Eldridge & Co. – Ritchie Torres: New York City Council Member – District 15

Eldridge & Co. – Ritchie Torres: New York City Council Member – District 15


♪ [Theme Music] ♪>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE:
Hello I’m Ronnie Eldridge. Welcome to Eldridge &
Company. Two years ago voters in the fifteenth council
district in Central Bronx, the district that includes
the communities of Belmont, Fordham, Tremont and East
Tremont, elected this young member to the New
York City Council. I’m not sure though that at
the time they thought this young man, Ritchie Torres,
would then become one of the council’s most
important leaders. But he did. And he’s my guest
today. And welcome.>>>RITCHIE TORRES: It’s
an honor to be here. Thank you.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: I’m
so delighted to have you. Were you born a
political being? >>>RITCHIE TORRES: Growing
up my aunt would tell me that you talk too much.
You should be an attorney.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE:
Well that’s interesting. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: But in
the beginning I had dreams of becoming a teacher. I
would teach my cousins history and mathematics.
And then in high school I engaged in a form of legal
debate known as moot court. So it’s modeled after the Q &
A structure of the Supreme Court and we delivered an
argument in the face of rigorous and relentless
questioning from judges. And in the final round of
my moot court competition I had an opportunity argue before
three judges of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals so it
was a life changing experience for a young high school student
from the inner cities. But then my first introduction
into politics came with the Coro program. So Coro was
a program that specializes in leadership development.
And I was part of the inaugural class- >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: How
did they find you or how did you find them? >>>RITCHIE TORRES: I
believe my law coach encouraged me to apply. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: Where
did I go to high school? >>>RITCHIE TORRES: Lehman
High School, which at the time had five thousand
students but it’s been watered down. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: So you
applied and that was it. You got in, or
they courted you. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: Through
Coro I was able to secure an internship in the
Deputy Mayor’s Office of Economic Development
and Rebuilding. I studied community benefit
agreements so learned at an early age the
importance of- >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE:
How old were you? >>>RITCHIE TORRES: It was
2003 or ’04. 2004 so it was eleven years ago. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: So
you’re what sixteen years old?>>>RITCHIE TORRES: It
was an early start in politics. Fifteen. Fourteen.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: That’s great
and then you just liked it.>>>RITCHIE TORRES: I really,
that was the beginning of the trajectory that ultimately
led to my career in the city council. And from there
I became an intern in the attorney general’s office. The
local, my local council member Jimmy Vacca. I then eventually
became his housing director and from there I
ran for the city council with his support. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: What did
you, what do you like about it?>>>RITCHIE TORRES: What
I love about politics is first I prefer to be a generalist.
You know if you’re a doctor you can only focus on medicine.
If you’re a teacher you can only focus on education.
When you’re an elected official you can focus on every
aspect of human welfare. So it’s just endlessly
intellectually stimulating and you can experience both
the macro on the micro so one day I’m in a public housing
apartment inspecting mold growth and the next day
I’m holding a city council hearing and cross examining
the NYCHA chair about mold in public housing. And so
to be able to experience the macro and the micro;
constituent services and policy, in the span of a week
or day is fulfilling.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: But
it’s also under current, why are you doing it? Is
it because you personally like it or do you
have a mission? >>>RITCHIE TORRES: I am a
man on a mission. And I do, I mean, I you start
with the premise that government can and should
play a role in improving people’s lives. And I
am a product of public institutions. I would
not be here but for public education, but for public
transit, but for a public hospital system, our
public housing system, I grew up in public housing
and so preserving those institutions as a foundation
for upward mobility is the central cause of my life.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: And
you’re very interested in passing along that passion
to younger people. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: I
am. I feel you know civic engagement is a little
like learning a language. The best time to do it is
when you’re young. It’s a habit that you should
cultivate at a young age so that it remains with
you. And I’ve seen the, really the destructive
impact that the crisis of civic engagement has on
our society. You know, I do come from a borough
that has one of the lowest rates of voter participation.
