Name: Cameron Alex Koffman
Office Sought: New York State Assembly District 73
Party Affiliation(s): Democratic
Education: Yale University, B.A. in Ethics, Politics and Economics
Occupation/Employer: Full-time Candidate
Previous Offices, Campaigns and Community/Civic Involvement:
Journalist at The Underreported, CNBC, and WYBC. Temple Emanu-El Mitzvah Corps, All Souls Friday Soup Kitchen, Allen-Stevenson Alumni Council.
Twitter: https://Twitter: .com/Cameron2020NY
Facebook: https://www.Facebook: .com/CameronKoffmanforAssembly/
Please state whether you support or oppose the following reform measures. If you wish to elaborate on your answers, you may do so in the provided space at the bottom of this page.
- Replace the Joint Commission on Public Ethics and the Legislative Ethics Commission with an effective and independent enforcement body (S594A/A1282A).
- Limit outside compensation earned by state legislators and statewide officials to 25% of their salaries and eliminate stipends.
Elections and Voting
- Do you support or oppose the following changes to the state’s current registration and voting system?
- No-excuse absentee voting (second passage of constitutional amendment)
- Election Day voter registration (second passage of constitutional amendment)
- Re-enfranchisement of people on parole automatically through legislation, without requiring a Certificate of Good Conduct or ReliefSupportAutomatic voter registration, unless the potential voter opts out
- Mandating poll sites on college campuses
- No-excuse absentee voting (second passage of constitutional amendment)
- Reform the special election process, utilizing a nonpartisan special election for state legislative seats and eliminate delays in filling vacancies.
- Reduce the vote threshold to become a registered party back to 50,000 votes and keep the gubernatorial election as the qualifying election, and reduce the petition requirement for independent candidates back to 15,000 signatures.
- Amend the state’s public campaign financing system, approved in the 2021 budget, by
- Drastically reduce campaign contribution limits
- Set even lower contribution limits for registered lobbyists and those who do business with the state
- Move the campaign finance matching program to be administered by an independent, nonpartisan body outside of the NY Board of Election
- Simplify the matching system by making both in- and out-of-district donations eligible and by eliminating the three different tiers for matching
- Drastically reduce campaign contribution limits
- Require full disclosure of grants and contracts issued by the state, including the budget lines from which the spending is made and reporting on the results of each grant or contract over a certain amount.
- Provide for effective online disclosure and itemization of spending from elected officials’ lump sum appropriations, including reporting on potential conflicts of interest and how the funds are spent.
- Repeal Civil Rights Law, Sec. 50-a, which shields from public view the disciplinary records of police officers, correction officers, and firefighters.
- Restructure the state Board of Elections to abolish the strict two-party division of governance and operation and put in place professional, nonpartisan administration.
- Empower the attorney general to investigate and prosecute election law malfeasance and cases of public corruption.
- Make mayoral control of city schools permanent, with a governance system that provides for accountability, transparency, parent engagement, and democratic participation.
- Simplify and consolidate New York State’s court system by passing the Chief Judge’s proposed constitutional amendment to modernize the courts.
If needed, you may elaborate below on your positions on the previous questions. You may also provide additional information on any actions that you have taken or plan to take to advance your positions on these issues.
RESPONDING TO THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK
Government under the COVID-19 outbreak
- Adopt technological solutions and provisions that will allow the New York State legislature to convene and vote remotely if needed.
- Provide public access to observe and participate in government proceedings, in meetings that would be public under the New York Open Meetings Law, via live and recorded video available on government Website:
- Implement immediate programs to facilitate absentee voting for all New York voters as long as the widespread contagion risk of COVID-19 continues, under current state constitutional limitations. This includes electronic submission of absentee ballot applications without a wet signature and a public information campaign.
- What are your concerns regarding the use of emergency powers during this crisis, and how do you think NY government can maintain public accountability standards at this time?
When the coronavirus pandemic hit with full force, Governor Cuomo received emergency powers at the eleventh hour under the initial budget bill to assist in the crisis. Since then, we’ve seen the legislature rush the process of pushing for more executive power without any sort of notification to the public and without any real debate or discussion amongst themselves ahead of time. There needs to be more government oversight, some sort of ad hoc committee in order to hold the governor accountable throughout the process. Such a committee should also possess insight from non-governmental community leaders as well.
Serving the public under the COVID-19 outbreak
- What are the biggest challenges in your district in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak?
The Retail Vacancy Crisis is not only a threat to our economy, but also a threat to our community’s urban fabric. Small businesses are the backbone of a thriving neighborhood and we must work to support them. Even before COVID-19 our community faced a small business crisis. We we need specific measures that help businesses who have been hit hard during COVID-19. Essential and non-essential businesses alike have greatly suffered during this crisis. I support interest-free loans to small businesses to help them make it through this trying time. The Legislature and the Governor must approve a bill to codify a 90-day rent holiday for businesses that cannot pay rent due to the economic crisis. The eviction moratorium is not enough, rent must be forgiven. Furthermore, I support adjusting business interruption insurance to cover losses due to the virus. Many small businesses spent tens of thousands of dollars to protect their businesses from an uncontrollable economic crisis. The COVID-19 crisis is exactly the type of crisis that should have been covered.
COVID-19 has also led to a tremendous increase in the amount of waste we produce in our home sphere and has led to a return to the prevalence of non-reusable plastic bags. As we adjust to a world after COVID-19 we need to invest more in waste management initiatives and expand our bottle bill to encourage more recycling.
COVID-19 has highlighted the inequities that exist in our public school system and many students who lack the resources and home environments for virtual instruction have fallen behind. We need to start investing heavily now in programs that help these students catch up. Summer school programs, investments in technology for students at home, special instruction for students who did not complete coursework during COVID-19 are all ways to level the playing field.
