Sporting a blue and white Barack Obama pin on the left side of his suit jacket, Joseph Marthone, a grassroots organizer for the president’s campaign last fall, borrows the world leader’s trademark word in pursuit of the 28th District seat in City Council.
Although the Queens County Democrats have already backed incumbent Tom White (D-South Ozone Park) for re-election, Marthone will not derail his campaign — not when he says change is the only solution to southeast Queens’ problems.
“Probably because they can feel the winds of change are coming, they rally around [White] even more,” Marthone said.
A community activist in Jamaica, Marthone says he has a vision for the district, and a “spiritual calling” to serve.
Like his other rivals not named White, Marthone calls the councilman “absent from the community.” But unlike other candidates, he says, he is not “playing games.” He’s not friends with White, the political leader he claims “profits off of others’ misery” from a lucrative post at his rehabilitation center, J-CAP.
Marthone also denounced fellow District 28 hopefuls Lynn Nunes and Robert Hogan, who could potentially fragment the anti-White vote.
Nunes, a 24-year-old newcomer to the political spectrum, is “playing games” with the public, according to Marthone, because he previously ran for Democratic district leader before entering the race for councilman. “We were supposed to back you then, when you were running for district leader,” Marthone said. “Now you say that was only to get your feet wet. Now you are running for councilman. Why should we believe you now?”
Hogan, an activist from Baisley Park, has said he will give half of his councilman’s salary to charity. Marthone took exception to that statement, saying “That just means you take your whole salary and do with it what you will.” Trying to up the ante, Marthone then said he would sponsor legislation to prevent the City Council from trying to give itself a raise.
As for White?
“The questions we need to ask ourselves: ‘Do we want better?’ and ‘Can we do better?’ ” Marthone said. “If the answer to either of those questions is ‘yes,’ at the very least, Tom White needs to be removed.”
“Green” is a buzzword Marthone supports, but he said everyone who supports creating environmentally sensitive jobs has to realize there are also downsides to the trendy movement.
“Green jobs also create job loss,” Marthone said, adding that technological advances and increases in efficiency will result in insufficiently trained workers losing their positions.
Marthone promises to invest councilmanic funds in continuing education and job retraining programs. He would work with corporations to fund those initiatives, too, trying to convince them they have a stake in helping citizens find work, steering them away from desperate acts of crime. In return for their investments, Marthone said their taxes would be lowered by reducing the expenditures needed to fight crime.
Marthone, an accountant by trade and a former auditor for the comptroller’s office, has a strong view when it comes to rooting out predatory lending and the bad mortgages that have brought widespread foreclosures.
“I want to see more auditors hired,” Marthone said. “I believe in the paper trail. Who made money?”
Someone benefited from handing out loans that homeowners could not pay, he said. Whether it was the appraiser, the real estate agent, the mortgage company or the underwriter, Marthone wants to find out which entities drove the foreclosure of so many homes.
After having lost two of his relatives to gun-related violence, Marthone’s perspective on the weapons’ regulation is absolute.
“No ifs, ands or buts about it,” Marthone said, “I don’t think our gun laws go far enough.”
Marthone admits some individuals are responsible enough to own a gun, but he wants those weapons to be secured. Every bullet should be tagged. And if a single bullet falls into the hands of someone other than the owner, and that bullet is used to commit a crime, Marthone wants the original owner to be penalized.
Gun shops should also be held accountable for where their weapons are ending up, and stores that cannot secure their arsenals, he added, should have their licenses taken away.
Marthone said the Panel for Educational Policy should report to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but he favors taking away the mayor’s majority of appointees.
“We live in a democracy,” Marthone said.
While that notion has been widely circulated by mayoral control’s opponents, along with bringing parents’ voices back into the fold, Marthone has one other radical idea for the PEP:
Give a student a seat on the board. Students, he says, have a better idea than anyone as to what the issues are within New York City’s schools.
That proposal goes along with Marthone’s idea of creating a “junior” council, which will report the youth community’s perspective on problems facing southeastern Queens.
“If we keep shoving our children to the side, not giving them a seat at the table —not even letting them come in the door — you know what happens?” Marthone said. “They will form their own table, their own code, their own language.”
To prevent the rusting of brains he said occurs during the summer months, Marthone proposes that students be invited back to the classroom before September.
All-inclusive summer school would be mainly utilized for teaching a second language — mainly Latin, which he said would help students learn root words. Classes would be offered two to three times a week after schools close in June, and if the idea was not accepted by the whole city, he hopes it would at least become a permanent part of the school curriculum in District 28.
Surveys would be administered, he said, to find out what subjects students want to be refreshed on during the summer. If the teacher’s union would not be open to bringing its members in for work during their off-period, Marthone would search for volunteers to run the classrooms.
“The goal will be that by the time a student graduates high school, they will be as multilingual as possible,” Marthone said.