployed. There is plenty of necessary work to be done, and plenty of people who would be glad to perform it, and at union wages. The gainful employment achieved would change the supply-demand relationship to labor, and result in increased wages and standard of living in general.
- Health care may be helped in other ways as well. Government should promote better nutrition, both by regulating the food industry, and providing information leading to greater general knowledge of nutrition. This could lead to better health before medical remedies become necessary.
- Government should also provide exercise advice and facilities, and an environment where it could performed, improving general health, and lowering health care costs. Physical Education in the schools has to be restored.
HUMANE, NON-RACIST LAW ENFORCEMENT
- During the 2004 Republican National Convention, the New York City government arrested and prosecuted thousands for legal activities of demonstration and protest. In one incident alone, a block was cordoned off and everyone on the block was swept up in a mass arrest, including a significant number of trapped non-demonstrators. Gwen calls for full respect for free speech rights and the right of the people to organize.
- Gwen calls for possible excessive noise to be handled according to the criteria in the New York Police Patrol Guide, which specifies that rather than merely looking for a pretext to round up a usual suspect, police officers should act in peaceful assembly situations only on civilian complaint about excessive noise, where the officer verifies that the noise is excessive according to objective criteria, such as decibel measurement or the distance at which the speaker can be heard, and then only act further after a request that the speaker lower the volume.
- Also, in accordance with the spirit of court decisions applying to printed matter protecting the vending thereof in non-exigent circumstances, should be extended to items like campaign buttons and other message items, rather than give a monopoly to dominant and well-funded parties, sometimes even discouraging , their legal activities.
- The Constitutional rights to organize must be respected, and members of groups, particularly those protesting government policies, must be protected against surveillance and harassment in retaliation for their political activities, which Gwen sees as basic to legal concepts in the United States.
- While recognizing a need to regulate all public activity, Gwen insists on legally mandated Strict Scrutiny where free expression rights are concerned that the restrictions apply only to time, place and manner, and that they be narrowly tailored to serve compelling government interests, so as to still permit messages to be projected and received by the public.
- In the wake of community terror and revulsion at what to many seems like racially biased and excessive force, there has been a loss of confidence of District Attorney office prosecutors to enforce criminal laws against police. This has recently flared up in the case of the NYPD firing 50 shots, killing of Sean Bell, and the serious wounding of two of his friends, Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman, although all three African Americans were unarmed and innocent of any lawbreaking or wrongdoing. Gwen joins with the decades-long call, notably advanced by the legendary civil libertarian and Public Advocate Norman Siegel and long advocated in the past by now Governor David Paterson, for the creation of a special prosecutor in cases of suspected criminal acts by law enforcement officers
- In addition, the tragic cycle of crime, punishment and recidivism must be addressed in a real rehabilitation process. Prisoners must be trained in satisfying careers, and government must work in ways that allow them to be realized, as a necessary incentive to stay away from criminal activities after release. The alternative, preventing gainful employment or business activity after years of confinement, abuse and separation from family and community, when releasing a prisoner to face daunting discrimination as an ex-offender, makes resort to crime an inevitability in many cases.
- Many years ago, before the gigantic explosion of modern technology, public transportation was a free public service, paid for out of general revenues. There was some outrage when the nickel fare was introduced. The Transport Workers Union for many years retained a demand officially for abolition of the fare, although it was a symobic demand, meaning they would not push for it very seriously or strike over it. But it illustrates the what the unions were back in the day, in contrast with today's separation of union labor from community life. Gwen advocates the return of public transportation to truly public ownership. Currently, it maintains enormous debt to bond holders, and the interest on those bonds is a form of extracted profit, which accounts for a significant part of the fares we pay, and generates a pressure from above to cut services, renewal and maintenance. Bondholder potential connections with corporations and manufacturers could also lead to a conflict of interests in making deals for equipment, stock, fuels, energy, etc., and also to keep pay lower than it might be otherwise, along with dangerous conditions and reduced employment. For example, many token booths were recently closed. They should be reopened, for convenience and, more important, safety and supervision.
- Gwen fought the building of the 100th Street Bus Depot between Lexington and Park Avenues, which contributes to noise, odors and pollution which she can hear, smell and feel in her apartment across the street. All Manhattan bus depots are currently located in Harlem. There they reinforce, by belching diesel fuel with particulates into the air, the highest asthma rate in the country, right here in Harlem! These terminals must be redistributed more fairly.
- In addition, Gwen says that we have to fight for more environmentally friendly buses, and reduce air pollution from them.
- Finally, Gwen is totally opposed to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal for congestion pricing and congestion fees. This is the beginning of making the more prosperous parts of Manhattan into a gated community. It is reminiscent of the days right after 911, when you could not walk south of 14th Streeet without showing a pass, let alone drive. Many were stranded from their homes and places of work, and there was an atmosphere of authoritarianism, with a ubiquitous police presence. Okay, that was an emergency, but it also can contribute to a habit of thinking with a more restricted mentality generally, and again we have to be concerned where to strike the balance.
