December 14, 2015, 0:40:43 CET | Wikinews
Burke, an insurance adjuster and farmer, was elected councilman in Brookhaven, New York in 1979. He left the town after being accused and found not guilty of bribery in the 1980s. Since 1987 he has served as Macomb councilman off-and-on and currently holds the post. From 1993 to 1996 and 1999 to 2002 he worked as chairman of the Democratic Party of St. Lawrence County, New York. Among his many political campaigns, Burke unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 1992 and recently attempted to run for U.S. Congress in 2014 but too many of his ballot petition signatures were found invalid. Burke filed with the Federal Election Commission to run for president in the 2016 election on September 18, 2015 and has qualified for the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire Primary.
With Wikinews reporter William S. Saturn, Burke discusses his political background, his 2016 presidential campaign, and his policy proposals.
William S. Saturn What are some of your achievements as councilman in Brookhaven, New York?
Steve Burke The only way to answer your question is by semi story okay? I was asked once to take over the fight to save the county infirmary from closure. It housed ill and hopeless cases. I felt it was the county's obligation to keep it open. Just as I believe we have an obligation to the mentally ill who need a hospital setting instead of the street or jail. So I took on the county and organized the seniors, relatives of the patients and went to work until the county elected officials cried uncle and kept it open. In fact they built a brand new infirmary and I believe it is still open. I last stopped there in the 1990s to visit a man I became friends with at the infirmary. He was bed ridden after he was stabbed with a knife in the back and it severed his spine. The county infirmary is owned by Suffolk County but in the town of Brookhaven. When I was first elected to the Brookhaven council, I felt we could now start to help the people. What a shock I got and lessons no political course in school can teach. There [were] some minor patronage jobs available. One person who was a disabled vet wanted some part time work. I spoke with my board members and they agreed to give him a bingo inspector job. About four evenings a month minor pay. On our very first meeting I looked at the agenda and his name was not there. I asked why and they told me they decided to give it to a bartender where they ate and drank. Because he made good drinks. That did not fly with me. I called them all into a room and spoke with them and the party leader by phone. The result was that day the disabled vet got the position and held it until he passed on. So back stabbing, back biting, always looking to get even [are] the lessons I learned the hard way from my fellow elected officials. But it taught me how to get things done. Former New Hampshire U.S. Senator [Warren] Rudman said when he quit the Senate, he could not get over the hatred and back stabbing in Washington. So I guess when you deal with elected egos it is the same all over. The town had a few hundred vehicles they owned and the employees drove. Remember Brookhaven is the largest town in New York. I was assigned the public safety department. I found the town cars were unaccounted for. No one knew where they were or who had them. Some I found in back yards of employees with parts missing, invoices of repairs not done on town cars but on personal cars and charged to the town. I stopped all of that, put the repairs out to bid. Made a depot to pick up and drop off daily a car. Changed the color and bought smaller vehicles. I also started a repair yard with town mechanics. When the bid expired. I saved the local police/code enforcement department that they wanted to get rid of. They took care of our parks and buildings, etc. I think I put in a resolution to push for the five cent return bottles, cans, etc., or maybe I just brought it up. I am not sure. That was before the state did it. The town dog pound was a problem. I heard they were selling dogs and cats out the back door to labs and for guard dog companies. I got the town board to go in with me one evening and seize the records. We went through them and turned them over to the district attorney. It was not followed up. But there [were] no more rumors of dogs or cats going out the back door. I am sure there was more but that was 30 years ago. You will have to cut it down. One builds up enemies if you do anything as an elected official. Those that last a long time are generally do nothings, no waves.
WSS What are some of your achievements as councilman in Macomb, New York?
SB I am the only Democrat on the five person board. So the entire board has to take credit of keeping tax increases below 2% a year without going into our fund balance. In fact our fund balance is the best of the other 31 towns and the county of St. Lawrence. We have lowered the cost of health care along with our tax base. Upgraded equipment, put money aside for replacement equipment, made our buildings energy efficient. Then we started at the beginning of each meeting the Pledge of Allegiance and a short prayer to the Almighty. Best of all we have no debt.
St. Lawrence County highlighted in red.
Image: David Benbennick.
WSS What are some of your achievements as chairman of the Democratic Party of St. Lawrence County?
SB This was a strong Republican county when I first became chair. I was able to turn the county around to Democrat, but now it has fallen back to Republican. I started the first resource guide that allowed us to raise funds, obtained a house for the first time ever headquarters. Hillary Clinton won her first Senate seat with just 10 counties out of 62 in New York. We were one of those 10 counties when I was chair. I served as chair and was called back after several years to be chair again. I left the party in both a happy, strong and good financial condition.
WSS According to WWNY-TV, you previously ran for president in 1992. What was the nature of that run and what did you learn from it?
SB I am impressed that you did some investigative work. It is rare today. Good for you. You should go far in this field. The country was just starting to feel the impact of a slowdown. I wanted to speak out as to what I saw and speak to the issues of the day. I learned that it was a closed shop then and has gotten worse both in ability to be recognized and the economic situation. NAFTA and all free trade policies are detrimental to our economical health, jobs, income and general well being of the country. When NAFTA was first proposed I was chair and spoke out against it and was given heat for it. But oh well I swim upstream anyway.
