Name: Katherine P. Walsh
Office Sought: New York State Assembly District 51
Party Affiliation(s): Democrat
Education: MA Urban Planning and MA Law and Diplomacy
Previous Offices, Campaigns and Community/Civic Involvement:
Democratic County Committee, Chair Assembly District 51
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.
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?
The government needs to use emergency powers to uphold our democracy in the midst of this pandemic. This means ensuring that all registered voters can continue to participate in elections without putting themselves or others at risk. Amending election law so that any voter can vote without leaving their home via absentee ballot (if they choose) and sending applications with a prepaid postage were important steps in this direction. At the same time, the government should continue to allow in-person voting, following all appropriate health protocols. The government can maintain public accountability by providing live and recorded coverage of government proceedings and sessions for public viewing and participation, digitally posting the minutes of government proceedings, and ensuring all officials are identified in the recordings.
Serving the public under the COVID-19 outbreak
- What are the biggest challenges in your district in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak?
The impact of COVID-19 on District 51 has laid bare the deep, pre-existing inequalities in our society. For many people, there is an overwhelming urge to get “back to normal.” But, for low-income neighborhood and communities of color, normal is a crisis of its own, characterized by housing instability, income inequality, severe weather (like Hurricane Sandy) caused by climate change, ICE raids, budget cuts to Medicaid, public education, and transportation, and corporate tax loopholes. COVID-19 has exacerbated these challenges for the district. Likewise, the district is composed of many immigrants and frontline workers who were already struggling to access quality health coverage and pay for rent and basic necessities before the pandemic. The Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant exclusions in the CARES Act combined with the disproportionate vulnerability of frontline workers to coronavirus are significantly impacting my neighborhoods.
- What are the appropriate roles of city, state, and federal governments in a crisis such as this?
We need swift, decisive, and accountable leadership at all levels of government to respond to the short and long-term needs of the people, especially groups that were vulnerable before the pandemic. Local government has a responsibility to address concerns specific to their district. In fact, in March, I helped to start a South Brooklyn mutual aid network to support neighbors and connect those in need to resources and volunteers. On a state and federal level, we need leaders who will look out for renters, workers, teachers, and immigrants, not wealthy corporations. These leaders also have a responsibility to plan for a just and equitable recovery that doesn’t just return to normal, but introduces systemic changes to address climate change and income inequality.
- 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?
With the CARES Act, New York is receiving approximately $15.1 billion which will support important needs in education, public transit, and other social services. Unfortunately, the Act also provides a large boost to big corporations while significantly overlooking other important concerns, including food and housing justice, cash relief, protection for immigrants, and state relief. Moving forward, we need to focus on the shortcomings of the Act and ensure that the people who are most impacted by COVID-19 are supported and put in a position to thrive in the the wake of the pandemic. This includes including immigrants and their families in cash payments and increasing support for rental assistance.
CAMPAIGN PROMISES MADE TO VOTERS
What are the top five promises you are making to the voters during the campaign?
Campaign Promise 1
Green and just COVID-19 Recovery: I recently introduced a pledge, which has been signed by 59 candidates, calling for a green and just recovery in the wake of COVID-19. Specifically, we promise to advance the creation of millions of new, family-sustaining, career-track green jobs, invest in green technology and infrastructure, expand public and employee ownership, and dramatically reduce carbon pollution.
Campaign Promise 2
Expand healthcare: I will fight tirelessly to pass New York Health Act so that all New Yorkers have access to a universal single-payer health insurance system. Healthcare as a human right, and any attempt to undercut this right is a direct and life-threatening assault on the poor and working class.
Campaign Promise 3
Protect our immigrant neighbors: My district is composed of many different thriving immigrant communities, but that diversity is increasingly threatened by current federal government policies. I am committed to ensuring that immigrants in my district and across the state have access to affordable housing and healthcare and benefit equally from safe schools and streets. As such, I promise to support the Liberty Act, the Protect our Courts Act (S425A/A2176), the Access to Representation Act (S7261/A9125), and the New York is Home Act (S1021).
Campaign Promise 4
Equitable taxation: New York desperately needs to reform its tax system so that the wealthy and Wall Street pay their fair share and revenues go towards social services like fighting climate change, improving our public transportation, promoting affordable housing, and investing in our schools. Corporate tax loopholes have created enormous shortfalls for public spending. Everyday New Yorkers are struggling to pay for rent, groceries, medical expenses, and other basic necessities. I promise to hold the wealthy accountable by supporting billionaires and ultra-millionaires tax and a pied-a-terre tax. I will also call for removing the arbitrary 2% spending cap which hamstrings our state’s ability to deliver essential services.
Campaign Promise 5
Affordable housing: Housing in New York City is in crisis, especially in my district. Of the 75% of our district’s residents who rent, 57% pay more than 30% of their income to rent. I promise to create more affordable housing and increase home ownership by reviving and improving the Mitchell-Lama program. I want to greatly expand the number of 0%-down, Section 8 housing opportunities in any Mitchell-Lama development. At least 15-20% of all Mitchell-Lama housing created through my new initiative must be open and affordable to current NYCHA and Section 8 tenants. I also promise to use the above-mentioned pied-a-terre tax to refurbish NYCHA housing.
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 am committed to putting the needs of my district and all New Yorkers above corrupt corporate or political interests. Unfortunately, my district’s incumbent, who has been on the job for almost 3 decades (since I was 10), has done little to address the pressing needs of my community and champion a progressive agenda. Worse, his campaign takes money from real estate developers and hotels, making the community vulnerable to gentrification and increased air pollution. By contrast, I do not accept donations from corporate PACs. Volunteers from the community are the heart and soul of my campaign. In office, I will fight tirelessly to find common sense solutions to the issues facing my community and build coalitions with other leaders to get the job done. I also support enacting term limits on State Assembly members. When a politician sits in a seat too long, they get complacent, and they are no longer prime advocates for their constituents. A five-term limit (10 years in office) will ensure that an assembly member has time to enact major legislation and learn how to do their job well while continuing to prioritize the needs of their residents, rather than their longevity.