Name: Jabari Brisport
Office Sought: New York State Senate District 25
Party Affiliation(s): Democratic
Education: NYU – BFA / Yale – MFA
Occupation/Employer: Teacher/ NYC DOE
Previous Offices, Campaigns and Community/Civic Involvement: N/A
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 Relief
- Automatic 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.
For #12, I’d like to see a return to more local control of schools, whether that be a return to elected school boards, or another mechanism that is based heavily in community participation.
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 websites.
- 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?
I’m deeply concerned about the centralizing of executive power and loss of democratic oversight during the COVID-19 crisis. New Yorkers deserve to have a voice in the coronavirus response, especially as the virus continues to disproportionately impact black and Latino New Yorkers who have already suffered decades of disinvestment. The legislature should amend its rules to meet remotely following the example of the New York City Council. Executive staff and aides like the members of the COVID-19 task force should be made available to participate in public hearings allowing lawmakers and their constituents direct access to information from subject matter experts. As New Yorkers struggle to stay healthy, care for their families, and maintain their jobs and housing, I believe we can only hope to solve these problems with more democracy— not less.
Serving the public under the COVID-19 outbreak
- What are the biggest challenges in your district in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak?
My district includes high incidence of a number of chronic illnesses that require sustained medical attention and medication including: Sickle cell anemia, diabetes, obesity, asthma, high incidence of stroke, and very high rates of HIV. In Bedford-Stuyvesant alone, 46% of deaths in the neighborhood were statistically avoidable in 2018. These conditions increase people’s risk of serious illness or death should they be sickened by coronavirus.
I’m also very concerned about our communities’ housing and financial stability. All workers in New York need support regardless of employer size, employment type, or immigration status. This crisis has also aggravated the housing instability in my district, where in some areas, more than half of tenants are rent burdened. That’s why rent and mortgage payments, including commercial rents, during the COVID-19 State of Emergency should be canceled.
Finally, as a public school teacher, I’m concerned with students as they attempt remote learning. Remote instruction isn’t the same. Every day we meet together in the Google Meet and go through the lesson, but the human interaction is lacking. I’m concerned about their ability to learn under these conditions. For many of them, when they unmute in order to answer a question, I hear how noisy their living circumstances are. I admire that they’re doing their best to learn, but a virtual classroom is not a classroom.
- What are the appropriate roles of city, state, and federal governments in a crisis such as this?
The federal government has largely failed in its response to the coronavirus crisis. We should have expected our federal government to immediately and quickly provide financial relief, starting with vulnerable people, then supporting small businesses, and finally giving aid to state and local governments. The federal government should have coordinated the provision of resources between states, such as procuring ventilators and PPE, sparing states and localities an expensive and exhausting scramble for lifesaving equipment.
States should be expected to coordinate systemic responses, from ensuring collaboration between hospitals to uniformity throughout schools, colleges, courts, parks, and other public institutions. States should also continue to administer benefits like unemployment and TANF, and use these points of contact to assess needs and connect people with other resources. New York’s state government can and should be a national leader, from modeling compassionate rent suspension policies to coordinating the safe release of vulnerable people from state prisons. Unfortunately, our government has fallen far short of this potential.
City governments should be using local expertise to make sure that relief efforts are reaching all the communities in need, particularly vulnerable people, such as seniors, public housing residents, undocumented workers, and people lacking permanent homes. Cities can also give support to local nonprofits and mutual aid projects, providing crisis grants and other assistance to people who have stepped up to serve neighbors.
- 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?
Fundamentally, I believe that change comes from below– from meeting people where they are, listening to their needs and concerns, and listening for the best ways to serve their communities. I will help future constituents access potential relief funds through incredibly dedicated constituent services. As a public school teacher, I’m accustomed to balancing the needs of many people and being mindful of different styles of learning. As an organizer, I have experience working in coalition and engaging people to inform and uplift others in their communities. I would draw on these strengths to create a community engagement plan that extends beyond the office to make sure as many people as possible get the relief that they need and deserve.
CAMPAIGN PROMISES MADE TO VOTERS
What are the top five promises you are making to the voters during the campaign?
Campaign Promise 1
I promise to find and fight for the resources necessary to keep our public transit moving, our public schools thriving, and our people living happy and healthy. I won’t back down when we need to raise taxes on the richest people in our state to take better care of the poorest people here.
Campaign Promise 2
I promise to run a people-powered campaign. I will not accept donations from real estate developers or corporations. I will not take funds from anyone connected to the fossil fuel industry either. I have also pledged to refuse donations from charter school advocates and lobbyists, as well as executive board members of Amazon.
Campaign Promise 3
I promise to continue the fight for rent control and affordable housing in New York on day one. I will join Senator Salazar’s bill on Good Cause Eviction to enshrine housing as a human right for all New Yorkers. I want to increase our housing stock and fully fund public housing. No one should ever deal with the psychological distress of fearing the loss of their home, let alone the life devastating consequences of eviction, ever again.
Campaign Promise 4
I promise to fight for environmental justice. This is a question of our future, it is a profoundly a question of racial justice, and it is one we need a long term and radical vision in order to correct. I will make sure that front line communities have special access to resources.
Campaign Promise 5
I promise to do what’s right for our students. I want to equitably fund our public schools, end high-stakes testing, and desegregate our public schools. We can do this by fully funding Foundation Aid, and changing its formulae so that the neediest schools get the resources they need to thrive. We also need to redraw elementary school zones, distribute funds from the wealthiest PTA’s equitably, and end tracking by replacing it with equal opportunities for all students to take on advanced coursework.
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.
To ensure that I’m wholly responsible to my constituents and not big money interests, I’m rejecting all corporate donations, in addition to money from the real estate industry, the fossil fuel industry, charter schools, and Amazon executives.