Gov. Hochul on Her First Year
Brian Lehrer: It's the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC. Good morning, everyone. Coming up on today's show, we'll dig into the details of President Biden's student debt forgiveness announcement and take your calls about both his policy and how it affects you. For Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, who covers the economics of higher education for The Washington Post, she'll be our second guest today. Also, what you need to know about polio now that it's been found in more parts of our area after many years during which it had been considered eradicated in this country. Congratulations, anti-vaxxers, you can add this to your resume.
We'll continue our week of calling for teachers and other educators as a new school year dawns, today it's for school librarians. What are kids reading and is anyone trying to ban books that have been on your shelves or that might wind up on your shelves? That's coming up later in the show. First, I am very pleased to say Governor Kathy Hochul joins us now. It was exactly a year ago yesterday that Hochul was sworn in after Andrew Cuomo left office as governor of New York amid those multiple scandals and investigations. Now Hochul is running to be elected to the job, so we will look back and look forward at her one-year mark. Governor, we always appreciate it when you come on the show. Welcome back to WNYC.
Governor Kathy Hochul: Brian, thank you very much. Happy to be back, looking forward to a great conversation.
Brian Lehrer: Listeners, Governor Hochul will once again do something that Governor Cuomo never agreed to do in his 12 years in office. Though he came on the show frequently, he never took any questions from you, not just from me. I know we'll get a lot more calls and we'll have time for, so make it a good one if you want to get picked. If you call with a really substantive policy question for Governor Hochul, you'll be more likely to get on. 212-433-WNYC, 212-433-9692, or you can tweet a question or watch our Twitter feed @BrianLehrer for good questions here.
Governor, looking back first, did you feel on day one that you had to restore the credibility of Government in any way in a general sense, or was it just like, "Well, Governor Cuomo's gone, now I have to run the state?"
Governor Kathy Hochul: No. There was also this sense of responsibility, Brian, to restore people's faith in Government. Everybody had been watching what was unfolding and it shook people's confidence. I had to immediately show that I had the experience from a lifetime of public service and knowledge of the issues. I've traveled the state more than anyone, so I think the most important thing, Brian, was just to walk in that door and establish that I have what it took to govern the state. I would govern very differently and change the culture and change the ethics of what we inherited and that's been part of what our focus has been from the very first day, and that's where we've been most successful.
Brian Lehrer: Are there a few things you're most proud of in this past year, and are there any policy choices that you've made that you think might have gone differently if Governor Cuomo had still been in office?
Governor Kathy Hochul: Well, I don't know if I need to look back. I'll let everybody else analyze that, but here's what I've done is, first of all, I had to meet the moment when major crises happened. Let's just look back as recently as June when the Supreme Court took away a woman's right to make decisions about her body on abortion and put us in a situation that is extremely polarizing nationwide. I had to calm down everyone in New York and say, "No, we've got this. You have a woman governor. This is deeply personal to me and to my daughter and my new granddaughter."
What we did was made sure we had over $35 million to go out to our providers because, Brian, what we're seeing already with western New York, three hours from Ohio, people are flooding into our provider's offices, so I had to beef them up. I also had to put in protections for our providers so they don't end up being extradited to a place like Texas. I had to make a lot of changes. I talked about meeting the moment also on guns. I mean, 108 years, the governor of New York was able to protect her citizens from someone carrying a concealed weapon in subways, in schools, and houses of worship and the Supreme Court took that away from us. I had a spring in action again, meeting the moment, convening the legislature.
Literally, I just convened a meeting of my team half an hour ago to talk about the changes we're making and they are profound. We're getting the information out about how we're going to continue to protect New York, so I would say we've had a lot of challenges, but it's how you respond with confidence, with the sense that we've got this and we know what we're doing. That's what people needed to hear and see in the state and that's what we've accomplished over just the last year.
Brian Lehrer: You mentioned being the first woman governor of New York, a lot of people care deeply about that milestone and care about equal representation in government in general, I don't have to tell you. 51% of the population isn't dependent on people who don't have their lived experience to make policy that affects them. Is there anything you think specifically that you as a woman have brought to New York State policy that Governor Cuomo or any man might not have, even if they're Democrats who share your core values on the things you just mentioned, like abortion rights and guns?
