Councilman Andy King: Serving His Community

CMKING HS 220-311On November 17th, Councilman Andy King sat down with Bronx Chronicle staff Kathleen Canzoniero and I for an exclusive interview. The interview was far reaching with the Councilman being a very open and community minded individual.

Running for New York City Council against, then Councilman Larry Seabrook, King went on to be victorious in the 2012 election capturing just under 80% of the vote. As a community activist and as an activist for 1199/SEIU, he has dedicated himself to providing residents of his district and The Bronx with what they need. His wife, Neva Shillingford, is presently Executive Vice Chair of 1199/SEIU. Together as a power couple they are fighting for what all of the residents and working people of the 12th Council District, The Bronx, and of New York City need.

We talked about a wide range of issues, from his personal feelings as a man of faith to combating youth-on-youth violence to horse drawn carriages. When discussing youth-on-youth violence, Councilman King went into detail about the socioeconomic, community, and media roles that play into this issue. Councilman King explained that his role is to serve the people of the Bronx and to form policies based on what the needs are of each community. He stressed that all political bodies should work towards being inclusive as well as cooperate together in order to better serve the people.

Lewis H. Goldstein: What do you see as your main role as a city councilman?

Councilman Andy King: My main role as a council member is to be a voice for the people who elected me into office. Advocating and creating legislation via policy that helps all of New York’s communities is a major role of mine. In order for policies to work they need to have a direct impact on the everyday New Yorker. I diligently make sure I can do all I can to be a part of the successful endeavors of this class of council members. This includes being the best colleague, being professional, being the best friend, and being the best teammate for making sure that any agenda that is put together represents all of the New York. In the process of being fair, truthful, and respectful to the conversations I also stay within my convictions that got me elected into office.

Goldstein: There has been an increase in the number of youth-on-youth violence using guns and knives. What do you suggest we do to combat youth violence?

King: As a public servant and youth advocate, I say to our communities that this violence goes deeper than simply expecting this issue to be solved by elected officials. There is a society problem as to why violence prevails and it’s the flavor of choice when it comes to handling conflict. From the video games children play to movies, television, and internet contribute to negative influences by the violence they show. There is also the history of America and for us to ignore 2000 years of history in which there is violence is a disservice to ourselves. In society, when a youth of color is told that they are worth nothing, called derogatory names, and providing them with less of an education, the result is that the child is left without any options but violence. How many times can we as adults say, “You know what? I love you.”, how many 13 year old are told it is fine to say, “We are cool.”? We are not offering options to young people to make it acceptable to say these things. Not only that, but we are surrounded by a culture of consumerism which divides us and encourages violence through feeling that these products are needed. All of this is a cycle which leads into gun violence, drug dealing, and stealing in order to continue being on top of that consumer ladder.

We need to look at the roots of solving the issue where the child is taught to love themselves, that life has values, to respect others and life. If those values are taught then you put values on those important aspects. This conversation goes beyond local government. Ultimately, youth on youth violence is a whole host of things that deals with society, education, and community. Self-destruction leads to community destruction. Resources are needed on the front lines to improve the situation so that prevention is taken as priority instead of waiting until after something happens.

Goldstein: Do you support the proposed legislation that will require an NYPD office to ask for consent before searching an individual?

King: This is a difficult scenario since asking someone for their permission to search them in the middle of an on-scene investigation is not the best way to go about things. One of the ways we can address this is to make sure that the officers who violate public trust and police policy get prosecuted. We have not held officers accountable and the NYPD has become it’s own worse enemy by not holding it’s own officers accountable. Stop-question-frisk has become stop-and-frisk which is a violation of the NYPD’s own policy. Cops abusing people’s, especially the youth, privilege to be on the street breeds a discontent and mistrust of cops. I believe that if stop-question-frisk was followed, we would solve this conversation. All communities have been asking for is to hold police officers accountable and this issue has to be addressed within the NYPD.

Kathleen Canzoniero: What are your personal feelings on horse carriages? If there was a coalition to phase out horse drawn carriages in a way that would protect the drivers jobs, support tourism, and protect the horses, would you be a part of that?

King: In my statement over a year ago, I stated that while we are trying to be progressive I do not believe that something nostalgic should be thrown out completely. Horses have been a part of New York City culture and the experience of this city. How do you take something that has been a part of Mew York City and say that we are going to change it because it is considered bad now. 100 years ago no one was against horse carriages and only a few groups have said since 2009 that it is now a problem.

Regarding the horse drivers, it seems contradictory to abuse what is their bread and butter. You cannot get rid of an industry that has allowed workers to provide food and shelter for their families unless you can give them the ability to be provided for in the same way. Personally, I’m not at the stage where I believe we should shut down a whole industry.

Canzoniero: There was a recent report released by the NYPD on horse carriage related accidents and the 2007 audit by the city comptroller found that 42% of health certificates for horses had conflicting physical characteristics. What do you think should be done to solve these issues?

King: Discussing horse related accidents, I believe NYPD horses should be part of the discussion since they are in unsafe situations as well. There are many more vehicle related accidents when compared to horse carriage related accidents. These vehicle accidents are more of a priority that needs to be addressed. But, people who mismanage paper work, commit fraud, or abuse animals should be held accountable. There always needs to be a system of checks and balances within any industry. It also brings along the question of what agency is overseeing this industry. Many times the problem of accountability is due to not having enough inspectors to look into issues such as fraud or abuse. Checks and balances are in place to clean up this issue but it needs to be enforced.

Goldstein: As a man of faith, how do you separate your religious beliefs from your role as a member of the NYC council representing all life styles? 

King: As human beings we walk the line of hypocrisy. Speaking for myself, people elected me because of who I am and not my ideology. When it comes to my policies my faith does drive me and keeps me going everyday even when things get difficult. At the end of the day I am not going to be a council member forever and, as just Andy King, I am a man of faith which is something I will not deny. However, all of the legislation that I have put forward includes everyones needs and wants. Issues like employment, safety, and health are concerns of everyone regardless of faith. To improve life for people, we need to work together and form policies that are inclusive.

Canzoniero: The Animal Shelters and Sterilization Act passed in 2000 requires all boroughs to have a full service animal shelter, and in 2011 a bill was introduced by City Council (Int, No.655) to provide a bigger budget to the city’s animal welfare centers. Despite these moves forward, a shelter for the Bronx was ultimately nixed. How do you suggest we solve this problem?

King: As a society who loves their animals we deserve a full service animal shelter in the Bronx. I certainly support the Bronx getting an animal shelter. It is hypocritical to have dog parks or other legislation protecting animals but not a shelter to service them. This is another case of the Bronx being ignored. This is definitely something that should be looked into and figure out what needs to be done to get an animal shelter in the Bronx.

Goldstein: How do you view the progressive agenda since the November 4th election?

King: The President has accomplished so much in spite of all the roadblocks they put in front of him. Behind closed doors, everyone is still having conversations with the President even if no one admits that. I know that there are going to be certain conversations that are going to be had with elected officials. If we are going to have a real public debate, the adults in the room need to not be afraid to stand up. People need to make noise, whether they are in Washington or New York, so that we can understand what everyone’s needs are. The problem with the Democrats is that we have done a poor job at sticking together. The President needs our (the Delegates) help in order to properly help everyone in this country regardless of what their needs are.

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