Etienne David Adorno pulls few punches when asked why voters should support him over Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) in the 38th District Democratic primary on Sept. 13.
“I’ve seen changes in the district, changes I’m not happy with,” Adorno said Friday in a meeting with the editorial board of the Queens Chronicle.
“And I also see that we have had a change in representation at the state level that isn’t really taking an active approach in terms of representing the district,” he said.
Adorno, 27, has lived in Woodhaven since he was 3. He is on a leave of absence for the campaign as a staff member to City Councilman Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan), and formerly served on the staff and then the congressional campaign of former assemblyman and Councilman Adam Clayton Powell IV.
He was appointed to Community Board 9 in March.
Adorno said even his mother was once opposed to his running for public office, but that many friends, neighbors and others in the community told him that he has far more drive and initiative than they have seen from Miller.
“I visited over 2,000 homes at one point and 14 people had heard of Mike Miller,” he claimed. “Eventually even my mom said, ‘I really think that maybe you should think about this.’”
Most of his more than 3,200 petition signatures survived a legal challenge from the Queens County Democratic Party, which has endorsed Miller.
Adorno said jobs, education and quality of life issues all are intertwined.
“In Queens we have a lack of jobs, 9.3 percent unemployment rate. In the state it’s 8.3,” he said. “A lot of stores on Jamaica Avenue are closed. I remember when I was a kid there was not a single vacant store on Jamaica Avenue.”
He said quality of life and public safety go hand-in-hand, using the example of two 17-year-olds who recently broke into his mother’s car.
“If they had something better to do with their time they might have something to engage them, someone showing them the right way,” he said. “Unfortunately that’s not always available, so instead they were hanging around with people who break into cars.”
Adorno said bills Miller has gotten passed, including one that would give peace officer status to Veterans Affairs officers, and pieces of a package of sex offender laws, underwhelm him.
“These bills have little or no consequence in the community he represents,” Adorno said. “We’re losing businesses. We’ve got tax issues.”
Adorno said graffiti is a major quality of life problem in the district, and that one of the first bills he would introduce would be to raise the minimum age for purchasing spray paint from 18 to 21, which he believes would make it harder for young people to get caught up in graffiti.
He would favor some version of a bill that would require guns manufactured in New York to have microstamping technology for bullet shell casings. He also would lobby the city’s Congressional delegation to press for more national gun control legislation.
Adorno said the recent allegations surrounding Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D-Brooklyn) and state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) are very troubling, as are published reports that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) authorized a $103,000 settlement for women who allege Lopez sexually harassed them.
He said the payment could cost Silver his vote for speaker, pending the outcome of an investigation.
“If you ask me today, the answer is no,” Adorno said when asked if he would back Silver for the post. “Ask me tomorrow, I don’t know. The fact is that we have a speaker who endorsed a tax-funded payment for something that was not the fault of the taxpayers.”
Adorno called Huntley’s arrest for corruption “a classic case of why the governor wanted to cut discretionary member items.”
And he believes those cases could doom any idea legislators have of giving themselves pay raises.
“This isn’t a job — it’s a calling,” he said.. “If you’re treating it like a job, you should get out.”
Adorno said education funding can be improved by making sure the city — the largest contributor of lottery revenue in the state — gets back a proportional amount of lottery appropriations.
Adorno admits to being on the fence about mayoral control of schools, and likes the idea of charter schools but not the fact that in some cases they are hurting nearby public institutions.
And he opposed Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts last year to close, restructure and reopen more than 20 troubled schools.
“If you think by changing administrators that things are going to change, remember you still have mostly the same kids, the same neighborhoods and the same issues,” he said.
Adorno favors rebuilding the old Rockaway Long Island Rail Road line and the addition of table games at the Aqueduct Racino, though he wants the gambling age lifted to 21.
He opposes Gov. Cuomo’s Tier 6 pension reforms, but also believes government employees should not be allowed to pad their pensions above base salaries in their final years of employment.
He believes an increase in the minimum wage must be carefully studied for its impact on business.
Calling Queens the most ethnically diverse county in the world he eschews the label of the “Latino candidate.”
“Spanish was not my first language,” he said. “I learned it growing up.”
But he does admit to speaking it better than Mayor Bloomberg.
“Oh, without a doubt!”