We are all concerned about our ability to make a living. Whether it's low wages, lack of local jobs, or the reality of living paycheck-to-paycheck, income inequality is growing, putting the future strength of our economy, and our family's security, at risk. It often feels as if there is no way to get ahead and save for your family, and that there's little or no chance of catching up.
It's about priorities.
My priority is taking care of families right here in our district, not giving breaks to Wall street, not supporting legislation that favors big business over the rights of the rest of us.
Our district boasts a robust small business economy that serves the people of Staten Island and Brooklyn. There are fantastic restaurants and shops throughout the district that make it an awesome place to live and work. We need to continue expanding business by incentivizing people to open up shop in our district-through small business loans and advice through the federal Small Business Administration, and local organizations such as the Small Business Development Center, and through providing transportation and infrastructure options that make businesses want to start up right here. We should ensure that every location in our district is a good location for business. Most importantly, we should make sure that the businesses that open in our district provide employment opportunities, and benefit the residents who live there.
We must recognize that our economy grows from the middle out, so that when the middle class does well, the economy does better for all of us. This is why I favor tax breaks and subsidies for middle-income earners, while closing tax loop-holes that in some cases mean the wealthy pay little to no taxes at all. I will fight a tax system that favors the rich, at the expense of the rest of us. We shouldn't be giving tax breaks for millionaires and multi-billion dollar companies while cutting funding for after-school programs, aid for veterans, and necessary programs to assist the elderly and disabled. I will work to simplify the tax code, while maintaining tax deductions that benefit our residents. Most importantly, I will fight to ensure that all hard-working people earn a living wage so that they can support their families, and retire with dignity.
Coming from a union family, and as a proud union member, I will protect the middle class in Staten Island and Brooklyn, and stand with my fellow union workers as we fight the onslaught of right-to-work legislation, outsourcing, dangerous workplace conditions, and the stripping away of our pensions.
Our district is seeing tremendous economic growth, from Tottenville to Gravesend. Because of this, we need a transportation infrastructure to match the growing centers of economic development. I will fight to make sure federal dollars flow into our district to fund transportation projects that will finally provide residents more options to get where they're going.
Staten Island has seen unprecedented population growth in the past three decades. The population of Staten Island grew 24% from 1990-2010, but the transportation infrastructure didn't keep up with the number of new residents. We need more and better ways to get around the island, such as light rail, new express and local bus routes, and mid-island and south shore ferry stops. We've waited long enough.
Going forward, when developmental projects are planned, I will ensure that transportation needs and infrastructure costs are included during planning, and not left as an afterthought.
Nothing is more important than keeping our city and our families safe. I've spent over a decade helping to keep NYC safe as a police officer patrolling and answering calls for help in our neighborhoods, and participating in counterterrorism operations throughout the city. We have a robust counterterrorism unit that works tirelessly to defend us against multiple threats. But I also understand how to balance the needs of security with our Constitutional and personal rights, so that we continue to live not just securely, but freely.
Our ability to defend against threats requires assistance from other agencies, and from other countries. I will work to make sure the alliances forged over time remain in place, so that we can continue to share valuable information amongst ourselves, and other partners overseas.
We should all feel safe and secure in our own neighborhoods, and also feel free to live our lives in peace. I know there are community policing methods that have worked well, and reduce crime while bringing police and residents together. The new NYPD neighborhood coordination officer program is a good start to building lasting relationships that strengthen the communities we live in. The goal is crime reduction, and an increased quality of life, while respecting the rights of residents who live and work in our diverse district.
My wife Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 30. With a nine-month old baby at home, I helped and supported her through multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, and recovery, while navigating the health insurance companies, co-pays, deductibles, and all other costs associated with getting sick. I know firsthand what it's like to see a family member suffer through a terrible illness, even with health insurance.
When a family member gets sick, we want to focus on making them better. Whether your child just needs a few stiches from falling off a bike, or if a family member is battling cancer, the focus should be on your family, not worrying about your ability to pay.
