WATCH: One-on-One with NYC Mayoral Candidate Dianne Morales
By Lynda Lopez, WCBS Newsradio 880
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — New Yorkers will have their first experience with ranked choice voting in the June 22nd Democratic primary.
City residents may rank their top five mayoral candidates and this week the Working Families Party chose their top three progressives: Scott Stringer, Dianne Morales and Maya Wiley — in that order.
“My campaign has actually been focused on centering and elevating the voices of some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers and I think that getting this sort of nod from the Working Families Party is an acknowledgment that we have actually been very effective in doing that,” Morales said. “My campaign is also a very non-traditional campaign and it was not expected to actually get this far, so I think that it’s a great affirmation and attestation to what we’ve done and I’m very proud of that.”
Morales helped open the Office of Youth Development while working at the city’s Department of Education from 2002 to 2004.
Since then, she led several non-profits that focused on youth development. Morales had been executive director of the Phipps Neighborhoods for a decade, helping families in low-income communities in the South Bronx overcome poverty, when she decided to run for mayor.
Her priorities include reforming the city housing authority, building affordable housing, and providing a guaranteed minimum income.
Morales, who spent decades leading local non-profits in low-income communities, fears the coronavirus pandemic is far from over.
In the wide-ranging interview, she told Lopez that her job as mayor would be to implement a more proactive approach to crises like the pandemic, noting the inequities in those suffering the most.
“I think it is true that COVID-19 just further exacerbated and exposed the pandemics of inequality and racism. We had for too long, from an investment perspective, focused on reacting on the backend rather than preventing things,” Morales said. “We should have paid people to stay home early on so that we could actually get the pandemic under control and people didn’t have to feel like they had to risk their lives in order to provide for their families, and we should’ve protected those people who we knew we needed to actually keep things going, both in terms of the PPE and prioritization in terms of vaccination. I still think those things are relevant today because I don’t think we’re in the clear from the COVID-19 pandemic at all, so I think that’s what we need to be focusing on.”
In terms of vaccine rollout, Morales said the city should look at prioritizing communities that have been hit the hardest and working to remove the barriers preventing access to technology and the portals to sign up for an appointment.
“It should be easy to access, there should be a combination of advance appointments and walk-in opportunities, there should be a mobile unit on your corner so you can access that,” Morales said.
Morales is running for mayor on a platform of slashing the NYPD budget by $3 billion and reallocating those funds to community-based organizations to address quality-of-life crimes.
If elected, Morales would be the city’s first Afro-Latino mayor and she notes the national reckoning on race is at the heart of campaign.
She said the calls for racial justice in the wake of the police shooting of Daunte Wright and killing of George Floyd is a priority.
“I’m so tired of marching for our lives,” Morales said. “And I think we need to be able to actually act in a whole different kind of way.”
Morales said the majority of cases that police respond to are not actual crimes in progress, but involve issues of mental health, housing and substance abuse and the response should be catered to address those needs.
“I’ve called for the creation of a Community First Responders Department that would instead be staffed by professionals or staff that are skilled and trained in intervention and de-escalation, and who would act as a part of a broader ecosystem of human service providers and community-based organizations to connect people to what they need,” Morales said. “Right now, we have someone with a mental health crisis, a man with a gun responds and the best case scenario, that person gets locked up overnight and released the next day back to the very same situation and in the worst case scenario they get shot and killed. My proposal is that we actually have trained professionals respond to that and then connect that person to services so that we can actually help improve their lives.”
Morales said her goal is to reclaim the definition of public safety.
“It’s not policing. Police don’t prevent crime, they respond to crime, and even then don’t do so necessarily well and we need to provide our communities with the resources that they really need to be safe. It’s housing, it’s jobs, it’s food and it’s health care. Those are the things that communities need,” Morales said.
She said her proposal is about divesting from police to invest in the people.
“Reallocating those funds to the types of services and programs that we know actually help to create increased security and comfort and dignity for people and in turn translate into safety,” Morales said. “Ultimately, I think we all benefit from that. Everybody wants to live in a safe community. If we’ve learned nothing over the course of the last 12 months it’s that my safety is linked to my neighbor’s safety.”
Hear comprehensive analysis of the top stories of the week and original reporting on The 880 Weekly Rewind hosted by Lynda Lopez Friday nights at 7 PM on WCBS-AM New York. Listen to this week’s full show, produced by Neil A. Carousso, on the media player above.