Let me start by acknowledging that I do not know personally what it is like to be black in America. I know that my white skin and privilege means that I do not have the personal experience to know that experience. So without that what I can do to fight for racial justice and change?
I believe this needs to start with listening. Too often I see people jump in believing they have the answers or the voice to shout the loudest. But I know I need to listen, to ask questions, to educate myself, to engage, and then to help lead others. I also know what is right and wrong and believe in the message that Black Lives Matter. From my listening, I have started to put together policy changes we can accomplish in New York to make real change. This is not an exhaustive list and more will be added as I listen more and am further educated.
I support the Bail Reforms of 2019. I only support the adjustments in 2020 in the areas of domestic violence prevention and safety. Bail is only a promise to return to court, it is not a system to lock people up who aren’t convicted. All that has changed is now people don’t get separated from their families, lose their jobs, and have their lives wrecked because they are too poor to pay bail when others can and were released. Bail reforms returns justice to the system and removes wealth as a measure of how much justice one can expect or receive. In Cortland County, over the last 8 years, we saw a significant increase in the number of individuals in our jail who were not convicted of a crime but were simply waiting for their time in court or unable to achieve bail. This was having a significant impact on our criminal justice system but even more importantly it was impacting individuals and their families. This is why I continue to support bail reform and restorative justice.
I believe this part of the Civil Rights Law needs to be repealed. Too often it has been used as shield and sets the police and other first responders above the law. The records of police officers and other who commit offenses should be open, just like they are many other states. New York is behind most of the rest of the nation in our openness on police records and this must change.
The SAFER NY Act includes the following items:
End Police Secrecy - Repeal 50-a (A2513-O’Donnell/S3695-Bailey)
Police Statistics & Transparency (STAT) Act (A05472-Lentol/S1830–Hoylman)
Special Prosecutor Legislation to strengthen and codify Executive Order 147 (A1601-Perry/S2574-Bailey)
End Marijuana Prohibition and Invest in Communities - Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act (A1617-Peoples-Stokes/S1527 –Krueger)
Reduce unnecessary arrests for non-criminal offenses (A4053-Aubry/S2571-Bailey)
As I have said elsewhere, I support the legalization of adult-use cannabis. We need to stop the classification of cannabis as a drug and overturn the years of warring against communities on this substance. We need to legalize adult-use and expunge the records of those caught up on drug offenses simply for the possession of small amounts of cannabis. We need to correct our past wrong. We need to use part of the revenues collected by the state on the sale of cannabis to invest in those communities which have taken the brunt of the war on drugs. We need to help lift them up. We also need to ensure these funds go back to the communities collecting the sales tax in a fair manner.
I support the oversight of local and state police departments with independent review boards for all officer-involved deaths. We also need to fully fund at the state level a policy and program of state-wide body cams and long term storage of the footage capture. We do need to protect the public's right to privacy on the footage but all police officers should wear them. We need to codify that photography is not a crime by the public in relation to any public official in the course of their duties. The public has a right to record the public actions of all officials (as long as they don't interfere or cause harm themselves). We need to more fully fund deescalation and other training for our police officers and make this training required on a regular basis. We also need to stop the militarization of our police forces. We do not need military weapons and vehicles on our streets.
I support the efforts of the Alliance for Quality Education (https://www.aqeny.org/) to ensure "a high quality public education to all students regardless of zip code." This ties into my message on funding education which for too long has been tied to property taxes and that directly impacts poorer communities. We need a better and more equitable formula.
As I said at the start, I know I need to listen, to ask questions, to educate myself, to engage, and then to help lead others. I support the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as the many other organizations fight hard for racial justice and equality. I look forward to continuing to listen and to engage.