Senator, District 27 —New York State SenateNovember 8, 2016 —New York General Election
New York State SenateSenator, District 27
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About this office
- Pass new middle income housing legislation to start construction of 250,000 new units. New York City, Long Island, and Westchester are all in housing crisis. It is time to work together to pass a 21st century “Mitchell-Lama” type of program.
- Legalize, tax, and regulate recreational marijuana. This will help bring in $1.2 to $1.5 billion of new revenue to help pay for single payer universal health care. It also ends the projects to prisons pipeline.
- Start to clean up Albany – We have sent 33 elected legislators to jail since 2000. We need to pass strong ethics reform, including lowering the limits that a candidate can receive for a campaign to no more than $1,000 per contributor.
I am Stephen Roberts, a Reform Rabbi, and I am running for the New York State Senate District 27because New York needs leaders who are honest and ethical. I am a progressive and independent voice. I am not running with a party, but rather as an independent. Your vote will send a clear message to Albany that they need to change their ways or get out of my way!
Why am I running? May 2016 two of the top three New York State elected officials were sentenced to jail for official corruption, including the head of the NY Senate! I was shocked when the 2016 legislative session ended with no real ethics reform. Instead, our elected officials found a way to pass “Fantasy Football” legislation. Real ethics reform, like closing the LLC loophole, as called for by good government groups and major newspaper editorials went unheeded.
I started looking at the record of my own senator. What I found appalled me. Since 2012, Brad Hoylman has accepted 58 separate LLC donations with an average donation of over $1,300. He has accepted LLC donations as large as $16,500. He has accepted 23 separate LLC donations of $1,000 or more.
Almost one-third of all the funds he has raised since 2012 are part of the "pay-to-play" and special interest giving that make up Albany's culture of corruption. Plus, his second highest campaign expenditure is giving funds to other politicians! This giving of funds raised by one politician to another is also part of the Albany culture of corruption.
Will I engage in "pay to play?" NO! I am choosing a more difficult campaign path, the path to run as an Independent and not take any LLC monies or PAC or similar funds. My ethical standards are what I value most.
I have lived in the NYS Senate District 27 since moving to New York City in 1991, first in the East Village and now in the West Village. I have watched the city grow and prosper. What I have not seen is the culture of corruption in Albany change in all that time.
The leaders of both the NYS Assembly and Senate were sentenced to jail this year, and yet, no real ethics reform was passed. Blair Horner of NYPIRG (New York Public Interest Research Group) said about the “ethics” package that was passed: "We think again, in this particular case, that the problem of Albany, what U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara calls the culture of corruption, is really not addressed by this package,"
Why run as an Independent? Why run for the NYS Senate as an independent and not as a Democrat or some other party? The balance of power in the NYS Senate is so close in Albany that ONE vote CAN make a real difference. I am willing to work for that change. I was inspired by Senator Bernie Sanders, and I realized that as an independent, I can make a much larger difference, particularly in Albany.
Do I really care? I have spent the last 25 years working with New Yorkers and those around the country who are hurting, in need of someone to stand by them. I am, by training, a rabbi, and by profession, a health care and disaster response chaplain. In plain English, I have worked with those who are living with life-threatening illnesses, major mental health challenges, and those directly impacted by disasters – such as 9/11. One of the hospitals I worked in, Beth Israel, is now scheduled to close. As with St. Vincent’s Hospital, I do not really hear anyone fighting to save it.
Can a chaplain/rabbi be effective? Yes! I have used my Wharton MBA in a range of ways to create change. While president of one of the major chaplaincy associations, I helped lead the undertaking to create a set of common standards which were passed and implemented. I created or co-created the three major textbooks that are used in the field of Professional Spiritual and Pastoral Care. I have been involved in National VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters). I was part of a six-person writing group that created the Points of Consensus – Disaster Spiritual Care, a unique document that a wide range of religions have agreed to use as their starting point when providing disaster spiritual care—from Southern Baptist to The Church of Latter Day Saints to Billy Graham… to Jewish to Islamic to a range of Liberal Protestant Christian to Buddhist. If I can help create such a document that a wide range of religions can agree upon, I know I can help fight and CHANGE the culture of corruption in Albany.