- What are the appropriate roles of city, state, and federal governments in a crisis such as this?
During a public health crisis, all levels of government should promote fact-based, consistent information to constituents for the duration of the outbreak. Emergency initiatives and policies should be based on advice from health experts and federal agencies specializing in health, such as the CDC. Communities will respond best to consistent messaging and therefore it is imperative that the federal government coordinate strategies with state and city governments affected by this crisis.
Federal government: Establish guidelines for closing and reopening states, develop a national testing strategy, through FEMA: distribute PPE, build temporary hospitals and manage sourcing of medical equipment from other countries with a needs-based distribution system. Congress should be in session, meeting virtually if necessary, to pass legislation that actually provides assistance to unemployed citizens and small-businesses.
State governments: With science-based federal guidelines, state governments should develop state-specific policies to manage the needs of their state. Governors should be facilitating the backend of state-wide testing, making sure labs are equipped, tracking hotspots and ramping up testing in those specific areas. State lawmakers should be meeting virtually to pass legislation focused on the particular needs of the state (rent holidays, homelessness, small-business interruption insurance).
City governments: City governments should equitably enforce state directives (social distancing, mask wearing, transportation for essential workers). City governments should coordinate with the state health department to facilitate testing on a local level.
Finally, as the outbreak begins to subside, elected officials should coordinate strategies with neighboring towns, states, and/or countries to avoid another outbreak.
- How will you help your future constituents, residents and businesses, access potential funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, or any other future government relief funds?
At the start of the pandemic, we had to figure out a different way to be present in the community and thanks to our large team of volunteers, we were able to quickly set up a neighborhood mutual aid program over the phone. Since then, we’ve expanded that program to include regular wellness checks, grocery runs, and assistance for our most vulnerable community members—all remote through phone and digital. As an Assemblymember, I would facilitate a similar effort with both staff and volunteers to help reach out to residents via email, phone and mail to provide updates, tutorials and troubleshoot any issues with applying or receiving CARES funding. I would also form a coalition with our State Senator’s office and Congressional Representatives to streamline the process for residents who aren’t sure who to turn to for help.
CAMPAIGN PROMISES MADE TO VOTERS
What are the top five promises you are making to the voters during the campaign?
Campaign Promise 1
To be accessible to residents and to listen to your concerns, ideas and experiences.
Campaign Promise 2
To provide full-time representation.
Campaign Promise 3
To be reliable, transparent and ethical.
Campaign Promise 4
I will support small businesses, the fabric of our district.
Campaign Promise 5
I will fight for important issues like climate change, investments in transportation and infrastructure and ethics and good government in Albany.
ETHICAL REPRESENTATION OF CONSTITUENTS
Citizens Union believes that all New Yorkers deserve to be represented by officials who work for the public interest and honor the public trust. With the corruption conviction of recent legislative leaders, we seek to endorse a candidate who will demonstrate that she/he will honor the full commitment of the oath of office, and always represent the public interest above all else.
Please tell us how you have and would continue to conduct the political affairs of this office in an upright manner, and maintain the public trust.
Now more than ever, people need elected officials who they can trust to be reliable, transparent, and ethical. Unfortunately, this does not happen in New York as we live in a state with some of the weakest ethics laws. In recent memory alone, the former Speaker of the State Assembly, former Senate Majority Leader, and former Senate Minority Leader have all been convicted of felonies. Should I be elected to represent you in Albany, I pledge to support legislation that will bring much-needed ethics reform while being radically transparent in all my dealings. Let’s clean up New York State with a new generation of leadership in Albany.
The first thing we must do is cap outside income for State Legislators at 15% of their salary. Currently legislators can work second jobs where they earn six figure salaries. These jobs create a conflict of interest when their firms deal with the State and also mean our legislators are not spending enough time focusing on their constituents. By capping outside income we can make legislators work full-time and to prevent them from using their position for personal enrichment. Once we cap outside income, we should raise pay for legislators to attract people from all around the State to serve in our Legislature. Additionally, I also support term limits of 4 terms (8 years) for both the State Senate and State Assembly. By introducing term limits, Assembly Members will have less time in office to develop shady financially beneficial commitments to lobbyists and other special interest groups, which would fight the threat of lobbyists being a primary influence on legislation. At the same time, lobbyists would be less incentivized to donate heavily to Assembly Members, as their “investments” would only be for the short-term.
I also support the replacement of JCOPE (Joint Commission on Public Ethics) with a truly independent ethics body. Currently, the Governor has far too much influence over JCOPE, creating anything but an independent ethics watchdog. Right now, two of the Governor’s appointees to the 14-member JCOPE can veto an investigation or a finding of violation, as can three of the appointees of the legislative leaders. This previous fall, it was reported that a JCOPE member leaked sensitive information about the panel’s closed-door meetings to the Governor in what was an extremely credible and deeply troubling example of the Commission’s real lack of independence. I support the creation of the Commission on State Government Integrity as a replacement to the JCOPE. This Commission would replace JCOPE with a truly independent investigative body to root out ills in state government. For instance, it would would operate by majority vote, have full authority to sanction officers or employee of public authorities, and categorize sexual harassment as ethical misconduct.
In addition to supporting these reforms, I will be doing everything in my power to personally become the most transparent member of the State Assembly. Additionally, I will send out weekly emails that constituents can opt-into when the Assembly is in session so they can know what legislative issues I am working on. To compliment these emails, I’ll also have monthly conference calls open to the public where people can ask questions regarding legislative and constituent issues. If elected to the State Assembly, nobody will be more available to their constituents than I am.