Transcript from January 11, 2017 NYC 9th Council District Debate (6:00-8:00 pm) 215 W 125th St. 3rd Fl.
Candidates Roll Call:
Pierre Gooding, Bill Perkins, Marvin Holland, Dawn Simmons, Larry Scott Blackmon, Charles Cooper, Mamadou Drame, Donald Fields, Shannette Gray, Athena Moore, Troy Outlaw, Todd Stevens
Bill Perkins: (Inaudible) and from that humble beginning I've had the privilege of serving the neighborhood before as a member of the City Council, as Democratic District Leader and presently as a New York State Senator. So I've decided to return to my humble beginnings and run for the City Council for a very simple reason - I realize that I can do more for you individually and collectively as far as this community is concerned, as a leader in the City Council, because I've been there before, and I know what opportunities it offers and I've been to Albany, and it's cold in Albany, especially when you're in the minority, OK, you'll get a salary, but it's very hard to get things done, we were able to get some stuff done, but not as much as we're going to be able to get done on your behalf in the City Council thank you very much.
Pierre Gooding: Thank you guys for coming out, my name is Pierre Gooding. I want to start out by thanking the New York City Equality Coalition for having this forum tonight so that we could speak to you folks. I am from the Grant Houses right there on 125th a couple of blocks down the street, and when I was born in 1984 there was a lack of educational, social and economic opportunity in Harlem. My folks made the decision to move to Massachusetts so that I could go to a good public school. I had the chance to go to a good college and I came back to teach at I.S. 143 Eleanor Roosevelt Junior High in Washington Heights. And we found the same sorts of lack of educational and economic and social equality that were persistent in the '80s. I had the opportunity to work as legal counsel for Success Academy Charter Schools, and still we saw the same lack of opportunities and so at some point you have to say enough is enough and you have to go try and make a difference so that's why we're here, we really appreciate you coming out to hear us, my preferred gender pronouns are he, him and his, and I look forward to speaking to all of you about the issues on our mind and putting Harlem First, thank you.
Question - Our first question is about youth, many of whom face serious issues here in Harlem, particularly homelessness. As City Council member, what will you do to decrease the number of Harlem's homeless youth. and what services might you provide to improve their plight.
Gooding: I want to start out by saying I agree with the things that are being said currently. We know that we have a huge issue in terms of homelessness in New York City, in Harlem particularly. 40% of LGBTQ youth is homeless, and its a huge problem. It's something that we need to address, and these folks are right. These issues are interconnected and related. We have a plan to make sure that folks have jobs in Harlem so that they are not homeless anymore, and its comprised of telling the folks the businesses that are coming in, look we know you are going to be here, we are ok with you being here, but you gotta hire the folks that have lived here that have not had these economic opportunities in the past. We will incentivize that. You hire our folks and its a win-win. So we do want to make sure that we drive down homeless in Harlem because it's a huge issue.
Perkins: This is a very important question, and I would dare say that its a lot more complex than the term homeless youth. Because the term homeless youth only speaks about a place where they may sleep, and call home, but how do you get to be a homeless youth, that has a much more involved situation that relates to family, that relates to community. And we do have, unfortunately, a serious problem in that regard, and its not simply a matter of getting some housing, shelters, to put these so called homeless youth in, its a much more complex thing, it requires a much more comprehensive approach, it involves more than just housing, it involves other aspects of that youths need that are no longer there that resulted in that homelessness to begin with. So I don't want to give the [inaudible] answer for a very complex situation that this community has been going through for a while now. And it might be growing but I think its a challenge that we have to meet and that we will meet.
Funding for Harlem LGBTQ Center and Immigrants
Question - For the first time in years the possibility of having an LGBT(Q) Center in Harlem is a reality. Do you support this and why? If so, how would you support and obtain the funding and approvals needed for this Center to become a reality and then exist?
