The choice for mayor is up to you

Here’s how the mayoral candidates will step up for the arts, and your union

By the Local 802 Government Relations Committee

The all-important primary election is this Tuesday, June 22.

The Local 802 Government Relations Committee has been actively studying the upcoming New York City elections for much of the last year. The Committee, working closely with the Local 802 Executive Board, has made endorsements for 17 City Council races, Comptroller and Manhattan Borough President. (The full list of current endorsements can be seen here.) The Board and Committee together have interviewed over two dozen candidates and participated in multiple meetings to discuss and share research on many more.

For more information on how the Local 802 endorsement process works, contact Local 802 Executive Board member Elise Frawley, who chairs the union’s endorsement committee.

In the extremely important mayoral race, we have decided not to endorse due to the crowded field of candidates, complexities including ranked choice voting, and other factors. However, we would like to share some of our insights gained from conversations with some of the candidates, online forums with all the major candidates, interactions with each candidates’ staff, and detailed research.

On the Democratic primary ballot, there will be 12 candidates. Eight of these candidates have raised enough money and polled well enough to earn a place in the three televised mayoral debates. We’d like to share our observations on some of the leading candidates, particularly as they relate to the arts and unions.

Kathryn Garcia: Kathryn Garcia is the former Commissioner of the NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY), former Chief Operating Officer at the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), former analyst at the NYC Department of Finance. She has the deep respect and admiration of many city officials and workers, and is known for her quick and comprehensive ability to problem-solve in times of crisis. She was instrumental in helping the recovery of the city after Hurricane Sandy. At the DSNY, she began the composting program, banned styrofoam, improved truck routes in the wake of the pandemic, and diminished the amount of truck exhaust in communities near sanitation garages.

During the pandemic, she was appointed the “Food Czar” and delivered 130 million meals to New Yorkers. She has the most comprehensive plan among all candidates for climate change. She would like to move to a fully renewable energy economy, use offshore wind and solar power, convert Rikers Island into a renewable energy zone, create a Green New Deal for NYCHA, install 3,000 electric car chargers throughout the city, and double the number of green jobs in the city in ten years. She is a strong proponent of music education, having children who studied an instrument in school, and believes it’s essential to a well-rounded curriculum. She would like to revitalize the city with an arts and culture campaign aimed at locals, to remind New Yorkers of what we have in our own backyard. She understands global tourism will take a while to get back to pre-pandemic rates, and has a vision for domestic audiences enjoying the arts and culture that makes this city so great. The daughter of a city labor negotiator, she also understands the importance of ensuring these arts jobs are fairly paid and under collective bargaining agreements. She is quick, adept, and creative in all the ways it will take to lead the city out of a crisis and into a brighter future.

Shaun Donovan: A Manhattan native, Donovan served in the Obama administration as United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 2009 to 2014, and Director of the US Office of Management and Budget from 2014 to 2017. Prior to that, he was the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development from 2004 to 2009 under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Donovan has perhaps the most detailed program for the arts of any candidate. Among many provisions are:

  1. Bring back venues by establishing health guidelines, directing federal, state and city relief funds to reopening, leading by example by attending the arts regularly.
  2. Make unoccupied indoor and outdoor spaces available to performing artists; support with rent subsidies and tax forgiveness; simplify the permitting process, and advocate for area-standard wages for participating artists.
  3. Promote renting space to nonprofits and cultural organizations long term with provision to prevent unreasonable rising rents.
  4. Partner with local artists to promote the arts throughout the city, providing work for artists on TV ads, promotional videos, graphic and digital campaigns while also promoting City safety precautions.
  5. Integrate arts education thoroughly into NYC schools, preK-12, and involve local arts organizations.  Shaun is the only candidate to have the following plank in his platform: “ensure every NYC student who wants to has the opportunity to learn and master a musical instrument.”
  6. Create career pathways for the arts by supporting internships with arts organizations.
  7. Ensure that every high school student see at least one professional live performance before they graduate.
  8. Provide for under-served communities and schools to have the digital resources they need to remotely share work, and to preserve and chronicle it.
  9. Develop “arts districts” across the City.
  10. Create a digital network of cultural organizations in the City.

In addition to a strong arts program, Shaun is strong on housing issues. As City Housing commissioner, he reduced homelessness in all 5 boroughs; As HUD secretary, he reduced Veteran homelessness by 40%; In both capacities, he introduced programs that increased low-income home ownership.  He also has strong proposals on climate change, transportation and health.

