Today we are pleased to present the MyRye.com Q&A with 37th District State Senate candidate Shelley B. Mayer. She is running against challenger Liviu B. Saimovici, MD in the November 3rd general election.
Your Name: Shelley B. Mayer
You are running for what position: New York State Senator, 37th District
Incumbent or challenger: Incumbent
Your political party: Democratic
MyRye.com: Why are you running for office again?
Mayer: We have faced – and will continue to face – many serious challenges, and local leadership and responsiveness matters more than ever. I pride myself on being an active and responsive leader who addresses individuals’ needs, gets important legislation passed that helps our district and its schools and governments, and pushes for policies that help our communities and serve all the residents of the 37th District. I am a pro-active, pragmatic legislator who fights hard for our residents and our community and all New Yorkers.
MyRye.com: Your office is nearby in Port Chester – George Latimer asked you to keep the same office he had when he was State Senator before he became county executive. How often do you get into Rye, and what draws you here?
Mayer: Before the pandemic, I was in my district office almost every day I was not in Albany, and come to Rye for everything from restaurants, hair salons, meeting with constituents and local officials. Now I have been working remotely some of the time but come to the office – and to Rye – regularly. (I love the street closure by the way.)
MyRye.com: In 2006, you made your first bid for public office, losing to incumbent Mike Spano in a New York State Assembly race. What did you learn or modify after that electoral loss as you went on to win your first race in 2012, succeeding Spano?
Mayer: My first loss to Mike Spano made me more resilient and a better listener, and provided me the opportunity to serve as Chief Counsel to the NYS Senate Democrats, where I learned so much about government and the legislative processes. (I also welcomed Spano when he changed party affiliation shortly after the election and continue to work closely with him.) When I ran and won for the Assembly in 2012 and the Senate in 2018, I built a network of diverse volunteers and ran a powerful grassroots campaign, which I have continued to do throughout my time in the Assembly and Senate.
MyRye.com: What are three ways a State Senator can bring specific benefits to the City of Rye?
- Senators can bring resources, necessary statutory changes as requested by the municipality, and policy changes that benefit the City of Rye and its residents. In my case, I successfully sponsored the bill to extend the City of Rye Occupancy Tax, to extend the hours of voting for school board elections based on issues raised in Rye, and sponsored the increase in county sales tax, resulting in additional revenue to the City of Rye. These were issues that benefited Rye residents.
- Secondly, I have allocated capital funds subject to my discretion to the City of Rye by moving a $400,000 grant for a new salt shed, as requested by the City Government. This reduces the burden on local tax payers by shifting a portion of capital costs to the state.
- As a Senator, I can proactively and with purpose respond to individual constituents’ needs and questions. For example, I have helped over 700 people in my district (many from Rye) with problems obtaining unemployment benefits during the COVID pandemic. I can also draw attention to wonderful institutions and resources in the City of Rye, such as the Jay Heritage Center and the Rye Nature Center. I sponsored events at both locations.
MyRye.com: Whether or not the State is able to help or not, what are the three biggest opportunities / challenges facing the City of Rye over the next 3-5 years?
- Many communities, like Rye, are struggling with erosion of tax revenues and a shrinking economy. Rye has done a great job in accommodating restaurants and businesses, but it will take some time to restore revenue, and prevent stores and other businesses from closing. We need federal relief targeted at the State and municipalities for necessary funding to survive the impact of COVID.
- We have to find ways to supplement the income of those laid off, ensuring they can remain in their homes and feed their families. Rye is not immune from these challenges and I will continue to advocate for these residents.
- Our region is facing increasingly strong storms that bring flooding and damaging winds. The City and NYS must build greater resilience in our infrastructure and within our utilities. I will continue to fight for improved performance by our utility and telecommunications providers.
MyRye.com: Rate from one (absolutely terrible) to ten (absolutely the best) how each of the following officials has handled the response to the global coronavirus pandemic:
- President Donald Trump – 1
- NIAID Director Anthony Fauci – 9
- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo – 9
- Westchester County Executive George Latimer – 9
- Rye Mayor Joshua Cohn – 9
- Rye City School District Superintendent Eric Byrne – 9
MyRye.com: You serve as Chair of the Senate Education Committee. What should a local school district like the Rye City School District (RCSD) expect from the State? Does the RCSD receive the funding it should from the State?
Mayer: The current Foundation Aid formula is not perfect, but it was established to improve on a deeply flawed system and to base funding on need, rather than politics. Unfortunately, NYS has not yet fulfilled its obligation to fully fund the aid that is owed. Much of the state’s school aid formula is based on property taxes, which remain too high throughout Westchester. Rye’s excellent school system benefits from these high taxes, but it is neither the fairest nor the most successful model for funding schools. I supported a permanent property tax cap as a means of reducing the upward pressure on these taxes, but this cap must be coupled with increased aid from NYS to ensure all districts have state resources to reduce pressure on property taxes without reducing the quality of the educational services and addressing educational equity.