Governor Kathy Hochul: Well, Brian, you hit on the keywords, it's lived experiences. I've spent my entire life working to help elected officials most of them have always been men since I was a teenager working to elect people when I was a young activist. It's a rarity to have women in these positions and I'm very aware of that, but I also said on my first day I'm not here to make history, I'm here to make a difference and what I can do and have done is show how women govern differently, something that no other person has even approached and talking about how I can govern with the same strength and the toughness required to run a state as rough and tumble as New York truly is, the politics and the government.
Also, what I bring is a sense of compassion and empathy when I'm going out to settings where people-- If I had to endure extreme tragedy. Whether it was consoling people after the subway shooting in Brooklyn or going up to Buffalo after the massacre there and grocery store a few minutes from my home. What we bring also is strength, but also a perspective also from the point of view of a mother who has to sit there and figure out how she can afford to fill up her kids' backpack in the next week.
I mean, I lived that experience. That is a perspective that we've not had before, it's one that I use every single day. Lastly, what I would say is I didn't expect this at first, but what it means to other people. When I walk around farmer's markets, I go down a Union Square, I walk around Brooklyn, I stop places, and not just moms but fathers come up to me with their little girls and say to their daughters like, "Look, nothing can stop you now. This woman is our governor, a woman governor."
Even at the state fair in Syracuse yesterday people just wanted to touch my hand and seem to have their little kids see that there's nothing they can't do now. That's a powerful takeaway that I certainly didn't anticipate a year ago, but to the extent that it lets women know there are no barriers and I want to make sure that after I'm finished being governor that no one will ever question the ability of a woman to do this job. I want the door swung wide open.
Brian Lehrer: Those are some things that you've done. I want to ask you about one thing that you apparently haven't decided whether to do yet and then I see a caller has another question about something you apparently haven't decided to do yet. My question is about the bill for significant reductions in class size which many education advocates support. As you know but Mayor Adams proposes as an unfunded mandate that will force other education cuts he says. When it officially arrives on your desk, will you sign or veto the class size bill?
Governor Kathy Hochul: I'm looking closely at it. I am inclined to be supportive. I just have to work out a few more details with the mayor. I spoke to him about it yesterday, but I think it's something we want to give people this assurance that it's an important priority of mine, that we take care of our children and give them the best environmental educational experience ever because, Brian, they've been through so much and it's going to take us a long time to get back to where we were before the pandemic in terms of people feeling good about being a classroom, the teachers, the stress they've been under, and making sure that we start making up for two lost years.
When we learned the experiment of remote learning as much as people thought it was the only option at the time, as I'm putting together the playbook for our post-pandemic analysis, number one, is going to be we don't do remote learning. We have to figure out a way to keep these kids connected to a stable environment, and that's often their schools. I'm not going to say what I'm going to do right now, but I can tell you it's something I'm very interested in, and just working out some very final details in the next couple of days.
Brian Lehrer: When you say final details, does that mean the bill might go back to the legislature for some revisions?
Governor Kathy Hochul: Brian, what I always want to reserve the right to do before I sign a bill or veto a bill is to look at whether or not there's something called chapter amendments. That doesn't mean simply to sending it back to the legislature. You basically put it into effect, but there might be something about a funding source or a responsibility that's on the shoulders of the state right now. I have to make sure I'm protecting the state taxpayers as well. There are some loose ends, but philosophically, it's something I'm supporting.
Brian Lehrer: Can you say specifically at all what one of those important details is that's giving you pause?
Governor Kathy Hochul: Funding sources is one. I would say that, leave it to us in the next couple of days, this will be resolved. This is how I operate, Brian, I solve problems and work with the legislature to achieve our collective goals, but also, when we don't agree on something and I'm not saying this isn't that category, but I also have governed differently in terms of even our budget process, where it's not about scoring points in the headlines and saying that someone they had a submit to my position and I push them around.
I've been much more successful in working out details behind the scenes, whether it's with the legislature working things out with the mayor of New York, other mayors upstate, as well as the governor of New Jersey. Just a different approach to governing but the end result is better outcomes for New Yorkers, and that's what I'm focused on.
Brian Lehrer: All right, and here's Eric in Manhattan calling in who wants to ask you about another piece of legislation that's awaiting your signature or veto. Eric, you're on WNYC with Governor Hochul.
