METROFOCUS EXCLUSIVE: COREY JOHNSON, CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER

May 15, 2018 at 5:30 am

New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson joins MetroFocus for an exclusive sit down interview, bringing us inside his new role as New York’s second most powerful leader. He’ll shed light on his humble roots, from his early life in Boston’s suburbs, to coming out as gay on national television as a teen. He’ll also share how his journey of adversity, including his fight for sobriety and his H.I.V. positive status, have helped to fuel his rise in politics.

Aired on May 14, 2018. 

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>>> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO
THE SPECIAL EDITION OF
METROFOCUS.
TONIGHT WE SPEAK TO THE SPEAKER.
OUR ONE ON ONE WITH THE NEW NEW
YORK CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER COREY
JOHNSON.
THE SPEAKER OFTEN DESCRIBED AS
THE SECOND MOST POWERFUL ELECTED
POSITION IN THE CITY, IS HERE TO
TALK ABOUT HIS NEW ROLE AND HIS
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE MAYOR AND
HE'S HERE TO GIVE US A FULLER
PICTURE OF WHO HE IS.
HE MADE NATIONAL HEADLINES AFTER
HE CAME OUT IN 2000 TO HIS
FOOTBALL TEAM, TO WHICH HE WAS
CAPTAIN.
HE CAME TO NEW YORK CITY A YEAR
LATER AND THREW HIMSELF INTO
ACTIVISM AND MOVING INTO PUBLIC
SERVICE.
WE'RE FOLLOWING THE RISE
CULMINATING IN HIS NEW ROLE AS
SPEAKER.
SOME WERE VOCAL AND WANTED A
PERSON OF COLOR TO FULFILL THAT
LEVEL.
SPEAKER JOHNSON HAS SAID HE
DEALS WITH ADDICTION AND HE'S
HIV POSITIVE.
SO HERE IS NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL
SPEAKER, COREY JOHNSON.
>> THANK YOU, THAT WAS A KIND
INTRODUCTION.
>> I'M AN INDEPENDENT, I'M AND
HERE TO HAVE INTERESTING
CONVERSATIONS WITH INTERESTING
PEOPLE, THAT'S WHY WE HAVE YOU
HERE.
I WANT TO START OFF FOCUSSING A
LITTLE BIT ON YOUR BACKGROUND
AND YOUR HISTORY.
AS YOU KNOW, WE ARE ALL FORMED
BY OUR EXPERIENCES.
AND I WANT TO TALK ABOUT THOSE
EXPERIENCES AND HOW THEY HAVE
BOTH FORMED YOU AND INFORMED
YOUR POLITICS OVER THE YEARS.
AND THE ONE THING I MENTIONED,
THIS IS OFTEN MENTIONED ABOUT
YOU IN ANY BIO, IS THIS NOTION
OF YOU HAVING THE COURAGE AS A
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PLAYER,
CO-CAPTAIN OF YOUR TEAM TO COME
FORWARD AND ANNOUNCE TO YOUR
TEAM YOU WERE GAY.
I FIND FOOTBALL TO HAVE
MAGNIFICENT TRANSFORMATIVE
VALUES FOR YOUNG MEN, BUT WE
ALSO KNOW A FOOTBALL LOCKER ROOM
IS NOT ALWAYS THE MOST EMBRACING
PLACE FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE
PERCEIVED TO BE DIFFERENT.
WITH THAT SETTING THE STAGE
THEN, HOW AND WHY DID YOU DECIDE
THAT THIS WAS THE TIME NOW, AS A
CO-CAPTAIN OF THE FOOTBALL TEAM,
AND IN HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
THAT'S A BIG DEAL.
HOW DID YOU DECIDE NOW IS THE
TIME FOR YOU TO COME AND TELL
PEOPLE WHO YOU REALLY WERE?
>> FIRST OF ALL, IT'S -- I GUESS
IT'S GOOD TO TALK ABOUT THIS
BECAUSE I HAVEN'T REALLY TALKED
ABOUT IT IN A VERY LONG TIME AND
I ACTUALLY THINK IT DOES INFORM
WHY I GOT INVOLVED POLITICALLY,
THAT EXPERIENCE OF BEING IN HIGH
SCHOOL AND COMING OUT I THINK IS
WHAT REALLY SET THE STAGE AND
OPENED THE DOOR FOR MY WANTING
TO BE AN ACTIVIST AND BE
ENGAGED.
