Gotham Gazette Fri, 20 Oct 2017 07:08:53 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) Forecasting the Upcoming City Council Gender Imbalance rose rosenthal chin

CMs Chin, left; Rose, center; & Rosenthal, center right (photo: Gotham Gazette)

There are currently only 13 women in the 51-seat New York City Council, a troubling 25 percent. The number is down from 18 women in the Council a few years ago. With the city’s quadrennial elections upon us, a new Council class will be inaugurated in January, with the September 12 primaries largely determining who will fill the city’s legislative body for the next four years in this very Democratic city.

Most would agree that gender balance in the City Council improves the legislative, oversight, and constituent services provided to the public. The dynamics of this year’s elections are not promising for improving the Council gender balance: five of the Council’s 13 women are not running for reelection, four of them due to term limits. Notably, all five are women of color: Rosie Mendez, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Annabel Palma, and Darlene Mealy are all term-limited and Julissa Ferreras-Copeland has decided not to seek reelection.

Ferreras-Copeland is certain to be replaced by a man, as the race to replace her is between two men; while the other four could be as well, though there are women running competitively for each seat.

There are five other “open” seats this cycle where the incumbent male Council member is not running for reelection, in three cases -- Dan Garodnick, James Vacca and Vincent Gentile -- due to term limits. While Gentile is almost certain to be replaced by a man, for Garodnick’s seat and Vacca’s seat there are competitive races that include female candidates with a solid shot at victory. The fourth case is David Greenfield, who will be replaced by one of the two men seeking his seat. And the fifth case is Ruben Wills, removed from office after a recent corruption conviction, who is likely to be replaced by a woman, Adrienne Adams, the favorite in the race.

Additionally, there are a handful of incumbent female Council members being challenged by men in their reelection bids and two incumbent male Council members facing significant challenges by female candidates.

All told, the number of women in the Council could realistically dip as low as six. It could realistically increase to as many as 16. Both extremes are unlikely, but plausible.

The City Council’s Women’s Caucus, which is chaired by Council Members Helen Rosenthal and Laurie Cumbo, each of whom is facing a tough primary challenge this year (Rosenthal from a transgender man, Cumbo from a woman), recently released a report on the gender imbalance in the Council. It notes barriers to office-seeking for women, especially “structural barriers and issues of perception” that “create a “political ambition gap.””

“Traditional gender roles force women to choose between careers and family, limiting the potential pool of female candidates,” the report states. “Electoral gatekeepers then fail to reach out to and support women. Women also underestimate their own qualifications and overestimate the challenges they will face in electoral politics.”

The report recommends “more aggressive recruitment of female candidates and stronger mentoring efforts.” (It notes that the number of women in the Council “is projected to decrease even further, to as low as 9 for the upcoming term ending in 2021.” The problem is even more potentially dire than the report indicates. It appears its authors did not consider Ferreras-Copeland’s departure or that incumbent female members could be ousted by male challengers.)

The current City Council Speaker, the aforementioned Melissa Mark-Viverito, previously helped launch a nonprofit, 21 in 21, which seeks the election of 21 women to the City Council through the 2021 city election cycle. Due to the tinkering done to term limits by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council, there will be more than 30 “open” seats in the 2021 cycle, making for a lot of opportunity to address the Council gender balance.

But there are also opportunities this year, and little seems to be in motion in terms of major collective efforts by the Democratic establishment to see more women elected through the 2017 voting cycle (48 of the 51 Council members elected in 2013 are Democrats).

Mark-Viverito is doing a great deal to see her preferred successor, Diana Ayala, defeat Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez in one of the races to replace a female Council member that could go either way. Given his status as an elected official, Rodriguez is at least a slight favorite in this race to represent East Harlem and parts of the South Bronx.

For Mendez’s seat, which represents parts of the Lower East Side, her preferred successor is Carlina Rivera, who has received a good deal of establishment support and is considered the favorite, though she has tough competition from Mary Silver and Ronnie Cho.

