In This Episode
DeRay, Kaya, Sam, and De’Ara cover the underreported news of the week, including murder rates, honor students, Ralph Northam, and healthcare for Louisiana inmates. DeRay interviews NYC mayoral candidate Maya Wiley ahead of the Democratic primary.
[MUSIC PLAYING] DERAY MCKESSON: Hey, this is DeRay. Welcome to Pod Save The People. In this episode, it’s me, Sam, Kaya, and De’Ara talking about the news that you didn’t hear in the past week. And then I sit down to talk about Maya Wiley who’s running to be the next Mayor of the biggest city in the country, New York. My advice for this week is to study Juneteenth. I want you to do your research. Think about why you might not have learned about this.
Think about the stories that we should tell our friends and our kids, the questions that you might have for your grandparents and your cousins. Juneteenth is important. Juneteenth is something that we should think about. Juneteenth is one of those days in American history that frankly, I didn’t know about until I was an adult. So I want to explain it here because I want you to do your homework.
And then we will all come back and talk about it next week. Here we go. My news this week is from an article in Scalawag magazine. It’s called “Bad Medicine in Louisiana Prisons.” And it’s sort of wild. I didn’t even know this was a thing that there are– so here’s the top line, is that 10 out of 11 doctors overseeing health care in the prisons in Louisiana have some sort of restrictive medical license.
And what the article does is talk about this concentration of doctors who have some sort of infraction or restriction in their medical license who otherwise would be really limited in where they could work and practice medicine. But they’re concentrating in prisons in Louisiana because those are, quote, hard to fill positions, because these are positions that people don’t– they wanted to be a doctor.
They didn’t want to work inside a jail or prison. And it’s sort of wild because I didn’t know. And the reason that this matters is because when you’re incarcerated, you don’t have any choice, right? The doctor you see is– that’s all you get. You don’t get anything else you. You can’t go to another doctor down the street. You don’t get to make phone calls and sort of find the best physician for you.
This is all you get. And that is sort of wild. And there are some examples that really take this home. One is there’s a guy, Doctor Cleveland. He’s a medical doctor at B.B. Rayburn Correctional Center, near Angie, Louisiana. He had a couple of investigations. One was because he was doing some medical equipment scheme.
But while he was on probation for that, he was writing prescriptions for oxycodone out of his home office that had incorrect information, incomplete documentation. And still today, he cannot prescribe Schedule II or Schedule III controlled substances. And he is a medical doctor for a facility that houses more than 1,000 people. Now when Louisiana’s COVID-19 lockdown happened, the medical director for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, he resigned.
He was replaced with the guy who used to be the medical director for Angola, one the biggest penitentiaries in the country and the biggest single-land mass prison in the United States. It was under the new guy, Lavespear– the new guy, when he was a medical director, a 2016 report, that was done by correctional medicine experts, said that it was one of the worst prisons in terms of medical care that they reviewed in their collective 60 years of medicine.
I mean that is– wow, this guy, who now is a medical director for all of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, he purchased $8,000 of crystal meth from an informant in a Home Depot parking lot. He was suspended and serve two years for an intent to distribute conviction. But he got a– he got his license back. And now, he is the guy who’s in charge of all medicine.
He was hired in 2010, and he practiced medicine in Angola with all these restrictions on his license. Now what’s really wild is that this guy, the Medical Board revoked his ability to prescribe all controlled substances and ruled that he cannot practice medicine in the State, quote, other than in an institutional prison or other structured setting, preapproved by the Board.
Now this man is not good enough to practice medicine anywhere in the state of Louisiana, except for prison. I mean, what does that even mean? So that was really wild. It was one of those things where I didn’t know. I like legitimately did not know. I didn’t know that Louisiana was clustering the worst doctors with some of the most vulnerable populations that have no choice. I mean that is really– it is beyond gross and bad and a miscarriage of justice. And I wanted to bring that here to the pod.
SAM SINYANGWE: Hey, it’s Sam. And today I want to talk about guns. I know you may have been hearing a lot about crime across the country and in particular, murder rates that are rising. And a new analysis in Vox by Rob Arthur and Jeff Asher pinpoints a potential cause of that rise. And that’s guns. Now, this may not be a surprise to many of you.