I recognize that healthcare is a human right, and should be available to everyone. We spend more than any other nation on healthcare, but are left with an unequal system that is either too expensive, or completely out of reach for millions. Many thousands alone in our own district still lack insurance to cover basic preventative care. Because of this I will advocate for a single-payer system of healthcare, eliminating all co-pays and deductibles, lowering the overall cost of care while providing access to all.
We need to overhaul the system that prevents the government from negotiating with drug manufacturers. Legislation that established Medicare Part D explicitly prevents the government from negotiating prices with drug companies, making prescriptions difficult to afford for most families. I will work to replace this unfair giveaway with a system that works in our favor.
I've personally treated dozens of opiate overdoses as a paramedic, and understand how addiction can take root in any community, in any neighborhood. We need to attack the opioid crisis currently taking hold in our district by looking at all of the ways we can fight back, not just by focusing on increasing criminal penalties. We need to make life-saving medication such as naloxone more readily available to first responders; increase mental health funding and accessibility; and treat those suffering from addiction by increasing inpatient and outpatient substance abuse facilities. We should also promote prevention strategies that work, in schools and in the community, go after doctors who over-prescribe opioids, and stop drug manufacturers who flood our markets for profits.
Our Constitution is only as strong as those willing to defend it, and I will continue to do just that if elected to Congress. As an attorney I've studied our laws and Constitution, and recognize the fragility of our governmental institutions. We need a strong voice advocating for our Constitutional rights as Americans.
Freedom of the press must be cherished as a right that strengthens us all, and it is essential that it be defended against those who seek to delegitimize the work that keeps our government in check.
The right to assemble in protest is a vital part of our democracy, and is alive and well in the 11th Congressional district. People should demand accountability and transparency from our elected officials, and those elected to serve the people shouldn't hide from those they purport to serve.
Talking on a telephone is not a town hall meeting, standing in an actual hall with your constituents is.
I was sickened by the recent travel bans, and promise that I will fight back against any policy that targets a population based on religion, or any other criteria that seeks to divide us as a nation, through wholly unconstitutional means. We are better than this. Bans don't work, and don't reflect the reality of the dangers we face as a city, and as a nation.
I will defend the rights of the LGBTQ community, and make sure everyone is treated equally under the law. While legislation has finally recognized certain rights in the LGBTQ community, we are far from true equality in America. We must as a community fight back against harassment, hate, and discrimination in all forms, and promote understanding in our incredibly diverse district.
Laws only go so far. We need to move beyond legislation, and work in our communities to fight fear, fight hate, and fight discrimination in all forms against our immigrant, Muslim, and LGBTQ neighbors.
As a special education teacher in District 75, I see the potential in every student in my school, and know the support required to help my students realize their true potential and capabilities. Those who are disabled are not unable to work, or get an education. We need to expand educational and vocational programs that allow those with disabilities to join the workforce, become independent, and make important contributions.
I will also fight to guarantee Medicaid remains fully funded, and not reduced into block grants, to ensure those who are disabled and depend on Medicaid to provide in-home healthcare, required medications, and related services, can continue to remain as independent as possible.
Public education is the foundation of our economy. It's in our public schools that tomorrow's innovators are inspired, and where the skilled workers of tomorrow learn the essential trades that fuel the building of our infrastructure. We must do everything we can to make sure our public schools in Staten Island and Brooklyn remain strong and accessible to every child in our district. I'm proud to be a public school teacher, and recognize the immense responsibility and challenges each teacher faces on a daily basis.
Our schools need support, and not be stripped of their potential to fund private schools with public dollars, which is why I'm against school voucher programs. Our schools should not be for-profit enterprises that focus on dollars, instead of student progress. Public schools need to remain safe and accessible to all students, regardless of ability or disability.
Our schools succeed when we have good education policy, and good teachers working in classrooms across the district. We need to increase teacher training and retention; expand alternate teacher certification programs; and add more after-school programs to provide students with an equal opportunity to catch up, and develop their interests further.
