On the Record
by Holly Tsang
Jul 07, 2009 | 2900 views | 0 0 comments | 43 43 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Medhanie Estiphanos believes the biggest struggle of any candidate for public office is running against an incumbent who has had years to build relationships and pour money into a campaign. Essentially, the election is bought years before voters even reach the booths.

Such is the challenge facing Estiphanos, hoping to claim the 35th District City Council seat currently held by Letitia James.

Estiphanos said that New Yorkers need a break from the "New York City political machine" that operates purely on special interests.

"City Council, city government, they're not really operating in the best interests of the average New Yorkers," said Estiphanos. "That's why we need to change things-that's why I'm running."

Estiphanos is confident he will be that much-needed breath of fresh air for the neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Bed-Stuy, and parts of Crown Heights.

He sees gentrification of the city occurring based on income, gradually pushing low- and middle-income families further out of the boroughs. The middle class is hit especially hard, earning too much to qualify for state support but not enough to afford the everyday expenses of living in New York City. He firmly believes the key to alleviating the housing crisis is redefining the term "middle class" so fewer people in that category get left behind.

Having spent a number of years as a high school special education teacher, Estiphanos is extremely passionate on the issue of NYC education. He expressed concern over the quality of education available to New York children.

"We are number two in spending, and 30th in high school graduation rates, so money is not the issue," he said. "We need to change our psychology on the issue."

Instead of spending excessive amounts of money with little return, those who are part of the education system need to improve the channels of communication with parents.

Estiphanos referred to the current education system as a "nanny school system" in which parents drop off their children for six or seven hours daily without asking any questions, and educators do not try to engage the parents.

"As a former teacher, the children that were most successful were the ones with parents that were most involved," said Estiphanos.

He is an advocate for charter schools, which are public but independently run and maintained. Applying the business knowledge he obtained while working as a financial advisor on Wall Street, Estiphanos believes more charter schools will increase competitiveness between schools and provide students with better educations.

While Estiphanos supports public schools and is dedicated to improving them as well, he wants parents to know about the options available to their kids. Other educational tools he would like to implement include the use of vouchers, college-high school mentorship and tutoring programs, and the expansion of GED programs to include those over the age of 21.

His vision for education reform ties in with a desire to create social change. He cited a staggering 70 percent dropout rate among black men. He suggested lowering that figure could result in fewer people being incarcerated and save the state between $30,000 and $40,000 a year per person.

"I represent change. I represent a very clear and different choice from what we have right now," said Estiphanos. "I will be firmly representing the people when I'm in City Council."

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