My district, the last two state senators are in
jail. The assembly member who represented the
western part of my district had to resign after wiretapping
his colleagues. My district historically
has been represented by the Rivera dynasty. You know José
Rivera and his son Joel Rivera and Naomi Rivera->>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE:
And before him there was another dynasty. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: So
twenty years of dynastic leadership. And then in
the southern region we had two assembly members who
had to resign after being arrested for bribery. So
you know I represent a district that has only known
absentee elected leadership, corruption, scandal, dynastic
politics and I think part of the problem is low voter
turnout. Is that corruption thrives on low voter turnout.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: But
also then the corruption must, does it cause the
low voter turnout? I mean->>>RITCHIE TORRES: It’s
mutually reinforcing I think.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE:
So how did you win? >>>RITCHIE TORRES: Because
people become disenchanted. I remember when I was
knocking on doors, you know, I represent a district where
you know maybe a hundred sixty five thousand residents
maybe sixty thousand are registered Dems but only six
thousand vote. And I could knock on six thousand
doors and when I would knock on doors a number of people
would tell me that in the thirty or forty years I’ve been
living in the neighborhood I’ve never had a public official
or a candidate for public office knock on my door. And
that’s tragic. It’s painful. And what was interesting
is that probably in a district like mine my youth was
an asset rather than a liability. I think in most cases
it would have been a liability->>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: But
you were a new face. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: People
saw that you’re too young to be corrupted. You’re
so young that you can distance yourself from
the failed and corrupt politics of the past. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: So what
was it? There was a vacancy.>>>RITCHIE TORRES:
There was a vacancy yeah. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: And
you just decided why not?>>>RITCHIE TORRES: No. My
mentor who was the chief of staff for council member
Jimmy Vacca as well as a counsel member
himself encouraged me to run->>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: Let’s
have his name so he gets a little credit.>>>RITCHIE TORRES: And
Councilman Vacca. And Jeff Lynch. His name is Jeff
Lynch. And both of them thought that I could make a
transformative difference in politics. That I had the
talent and the moral character and that the Bronx could
benefit from an infusion of new young dynamic energy.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: So there
were how many candidates?>>>RITCHIE TORRES: Originally
nine. I think it ultimately whittled down to five.
But it was no shortage of drama. So my main opponent
had the same exact name as the outgoing incumbent.
The incumbent was Joel Rivera. My opponent was Joel Rivera.
He led people to believe that he was the council member and->>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: And
he’s part of the dynasty that ruled the Bronx. I
mean the original Joel- >>>RITCHIE TORRES: The
real Joel Rivera. Right. The fake Joel Rivera, you know,
on television I accused him of political identity theft.
But it was an entertaining race and->>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: Did you
have trouble raising money?>>>RITCHIE TORRES: I had
relationships. I mean, and our campaign finance
system rewards small donation.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: It
does. It makes it possible really to have this
kind of thing happen. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: If I
had been running for the state senate or the
assembly then I would have had a much rougher
road to elected office. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: So you
knocked on doors of every registered voter or every
favorable voter, voters who voted before? >>>RITCHIE TORRES:
Habitual voters. So the prime voters to double
primes to triple primes. You know, I mean, I can
never knock on the door of sixty thousand people. You
have to identify those who vote habitually, in
every primary and in every general election. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: So you
get a feeling that you’re really independent when
you can run against all these people and get
elected yourself. I mean, you don’t feel that you have to
consult with the Bronx County Organization if there still
is one. Is there one?>>>RITCHIE TORRES: Yes.
We have a Bronx County Organization. You know,
you want to have a working relationship with everyone
because even though I have strongly held progressive
principles there is a value to pragmatism. There
is a value to developing a working relationship so
that you can leverage those relationships to
advance the policy causes that you care about deeply.
If you’re an antagonist of every powerful interest in politics
you’re going to have a short career or a
largely ineffective one.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: But
what interested me is that you took a position for
the speaker before you could vote for her.
You know, right? >>>RITCHIE TORRES: I did. I did.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: You
had just been elected but you weren’t yet installed
in the city council. So that immediately it seemed
to me put you in this category of
being independent. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: It did
but it had less to do with opposition to a county
organization and more to do with my vision of
how the council should function. So Melissa was
the only candidate running on, the speaker, was the
only candidate running on a platform of rules reform.
And I, you know, for me the greatest freedom that
I have is freedom of conscience, freedom of thought, I want
to be able to think freely, to speak my mind, to
vote on the best interest of my constituents without fear
of retaliation from the speaker. And the speaker
committed to putting in place rules reform that
would protect my freedom of thought and conscience.
And that to me was the overriding issue. It
had little to do, it had nothing to do
with antagonistic- >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: Politics,
and who cares really in that way. I don’t know.
I always had the theory you know when in doubt vote
your conscience. I mean, always. Conscious is very, it’s the
basic ingredient. So tell me what->>>RITCHIE TORRES: And if I
cannot vote my conscience then I have no business being
in elected office to begin with. I don’t want to be in a world
where I’m simply following orders from the top. I want
to be able to do what I believe is right. Do I have to
compromise every so often? We all do because we live
in an imperfect world, we have to accept it as we
find it but fundamentally I want to be able to do
what I believe is right for my constituents. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: And
you won’t mind going to your constituents and really
trying to not only to consult with them and know them
but also to educate them and that’s an equally important
thing it seems to me.>>>RITCHIE TORRES: And
disagree with them. When I feel strongly about a
subject I feel like if you, one problem we have
in politics is that there is a tendency to be condescending
toward the people. And I feel like people are
much smarter than we give them credit for. And if
you speak to them like the intelligent adults they are and
if you make rational arguments I think they will respect you
in the end. Even if they continue to disagree with you.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: Do you
think the voters in the Republican primary are
so smart? I don’t know. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: I mean->>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: I don’t want
to take us off on a tangent.>>>RITCHIE TORRES: I think
my first instinct is to question their judgment with candidates
like Donald Trump and Ben Carson but I would never presume to
judge that which I do not know. And I don’t know the voters. I
don’t know the values that drive them. So who am I to
judge them or to dismiss them? I’d rather learn more than
simply caricature them as stupid.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: So tell
me about your district.>>>RITCHIE TORRES: So I
represent something of a Tale of Two Cities because the
district has considerable institutional wealth. It’s the
cultural district of the Bronx. I have the Botanical
Gardens, the Bronx Zoo, Fordham Road, which is the
Times Square of the Bronx, Arthur Avenue Little Italy,
which is an iconic commercial district, some of
the best Italian cuisine. And the cultural institutions
function as a feeder into Arthur Avenue. And
we have Fordham University.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: You
have a great district. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: But at
the same time I have one of the highest rates of
poverty in the city. The highest rates of diabetes.,
hunger and so there’s something of a Tale of Two Cities. There’s
Fordham the university with its gorgeous campus and
green spaces and then this Fordham the neighborhood,
which is ground zero for inequality and
poverty in our city. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: You
know people don’t talk about the poor anymore.
It’s the middle class. Have you noticed that? >>>RITCHIE TORRES: To
the mayor’s credit he does speak about the poor and that’s
why he’s so controversial among the elites in our city.
The elites despise him because he speaks explicitly on behalf
of the poor. And he’s taking a political risk because the
tragic fact is that many members of the urban poor
vote in low numbers.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: But
it’s a phenomenal also nationally. I mean, Bernie
Sanders, everybody talks about the middle class and
it’s lost almost. So in the council what do you,
you’re the chair of public housing committee. That’s
an exciting place right?>>>RITCHIE TORRES: It is
exciting. That is in a way a very sad story. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: It’s
both, it demonstrates what extraordinary
about our city- >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE:
The heritage of it. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: So you
know the mayor is pursuing a housing plan. He’s looking
to create and preserve two hundred thousand units
over in the next ten years. And the tradition of
creating affordable housing on a mass scale began with the New
York City Housing Authority in which Robert Moses had a role
with his morally complicated legacy.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: I was
reading the history of it and I was, I’d never
really realized Robert Moses was the man.
It was LaGuardia- >>>RITCHIE TORRES: It
was an authority so- >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: Yeah.
It was LaGuardia and then it became an, that’s
right, that’s how it became an authority.
That’s what he specialized in.>>>RITCHIE TORRES: And we
have both federal, state, or we had, federal, state
and city development so every level of government
had a role in the creation of public housing
in New York City. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: So now
it houses how many people? Five hundred thousand? No.>>>RITCHIE TORRES: So
NYCHA is the largest landlord in the city. NYCHA has
two functions->>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: Most
likely in the country no?>>>RITCHIE TORRES: It’s the, uh->>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: I
don’t know but anyway. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: Certainly the
largest provider of affordable housing in the country and the
largest provider of public housing in the
continent of North America. The government might be, the
army might be the largest landlord for all I know, but it
houses a population the size of Boston. So about six
hundred thousand residents. So between administering
eighty thousand Section 8 vouchers and managing a hundred
and seventy-eight thousand public housing units.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE:
Section 8 is a subsidy right?>>>RITCHIE TORRES: It’s a
subsidy and that travels with the resident. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: So
it’s not necessarily in the public house. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: Where in the
case of public housing the subsidy is built into the unit.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: So
tell me what’s happening there. The funding source is just dried
up from the height of its, of its, whatever, performance.>>>RITCHIE TORRES: So NYCHA has
really a base of a perfect storm of challenges over the
last fifteen or twenty years. First it’s been facing
disinvestment at every level of government. 1998 the state voted
to cut off all operating subsidies for public housing. In
2003 the city did the same. Since 2001 the federal
government has made draconian cuts in public housing.
So NYCHA is receiving a fraction of the operating and capital
funds that it did only a decade ago. And all of the
disinvestment is coming at a time when the public housing
stock is aging dramatically. Most of the buildings
are either->>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: At
least fifty years old right?>>>RITCHIE TORRES: Sixty.
Most of the buildings are either at or above the
age of sixty. So when you combine the aging of the
public housing stock with a perfect storm of disinvestment
the result is a state of accelerated deterioration
because the conditions are getting worse and worse, the
budget deficits are getting bigger and bigger and NYCHA
is caught in a financial and physical death spiral. And we
have to figure out how to preserve public housing in a
world of federal disinvestment.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: So
it’s, there’s a plan. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: There
is a plan. There is a plan and I want to underscore,
you know, how critical- I mean NYCHA has a
population the size of Boston, six hundred thousand residents
and the reality is that most of the people who live
in public housing, like my mother, would be
homeless without it. It’s affordable housing
for the poorest New Yorkers in our city. Most of the affordable
housing that we’re creating today are unaffordable
to the poorest New Yorkers.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: Exactly.
They’re not, they’re middle, they’re really middle class
housing.>>>RITCHIE TORRES: And so if we
lose public housing you could have hundreds of thousands
of people overflowing our homeless shelters. You’re
concerned about sixty thousand? Imagine hundreds of thousands
of people. It could be deeply destabilizing not only to
the poor families who live in public housing but
to the city at large. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: So
why doesn’t the national government pay more
attention? Why doesn’t the state government pay more
attention? Why didn’t the city government pay more attention?
It’s beyond believing. I just, it’s really, it’s sinful
that we have allowed that.>>>RITCHIE TORRES: It’s immoral.
Yes. I often tell people, you know, for the state to
vote to cut off all operating subsidies; if a private landlord
one day decided I’m no longer going to pay for
the operation of my buildings. What would happen
to that landlord?>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: And
they don’t mind giving tax assessments to->>>RITCHIE TORRES: Exactly. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: It’s just
distorted in tour feeling of how we go about and I think it
ties in a little bit to the lack of discussion about
poor people. You know it’s->>>RITCHIE TORRES: Part of
the discussion flows where the money flows and you
know there are only two sources of power and politics.
There are dollars and votes. And in public housing you
have neither dollars nor votes. And therefore the political
establishment has no incentive to care about residents
in public housing and to care about the urban poor. I wish
I could say that our politics is driven by moral values.
But it isn’t. It’s driven by money and power.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: But this
is what I don’t understand. Part of the new plan the
housing plan, the housing plan, is to build on vacant land
and housing projects. Very controversial. Right?>>>RITCHIE TORRES: Intensely. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: But it
works out that it has to have a certain amount of
what- they’re saying, they say market rate?>>>RITCHIE TORRES:
Market rate. Yep. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: But
now, and then the rest has to be affordable. But that
affordable seemed to me to be very high. So- >>>RITCHIE TORRES: Although
the affordability adds no benefits of public health
because it’s generating->>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: So
is there any more public housing being built in
those new buildings.>>>RITCHIE TORRES: Well
public housing is so, is seen as a discredited model.
It’s so discredited that in 1998 I believe the federal government
affectively me to be it illegal to build public
housing using federal funds. So it’s effect, yes it is. And
it’s financially unfeasible to create public housing
without federal support so there’s affectively a moratorium
on public housing development in the United States.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: What
do our senators have to say about that? I’ve never
heard them discuss it. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: You
would have to ask them. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: I
think we should. So the money from that and it’s
very, it’s a precarious balance because it has to
have market rate housing to make it worthwhile,
will then go to repair and upgrade public housing? >>>RITCHIE TORRES:
Well look- yes. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE:
Which is in dire need. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: I think the
notion of creating a market rate development on public
housing land creates a visual Tale of Two Cities and you’re
creating it to the exclusion of a park or a playground->>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE:
Are you supporting it? >>>RITCHIE TORRES: I do
support it but as a public housing residents who grew
up in the Throggs Neck Houses, who would wrestle
in the park every day, if my park had been removed
in favor of a market rate development it would have been
devastating and traumatic. So at the level of lived
experience I understand the intensely emotional reaction.
But as a policymaker we’re receiving no resources
from the federal government. No resources from the state
government. Our public housing stock is in danger of
disappearing within the next ten or twenty years. We
need to generate revenue. A dedicated revenue stream
for NYCHA so that we can invest in repairs.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: But
who’s going to move into these buildings paying a
market rate when we are so concerned about crime
and the conditions of the public housing
buildings themselves. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: Well
the crime rate varies widely depending on the public housing.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: So
it’s not the ones with the heaviest crime where
they’re going to build. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: And
frankly you could not have market rate housing in
Brownsville, Brooklyn or in Mott Haven, for now,
but you could have it in the Upper East Side or
the Upper West Side or the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Those do have strong enough housing markets to support
high rents. And they’re not isolated. They in the
middle of communities. I see. So what do your constituents,
what do your neighbors, have to say about
it? They don’t like it?>>>RITCHIE TORRES: There’s a
widespread backlash against it but I, you know, people
say this is terrible. This is terrible. It’s tragic.
But what’s the alternative? The alternative is demolition
by neglect. And we have to use every tool at our disposal
to save public housing because if we lose it then
it will have catastrophic consequences for the poorest
New Yorkers in our cities.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: But
the contrast between these mega buildings that are going up
at these incredible costs, I mean, and prices to buy and
the public housing, isn’t there a way to make those people
really contribute to public housing?>>>RITCHIE TORRES:
By raising taxes? >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE:
Raising taxes or fees. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: Can we
pass, if we could get a tax increase, do you think
we can get a tax increase in this state? I don’t. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: Can
the city levy a fee? >>>RITCHIE TORRES: Our
ability to impose taxes is constrained by Albany. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: But as a
fee. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: I
believe the only kind of taxes that we could pass are generally
applicable property taxes. If we at single out a class of
people it requires approval from the state.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: You
can change the grade, the classes, but you don’t do
the rate. Is that what the difference is?>>>RITCHIE TORRES: It
would require full from Albany.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: But
there must be a way to balance, to bring some
balance between these two extremes. Anyway, we’ll
talk about that another time because we don’t have enough
time to philosophize as much as I’d like to.>>>RITCHIE TORRES: And look,
and just a fundamental point is that rather than
wait for federal funds that will come you know we have to address
NYCHA’s existential crisis and it requires desperate
measures. These are, and again, no one is pursuing
market rate development as a public good. We see it
as a terrible and tragic necessity for preserving
public housing and creating a bondable
dedicated revenue stream. And part of it is about,
part of it is a recognition that gentrification, if you
will, is inevitable in our city. So why not capture
some of the wealth created by gentrification and reinvest it
in housing for poor New Yorkers.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: It’s
an amazing challenge I think.>>>RITCHIE TORRES: It is.
It keeps me up at night. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: You
are the first person to take a committee, a
Housing Committee, into a housing project.
Did that shock you? >>>RITCHIE TORRES: Yes it
did. Like we’d never held a city council hearing in a
public housing development and we seldom hold them outside
city hall. I said, you know the goal, because I’m sure
you’ve seen the media coverage and the publicity around
participatory budgeting but as far as I’m concerned
participatory budgeting should be part of a
much broader vision of participatory government,
which includes bringing committee hearings,
bringing the government directly to the people- >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: Also
having hearings at a time when people can come. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: Exactly.
And so that people have an opportunity to testify and
normally at a city council hearing it’s held at city hall
and the agency testifies first and then testifies for four
hours and by the time everyday people get to testify all the
council members have left and I said not in my hearing.
In my hearing the tenants will testify first,
the agency will wait. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: Good
for you. But you also are talking a lot to young people.
You have a youth council.>>>RITCHIE TORRES: We were
able to create a youth city council. So as I said
earlier I’m a product of the Coro program and so I
partnered with the Coro program and the speaker’s
office and my colleagues in the council to create
a New York City Youth Council. So each council member has
a junior council member.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE:
That’s very good. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: Who
will immerse themselves in the workings of the
city council, land use, oversight hearings,
budgeting, constituents- >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: And
then will they eventually have their own like a UN,
like the United Nations does with having a model
assembly where you have a model council
meeting might? >>>RITCHIE TORRES: There
might be. I mean, it’s a new program and we are
inventing and reinventing it but I see it as just
the latest investment that we’re making in youth
civic engagement. I mean, youth civic
engagement is critical. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: And
you also want to have younger people on
community boards. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: Yes.
I am in favor of sixteen year olds on
community boards. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: So is
there a rule that says you can’t be on a community
board if you’re under the age of twenty one? >>>RITCHIE TORRES: I
believe there was a change in state law that allows
for sixteen year olds on community boards but
before I think I forget, I think it was public, there
was some state, there was a category of state law
that limited community board membership to eighteen. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: So
you’re really going, we’re at the end of this
program, that’s why I’m pushing you a little bit.
You’re really going deep into what’s behind us
to hopefully bring more people into this
whole process. >>>RITCHIE TORRES: You
know look, as I said I represent a hundred
and sixty five thousand residents and yet only six
thousand vote and so in some sense I ask myself am
I truly a representative of my district? Do we truly live
in a representative democracy? And so if we want to create
democracy in the truest sense of the word we have to cultivate
the next generation of politically and civically
engaged young leaders. And so that’s the driving
force behind my mission. >>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: It’s
certainly a paramount importance.>>>RITCHIE TORRES: I think
it is the essential public good from which everything
else will flow.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: And
you go to schools and talk to students?>>>RITCHIE TORRES: I did
a lecture on N.Y.U. a few days ago on public housing. I
partner with Generation Citizen to bring civics to high school
classes and speak about my own experiences in the
classroom. You know I speak about, I speak to young
men of color in particular to show them that I’m an example
of what is possible. That I’ve gone through many of
the struggles that they’re facing in their own lives.
And that they can make it.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: So do
you, you don’t think ahead about what you’re going
to do. You have six more years in the city council.>>>RITCHIE TORRES: I reckon that
I should focus on doing the best job that I can do and
everything else will follow. I truly believe that. Ultimately
politics rewards achievement.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: I’m
sure that everything that follows is going to be
very good. Ritchie Torres, we’re going to
be watching. >>>RITCHIE TORRES:
Please do. Cheer me on please.>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: I will
definitely. Thank you so much for coming. ♪ [Theme Music] ♪>>>RONNIE ELDRIDGE: If
there are any people you’d like to hear or topics you’d
like us to explore please let me know. You can write to
me at CUNY TV 365 5th Avenue New York, NY 10016. Or you
can go to the website at CUNY.TV and click on Contact Us. I look
forward to hearing from you. Thank you.

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