Exclusive Profile: Millennial NYC Mayoral Candidate Collin Slattery

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In 1992, when Collin Slattery was just two years old, his father was diagnosed with leukemia. His health insurance was provided through his high-level corporate job, so when he was let go, the Slattery family had to pay for all of his health bills out of pocket.

In 1995, they moved from Illinois to New Jersey, one of the few states at the time that required providers to offer healthcare to people with pre-existing conditions. Collin’s father died in 1999, leaving 10-year-old Collin and his family bankrupt from the millions of dollars they had to pay out-of-pocket on healthcare.

Collin, along with his mother and two sisters, moved to New York City in 2003 so that Collin could attend a good high school. But though he attended Stuyvesant, one of the best STEM schools in the country, his life was far from good. He had a rocky relationship with his mother, who was more interested in how much money he won playing poker in an underground park than how he was doing in school.

Collin graduated in 2007, but was unable to afford college. His mother was evicted from her apartment in 2008, leaving Collin on the edge of homelessness.

For over a year, Collin had only one meal a day. He walked 9.2 miles to get to his minimum wage retail job. He was oftentimes single days from eviction. Though he is over six feet tall, he was only 150 pounds.

Then, in early 2009, he came across an incredible opportunity. He met a young businessman who created his own hedge fund, Elea Capital Management, in his early 20’s. The young businessman offered Collin a six figure per year job that could springboard Collin’s career and develop into a multimillion dollar per year job. The young businessman’s name was Martin Shkreli.

Martin Shkreli, now commonly referred to as “pharma bro,” earned the hatred of people around the world in 2015 for hiking the price of Daraprim, a medication used to treat people with AIDS, by 5000%, making it unaffordable to many who desperately needed it. Shkreli had taken similar action before, hiking the price of Thiola, a drug used to treat the rare disease cystinuria, by 2000%.

“It’s a great business decision that also benefits all of our stakeholders,” Shkreli explained on Twitter.

Later that year, Shkreli was arrested by the FBI for securities fraud. He ended up with a congressional hearing in which he refused to answer any questions beyond what his name was.

Though Collin could not have possibly known in early 2009 that Shkreli would hike the prices of essential drugs by thousands for his own benefit alone, Collin could tell that Shkreli was running a fraud. “I was faced with this moral dilemma,” Collin told me. “I was impoverished. I was so poor I can’t even afford to eat.”

But despite the opportunity to pull himself out of poverty, Collin declined Shkreli’s offer. Instead, Collin reported Shkreli to the SEC for running a fraud.

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Collin’s email to the SEC reporting Martin Shkreli’s fraudulent activity. Sent Sat, May 16, 2009 at 4:04 AM.

Seven months later, on December 23, 2009, Collin spent his last $134 to start a web hosting company. He named it Taikun. It became a side project after Collin acquired a job in March 2010, but in 2014, Collin began running Taikun full-time as a digital marketing agency. Taikun helps small- and mid-size businesses grow on the web. He currently isn’t making as much as he’d like, bit he can now afford healthcare, rent, three meals a day, and a MetroCard.

“I haven’t taken any money from anyone, I haven’t taken any venture capital. Just bootstrappin’ my way up.

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Collin with his grandmother.

After the election, Collin wanted to use his tech skills to take action. He started working to create a millennial, digital-based Super PAC that would engage millennials and help encourage them to run for office. He specifically wanted to drive nerds into politics. “The nerdier you are, the more likely you are to accept reality and facts,” he said. “So why don’t we have nerds in charge for a while?”

But then he had a thought. “Why don’t I just run myself?”

He was initially cautious, worried that people would find embarrassing pictures of him online that would be disqualifying in the eyes of voters. But that concern faded quickly. “Trump is a self-professed serial sexual predator. If that’s not disqualifying, literally nothing in my closet is even close to that.”

“Donald Trump should be in prison. I just got drunk and fell into a wall.”

Collin immediately knew that if he was going to run, he’d have to run for mayor of New York City. “There’s so much you can do as mayor to help people,” he said. “You can be this beacon of progressivism and good governance for the country.”

Initially, he thought about “doing a Mayor Bloomberg” – making money in the private sector, then going into politics. But with Donald Trump in the Oval Office, this is urgent.

Unfortunately, Collin has had some difficulty being taken seriously as a 28-year-old outsider to the political scene. “They think it’s a publicity stunt.” But that couldn’t be further from the truth, Collin says.

“I don’t want to be a career politician. I want to improve the lives of my constituents. I’m not trying to be governor. I’m not trying to be president. I’ve always wanted to run for mayor of New York.”

Good intentions don’t get you on the ballot, though. What does? 7,500 signatures, technically. But according to Collin, that’s not really the case. “You can’t just collect 7,500. You need more like 20,000. The establishment, the big money, they’ll try to declare fraud.”