But it’s very different from the narrative that we hear from the police and from conservatives. Some of those narratives go something like this– that crime is increasing all across the country, skyrocketing. That people are unsafe. And that that’s because the police have pulled back, the police have been defunded, the police no longer have the resources to do their jobs.
And criminals have been emboldened. And that is why we see safety being compromised. That’s sort of the narrative, right? Now, that narrative, while it has some currency in some circles, is not true when we look at the data because– and this article provides one of the latest snapshots of the actual data, looking at 10 to the nation’s largest cities.
And what they find was that before the protests over George Floyd’s murder, before May and June and July and increases in crime becoming a big part of the national story, there were already shifts happening under the radar. And those shifts had a lot to do with guns and the pandemic. In particular, what they find is that in March and April last year, in the beginning of the pandemic and the lockdown, two things started happening.
One, obviously there was a lockdown, fewer people are outside. There were fewer observable crimes happening outside. And there were, as a consequence, fewer arrests, fewer stops made by the police. We reported on the pod. Philadelphia stopped to arrest people for low-level offenses. Other jurisdictions said they would stop making as many arrests.
But what also happened that was interesting was that the police reported finding more guns on people. Even though they were making fewer stops and fewer arrests, more of the people they were stopping and arresting ended up having guns. And at the same time, there were reports of massive firearms purchases across the country.
Now again, it’s the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of fear. It was the apocalypse. People went out, bought guns, didn’t know how to keep themselves safe, would keep others safe. And it turns out that the prevalence of guns being purchased all across the country, more people apparently walking around with guns on them, led to some of these shifts in murders in particular.
Because when we look at crime data, again, the right wing narrative around crime skyrocketing is also a lie because crime has not skyrocketed. Crime rates are actually fairly similar currently to what they were last year, the year before, and the year before that. Even violent crime has not skyrocketed. What has increased are murders in particular and shootings, non-fatal and fatal. So what explains this increase, it’s not that people are suddenly being more violent across the board.
It’s a very particular type of violence, which suggests and what the data is indicating, is that this has a lot to do with gun ownership, gun possession, gun violence. And that fights that otherwise might have been fistfights, that otherwise might have ended non-fatally are now escalating to people being shot and killed because more people have guns. And they’re using those guns.
So that’s a big part of the story that’s happening right now. It’s a very different narrative than what you’re hearing from the police. And there are very different set of solutions and implications for that narrative. Implications around despair, around anxiety, around inequality, around frustration and poverty, and a lack of resources in the context of a pandemic.
Conversations around the ease at which Americans can go out and buy guns. Conversations around a system of policing that actually didn’t stop this from happening. Despite not being defunded, despite having all of the resources essentially that it had in the year prior and the year before that, the police didn’t stop this either.
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DE’ARA BALENGER: Y’all, my news today is a piece of the New York Times on Ikeria Washington and Layla Temple who had been named 2021 valedictorian, salutatorian for West Point High School in Mississippi. Now, the story should stop there, right? It should just be cause for celebration and pride around these two young Black students winning these incredible honors and particularly, winning them in Mississippi.
Within days and breaking with longstanding tradition, West Point High School decided to name an additional valedictorian and an additional salutatorian, both white students, Emma Berry and Dominic Borgioli, joining the Black students who had already been named, right. So basically, what happened is like three weeks had passed since the senior awards night where Ikeria and Layla were named valedictorian, salutatorian.
And during this, the parents of the two white students and the students were extremely upset and distressed that they had not been named valedictorian and salutatorian. So even Ikeria’s mother, Angela Washington, at this senior awards night had said that she overheard Emma pledging to challenge the decision to give the awards to Ikeria and Layla.
So many troubling things here. So we have to remember, again, that we are in Mississippi, where some public schools had once defied federal orders to admit Black students to their schools, right? And in the past, we’ve seen other Black women, particularly one case from Cleveland, Mississippi, about 150 miles away, who had twice filed a federal lawsuit alleging that she’d been cheated in her– in the school selection of valedictorian.
So really, what came at issue had to do with how they calculated the GPAs. So Ikeria and Layla won based on a calculation of Quality Point Average or QPA. So that’s a system of calculating grades that gave extra weight to advanced placement and dual credit courses. But it turned out that Dominic and Emma were the top finishers based on unweighted grade point averages.