- Bloomberg's congestion fee proposal would keep poor and working people from driving into the protected areas of Manhattan, and the already packed subways and buses could not take up the increased burden as substitutes, though they would get closer to the bursting-at-the-seams point. It would also create a gigantic parking lot industry in Harlem and other non-protected neighborhoods, overcrowding the neighborhood with both cars and drivers and passengers.
- Discouraging trips to Manhattan would be bad for business, even in the more prosperous parts. Gwen is opposed to the plan
- Announced Mayoral candidate for 2009 Tony Avella, the City Coucil member from District 19, Queens, with local district office in Bayside, has called for the end of horse-drawn carriages around Central Park, both because the activity subjects the animals to cruelty as well as dangerous and inconvenient conditions in relation to traffic congestion. Gwen supports this proposal.
- Gwen is opposed to recent policy led by the Federal government but increasingly echoed at the state level of tax cuts favoring those with the highest income. In the past, in the spirit of the New Deal, the very rich and their businesses were taxed over 90% of their income over a certain amount. Currently, the burden has been shifted onto the poor and working classes, both in making up for the taxes no longer paid by the rich, and also in having the programs that benefit the poor, working and middle classes cut to the bone. Additionally, we all suffer when resulting Federal deficits result in a devalued dollar, reflected in the higher prices we pay, while wages and small business profits cannot keep up with the giant, mega-corporations who often pull the strings of government. Gwen would like to see a return to a more progressively graduated income tax, and tax relief for the rest of us. This would give us all more disposable income, raise our standards of living, pay to restore needed services, and generally stimulate the economy.
- In recent elections, particularly in 2004 (Florida) and 2008 (Ohio), instances of uncertainty in counting votes has led to suspicion over the legitimacy of a presidential elections. Gwen feels that better public witnessing and confirmation of the vote counting process may be necessary to maintain public confidence in the elections and other democratic processes. In countries such as Canada and Germany, vote-counting is done publicly, election district by election district. In each district, there is a public space where people of the district can gather after the polls close, to witness the count. The count is performed by a committee which includes representatives of every candidate, who work together and watch each other, in front of the above spectators, count and verify each ballot. The district then reports the results to the jurisdiction of the office being voted for, and the results are usually tallied within three hours after the polls close. There are rarely any contested counts, allegations of irregularity, or calls for recounts. A similar system could add transparency and assure that the registered will of the people is carried out according to the intent of the voters. Instead, there is a distressing tendency to computerize voting in a way that makes much of it untraceable by the people, but compromising of the secrecy of the ballot. Computerized voting, which is financially encouraged by the Federal government through the Help America Vote Act, should at least produce a paper trail of receipts for recounts and verification in case of questioning of the computer-driven results.
- Locally, Gwen also calls for Community Planning Boards to be by direct election, rather than by appointment of the Borough President and Council Members, as the current process could compromise the independent integrity of the appointed members, and dilute the members ability to act as a check and balance on the elected officials. Elected officials often rise above and lose touch with their constituencies upon gaining office, and frequently need pressure from below to remind them of what the community they are supposed to represent really needs and wants. The Rezoning of Harlem recently is a case in point, echoed in Community Board 11, which unanimously watered down any outright rejection of the plans with conditions under which they would reconsider. Whatever one thinks of the conditions, it is remarkable that not one CB-11 member could just cast an unambivalent NO. Gwen feels the result would have been different if the Board were subject to popular election.
- Gwen Goodwin is from a union family, and deplores the erosion of employees rights, influence and power in recent years, as unions have become a shadow of their former selves.
- In New York City, in the recent Transit strike, many of the employees feel that they had to settle for a raw deal and a tiny pay raise, because state law, namely the Condon Wadlin Act, placed the union under severe penalties for any work stoppage. These include a triple loss of pay for strike time including removal from the payroll during the strike period, and a cancellation of dues collection withholding. Michael Quill, Transport Workers' Union chair, died in jail during the first Transit strike in NY history. Labor rights vis-à-vis manangement have atrophied recently under managerial approaches of recent administrations, which saw the unions ignored in international trade policy, such as the North American Free Trade Act, and the results of massive unemployment have devastated working class communities and further weakened the unions. Gwen believes that the rights of working class organization should be strengthened in their role of defending the rank and file. This could help reshape the economy, so that union members will have choices other than to be put work on gentrification projects that destroy working class communities, where a decreasing number of jobs become a desperate and morally enslaving trap, and union funds, such as pensions, are held hostage to the investment climate, particularly in real estate, in a way pitting the unions against their own members' interests.