MyRye.com: Education, infrastructure and many other programs face deep budget cuts from the State in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of your proposals is the “Share Act”. Explain this and other suggestions you have to mitigate these cuts.
Mayer: During this time of unprecedented health and economic challenges, my colleagues and I have first pushed for increased support from the federal government. It is also apparent that the financial burden of COVID-19 has fallen disproportionately on poor, middle income and working New Yorkers, including here in Westchester. In a time where shared sacrifice is needed, we will need additional revenue to provide essential services and that may include raising income taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers. I have proposed the “Share Act” legislation, which would temporarily increase taxes on those making more than $5 million a year to raise revenue for our public schools and colleges. I also strongly support full gaming for downstate casinos, like Empire Casino at Yonkers Raceway. We will need a variety of approaches to address this crisis, and I will work with my colleagues to find the tools to help us make it through this tough time.
MyRye.com: Not including Governor Cuomo, who are three current elected or appointed State officials who you admire and why?
- Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins – Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins has provided our Democratic conference and our state great leadership during very difficult times, with particular understanding of suburban communities.
- Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has provided straightforward information and a steady hand in the midst of great financial uncertainty.
- Attorney General Letitia James has provided clear messages about protecting workers and consumers.
MyRye.com: How much money have you raised for your campaign through October 2020?
Mayer: I have raised approximately $100,000 for this campaign.
MyRye.com: Tell us more about you:
What do you do on a typical Sunday at home?
Mayer: When I do not have government or community events, which I do on most weekend days, I enjoy spending time with my children and grandchildren who live some distance away, unfortunately!
What’s your favorite family takeout restaurant in or around Rye?
Mayer: We are fortunate to have many takeout options, and hate to say, but I am a Starbucks fan!
What is a recent series you enjoyed binge watching on a streaming service?
Mayer: Borgen (Danish political series – great!) on Netflix.
Thank you, Shelley!
Important links & official bio:
Campaign website: https://www.shelley4senate.com/
I was born and raised in Westchester County by parents who instilled in me the importance of public service and its potential to create meaningful change in people’s lives and in our communities. I began my career in private practice, then moved to public service, first as an Assistant Attorney General and then as Chief Counsel to the New York State Senate Democrats. In 2012 I was elected to serve as the New York State Assembly member for the 90th Assembly District. In April 2018, I won the Special Election to serve as the New York State Senator for the 37th Senate District, and I am now seeking re-election. I pride myself on being accessible to constituents, and I work hard to be visible and available. I am open to differing points of view, and very willing to talk with people of all different perspectives- I believe that’s a true Westchester value.
It is here in Westchester where my husband and I were happy to raise our three children. Westchester County has always been a place of opportunity, fairness, inclusion, and home to a diverse citizenry. As a lifelong resident of Westchester with decades of experience in public service and the private sector, I pride myself on having dedicated my career to making these values work for all of Westchester’s residents and families. In my role as Chief Counsel to the NYS Senate Democrats, I fought against domestic violence and expanded protections for survivors. I have served as Senior Counsel at the National State Attorney General Program at Columbia Law School, where I focused on health care and labor law rights. In the New York State Assembly, I delivered record school funding and secured critical reforms of large pharmaceutical companies to provide better tools to fight opioid abuse. Now as your State Senator, I continue to fight for the people of Westchester every day.
My time in the State Senate has been incredibly productive. I am proud that during my time in the Senate, we have passed historic legislation on issues such as Climate Change and the Environment, Social Justice, Voting Reform, Housing Reform, Ethics Reform, Gun Safety, Educational Reform (a lifelong passion of mine).
As Chair of the Senate Education Committee, I delivered record school funding for my district. I held multiple town halls and conducted a series of educational roundtables across New York to hear from stakeholders regarding the components and disbursement of Foundation Aid, and I will continue to work to achieve greater educational equity in New York State. Every child deserves a sound basic education, regardless of zip code.
We know the Republican party is determined to undo all the good work we have done these past 2 years. They seek to push forward the policies of this White House and will do everything they can to undermine New York State law. We cannot let that happen – there is simply too much at stake. The 37th Senatorial District needs a State Senator who is principled, committed to public service and has the experience to lead the fight. I am now serving as your State Senator. I know what’s important to Westchester residents, and I know how to get things done. With your support, I look forward to continuing to represent all the communities and families of the 37th Senatorial District.