So to me in layman’s terms, Ikeria and Layla were taking more advanced courses, and those were weighted more. So Dominic and Emma, for all we know, could have been taken jam the whole time. And because based on the unweighted grade point average, they would finish first in that respect. And then after the awards ceremony, what happened is that the parents of the two white students held discussions with Burnell McDonald, who was the Superintendent of West Point Schools overall.
And they complained that based on the school’s handbook, that the valedictorian and salutatorian should be– the calculation should be made off of the unweighted grade point average. And after talking with these white parents, Mr. McDonald, who was Black, concluded that the handbook and tradition back them up.
And in the school system, class ring had been calculated by unweighted grade point average, not QPA, which would have made the two students the honourees, right. So basically, what happened– and that’s how they got to adding on Emma and Dominic as co-valedictorian and co-salutatorian. The issue is– I mean, first of all, that’s the whole issue in and of itself.
But the additional issue is that Mr. McDonald and the School District then didn’t let Ikeria and Layla’s parents know that they had added Emma and Dominic as co-valedictorian, co-salutatorian. So basically, what happened is Emma’s mom, once Mr. McDonald made the decision to add Emma and Dominic, he notified their parents.
And Emma’s mother posted a Facebook photo that said Emma and Dominic were essentially the true valedictorians and salutatorians. So this is the evening before graduation, right? So then Ikeria’s mother is getting all these calls about her daughter not being valedictorian. Same for Layla. So they went to meet with Mr. McDonald.
And the New York Times article goes into these young women left in tears because they just felt there was such a question and veil of unfairness around what had happened. And Lanika Temple, Layla’s mother, she says that they were just going to have a show up at graduation as if it was truly a mistake. She’s like, they should have contacted us.
They should have contacted the students and their families. And they didn’t have enough respect to do that. And she felt it was underhanded. When it comes to Dominic, the white student, his mother, Ms. Borgioli, said that she doesn’t feel like it has anything to do with race. And she’s infuriated by the fact that people are bringing race into it.
So on graduation night, all four students deliver their speeches. But you know, it’s just– just to think about the humanity of these young women of Ikeria and Layla and this experience to them, after working so hard, after taking advanced placement classes, doing the work, and getting this place, and then being met with this type of behavior, this type of recognition of bad acting.
Just thinking about how this will potentially shape them. And I think that’s what I really took away from this piece is that Ikeria, Layla, we see you. We are so proud of you. What has happened in terms of the controversy and the disrespect around this does not take away from what you have achieved. And your community loves you, adores you, and supports you.
KAYA HENDERSON: My news this week is from the New York Times it’s from an article entitled, “Black Virginians Took Ralph Northam Back and Neither Has Forgotten.” And this is a really interesting story to me about how we think about cancel culture, how we think about coalition building and collective action. And I think it’s a really important story to bring to the pod listeners.
So this is a story about Democratic Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. You might have heard about Governor Northam in 2019 when he was faced with a scandal around a blackface and Ku Klux Klan photo on his Med school yearbook page. And this was a huge scandal which caught national attention. Even then presidential candidate, Joe Biden, called for his resignation.
All top Democrats were calling for his resignation. And he, I think, was sort of destined to go down in history as an embroiled and scandaled Governor. But– and this is a direct quote. But among Black political leaders and elected officials, he is becoming the most progressive governor in the State’s history, as a result of his uplifting of Black community since the 2019 scandal.
Well, how did this happen? How do we go from a Governor who was accused of being in blackface to the most progressive Governor in the State? Well, a couple things happen. Black Virginians rallied around him instead of calling for his resignation. He had a significant number of Black staff members who stayed in his administration. The Legislative Black Caucus focused on policy goals instead of resignation.
And the Black activist community followed the legislative strategic lead and use this as an opportunity to get some things done for Black people. In fact, they built a pretty strong coalition that, according to the article, showed the power of redemption, humility, and growth. And that’s not usually how we handle these kinds of situations.
In fact, this scandal in 2019 sent Governor Northam on a personal journey around race, racism, and whiteness and caused him to not only reflect upon history that he hadn’t learned or hadn’t paid attention to but also allowed him to connect deeply with people, read, explore some of the books that many people are reading about this stuff.
