Here’s what the candidates running for mayor and comptroller proposed this week. Plus, one DA candidate targets public corruption, while another intends to monitor specific industries for wage theft and worker-safety violations.
Only 75 days remain between Monday and the start of early voting on June 12. As candidates in very large fields scramble for money and support, policy offers a relatively low-cost way to appeal to particular constituencies and distinguish oneself from other candidates—a white paper is a heck of a lot less expensive than a TV ad and kills fewer trees than direct mail, for sure. Over the past week, a few campaigns took advantage of that.
SNAP judgement from Garcia
From December 2019 to December 2020, the roll of New Yorkers receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits—formerly known as “food stamps”—increased by more than 93,000 households and nearly 156,000 people. Yet the number of people getting that help was 14 percent smaller at the end of 2020 than it had been in December 2012; over those eight years, the SNAP roll has dropped from 1.9 million to 1.6 million. For at least two decades there has been concern that families in need of and eligible for SNAP have been missing out, putting those households under strain and depriving the city of essentially free federal aid and the economic multiplier food purchases can trigger. Stigma, a lack of awareness, fear of immigration consequences and bureaucratic hurdles are among the reasons why someone needing SNAP help might not get it. Kathryn Garcia, the mayoral candidate who once served as the city’s director of pandemic food relief, is proposing to deliver 100 percent SNAP uptake if she is elected. She says she’d do this through a combination of proactive outreach, work with community nonprofits, streamlined applications and holding the city’s agencies accountable for meeting the goal. She also says she’d try to make SNAP more alluring by expanding online delivery and fresh produce programs.
Stringer and Levine: Why linger on vaccine?
Eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine has been expanded incrementally since the first doses arrived, with the latest big move opening the shots to New Yorkers aged 50 and older. But that still excludes younger New Yorkers who do not fit into the patchwork of eligible groups. It’s not just that there are limits to eligibility—it’s also that it can be hard to figure where one falls in relation to those limits (City Limits, for instance, has been parsing whether “not-for-profit workers who provide public-facing services to New Yorkers in need” applies to our reporters and support staff.) Scott Stringer, the city comptroller and a mayoral candidate, and Councilmember Mark Levine, who is running for Manhattan borough president, propose a simpler and more inclusive system. First, the city would lift all restrictions for anyone in the 33 neighborhoods deemed most vulnerable to the virus, set aside half of the shots for walk-ins, set up more mobile vaccination sites and create a citywide waiting list. After two weeks, eligibility would be expanded citywide to anyone 16 or older, the ages for which the vaccines have been authorized so far, with “a significant portion of appointments … set aside in this stage for high-risk individuals.”
Comptroller candidate: Bring back the late-night subway
New York City feels like its teetering between an accelerating return to normal—with restaurants filling up, high schools back in session and Eric Adams exploring an amateur boxing career—and stark signals of continuing danger: case numbers rising, scary COVID-19 variants multiplying and federal health officials imploring people not to let down their guard. Put comptroller hopeful Michelle Caruso-Cabrera firmly on the back-to-normal side of things. “With students back in the classrooms, workers headed back to their offices, restaurants, shops, and subway ridership on the rise, it’s clear that New York City is back! And the ‘city that never sleeps’ needs a 24 hour subway to get New Yorkers where they need to go,” she said last week. The subways close every night for two hours to permit disinfection. (Even before COVID-19, there were calls—lonely but pointed—for the subway system to shut down for a far longer period, from 12:30 to 5 a.m. every morning to allow for more efficient repairs and upgrades, since only a very small share of subway ridership uses the trains during that time period.) Subway delays weren’t the only holdups on Caruso-Cabrera’s mind last week: She also vowed to audit within 100 days of taking office the city’s delay-plagued system to paying nonprofit contractors, the bane of many a human-services provider.
Lang targets public corruption and its private-sector links
Arguing that “an underreported issue that has devastating effects on New Yorkers and erodes the legitimacy of our public institutions,” Manhattan district attorney Lucy Lang says she’ll launch a Public Corruption Unit “to proactively investigate criminal conduct by public servants and elected officials” with a dedicated staff and a new reporting mechanism for the public to drop a dime on dirty officials. Right now, financial crimes committed by public officials are handled by the DA’s Major Economic Crimes Unit. Lang’s campaign says the new corruption unit, “will collaborate with local agencies, rather than cede responsibility for these critical investigations to federal authorities or other agencies not solely accountable to Manhattanites,” which is an interesting jurisdictional point to make given that the current Manhattan DA, Cy Vance, waged a lengthy legal battle to get access to the federal tax returns of someone who at the time was a sitting federal official (one Donald Trump). Another interesting aspect of Lang’s plan is that the corruption unit would also probe allegations of police brutality; for decades, efforts to root out police corruption have been separate from those aimed at excessive force, which is why there is a Commission to Combat Police Corruption and a Civilian Complaint Review Board.
Aboushi to target wage theft, avoid seeking jail time
Many of those running to replace Vance have issued policies for protecting workers and cracking down on wage theft and unsafe working conditions. Tahanie Aboushi’s approach is more explicit than most in targeting specific industries that, she says, have poor track records on those fronts: construction, restaurant and bar workers, nail salons, janitorial residential services, security officers, garment makers, property service workers, car wash workers and home care and healthcare providers. And Aboushi says she will both react to worker complaints and perform proactive monitoring: “We will use all the authority granted to the DA’s office, including use of subpoenas for documents, to ensure employers are regularly following the law.” Reflecting the evolving sensibilities about crime and punishment, Aboushi says her crackdown will not result in substantially more prison sentences. “We will not aim to see people incarcerated unless it is a last resort that is necessary to protect public safety. In the overwhelming majority of circumstances, incarcerating a white-collar crime offender will not help the person harmed—placing an employer in prison for wage theft, for example, does not help the person who lost wages recover a cent,” her policy paper reads. “We can deter bad actors without incarceration.”