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The 35th District Council race: the Green Party's useful sideshow (new taxes, homeless focus)

I'll write later on the 35th Council District Democratic primary between incumbent Laurie Cumbo and challenger Ede Fox, but first, a note on the Green Party primary between Jabari Brisport and Scott Hutchins.

It's something of a sideshow--their presence in debates has distracted from the one-on-one challenge that should dominate discussion--but it has raised some useful issues that should expand the political debate. Brisport, a far more active and organized campaigner, likely will win and face the Democratic winner in the November election, but the Democrat will win that race, given registration patterns in the 35th.

New taxes, modular housing

It is intriguing and valuable that Brisport, an avowed socialist who works as an actor and tutor, has suggested both a flip tax on property transactions and a tax on vacant properties--two ideas that the Democrats should be considering (and assessing how much might be raised).

He's also suggested that affordable housing might be boosted by modular construction, which may ultimately be true, but disregards the high-profile modular debacle--in both cost and repairs needed--at the 461 Dean (aka B2) modular tower at Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park within the 35th. That doesn't sound too informed.

Transaction tax, homeless issue

Hutchins, a perennial candidate, supports Wall Street transaction tax to fund public transit--not sure about the target, but the tax itself has long been an idea worth discussing.

As someone living in a homeless shelter and working with Picture the Homeless, Hutchins is bringing attention to the many homeless people whose interests are not represented. Think about it: elected officials are usually asked to resist shelters. In a recent debate, Cumbo didn't do that, but did criticize the de Blasio administration for its lack of consultation in siting shelters.

That said, Fox has stressed the macro question, saying at one debate, "We need to get the city to pony up on permanently affordable housing instead of spending million on homeless shelters."

“The homeless shelters are a raw deal on everybody except the people who own them," Hutchins said at a recent debate. That's a sad, tough observation spoken with personal authority. All elected officials should be listening to that.

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