And he’s been on this personal journey that has resulted in some pretty interesting things. Also, what happened around the same time was the Lieutenant Governor– so the number two ranking official in the State– was accused of sexual assault. And the Attorney General, the third-ranking official, admitted to wearing blackface at a party.
So here you have a whole entire scandal at the top echelons of Virginia’s government. And Governor Northam did something that was, I think, a little unprecedented. And he extended himself to the Black community, asking, what can I do for you? And there were a number of mostly older Black activists who decided to extend their support to Governor Northam and to use this as an opportunity to get some things done.
But the younger activists actually condemned that support. And it’s an interesting lesson, I think, when confronted with the fact that there are short-term wins and there are longer-term wins. And the folks in the state of Virginia went for the long-term win. So what happened? Well, Virginia is the first state in the South to abolish the death penalty.
Virginia, under Governor Northam’s leadership, has allocated more than $300 million to the State’s struggling Black colleges. The state of Virginia passed sweeping police reform measures. They created the first cabinet-level position for diversity, equity, and inclusion. They’ve removed a significant number of Confederate statues.
The State government has replaced a Confederate holiday with a holiday that’s intended to increase voter access. And they’ve added more than 25 historical markers for Black History in Virginia. And that’s the closing quote of the article, says, a white person use their privilege to stay in office. But to make change, Black people use their power.
And so to me this is a great example of what happens when we work together. It’s a great example of what happens when confronted with a crisis. We turn it into an opportunity. It’s a story of personal redemption. It’s a story of strategy on the part of the Black activists who embraced him. It really is a lesson in terms of how we deal with the thorny issues that come up in leadership and how we still make things happen.
And so I’m really excited to continue to watch Virginia make progress in what it’s doing for Black people. And I think that that is something that we all should be paying attention to.
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Maya is a lawyer, a professor, civil rights activist, and candidate to be the next mayor of New York City. Ahead of the upcoming election, we sit down and talk about what New York City would look like under her progressive policies. Here we go. Maya, Maya, thanks so much for joining us today on Pod Save The People.
MAYA WILEY: DeRay, DeRay, it’s so good to be with you.
DERAY MCKESSON: Now, you’re running for mayor. I remember when I saw the announcement, I was like, whoa, look at Maya. I know you from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. I know you from MSNBC. I know you mostly from sort of your work on race in criminal justice and poverty. Can you talk to us about what led you to saying, I think I can be the next mayor of the biggest city in the country?
MAYA WILEY: Well look, you know, DeRay, I don’t have to tell you this because this has been your life. I’ve been Black all my life. Been a woman all my life. I’m also a mother. But all of that means that I’ve spent my entire adult career as a civil rights lawyer and advocate for restructuring structural racism. It’s what I did at the ACLU, at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and founding my own organization, The Center for Social Inclusion.
And yes, not just working on government but then working in government and city hall to show the city how it could be more transformational about what was broken for far too many of our people, particularly Black and brown people. And it was a proof point that city government, as the level of government, that touches everyone’s lives directly has the ability to be much more transformative to change our problems than just solutions.
And at a time when we’ve had seen a rise in hate, as we’ve seen what Donald Trump represented, and the attacks on any state or city trying to make real change for its people, trying to create more racial equity, trying to fix a broken police state, trying to make sure people could afford the rent, make sure we could take care of folks who are immigrants in this country who are critically important in New York City, I just felt called to this moment because I think it’s one in which we need a change making leadership.
And that’s why– I’ve been a change maker on my life. I was a change maker before I walked into city hall and when I walked out. And it’s time we have someone walk in who both knows how the City runs but knows how to make it run differently. And so that for once and for all, we can start curing what ails us because COVID deepened it and worsened it, both in terms of rise of hate.
Now in what we see in our debates around public safety, which is not taking into account how we keep Black and brown communities safe in a fair and just way and when we need to make sure we have an economy that works for all our people, that this is the time. This is the opportunity. And I just felt called because I love this City. I’m going nowhere. And I’m going to be doing this work.
So might as well do it from a position that has the greatest opportunity to marshal the resources and the people of this city to finally fix what’s broken.
