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Interview | Howie Hawkins - The Local East Village Blog - NYTimes.com


Interview | Howie Hawkins


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Howie HawkinsDeyva Arthur Howie Hawkins.

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for governor, isn’t bothered by recent polls showing him trailing far behind Andrew Cuomo. His main goal is to help the Greens grab a share of the political spotlight now so that the party’s candidates can be considered viable contenders in future elections. “People can help make that happen and that’ll open up the debate in the elections,” Mr. Hawkins says.

In an interview with The Local, Mr. Hawkins, 57, a UPS truck unloader from Syracuse, discussed his belief that he understands the needs of the working class more than the major candidates. He objects to the recent subway fair hikes – he believes students should ride free – and he’s passionate on environmental issues and educational reform. He also described an unusual experience during an appearance on East Village Radio.

Q.

Have you ever been to the East Village?

A.

I did a radio interview at East Village Radio in early September with these two DJs dressed up in tennis suits. It had something to do with Palestinians being excluded from a tennis match. When I got there, it was kind of bizarre that they were dressed up for tennis. So, I did the interview and my campaign manager got a hair cut across the street while I was on. It looks interesting, and like a place I’d like to hang out for awhile. That’s the problem with a campaign — you get a taste for these places, but don’t get absorbed in them.

Q.

Why should East Village voters choose you?

A.

A vote for Cuomo is a wasted vote. People have to ask themselves what their vote is going to mean. If you’re progressive, an environmentalist, you care about the future of the planet, and you’re a working person in the labor movement, you give your vote to Cuomo, he will take it for granted. If you vote for the Green Party, the more votes we get, the stronger we’ll be to raise these issues in the future.

Q.

Why did you leave your job at UPS to run for governor?

A.

I unload trucks, tractor trailers and rail cars. I’m handling freight. I have a leave of absence between Labor Day and the election. I know that people work really hard. I know what working people are going through from personal experience. I talk to them every day, I work with them, I am one of them. I think I have a much better feel for them than the major party candidates.

Howie HawkinsMark Dunlea Mr. Hawkins, a worker for the UPS shipping company, says “I know that people work really hard. I know what working people are going through from personal experience.”
Q.

You strongly oppose the MTA’s vote earlier this month to raise subway fares. A lot of East Village residents heavily rely on the subway – why is this issue important to you?

A.

We’ve got to take the MTA out of the hands of the bankers who’ve turned it into an ATM for them. We loaded up the MTA with all this debt, rather than having progressive taxes. Instead they borrow and that adds debt servicing. When that adds up, they start raising fares, they cut station managers and transit workers to pay off the interest. It’s much cheaper to tax them upfront than to borrow and pay interest for it. That’s one way to make sure fares don’t increase.

We need dedicated funding that’s efficient. I’m interested in the congestion pricing plan by Ted Kheel and Charlie Komanoff. They think it would provide an extra $1.5 billion to the MTA that would give it a dedicated revenue stream.

Q.

Environmental issues are a big part of your platform, and you want “hydrofracking” banned. Why should people in the East Village care about this issue?

A.

Hydrofraction is a big issue, particularly upstate. Cuomo has an energy policy book out called “Power New York.” It’s really a paper with small pages and wide margins. It’s clear he wants to move from coal to gas fire plants. He has vague statements in the general right direction, but no commitment to resources, deadlines or goals. He doesn’t seem to be worried about climate change. He’s really just trying to get through the election. Then he’s going to let the oil and gas industry tear up the state.

Q.

How does it affect our local water supply?

A.

The water for New York City is like in Syracuse. We have good sources of water. But if they hydrofrack it, it puts our water sources at risk. The back flow, which includes toxic chemicals, can contaminate water supplies. We’ve had cases of this all over the country. Our land and clean water are our ace in the hole upstate for economic development. If we wreck that, we’re going to have a short-term boom with natural gas, and a long-term bust because we’re going to be left with an industrial wasteland.

Howie HawkinsDavid Doonan Mr. Hawkins, with supporters at a fund raiser last month, believes that a congestion pricing plan could provide the MTA with an extra $1.5 billion as part of a dedicated revenue stream.
Q.

You say you support “fully-funded schools.” How will that help our East Village schools, some of which scored poorly on the city’s annual progress report?

A.

There’s a decision from the Court of Appeals in The Campaign for Fiscal Equity. The State is supposed to fulfill the New York constitutional obligation to provide each child with a good education. The schools have been underfunded. That money is supposed to come, but they’re saying the fiscal crisis has prevented that. The first thing is, you’ve got to provide the money. I’m saying the fiscal crisis is contrived because of the stock transfer tax. They had the money and gave it back.

Q.

What’s your stance on abortion?

A.

We’re pro-choice. What irritates me is that Cuomo and Paladino are using that issue to mobilize their base. Paladino’s an extremist on anti-abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. Cuomo goes up to Harlem to scare people into voting for him. But when Cuomo goes to Harlem to talk abortion with black Democrats, what struck me is why he didn’t say a word about racial profiling. That’s the social issue that’s not being discussed. There was a study in New York last year that said there were 575,000 stops, 87 percent of which were black or Latino. When I go around Harlem, Brooklyn, and the Bronx to talk to the black and Latino communities, that’s the first thing that people want to know, particularly young men. It’s a constant stress and worry. Their mothers, sisters and wives are tired of it. I believe in equal rights and people’s constitutional rights are important. You shouldn’t be stopping people because of what they look like. You stop people because they’re doing something wrong.

Q.

And on gay marriage?

A.

We’re for it. It’s clear where we stand, and there’s no question we support it.

Q.

What do you think of Mr. Paladino?

A.

He talked himself out of the election because he’s a mean-spirited man who offends another group every time he opens his mouth. He’s pandering and he’s not serious. He doesn’t really have a program and I don’t think he’d even know what to do if he won.