SYRACUSE Two years ago Howie Hawkins tallied 41 percent of the vote running as a Green Party candidate against three-time incumbent Democrat Tom Seals, without a Republican in the race, for the 4th District Common Council seat. Last month he tallied 48 percent against Khalid Bey, whose Democratic Party endorsement was enhanced by support from the Miner administration. He was beaten this time, as last, in his estimation, by the about one-third of the voters he calls Zombie Democrats.
“As one voter told us as we were canvassing,” he recalls, “’I’d vote for a dog if he were on the Democratic line.’ They’re just not leaving the Democratic line, no matter what. As I sometimes say, they’d vote for Charles Manson for city judge if he were on the Democratic line. Subtract that and think about the people who voted on policy, we won in a landslide.”
For Hawkins, that vote tally contained a message for the city about the Green Party’s policy platform.
“If the city doesn’t hear that message,” he reflects, “they’re deaf. But they may be.”
He says some of the current councilors had told him they were looking forward to working with him.
“Public power was the first thing out of their mouths. The first thing out of my mouth was progressive tax reform. The city’s facing, potentially, a financial control board, where the governor would appoint, usually bankers, to make the decisions. The council would be powerless. They could tear up the municipal union contracts and dictate cuts to every thing to balance the budget and pay off the bonds. You’d lose our municipal democracy.”
Hawkins is concerned that the Democrats, who control city government, are not talking about that possibility. “We’re the only city that did not memorialize the State Legislature about the millionaire’s tax last year. It expires December 31, that’s $4.6 billion a year, that would cover the state deficit. But we need more than that. I would like to go back to the 1972 income tax structure, which had 14 tax brackets, not four, and it was progressive not flat. The lowest rate was two percent. The lowest rate now is four percent. So they raised taxes on the working poor, and with the exemptions it’s no wonder our cities and school districts are facing insolvency.”