DERAY MCKESSON: Now it’s one thing to think about running office. It’s a whole other thing to do it. How has it been being a candidate? I can only imagine you’ve learned so much, and it’s been such a different ride. How has the candidate experience been for you?
MAYA WILEY: We’re in the largest city in the country that has over eight million people and was devastated by COVID, one of the hardest hit cities in the country. But in a city that has never elected a woman of any race, has had 109 men as mayors, and in only one who is Black and for one term, David Dinkins, this is a city that is learning whether or not it wants to believe that women lead, particularly Black women.
So I have been really working very hard to pull together a coalition of folks that represent the City and what it is. That’s Black, that’s Latino, that’s progressive, that’s women of all races. Just to say this is the kind of leadership we need. And we have to finally confront and acknowledge that Black women lead. And we’ve called in as the cavalry in a crisis.
We’re the defenders of democracy. Where queens. But we are also qualified. And so I have been working very hard because I have to be twice as good. I have to work twice as hard to establish those qualifications.
DERAY MCKESSON: Now what are s hearing as you knock doors and are out talking to people? What are the things that– because it’s one thing what the polls say. It’s another thing what the media says. And you know it’s a whole different thing when you actually are talking to people at their houses. What are you hearing there?
MAYA WILEY: People are deeply concerned about safety across this city. But they’re also concerned about recognizing that mental illness is a big issue. That’s a safety issue. They’re recognizing and talking about that. And they’re obviously talking about how we bring the City back in a way that ensures that people can still afford to live here.
Because there was an affordability crisis before COVID, and now we have 400,000 more people facing eviction. Food insecurity, we have twice as many people going hungry in the City, twice as many. We already had a million going hungry before COVID. Now we’re up to over 2 million people going hungry.
And so there’s a real concern about how we become a livable city, which has both safety and affordability. And really, addressing mental health issues and doing it in a way that is fair. And that for communities of color, particularly Black communities, Latino communities, Asian communities with the rise of hate, that hate is also a public health issue and a public safety issue.
And that mental illness kind of runs through all of it. And I think that’s an important thing to note because they were issues before COVID. But COVID has really created the sense of incredible stress and pain and trauma. And it’s showing up in all kinds of ways across the City. So I’m leaning hard into talking about how we have to recognize mental health as health. But also, mental health is safety.
Mental health is human rights in terms of getting those who are mentally ill and living on the street into homes with supportive housing. And recognizing that we are not going to come back as a city, unless we ensure we’re investing in every last one of our communities coming back. And that means being honest about who’s been hit hardest in this crisis, which is Black, brown, and Asian community.
DERAY MCKESSON: Now what about the police? It’s been a hot topic, both in the past year but certainly with the NYPD being the biggest police department the country. What would you do about police violence, about the police in general, about our conception of safety?
MAYA WILEY: As a Black woman, I know two things. I know what it is like to fear crime. And I know what it is like to fear police violence. For far too long, we have been told that we have to choose one or the other, either we’re going to be free of the police and the violence, or we’re going to be free of crime. And the truth is that’s just not true.
So a big part of it is recognizing that– as we just saw in Times Square this past weekend in New York, where we had bystanders including a four-year-old girl shot in the leg in a shooting, but the reality is we’ve had gun violence going up in Black and brown communities and in fact, the same communities that have always had the highest rates of gun violence for decades.
But we’ve never focused on how to truly fix it. And every time, every single time we say, oh, there’s a crime problem. There’s a violence problem. We need to hire more police, and we need to put more police out. It never fixes it. It never solves it.
And so it’s time to say, look, we need the police to do the job of policing, which is to both follow the law themselves, be fair, be just, be accountable, pay the costs if they violate the rules themselves, but also, to be focused on the priorities of policing, which are keeping illegal guns out of our city. That is a job, I think, everyone agrees on that the police should be doing.
But the police can’t be our first responders to mental health crises. They’re not equipped. It gets people killed. And we have far too many people afraid to call 911 or calling 911 and not telling the truth about what’s going on with a loved one or friend or someone having a mental health crisis because they’re afraid of someone showing up with a gun and a badge rather than someone who’s a mental health crisis responder.