Collin hopes that he can make up for the lack of establishment support by capturing the grassroots progressive enthusiasm that has driven the campaigns of Jon Ossoff in Georgia and Rob Quist in Montana. “There’s no enthusiasm for Mayor de Blasio,” he said. “Nobody wants a 60-year-old white guy who just barely avoided federal corruption charges.”

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Collin believes that mobilizing millennials in particular will give him a good shot of winning the Democratic primary, which many currently see as a lock for Bill de Blasio. “In 2013, de Blasio got 282,000 votes, and there are 1.9 million millennials in NYC.”

Collin’s “unabashedly progressive” platform is definitely one that could attract millennials. His slogan is “A New York for All New Yorkers,” and his campaign is focused on making the city more affordable for low-income New Yorkers. He took his experiences from his time in poverty to craft policies and a budget that will take care of those who most need help. He wants to make housing and transit specifically more affordable. As someone who had to walk 100 blocks to work because he couldn’t afford to ride the subway, this stuff is close to his heart.

He wants to give low-income New Yorkers half-fare MetroCards, as well as expand to Student MetroCard program to all NYC public schools. He also wants to decriminalize fare evasion, the most common reason for arrest in the city. NYPD data indicates that 90,000 people per year are stopped by the police for jumping the turnstile, 92% being people of color. “The city is just criminalizing people for being poor,” Collin said. “African-American New Yorkers are being rushed off to prison just because they couldn’t pay $2.75.”

Collin suggested that New York should stop paying to keep Donald Trump safe when Trump has the money to do so himself, and instead redirect the taxpayer money that’s currently being wasted to helping low-income New Yorkers. And ultimately, that’s what matters to him the most: helping the people of his city.

“Winning is not the most important thing. The most important thing is the issues I believe in getting coverage.”

http://slatteryfornyc.com/

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AU student creates website to ship your ashes to GOP if AHCA kills you

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Zoey Salsbury, a junior at American University, recently launched MailMeToTheGOP.com, a website that helps allow Americans to get their ashes sent to Republican congressmen who voted for the AHCA if “they die from lack of access to health care.”

“People will literally die,” Salsbury told The Huffington Post. “It’s really morbid and not fun to talk about. But that’s the reality of passing a health care bill like this.”

The AHCA, the bill House Republicans and Donald Trump crafted as the fulfillment of their “repeal and replace Obamacare” promise, passed the House of Representatives yesterday by only four votes. It is a wildly unpopular and cruel piece of legislation that would strip tens of millions of Americans of healthcare.

Vox explains the awfulness of the AHCA in detail here, but the biggest and most devastating difference between the bill that was passed yesterday and the initial version, which was so disliked in the House that it was never even put to a vote, is that it legalizes discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions. What counts as a pre-existing condition? The list is endless, ranging from HIV/AIDS to mental illness to alcoholism to cancer to being LGBTQ to “pending surgery or hospitalization” to being a survivor of rape or domestic violence. Yes, you read that right – according to congressional Republicans, rape is now a pre-existing condition.

In essence, the AHCA is a massive tax cut for the wealthy that would deny affordable coverage to the millions of Americans who most need it. The Republican Party has always been cruel, but it is still unbelievable that 217 GOP congressmen would vote for a bill that would quite literally end the lives of American citizens.

And that cruelty is what Zoey Salsbury is trying to emphasize through her new website. She even has a page that lists five “reasons why we will die.” It reads:

Reason #5

My combat tour in Iraq resulted in enough disability to make me uninsurable, but not enough to get all my healthcare through the VA. You killed me, you prick.

Reason #4

Asthma. I cannot afford to be in a high-risk pool and without health insurance, I will die of an asthma attack. I will die of an easily controlled incurable lung disease that affects millions. I hope my parents put my blue-faced body on Congressman Lloyd Smucker’s doorstep.

Reason #3

because you took away my fucking insurance

Reason #2

This morning, the House vote for the AHCA sent a strong message to my family – some of which who are your loyal constituents. Today, half of Congress made it clear that American lives are meaningless. Today, this vote said that funding the wealthy is more important than my father receiving insulin, my mother purchasing antidepressants, or me finding comfort and safety through assistance following on-campus rape. You are all meant to represent and serve the people, but today it was clear that you only serve yourselves. Today, I implore you think about what an American life is worth. I beg you to think of your family, your friends, and your fellow citizens. Worry about the future of your Senate seat as well as your conscience if you choose to push AHCA forward. If you want blood on your hands, continue to fight against the basic human right to public health. If you want to lose voters through death and poverty, push this through. But if you have any sense of morality and duty to this country, stand up for what is right. Vote no to AHCA and vote yes to the continued health and wellbeing of Americans. Be better.

Reason #1

I have incurable brain cancer. And if prices skyrocket and subsidies are hard to maintain it will shorted my already shortened life and put my family in significant financial jeopardy.

The website has a “send my ashes to the GOP” form where “donors” can fill out their information and even choose which Republican congressmen they want their remains to be sent to.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score has not yet been released for the AHCA, so we do not know quite how many more this version of the bill would leave uninsured than the last. But the reality is that if congressional Republicans get their way here, people will die. I will not be covered under the AHCA, and it’s fairly likely, dear reader, that you won’t be either.