I GREW UP IN A TINY TOWN ABOUT
25 MILES NORTH OF BOSTON, MY MON
WAS MY LUNCH LADY AT SCHOOL.
MY MOM WAS A TRUCK DRIVER.
HE WAS A GOOD MAN BUT STRUGGLED
WITH ALCOHOLISM AND GAMBLING
ADDICTION.
AND MY REFUGE, THE THING I
EXCELLED AT WAS SPORTS.
AND MY PARENTS WERE SUPPORTIVE
OF ME PLAYING SPORTS.
I WAS A PRETTY GOOD FOOTBALL
PLAYER, THE END OF MY JUNIOR
SEASON I WAS ELECTED CAPTAIN FOR
THE FOLLOWING YEAR AND DURING MY
SOPHOMORE AND JUNIOR YEARS I WAS
STRUGGLING E MENSLY WITH MY IE
DIE TENTY AND SEXUAL
ORIENTATION.
>> WAS THAT APPARENT TO ANYBODY?
MOST PEOPLE WOULD SAY YOU'RE THE
CO-CAPTAIN OF A FOOTBALL TEAM, A
GOOD TEAM, IN A TOWN WHERE
FOOTBALL MEANT SOMETHING.
THEY PROBABLY SAID THIS GUY WAS
LIVING THE GREAT LIFE HERE.
DID ANYBODY SEE WHAT YOU WERE
SUFFERING FROM?
>> I THINK IN HINDSIGHT, WHEN I
CAME OUT TO MY PARENTS, THEY
WERE ABLE TO PUT THE PIECES
TOGETHER AND REALIZE I HAD NOT
BEEN MYSELF.
I HAD KIND OF HOLED UP IN MY
ROOM A LITTLE BIT AFTER SCHOOL.
I FOUND IT HARD TO GET OUT OF
BED IN THE MORNING, TO GET UP
AND GO TO SCHOOL, AND MY GRADES
SUFFERED AND THEY COULDN'T
FIGURE OUT WHY.
MY STORY OF COMING OUT TO MY
TEACHERS AND PARENTS, WHO WERE
UNCONDITIONALLY LOVING, AND THEN
TO MY FOOTBALL TEAM, I WON'T
GIVE YOU THE WHOLE LONG STORY.
PART OF IT IS THE DAY I DECIDED
I WAS GOING TO COME OUT, I
WALKED INTO SCHOOL THAT MORNING
AND OVER THE INTERCOM SYSTEM,
THE ENTIRE SCHOOL, THE PRINCIPAL
COMES ON AND SAYS ALL FOOTBALL
PLAYERS PLEASE REPORT TO THE
COACH'S OFFICE DURING SECOND
PERIOD.
IN MY THREE YEARS ON THE TEAM,
THAT HAD NEVER HAPZ BEFORE.
THERE HAD NEVER BEEN AN
ANNOUNCEMENT LIKE THAT.
>> YOU'RE WALKING IN HAVING MADE
THE DECISION --
>> AND ALL THE PLAYERS ARE
ASKING ME WHAT'S THE
ANNOUNCEMENT AT SECOND PERIOD?
I'M SAYING DON'T WORRY YOU'LL
FIND OUT SOON.
SO I CAME OUT AND WITHIN, YOU
OUT, ALL 1,500 KIDS IN MY HIGH
SCHOOL KNEW I WAS GAY.
I WAS THE ONLY TO OPEN GAY
STUDENT, IT WAS SIX MONTHS AFTER
MATTHEW SHEPHERD HAD BEEN
MURDERED.
>> IT WAS A LONG TIME AGO IN
TERMS OF CULTURE AND
ACCEPTANCES.
HOW DID CAN TEAM REACT TO IT?
YOUR TEAMMATES?
>> IN THAT MEETING I CAME OUT TO
THEM, I STOOD UP AND SAID, YOU
KNOW, WE'VE PLAYED FOOTBALL
TOGETHER OUR ENTIRE TEENAGE
LIVES.
WE RELY UPON EACH OTHER AS
FRIENDS AND CLASSMATES AND I
NEED TO TELL YOU SOMETHING, AND
WHAT I'M ABOUT TO TELL YOU
DOESN'T CHANGE THE PERSON YOU
KNEW FIVE MINUTES AGO, A YEAR
AGO, OR THREE YEARS AGO.
I WANT EVERYONE ON THIS TEAM TO
KNOW THAT I CONSIDER YOU TO BE
LIKE A FAMILY AND I WANT YOU TO
KNOW THAT I'M GAY.