So we need to recognize that there are functions we’ve been dumping on the police department and growing badges and guns rather than allocating those precious public dollars to actually solving the problem, that right now the police are being asked to do. So that means mental health crisis response. That means creating school support teams and mental health and trauma informed care because that brings violence down and sends graduation rates up.
That means making it easier to get a job than a gun because where we have the highest rates of violence is also where we have the highest rates of joblessness and all of the mental health and other issues that come with that, housing insecurity and hunger. And it’s time we recognize what’s been working.
We have a community right here in Brooklyn and Brownsville, where our local city council member, Alicka Ampry-Samuel and Diana Ayala, have actually asked the police to create quarters where there were hot spots for crime problems. And they said, don’t come in with more police. Let us organize the community and the community-based organizations to solve the problem.
And they had results from that. Partnering with the police, police still have a role in terms of going after arresting people for rape or murder, of course, going after legal guns but doing it in a partnership. It also says, there is a time and a way and a place where that partnership means police hearing that standing down is the best thing they can do in partnership, that recognizing their role is different. And it’s a partnership.
And that’s a very different orientation. And it also requires what I call putting the people back in public safety, which is the people, particularly in Black and brown communities are so unjustly and unfairly and overpoliced, being able to have a say and what the police should and should not be doing. And recognizing more police on the corner has not brought gun rates down. But more investments on the people who stand on that corner does. And I’m going to create that balance as Mayor.
DERAY MCKESSON: But what is the New Deal New York?
MAYA WILEY: Oh, New Deal New York is exactly what cities need to be doing to fix what ails us. So New Deal New York is my plan to create 100,000 new jobs, jobs we desperately need in this city, but doing it in a way just like in the Great Depression when we had a New Deal.
We had a work Progress Administration, where what we’re doing is creating jobs by putting people to work building what we need built in this city and fixing what we need fixed, like creating more affordable housing, building more deeply affordable housing, housing you can afford if you make $25,000 a year, not just if you make $250,000 a year, putting more money into fixing public housing, which is our permanent housing stock for affordable housing.
But it’s been crumbling. It’s its own human rights violation. Going to put $2 billion of that $10 billion into public housing and give public housing residents a voice and the priorities for what gets fixed first. But that’s also going to be local targeted hiring so that we’re saying, you’ve got an obligation to hire the people in the zip codes that have been hit hardest by COVID.
Because 88% of the people who have died in the City from COVID are in Black and Latino and Asian communities, the same communities that have had the highest job losses. Now, Latino communities have lost 40% of their jobs, as have Black communities, particularly for young people. So it’s a way for us to solve our problems but solve them comprehensively.
We’re going to solve many problems at one time with New Deal New York. But it’s also going to help us get and help more small businesses. You know, we’re going to buy what we need locally as much as humanly possible. We’re going to have women and minorities on business enterprise goals as part of that contracting.
So it’s a way that we’re going to invest our precious dollars in our most precious resource, which is our people. And that’s going to stimulate our economy. But in a way, that’s also making us stronger and more fair and more just.
DERAY MCKESSON: Going back to the conversation about the police, you talk about the presence of gun violence. We know from the data that violent crime, as a whole, actually isn’t increasing sort of over the two-year period. But there is an increase in murder. And there are a lot of people who would say that like any attempts to rein in the police or to move money away from policing are at odds with the reality that crime is increasing. That is not what I believe, but that is certainly what some people say. What do you say to that?
MAYA WILEY: I say, we have to make our decisions based on what works and understanding what hasn’t been working. We have a police department that not only did we watch randomly baton peaceful protesters. And in fact, in some instances, people just delivering food in the context of a Black Lives Matter protest.
We saw this police department send two-dozen riot-geared police, helicopters overhead to the apartment of a Black Lives Matter activist because two months earlier he had used a bullhorn in a peaceful demonstration. And they had no arrest warrant.
That’s what we’ve been seeing in this New York City Police Department with resources that have been so bloated that we literally have a police department that Michael Bloomberg, when he was Mayor, bragged, if it was an army, it would be the seventh largest in the world. Well we don’t need an occupying force. And in fact, it doesn’t keep us safe as we’ve seen. I’ll give you an example.
