Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for New York Governor appeared in Buffalo Thursday morning. The Syracuse-based candidate says his party's ticket is more experienced than voters may realize and should serve as "Plan B" for progressives who previously placed their hopes on Cynthia Nixon.
Hawkins stood in Broderick Park, with the Niagara River flowing behind him. His platform emphasizes environmental actions including the eventual elimination of fossil fuel use in the state in 18 years, raising spending for education, placing more priority on underserved neighborhoods and attacking lead housing, which Hawkins says is in large abundance in his hometown and in Buffalo and has resulted in some of the highest levels of lead contamination among children.
Hawkins, who describes himself as an "eco-socialist," is pushing for passage of the New York Off Fossil Fuels Act, which would transition the state to full clean-energy usage by the year 2030. He urges New Yorkers pursue passage with the same level of passion and pressure which resulted in passage of a hydrofracking ban in New York four years ago.
He would increase taxes on the state's wealthiest individuals to make it happen.
"I say the rich have got to pay more," said Hawkins. "We've got to tax the rich. The share of the income going to the top one percent, since 1980, has grown from one percent to 31 percent today. Meanwhile, as that happens they flatten the income tax bracket They doubled the lowest bracket from two percent to four percent and cut the top bracket in half. We're saying we need more brackets in the multi-millionare tax area."
He chided Governor Andrew Cuomo's resistance to support the Climate and Community Protection Act, passed three times by the State Assembly, because it codifies Cuomo's own energy policy. He also offered critical remarks toward Cuomo's Buffalo Billion economic development plan, noting his visit coincided with the sentencing of longtime Cuomo confidant Joseph Percoco and suggesting the incumbent's ambitious economic spending upstate has merely played favorites for both favored contractors and selected neighborhoods.
"I object to how it was done, too," said Hawkins, acknowledging Republican contender Marc Molinaro has often times attacked Cuomo's Buffalo Billion in his own gubernatorial campaign. "It's like a giant patronage machine. He gives a Buffalo billion and then the rest of upstate areas compete - they call it the Hunger Games - for their half-billion share. In the end they all got it but they all have to go through Governor Cuomo."
Hawkins added that while some neighborhoods have seen rebirth through Buffalo Billion investments, others remain left out including the East Side. He also pointed to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, which has grown and thrived, but Hawkins says longtime neighbors are unable to keep up with the cost of the redeveloping neighborhood and struggle to keep their homes.
Hawkins suggested progressives who backed Cynthia Nixon in the Democratic Primary should look to his campaign as their "Plan B." His runningmate, Jia Lee, is a public school teacher and union activist who spent time in August working with teachers in Puerto Rico to resist efforts by the Trump Administration to privatize schools on the island following Hurricane Maria.
The Green Party candidate for Comptroller, Mark Dunlea, is according to Hawkins an individual who would enter office with more experience than current office holder Thomas DiNapoli did when he began the role. Candidate for Attorney General, Michael Sussman, has a record including legal wins in a school desegregation case in Yonkers, a $45 million settlement for Black and Latino civil service workers in a discrimination case and a ^ million settlement for the family of DJ Henry, a black college student killed by a white police officer whose case was, according to Hawkins, never prosecuted by the Westchester County District Attorney.