Eric Weltman: My name is Eric Weltman. I'm an Organizer with Food & Water Watch. Governor Hochul, there's a lot to be done next year to combat climate change, including promoting all electric buildings and public [unintelligible 00:11:21] power, but there's something you can do right now, Governor Hochul, to strike a blow against fracked gas and climate change, that's put a halt to Bitcoin mining powered by fossil fuels. Recently, Governor Hochul, your Department of Environmental Conservation denied the air quality permit for the Grinch plant which is burning fracked gas for Bitcoin mining and the Fingerlakes and we thank you, Governor Hochul.
The next step you can take right now is sign the bill passed by the legislature in June, putting a two-year pause and similar kinds of fossil fuel-powered crypto mining that promotes fracking and that increases greenhouse gas emissions, putting at risk a possibility of meeting our climate goals. Governor Hochul, [inaudible 00:12:08]
Brian Lehrer: I'm going to leave it--
Eric: -signing the bill.
Brian Lehrer: Thank you. Will you sign or veto that bill, Governor, from the crypto mining moratorium?
Governor Kathy Hochul: Eric, and I appreciate Eric's passion because I've been an environmentalist since I grew up in a toxic dump, basically, on the shoreline of Lake Erie where we swam in polluted water, and the skies were not blue, but they were orange. I've been an environmental since I was a child, it's a matter of life and death. I will never back down in our commitments to ensuring that we are nation-leading in our investments and protecting our environment. Yes, that's one of the reasons why our DEC did deny that permit that had been very controversial.
What I will do and again, I'm going to reserve the right I had over 1007 bills passed, record number of bills passed put on my desk at the end of June. At the same time, I was dealing with Supreme Court decisions, which were taking up a lot of time and now dealing with the gun safety crisis. If we will get to it, I have to focus on some other issues at this moment, but I think people know my commitment.
I'm going to ask Eric and others and all your listeners, Brian, if you can help us do something that is going to be profoundly important for the protection of our environment and building resiliency and that is support for our $4.2 billion Bond Act which is on the ballot this November is our clean water, clean air, green jobs Environmental Bond Act. We get that money that coupled with our $500 million we're putting an offshore wind and the first electrified school bus system and our money for the Environmental Protection Fund. No one can touch our record on the environment and I'll just say that to Eric, don't worry about my commitment.
Brian Lehrer: Well, on this decision that you have to make about the moratorium on certain kinds of crypto mining, a few people contact for being in advance of our conversation today about this issue. As boning up on it this morning and here's a little bit from an article in June in the Seneca Lake guardian in the Finger Lakes. It says Governor Hochul reported a $40,000 campaign donation from Ashton Soniat if I'm saying that name right, Chairman and CEO of Coinmint, which operates one of the world's largest crypto mining facilities in Messina New York.
She also reported $78,000 in donations from Albany lobbying firm Ostroff associates and its partners which count crypto minor block fusion as a client. Says these donations were made as advocates and local business owners are putting pressure on Governor Hochul to deny Greenidge Generations air permit renewal and put a moratorium on crypto mining because of its detrimental effects on the climate. What do you say to the implications there that the crypto industry is buying your support, or at least your hesitation? Can you be specific about this bill to on what's keeping you on the fence?
Governor Kathy Hochul: Well, Brian, I am not on the fence right now I'm analyzing 1000 bills as we speak, and many of them are time-sensitive. I have priorities I have to address. This moratorium came up at the end of session, we didn't have a lot of time to work through it with our normal process so the issues that came up at the very end of the legislature are in a different category than those that have to be dealt with in a timely basis. No one can read into which way I'm going to go on a bill based on on that.
In fact, the fact that the information you're reading indicates that we denied the permit so I'm not sure how they can infer that there's any influence when we actually did the opposite. Also, people need to know this about me, Brian, I've been an elected official for decades and I've always done the right thing, follow the rules on transparency. There's never been a connection between any contribution and a decision made. In effect, as you just did, you just made the opposite argument that it obviously has no impact on my decision.
Brian Lehrer: Because that particular item mentioned in that June article, the Greenidge Generation air permit renewal, you denied that?
Governor Kathy Hochul: Yes, we did, so case closed.
Brian: Right. On that one, at least, and you will see what happens with the crypto moratorium.
