OSWEGO — GOP Gubernatorial candidate Harry Wilson is laying down the foundation to reduce crime in New York, should he be elected governor.
The candidate announced his campaign Feb. 22 after toying with the idea in 2018, ultimately voting to spend time with his family. Now, it’s finally time and he’s not short of paving the road on ways to make the state safer than it’s ever been before.
Wilson was born and raised in Johnstown to Greek parents. He’s a Harvard grad and has ions of experience in investment and financial services. Wilson has worked at Blackstone Group and Goldman Sachs. He founded MAEVA group in White Plains, where he serves as the CEO.
Wilson is no stranger to politics. He served as an advisor in the U.S. Treasury Department under President Barack Obama. He played a key role in stabilizing the auto industry during the recession of 2009, testifying at GM’s bankruptcy hearings.
The run for governor has taken on its own points and knobs in a pledge to “turn around New York. The gubernatorial candidate must now put his background to the test and get criminals off the street with methods compiled in a thoroughly thought out crime plan.
Wilson walked the Palladium-Times through that plan, which is defined in a 14 page document. It came to be during a vast study throughout the state. Wilson and his team hit the streets and talked to people living day to day, men, women, law enforcement and prosecutors alike.
“This is one of the things I think is wrong with New York State government,” Wilson said. “Invariably when we talk to these folks, they all said ‘no one in politics has ever asked me for my opinion before.’”
The turnaround plan includes an emphasis on public safety and attacks the areas the candidate said politicians in New York are failing. Cashless bail is one of those policies.
Cashless bail allows offenders to be released from jail before trial, without posting any money. This, Wilson said, is what is responsible for allowing criminals to continue to commit crimes after being released from jail.
“The bail reform of three years ago eliminated judicial discretion,” Wilson said. “ In addition to that, New York State is the only state in the country. The other 49 states and the federal government allow for a dangerousness standard. New York State has not for 51 years.”
Wilson said he would implement the change to end bail reform in the state’s budget. Much to the dismay of Wilson, budgets should not be used to pass policy and should be reserved for fiscal reasons, the governor hopeful relented.
“As part of my first budget, we would have a full scale reform fix of bail reform,” Wilson said.
Wilson expressed that the legislature failed to hit the nail on the head with facts concerning crime data, going as far as to say there was an attempt to obfuscate that data. 40 percent of spiking crime is driven by cashless bail, according to information provided by Wilson. Though, the argument revolves around it only contributing to two percent. Wilson said that low percentage takes offenses that have nothing to do with the issue into account.
The number game is like apples and oranges.
“I understand where the concerns about this come from, from certain parts of the legislature. I don’t agree with them,” Wilson said. “I think they miss a lot of the facts. An honest data driven assessment suggests that it’s a lot higher.”
But the issue is moot with strong arguments on both sides. Wilson analyzes another part of the system that is failing and has vowed to terminate it.
“We have, for the first time in my lifetime, a phenomenon of several district attorneys across the state who have publicly said they will not prosecute certain crimes,” Wilson said. “It is my strong view that it’s not their discretion as to which crimes are considered crimes.”
But Wilson said it is their duty to assess the prosecutorial merits of crimes that have been committed, defined under the penal code. As governor, Wilson has the authority to remove those DA’s he feels are not carrying out their duties under oath. Some DA’s, like Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, have said they refuse to prosecute low-level offenses. But what constitutes an offense that cannot go unpunished by a prosecutor?
“There’s very little commonsense with the differentiation amongst different kinds of crimes,” Wilson said. “I would say that a commonsense interpretation would be that violent offenses should be treated more seriously.”
Wilson also said offenses involving weapons of any kind, not just guns or weapons of any kind should be treated much more seriously. This extends to repeated offenders.
“That’s the bulk, the vast majority, I believe, of crimes that affect the quality of life for hardworking people across the state,” he said, which, these days, New Yorkers are not strangers to, especially following the recent shooting at a Tops grocery store in Buffalo that claimed the life of 10 Black people. In response, Governor Katie Houchl signed two executive orders creating a new terrorism task force within the state police, as well as reporting under the state’s Red Flag Law.
But there are two things wrong with Houchl’s approach, according to Wilson, who cited prior policy not being enforced by politicians. He said a task force already exists, but has never met, even though it is required to do so a certain number of times a year to give a report.
Wilson said by creating a new department within the state police, it organizationally creates a silo, or a separate organization within an entity that operates independently and doesn’t share information.
“You do not want to have silos. You want to have a free flow of information to make sure that you’re dealing with problems,” Wilson said.” Information is getting bottled up.”
The state of New York can be broken down systematically, just like the messy organizations Wilson so diligently reconstructed. He’s armed with his skill set of identifying the problem, which he says is the easy part.
“Identifying the problem is not that hard part,” Wilson said. “General Motors car quality was a problem. The question is, how do you fix it? Everybody knows the problem. We can look at the statistics, but what are the root causes?”
Wilson said the last piece is relentless execution.
“We as voters are conditioned to people on both sides of the aisle, first attacking the other side without providing solutions,” Wilson said. “What I do is under promise, over deliver and focus on things that really make a difference in people’s lives. That’s why I think my candidacy, because of what I could do as governor, is so different from anyone else running.”
The New York gubernatorial primary election is scheduled for June 28. Wilson is in the race against three other Republican candidates: Andrew Giuliani, Lee Zeldin and Rob Astorino for the nomination.