Yesterday I was able to catch up with Jonathan Makeley, the Prohibition Party candidate for the 146th District New York State Assembly.
Q. Who is Jonathan Makeley and why is he running for NY State Assembly?
A. I am from the town of Angelica, New York and live in Amherst. I am an alumnus of Alfred University. I am a historian, with a focus on 19th century American reform movements. I am town historian of Angelica New York and a graduate student at the University At Buffalo. I am writer for the Odyssey online and the Independent Political Report. And I’m generally an intellectual and activist for human improvement. I am a committee member of the Prohibition National Committee, organizer for the Prohibition Party of New York, and as of January, acting as state chairman for the Prohibition Party in New York.
Q. Why the Prohibition Party?
A. I don’t fit the mold of the major parties. I am a political moralist, who thinks government policy should be based in moral principle, ethical service, and advancing the public well being. The Prohibition Party was built on promoting such principles and distinguishes itself as the only party that has the moral sensibility to stand up against the harm of alcohol.
Q. The Prohibition Party is trying to reinvigorate itself with younger members who will take over the mantle and march on, will you be one of them?
A. Yes. At 22, I’m one of the younger members, and plan on helping to move the party to greater future success. One of big things which I am working to help advance the party is the reestablishment of the state party organization in New York State. Me and other members have established the Prohibition Party of New York state group, are working to spread our message throughout New York, to recruit new members, to promote better policies in the state, and to establish a full state committee. Anyone whose interested in getting involved can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. As a member of the NY Assembly would you introduce legislation making it easier for third parties to participate in the political process and why?
A. Third parties are important part of our political system, which help to advance our politics beyond the limitations of the two major parties and allow for greater freedom of political activism. The state should work to establish a fairer system. Currently, the required number of signatures for an independent candidate or candidate of a party which doesn’t have state party recognition is often significantly larger than ones for candidates for state recognized parties. For instance, the independent nominating petition for state legislature is 3 times that of a Democratic or Republican candidate’ petition to ballot. This should be changed to a more equal and accessible standard. Then there is also the fact that the only way for a political party to gain the status of state recognition is to get a candidate on ballot for governor and get at least 50,000 votes. At which point the party gains state recognition for next 4 years. The state should create an addition alternative way for allowing minor parties to get state ballot access. Such as, perhaps that if the party can get enough voters to register with the party, or do what Vermont does, where there is a system for parties to organize at the town and county level, and after a certain number of local organizations are established, then a party can apply for state recognition.
Q. What can you do that Ray Walters can't?
A. Well I can say that I stand for promoting good government for the people, based in moral principle, ethical public service, and advancing the public welfare.
Ray Walters has on rather consistently voted in support of bills which weaken state restrictions and promote the growth of the alcohol industry. I don’t know whether he does so because he’s unaware of the negative effects of these policies, because he’s misguided, or if he just doesn’t care that much about the public wellbeing. But what I do know is that I aware of the problem and am committed to promoting policies to increase prevention efforts, expand reform and treatment efforts, increase restrictions on the alcohol industry, and ending state support for the alcohol industry.
I support improving public health and safety, improving the quality of education, making college more affordable, undertaking fiscal reforms to lower the burden of property taxes, passing the child victims act, advancing holistic economic policies, improving ballot access laws, and establishing stronger ethics laws.
Walter’s positions may be similar in certain aspects, such as support for the child victims act. Though overall, I would contend that my platform offers a bolder agenda for principled reform.
In addition, I offer a different type of background and perspective as an academic and public historian. Whereas, Ray Walter and the Democratic candidate Karen McMahon are both lawyers.
Q. What do you think of the job Gov. Cuomo has done and what could you do better?
A. I think that generally Governor Cuomo has done a rather poor job as governor. I object to and disagree with Governor Cuomo on several matters. Governor Cuomo is likely the worst governor on alcohol issues that this state has ha since Herbert Lehman. He and the state legislature have severely weakened state restrictions on alcohol, have given special tax breaks to the alcohol industry, and have used state agencies and resources to promote drinking and the growth of the alcohol industry.
His administration has been riddled with corruption and unethical behavior. Just earlier this year, one of his closes advisor was convicted of taking $300,000 in bribes.
He has been weak on matters of education. The state has been systemically underfunding many of its schools, especially in upstate New York, to the tune of billions of dollars, and he has failed to undertake serious reforms to address this. Likewise, the state is in need of reforms of improve the quality of education. He misleadingly portrays his excelsior program as having established free college in New York state. While it does provide some additional funding, to some, students, at some colleges, most college students still have to struggle with significant debt. I would support a significant expansion of the state Tuition Assistance Program, and other reforms to help make college more affordable. The state should move toward a system that allows students to have a reasonable opportunity to a debt free college education at any of the states publican private non-profit colleges, universities, and vocational schools.