Alicka Ampry-Samuel has a lot of establishment support to keep Mealy’s central Brooklyn seat represented by a woman. But, she is in a tough race with several male candidates, most notably Henry Butler and Cory Provost.

For Garodnick’s East Side seat, a very crowded primary includes several strong female candidates. The favorite in the race, however, is Keith Powers. Still, Marti Speranza could quite plausibly prevail, which would flip this seat from male to female. Bessie Schachter, Vanessa Aronson, Rachel Honig, and Maria Castro are also running, with varying less likely paths to victory. Garodnick has not endorsed in the race. Of the unions, elected officials, political clubs, newspaper editorial boards, and others that have, Powers and Speranza have each received a lot of support.

For Vacca’s seat in the Bronx, he is backing Marjorie Velazquez, but she is facing a significantly uphill race against sitting Assemblymember Mark Gjonaj. There’s been no groundswell behind Velazquez.

There’s a similar situation for Palma’s Bronx seat: Amanda Farias is a strong candidate, but she is likely to lose to State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. and little seems to be happening to rally behind her candidacy.

The Queens establishment and other members of the Democratic political elite are behind Adrienne Adams for Ruben Wills’ empty seat. But, Rich David is also running and could pull off an upset.

As previously stated, Ferreras-Copeland will be replaced by a man, either Assemblymember Francisco Moya or former State Senator Hiram Monserrate, who has been convicted for both assaulting his girlfriend and illegal use of city money. Greenfield will be replaced by either his preferred successor, Kalman Yeger, or by Yoni Hikind, both men. And the crowded competition for Gentile’s seat is almost all men, including the most likely winners, led by Justin Brannan (this Southern Brooklyn race is actually one where a Republican could win the seat, though Brannan, a Democrat, is generally seen as having the upper hand, both in a tough primary and the eventual competitive general).

There are also competitive incumbent primaries where the Council gender balance is at play. As mentioned, Rosenthal is facing a tough primary, from Mel Wymore, on the Upper West Side, though Rosenthal is likely to prevail. Wymore is seeking to become the first transgender member of the City Council, and has not lived what we may think of as a typical male life. Council Members Margaret Chin in downtown Manhattan and Elizabeth Crowley in Queens are also facing competitive challenges from male candidates, though both are favored to be reelected.

The female incumbents either certain or nearly sure to win reelection are Vanessa Gibson, Inez Barron, and Karen Koslowitz. As mentioned, Laurie Cumbo could lose to another woman, Ede Fox, though Cumbo has significant advantages of incumbency. And, Council Member Debi Rose, of Staten Island, is facing a tough challenge from another woman, Kamillah Hanks.

In the other direction, Council Member Peter Koo is facing a tough challenge from Alison Tan, and Council Member Mathieu Eugene is facing formidable opposition from Pia Raymond, a woman, as well as from Brian Cunningham.

We’ll know a lot more on Tuesday night when the primary results come in.

In its report, the Women’s Caucus explains why it is important to elect more women and have gender balance in government. It says, in part:

“Women legislators bring with them lived experiences and crucial viewpoints that allow them to identify and take on the unique challenges that women face. As a result, women legislators have been shown to introduce more legislation directly affecting women, children, and families. Additionally, women have been shown to introduce more legislation overall, and are also more likely to work across party lines.”

One of the “strategies for the future” that the report identifies is: “Party leaders, advocacy organizations, and other political groups also need to make an active effort to reach out to individual women about running for seats. The women in City Council should make an effort to encourage politically active women in their circles to run for of×ce, as current or former Council Members have a unique ability to address many of the factors that discourage women from running.”

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

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Forecasting the Upcoming City Council Gender Imbalance Wed, 06 Sep 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Nicole Malliotakis on Trying to Become New York’s First Female Mayor malliotakis fearless girl nmalliotakis

Assemblymember Malliotakis with Fearless Girl (via @NMalliotakis)

In 2013, one storyline of the raucous and unpredictable Democratic mayoral primary was Christine Quinn’s bid to become the first woman elected Mayor of New York City. Then the City Council Speaker and the early frontrunner in the race, Quinn largely avoided talking about that history-making potential. Running as the continuity-with-change candidate based on her close working relationship with outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Quinn finished third in a crowded primary field behind the eventual winner of the election, Bill de Blasio.

As de Blasio seeks reelection this year, he appears set to face Republican Nicole Malliotakis in the general election -- de Blasio is a heavy favorite in his Democratic primary and Malliotakis became the presumptive GOP nominee after her toughest competition, real estate executive Paul Massey, dropped from the race last week.

Malliotakis, a 36-year-old state Assembly member from Staten Island, is the only woman in the 2017 mayoral race and is looking to become the first woman to lead a major party ticket since Ruth Messinger, a Democrat, in 1997, and Diane McGrath-McKechnie, who was the Republican nominee in 1985.

In an interview, Malliotakis said that while she is excited to inspire younger women and girls, she does not plan to make her gender or history-making potential a campaign focus, nor has she thought much about a policy agenda related to so-called women’s issues. She did say, though, that she is honored to be in the position she’s in and hopes women rally to support her; and she promised, “I'll be coming out with my sort-of a women's platform in the future.” Its contents are still “to be determined,” she said, though she did cite Latina suicide and domestic violence as key concerns that fit the general category.

If she does face de Blasio in the general election, as is expected, Malliotakis will be competing against a mayor who has received a lot of praise for his work on gender equity and empowering women at the highest levels of city government. For example, de Blasio recently signed legislation put forward by Public Advocate Letitia James that bans city employers from asking job candidates for their salary history, a practice that disadvantages women. But, de Blasio also recently came under fire after a New York Times article pointed to a disproportionate percentage of female departures from his administration, something Malliotakis referenced in the interview with Gotham Gazette.

Asked if she’s thinking about making history as the first woman to become the city’s mayor, Malliotakis said, “of course you think about it...especially in a city that claims to be so progressive, we've never had a female mayor.”

“I'm very proud to carry this banner, and it's really an honor. But I don't think people should vote for me because I'm a woman,” Malliotakis said. “I think it's great. I would love to see more women coalesce around me, as the female candidate in the race, but certainly I believe that I should be judged on my policies, and what I put forward. I think I have some really good ideas for this city, and I think that I've presented many ideas over my time in the New York State Assembly.”

Pieces of her Assembly record and stances on key issues may make it challenging for her to appeal to many New York women, and are already fodder for the de Blasio campaign.

Malliotakis, who will also appear on the Conservative Party ballot line in November, and possibly others, is a Republican in a heavily Democratic city. But, she is hoping to woo not only Republicans, but Giuliani Democrats, the city’s sizeable population of voters unaffiliated with a political party, and disaffected Democrats who are disappointed with de Blasio for whatever reason.

She’s already shown some movement leftward as she eyes the general election: she announced her support for marriage equality after having voted against it in 2011, when it passed through Albany. (She was subsequently criticized by the head of the Conservative Party, as reported by Politico New York, showcasing the balancing act she may be attempting as she attempts to hold the Republican base and appeal to moderates.)

Asked where she stands on some of the typical, higher profile topics often referred to as “women’s issues,” like gender pay equity, reproductive choice, and family leave, Malliotakis said she voted in favor of the bills in the “women’s equality agenda” that came through the Assembly, which included measures like pay equity and protecting domestic violence victims. However, she voted against the bill that would write the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision into New York law.

“The one bill that I did not support is the abortion expansion bill,” she said, “which would allow abortion to the third trimester. And I think most New Yorkers, if you look at some of the polls, are opposed to that, in the third trimester.” As for her abortion policy, Malliotakis said, “I don't like that question, because I feel it's not just pro life and pro choice, it's not black or white, I think there's a lot of things that go into a decision of that magnitude.”

She continued: “Personally, it's not something that I could do, but it's not to say that my views should be imposed on other women who may have different experiences. So I don't like being pigeonholed into one category. I never found that to be appropriate. But what I will say is I am opposed to that third trimester legislation that has come up again and again.”

“I'm not looking to change the law,” she said, “I'm not looking to repeal Roe v. Wade. I have my personal beliefs, but I'm not looking to impose my views on other women.”

De Blasio and his campaign aren’t sitting back and letting Malliotakis define her candidacy without their criticism, quickly playing offense and seeking to tie Malliotakis to Republican President Donald Trump, who is deeply unpopular in New York City.

"No one who made the decision to support Donald Trump after his unconscionable and illegal behavior towards women should be lecturing anyone on women's issues,” said Monica Klein, a spokesperson for de Blasio’s campaign, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “Whether she's opposing access to reproductive healthcare, voting to deny LGBTQ couples the right to marry, or supporting the sexist President, the Assembly Member has shown time and again she's dangerously out of touch with New York City's women.”

Klein was referencing Malliotakis’ votes against marriage equality and against a bill that would prohibit the state from denying access to abortion services. Malliotakis has said she voted for Trump in November after having supported Senator Marco Rubio in the Republican presidential primary.

“Under Mayor de Blasio, employers are banned from asking about salary history, we have a new Commission on Gender Equity, tampons are free in city schools, and lactation rooms are open in social service agencies,” Klein also said. “That's what a real champion for women's issues looks like."

“I'm sure we'll be talking about women's issues” on the campaign trail, Malliotakis told Gotham Gazette, standing outside City Hall after a press conference where she released her homelessness-fighting plan. Homelessness, it seems clear, is much more of a political vulnerability for de Blasio than issues related to gender equity or women’s rights. (Malliotakis' campaign followed up with Gotham Gazette to note that the Assembly member recently voted in favor of state bills to prohibit employers from asking salary history of applicants and to remove sales tax from feminine hygiene products.)

While Malliotakis can speak to issues that will resonate with women, it’s not clear how much she will. Thus far, her campaign has focused on attacking de Blasio’s ethics and management, and on “quality of life” issues like homelessness, public transit, and traffic.

“I know how difficult it is to be in a male-dominated field,” Malliotakis said of politics and government, “and so I think it's having a woman be mayor, I mean that's the greatest thing we could do for women's equality.” It “would do more for women's equality than any other types of bills...or proclamations or anything like that. And so, if I can deliver that for the women of New York City, that would be wonderful.”

Whether or not Malliotakis chooses to put her gender and history-making potential at the front and center of her campaign, she can’t escape being viewed as a woman running for office, says Alexis Grenell, an expert on gender norms and research and co-founder of Pythia Public, a political consultancy.

“Women don’t have a choice whether to run on their gender or not on their gender,” Grenell said in an interview. “You have to deal with gender no matter what because the electorate sees gender. Is she going to ‘run as a woman’? She has no choice.”

But, Grenell stressed there are still many relevant choices to make. “There’s a difference between having a platform that affirmatively puts forward gender as a qualification or putting forward a platform that deals with gender issues.”

Malliotakis’ policies may not match what the majority of New York City women believe in, but, Grenell explained, “Speaking to issues that women tend to care about is a mainstream strategy that will help win elections.”

No matter her political beliefs, Malliotakis faces a normative disadvantage, Grenell said, because “Women have a higher barrier for entry in terms of qualifications....She will really have to lead with her qualifications.” The electorate judges women more harshly than men.

Malliotakis may be just 36 years old, but she’s a veteran politician who has been in office since 2011, after she defeated an incumbent, and possesses quick wit and political instincts. Still, as state Republican Party chair Ed Cox recently told Gotham Gazette, she is a legislator, and needs to show voters that she can be an executive. As Grenell points out, this bar may be higher for many voters because she is a woman.

De Blasio must be careful campaigning against Malliotakis, Grenell said, especially when they face off in debates, if it gets to that point. The mayor must “fight some of his inclination to be patronizing,” she said, “which would take on a whole new dimension when facing a strong, young woman on a debate stage.” Grenell referenced Joe Biden’s roundly-praised performance against Sarah Palin in their 2008 debate, which some saw as a potential minefield for the soon-to-be Vice President.

Malliotakis is not making gender the focus of her candidacy, but she does see it resonating on the trail. “I do see particular excitement coming from women when I interact with them,” Malliotakis told Gotham Gazette, “when I go to parades, for instance, or events, that women are very excited that I'm running...a lot of people want me to take photos with their little girls.”

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

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Note: this article has been corrected to more clearly reflect Malliotakis' "no" vote on the Roe v. Wade measure.

Nicole Malliotakis on Trying to Become New York’s First Female Mayor Wed, 05 Jul 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Officials Discuss Gender Equity, Sexism at ‘Diversity’ Conference on diversity panel

The "On Diversity" panel; photo via William Alatriste for the City Council

What are "women’s issues"? When should men recognize their privilege and stand down? Speak up? How do women in public life talk about everyday sexism and engage men in that dialogue?

These were just a few of the questions asked on Tuesday during one panel discussion at City & State NY’s annual “On Diversity” conference. Elected officials, business professionals, journalists, members of academia, and others gathered to discuss issues of race and gender in public life, especially related government and doing business with it.

City & State columnist Alexis Grenell moderated the panel discussion on gender equity, norms, and policies with New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, City Council Member Dan Garodnick, State Assembly Member Nily Rozic, and Michael Kimmel, professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Stony Brook College. The discussion revolved around gender equality both in the workplace and the home, as well as how gender issues are defined within government, the press, and the broader public.

Grenell started the conversation by quoting Professor Kimmel himself: “White men are the single greatest beneficiary of the [greatest] affirmative action of the history of the world. And that’s called the history of the world.”

Kimmel jumped in to discuss the traditional belief that men don’t have a say or a place in conversations on gender. “We think that gender - the word gender itself - is a woman’s issue," he said. "When you hear the word gender, the word, what comes into your mind usually is women. Most men don’t think that gender really matters to us.”

While the discussion addressed what is often a divide between men and women on certain political issues and how they are framed in public discourse, the dynamics of the discussion itself also reflected these issues. In a conversation fraught with potential landmines, the three elected officials on the panel spoke from differing personal experience, but all with a largely common perspective. Throughout, Garodnick and Kimmel - the two men on the stage - stressed the importance of redefining women’s issues as gender or family issues and the importance of recognizing men as stakeholders within the framework of these issues. The women - Grenell, Rozic, and Mark-Viverito - agreed.

Meanwhile, Mark-Viverito and Rozic also focused on the importance of having women in elected office and that of including women’s perspectives when discussing issues that directly affect women. Mark-Viverito is the first Latina to be Speaker of the City Council; Rozic was the youngest woman in the Assembly when she was elected.

“How do we include, get more women into politics - because our perspective is essential - but do we give men the toolkit to understand when to back off a little bit of that privilege, right? So when do men have to stand down when a woman is speaking, perhaps? And also maybe when do we not include men enough when they should be stakeholders? So how do we walk that fine line?” she asked the panel at one point.

Kimmel discussed the role men have as stakeholders when it comes to what are traditionally referred to as women’s issues, such as paid parental leave, reproductive rights, and sexual assault on college campuses. He emphasized the need to redefine the issues to include men by saying that “we cannot fully empower women and girls unless we engage boys and men.”

Garodnick discussed his experiences with gendered expectations and stereotypes. He recalled the period in which he took paid parental leave, and despite being fully engaged in the parenting process during that time, he said he also felt pressure to project a certain image to his colleagues and peers while doing so, namely that he was still busy with work while on leave.

Agreeing with Kimmel, Garodnick emphasized the need to change the perception that certain issues are strictly women’s issues when, in fact, “they’re family issues, they’re societal issues, they’re economic development issues. These are big picture issues.”

Kimmel also called for the politicization of the familiar relationships men already have with women. “We don’t enter [the conversation on gender issues] as men,” he said. “We enter as sons and as fathers and as husbands and as partners...every man in this room knows what it feels like already to love a woman and want her to thrive. We need to just make that political, public.”

While Mark-Viverito and Rozic both acknowledged the importance of men recognizing their place as stakeholders on certain issues, they both maintained that having women in positions of power and continuing to challenge sexism present within government and the workplace in general are the most effective ways to achieve gender equity.

Rozic discussed the sexist assumptions that continue to pervade the culture in Albany, where the state Legislature she is a part of conducts its business. She recalled incidents of sexism, including an occasion when she was denied access to the Assembly floor during a roll call vote by a Sergeant in Arms who assumed, because of her gender in combination with her age, that she was not an Assembly member despite her having been in Albany for several months. Rozic also discussed multiple occasions of having been mistaken as male colleagues’ staff member, girlfriend, or wife when standing next to them during a conversation while in the workplace.

“Believe it or not, Albany is a little backwards,” Rozic said wryly early in the discussion.

“It is a very fine line maneuvering gender, in particular as a young woman, because I face...a dose of sexism but also ageism, which is a lethal combination at times,” Rozic said. “When I got elected, I was the youngest woman ever elected to the state Legislature, I get that. With that comes a lot of responsibility, but it also comes with a challenge of understanding what leadership looks like, and sort of, countering what leadership is supposed to look like.”

While Garodnick spoke from recent personal experience in taking parental leave, Mark-Viverito also discussed her personal life and choices.

“I am a 47-year-old woman who does not believe in traditional marriage...And I don’t have children," she said, framing her other comments. "I made a choice in my life that I wasn’t going to have children, and the expectations or the approach that I get as a woman, right, is that somehow I’m supposed to be in that box: 'You have children, right?' And when I say "no, I made a choice that I’m not"...So I never approach a woman from the assumption that she has children because I know my own experience...And you ask, 'do you have children?' You don’t assume that they have children."

Mark-Viverito said it is essential to break down normative expectations of women. It is "not only my responsibility," she said, "it’s also men, our allies.”

The Speaker expanded the conversation to sexism faced by women in positions of power by discussing the sexism she has experienced during her career, especially in that role leading the City Council, perhaps the second most powerful position in city government. She said that the media’s perception of her decision-making and independence is indicative.

“I feel that still when you talk about issues and decisions, I still get a little bit appalled at times at the perspective of the press, that there’s this assumption that when a tough decision has to be made, somehow I made a decision, I’m in the pocket of the mayor, right?” Mark-Viverito said, referring to how the media has portrayed her working relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio. De Blasio was influential in Mark-Viverito’s ascension to the position of speaker and there has been an ongoing narrative in news articles and political discourse that Mark-Viverito is not independent from the mayor. The speaker and her allies push back that her collaborative leadership style can be misinterpreted as weakness or a lack of independence.

“I couldn’t possibly have arrived at that decision on my own, right?” Mark-Viverito said Tuesday. “A controversial, difficult decision - somehow I had to be forced into that because I could not have made that decision on my own. That’s sexist...And when I say it’s sexist, what do I get back? ‘Oh you’re always throwing the sex card around’ or ‘the sexism card around.’ Right? ‘The women’s card,’ ‘the race card,’ whatever it is, and it’s usually men saying that.”

by Libby Wetzler, Gotham Gazette

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Officials Discuss Gender Equity, Sexism at ‘Diversity’ Conference Wed, 20 Jul 2016 04:00:00 +0000