Governor Kathy Hochul: Brian, I guarantee we will get to 1007 bills between the end of June when we, again, we are how to deal with the aftermath of horrific decisions on the Supreme Court. I had to take action, had to call the legislature back. We have been extremely focused on the immediacy of these issues, but not taking your eye off the importance of protecting the environment. Again, I need your listeners to help us get that bond act over the finish line.
Brian Lehrer: All right. Now you're running for election to a full term against Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin from eastern Long Island and let me ask you about some of your positions on the issues as compared to his. One of them relates in a way to what we were just talking about, one of Congressman Zeldin's core messages is that people are leaving New York because of crime and the cost of living. He will fight that in various ways he says. For example, he's running on lifting the statewide ban on fracking for natural gas in the state that Governor Cuomo imposed a few years ago.
Zeldin says lifting the ban would create jobs in some communities that should be able to decide for themselves if they want fracking there. It would also help bring down inflation because the supply of energy would go up. What's your position?
Governor Kathy Hochul: That idea is dead on arrival. No way are we going to go backwards to our commitment to protect the environment. This, just as another example of how Lee Zeldin is [unintelligible 00:18:04] out of touch with New York values, but also how extreme and dangerous would be to have someone who is willing to just turn back all the progress you've made to protect our planet and protect the people of our state going forward. We're not going there, Brian, and I think that's a great reminder of the real contrast between us, whether it's the right to an abortion, which I support, fully support, and he opposes.
In fact, he said that he would bring on a pro-life health commissioner, you know how scary that is? Posing all of our sensible gun legislation that people want us to do more nationwide, they want us to do more. He opposes even the red flag bill, which his owns county of Suffolk County is number one in the state because we changed the laws told them to get out and fraud before someone commits a crime or kill somebody with a gun that they shouldn't have. He opposes even that. I think the voters are going to be smart about this. They know what they want, and it certainly will not be Lee Zeldin as their governor.
Brian Lehrer: On appointing a pro-life health commissioner in New York State, which he was seen on tape saying he would do that was before Jobs was overturned and the Roe was overturned and the politics changed on him. He then said that it won't matter what his position on abortion is because New York is such a pro-choice state that nothing will change here. As you see it, what could change in terms of abortion rights if Zeldin is elected governor? For example, what power would a health commissioner have on their own to restrict access?
Governor Kathy Hochul: Well, that's a great question, Brian, because he's trying to have it both ways here like they I don't support a woman's right to choose I think even in the case of rape or incest, that you should still have government-mandated pregnancies even for a 13-year-old or a 12-year-old, that's appalling to me as a woman and as a mother. I'll just put that out there. That's offensive. For him to say, "Well, don't worry. We're in The State of New York." The reason people in The State of New York don't have to worry is because I'm the governor and he's not.
If he became the governor, I don't know what rules he would be trying to use as executive orders, the authority he would have there. Also, look at what I did immediately. I was able to secure $35 million from our commissioner of health fund to give out to providers, you have a pro-life commissioner, you think they're going to help us provide funding to support our providers.
I'm sure he would legally challenge our ability to stop the extradition of our healthcare providers from being charged with even murder and facing the death penalty. That's how serious this is. I know New Yorkers know that, but the reason he can say he feels safe in New York is because I'm the governor and he's not.
Brian Lehrer: Also on the cost of living and inflation. Congressman Zelton said on Monday, "I believe we need to cut income taxes across the board. I believe the estate tax should be eliminated. We need to put together a package that would be the largest tax cut in the history of the State." That's a quote. Do you think it's time to eliminate the estate tax and cut the State income tax across the board?
Governor Kathy Hochul: We are managing our finances just fine. We did not raise taxes, but also I know people in The State of New York better than anybody and what they want is a good quality of life. They want us to take care of programs. They want us to have a first-rate infrastructure systems so they can get to their jobs easily, especially in the metropolitan area. They want us to have investments in childcare. We put $7 billion to help struggling families take care of their kids, record investment in education, in our budget.
No one has done that before. Also, our healthcare system brought to its knees. We've been able to stabilize this and bring it back, but we did have middle-class tax cuts already. We suspended the gasoline tax. We had property tax rebates. In fact, we were able to give so much for education, that school districts on long island, which has a high tax burden, where he's from that they were able to actually cut their school taxes because of support from the State. I'm cognizant of the role that taxes play and how important it is for us to strike the right balance.