Fight Against Corruption
- Since 2000, over 30 lawmakers have left office facing criminal charges for allegations of ethical misconduct
- Incumbents can comfortably assume endorsements from their party’s political clubs during primaries
We need to
- reform the campaign finance system
- end LLC (untraceable corporate) donations and large dollar contributions
- limit elected officials' outside earnings to 15% of salary
- Independent candidates are required to get three times the number of signatures to earn a spot on the ballot
- Filing dates and deadlines for each elected office are public knowledge but not readily available
Give everyone interested in running for office - including incumbents - the same opportunity to run, regardless of party affiliation or personal financial statusNo one should feel that they own an office
- The longest seat held in Albany is 46 years, with nearly half the seats having been held for 10 or more years
- These numbers clearly illustrate that our state is in the hands of career politicians
Encourage voter participation through term length incentives, with a maximum of five terms in officeTake back control of Albany
More than 30 lawmakers have left office facing criminal charges for allegations of ethical misconduct since 2000, including two of the top three New York State elected officials. In this time, few significant reforms have been passed to cut off this corruption at its source. We need to reform the campaign finance system and require transparency for all state elected officials outside earnings. We need to limit and actually enforce the amount of money elected officials can accept and the sources they come from. We need to close this "LLC loophole" and take the "pay-to-play" nature of politics out of Albany.Encourage more people to seek office
As an independent, in order to get his name on the ballot, Stephen Roberts was required to acquire three times the number of signatures as anyone else wanting to run with a party affiliation. This fact alone makes it so difficult for those with aspirations to get their name into the race. On top of that, while the filing dates and deadlines for each elected office are public knowledge, they are not readily available, discouraging those who do not have the support and experience of a political party to seek office.
Some solutions that can help change this and get more people running for office is to create uniformity in the number of petitions needed and the filing fees required to run for office. Whether a person is running independent or with a political party should not make a difference.No one should feel that they own an office
Albany is being run by career politicians. The current longest seat held in Albany is 46 years, with nearly half of the seats having been held for 10 or more years. It is impossible to keep the corruption out of Albany if there is no turn over of power. Creating term limits is one answer to this problem. In addition to term limits, Stephen Roberts also wants to propose a way to help get elected officials to encourage voter participation. There are a number of election districts in the country in which elected officials' length in office is determined by voter turnout. This would mean a candidate who could get a higher voter turn out would get to serve a four-year term, as opposed to a candidate that got a lower turnout in their district who would only get a two-year term before they were up for re-election. All officials, regardless of term length, would also be restricted to five terms in office. This type of system encourages those running for office to turn out the vote in their districts, rather than suppress the total vote, and keeps the elected officials engaged in the community in order to continue holding office.
Fight for Affordable Housing
Stephen Roberts is passionately aware of the diminishing supply of middle-income housing in New York City. He lives in what was once a “Mitchell-Lama” apartment complex-West Village Houses (WVH) and has served more than a dozen years on his Tenant Association. Stephen Roberts was a key participant in creating the first of its kind tenant-sponsored conversion of a Mitchell-Lama rental apartment complex to a non-eviction co-op.
"In my complex, we, the tenants, faced the strong possibility of being bought out and evicted – like so many others in District 27. I helped put together a multi-million-dollar buyout that allowed the tenants to buy the complex as a middle-income haven for another generation."
In the past, Albany was responsible for innovative legislation, such as “Mitchell-Lama”, which built tens of thousands of middle-income apartments throughout New York State. However, in recent years, many of these buildings have privatized, thus reducing the accessibility that was once available for middle-income housing. It is time again that similar pioneering legislation be passed to create the next generation of affordable middle income housing in New York City.
- Only with the creation of new affordable housing units will the average New Yorker and their children and grandchildren, be able to remain in New York City.
- Only with new affordable housing will New York City continue to prosper economically by having a large and vibrant middle class.
- Only with new affordable housing will our seniors be protected and be able to live out their days in the New York City.
- Legalize and tax marijuana and use that tax money to pay for a New York universal single payer healthcare system
- Give those needing medical attention access without financial barriers such as co-pays and deductibles
- Patients have the ability to choose hospital and doctor
- Break the stigma associated with mental illness by offering more open access to mental health professionals
- Change from a system of punishment to rehabilitation for drug offences