AND THERE WERE KIND OF CRICKETS.
NO ONE REALLY SAID MUCH.
AND THEN THE COACH ASKED IF
ANYONE HAD ANY QUESTIONS.
AND AFTER 30 SECONDS OR SO, A
TEAMMATE AND A FRIEND OF MINE
RAISED HIS HAND AND SAID COREY,
YOU'RE A GREAT FOOTBALL PLAYER,
A GOOD FRIEND, WE WANT TO PLAY
FOOTBALL AND WE HAVE YOUR BACK.
AND THEN THE ROOM EMPTIED OUT.
I STOOD THERE NOT KNOWING HOW IT
WENT OVER REALLY, IN FRONT OF 50
GUYS.
AND WITHIN A FEW MINUTES ALL
1500 KIDS IN MY HIGH SCHOOL KNEW
THAT I WAS GAY AND THE RESPONSE
WAS OVERWHELMING POSITIVE.
THERE'S ONE THING TO SAY HERE,
AND IT'S TRUE TODAY, EVEN THOUGH
IT WAS A DIFFERENT TIME THEN AND
EVEN THOUGH WE MADE TREMENDOUS
PROGRESS IN THE 20 YEARS SINCE
THAT HAPPENED, I WAS PROBABLY
AFFORDED SOME LEVEL OF PRIVILEGE
INSIDE MY SCHOOL BECAUSE I WAS
CAPTAIN OF THE FOOTBALL TEAM.
>> YOU WERE ONE OF THE GUYS?
>> YES.
>> NOT AN OUTSIDER TO START WITH
WHO HAD A SECRET, BUT ALSO AN
OTHER, IF YOU WOULD, YOU WERE
ONE OF THE GUYS.
>> YOU SAID IT, JACK.
YOU KNOW THIS FROM YOUR
EXPERIENCE PLAYING FOOTBALL,
BEING ON A HIGH SCHOOL AND
COLLEGE FOOTBALL TEAM.
IN MY TOWN, FOOTBALL WAS THE --
IT WAS THE END ALL, BE ALL.
IT WAS A BIG DEAL.
SO FOR ME I HAD A LEVEL OF
PRIVILEGE THAT OTHER KIDS IN IN
THE SCHOOL PROBABLY DIDN'T HAVE.
SO MY GOAL WAS TO, AFTER I CAME
OUT AND HAD THAT EXPERIENCE AND
BECAME A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT
SPEAKING AROUND THE STATE OF
MASSACHUSETTS AND EVENTUALLY
AROUND THE COUNTRY, WAS THAT
EVERY PERSON DESERVED THAT
EXPERIENCE NOT JUST CAPTAINS OF
FOOTBALL TEAMS.
>> DO YOU THINK WE'RE ANY CLOSER
TO THAT?
DO YOU THINK IF YOURP SITUATION
WAS TODAY BUT YOU WEREN'T THE
CAPTAIN OF THE FOOTBALL TEAM,
JUST A GUY IN THE SCHOOL, MAYBE
NOT IN THE REAL SOCIAL GROUP,
BUT AGAIN ON THE OUTSIDE A
LITTLE BIT, DO YOU THINK IT
WOULD BE DIFFERENT AT ALL?
>> IT'S HARD TO KNOW.
I THINK THERE'S A HIGH
LIKELIHOOD THAT BECAUSE MY
PARENTS WERE SUPPORTIVE OF ME,
WHICH I THINK WAS THE MOST
IMPORTANT THING, THAT REALLY
LAID THE GROUND WORK FOR
EVERYTHING TO GROW ON TOP OF IT.
BUT EVEN IN NEW YORK CITY, OUR
PROGRESSIVE CITY, THERE'S STILL
A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF PARENTAL
REJECTION OF YOUNG LGBT
COMMUNITY, TONIGHT IN THE
RUNAWAY SHELTERS 500 YOUNG
PEOPLE UNDER THE AGE OF 21 WHO
ARE HOMELESS, RUNAWAY OR
HOMELESS YOUNG PEOPLE AND 40% OF
WHOM ARE LGBT, WHICH IS A
DISPROPORTIONATE AMOUNT.
THE BIG REASON IS THERE IS STILL
PARENTAL REJECTION, BULLYING,
THERE ISN'T THE ACCEPTANCE THAT
NEEDS TO BE UNIVERSAL.
