I will continue to fight for full funding for PreK-12 Education, underfunded by $3.4 billion according to a court ruling, as we know education is key to helping people reach their full potential and to create a prosperous community and state. Funding for higher education must include all our district’s colleges. I also strongly support the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) to help our talented students enter the schools of their choice, both public and private.
Access to high quality healthcare is a right and should not be based on income or employment. I fully support the New York Health Act and will work to enact a system that provides medical care to all. Anyone can get sick, and we need everyone to have a chance to get healthy.
Providing a clean, healthy environment in our Assembly District is vital for our economy, tourism, and public health. As an environmental attorney I understand the intricacies of protecting our natural resources and will always fight for water and air quality, pollution elimination, protected lands, and against invasive species and harmful algal blooms, among many other important environmental initiatives.
Rental and home ownership costs are rising faster than residents' paychecks in many parts of the 125th Assembly District. To ensure access to affordable housing I will work to increase state resources for local agencies that develop affordable housing close to the jobs, services and recreation that creates a high quality of life for residents. I helped to pass legislation in 2019 to authorize Tompkins County to spend county resources on affordable housing projects.
Equal rights are under pressure from the Federal government, often targeting New Yorkers directly. We have the moral calling to uphold our progressive values and ensure fair treatment under the law. I will fight to make sure that everyone has equal rights and protections to live their own lives here at home and across New York State.
It is clear we are experiencing a climate crisis. I am well-equipped to lead on this vital battle with an understanding of environmental and energy policy. We must meet the emissions goals of NYS from last year’s critical climate legislation, and establish our state as a leader. Our District is also poised to lead with the exemplary research, development, and manufacturing skills that are required for us to transition to a low-emission economy.
CHILDREN & FAMILY
Childcare costs are prohibitive, and often prevent parents from pursuing education or seeking better employment. I understand this too-often overlooked hardship that affects many families, and have already worked to pass legislation to expand critical daycare services in our community. I call for enhanced parental leave and improved childcare access at our colleges and universities, following the model of the very successful TC3 facility opened last year.
To reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy will need to replace gas, oil, propane, and other fossil fuels. I support a comprehensive approach, including transmission line upgrades, off-shore wind, distributed energy generation, and a streamlined siting process as part of the forthcoming state Climate Action Plan. However, we need to immediately work to reduce our energy demand through insulating and weatherizing our homes and businesses, which will save money for homeowners on their electricity bills, create jobs in every community in the state, and bring us closer to our climate goals using available, low-cost technology.
Farming is a vital part of our economy and lifestyle in the 125th District, and much of the state's agriculture research and assistance programs are run through the Agriculture and Life Sciences college at Cornell University. I fully support, and will advocate to fund in the annual budget, these important aids to benefit our agriculture sector across New York.
LABOR & EMPLOYMENT
New York has one of the highest unionization rates in the country, and that must be protected. Collective bargaining through unions is essential to maintaining a living wage, benefits, and the quality of life that employees deserve. I support labor rights and a prevailing wage and will fight to pass that legislation in Albany, Additionally, our District is well-positioned to develop and manufacture emerging clean energy technologies to lead the state in this sector.
WHAT THE KILLING OF GEORGE FLOYD TELLS US ABOUT AMERICA
May 31, 2020
The horrifying and unnecessary killing of George Floyd has, again, exposed the deep, long-standing flaws in our society and in our justice system. The officer responsible for George’s death has been charged with 3rd degree murder, and this is a good start, but it will not bring him back, nor will it stem the pain, fear and trauma of the long history of violence against people of color. Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Amadou Diallo, Eric Garner, the list goes on. Too many have died wrongfully at the hands of the police. These wanton killings are telling people of color: you are less than fully human. You don’t have the same rights as other citizens. And unless, or even if, you are compliant in the face of pain, fear and chaos, you can be killed by the police. End of story. This is completely unacceptable.
How do we prevent this from ever happening again? There are specific things we can do in the area of criminal justice. We must review and rebuild our training programs for police to make sure they don’t in any way encourage the “warrior” mentality, where people of color are seen as the enemy rather than as members of the community. There must be mandatory training on recognizing one’s own biases and de-escalating conflict. Recent court cases have found police departments within New York State have “engaged in a pattern and practice" of racial profiling, despite its unconstitutionality. If elected, I will fight to pass bill A.4615a, which prohibits racial and ethnic profiling by police departments, requires adoption of an anti-racial profiling policy by police departments and provides a way to review complaints, requiring collection of data on police and civilian interactions for the state Attorney General to review. To make sure that review of police conduct is done in good faith, especially following use of excessively violent tactics, we must open up police evaluation records to public scrutiny. I will also fight for the immediate passage of bill A2513 to improve public trust in law enforcement and make law enforcement personnel evaluation records available to ensure transparency and accountability.
We are facing a crisis of inequality in our state, exacerbated by the pandemic, falling more heavily on communities of color. We must address long-term structural inequalities and work to provide good jobs, affordable housing and access to healthcare for all. Only by providing equal opportunities and basic human rights to all can we rise out of these entrenched inequalities. Education is one of the keys to undoing inequality. I will work everyday, as your Assemblymember, for properly-funded public schools with Universal Pre-K, so every child has a strong shot at success in school, and for more funding for New York’s very successful Opportunity Programs in higher education which provides mentoring to students. I will work to help create good jobs for students coming out of our schools so they stay in New York, including supporting the MWBE Program to make sure people of color and women can start and maintain successful businesses.
Martin Luther King Jr. said that “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.” Tackling the systemic racism in a long history of racist police practices is the first step towards restoring civil rights for all Americans. We must confront our history of violence, beginning with the abuse of power shown by police across the nation and fanned by corrosive rhetoric from federal elected officials. It will take a lot of work. But ultimately we can reshape our society to be one we want to live in and raise our families in, replacing fear, racism and distrust by offering “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Jordan Lesser, 125th Assembly District Candidate