Name: Joe Lentol
Office Sought: New York State Assembly District 50
Party Affiliation(s): Democratic
Education: University of Dayton(BA),University of Baltimore (JD)
Occupation/Employer: NYS Assembly Member
Previous Offices, Campaigns and Community/Civic Involvement:
Facebook: Joe Lentol For Assembly
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.
I continue to evaluate the need to reform 50a because I don’t believe the majority of our policing problems stem from our front line men and women. Rather they are getting blamed for policies that have been forced on the patrol cop from top elected officials and the Police Department hierarchy. Right now we have the most diverse police force ever – representing every race, gender, sexual preference and creed. What I see happening is similar to what happened during the Vietnam War when our soldiers were victims of society’s rage and blame when they returned home from the war, even though the war was in no way their fault. Our New York police officers see 50a as a punishment against them for stop and frisk actually ordered by NYC Mayors. I take their concerns as seriously as the need for reform and believe we need to approach the issue carefully.
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?
I believe this emergency was substantial enough to allow the Governor to use powers to make swift decisions to protect the public. Protecting the safety and health – the lives of New Yorkers is the reason I voted for temporary emergency powers. But, I also believe these powers are temporary and will work to ensure the usual separation of powers are restored. Also, at any point in time, the legislature can reconvene to use its oversight powers to repeal all or part of the law we passed.
Serving the public under the COVID-19 outbreak
- What are the biggest challenges in your district in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak?
The biggest challenges facing my district are rent relief for tenants and small businesses, getting small businesses back on their feet with the ability to re-hire their workers, re-opening in a safe way so that we can begin normalize during the time of COVID19, providing nutritious food to all those in need, especially seniors and the homebound, and making sure that all public school children have equal access to the devices they need to learn from home.
- What are the appropriate roles of city, state, and federal governments in a crisis such as this?
The COVID19 pandemic has laid bare the measures we need to take to care for New Yorkers – and it is especially true for our most vulnerable. We need rapid and regular testing. We need to ensure individuals and families have safe and stable housing and we must provide food. If the government can provide these essentials in return to our residents, then I believe, acknowledging needed tinkering with the law to acknowledge current reality, our economy and society can move forward and recover.
The city, state and federal governments must act in unison to provide services and protections for all New Yorkers. The pandemic has exposed all of the areas in the three levels of government that need improvement, especially in caring for the most vulnerable members of our city and state. The NYS unemployment system has been hit hard by the sheer volume of claims and needs to be overhauled. The federal government, under the leadership of the current administration, has not acted in good faith. Our city and state have been hit harder than anywhere else in the nation, yet we receive a pittance in federal aid. If the federal government were so inclined, it could fund rental vouchers and small business recovery programs here in New York. The city and state governments would move on that in a heartbeat. That said, I am proud of the efforts of our state and local governments in this most desperate of times. We do not have all of the resources we need. But every day I witness heroic efforts to get people the food, medical care and government assistance they need to survive. Yes, there are places where we have faltered, but the effort has been outstanding.
- 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?
I will continue to advocate to our federal representatives to get New York State the federal funding needed to escape this economic vortex. But I also acknowledge the reality of the situation. All of the advocacy in the world may not matter in the face of the indifference shown to this state thus far by the president and the US Senate majority leader. However, when and if such funding becomes available, it must be distributed from the ground up, targeting working-class families that live paycheck to paycheck, black and Latino communities that have been hit hardest, and renters who have had to burn through their savings just to tread water.
CAMPAIGN PROMISES MADE TO VOTERS
What are the top five promises you are making to the voters during the campaign?
Campaign Promise 1
COVID-19 \ exposes all of the cracks in our crumbling healthcare system. Now more than ever, I am in favor of universal healthcare. I am proud to sponsor the New York Health Act, a universal single-payer health plan which would cover every New York resident, regardless of wealth, income, age or health status.
Campaign Promise 2
Climate change is the greatest threat facing our community today, I was proud to help pass New York State Climate and Community Protection Act, which mandates NYS cut its greenhouse emission levels 85% by 2050, and puts us on the path toward net-zero statewide emissions in all sectors of the economy. This year I would like to pass the Environmental Bond Act which would restore up to 10,000 acres of freshwater wetlands, and reconnect or replant 10,000 miles of stream habitat
Campaign Promise 3
This session I would like to pass the Stock transfer tax, pied-à-terre tax, billionaire’s tax, and enhanced millionaire’s tax to fund housing initiatives. At a time we face massive income and wealth inequality in our state, we must make sure that the wealthy are paying their fair share of taxes.
Campaign Promise 4
I promise to continue reforming our criminal justice system. I hope to do that by legalizing the adult-use recreational cannabis, halting solitary confinement, and end the flow of illegal firearms into NYS.
Campaign Promise 5
We must do something to improve our transit system in North Brooklyn, this year I would hope to Increasing the number of cars on the G line, making our stations more accessible by installing more elevators on subway platforms, and implementing free transfers to NYC’s ferry system
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.
I know every block in my Assembly district and I am a full-time legislator who regularly attends meetings, visits constituents, schools, community and government organizations, and who keeps current on what’s important in my district. I believe that I have been an effective and responsible leader. North Brooklyn residents know they can always come to my office for any issue they are having, and my staff and I, will do all we can to help them in a professional manner. After many years in office, I am truly thankful for the faith that residents have in me . I believe that I have been an honest and trust worthy elected official and will continue to serve the residents of my community in an upright manner.