This is the third installment of MYD’s “Virtual Town Hall,” a series of exclusive interviews with newsmakers, lawmakers, and other fascinating New Yorkers. The format is simple: We ask any five questions. They answer. No edits!
Tony Avella is a former New York City Council Member and current candidate for State Senate in the 11th district (Queens).
1. Why do you think young people should care about the state government and what goes on in Albany?
The dysfunction in Albany not only impacts funding for current programs/resources/initiatives that directly help young people, but also future funding. For example, funding for education throughout the State (including CUNY and SUNY) and job creation opportunities are in jeopardy because of the gridlock in the State government. Reforming Albany and electing progressive candidates will ensure that the needs of young people are being met.
2. What do you consider to be the biggest problems in state government and what policies would you advocate to solve them?
Ending the Albany corruption and dysfunction must be a priority. If elected, I would immediately work towards eliminating the “Pay to Play” system of campaign donations, requiring an on time balanced budget agreement by law, instituting term limits for State elected officials, creating an Independent Redistricting Commission, and eliminating the system of “lulus” by which the leadership controls individual members votes.
3. You’ve often been referred to as a liberal ‘rabblerouser’ but have recently adopted a more conciliatory and calculated approach to politics – which strategy do you consider to be more effective in NY Senate?
Given the small majority in the State Senate, which I believe will continue after the election, it will be important to be able to compromise. It will also present an opportunity to promote reform as never before. I will certainly push hard for changes and work with collaboratively the other members of the Democratic conference to achieve results.
4. Senator Padavan has successfully fought back challenges for more than three decades – what do you think it will take to unseat him this fall?
Frank Padavan only won by about 400 votes in the last election over his opponent Council Member Jim Gennaro. Gennaro’s Council District represented only a very small portion of the Senate District, whereas my former Council District comprises almost half of the 11th Senatorial District. Further Padavan’s voting strength lies within my former Council District. If we mount a maximum campaign effort, we can definitely win.
5. What lessons have you taken from your canvassing efforts in Queens?
After knocking on about 6,000 doors thus far, it is clear that most people want Albany to change. There are a significant number of voters who will be voting “out the incumbents.” This is a message that every politician needs to hear. We must enact reform legislation and restore people’s faith in their elected officials. I am determined to do exactly that if elected.