Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/365 Wed, 18 Oct 2017 05:58:48 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Public Advocate Debate Shows Stark Differences Between James and Polanco http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7256:public-advocate-debate-shows-stark-differences-between-james-and-polanco http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7256:public-advocate-debate-shows-stark-differences-between-james-and-polanco Tish James JC Polanco public advocate debate via nyc votes

James & Polanco at their debate (photo: @NYCVotes)


Public Advocate Letitia James, a Democrat running for reelection, squared off against her Republican opponent, J.C. Polanco, in a friendly yet competitive debate on Monday that highlighted substantive differences, and some shared opinions, between the two candidates on a range of policy issues. Given the race features an incumbent, the debate centered in large part on James’ record as public advocate over the last four years, especially her performance in holding the mayoral administration accountable.

Hosted at the CUNY Graduate Center in front of a small, closed audience, the debate was the first and only to be held in the public advocate race leading up to Election Day, November 7. It was held at James’ discretion -- she agreed to debate Polanco despite his failure to meet the financial thresholds to qualify for an official Campaign Finance Board-sponsored debate.

The two candidates butted heads, albeit respectfully, through the hurried hour-long debate, articulating sharp contrasting opinions on rent regulations, charter schools, criminal justice issues, and the overarching role of the public advocate’s office as an ombudsman for the city. While James touted her record, Polanco referenced his qualifications stemming from his work for the state Assembly minority conference and his past role as president of the city Board of Elections. He called himself a “common sense” Republican.

Early on, Polanco sought to paint James as a too-close ally of Mayor Bill de Blasio who has failed to stand up to the mayor and the progressive-dominated City Council, a pitch that has been at the center of his campaign along with proposals to strengthen the independence of the public advocate’s office. Polanco believes the office should have investigative and subpoena powers over city agencies, which would require a city charter revision approved by voters, as well as funding equivalent to the much larger comptroller’s office.

James, an experienced litigator, has used her legal skills to inform the core functions of her office. Over the last four years, she said she has worked “to transform the office into a vehicle for social and economic justice for all,” claiming to have resolved more than 30,000 constituent complaints and touting the passage of more legislation than all her four predecessors together. She highlighted her signature legislative achievement: a new law that bans employers from asking job candidates their salary histories, which is aimed at closing the gender pay gap.

James has sued the city 11 times, but has been bounced from several cases for lack of standing. James had to defend her approach early on in the debate when asked by moderator and NY1 anchor Errol Louis whether she sought to win those lawsuits or just make headlines by filing suits.

“I make no apologies for standing up for those without a voice,” James responded, insisting that she would continue to do so and noting that she is working with members of the City Council on a potential legislative solution to codify her ability to sue the city and its agencies. She also cited several instances where she had been victorious, including a lawsuit to make Department of Education School Leadership Team meetings open to the public and another in favor of seniors who were being denied rent increase exemptions by the city.

Polanco agreed that the public advocate should have broader standing in the right to sue the city administration, but pointed out that James would continue to fail until given the statutory authority. Himself an attorney, Polanco sharply stated that it was obvious that James did not have standing in cases. “You’ve had over two million minutes in office, I know in my first minute, as soon as I get there, that we have to work very closely on a public education campaign to get this question on the ballot so that cases stop getting thrown out of court,” he said.

It was one of the few issues the two candidates agreed on. James has called for subpoena power for the office in the past, which she repeated Monday, and said the mayor “should not hold the purse strings to the office of the public advocate.”

Both candidates disagreed with debate moderator Brian Lehrer from WNYC, when he suggested that perhaps the public advocate might be more effective if they represented a different political party than the mayor. James has been a close ally of de Blasio and endorsed him for reelection. “I stand with the mayor when I agree with him, and I oppose him when he’s wrong,” she said, pointing out instances when she has critiqued his administration, such as when the mayor opposed creating a stand-alone agency for veterans affairs or when she challenged him over the lack of air-conditioned buses for disabled school children.

“I don’t think that Tish has been as independent of the mayor as she claims,” said Polanco, stressing that he had heard little consternation from James when the mayor and his administration were embroiled in a pay-to-play scandal. “There’s a whole myriad of times where I think this public advocate has been very quiet and silent to make sure that the mayor’s on her good side and that the voters who are constantly with the mayor are with her in four years.” He said he would have no problem “going toe-to-toe with Republicans” if he were in the office.

