By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
Democrats in the 11th State Senate District have a real choice in the Thursday, Sept. 13, primary. The incumbent, Tony Avella, is the past. John Liu is the future. The Queens Tribune encourages voters to support John Liu, who will undoubtedly be a more powerful and respected voice in the state Senate chamber if Democrats take control, which seems increasingly likely in the current political atmosphere.
John Liu embodies the district. Immigrating to the United States from Taiwan as a child, he has grown up in the district and lived through all of its changes—good and bad.
“When I was a kid, there were parts of this district that as an Asian kid I would never dare venture,” Liu told the editorial board. “Now, none of this exists. It is a pretty wide-open neighborhood. It is generally welcoming to all.”
This change is in part from the work Liu has done. He has a consistent record of fighting to make his home a more fair and safer community, accepting of all people.
Another advantage Liu would bring to the state Senate is his impressive background in mathematical physics and work at PricewaterhouseCoopers. This expertise and intellect is badly needed in the chamber, especially since it has shaped Liu’s pragmatic progressive politics.
While most politicians speak in painful generalities about doing something, he lays out detailed plans on how to make it happen. He cares less about headlines and more about results, a trait sadly lacking in Albany.
One example is his push for a single-payer healthcare system—which he strongly supports—while thoughtfully outlining the financial hurdles that would have to be overcome.
“There is a big price tag to it. The assembly has passed this. But, even so, it may not be simple because now the Assembly may say, ‘Oh shoot. It may actually pass now.’ We have to be a little more mindful of the fiscal impact. But that is something I would fight for. We can clearly pay for it,” Liu told us.
“What it requires is an extension upward of the rates for the top income brackets. We are talking about very high income levels, but you know what? Trump already gave them a 2.6 percent rate reduction. You know what? We don’t even need an entire 2.6 percent increase on those top earners and we would still have enough to pay for single-payer health in New York State.”
Liu’s vision and ambition for a more fair New York City, and 11th District, extends further. He speaks passionately about reforming the city’s incredibly unjust property-tax system—which is controlled by lawmakers in Albany.
Successful reform of this system would result in a massive transfer of wealth, doing more to bridge the inequality gap in the city than anyone has in generations.
Most politicians shy away from tasks this complicated and ambitious. Liu’s take:
“We are talking about tens of billions of dollars. We need to figure out a way to reform property taxes overall to address the inequities….Overtime gives us this situation where houses in poor neighborhoods are assessed at much higher levels than houses in rich neighborhoods. That is something that is going to be a very difficult nut to crack, but I want to be a part of that.”
Another example of Liu’s thoughtful approach to his job is his stance on congestion pricing. While Avella opposes the idea outright, echoing the knee-jerk response of many of his constituents, Liu sees the positive impact legislation could have on the district if done thoughtfully—“if it improved subway service, and increased express bus service, including new lines, and increased accessibility to Long Island Rail Road service for city residents, specifically lower fares and more frequent stops.”
Instead of killing an idea because his constituents disliked the 35,000-foot view of it, he articulates all the positives that could come from a bill, presenting a new vision that would improve the lives of voters in his district.
Throughout his career, Avella has been an ardent fighter for the district, using persuasion and public shaming, and cutting deals where convenient to help the district get added resources. His approach has been effective to a point. He often picks easy battles, and he often wins them. His type of retail-level politics can be very appealing, but it comes at a cost.
Democrats in the state Senate are not shy in sharing their dislike for his combative approach, making it unlikely they will go the extra mile to help him deliver for his district.
For the next two years as well as the long-term future of the district’s prosperity, John Liu is clearly the better choice.