Question - Harlem has historically been a welcoming home to various immigrant populations. How do you intend to support and employ an immigrant population so that they can begin to become strident members of our community
Perkins: So you know Harlem is an immigrant community. Harlem is an immigrant community. And it's always had flavor of the immigrant community, whether it was reflected in the restaurants. Some of you may remember some of the earlier politicians that represented Harlem came from what Jamaica, what, Jamaica, Haiti, other countries as well, don't tell me. And Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, ok, so Harlem has a legacy of welcoming in immigrant communities, they have emerged in leadership positions as immigrant communities, some of them, some of them you won't remember, but Zulu, Union Jack. So Harlem is an immigrant community with all due respect, to those who might not realize that, and its not a stigma because you're not an immigrant, but Harlem's legacy has been made by immigrants.
Moderator - Anything on the Center?
Perkins: As far as?
Moderator - On the Center
Perkins: Whatever Resources...
Moderator - I mean you covered the...
Perkins: Whatever resources that you need, you got. They're in my pocket for you. As always. Have you ever had an elected official give you more?
Gooding: So yeah, I think we're all probably going to be in favor of the Center, which is a good thing. So it is a matter of how we get to funding that Center. We want to work with organizations, public and private to make sure that the Center happens and that it's well funded. We have backers who want to do this work, who want to be a part of the community without costing Joe Taxpayer money. In terms of immigrants, I taught 6th and 8th English as a Second Language in Washington Heights. I understand the immigrant population and the specific needs of both the children and the parents that we're serving. There's a tremendous need to make sure that our immigrant population is served in Harlem and you have to ask yourself with any leader that you are going to elect what have they done for immigrants in the past, what are they going to do in the future and look at each person's record, Thank you.
Question from Special Guest Former City Councilwoman and current State Assemblywoman Inez Dickens - What is your path to victory, in one sentence, and what community based organizations and unions have endorsed.
Gooding: I think Councilwoman Dickens wants to hear from us. Thank you Assemblywoman Dickens for the question. I very much appreciate it. So what is our path to victory, now that we've been asked. We do think that as the only educators in this game that we are uniquely positioned to bring educational change to Harlem. Along with that, we have an aggressive plan to lower the 12% unemployment rate that has been entrenched in Harlem for decades. Now in terms of who is sponsoring and supporting us...
Dickens - That was more than one sentence
Gooding: Sorry. So in one sentence, who is supporting us, Jamaal Nelson, Success Academy and Bernie Sanders. Thank you...I would expound but I don't have any more time.
Rapid Question Round
Question - Do you have any family members that are a member of the LGBTQ community?
Perkins: Yes Gooding: Yes
Question - which candidate did you support in the recent Democratic primary for Congress in the 13th Congressional District?
Gooding:Keith Wright Perkins: The Winner
Question - Which candidate did you support in the last Democratic primary for Mayor?
Perkins: The Incumbent Gooding: Christine Quinn
Question - Do you live in Harlem? if yes, for how long?
Gooding: Yes I was born in Harlem in the Grant Houses and I live in Harlem on 135th and St. Nich.
Perkins: Well this, without revealing my age, I can say a long time. Before some of you all were even born, so I've been around. I was selected in 1979, in Harlem, as a Democratic District Leader. Ok. Inez you remember? When the C drove us around.
Question - Have you met with and/or are supporting any candidate for Speaker for 2017 New York City Council?
Perkins: I have not made an endorsement or any candidate at this point in time, and I have not decided not to run.
Moderator: Ok. That's confidence Bill. I wanna let some of that rub off of on me
Perkins: Oh don't you worry. We got this [expletive].
Gooding: No I have not spoken with or endorsed any candidate
Question - Have you ever attended a protest or a rally in support of LGBT rights or issues. Can you go in to when and where?
Gooding: No I have not
Perkins: Yes some of you may remember [inaudible]. I was honored by them for my work.
Question - Do you support mandating HIV agencies to have consumers on their Board of Directors?
Perkins: To say the least yes
Question - Education has always been a key to upward social mobility for Harlem residents. With the influx of charter schools in Harlem, how do you propose to help keep public schools well funded?