WE HAVE MADE TREMENDOUS
PROGRESS, MARITA EQUALITY IS A
THING.
I'M SPEAKER OF THE CITY COUNCIL,
I JUST TURNED 36 YEARS OLD.
>> IF SOMEONE SAID HERE IS WHAT
YOUR LIFE IS GOING TO BE, YOU'RE
GOING TO MAKE THIS REVELATION,
IT WILL BE SHOCKING, BUT 18
YEARS LATER YOU'LL BE THE
SPEAKER OF THE CITY COUNCIL IN
NEW YORK CITY, WHAT ARE YOUR
THOUGHTS?
>> I'M SPEECHLESS.
I THINK I WOULD HAVE BEEN
SPEECHLESS IF SOMEONE SAID TOO
ME.
I CAME HERE AT 19 YEARS OLD,
KNOWING TWO PEOPLE, HAVING TWO
BAGS, NOT COMING FROM A WEALTHY
FAMILY, BUT AN INCREDIBLY
SUPPORTING AND LOVING FAMILY,
AND I STRUGGLED TO COME HERE.
>> WHY DID YOU COME HERE?
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO LEAVE
SMALL TOWN MASSACHUSETTS THAT
HAD BEEN EMBRACING TO YOU IN A
DIFFICULT MOMENT IN ANY YOUNG
MAN'S LIFE AND YOU COME TO A
PLACE YOU KNEW NOBODY?
>> IT'S FUNNY BECAUSE NOW THAT
I'VE BEEN HERE FOR 18 YEARS,
ABOUT 18 YEARS, WHAT YOU HEAR
FROM PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT NATIVE
NEW YORKERS ALL THE TIME IS THAT
THEY READ ABOUT NEW YORK CITY,
THEY SAW NEW YORK CITY ON TV,
SAW A MOVIE, VISITED NEW YORK
CITY WITH THEIR CLASS OR FAMILY
OR ON A VACATION, AND THERE WAS
SOMETHING ABOUT THE CITY THAT
SPOKE TO THEM.
FOR ME I VISITED HERE TO GET AN
AWARD FROM AN ORGANIZATION
BECAUSE OF THE PUBLIC SPEAKING I
HAD DONE ACROSS THE COUNTRY, AND
I WAS SUPPOSED TO SPEND A WEEK
HERE, AND AT THE END OF TWO
WEEKS, I SAID, I WANT TO MOVE
THERE.
AND I ENDED UP MOVING TO THE
CITY SIX MONTHS LATER.
IT WAS SORT OF AN IMMEDIATE LOVE
AFFAIR.
I JOKE ALL THE TIME, I'M SINGLE,
PEOPLE SAY HOW ARE YOU SINGLE?
I SAY I'M IN A LTR, I'M IN A
LONG TERM RELATIONSHIP WITH THE
CITY OF NEW YORK AND SHE IS
MOODY AND CAN BE DIFFICULT BUT
SHE IS BEAUTIFUL AND AMAZING
CAN, AND I THINK THERE ARE MANY
NEW YORKERS WHO ARE NOT BORN
HERE, WHO COME HERE BECAUSE
THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT THE
ENERGY OF THE CITY, SOMETHING
ABOUT THE CITY THAT DRAWS YOU
IN.
AND WHEN YOU CONNECT TO IT, IT'S
HARD TO LEAVE.
>> IT WAS THE PLACE FOR YOU?
>> THAT'S RIGHT.
>> AT THAT TIME OF YOUR LIFE
CERTAINLY AND CERTAINLY NOW.
LET'S TALK ABOUT THE HOW YOU
HAVE GOTTEN FROM THE TIME YOU
SHOWED UP HERE AND KNEW TWO
PEOPLE -- DID YOU HAVE A VISION
FOR YOURSELF BACK THEN THAT
WOULD GET YOU INTO POLITICS AND
HOPEFULLY GET YOU TO THE LEVEL
YOU'RE AT NOW?
>> THERE WAS A PART OF ME, AFTER
I CAME OUT IN HIGH SCHOOL AND
GOT INVOLVED IN ACTIVISM AND
STARTED TO LEARN ABOUT THE
HISTORY OF CIVIL RIGHTS
MOVEMENTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND
SEEING LEADERSHIP AMONG CERTAIN
ELECTED OFFICIALS AND NOT SO
MUCH LEADERSHIP WITH OTHER
ELECTED OFFICIALS THAT I THOUGHT
I WANTED TO BE POLITICALLY
INVOLVED.