Use this tool to find the phone numbers of your senators and demand that they reject the AHCA. You can use scripts provided by Bustle here or come up with your own. But take action. This is life or death.

Trump, Law & Order, and Record High Incarceration

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Inmates gather in the gym at San Quentin Prison due to overcrowding (Eric Risberg/Center for American Progress)

Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions have done little to implement specific criminal justice policy, but their threats to undo Obama’s reforms are jarring. What we are seeing from the Trump administration is not surprising, many Republican presidents have a history of being tough on crime. President Nixon’s “war on drugs” agenda is most memorable, as he ordered for an outright war on drugs in inner-cities by implementing mandatory prison sentences and no-knock warrants, disproportionately effecting Black and Brown folks.

During Reagan’s presidency, his “tough on crime” rhetoric resulted in a sharp increase in prison population and incarceration rates. As a result, prison populations in the U.S. continue to increase at a rate faster than any other nation in the world.  However, Obama was the first president in 36 years to leave office with a lower federal prison population than when he started.

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Federal prison population (Pew Research Center/Vox)

During Obama’s presidency, he took executive action to pardon 1,324 inmates charged with nonviolent drug offenses and backed former Attorney General, Eric Holder, on his Smart on Crime Initiative, which placed pressure on federal prosecutors to stop charging low-level drug offenders. In 2010, he signed into law the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the sentencing disparity between powder cocaine and crack cocaine. This disparity explicitly targeted the Black community during the “war on drugs” and “tough on crime” eras.

Obama stressed the importance of looking at drug addiction through the lens of a health problem, not a criminal justice problem. He often explained the hypocrisy in locking up children and individuals for low-level drug offenses, while many lawmakers have used drugs before–admitting his trial use of marijuana and cocaine. All of this was to stop prison overcrowding and put an end to oppressive laws that disproportionately targeted people of color.

Using 2010 Census information, the Prison Policy Initiative calculated that Black folks are five times more likely to be incarcerated than White folks, and Hispanic folks are twice as likely than White folks. Additionally, Black citizens make up 13% of the U.S. population but 40% of the incarcerated population. Hispanics only make up 16% of the U.S. population but 19% of the incarcerated population. This equates to 2,306 Black citizens incarcerated per 100,000 and 831 Hispanic citizens incarcerated per 100,000 people. The statistics for the White population, however, are frighteningly lower. Making up 64% of the population, White folks make up 39% of the incarcerated population, equating to 450 White folks incarcerated per 100,000. From a Vox study on FBI data on racial disparities in police killings, it was found that racial minorities make up about 34% of the general population but account for 62% of unarmed victims killed by police.

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Racial disparities in police shootings (Alvin Chang/Vox)

The Trump administration disagrees with many of the criminal justice reform laws passed by the Obama administration. Even though crime is at an all-time low, Sessions has made it clear that he believes the criminal justice system should not go easy on low-level drug offenders, and openly criticizes Obama’s decrees issued in response to violent police activity. As a result, Sessions has created a Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, which aims to increase prosecution and police force against violent crimes. However, it is still unclear what exactly this task force will do, but more details will be released on July 27th.

One positive policy in Trump’s criminal justice agenda is his commission to study the opioid epidemic, which is headed by Governor Chris Christie, who is known for treating drug addiction as a health issue and not a criminal justice issue. This newfound commission, when fully developed, has the possibility of helping those with severe addictions by providing them with rehabilitative services rather than issuing prison sentences. The only caveat is that this opioid epidemic is mainly affecting White communities. So, what does this commission task force mean to Black people?

D. Watkins–a prominent author and Professor at the University of Baltimore–came from a drug-laden neighborhood in East Baltimore. In a recent article published in Salon, Watkins remembers his early life as a drug dealer while addressing the current opioid epidemic in prominently White neighborhoods.

“White people and those in more privileged areas are starting to feel the same way. And even though I’d never wish that pain on anybody, I’m glad this problem is finally getting the attention it needs,” writes Watkins, while looking back on the crack cocaine epidemic and the Black communities that were destroyed. It is unfortunate that these problems are being addressed when the epidemic mainly affects White communities, but not when they effected Black communities.

Although this commission to end opioid addiction has yet to be fully developed, it is a start, at best. Unfortunately, Sessions does have the final say in all-things criminal justice related and he, historically, has a harsh stance against drugs. This is not to say Sessions does not believe in treatment programs, but he believes they come too late to solve the drug problem.

Time will only tell if these suggested programs will curb addictions, end prison overcrowding, and put a stop to racial disparities but, with Sessions in charge, the odds are not in our favor.  Fortunately, it is ultimately up to the states whether or not they choose to adopt federal criminal justice policies and, in the past, cities and states have supported initiatives to shorten prison sentences and favor prosecutors who are soft on crime. So, there may be hope after all.

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