Ray McGuire: Ray McGuire grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and was raised with two brothers by his single mother, a social worker, with help from his grandparents. His success story takes him from working as a construction day laborer while in high school to Harvard to being the longest-standing head of an investment bank in the history of Wall Street, after 15 years as vice chairman of Citigroup. Along the way he became active in many institutions including the New York Public Library, New-York-Presbyterian Hospital, the American Museum of Natural History, Studio Museum in Harlem and notably the De La Salle Academy, a small, independent day school that primarily serves gifted students, many who live below the poverty line.

McGuire supports arts advocacy not only as an important factor in the cultural health of the city, but also as an economic engine that through tourism brought in, before the pandemic, almost $7 billion in state and local taxes and supported more than 400,000 jobs. McGuire’s plan to revitalize the arts in NYC includes:

– Revamp the Department of Cultural Affairs so it can function more effectively and efficiently and facilitate better partnerships across city agencies so that the arts and arts education can be better integrated into all areas of city life.

– Work with the leaders of the city’s 76 Business Investment Districts, encouraging them to expand support for local arts and arts education in every neighborhood they serve.

– Economic support for artists so they can afford to stay in our city.

– Create multiple large scale art installations across NYC parks and open spaces.

– When safe for visitors to return, host “the biggest festival the country has ever seen, to send a message that New York is open for business — and that will include arts organizations from every borough.”

McGuire’s multifaceted “Comeback Job Accelerator” includes everything from tax incentives for small business, simplifying permits and licenses, guaranteed summer jobs for high schoolers to repairing the NYC property tax system and support of the cannabis industry as a job and income creator for the city.

Weaved through all of McGuire’s revitalization plans are policies that support his staunch commitment to closing racial inequities in four major areas: wages, education, housing, and investment. Before leaving Citigroup, he penned with his team CLOSING THE RACIAL INEQUALITY GAPS, The Economic Cost of Black Inequality in the U.S. The analysis in the report shows that if those four key racial gaps for Blacks were closed 20 years ago, $16 trillion could have been added to the U.S. economy. And if the gaps are closed today, $5 trillion can be added to U.S. GDP over the next five years. The report sums up a plan through which guaranteed wages, promotion of financial inclusion, implementation of housing incentives, investment in protections against discrimination and a host of other policies combined create an overall healthier and more robust economy for everyone. “We believe we have a responsibility to address current events and to frame them with an economic lens in order to highlight the real costs of longstanding discrimination against minority groups, especially against Black people and particularly in the U.S.” says McGuire in his preamble to the report. You can find it here.

Maya Wiley: Maya Wiley is an attorney and former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio. She formerly chaired the Civilian Complaint Review Board. She has been a vocal leader of civil rights and left-leaning political causes throughout her career. She served in the Civil Division at the US Attorney’s Office here in New York (Southern District). She has also served as an attorney in the NAACP, ACLU, and Open Society Institute. She has a comprehensive “New Deal”-style plan to bring jobs back to NYC through public works projects and investment in our communities. She would like to direct more funding to arts and culture. She plans to concentrate as many New Deal jobs as possible in communities experiencing low employment rates. She would like to help put performers and artists back to work by providing performance and studio spaces through capital expenditures, and other means of support for arts and culture.

 Scott Stringer

 A note about Scott Stringer: the Government Affairs Committee and the Local 802 Executive Board take seriously the allegations by two women of misconduct by Scott Stringer. In the spirit of transparency, we are sharing our perspective on his work as a public servant and the past work he has done with our union and other arts workers. We share this information so that members are equipped with all the information they need to make an informed decision.

Stringer is the current NYC Comptroller and former Manhattan Borough President. Stringer has strong arts credentials in his government work:

He got the Education Dept. to make a $23 billion investment in arts education.  He also advocated getting arts workers early access to the Covid vaccine.  His arts recovery plan includes:

  • Set aside 15% of City grant funds for individual artists, performers and arts groups that are not registered non-profits
  • Open up City-owned buildings to artists for work and rehearsal space
  • Help NYC musicians by supporting more live music in bars and restaurants
  • Create a relief fund for arts-related businesses
  • Launch a WPA-stye Artists Project to support artists; Build back tourism with large advertising campaign
  • Pedestrianize blocks outside of cultural venues throughout the city
  • Require city grant recipients to pay decent wages and ban unpaid internships
  • Eliminate the last vestiges of the Cabaret Law
  • Waive city fees for cultural non-profits

Stringer’s environmental record includes divesting city pension funds of fossil-fuel related investments, and effectively opposing pipelines and fracking across New York State.

For more information on how the Local 802 endorsement process works, contact Local 802 Executive Board member Elise Frawley, who chairs the union’s endorsement committee.