14 May 2005

Running for Mayor of New York (BR)

So I made a bit of noise to some friends over the past week about running for Mayor. Bloomberg is a joke, but so are the main Democratic challengers, particularly Fernando Ferrer, former Bronx Borough President who will likely get the nomination and proceed to have his ass walloped in the general election. So I drew up a basic platform and was going to seriously give it a shot before I checked New York election law and found that I was a tad bit late in considering my candidacy. If you read this and feel like bringing a pen into the ballot booth when election day rolls around, please write me in, I'm one candidate who'll truly appreciate your vote. Nevertheless, this is the blueprint from which all four Democrats should work if they hope to defeat Mayor Mike in November:

Brendan Rogak
Democrat for Mayor of New York City

a Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
b Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.

I. Opt out of No Child Left Behind:
Countless municipalities, cities and even entire states have decided to forego the Federal dollars provided by the wasteful education program in order to shuffle off the headaches of uniform national curriculae and testing procedures, the pressure of meeting unfair and arbitrary Department of Education standards, and to reclaim local control of schools for teachers, principals and parents. New York should, too. If we care about kids, we as a city can spend a little more of our own money to give them the education they deserve.

II. Abolish the MTA:
The Metropolitan Transit Authority is a slush fund that is accountable to no one. This boondoggle of an agency forced working New Yorkers to shell out even more cash for subway service and bridge tolls last year, with no discernable improvement in service, while sitting on a surplus for the next fiscal year. Peter Kalikow and his PR henchmen admit that the fare hike was for an MTA "rainy day" fund, and who knows where the added revenue will really go. We're not allowed to know; the MTA refuses to open its books. While the Mayor of New York does not have the power to abolish the agency, if its elimination were a central tenet of a successful candidacy for Mayor, the MTA would be forced to clean up its act or face aggressive lobbying at the state level for its deletion. My administration would push to replace the MTA with a new Transit Board headed by a democratically elected Transportation Commissioner. We citizens are the lifeblood of public transportation, so we should be responsible for its oversight and management.

III. Go head-to-head with the President on Homeland Security:
The new Homeland Security bill, against the advice of the 9/11 Commission, distributes anti-terror funds where they are not needed, thereby depriving New York and other targeted cities of the money and resources needed to fight terror or respond in the event of an attack. It's time for President Bush and the Republican Congress to step up and honor their rhetorical commitment to protecting all Americans - not just those in the states that elect them to office.

IV. Legalize, regulate and tax marijuana:
The time has come to allow New Yorkers to decide what goes into their bodies. For far too long, otherwise peaceful and law-abiding people have been blackballed as second-class citizens and lived in fear of arrest and prosecution simply for using a substance which, in and of itself, is relatively harmless. Marijuana has never killed anybody; enforcement of marijuana laws has killed many and ruined thousands of lives. Illicit drug use is a fact of life, but drug legislation is not a deterrent; if anything, it is an enticement. At the same time, we ignore a promising source of tax revenue by maintaining criminal laws against marijuana, and justify public cynicism about government when we allow the sale and consumption of tobacco and alcohol. My administration would legalize the sale of marijuana in small amounts in city-licensed coffee shops and tobacco outlets. The income to be had from taxation on marijuana would pay for a complete overhaul of the city's education infrastructure, as well as supplement other basic maintenance and social welfare programs. But with this new freedom would come new responsibility, and so we would severely stiffen penalties for operation of a motor vehicle while under marijuana's influence and for provision or sale of the drug to children. My legalization initiative will also provide immediate amnesty for all non-violent drug offenders currently crowding New York prisons.

IV (a). Circumventing Federal marijuana law:
The City of New York has a history of flouting Federal statutes when they prove inconvenient or unjust for our citizens' welfare. Mayor Bloomberg has championed a law that protects illegal immigrants from deportation, in direct contradiction of Federal law which mandates that illegals be reported to Immigration and Naturalization Services. We can do the same with drug laws; should the Justice Department interfere, we will fight tooth-and-nail in court.

V. Quality of life takes priority over tax giveaway projects:
In 2001, New York City elected a mayor from a strict business pedigree with no experience in running a city. Since Michael Bloomberg's election, city unemployment and welfare rolls have increased, firehouses have closed, black and Latino high school graduation rates have hovered near a shameful 50%, and the men and women of our Police Department have not seen their heroic actions and sacrifices honored with a fitting salary increase. Bloomberg even remained mute on the much-needed - and thankfully successful - minimum-wage hike. His Honor has, instead, focused his energy and support on two stadium projects. One, on the West Side of Manhattan, will exponentially increase traffic congestion and sink $600 million of tax money into a project that the New York Jets could easily finance themselves. The other, in downtown Brooklyn, targets hundred-year old historic brownstone houses for demolition, would create similar traffic nightmares and cause rents in this relatively affordable neighborhood to skyrocket. Interestingly, Bloomberg and the commission he stacked with sympathizers approved the West Side Jets deal over a more generous offer from Cablevision/Madison Square Garden that would have provided for new housing, shopping, schools, parks and libraries. It almost seems as if the entire Bloomberg administration has been a concentrated campaign to drive the poor and middle-class out of New York. Perhaps he's uncomfortable sharing a city with folks outside his tax bracket.

Stadiums, theatres, and other public entertainment projects are vital to the health and culture of any city, and we welcome all forms of private investment. But the city and its denizens must benefit in general from new construction, and we must prioritize wisely. Given the shortage of affordable housing in New York City and rising costs of living, not to mention the lack of buildable space in the areas of the two proposed stadiums, the Bloomberg plan is an inarguably bad deal for New York.

There's more, of course, but I gave it up after checking election law. Here you go, Democrats. Thank me in November.


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