Perkins: So charter schools were born in my born in my earlier period in City Council. And I stood strong and stood fast against them. I became the target of a spitting contest and other kinds of derogatory attacks against me personally and I still stand similarly for the same reasons that I stood before. In fact the point I'm making is this, public education is an opportunity for our children to get a good education. Charter schools have not proven themselves to measure up. And they're are not under the same types of rules and restrictions and opportunities that the regular public schools are. The purpose of the charter school upon its birth, was not to proliferate a bunch of charter schools all over the neighborhood and all over the city. They were born on my watch, as an opportunity to create labs where we would learn how to get the most out of our children. What are the techniques and strategies that we could redeploy so that our children potential is fulfilled and use those techniques and strategies and proliferate them throughout the public school system. Not to set up Success Charter Schools and other types of charter schools that have not quite yet measured out to what they promised they would do. A uniform is not an education. Ok, let's be clear. A uniform does not mean you know how to read. Ok let's be clear. I don't care how pretty the uniform is and I don't care how proud my mother is to see me in a uniform. Now if those schools were competitive they would not be so segregated.
Moderator - Senator...
Perkins: Ok. Well hold it. Why we can't talk?
Moderator - Because we have to let all the other candidates talk
Perkins: I know but I just want to make sure I get the chance to say as much as everyone said, especially on this subject, and so I'm just going to conclude that we have to be very careful about these so called opportunities for our children, that only our children go to, but other people don't find those opportunities good enough for them.
Moderator: Do you want to respond to that?
Gooding: I'm going to have to respond as former legal council of Success Academy Charter Schools, I'm gonna have to respond. On a couple of points. One, I think the folks in here, along with Harlemites all over feel that school choice is best because they want the best for their kids. When you send your kids to school you want to know that they're getting a proper education. Just like Mr. Perkins had the chance to go to school on the Upper East Side when he was young. That is what it takes to make sure you're kid is getting a proper education.
Perkins: A point of clarification. The school he is referencing was not on the Upper East Side.
Gooding: There is no reason that Mr. Perkins should have the opportunity to go to a great school on the Upper East Side and other kids should not have that same opportunity. Thank you.
Perkins: You're comparing collegiate school to a charter school? You're comparing collegiate to charter schools? Your kids go there?
Gooding: It is what it is.
Moderator: Senator do you want to respond?
Perkins: Of course, cause he just mentioned my name. Let's be for real, ok? Let's be for real. The most important thing you can do for your child is give them a decent education. And there is no mother on this earth that's going to purposefully, understandably send their child to a second class school if they can avoid it. Thats the fact of the matter. Now if charter schools were so successful, why are they so segregated? If they're so good, how come you aren't you sending your child there? Are you sending your child there? Are you sending your child there? Let's be frank. Ok? Those schools are not measuring up, because if they were measuring up, the lines for those schools would not be as they are now. That's number 1. Number 2, the purpose of a charter school, it came on my watch, the proposal was brought to me, was that we would, create models, you understand, that would teach our children how to learn, and then take the lessons of those models and then replicate them throughout the whole system. The charter schools have never told us what do you do so good that we can copy.
Resources for LGBT(Q) community
Question: Each of our organizations is run by LGBT Blacks and Latinos and serves the Black and Latino LGBT community, none of which receives more than 10% of the funding allocated for LGBT concerns here in the City. As a matter of fact it is markedly lower than 10%.This is a particular concern for Harlem, as this is now the unofficial home for LGBT Black and Latinos. Do you think this is a fair situation, and if not, what would you do to make sure the Black and Latino organizations received increased funding?
Gooding: I would certainly advocate for additional public funds for this project, and for the LGBTQ community in general. But along with that we have to take a look, again, at the opportunity to create public private partnerships to ensure that individuals such as yourself are not paying for these projects every time they come up. There are individuals who want to fund these sorts of projects, who want to be a part of the change, of a positive change. And so it's about bringing those folks into the fold, working together, changing this dynamic from adversarial, everyone fighting against each other on City Council to what can we do to work together to make sure that Harlem gets the resources it needs, and that Harlem is put first, and that our children are being serviced. Thank you.