We'll keep on doing what we're doing. Also, Brian, I had to put aside money for a rainy day and that's, I'm proud of that because our projections last January, we did our budget, we're more optimistic based on our receipts, but a lot of it was federal government money that we got from the Democrats. Again, thank you, Joe Biden. Thank you, Chuck Schumer. Thank you, Nancy Pelosi, for making sure that in the State, we were stabilized after the pandemic, but you can't count on that the next year. We had to put aside money for reserve. We're managing our finances just fine without his advice.
Brian Lehrer: Well, the budget you signed this year is around $220 billion. The State of Florida's budget is 110 billion. Just about exactly half what New York taxpayers spend in a state with around the same population as New York and people are leaving New York. The population of Florida is growing. We saw that in the 2020 census, we lost a house seat. They gained a House seat as a result. Can you argue that New Yorkers get $110 billion more value for their tax dollars than people in Florida do? Or that the current tax rates have nothing to do with people leaving here for there?
Governor Kathy Hochul: Do you know anybody who in Florida who put their kids in a public school down there? Our systems, our healthcare systems, our support systems, our second to none. We're proud of that. We're proud of that. New York has so much more to offer in terms of quality of life and how we take care of people. We also do support people who are part of our history part of our DNA.
I want people who have been successful to know that we appreciate what they've done, stay here. These are the people who support our philanthropies, our social causes so many areas where I want them to know that if they stay here, they'll be part of the greatest comeback this state has ever seen. That's what we're about to preside over now, we're making real changes.
What I'm excited about, Brian, is the number of young people, fleeing places like Silicon Valley in search of good tech jobs. That's why we have a crisis and I'll deal with this in our budget, but also a crisis of availability of rental units, because everybody now wants to live in this state and particularly New York city. I think we're going to see a very different number in about a year or so when those numbers are added to our population numbers. It's a transformation that none of us could have foreseen and it is positive.
Brian Lehrer: Marilyn in the Bronx. You're on WNYC with Governor Hochul. Hi, Marilyn?
Marilyn: Hello. How are you? Hello, Governor Hochul, how are you?
Governor Kathy Hochul: I'm doing great. Marilyn, how are things in the Bronx?
Marilyn: [inaudible 00:25:07] with this overdose crisis. You have really done some taking some positive steps on the overdose crisis by signing long overdue bills and thank you. There is still one issue that we are calling on you to take action for, The International Overdose Awareness Day. We are losing a New Yorker to preventable overdose every 90 minutes across New York State. On point, the nation's first overdose prevention center have reversed 415 overdoses since they opened November 30th. Will you authorize OPC statewide so we can expand these life-saving sites and save more lives?
Governor Kathy Hochul: Marilyn, we know that some of these programs are working and I'll tell you why. This is such a personal issue to me. Just a few years ago, we lost my nephew to an overdose and it was the fentanyl. He was a young man with a great life and promising and was prescribed prescription drugs when he had a workplace injury as a teenager and developed an addiction.
I was chair of these statewide heroin opioid task force. We limited how much the dosages that you could prescribe if you're a doctor so we could stop the overdosing that was going on starting with legal prescriptions, as well as making sure that we help our providers. I've been to more ribbon cuttings of treatment centers than anybody in The State of New York. Maryland, we are in sync on our objectives here. I'm really happy to look into, it's about saving lives. We have to continue saving lives in all the ways we can.
I'm looking at all of our options and if we want to put a spotlight on it for International Overdose Awareness Day, count me in, because I will use my position as the governor of New York to remind people we're losing more people to overdoses now, partly because of the stress of the pandemic, where people are isolated, they were disconnected from their treatment.
That's why I supported telehealth services so people could talk to their therapist or get a prescription and get their substance abuse provider, helping them get through some really tough times all while they don't have to go into an office. That's one of the positive benefits. If there's anything you can say positive about the pandemic, the ability to get telehealth services and remote health should really help lift people up, but we're not there yet, Marilyn. We have a lot of work to do, and you can count me in.
