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Hudson Valley News

NY-16 Democratic Primary Candidate Chris Fink Addresses The Race

Chris Fink
Courtesy of the campaign of Chris Fink
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Chris Fink

With the primary election Tuesday in New York, candidates are making last-ditch efforts in what has been a virtual campaign for most of the year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. One primary race that has garnered national attention is in the 16th House District, where longtime Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel faces three opponents. Tax attorney, infrastructure finance professional and municipal power expert Chris Fink tells WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne why he’s running.

Chris Fink, of Pelham in Westchester County, is running in the Democratic primary in the 16th Congressional District, which contains parts of the Bronx and lower Westchester, including New Rochelle, Scarsdale, Rye and Yonkers.

When people approached me about running, they felt like- While Eliot Engel is a good Congressman and a good human being, that his focus, especially the last decade, it's really been on international issues. And as chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, that makes sense. But people felt like our district and the local issues, specifically, the infrastructure in our district, was neglected. Um, we looked into it and found that out of the 27 districts in New York, we're 18th in receiving federal funding for education, we're 16th receiving federal funding for transportation. And I was just shocked that the transportation corridor into New York City- We're 16th in the state of New York. So. My career, I really focused on, on infrastructure issues and renewable energy. Renewable energy and climate crisis has become, I think, the number one issue that we need to deal with. So that our children and grandchildren have a planet they can live on. And that's been my focus. I run the energy group at Bank of America, and I'm on the firm's Environmental Impact Task Force. And so I've been working on renewable energy for more than 30 years and can get us to a climate neutral, neutral grid.

Fink' clients are state and local governments. He advises them on infrastructure projects. Another issue he feels more qualified to tackle is repealing the state and local tax, or SALT tax, a measure included in the latest Coronavirus aid package the House passed in May, the HEROES act. President Trump signed tax legislation in December 2017 that capped SALT deductions at $10,000.

Every drafted legislation could get over that that cap. What the Democrats are proposing now is a BAND-AID that doesn't work. What they're proposing, and what's in the House Bill, was the elimination of the cap for two years. And let me tell you why it's a BAND-AID that doesn't work. Yes, it helps cash flow. But that just helps people who are in a higher tax brackets get a bigger deduction. My concern is the effect on housing prices in our district. So for example, if you have a house in Yonkers that was worth $400,000 four years ago, because of this cap, that house has gone down in value by 10 or 15% because people are moving to Connecticut and other localities where state and local taxes are lower. So what does that mean for our district? It means that the real property tax collections go down by the same 10 or 15%. And there's no way to make that up because you can increase taxes on, on other individuals. You can't increase taxes on, on companies, not during this. So we need to get rid of this cap permanently.

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected President Trump's effort to win legal protections for 650,000 young immigrants known as DREAMers, a ruling Fink supports.

My goal as a congressperson would be to: first of all eliminate, eliminate the prohibition on, on immigration from Muslim countries. I would make sure that there is a path for the DREAMers to, to realize their dream, you know, some of these people, this is the only home they know, and they should be given citizenship because of that. I think there's a lot of great people in the history of our country, who created our country, who are immigrants. And, and we need to, we need to also follow human rights. We should have no family separation under any circumstances. I think that's horrific. And we just we need to go back to policies that are humane and make sense. Now, I mean, I think we, we need to enforce our immigration laws, because those are important too. But there's, there's ways to do it with with humanity.

What would you like to see done police reform wise, at the federal level?

A couple of things, I am not for defunding the police. As Representative Clyburn said this week, "There is a role for police," in our society. And we just need to make sure we define that role more clearly, and train people and educate them to fulfill that role. The legislation that was proposed this week, where social workers would be called in to cover domestic disputes and other non-violent crimes, I think is great legislation. I'm very much for, for finding the best person to the job and in a lot of cases, that's not police. My view is we should demilitarize the police and reallocate their funding. We have two armored vehicles in New York State that are owned by the police. We don't need armored vehicles to do police work, we don't need AK-47s to do police work. So we need to demilitarize them and reallocate those monies to training to your programs that that are more akin to what police officers shouldn't do because they do have an essential role in our society.

This campaign season has been a bit different, because of coronavirus and all of that; has that advantaged or disadvantaged candidates such as yourself?

It's completely disadvantaged us. Because, you know, one of the things that my campaign manager told me from day one is, is the secret to an election, and we saw this with AOC is meeting the people, direct voter contact. And Alison, I gotta tell you, when I started this campaign, and we were getting signatures on the train station, at New Rochelle and Yonkers at 5:30 in the morning, I really loved it. Then Coronavirus came and all personal, one-on-one contact was, was obviously eliminated. And we, like everyone else went to a digital and telephonic strategy. A lot of people say, you know, we've heard from your campaign, but we haven't met you. And that's important. Like, for Christmas, my kids brought me sneakers because they said you're gonna be knocking on 50,000 doors over the next six months, and I was kind of looking forward to that. And I think that that's the only way to get the message out. And it's obviously been harder.

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