I DIDN'T KNOW THAT WAS GOING TO
TAKE THE FORM OF THAT TIME AT
ELECTED OFFICE.
WHEN I CAME HERE AND STARTED
WORKING ON OTHER CAMPAIGNS, I
STARTED IN HELL'S KITCHEN, I
WANTED TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE ON
LGBT EQUALITY.
THAT'S WHAT CONNECTED ME
POLITICALLY, AND EVENTUALLY I
DECIDED THAT I THOUGHT I COULD,
I DON'T WANT TO SOUND CORNY, BUT
I THOUGHT I WANT TO MAKE THE
WORLD A BETTER PLACE.
THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO MAKE THE
WORLD A BETTER PLACE.
AND I THOUGHT ONE OF THE WAYS I
WANT TO DO IT IS RUNNING FOR
OFFICE AND TRYING TO HAVE AN
IMPACT ON POLICY IN THE CITY I
LOVE.
THAT'S WHAT I EVENTUALLY DID.
>> LET'S TALK ABOUT YOUR
POSITION NOW AS THE SPEAKER.
FIRST QUESTION MIGHT BE A SIMPLE
ONE BUT SOMETIMES THEY'RE THE
MOST PROFOUND.
THERE MAY BE PEOPLE, NATIVE NEW
YORKERS WHO ARE WATCHING THIS
CONVERSATION SAYING I'M NOT SURE
WHAT THE SPEAKER DOES.
IN OUR INTRODUCTION WE SAID,
SECOND MOST POWERFUL PERSON IN
THE CITY OF NEW YORK.
BUT WHAT DOES THE SPEAKER DO?
>> THE SPEAKER DOES MORE THAN I
REALIZED BEFORE I CAME SPEAKER.
>> IF YOU HAD KNOWN THAT --
>> PEOPLE SAY HOW IS IT TO BE
SPEAKER?
I SAY, I AM OVERWHELMED,
EXHAUSTED AND STRESSED WHILE AT
THE SAME TIME GRATEFUL, LOVING
IT, ENJOYING EVERY MINUTE AND
DOING IT WITH JOY.
>> I THINK I SAID TO YOU WHEN I
FIRST SAW YOU GOT THE POST,
CONGRATULATIONS AND --
>> AND CONDOLENCES.
>> YES.
.
SPEAKER DOES A LOT.
IF YOU CONSIDER THE MAYOR TO BE
THE PRESIDENT, THE SPEAKER IS
SORT OF LIKE THE HEAD OF
CONGRESS, THE HEAD OF THE
MUNICIPAL LEGISLATURE HERE.
OUR CITY COUNCIL IS MADE UP OF
51 MEMBERS AND HAS FOUR PRIMARY
FUNCTIONS WHICH THE SPEAKER
HELPS LEAD THE BODY AND HELPS
THE MEMBERS OF THE BODY BUT THIS
UPCOMING JUNE WE'RE GOING TO
VOTE ON WHAT'S GOING TO BE AN
$89 BILLION BUDGET, WITH A B.
THE COUNCIL EVERY YEAR
NEGOTIATES WITH WHOEVER THE
MAYOR IS AND HIS ADMINISTRATION
ON WHAT THAT BUDGET SHOULD LOOK
LIKE.
LAND USE DECISIONS WE SEE
CONTROVERSIES ALL OVER THE CITY,
ZONING, PEOPLE WANTING TO BUILD
MORE HOUSING, LUXURY DEVELOPMENT
GOING UP, INFRASTRUCTURE
PROJECTS IMPORTANT TO THE CITY.
WHENEVER THERE'S REZONING THE
CITY HAS THE FINAL SAY.
THE COUNCIL PASSES LAW, BILLS
THAT BECOME LAW, WE PASSED A
PACKAGE OF BILLS THIS PAST WEEK
ON FIRE SAFETY AFTER FIRES BROKE
OUT OVER THE WINTER IN THE BRONX
THAT WERE DIDLY.
SO WE PASS LAWS THAT HOPEFULLY
MAKE US BETTER AND THE
COMMISSIONER OF DEPARTMENT OF
TRANSPORTATION, THE COUNCIL HAS
OVERSIGHT OVER THOSE AGENCIES WE
HAVE SUBPOENA POWER, ASK
QUESTIONS ENSURE THE AGENCIES
ARE RUNNING PROPERLY, SO BUDGET,
LEGISLATION, LAND USE AND
OVERSIGHT.