WSS Did you run in any presidential primaries in 1992?
SB I ran in six states total and did the best [in] Louisiana.
WSS Why are you [a] Democrat? What do you like about the party and have you ever considered joining a non-establishment party?
SB No I will not join any other party. I like the freedom of being a Democrat. This freedom is not found in other parties.
WSS So far you have filed to run in the New Hampshire primary. Do you plan on filing for any other primaries?
SB Yes we are working in other states to be known and have signed up for Louisiana. Money is always a problem in a grassroots campaign.
WSS What do you hope to accomplish with this campaign?
SB That a voice be heard that is different than what is there now. The same old, same old get you the same old with no chance of bringing the county back home to where we have full employment, everyone getting along, pulling together regardless of color, race or religion. We are Americans all, living on a small rock just hanging out in space.
WSS What are your thoughts on the job Barack Obama has done as president? Specifically, what would you have done differently?
SB I will not slam an other Democrat who is doing what he feels is correct. I would do things differently for sure.
A. I believe in making friends not enemies.
B. No sanctions, I consider them an act of war.
C. Trade with every[one] on the planet. It is good for [us] and the products we have to sell — jobs.
D. Healthcare needs to be tweaked; move it in line with the health plan the congress has and a single payer.
WSS In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing America and how will you deal with these as president?
SB Make friends. You see how China is doing it by helping all around the world along with Russia. War and the blood of our young and our treasury is causing us to be bled to third world status. Radical Islam — work with a coalition of nations with the United Nations and root out that nest of vipers once and for all. Rebuild those countries devastated by war as was done after World War II.
Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his I Have a Dream speech.
Image: National Archives and Records Administration.
WSS If elected, what would constitute a successful presidency for you?
SB Make friends around the world, fair trade, full employment here at home. New plants opening up. I have a plan for that. Where we finally answer Reverend Martin Luther [King, Jr.]'s I Have a Dream.
WSS What exactly is the plan?
SB We have a precedent set with the General Motors bailout. All the closed factory and manufacturing buildings around the country need to be used. Let's find the people with skills to open them up and get them running. The government will have a startup fund to lend, so we can be self sufficient again. By closing some of our military bases around the world that money can be used in this country and the military brought home to help secure our borders. Remember we are bleeding money and must stop it or we are done. One of the best things I feel for all our young is to have a military draft for a two year period of their lives. It teaches them order and how to get along and live with people of all colors and religions. Add a CCC type of organization to that and give them a choice. Then add a GI type of benefits to that. As a correction officer I saw the hopelessness of prisoners who could not read or write but were smart. If the government uses its money and talent not just on early intervention but in all grades to help these kids who have trouble in school reading and writing etc. Americans right now feel a sense of no one cares and we are going nowhere. Lack of jobs, money, housing. If you are married William then you know money in marriage is the big problem not sex. We have people with ideas in this country. Let's use them to make our country self sufficient again. Let's show the country through leadership that we are moving forward together towards a goal. No more making scapegoats out of each other. Those in office have a hunger for more and more money because they have a need???? Well so do those working or having a business. Let's not tax them to death. We all want to have the good life. Let's work towards that goal. I see the problems and know there are answers by setting goals, direction and leadership. Sorry if I got off on a rant. But you asked.
WSS Which individuals would you like to see in a Burke administration?
SB People who have a love of country, its people and the constitution. They will be movers and shakers in their field to do the right things for our country.
As a side note to you William. I was on 60 Minutes for some legislation I sponsored against Teflon coated bullets that can pass through armored police vests. The Congress then followed with their legislation later on. I believe they used my idea after the NRA and I were on 60 Minutes. I believe it was my efforts that had North Korea free the American prisoners this year. I have also been working to do the same in Iran [...]
WSS What exactly did you do to help free American prisoners in North Korea?
SB WWNY-TV first did a story on my writing to the Supreme Leader Kim Jung Un. When that did not work, I followed up with someone I know who was the military attache for the former USSR. I asked him to speak to Putin for me. He traveled to Moscow and within two weeks all the prisoners were released. That's what I mean by making friends. I have tried that avenue with Iran but was told no.
WSS Last election cycle in December 2011 there was a lesser-known candidates forum at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire. Have you received any invitation to such an event?
SB No invitations have been received. It is different than 1992. Oh one item I forgot to mention to you. When the [National Defense] NDAA of 2012 was before Congress. I wrote a resolution against section 1021 and 1022 of the NDAA Act of 2012. The town board all voted in favor of my resolution. A copy of it was sent to the President, Supreme Court justices and the entire New York delegation to Congress. Only one congressman, Mr. [Brian Higgins] of Buffalo, had the moxie to answer and acknowledge the resolution. That legislation was a bad bill, but they passed it.
WSS Do you have a campaign website?
SB Yes I am finalizing it by next week. I am using Simple Nerds to do it. Great name for a company that a presidential candidate is using? [...] By the way my campaign committee has fourteen people. Two African Americans, two Hispanics, several pastors, former immigrants from other countries and me. Thank you William for the questions. I look forward to one day meeting you.
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