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Thursday, September 9, 2010

80th AD Candidate Robert Giuffre on the Issues

[Ed. note: a version of this first appeared in the Norwood News print edition.]

The Norwood News and the Bronx News Network sent questionnaires to the Democratic candidates of the 80th Assembly District, which includes Morris Park, Norwood and Van Cortlandt Village. Incumbent Naomi Rivera did not respond, but her upstart challenger, 27-year-old former Obama operative Robert Giuffre, did. Below is an undedited sampling of Giuffre’s answers.

Will you serve as a full-time legislator? If not, what other jobs will you also keep?

Yes, being that the annual salary is $80,000, I believe it is only fair to work full-time and to not collect outside income that could merit a conflict of interest. I would however volunteer some of my time to help other future reform-minded candidates to help implement real change in Albany.

What can you do as a state legislator to address high unemployment in the Bronx?

Experimental job sharing is a good way to not only create jobs, but also increase quality of service. Technological unemployment combined with a lackluster economy has produced a devastatingly bad job market for young people and the recently laid off. Job sharing seems like the most logical, fool-proof option that would not only create jobs, but would also increase productivity and quality of service.

State government could also offer tax incentives to industries that provide well paying jobs to lure business to New York and The Bronx. The Bronx is strategically located within the tristate area: it is close to Manhattan, New Jersey, Westchester, Connecticut and Long Island. The strategic location, coupled with tax incentives, could lead some businesses to relocate.

Name three things you would do to reform the legislative process in Albany?

I would draft or co-sponsor legislation that would emulate the NYC Campaign Finance Program at the state level.

Budget reforms like implementing GAAP (general accepted accounting principles), a five year budget plan, and creation of an independent budget board.

I would also support reforming the member item “pork” spending practices that set up situations of “horse trading” in the legislative process. Member item money could be distributed equally to all members regardless of rank or political capital.

What do you think about the state’s current tax structure?

I believe an unfair burden is placed on the backs of working families. There are many working poor families in the Bronx who fall between the cracks of our economic system. They have too much money to benefit from public programs, but do not have enough money to live without worry on a daily basis. The state needs to stop causing economic devastation onto families face with nickel and dime taxes. We should raise the state income tax and increase new tiers within the tax structure. A person making $40,000 a year should not pay the same tax rate as someone earning $400,000. The state should also seriously consider implementing a stock transfer fee tax, a tax I would support.

Do you support sin taxes, such as the so-called soda tax? Why or why not?

I support “sin” taxes in moderation, but believe there should be limits or caps. State and City government are getting into a habit of balancing the budget with “sin” taxes, and they become regressive and disproportionately impact the working poor and middle class. I also think revenue raised through such taxes should be removed from the general fund and placed into specific funds.

What can you do as a state legislator to address drug dealing and other crime problems in the Bronx?

We should make stronger laws to punish upper tier drug dealers. Such criminals greatly capitalize from others misfortune and take advantage of our civil liberties. We should not be reduced to installing cameras in all public places, but we should place surveillance in known spots of criminal activity. Police officers and detectives should be given all the resources needed to do their jobs. I would also support legislation that would offer state tax credits for police officers who live within the precinct that they work.

What’s your position on vacancy decontrol? Do you think it should be repealed? Any other housing legislation you would like to see moved in Albany?

I support vacancy decontrol, and I urge the State Senate to move on passage of Senate Bill.2237. I would also attempt to co-sponsor Assemblyman Vito Lopez's legislation that would require housing projects with more than 1,000 residents to have 24 hour foot patrols (A. 5053).

What’s your position on same-sex marriage? Abortion rights?

I support allowing any two people who are of age and mentally lucid to legally marry, but religious institutions should be allowed to refuse the sacrament of marriage as they feel necessary.

I cannot personally support abortion, but at the same time, I do understand the medical necessity to keep abortion legal and readily available.

Do you support an independent redistricting panel?


What is your view of member items? Anything you would change in the process of allotting these monies to local organizations?

The process should be much more transparent and accountable. There should be a tool on the official Assembly website that allows the public to view member item expenses by individual member. There should also not be “middle men” groups in the process. For instance, a non-profit that funnels member item monies and have their own payroll. Finally, community events and legislative update mailers should be prohibited for a period of four months before a primary election date. Often community events funded with state dollars act as defacto campaign events.

As a state legislator, what will you do to help education in the Bronx?

I believe we should reexamine the requirements to obtain a teacher license in New York. Rather than focusing on what major new teachers studied in college, we should focus on how well they performed as students themselves. The state should also implement policies that locate and weed out poorly performing teachers. Teachers and school administrators should not hide behind parent involvement as a reason for poor performance, and should rather assume that the most is expected of their performance as educators and role models.

There are no silver bullets when it comes to education. As an elected official, I would put the time and energy into attempting to understand education in The Bronx and then work towards common sense ideas and goals.

1 comment:

  1. I applaud Mr. Giuffre for taking the time to present his position on these important issues. It is disappointing and frustrating to me that incumbents in local Assembly and Senate races have decided not to participate in open discussion and dialogue to inform voters of their positions.


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