There is a shortfall of skilled trade workers in America, and it's going to get much worse in the near future. As the average age of skilled trades workers increase, and as those workers retire, there are not enough younger workers filling these vital positions. I believe there are no right or wrong paths to the job market, only different paths based on interest and ability. Because of this I will promote more vocational programs such as those at Mckee High School in Staten Island to fill the growing need for skilled trade workers here in our district, and all over America. We need more differentiated educational opportunities, starting right here in our district.
As a parent I want to leave this planet a better place for my children. I want them to breathe clean air, and drink clean water. Because of this I will fight to ensure the EPA remains funded, and that it continues its mission to protect our environment, and provide factual information to the public about managing environmental risks.
Both Staten Island and Brooklyn include miles of vulnerable shoreline, prone to damage from storms and erosion. Protecting our residents includes taking a real look at protecting our shores, to prevent damage to property, and loss of life. Projects like the Staten Island seawall are a necessary first step to achieving this goal.
Climate change is an economic, social, and security issue. Even the Pentagon views climate change as a threat to our national security, and we need to give it the full attention it deserves.
I will fight to combat climate change, by working with different partners to ensure that America does its part to reduce the effects of global warming, including expanding green energy solutions that have been proven to work.
Our district is incredibly diverse in culture, and it's what makes it a fantastic place to live and work. We all walk the same sidewalks with our neighbors, sit in the same movie theaters, eat at the same restaurants, and shop in the same stores. This is our community, these are our neighbors, our coworkers, and we are stronger as a community when we stand by our own, and recognize our own immigrant past.
Almost 120 years ago, my great-grandfather came to Staten Island and built a house on Palmer Avenue in Port Richmond, at the time a vibrant Scandinavian immigrant community. The residents spoke Swedish and Norwegian, ate traditional Nordic foods, and played traditional music. The neighborhoods we live in haven't changed, just the traditions. We all share similar stories of how we came to live in our community.
I will champion immigration reform that recognizes immigrant workers and families as essential to our community and culture. We are stronger and safer as a country when we don't isolate communities, and drive wedges in our own neighborhoods. Forcing undocumented immigrants underground makes us all less safe, and costs us all more money. It just doesn't work.
I will fight to expand DAPA and DACA, and ensure that NYC remains a sanctuary city. I will ensure that our borders are as secure as they can be, and get to work on true immigration reform, which includes a path to citizenship.
There is no question, we need to go after and deport criminals who shouldn't be here. But we need to dismantle the inhumane deportation programs that go after hard working immigrants, and cost taxpayers billions of dollars. Again, it just doesn't work, it damages our economy, and it makes us less safe. True immigration reform will allow us to tackle all of the complicated issues-from entry visa programs, to refugees, to Dreamers, and finally create a fair system that works for all of us.
The current lack of any coherent immigration policy is failing us as a nation, and must be a priority.
I have always been, and will continue to be a strong advocate for women's rights, including supporting Planned Parenthood's mission to provide healthcare to millions, and for a woman's right to choose. Women alone should make the decisions that affect them and their bodies, not the government. This also means that women should continue having access to the contraceptives they need, without undue burdens placed by the government.
In addition to advocating for equality, I will also fight for pay equity, to ensure that in practice women are being paid the same as men for the same job.
And I will also support families by supporting legislation that finally provides all Americans with paid family leave, allowing new mothers and fathers time to recuperate and spend time with their newborn. And because we shouldn't penalize people for becoming parents, I will fight for access to quality affordable childcare, so that mothers and fathers can reenter the workforce, and continue to make valuable contributions.
It's of paramount importance to make sure the men and women serving in the armed forces here in our district, and all over the world, are taken care of. I will ensure that caring for our troops doesn't end with discharge from service. I will fight for better access to services such as education and healthcare; promote streamlined VA accessibility; increase veteran mental health service programs; and make certain that funding for future deployments includes money for care of our troops after they come home. At the top of this list, I will address the terrible tragedy of veteran suicides, and make sure it not only gets the attention it deserves, but the resources to combat the horrifying statistics.
I will make sure that if you've served, you're taken care of, period.