On February 17, 2021, InformNYC hosted Ray McGuire, candidate for Mayor of New York City. During our interview, Mr. McGuire reinforced his lived and professional experiences, the relationships he has fostered and his ability to be fluent in the language of the streets and the suites. In his administration he believes his broad spectrum of experience, deep band of relationships and cultural understanding make him the most suitable to lead New York City to a comeback.
In his words, “I’m not looking for a promotion, I’m not part of any administration, nor have I been,” McGuire said. “I don’t owe anybody anything. My sole interest is what’s in the best interest of New York City.”
Here is where Mr. McGuire stands on key issues that affect New Yorkers.
In the near future, property tax revenue, which makes up 50% of the total revenue base, is projected to decline by $2.5 billion. Large contributors to this revenue are leaving the region in favor of lower-taxed states and cities.
The first step in his plan includes creating 500,000 new jobs to put New Yorkers back to work. These jobs will include repairing infrastructure like tunnels and bridges, building affordable housing, and investing in technology. Much of the funding for this work would come from Federal aid.
The next step spotlights small businesses and helps them stay afloat despite the challenges of COVID-19. 50% of New Yorkers are employed by small businesses, but 1 in every 3 of these businesses is suffering during the pandemic. McGuire proposes a plan to aid 50,000 small businesses by covering 50% of their wages for a year, as well as rebating their taxes. This plan also includes putting capital into local banks, enabling them to issue grants and loans to small businesses. He believes saving small business now is financially wise as those businesses and their employees will help grow the economy as we move into a post-pandemic period.
His plan calls for a Deputy Mayor for Small Businesses to oversee these plans and their execution. He is also focused on providing specific support to minority and women-owned businesses. McGuire does not want the city to treat small businesses as a source of money in the form of fines and licenses. Instead, the city should treat them as customers who are the growth engine of the city.
The final step is an increased tax on the wealthy, the nature of which will be determined after a comprehensive review of the budget and how to repair it. McGuire says cutting the city’s budget isn’t an option, and quality of life must be preserved. It remains unclear exactly what his threshold for “wealthy” would be. Some would of course be billionaires but it is expected many will be professionals across various industries. Those who fall into the highest tax bracket are also the most mobile, leaving many policy experts to worry whether adding an additional tax burden to this group will accelerate the trend of the top taxpayers fleeing the city and state limits to places with lower taxes and higher quality of life. A population outflow would negate the gains expected by higher tax rates and would strip the local economy of residents who fuel the city’s economy through their spending.
McGuire believes that New Yorkers do not want to leave, despite talks of migration out of the city. People have lost confidence in the current administration and that confidence will be restored under the right leadership. However, for many New Yorkers it is a stark reminder of the 2006 decline when the middle class left and with them the tightnight community feel of our city was lost too. It is unclear if his tax increases would lead to a new exodus of professionals who are highly mobile and increasingly working remotely.
Crime and Public Safety
In New York City, the number of shootings doubled by the end of 2020, and the homicide rate was up 40% in 2019. McGuire says combatting gun crime and other violent crimes has to be the first priority for NYPD.
He plans to double down on efforts to combat criminal networks responsible for gun trafficking, burglar rings and sex trafficking that contribute to these crimes. McGuire’s first step will be conducting a top-down review of the public safety budget and identifying what works, what doesn’t, and what money can be better put toward public safety issues.
The hallmark of McGuire’s plan is the creation of a separate emergency services system to deal with non-criminal offenses such as mental health and substance abuse. This system will enable police officers to focus on the most dangerous crimes. He states frequently that his highest, overarching priority is preserving and restoring quality of life in New York City.
McGuire supports the bail reform law passed one year ago, the purpose of which was to reduce the number of people jailed while awaiting trial because they could not afford to pay bail. As a black man, McGuire says he is sensitive to the assumption of guilt, which can result in punitive and excessive bail, which was a major catalyst for this reform. He does not believe any data supports the notion that the reforms have contributed to a recent surge in crime.
The direct responsibility of the Mayor’s office is funding and oversight of pretrial service programs like mental health and homelessness abatement. McGuire says these programs are not adequately funded, and need to be in order to prevent crimes.
McGuire discussed the recent killings on a New York subway by Rigoberto Lopez, who has a long history of hospitalization for mental illness. Under McGuire’s plan, he says Lopez would have received treatment to prevent him from becoming a violent criminal in the first place. McGuire says the goal has to be treating the individual, not just responding to an incident. McGuire should be pressed further on what “treatment” and “services” will look like if he is Mayor. Will he restore psych units, hospital beds, educate the entire judicial system to utilize Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) and establish a misdemeanor mental health court to intervene before these individuals become violent?
McGuire vowed to continue taking the subway should he be elected, and says he feels as safe as ever doing so.
Homelessness/Serious Mental Illness
Approximately 80,000 homeless people, mostly families, are living in shelters. An additional 4,000 reside on the streets of New York City, mostly men suffering from mental illness and addiction.
McGuire’s plan to address these issues is EPSP, or Evaluation, Prevention Services and Pathway to permanent housing.
There is currently no system in place to evaluate homelessness and find its root causes. The evaluation portion of McGuire’s plan seeks to pinpoint the root of the issue, including unemployment, lack of affordable child care, and domestic abuse. Next, he plans to take steps to prevent homelessness in the first place, including programs like rental subsidies and legal assistance, as well as addressing the expiration of eviction moratorium.
McGuire plans to look at what can be done with existing housing stock, vouchers, and rental subsidies to help people stay in place while transitioning from other government programs, including prison and foster care. McGuire plans to utilize his experience to simplify bureaucracy, create tailored mental services and ensure people get the services they need to pave a pathway to permanent homes.
On the topic of COVID-19 hotel shelters, McGuire says while it was a good idea, execution was poor. The idea was proposed on a Friday and put in place on a Monday, without coordinating properly with community outreach and stakeholders. He emphasized that placement of new facilities should always include input from the local community.
A hypothetical was proposed, in which a homeless addict sits at the Port Authority, visibly shooting up drugs, not ready to accept help. In order to ensure the community does not bear the burden of this behavior, McGuire believes this is an instance where his emergency services system could act as a first responder. The service will coordinate qualified people to evaluate and analyze the situation, identify the programs suited to support and help them. McGuire should be pushed further to clarify whether he would support policies that allow the city to remove homeless individuals from the streets on an involuntary basis, especially when they refuse city services.
On the subject of education, McGuire makes one thing abundantly clear: kids need to be back in school. The city is in the midst of an educational crisis, and action must be taken immediately.
McGuire says, however, that the problems evident in education now predate the new challenges posed by COVID-19.
“Too many New Yorkers are harmed rather than uplifted by the schools,” McGuire said.
One in four students fail to finish high school. Less than three out of ten 4th and 8th graders read and do math at grade level. White students are three times more likely to perform at grade level than students of color. McGuire says he is living proof that education is the only way out of poor circumstances.
He has a plan. The program, entitled Cradle to Career, will ensure that every child is able to read by the end of 3rd grade. By 6th grade, students will be exposed to career options to direct and motivate them. McGuire also wants to ensure every child has a summer job from 6th grade through graduation. He says his own summer jobs as a kid were a source of pride and purpose. These initiatives are intended to increase the overall graduation rate, and prepare all students to enter the workforce or go on to a two or four year college.
When asked about issues concerning charter and magnet schools, McGuire was quick to emphasize the need for quality schools in every neighborhood, and committed to ensuring this happens.
“I support the extension of the best education into every zip code,” he says. “No life should be determined by zip code.”