Brian Lehrer: On that issue too, you know that Governor Newsom of California was in the news this week for vetoing a bill to create safe injection sites in California, New York city, as you know, has such sites, Marilyn just referred to them. It's been reported that they've so far intervened in hundreds of overdoses without any deaths. They see it as a way to ease people toward rehab, not to enable addiction.
I understand that you could authorize a pilot program without a bill passing also that there is a bill making its way through the legislature. It hasn't passed at this point. Do you have any plans to authorize a pilot program to support this model? If the legislature were to pass a bill for a statewide program, would you veto it as governor Newsom did?
Governor Kathy Hochul: No. Brian, here's what I do. Just, I want everyone to know how I operate. First of all, that is a decision left to the cities at this time. That is how it's working very well. The city decides the neighborhoods to go in where the need is highest. What we do is we support our local governments to provide services and provide all kinds of programming.
I've increased the funding to go toward the locals who make these decisions about what they want in their communities. I also do not Telegraph how I'm going to vote on a bill that isn't even passed yet. I work with the legislature. I don't get out front of issues because I find I can be much more successful. When it comes down to negotiating and looking at the data, I'm very data-driven in everything I do let's look at the success, let's see what there's, you know, what's behind this.
I'm not going to come out and say one way or the other on this one because I need to know more, but also let's see what the legislature does in the next session, but I am committed to continuing to save lives every way we can because this is a crisis, it is an absolute crisis that, again, I was touched personally, thousands of New Yorkers have been all touched personally by this and that's why I'm so committed.
Brian Lehrer: Karen in Bethpage. You're on WNYC with Governor Hochul. Hi, Karen.
Karen: Hi there. I really appreciate your taking questions, Governor Hochul, it's a great change. Thank you.
Governor Kathy Hochul: Thanks, Karen.
Karen: Yes. I wanted to ask about the draft five-year strategic plan that the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities has submitted. There's been a crisis in housing and services that has gone on for years because of underfunding if the system is basically gutted and the proposals in the plan are very meager. They're very vague. There's almost no data analysis in it. They don't address the emergencies and the funding sources for almost all of them is the federal American rescue plan act of 2021. My question is what commitments can you make to restore that system of services over the next five years with the executive budget?
Governor Kathy Hochul: Well, Karen, you should know that we have shifted the priorities of our administration to focus on people with disabilities. In fact, first time ever in our state I've appointed a chief disability officer, an individual who has been spending her life overcoming disabilities. Personally, she's a model for others, and she has worked with us because I said, first of all, there's many facets but I said, I want New York State to be a model government, the model employer, let's incubate a lot of great ideas than how we can make the workplace more accommodating.
Housing, I have a 25 billion housing plan part of which is to go for supportive housing for people with disabilities. Also, I'm focusing on our employers to just do more hiring and to see the true value that can be brought by a dedicated workforce where the unemployment rate today is far too high. I'm committed to our programs through our office of people with disabilities.
We have also the chief disability officer. There they see change in terms of where the priorities of an administration lie because this has not been focused on in my entire time in office before my Orth in office. Also, we have a commissioner who's out there listening to all the advocates to make sure that our next budget, when we put together our plans, actually reflects what the people in the community are looking for. That's how we govern differently.
Brian Lehrer: Thank you, Karen. Governor, on crime, Congressman Zeldin is running in part on allowing judges to keep defendants behind bars based on how the judge assesses their dangerousness to public safety. Mayor Eric Adams, you're a democratic ally in New York City on many things, also wants a dangerousness standard, especially with recidivism so high, people committing more crimes after their release. Zeldin says you're too much a captive to the political left in this state, which wants bail reform left as it is. Your response.
Governor Kathy Hochul: Now, I don't really pay attention to his analysis of what I do but aside from that, I will say that keeping New Yorkers safe is my number one job, has been, always will be. That's what keeps me up at night and if people don't feel safe on the streets or in the subways then that's something I take personally. We did make targeted changes, very specific changes to the bail reforms that had been instituted back in 2019, but that's part of a comprehensive plan to protect public safety.
What we had to do, Brian, was close loopholes that were in place to let repeat offenders go back out on the streets or cases that involved guns or hate crimes. None of them were bail eligible, meaning that there would be a case where a judge would simply send them back but we also is on this question of dangerousness that you raised. Dangerousness can be very subjective. This is what we've learned. Someone walks into a judge and sometimes dangerousness is determined by the color of their skin and perception of dangerousness.
