BY JON CRONIN
New York City comptroller candidate and former New York Jets defensive lineman Rev. Michel Faulkner stopped by the PRESS of Southeast Queens office on Monday to discuss why he believes that the city needs small government and how the Republican Party should change from the bottom up.
Faulkner said that he wants the GOP to remember its roots in the foundation of individual freedom and criticized big government in the city for becoming “poverty pimps,” citing the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) complexes.
The reverend called the current comptroller “toothless” as an official who is supposed to be an independent watchdog over the mayor’s spending and said that he respected former Comptroller Alan Hevesi for going head to head with then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
“I’ve known Scott Stringer for 20 years. He’s a good campaigner, but nobody knows who he is,” said Faulkner.
A Baltimore native, he remembers first coming to New York City in 1981 to play professional football. Even though Faulkner’s paycheck could allow him to live anywhere, he opted to reside with a pastor and his family in the Bronx. When asked by his teammates why he lived in that borough, he told them that he felt safe there.
“In the Bronx?!” they replied.
“But that’s where I learned to love this city,” said Faulkner, who is founder and pastor of the New Horizon Church in Harlem. “This is a working-class city. This is not a big-government city.”
Following his year in the NFL, Faulkner went back to Virginia Tech, where he received his bachelor’s degree and attained a master’s degree in education and career counseling.
After a short time at Liberty University in Virginia as assistant dean of students and then vice president for urban ministry, he moved with his family to New York City in 1988. He served on Giuliani’s Task Force on Police Community Relations and as commissioner for the City Charter Revision Commission.
In 2010, he ran against U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-Bronx) and received 10 percent of the vote. Earlier this year, he stepped down from his mayoral run in the Republican primary after he decided that Staten Island Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis “outflanked” him.
He said that his hero is Fredrick Douglass, from whom he garners his small-government philosophy, and cited Douglass’ quote in reference to African Americans following the Civil War: “Do nothing with us. You’re doing with us has already played the mischief with us.”
Faulkner believes that—as he interprets Douglass’ message—any community should rise and fall on its own merits.
He added that he believes the Republican Party was founded with the aim of freeing slaves, but “Republicans today hold slaves.”
“All government should do is level the playing field. Government can’t be a caregiver,” he said, adding that he believes that bureaucracy grows itself. “In the past two years, the city’s staff has grown 20 percent.”
Faulkner sees himself as an idealist—“a true believer”—and is not swayed by the notion that as a Republican in New York City, he will not win.
“It only hurts with those who don’t know me,” he said.
He added that he believes in the GOP’s core philosophy of small government.
“I don’t owe the Republicans anything,” he said. “I’ve been black all my life. I’m Republican by choice.”
Faulkner said that he intends to appeal to black and Latino voters and believes that no Republican can win without their votes.
He cites issues with NYCHA housing as a failure of governmental management. Faulkner said that he once spoke with a woman who sat on her toilet with an umbrella due to leaks from above and the problem was never fixed, despite her paying $1,400 a month in rent and going before a judge.
“If this were privately owned, that landlord would have been cited and arrested,” he said. “All she got was her ticket punched for appearing in court.”