By Naeisha Rose
The Democratic candidates running City Council seats in the St. Albans and Jamaica districts came out swinging Tuesday night at the Majority Baptist Church in St. Albans.
Community Board 12 Chairwoman Adrienne Adams squared off against her two challengers, public defender Hettie Powell and Richard David, a public sector worker were at the forum. Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) and his opponent, retired Marine Anthony Rivers, also took part in the debate.
Throughout the night the candidates discussed overpolicing, charter schools, education, youth incarceration and a constitutional convention.
All of them wanted their potential constituents to vote no to a constitutional convention, which would allow lawmakers to amend or change the state’s constitution at a cost to taxpayers of $300 million, according to New Yorkers Against Corruption, a bipartisan coalition.
Each candidate said would destroy the savings of retirees and protections union members enjoy.
“I do not support a constitutional convention,” said Adams, who is running for the District 28 seat held by Ruben Wills, who went to jail on corruption charges last month. “I encourage everyone to vote no,” she said as the audience erupted into applause.
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When it came to community policing and youth incarceration, Powell had a slightly different approach in comparison to the other candidates.
The others wanted to expand upon a community officer program, demanded more diversity in the New York Police Department and praised the Right-to-Know Act, which forces officers to be explain why they are stopping someone.
Powell said her community needed more policing and that there should be programs to keep kids off the street and from going to prison in the first place. She also wanted more sensitivity training for police officers.
“They do not understand our culture and they want to arrest us for the least incident that may occur,” said Powell, a member of the 113 Precinct Council. “That is unconstitutional.”
Charter schools and education led to a more heated debate.
Most candidates were supportive of school choice, but were wary of charter schools and believed that the operation of such institutions should not come at the cost of public school funding.
Rivers even called them corrupt.
Adams pressed for more equity for public schools and touted her grassroots work in providing August Martin High School a library.
David, Adams’ other opponent, was outright against them and said there has always been school choice since the advent of religious and private schools, and neither had tried to siphon funding from public schools.
“It’s misleading when you say choice,” David said. “When you say I want to take money out of public schools, that’s different and that is why I’m opposed to the system.”
When asked about failing schools, Miller said District 27 did not fail this year and is making gains in the education front. He mentioned IS 192 and PS 176, which won competitions in robotics and coding.
Rivers disagreed on the progress of schools in the district and wanted parents to be more involved in children’s education.
“It’s not just the school, but the system is failing our children,” Rivers said. “If you don’t nurture [children] they will become socially inept.”
“We have to talk to the students, the parents, the teachers and the principals,” Rivers said.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose