“Hurting the People They’re Trying to Help” –  Maud Maron Says She’ll Fix Far-Leftist Mistakes

By Matis Glenn

Maud Maron spent 20 years as a public defender in New York City, and was a professor at Cardozo Law School, where she taught Criminal Defense. She was elected as School Board President of Manhattan’s largest school district, and co-founded PLACE NYC, an advocacy group which promotes merit-based admission to schools and raising curriculum standards.

 She is also a founding advisory board member of the civil rights organization FAIR.

Maron, who describes herself as a moderate Democrat, stresses supporting small businesses, public safety, and improving education. She was an outspoken opponent of school closures during COVID, and continues to support removing COVID restrictions.

Maron spoke with Hamodia about her views and plans for what she would do as Congresswoman of District 10.

What makes you stand out in a crowded field of a dozen candidates?

I offer a real alternative. We have a lot of very progressive leftist candidates in this field, all of whom are offering some version of the same thing; far left policies which haven’t worked in our city throughout the Bill de Blasio years. We have in this race, a state assembly member and a city council member, who have enacted some of the laws that have made our city less safe, less clean, less amenable to business. I’m a mom of four kids in public school, I see that our schools have gotten worse, not better. And we’ve had a lot of policies that have made it harder to live here, which is why we have more people leaving New York City than coming in. I’m offering an alternative to all those bad ideas. I’m saying that we need public safety to be improved. I’m saying we need our schools to be improved, and that we need to be a place where people want to open businesses, buy homes and move into the city. That’s what makes me different from the other people in this race.

What do you think led to the inflation that we’re seeing now, as well as a second quarter of negative GDP growth, and what would you do as a congresswoman to address it?

I think that it’s pretty clear to people that contrary to what the Biden administration is saying, this is a recession, for one. And two, while you can never say with 100% certainty what causes inflation, I think it’s pretty obvious to most people that printing and spending money the way we did with the American Recovery Act, and other acts is the culprit. Now we have this Orwellian bill called the Inflation Reduction Act, which is doubling down on bad ideas with an even more ridiculous name.

You mentioned in your campaign material that you want a sound fiscal policy and regulatory reform that will make it easier to run businesses. What would that entail?

We can see, going back to COVID, that what we did to businesses was a constant changing of rules. When I talked to restaurant owners in lower Manhattan, they said “Maud, I can’t pay my staff if I can’t be opened past 11pm.” This idea that government, which is comprised of a lot of people who are often not business people, telling businesses based on shaky and sketchy epidemiological advice that it’s somehow COVID safe to serve people hamburgers up until 11 p.m.,  but it’s unsafe to serve them afterwards, it made no sense. But what it did do, is enormously hurt businesses, forcing many to close, which left people unemployed or underemployed.

 In general, for the crowd that constantly talks about social justice, there is no justice in chasing away the businesses that create jobs for working people. As a lifelong Democrat, my big issue with people who call themselves social justice activists is that so often their policies hurt the very people that they claim to want to help.

In an ideal world, our CDC and our FDA would be staffed by scientists who are independent of the White House, but that’s not what we have right now. We have this tremendous political cooperation between and among what should be independent agencies, and a highly politicized culture in DC. I think one of the things you can do as a congressperson is demand oversight. Bring the FDA and the CDC before committees and ask questions and make it really clear whether or not the advice that the American people are getting is based on the best science available, or whether it’s political.

We have this beautiful comparison between states that closed down and states that stayed open. So we know that the lock downs did tremendous economic, educational and social damage.

We’re not going to get COVID again, but ridiculously we’re seeing some of the same bad decisions with monkeypox. We should be prioritizing the most vulnerable communities, and we should not even be considering closing schools, but you already hear rumbles of people talking about school restrictions., which is ridiculous.

On the topic of education, there’s been several attempts made recently in New York to regulate yeshivos. While that is currently a state issue, how do you feel about it, and how would you use your office to influence the issue one way or the other?

You’re right that it’s a state issue, but I do think that it’s important to make clear that the federal government does give New York state money for schools. There’s Title One, and some funding for students with disabilities. I am absolutely opposed to the State, the Board of Regents, or the Department of Education, interfering with yeshiva education. I have four kids in public school. I know the New York City DOE really well; we are dealing with an agency that has generationally failed to teach our most vulnerable children how to read. There’s a lot of chutzpah to say we’re going to come into the yeshivos, and make sure that they’re doing a better job teaching kids English, when so few kids in the New York City DOE are learning English on grade level. There are good schools; my kids go to really good schools in New York City, and what any school system has to do, is aspire to be as good as their best schools.

My father went to yeshiva in in Brooklyn growing up, and he’s an orthopedic surgeon. Right now, we’ve seen this tremendous exodus from our public school. Yeshivos, Catholic schools, private schools, even homeschooling have had this tremendous uptick across a racial cross-section of people. This isn’t a particular subgroup of parents; this is across all sorts of socio-economic and racial and religious groups.

That being said, I’ll say this. I’ve talked to young people who have come out of religious Jewish education to have said, I struggled to learn English because I learned it later in life. And I think any community can, within the community, talk about how they can improve. But coming in as an outside force to say we know better is not the solution.

If the public school system would improve greatly, and be in a position to project its views, would you then support government regulations?

I read Kalman Yeger’s letter to the Board of Regents about this very issue, and I appreciated how plainly he put it. While this legislation applies to all private and parochial schools, this is really about yeshivos. It’s targeting a community. If you’re working with a group of people, and there are people from within the community who say that they want some changes, I think your role as a congresswoman would be to say, how can I help build bridges? How can I help conversations happen that are culturally competent and respectful?

Last night I was at a forum, and Yuh-Line Niou – with whom I disagree about many things – was talking about culturally competent food pantries during the pandemic.

The cultural competency of the far left crowd applies to all sorts of things – except for education within a community that has done a great job generationally of educating its own children.

Speaking of the far left’s view of the Jewish community, do you feel that applies to the far-left stance vis-à-vis Israel as well? Many people say that there’s a double standard where when it comes to other cultures they are extremely open and welcoming, but when it comes to Israel, they support BDS.

I’m going to pick on Yuh-Line again for a minute, because she is the only person in this race who’s a proponent of BDS, who thinks that Israel should be boycotted. She couldn’t muster up any courage last night at the debate to say anything negative about China, or about China’s response to Nancy Pelosi visiting Taiwan, but she has no problem attacking Israel.

I’ve been very clear about my support of Israel, and the fact that I think the relationship between the United States and Israel is a partnership. We do give aid to Israel and should continue to do so, but we also get a lot in return from Israel in terms of intelligence, and cooperation; we should honor this partnership and further it to both of our benefits.

Your campaign material mentions that you’re very supportive of civil rights. There are some scenarios  where religious liberty can sometimes collide with civil rights issues. So where would you stand on, for example, the famous case of a bakery that that did not want to provide their services to a marriage that they objected to on moral grounds? Or if, let’s say if a Jewish wedding hall in Borough Park did not want to host such a wedding. How do you feel about that issue?

There’s a big difference between discrimination and compelled speech. I’m an attorney, and I think we have to understand that the differences there because it’s really important. If you’re a business that sells food, or that sells clothes, then you can’t pick and choose and say, “Oh, we only want white people, or we only want non-Jewish people.” But when it comes to compelling people to say things and do things they don’t believe in, that’s a different story. And the issue with the cake was, if this is expressive speech, when you’re creating something. If there were just X number of pre-made cakes sitting on the shelf, and a couple wanted to come it and buy it, and you said no because you’re from such and such community…that’s clear discrimination. But this was different because it’s expressive speech.

I think where people see it much more often right now is things like employees being compelled to write their pronouns in their email sign off. I don’t write she/her, so it would be compelling me to support something that I don’t. I am very opposed to compelled speech. Whether it’s from a religious perspective, or a secular perspective, the government and your employer shouldn’t come along…and the government shouldn’t uphold your employer’s effort to make you say things that you don’t believe in.

Specifically in the case of the wedding hall, would you consider that to be compelled speech?

It’s the same thing, whether it’s a wedding hall, or a religious facility, they can say yes to what they want and no to what they don’t want. That’s their choice. I think these lawsuits that are designed to make a community engage in something that that community is not comfortable with, is part of a woke political movement that I reject and don’t agree with.

Reducing crime is a major part of your platform, how would you address the level of crime nationwide and in New York City?

I’m a mom with four kids who take the subway to go to school. As a New Yorker, I don’t want to see subway cars filled with people with guns. I think different states and different cities are going to reach different decisions about important issues. I think of a lot of New Yorkers agree with me that we don’t want to see guns all over the place. So we should be able to make rules and laws that are consistent with the Constitution that work for us. And as a congressperson, I do think there’s a role to be played in the sale of guns, and the pipeline of illegal guns that come into our city… background checks and things like that, figuring out how to make sure that we can have the safest city possible.

Gun violence is only one piece of the puzzle. I’m a public defender. I worked in state criminal court for years. When I first started working in 1998, anyone who was arrested with an unlicensed gun, or with a loaded gun, whether it was being used in the [commission] of a crime or not, would have bail set on them and would almost always facing state time. Sometimes people would go at what’s called a City Year, meaning a year in Rikers Island.

That changed. When I left Legal Aid Society in 2019, I had clients who were arrested on gun possession charges… who were not in jail pretrial, and who were re-arrested on gun charges. The culture around prosecuting gun possession has changed dramatically from a prosecution side, and I don’t think for the better.

 I don’t really like to see, especially really young people, get locked up for a first offense, even a serious first offense, in a way that derails their whole life. Guns are maybe one of those exceptions, because we have this tremendous gun violence problem. And again, it’s a perfect example of what I mentioned before about left-wing social policy hurting the very people it’s meant to help. I think Alvin Bragg is a disaster for Manhattan… we see the influence and the impact of social justice prosecutors, not just him, but in other cities and states where it’s been really, really bad. And I think we have to be honest about it. There are certain criminal justice reforms that I think makes sense. But I also think we have to acknowledge the fact that New Yorkers right now have this real sense that criminals can do whatever they want, and that law-abiding people have to pick up the tab.

What do you think can be done to address the underlying factors that lead people to commit crimes?

There’s not one root cause. Different people commit crimes for different reasons. Drug abuse derails people’s lives in multiple ways. Sometimes drug abuse and mental illness make people homeless, but not violent at all. They can also make a person violent. Do I think that we should have a robust drug treatment program in this country, where we have so many more people dying of fentanyl than COVID? Of course! And that’s why I think that the policies of clean needles and places [for people to use drugs] is a perfect example of meaning well and doing harm. I have represented young people in court whose parents beg me to get the judge to set bail, and keep their child in jail, because they think their child is going to die on the street…It’s heartbreaking to watch people who are in the throes of deep drug addiction, and social justice policy that says “let’s help them do more drugs!” It makes our city less safe, it’s bad for the addicts, and for the family of people who desperately want to help their loved one get off drugs.

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