Life is too difficult for too many New Yorkers. Housing is too expensive. Too many people are struggling just to make it each day. Public housing is unhealthy and unsafe for too many residents. Moreover, our communities need transportation options that are actually on time. We need more access to capital for women- and minority-owned businesses and micro businesses to create jobs and economic opportunities. We deserve to see a doctor when we’re sick, regardless of our benefits, and not be terrified of a bill that will bankrupt us. We should have no fear of immigration officers showing up at our doorstep or police officers not giving us the benefit of the doubt because of insufficient training. If we work for the city government, we need to know our pension benefits will be there when we retire. We need a city government that meets the needs of Black people and all New Yorkers, and we need someone to fight for us. We need the next public advocate to carry the mantle that Tish James has exceptionally held to fight for all New Yorkers, hold city agencies accountable, unite us as a people and work with community and government leaders to deliver jobs and justice for the people. Next February, I ask for your vote to be your next New York City public advocate.
I know our challenges firsthand. I’m a brother from the Bronx, the son of Jamaican immigrants who knows the meaning of struggle. My mother is a Jamaican immigrant, strong Black woman of God, a breast cancer survivor, worked in a factory, raised four boys and taught me the importance of servant leadership. My late father, also a Jamaican immigrant, was a janitor and maintenance supervisor at Saint Barnabas Hospital and a proud member of 1199SEIU. I grew up in the public school system and in the church, which taught me the importance of faith, of humility and of serving the least of these. The values of unity, opportunity, equity and fairness have been instilled in me and are central to our campaign for public advocate.
Seeking election to the office of public advocate continues my commitment to public service. From working for President Barack Obama as director for African-American Outreach, to serving as the Democratic National Committee vice-chair and an honorary national co-chair for the New Leaders Council, I have been helping to train and elect Black and millennial candidates across the country for the past 12 years. As the Assemblymember of the 79th district in the Bronx, which is both the home of Kalief Browder, a young man who was imprisoned for allegedly stealing a bookbag, and the home to more than 20,000 public housing residents, I am committed to getting all of us justice. That is the same public housing with lead paint that poisoned children and broken gas lines that left residents in the cold and in danger. I have joined with the people to turn pain into promise. I fought for our communities, making New York the only state with My Brother’s Keeper funding at $56 million; demanding more accountability on NYCHA; and helping to Raise the Age of criminal responsibility so that our children aged 16 and 17 are treated as children. I fight for what is just as my faith reminds me to be a Doer of the Word.
Some leaders are now arguing we don’t need a public advocate. Really? The public advocate is first in line to succeed the mayor, if she or he is unable to serve for any reason, presides over City Council stated meetings at the discretion of the speaker, presents legislation, holds city agencies accountable, protects pensions by serving on the NYC Employee Retirement board and is the people’s connection to city government. We need the public advocate, and I ask for your vote to fight #ForThePeople.
Together, we will demand affordable housing for all of us, including the working homeless and especially the 10 percent of children in public schools who are homeless. Let’s close Rikers Island responsibly with community involvement but let’s build schools first, not jails. Let’s make the streets safe for our children, and ensure that we get the health care we need. As public advocate, I will demand that the city show us how it gives tax credits and incentives to developers and find ways to slow the rise of rents that are too high while using our air rights to build more housing that we can all afford. We will provide more capital and contracts for Black-, minority- and women-owned businesses to create quality jobs. We will make quality high schools more open to our children, including fighting for equity in funding, ensuring college readiness and completion. We will make NYCHA livable. For women who are over-represented in low-wage work with no benefits, and young men of color, I will be your public advocate who consistently stands with you. We should be able to worship without fear of violence. For our LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, seniors, union sisters and brothers, I will fight for you. I ask for your vote for New York City public advocate to fight #FORTHEPEOPLE.