I have a friend whose nephew was shot and killed in October, 4:30 PM, Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, just going to the corner store. What the police did is respond by putting more police officers on that corner. And that same night that Shyhiem McLean was shot and killed, 22-year-old young man, with all the more police deployed to that corner. There was this two more shootings in eyesight of where they were standing.
Their presence and more police did not deter those shootings. What we have to ask ourselves is, what has worked to do that? So I’m not saying there’s not a role because going after obviously who murdered Shyhiem McLean is policing work. Doing the hard investigative work to find perpetrators and also to track down how guns are coming into the community because it’s illegal, it violates our laws, doesn’t keep us safe.
But at the same time, what the family, the traumatized family– who by the way, was not the first family member killed and lost to gun violence because it’s a community that has suffered for years from gun violence. But it asked for trauma informed care. It asked for more violence interruption. That family asked for better schools. They asked for more jobs.
They, from a community standpoint, said, invest in us because our young people are at sea. And nobody’s throwing them a life jacket. And we need to reel them in with the support. And you know the research backs that up. DeRay, you probably know this, but a lot of people don’t.
When the police department has done work slowdowns, when they get angry because someone has killed like an Eric Garner and then there’s a demand for more accountability for a killing that is unjustified in excessive force, and then there’s this work slowdown, where they just stop responding to calls as quickly– and it’s this lever that the police unions use to kind of bully elected officials into submission out of fear that that will increase crime.
But the thing is, when that happened, crime rates went down in that period. And that’s not the first. There’s actually some research from other parts of the country, too. We assume more police keep us safe when the data doesn’t demonstrate that.
And certainly, where one of the pieces of information that has been untold in terms of the historic drops in crime and violence over the decades, over the last three decades, is community-based organizations that do the hard work of helping to support more opportunities. So a balanced approach is what we need. And we need to recognize that that is not the balance that we have had.
We have bloated the police budget in ways that has not helped us have more effective policing and more partnerships. And it’s time for us to right size the police department because we do not need a standing army. We do need an effective and efficient and law-abiding police department in partnership with other forms of government and with communities.
And we need to reallocate resources into just those things that save this next generation rather than writing them off and saying that their path is to prison. Because it doesn’t have to be that way. And certainly, we won’t be a livable city if it does.
DERAY MCKESSON: Now what about evictions? That has been a hot topic in New York City, given COVID, the lack of relief people got, jobs, as you know, being destroyed, and whole industries being upturned, what would you do about evictions?
MAYA WILEY: I have put out a plan, and I put it out back in January, calling for obviously, an eviction moratorium. But I’ve been calling for them a moratorium. And I think I was the first candidate in the race to call for it, that recognizes how we build wealth, particularly in communities of color, and how we’ve been denied the ability to build wealth, which is in home ownership, property ownership.
So what I called for was, yes, a moratorium but to structure it by taking the relief dollars. At that time, we had– this was in the first relief package, we had $251 million to deploy. And I was calling for it to be deployed as subsidies for homeowners who rent and to small landlords who own one to five buildings so that they are able to pay their mortgages and to pay their property taxes.
If they need more help, also, do some property tax abatements so that they can hold on to what they own in exchange for agreeing not to evict their tenants. But at the same time, we have to increase free legal representation for folks facing eviction. Because what we know is that when people have a lawyer, that they are much less likely to be evicted.
In fact, 84% of the people who had a lawyer under the City’s current program, who were called into housing court in eviction proceedings, were not evicted. And so I’m going to increase the resources for free legal services up to 400% of poverty because we have so many more people in the City unable to afford legal representation if they’re in eviction proceedings. And that’s what I’ll do as mayor.
DERAY MCKESSON: And some people hear the moratorium, and they’re like, but what about the landlord, right? Like the landlord also didn’t make money during COVID.
MAYA WILEY: Yes. And that’s why in my eviction moratorium plan, I call for subsidies in exchange for landlords agreeing not to evict to make sure that they’re getting the subsidies to offset the fact that their tenants may be unemployed or unable to pay their full rent because they’re only part time employed, that they’ve lost wages, or they’re out of work altogether.
So that is a recognition that is in fact true. And we will continue to work with our landlords. But I think a big part of it, we’re already seeing it, is affordability is a growth strategy. And by both creating more affordable housing but also at looking at the opportunities of this crisis to renegotiate with the real estate industry, what they want to do with their vacancy rates to make them more affordable.