THAT'S WHAT THE CITY COUNCIL
DOES AND THE SPEAKER IS
REALLY -- SHOULD BE THE CAPTAIN
OF THAT SHIP TRYING TO ENSURE
THAT WE'RE A STRONG INDEPENDENT
BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT.
>> THAT'S AN IMPORTANT THING
WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT AN
INDEPENDENT BRANCH OF
GOVERNMENT.
WITH THAT IN MIND, HOW WOULD YOU
DESCRIBE THE FOUR MONTHS OF SO
YOU'VE BEEN IN THE POSITION,
YOUR POLITICAL RELATIONSHIP WITH
THE MAYOR?
>> I THINK IT'S A WORKING
RELATIONSHIP AND IT'S A GOOD
RELATIONSHIP.
THE MAYOR AND I MEET ON ALMOST A
WEEKLY BASIS.
I'M REALLY PROUD THAT OVER THE
LAST FEW MONTHS WE'VE DONE SOME
BIG THINGS TOGETHER.
WE WERE ABLE TO EXPEDITE
HOPEFULLY THE TIME LINE AND THE
CLOSURE OF REICHER'S ISLAND.
WE DID A BIG ANNOUNCEMENT WITH
MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL WHO WERE
SUPPORTIVE OF THAT.
THIS PAST WEEK WE DID AN
ANNOUNCEMENT ON A PACKAGE OF
BILLS COMBATTING SEXUAL
HARASSMENT.
AND A FEW WEEKS AGO, 125 MILLION
MORE DOLLARS FOR FAIR STUDENT
FUNDING, WHICH WOULD HELP 854
SCHOOLS IN NEW YORK CITY.
THERE'S THAT WE WORK TOGETHER.
BUT AT THE SAME TIME HE'S AN
INDEPENDENT GUY, I'M AN
INDEPENDENT GUY, THE COUNCIL HAS
PRIORITIES, HE HAS PRIORITIES.
AND SO WE DON'T AGREE ON
EVERYTHING.
BUT WHAT I ALWAYS TOLD THE MAYOR
IS I'M GOING TO BE INDEPENDENT,
I'M GOING TO LOOK OUT FOR THE
MEMBERS AND FOR THE BODY AND THE
PEOPLE WE REPRESENT.
I'M NOT GOING TO SURPRISE YOU.
I'M NOT GOING TO EVER MAKE IT
PERSONAL.
THIS IS ABOUT GETTING THINGS
DONE AND GETTING RESULTS FOR NEW
YORKERS AND DOING THINGS ON THE
MERIT AND THAT'S WHAT I TRIED TO
DO IN THE LAST FOUR PLUS MONTHS
AS SPEAKER.
>> HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO SAY,
AND THIS IS ONE OF THE THINGS I
THINK IS MOVING IN PRESENT DAY
POLITICS, NOT JUST NATIONALLY
BUT EVEN LOCALLY.
IT SEEMS THAT IN THE PAST, LET'S
SAY, 20 YEARS, THAT SO MUCH OF
POLITICS HAS BECOME ADVERSARIAL,
CONFRONTATIONAL, EVEN WITHIN
PARTIES THEMSELVES.
>> WE HAVE SEEN THAT HERE IN NEW
YORK.
>> WE HAVE SEEN THAT.
IS THAT INEVITABLE, DO YOU
THINK?
OR ARE WE JUST NOT APPROACH
THINGS -- OR IS THAT MAYBE
PRODUCTIVE, THAT THE IDEA IS
THAT SOMETIMES YOU HAVE PEOPLE
BUTTING HEADS AND THEY TRULY
BELIEVE IN THE VALUE OF THEIR
POSITIONS THAT MAYBE THAT'S THE
WAY YOU GET THINGS RESOLVED?
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
>> I THINK THERE'S ALWAYS GOING
TO BE, AND PROBABLY SHOULD BE, A
HEALTHY TO HAVE A NATURAL
TENSIONS BETWEEN SEPARATE
INDEPENDENT BRANCHS OF
GOVERNMENT.
THOSE BRANCHS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE
INDEPENDENT AND CO-EQUAL IN SOME
WAYS.
THE MAYOR IS STRONGER THAN THE
COUNCIL IN NEW YORK CITY, WE
STILL HAVE A STRONG, INDEPENDENT
ROLL.