That is an unfair system, that is not a justice system that we could be proud of. What we did was he gave power in the bail reform that I worked really hard to get through. It was not an easy lift that judges now can consider the severity of the crime. Passed offense was an order of protection violated. We now are focusing on that and so that gives the judges more to look at than they had been before. We're making the right changes, but we're not going backwards. That's why I focus on gun safety, getting illegal guns off the streets, which is the major concern we have.
I had the head of ATF out of Washington come and applaud yesterday how well we're doing in New York State and getting guns off the streets, our shootings are down, but again, I'm not citing statistics to say we're done. We're just really focused on this all day long, 24 hours a day, and will not relent on focusing on public safety until we can even do more to make sure people feel safe the way they had been before the pandemic.
Brian Lehrer: Do more in what way, because as a follow-up, despite the changes that you just cited in the original bail reform law, mayor Adams just this month released data that he says highlights the increase in recidivism in New York. He released a list, I'm sure you saw it, of the top 10 recidivists in the city who reportedly have been arrested a total of 485 times since bail reform took effect in 2020.
One of them was arrested more than 30 times. The mayor and Congressman Zeldin say New York is the only state in the country that bars judges from taking a defendant's ongoing threat to public safety into account when deciding whether to set bail. If you're not going to endorse that, what else is going to get at these recidivists?
Governor Kathy Hochul: No. I have to take issue with that analysis, Brian. Here's why. We do have factors to be looked at, and those cases, if you want to point to those 10 individuals, every single one of them could have been held on bail under the laws we passed. What it comes down to is how the district attorneys are charging. You have cases where someone undercharges a case to make it a lower offense that does not fail eligible, or you have judges who, in their own determination, decide they do not want to hold someone.
We made the changes in our laws to give them the tools they need and to close some of the loopholes that have been out there and tighten it up. Our data is showing different numbers but again, I'm not just data-driven. I know how people feel. I know the anxiety that's out in our streets. It is deep. It is personal and telling everyone that we're the safest big city in America, that when I'm speaking to governors in other states, they're asking how we got down our challenges but everyone in the system has to do their part. It's not just the legislature and the governor.
We did our part, but I'm always open to new analysis and say, if there's something else we have to focus on, but let's let everybody do their jobs. The policing is so important. The charging is so important. The decision by a judge is so important. I just had a meeting this morning, Brian, about the challenges of our court system. Literally, our court system was paralyzed for two years when jury trials, for example, were suspended because you had to have six feet apart and you couldn't convene people in a jury room and it didn't happen.
We have a huge backlog of cases where people who are charged of the crime, would've had their case disposed of and perhaps found guilty and taken off the streets, that was shut down for a long time. I'm actually convening everybody, pulling everyone together and saying, "Hey, what needs to happen to jumpstart the wheels of justice again?" Because they were literally, the wheels came off the wagon during the pandemic.
Brian Lehrer: All right, you got to go and I got to go, but let me cycle back to close to this as your one-year anniversary of being governor of New York. People know you've been Lieutenant governor, you had been Lieutenant governor for years before that, some people in a downstate audience don't know you had been a member of Congress before that and a local official in Erie County before that. You were no newbie to government when you became governor but is there anything that you would say has surprised you about doing this particular job?
Governor Kathy Hochul: I have to say what surprised me in a positive way is how resilient New Yorkers are, how desperate they are to have that great comeback. I'm really proud to be able to preside over that happening but also, I will say I have to give a shout-out to the dedicated public servants that were not part of a team a year ago, that I've brought together the most diverse administration in our state's history, pretty much powered by women.
I'm surrounded by top smart women who could run huge organizations on their own they're part of my dream team. Pulling together, my surprise has been how cohesive we have been, how we've really just hit the ground running. I'm pleased with that, but I never rust on our laurels. I'm always pushing us to do even more, to just make life easier and better for New Yorkers. That's what it's all about. Again, as I said, restore people's faith in government, job number one,
Brian Lehrer: Governor Kathy Hochul, thanks for coming on. Thanks for taking calls again from New Yorkers on the phones. We really appreciate it.
Governor Kathy Hochul: Thanks, Brian. Bye-Bye.
New York Public Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline, often by contractors. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of New York Public Radio’s programming is the audio record.