He has failed to adequately adress the burden of property taxes in the state, and has instead opted to scapegoat and gut the autonomy of local governments. The state forces localities to pay for about 15% of the state budget, and thus effectively forces them to raise property taxes. I support reforming the state financial system to have the state take more responsibility for paying it own expanses and thus reduce the burden of property taxes. I support ending Cuomo’s forced consolidation policies and allowing local communities to decide whether consolidating services or not is in their best interests.
Cuomo’s economic development efforts have often been rather mediocre in their effects. The state needs a more holistic approach to economic development.
Q. Was Prohibition successful or not? Explain..
A. A strong temperance movement and strong public policies against alcohol can do much to help people. So long as the alcohol industry is allowed to openly operate with state sanction it will continue to facilitate drinking, promote it through marketing, corrupt public officials, and produce vast harm from the effects of its products. We need to treat the problem of alcohol as an issue of public health and wellbeing, and the state needs to take the stand of siding with the public wellbeing against the alcohol industry.
As to the historical instance of national prohibition. National prohibition was successful in the sense of vastly reducing drinking, helping many people to attain a sober living, weakening the power of the alcohol traffic, reducing crime and violence fueled by alcohol consumption, and helping to provide a better quality of life and greater opportunity for many people. Though, as historian D. Leigh Colvin ha pointed out, with the unprincipled Democratic and Republican parties left running the government, national prohibition wasn’t as well enforced as it could have been. And when the remnants of the alcohol industry were able align with a rich elite, media propagandists, and corrupt government officials, they were able to undermine national prohibition and repeal it. Though it is possible for us to rebuild and restrengthen the temperance and prohibition movement over time, and one day produce a stronger and lasting national prohibition. And in the meantime, there is plenty which can be done to advance stronger policies against the alcohol industry.
Q. Former NY Assembly speaker was just convicted of corruption again, does NY have a corruption problem and if so, how will you clean it up?
A. Yes, there is far too much corruption within the state government. I support passing stronger state ethics laws, more oversight for state operations which involve the apportion of significant amount of money, and stronger standards for appointed state officials against conflict of interest. Though if I were elected, I would still only be one legislator. It will take the majority of legislators in order to strengthen state ethics laws, and will take the activism of many citizens in order to nudge them in the right direction. It will also involve the election of more honest and ethical public officials, which will also take the activism of many New Yorkers. I hope that my candidacy will encourage other good people to run for office and inspire more New Yorkers to get active in promoting good policies and electing ethical candidates.
Q. As a younger person, you could bring different POV to the NY Assembly table, how does the Prohibition Party (you) appeal to the younger voters?
A. Well I see that an increasing number of younger voters are growing tired of the political status quo and are willing to consider alternatives. The Prohibition Party can offer them a positive alternative of ethical government for the people.
As to the perspective I would offer: As a historian, I have a certain understanding of our state’s past and past efforts to help improve society, which can help to inform efforts going forward.
I am someone who grew up in a small town in western New York and have tended to involve myself in various community groups and activities. Though the Makeley family has never been wealthy, my father worked hard to ensure that his children have a decent living and have the opportunities he didn’t. I was the first member of the extended Makeley family to directly attend and graduate from a university. My live has giving me an understanding of what’s its like in the Western New York region, of people who are striving to improve their lives and those of their children, and of those who are working to build a better future for their communities.
While I myself am a lifelong teetotaler, I have seen the harm which alcohol and other drugs have done to individuals, families, and communities. And unlike so many of the current legislators who are willing to ignore the issue and take the alcohol industry’s money, I will not ignore the issue, and I will not sit idly by while the alcohol industry poisons and kills the people of New York.
My campaign offers a numbers of things, which could appear to younger votes: improving the quality of education, making college more affordable, promoting a holistic economic approach which could help improve the ability of people to make a living in New York state, working to promote better public health and safety, promoting more prosperous communities, which they could live and raise families in, and other such things which can help build a better future for New York.
Q. How does it feel to be running for NY Assembly for the 3rd oldest political party in US history?
A. Well it’s interesting and exciting. I am glad that I can use the opportunity to help advance the party and speak on the issues I can about. Though it also challenging. This is the first time in decades that a Prohibition Party member had run for office in New York state. I have the challenge to collect the 1,500 signatures for an independent nominating petition to try to get on ballot. While the size of the task makes we think at times, ‘what did myself into’, I intent to try do as well as I can. And in the end, if I am able to help inspire more people to get active in promoting positive policies, and if my efforts can help the Prohibition Party grow in New York, I would say that my campaign was a success.
Makeley for Assembly FB Page
Prohibition Party Website