IF YOU LOOK BACK 30 YEARS AGO,
THERE WOULD BE DEMOCRATIC
PRESIDENTS AND REPUBLICAN
CONGRESSES THAT WORKED TOGETHER.
TIP O'NEIL WORKED WITH RONALD
REAGAN --
>> THEY SAID WE DON'T AGREE ON
THINGS POLITICALLY BUT WE LIKE
EACH OTHER AND RESPECT EACH
OTHER.
>> THAT'S THE KEY THING.
IT'S ABOUT HAVING RELATIONSHIP
HONESTY, CANDOR, AND OF
COLLABORATION TRYING TO GET
THINGS DONE.
PART OF POLITICS, AND NOT THE
MOST FUN PART, AND OF GOVERNMENT
IS THAT SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO
COMPROMISE WHEN YOU DON'T WANT
TO.
THAT'S LIFE AS WELL.
YOU HAVE TO DO THAT --
>> WELL, COMPROMISE, IT'S
INTERESTING YOU MENTION THAT
BECAUSE YOU UNDERSTAND IT.
COMPROMISE IS THE FOUNDATION OF
A DEMOCRACY.
>> THAT'S RIGHT.
>> THERE WAS A TIME WHEN HENRY
CLAY WAS CALLED THE GREAT
COMPROMISER.
AND THAT WAS THE GREATEST
COMPLIMENT HE COULD BE GIVEN.
IT SEEMS NOW THE NOTION IN
POLITICS, COMPROMISE IS A BAD
WORD.
AS YOU SAID, ISN'T THAT HOW YOU
GET THINGS DONE?
>> ONE OF MY POLITICAL HEROES
WAS THE LATE, GREAT, LIBERAL
LION OF THE SENATE, EDWARD MOORE
KENNEDY, TED KENNEDY FROM THE
STATE I WAS BORN IN,
MASSACHUSETTS.
SIMILARLY, YOU KNOW BOTH OF HIS
BROTHERS WERE ASSASSINATED.
I'VE BEEN WATCHING A SERIES ON
NETFLIX ON RFK AND HIS CAMPAIGN
FOR PRESIDENT AND WHAT HAPPENED
TO THE COUNTRY AFTER HIS
ASSASSINATION, WHAT TED KENNEDY
WAS ABLE TO DO IN HIS CAREER IN
THE SENATE, ALTHOUGH HE WAS
PROBABLY THE HIGHEST IDED
LIBERAL IN CONGRESS, HE WAS
KNOWN FOR WORKING WITH THE OTHER
SIDE OF THE AISLE AND GETTING
THINGS DONE.
I THINK WE NEED MORE OF THAT.
I AM A TRIED AND TRUE
PROGRESSIVE, MY POLITICS ARE
LEFT OF CENTER, THE MAYOR'S
POLITICS ARE LEFT OF CENTER.
SOME OF THE REPUBLICAN MEMBERS
ON THE COUNCIL ARE FRIENDS OF
MINE, I HAVE A PERSONAL
RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM, WE DON'T
AGREE ON EVERYTHING, WE TRY TO
WORK TOGETHER.
I THINK WE NEED MORE OF THAT IN
GOVERNMENT.
ULTIMATELY WHAT PEOPLE CARE
ABOUT IS NOT RAIN OR AND
DIVISION.
THEY WANT RESULTS THAT ARE GOING
TO BE MEANINGFUL, THAT'S ACROSS
THE COUNTRY AND HERE IN NEW YORK
CITY.
>> A WONDERFUL MESSAGE IF WE
COULD SPREAD IT.
THE IDEA SOMEBODY CAN BE ON THE
OTHER SIDE OF THE AISLE, IT
DOESN'T MEAN YOU HAVE TO DESTROY
THEM PERSONALLY, YOU CAN AGREE
TO DISAAGREE SOMETIMES.
LET'S GO BACK TO SOMETHING YOU
MENTIONED.
I THINK WE TALKED ABOUT HOW OUR
LIVES INFORMATION OUR POSITION
YOU TALKED ABOUT YOUR
EXPERIENCES FORMING YOUR
POLITICS AND YOU MENTIONED THE
NOTION OF CANDOR AND HONESTY.
AS I INDICATED YOU'VE BEEN
CANDID ABOUT YOUR OWN TRIALS AND
TRIBULATIONS AND HAVING TO
STRUGGLE AND ACHIEVE SOBRIETY,
HIV POSITIVE.
>> YES.
