2016 Election interview With New York State Senate Candidate Amber Small
By Staff Writer
Who are you voting for this year and why?I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. The reason for that is I’m a strong Democrat and I support the Democratic ticket. This isn’t your typical presidential campaign with competing ideas. Trump’s Rhetoric is hateful; his remarks are disparaging and threatening. He’s mocking people and making fun of people. I go to doors in the 60th [Senate District] and I have people tell me ‘I can’t wait to vote for you, but I want nothing to do with the presidential election.’ I only hope that people will go to the polls.
What do you think about turnout in this election? I expect a shift in the type of voters that turn out. Newly registered people will come out and vote for the first time while long-time voters may sit this one out.We saw with the primaries that people wanted to register and vote, but because of our arcane system, people weren’t able to participate in the primary. I think the type of people who come out to vote will be more progressive and they will be looking for change.
How do you think we can go about improving the health care system? I think Single-Payer healthcare is the way to go, the Affordable Care Act is the reason I have health insurance. I’m grateful for that. Healthcare is really a money-maker first, and it shouldn’t be that way. People shouldn’t have to choose between rent and healthcare. We need something that can control rate hikes.
What are your views on the NY Health ACT? From what I have seen of the NY Health Act, I support it. The Republicans in the NY Senate are holding back this bill and others from becoming law. From the perspective of a consumer and a business person, I recognize the need for reform when it comes to the Affordable Care Act. I work for a non-profit that has to switch providers every year because providers drop out or opt in to the marketplace system. Consumers have to start all over on learning their plans and finding doctors and care provided by the plans.
Tell us about 2 -3 policies or initiatives that you think can help the economy. I put together a policy proposal to deal with our sewer infrastructure. It takes into account complete streets. There’s a job component to this because we would invest so much money creating infrastructure jobs that would help our overall economy. If we have stronger infrastructure, we can attract more business. That also helps quality of life and it helps with home values. We need help for small businesses. I have seen my husband’s business struggle because the state agencies and regulators don’t talk to each other. New and small businesses in New York are up against excessive regulations and can use simpler guidelines. Business regulators are operating in silos and they need to work with the wider community. Senator Tim Kennedy brought state regulators, the SLA, and other parties together to reduce red tape on the craft beer industry. Brewers can now sell at farmers markets and they can sell during regular business hours. Small believes we need to apply this example to all industry and make it easier to do business in New York.
What do you think we need to do to improve security for Americans? How do we protect against internal and external threats? TO speak in generalities, we need more bridges and fewer walls. We have a huge refugee crisis globally. Refugees have no few places to go because of a false sense of fear of the refugees. People like Trump who has overblown the fear of refugees. He makes folks think every refugee will potentially attack our country. We need to have safety measures to protect people in our county. People all over the world want an opportunity to live the American Dream, they want freedom and the opportunity the United States provides. We need to welcome immigrants and encourage them to participate in our society.
Tell us a bit about why you believe participation in government (voting, volunteering for campaigns, donating to campaigns, etc.) is important. Your vote is your voice, each and every person should be engaged in politics. People need to participate in order to make change. We need more minorities and women in the political process and elected office in order to better mirror the communities being served. With donations, we need comprehensive campaign finance reform right now. We don’t always send the most qualified people to Albany and Washington. We send people who can pay for their ticket there. You shouldn’t have to be a billionaire to run for office. I support Public financing of elections and closing the LLC loophole. That can open the door to regular people who would then have the opportunity to run for office. The wealthy are finding all sorts of new ways to work unlimited amounts of money into the election process.
What characteristic do you think is most important for our next president to have? The Next president needs to have empathy. There are a lot of people in tough times, they need a leaders who knows the importance of making good decisions. We need a president who can not only lead, but understand the impact of their decisions. We need someone who acts presidential; not someone who makes fun of and belittles others. We shouldn’t have debates on TV that we are afraid to have our kids watch.
Community/police relations have been a big topic this year. Can you tell us a bit about the work you have done, either directly or indirectly, to improve and maintain good relations between the police and the communities they serve? I already have quite a bit of experience with this in my work with the Parkside association. We have a strong relationship with the police here in the city. Those relationships have helped with crime prevention and crime reporting. I recognize we have a big problem – we don’t have police force that serves our community in certain areas. We’re seeing allot of police brutality and we have officers who don’t have or are without the proper training, skills, or mindset for the job they have had the honor to receive. We shouldn’t have an officer ever who’s first response is to shoot. If you look at it, because of a lack of funds and resources, it’s hard to provide proper training and staffing. Right now in Buffalo and the towns, we have once officer per car. In too many situations, an officer can’t act until a second car shows up. (Small talked about her experience participating in a ride-along with the local police. She rode along on an evening shift with the Buffalo police, witnessed an arrest, a general welfare check, a domestic violence call, and more. According to small, the computer systems and cars are out of date and in disrepair. She said sufficient training can’t be carried out sometimes because of overtime rules.)
Infrastructure report cards score roads and bridges all across America as poor and failing. What can you tell us about efforts to improve infrastructure here in Western New York? I’ve worked a couple major projects relating to roads with the Parkside Community Association. I have worked with the city of Buffalo and the New York State department of transportation to make roadways safer for motorists, bikers, pedestrians, and residents. We have gotten into a really bad habit where we only get to work on our infrastructure when it’s failing and totally broken. It ends up being more expensive, in addition to the danger we put people in, when we put off needed repairs for too long.
Syrian refugees have been moving into Buffalo over the last few years. Do you support this? What has WNY done to help them adjust to their new home? We think we need to support out new neighbors from Syria. I don’t work closely with the city and with the county on this, so I’m not aware of the specifics on programs. But I do know we have to do more. There are people coming in and they need a safety net. We should welcome them in and help them access job training, quality public schools, and other essential services.
Any other comments you would like to add? My opponent Dais the most important thing for him was to maintain Republican control of the Senate. I was really upset with that, because I’m running to make things better for our community. Legislation to help victims of Domestic Violence, legislation to help victims of child sexual violence, we need to do more. I’m proud to have received the endorsement from TransPAC and Stonewall Democrats. When TransPAC endorsed me, they said they were proud to have my support but understood if I couldn’t share that endorsement publicly. I thought that was ridiculous and we created the Unity Pledge, that includes three elements. One, passage of GENDA – the GEnder Non-Discrimination Act. Two, ending the “gay panic” defense, in which victims of crimes can claim their fear an attacker was gay is still technically a legal defense in court. Last, we need to ban conversion therapy. Gay conversion therapy amounts to “torture”. I hope that after I gain the support of voters and get elected, I can work on all this legislation next year.