En Español Know Your Rights
Source: Queens Courier
Subject: Strategic Policy Advocacy
Type: Media Coverage

Questions for aspiring Councilmembers

If
the turnout at the fourth District Council 25 candidate forum is any
indication, the district’s primaryelection could be one of the most exciting in the borough.

 

As
the available chairs quickly disappeared, a crowd packed into the Diversity
Center of Queens to hear the four candidates – Daniel Dromm, Stanley Kalathara,
Alfonso Quiroz and incumbent Councilmember Helen Sears – respond to questions
prepared by community organizations.

 

The
first set of questions came from the Queens Community House, which provides
youth development programs, touched upon the proposed budget cuts to
after-school and leadership development programs for youth, language access in
city agencies and non-citizen voting rights.

 

Kalathara,
a local real estate agent and lawyer, responded that he would give seven
percent of his income in the City Council to student programs, that he agreed
with the non-citizen voting legislation and that English classes needed to be a
priority.

 

Quiroz,
a 10-year resident of Jackson Heights and native of Chicago, said that as a councilmember it’s
important to learn how to work within the budget cuts. In addition to
supporting public-private partnerships to get more funds, he would create a
task force to work out the diverse problems of each ethnic community. He agreed
with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s centralized language access program because
people should understand the services provided.


Sears said that this year the City
Council has a $1.5 billion shortfall and making the budget cuts is a real
challenge. She said that in the district community organizations currently
offered English and citizenship classes, but they needed to be expanded. Sears
acknowledged that more could be done to expand access to services in various
languages, especially in healthcare. She said her office has Spanish and
Chinese staff to assist constituents.

 

Dromm,
who highlighted his 25 years as a teacher, said that he would fight for
after-school programs and, in Spanish, that more money should allocated to
teach English.

 

A
representative of Make
The Road New York, a social justice
community organization, asked about the tenant-landlord issues as related to
Vantage Management and Apollo Investment Corporation, support of tenant
associations and the preservation of affordable housing in Queens.

 

Having
recently marched with
Make The Road against abusive
landlords, Dromm said he has organized tenants and been a member of a tenant
association. Kalathara said that abuses continue because there are no
regulations. Quiroz said that it was important to fight how landlords treat
people. “People [have] the right to keep and stay in their houses,” he said.
Sears said that “bad landlords had no right in New York City

 

New
Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), an immigrant organizing community
organization, asked questions about jobs and job training, day laborers, and
immigrant women’s issues.

 

All
the candidates agreed that creating jobs that offered fair wages and
establishing job development and training centers was an important factor in
advancing the lives of people in the district. Sears praised the local
community centers and told the crowd that the reason why NICE can do the things
they do is because of the money they get from the City Council. In particular,
Dromm said that he would work with the labor unions.

 

In
regards to the economy and jobs, Kalathara mentioned several times his interest
in getting Roosevelt Avenue
a designation as a Business Improvement District and that by doing so it would
improve the quality of life on the avenue.

 

“None
of these people [the other candidates] ever created any jobs. It is so
ridiculous that they don’t have any business acumen,” he said.