Because as rents went down during COVID, we saw more people moving into New York City or coming back to New York City. And so we have to recognize that there is an opportunity here to look at how we grow as a city very differently from where we traditionally have, which is essentially to say, let’s give anyone who’s a landlord free rein and not pay attention to affordability in sufficient way.
And so we’re going to flip that and say, no, let’s work with all sides. But let’s make affordability the plan. Because we’re only a livable city if people can afford the rent.
DERAY MCKESSON: That’s a quote. Now, one of the last things I want to talk to you about was maternal mortality. It’s that there have been a number– you know, people have talked about how Black women specifically face such incredibly not great odds during the child birthing process and the whole process around maternal mortality. But people have been sort of light on the plans, like what can we do about it? What do you think we could do about it in a city just like New York?
MAYA WILEY: Quite a bit. So one of the things that we have to recognize that New York City actually leads the country in maternal mortality and childbirth and complications from childbirth. And that is something that will not stand when I am there. And I’m a mom who had the benefit of midwives and doulas when I gave birth.
And what we have to recognize is that so many Black and brown women don’t have that option. So I have a plan that is going to create birthing centers connected to every single one of our public hospitals. And in Staten Island, where we don’t have a public hospital, create a freestanding birthing center, so their women can choose midwifery and get doula support.
But it makes a huge difference in both care and outcomes for births. And because part of what we know happens is implicit bias in the system of our health care, where Black and brown women’s issues and needs for support are not taken seriously. So we’re also going to have our Department of Health and Mental Hygiene track to make a publicly available data so that we can also hold health care providers accountable that are not city controlled.
Because what we also have to do is recognize our health care system, all of our health care system has to function for Black and brown women, not only the public system. So in addition to holding that accountable and creating more of those services to support, we’re going to be tracking and holding accountable all of our health care providers to the health outcomes that we should be seeing in this city. That means Black and brown women get to be mothers and get to live to see their kids grow up.
DERAY MCKESSON: Now how can people get involved, Maya? Like what can people– tell us the timeline around the election. What do you need people to do? How can people stay in touch with you? What’s up?
MAYA WILEY: Oh, well, there are so many ways. So mayawileyformayor.com– that is our website. That is where we have a sign up for volunteers and also a donation. We need money, obviously, as all campaigns do. We’re happy to be participating in the Public Match Program of this city. It’s one of the things that enables people like me, who are nontraditional candidates– which is our nice wonky way of saying, Black women don’t tipically get to run successfully for mayor and get money.
Well now, we do. And that’s an important program, but we need folks giving to this campaign. The primary is on June 22. And early voting starts on June 12. And it’s the first year we have ranked choice voting. So as a campaign, we are doing public education on how ranked choice voting works. I’m a big believer in it. But we also need more volunteers, both on that but also to help us get the word out about who I am and what I stand for and what I’ll do is Mayor.
So on our website, people can sign up to phone bank and text bank, if they don’t live in New York City. Or if they do, that’s the best way that they want to contribute with their volunteer time. But we’re also canvassing. We’re getting signs out and meeting folks and knocking on doors. And so folks who feel comfortable doing that and who are in New York City, we have those opportunities as well.
And we’d love, love, love to have your dollars, your days in terms of phone banking and text banking and canvassing, and every single thing folks can do to drive more people to our website and get more of their networks seeing who I am and what I’ll do and engage because it’s all about building this movement.
DERAY MCKESSON: Well, we consider your Friend of the Pod. I wish you all the best and can’t wait to talk to you a little bit later after the election is done.
MAYA WILEY: Well, thank you, DeRay. It’s a pleasure always to be with you. And thanks so much for your leadership and work. You’ve been a light and a guiding one.
DERAY MCKESSON: Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning in the Pod Save The People this week. Tell your friends to check it out, make sure that you raid it wherever you get your podcasts, whether it’s Apple Podcasts or somewhere else. And we’ll see you next week.
Pod Save The People is a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by Brock Wilbur and mixed by Bill Lancz Our Executive Producer is Jessica Cordova-Kramer and myself. Special thanks to our weekly contributors, Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger, and Sam Sinyangwe.
Transcript coming soon.