>> WHY DO YOU FEEL THAT IT WAS
NECESSARY, IF THAT'S THE RIGHT
WORD, TO MAKE THAT PUBLIC?
TO MAKE PEOPLE KNOW THAT PART OF
WHO YOU ARE.
>> I THINK THERE ARE A FEW
REASONS.
NUMBER ONE, I'M NOT ASHAMED THAT
I'M HIV POSITIVE AND SO -- AND
I'M NOT ASHAMED OF IT.
I DON'T THINK THERE'S A REASON
TO KEEP IT A SECRET AND BE
STIGMATIZED.
SO WE LESSEN THE STIGMA AROUND
PEOPLE WHO ARE HIV POSITIVE WE
SAW HOW BAD THAT WAS WHEN THE
EPIDEMIC STARTED IN THE '80s
UNTIL DRUGS WERE CREATED IN THE
1990s HOW BAD THE STIGMA WAS AND
THE REAL NEGATIVE EFFECTS IT HAD
ON OUR SOCIETY.
MY SOBRIETY, I LOOK AT IT AS A
GIFT.
I LOOK AT MY --
>> HOW DO YOU MEAN?
>> I LOOK AT IT IS THE BIGGEST,
MOST IMPORTANT THING I HAVE EVER
DONE FOR MYSELF.
I DIDN'T DO IT ALONE.
I WENT TO 12 STEP MEETINGS.
I HAD MANY PEOPLE WHO I GOT
SOBER WITH, I HAD MANY PEOPLE
WHO HELPED ME STAY SOBER.
I GOT SOBER AT THE AGE OF 27, I
DRANK AND USED DRUGS FOR SIX
YEARS.
ON JULY 13, 2009, I DECIDED I
WAS GOING TO GET SOBER, AFTER A
BAD RUN OF USING AND DRINKING.
AND I'M ALMOST AT 9 YEARS SOBER
AND I HAVEN'T PICKED UP A DRINK
OR A DRUG.
>> GOOD FOR YOU.
>> I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO SAY
WE ARE ONLY, EACH ONE OF US, AS
SICK AS OUR SECRETS.
>> GOOD WAY TO PUT IT.
>> I DON'T NEED TO KEEP SECRETS.
I CAN TALK ABOUT MY FATHER'S
ALCOHOLISM AND GAMBLING
ADDICTION, NOT IN A NEGATIVE WAY
ABOUT HIM BUT TO TALK ABOUT HIS
OWN STRUGGLES.
WE ARE ALL COMPLICATED PEOPLE.
I CAN TALK ABOUT ABOUT THE FACT
THAT I BECAME HIV POSITIVE AT
THE AGE OF 22 AND HOW DIFFICULT
AND DEVASTATING THAT WAS FOR ME
BUT HOW I LEARNED TO ACCEPT
MYSELF AND LIVE WITH THAT AND
TAKE CARE OF MYSELF.
AND I CAN TALK ABOUT MY OWN
SOBRIETY AND BREAKING FREE FROM
THE ADDICTION FROM THAT HELD ON
TO ME FOR SO LONG TO HOPEFULLY
INSPIRE OTHER PEOPLE, LET THEM
KNOW YOU CAN GET SOBER, YOU CAN
GET HELP.
ANYONE CAN DO IT.
NO ONE IS HOPELESS, YOU DON'T
HAVE TO DO IT ALONE.
IT'S IMPORTANT FOR EVERY ONE OF
US, NOT JUST THOSE IN ELECTED
OFFICE, TO CONTINUE TO SHARE OUR
EXPERIENCE, STRENGTH AND HOPE,
TO HELP OTHER PEOPLE AFFLICTED
AND SUFFERING.
IT'S THE BIGGEST GIFT WE CAN
GIVE TO THE WORLD AND OTHER
PEOPLE.
>> I DON'T LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY
BUT IF I DID I WOULD BE
DELIGHTED TO HEAR THE SPEAKER
TALK ABOUT WE CAN COME TOGETHER,
AGREE TO DISAGREE, AND KNOWING
YOUR BACKGROUND AND BEING A
FOOTBALL GUY, I WOULD BE
DELIGHTED TO VOTE FOR YOU.
I HOPE WE CAN GET TOGETHER AND
SEE.
>> YOU'RE SPECTACULAR, I'M SO
GRATEFUL TO METROFOCUS, JACK.
>> Announcer: FUNDING FOR THIS
PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY:
-- Captions by VITAC --

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, and Judy and Josh Weston.

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