In the special election for City Council District 24, Mujib Rahman is claiming status as the most conservative Democratic candidate. The Bangladeshi immigrant believes his focus on “faith and family” directly represent the views of the community and will earn him the elected position.
“There’s conservancy in my district,” he explained. “There are [candidates] who don’t like American [ideals] and a capitalistic society. I’m different.”
The Bangladesh Society of North America president, who has clocked in experience working in the Internal Revenue Service and as a Census supervisor, is now looking to tackle the role of elected official. The position became vacant after former Councilmember Rory Lancman resigned to begin a new post as special counsel for ratepayer protection with the Governor’s Office. The winning candidate will serve in the role until Dec. 31.
The Council bid is the second for Rahman, who ran against Lancman in the 2012 election. Lancman took home 73 percent of the votes, beating out Republican Alex Blishteyn with about 20 percent, leaving Rahman with 6.3 percent. In that race, Rahman ran on the “Family Values” line. Now, he’s running on the “Unity Party” ticket.
Here is where Rahman stands on three key issues.
Rahman described protecting the community as his No. 1 priority. The people of District 24 are vulnerable to attacks and muggings, he said, which can be reduced by supporting police.
“Defunding the police — it hurts my community,” Rahman said, commenting on the City Council’s decision to slash the 2021 NYPD budget by $1 billion in June. With calls to continue trimming law enforcement funding still raging throughout the city, Rahman promises to protect cop allotment.
In Rahman’s eyes, the anti-police protesters were successful in their fight for police accountability, especially after Mayor de Blasio signed Lancman’s chokehold ban into law in July. The local law, included in the NYPD Accountability Package, made the restraint and other uses of deadly force by an officer punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The maneuver, used on Eric Garner in 2014, was banned by the NYPD in 1993, but there was little repercussion for officers who still employed it.
“That gives us protection,” Rahman said, adding that because the police handbook contains a multitude of restrictions that keep officers in check there is no reason to introduce more regulations into law. “There’s plenty of rules there. Why should I bother for more?”
The role of law enforcement is to stop crime as or before it happens and to protect community members from becoming victims, the City Council hopeful said, but they will never be able to stop crime completely.
“The big issue is you need to change social behavior [through] good parenting ... If we can raise good children, we can stop crime,” Rahman said.
The key elements to deterring crime are a strong education, a positive environment and attentive guardians, he explained. Rahman disagrees with his fellow candidates that the problem of crime should be addressed by funneling more money into community programs, schools and living assistance — the problem has to be addressed with long-term behavioral changes.
“It’s cheap to just say, ‘OK, we will change. We just need more funding.’ It doesn’t help. It’s not the money, we have to change their behavior,” Rahman said. “[Good parenting] is the thing we have to establish in the long run ... We have to teach [children] to be honest.”
One of the major takeaways Rahman wants voters to remember is that he is a bona fide capitalist in an era of rising socialism. His stance on private development, specifically, reflects his free-market views.
“I’m for private development. Supply and demand,” he said.
Though growing at a slower rate than in past decades, New York City’s population is steadily rising, creating a greater need for housing. The government should not be involved in housing construction, he said.
However, Rahman does acknowledge that there should be a certain degree of restrictions on private developers to ensure that their housing projects provide public benefit. For example, he said that projects located near water borders should include publicly accessible waterfront spaces. Privatization should not equate to alienation, he explained.
Rahman said he supports affordable housing as well, as long as it is limited to those who need it the most and that it is not funded by the government.
“As long as no government taxpayer money is involved and it’s accessible for the public ... for those who are needy, that’s fine,” Rahman said before adding that he’s wary of those who don’t work that take advantage of affordable housing and government-sponsored programs in order to sail through life on the taxpayer’s dime.
“They should go to work,” he said. “That should be looked at, there should be stricter guidelines [for who qualifies].”
Rahman immigrated to the United States to pursue higher education and returned to Bangladesh after studying computer science at City College. It wasn’t long before he came back to the U.S. for the greater job opportunities. The academic advantages left a lasting impression on Rahman, who is a staunch supporter of an individual’s right to choose where he or she receives an education.
“I support charter schools — better education,” he said, adding that he is also a large supporter of private education because it provides families with the alternative to seek better schooling when public education fails. “Why do we have to go to bad schools?”
Rahman sends his own children to private schools and hopes to see more built in the district during his term if elected to amplify the accessibility of “better” education, which he believes is available to all New Yorkers. For those who can’t afford private education, specialized high schools are available and attainable. Because of that equal opportunity, Rahman doesn’t support funneling more funding into public schools, especially in a time when budget monies are limited.
“We have very hard times ahead of us. No one has money,” he said.
Money doesn’t make or break the success of schools, he continued. The key is the teachers, and Rahman said he’d support replacing “non-qualified” teachers to improve education in public schools.