My interview with Allison Fine, congressional candidate for the 17th District, took place late in February and was slated to run as part of the mix inside May Mother’s Day editions prior to the print editions being canceled. So here it is for our online edition, one in a series of profiles of congressional candidates for the 17th District we have been presenting.
During this period of quarantining and isolation too, if there is one thing I’ll remember most from speaking with Allison Fine it was her immediately relaying to me her #1 passion: to make sure every single person is known, seen and heard. “So much of what has pulled us apart in the last 30 years is people feeling invisible, unheard and powerless.”
Fine has authored three books relating to harnessing technology for social good. “My entire career has been about giving people the tools and the power to manage their own life,” she said, noting she initially focused on helping nonprofits define and measure their success. More recently, she has worked with the Gates Foundation on the impact of artificial intelligence and automation on social change. As chair of the National Board of NARAL, the Pro-Choice America Foundation, she also sought to give people the tools to have autonomy over their own lives.
“Over the last 30 years we have seen the collapse of the middle class, and that is why our politics don’t align with our people, why we don’t have the political will for common sense gun control and reproductive freedom,” Fine said, noting the resultant loss of accountability. She believes that her focus on giving people that voice and power makes her unique in this race.
“It is that kind of building and shifting power to give more people a voice and the ability to control their own life that I know best in this race. So, this is not a moment in time to elect people who are career politicians and have worked inside this system – this is a time to have people who have very different experiences building and creating power outside to take us into the next chapter,” Fine argues.
The mother of three (her children are 24, 22 and 19), she is excited about trying to pursue change now that she is an empty nester. Fine is particularly passionate about women’s issues, dedicated to enabling women to control their own futures, both physically and financially. “The Republican Party is centered in controlling women; if it’s not abortions, it’s birth control or making sure we don’t get paid equally or we don’t have paid family leave,” she said. Citing the fate of Roe v. Wade and the realities in many states, she adds that “this is a fight worth having and winning, because over 70% of people in every state of the country believe in safer legal access to abortion. We need to build the political power and will to move past this bottleneck to full women’s equality,” she added, pointing to the Women’s Freedom agenda detailed on her website.
Fine is also dedicated to increasing job security. “So many people feel like the ground is moving beneath their feet economically.” She notes the uncertainty regarding benefits for increasing numbers who are contractors, freelancers, or “gig” workers, as well as everyone’s concerns about retirement and their children’s futures. She worries that her own kids will never be able to afford to live in communities like where they grew up (Irvington) or where she lives now (Sleepy Hollow, where she was raised).
Fine points out that with a quarter of NY17 LatinX, immigration must be addressed, noting the current administration’s “shameful” terrorization of both the documented and undocumented. “We need comprehensive immigration reform, a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people living in the shadows, we need to protect the DACA kids. We also need to hold accountable companies exploiting undocumented workers. I would love us to become a country where don’t just accept immigrants, we welcome them, as wonderful participants in our society, as people starting businesses, raising their families, working very hard, as those are the principles our country is built on,” Fine said.
A former synagogue president, Fine is also committed to fighting the rising wave of antisemitism and hate crimes. She points to the “separating” of communities, and advocates for having community mediators to bring different groups together in creative ways to increase understanding.
Noting too how technology has aided isolation of people and communities, Fine adds that “we are at the beginning of what I call “Online Onland Intersection.” As a legislator, she would push to hold social media companies accountable for misusing and selling personal data and failing to keep people safe online. She also points to co-working spaces as an example of maintaining the need for communal contact even while pursuing individual business interests.
Relatedly, Fine says “we desperately need people in Washington who understand automation and what is about to happen to our jobs, to our people, to our communities,” and calls automation an “equal opportunity disruptor” that will result in job losses everywhere – Wall Street, paralegals, the medical profession, and service industries. “Across the board, we need to make sure we have people who are making sure technology is harnessed ethical ways, that people are in charge of the technology and not the other way around and that we are investing heavily in workforce development because people are going have to create different kinds of occupations.” She added that access to capital, especially for traditionally overlooked groups like women and people of color, is crucial to create new businesses to support these new realities.
Fine also agrees that “the climate crisis is our existential crisis of the time,” and that the federal government “must invest in innovations that become commercial enterprises, to protect communities from rising temperatures, rising water, to vary the grid, and create jobs.” And she finds the lack of common sense gun control “confounding,” supported by the majority of the country but the inaction political.
A Crowded Field, With Many Women
Fine is impressed with how smart and well-intentioned her competitors are for this congressional seat. She is proud that so many women are running: “It’s awfully important who is at the table.. It matters for what issues are at the top of the agenda,” she said, pointing to countries like Finland that have a legislative majority of women that focus on issues like equal pay.
“Last year I created an effort called The Network of Elected Women because women are getting elected at record levels, at the municipal level around the country, county, town and village. We have 25 women here in Westchester who come together once a month and they support one another and they learn together and some of them are then taking the next step,” Fine said, describing the “virtual” meetings of the group. She added that New Castle Town Supervisor Ivy Pool has been a part of the council from the beginning, and it convinced her to run for Supervisor after being on the Town Board, an example of the need to convince women to take the next step for leadership positions.
“A couple of weeks ago, Goldman Sachs said it wouldn’t take any company public that didn’t have one female board member. Really? One? That’s how low the bar is set. Why isn’t it a third? Why isn’t it two-thirds? One?”
Personal Role Models and Being A Fighter
Fine points to her own mother and grandmother as her role models. Her grandmother, eventually fired for leaving her Lower East Side sweatshop sewing machine to march for suffrage, had arrived in the US in 1905 at the age of five on a boat from Lithuania, but found the courage to be an early fundraiser for Israel and fight for women’s rights while raising three sons. Fine describes her own mother as an introvert who found the courage to run for chair of the Westchester/Putnam Girl Scouts and eventually the Tarrytown school board, where she fought for children’s education for 10 years.
From them, Fine became a fighter: “you have to lift people up and move them forward. That’s what I do – I build communities and move them forward every step of the way,” she said.
Visit allisonfine2020.com for more information on Allison and her policy positions.