BHB: Your position on the status of BPL’s Pacific branch?
JS: I advocated to save it from the beginning. We’ve actually tried to get landmarks historic designation [for Pacific]… [b]ecause we’re rapidly losing our built history. There’s only so much glass and steel that you can put up. This is a critical crossroads in Brooklyn, this is an historic area. That library is the first children’s library in New York City. It’s built for children and it’s a wonderful space.
It is in fact a reality that childhood is not adulthood. Growing up with a book is great.
BHB: What is your position on election reform and term limits?
JS: [I have] a lot of election reform ideas. Early voting. We could implement some of the statutes that we have passed already but the Board of Elections hasn’t implemented. Campaign finance and public financing will go a long way to addressing the issue of term limits. [P]ublic financing will make it more available for people to run. Incumbents who have been around forever and who have huge war chests—that’s one of the reasons that people don’t run against them. Public financing—not unlike what’s in the city campaign finance system—is something I’ve advocated for at the state level. It’s something that would make a huge difference in taking out the influence of money and politics in our legislature. I also think that if you’re going to do that you’re going to have to have terms of longer than two years. Right off the bat [after being elected] you’re raising money and running again.
Term limits in the city council has been a mixed bag. They have four-year terms but they’re already running against each other. The job of a lawmaker is inherently collaborative. It’s not like an executive. So if you have term limits, you need term limits that are more extended. Two terms is not enough for a legislator. The public sees that as a way of keeping people from becoming entrenched but unfortunately it also sets up a dynamic where people are incentivized to not work together. We’ve see that in the council.
BHB: Your played a major role in ousting former Brooklyn Democratic Party Boss Vito Lopez and then ran against Frank Seddio to be the county leader and lost—and now Mr. Seddio is backing you for the Assembly.
JS: First let me say that Frank is night and day different than Vito Lopez. He doesn’t hate and fear women. He’s actually encouraging people to talk at these meetings. No one was allowed to make eye contact with me at these meetings, which was bizarre. Frank’s world is very different, their politics are very different. Frank recognizes that my community and my district is very different than his. He respects indigenous leadership, he respects the fact that I work for my district, just as he works for his. He has come to recognize that the other district leaders, no matter how much we might differ on certain positions, all have a great deal of respect for me, because I work hard for my district. So, he’s supportive, and part of his politics is you support the leaders.
First let me say that Frank is night and day different than Vito Lopez. He doesn’t hate and fear women. He’s actually encouraging people to talk at these meetings. No one was allowed to make eye contact with me at these meetings, which was bizarre.
One of the things that Vito [did] was trying to take me out. County leaders don’t take out their own leaders! Frank philosophically supports the idea that you support your district leaders. But also I think he knows that I had the guts to run against him.
I was instrumental in getting rules reform. I worked with people who had opposed me for years at the behest of Vito Lopez. We opened up that process and we actually got a committee from people outside of the body to come and work on rules reform [that we passed]. And we did that within the first year. And that speaks volumes to the difference in his leadership and the fact that he recognizes that times have changed. And that we need to work together to heal Brooklyn politics and to make Brooklyn politics work for Brooklynites.