Perkins: So, I'm gonna be brief on this, because, I only know y'all because of my advocacy for the community. Particularly, some of you may remember John [Malgresano], he was the President for gay initiatives for our Democratic Club and the work that we did in terms of providing resources for the community in terms of the organizations. So I don't see me doing any less than before in terms of funding this community's efforts, so I look forward to the opportunity to getting your support and coming back home with the money. Thank you so much.
Question: The most recent hate crime statistics show that in New York, 62% of homicide victims were people of color, 50% Black or Latino, with 67% of the victims being transgender or gender non-conforming, a 20% increase over the previous year. This is in addition to increasing rates of violence being perpetrated against single gender-loving and LGBT people. What, if any role, does the City Council have in stemming the tide in the incidents of violent crimes in general and two, if elected, how will you use the office to ensure the safety of all of Harlem's residents, including the single gender-loving and LGBT community?
Perkins: I'll do everything that has to get done in terms of making sure that your rights as a citizen, regardless of your inclinations, are protected like anybody else's rights. So it's as simple as that. And it's a shame that we have to discuss this topic as if it's a phenomenal success to be able to make that happen. But we have to stop looking at communities as second class, or something other than the rest of us. And so we've done that in the past and I don't see how we would do anything less when I become the councilman in the future.
Gooding: That was fiery. We know that transgender violence is on the rise. I reached out to Ijan Jarrett, who was the victim of the subway slashing on the 4 train. I asked him what his thoughts were about this very subject, how should we decrease transgender violence what do we do moving forward. He said the first step is conversation. Reaching out, connecting folks, I completely agree with him. Before we enact policies, concurrent with enacting policies, and doing all the other hard work, we need to start connecting folks, so that people understand where others are coming from. So that sort of hard work, reaching out to folks who have been victims, seeing what their perspective is, incorporating their ideas into our policy and legislation moving forward, is the proper route for any city councilperson. Now what should that city councilperson do once elected? He or she should be making sure that NYPD is posted up at various positions where we know that certain types of violence are happening. it's just about being competent and ensuring that things are happening the right way. Thank you.
20 Years Ago
Question - Here in 2017 LGBT rights are a common notion, but 20 years ago this was not the case. What were you doing 20 years ago to help the LGBT community?
Perkins: So 20 years ago when I was 13. I've been fortunate because I guess I've been around. I've been very fortunate because I have enjoyed the support and engagement with this community. John [Malgresano], and that period of time, with the club, and the work that we were able to do, and the opportunities that we were able to create. So for me, this has been a journey that is continuing to be a parallel agenda and I look forward to joining, as I have in the past, in whatever way that you determine I can be most useful. I think we've had a very productive useful [inaudible]. I have the experience, and I have the relationship, and I look forward to joining you once again.
Gooding: I see some of my college friends in the audience. 20 years ago I was 12 years old. But, slightly after that, even in college, I took a look at the Defense of Marriage Act and I knew even as a rookie in the legal game that it was patently unconstitutional. So really I think for anyone who is young or old, this is about looking at these issues and seeing what makes sense, and it doesn't take you being 65 to know what's wrong and it doesn't take you being 30, it just takes you being competent, and that's what we are about here. Thank you.
Perkins: I'm gonna be quick. So you know me. I have been here before with you and I have a track record, just go into the files and you will see the kind of work that we've done together and the work is impressive. I don't imagine that we will do anything less. And quite frankly I think that we will wind up doing a lot more. I want to thank my colleagues who are in competition with each other, with us, to get your support. I would tell them wonderful presentations and I look forward to serving you once again as a member of the City Council.
Gooding: My name is Pierre Gooding and I want to start out by thanking the New York City Equality Coalition for hosting this great debate tonight and thanking everyone for coming out. I think this election is about competent leadership. Just last month we had an individual named Jon Girodes who was on the ballot, on November 8, from Rikers because we put him there because he was a criminal and a racist. He was defrauding the public out of lots of money. Exactly, look him up, because this is an insane story. But it shows the type of leadership that you can have if you choose the right person. This is an incredible opportunity to change the social, economic and educational landscape in Harlem for a long time to come, so I would implore you to research each one of your candidates, know what they're all about and choose wisely on February 14 and September 12, thank you.