Neither James nor Polanco supports de Blasio’s homelessness-fighting plan that includes opening 90 new shelters while halting the use of hotels and cluster site apartments. Polanco was direct, blaming the mayor’s mismanagement for the problem and insisting that new shelters would burden neighborhoods that are already inundated with shelters. “This is gonna just help two people,” Polanco said, “One, the mayor because he’s gonna get this problem off his back. And two, wealthy developers that are gonna benefit from building these new shelters.”

James, on the other hand, delivered a meandering response that delved into the need for “bold leadership” and housing bond legislation to encourage the creation of affordable housing in the city. When NY1’s Louis sought more clarity, she said, “I think at this point in time what we really need to do is look for other initiatives in the city of New York to address homelessness...what we really need to do is think bolder and we need to make sure that the two individuals, the governor and the mayor of the city of New York, two individuals with oversized egos, resolve this issue so that we don’t have countless numbers of individuals that are homeless this evening.”

“So I’m gonna take that as a ‘no’ on the 90 shelters,” Louis noted.

A clear distinction emerged between the two candidates on how they view the public advocate’s office as a voice in police accountability. James has been a vocal proponent of criminal justice reform and she recounted her efforts to unseal the grand jury transcripts from the Eric Garner case, touted her support for reforming the grand jury system, for releasing the disciplinary records of officers charged with misconduct, and for advocating for the NYPD’s body camera program and shot-spotter technology. She noted that she led the movement for the city’s pension funds to divest from gun retailers as well.

“It’s really critically important that we be a voice in the criminal justice system,” she said. She also said that she is still reviewing the City Council’s long-proposed Right to Know Act -- that would require officers to identify themselves during certain street stops and inform people of their right to refuse a search in some instances -- but said she supports its objectives.

Polanco sought yet again to tie James to de Blasio, critiquing the mayor for creating a hostile attitude toward the NYPD and criticizing James for standing with him. “Frankly, this city has gone through an enormous political campaign against police,” he said, “including adding all of these layers and layers of actually monitoring their job performance, which really strangles the police from active policing.” He did concede that in cases where an officer violates a person’s constitutional rights, the release of disciplinary records is warranted.

The candidates had an opportunity to cross-examine each other, which Polanco seized on to question James’ support for de Blasio despite his proximity to lobbyists and consultants with clients who had business with the city. “How could you in good conscience endorse the mayor for reelection?” he asked. James deflected, speaking of the larger issue of campaign finance reform and the need to repeal the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. (Polanco jokingly praised her masterful deflection. “That was good, how you did that,” he chuckled.)

James asked Polanco about his position on workers’ rights, and whether he would picket with the employees of Spectrum, currently in the seventh month of a strike against their parent employer Charter Communications, which owns NY1. Polanco agreed that labor unions have the right to strike, but said elected officials should stay out of this case, which involves a private union.

Asked about the rent freezes that de Blasio has repeatedly touted as one of his biggest achievements for low-income New Yorkers, Polanco called them a mistake and made a forceful argument against rent regulations and other policies, referencing what he called the city’s “army of social engineers” that he said have exacerbated problems. He said the city’s policies were disincentivizing landlords who are “hard-working people just like ourselves” and that not all of them are “evil landlords” that should be put on a list, taking a sly dig at the public advocate, whose office famously puts out the “100 Worst Landlords” list every year. “We really have to take a look at the way we’re getting involved in engineering the market to create a social outcome,” Polanco said, offering a somewhat typical conservative assessment of meddling in the free market.

While James agreed with Polanco that the city needs to reform the system of tax breaks given to luxury developers in exchange for creating affordable housing, she staunchly backed the rent freezes enacted under de Blasio’s administration. “I think it’s really critically important that we stand up and strike back against market forces and gentrification,” she said.

The issue that divided James and Polanco the most was charter schools. Earlier, the debate briefly veered into the issue when Polanco suggested James’ opposition to them was because of her partisan affiliation with the mayor. James insisted, “All I want charter schools to do is play by the same rules and to be held accountable and obviously to be accessible to all children in the city of New York.” She later criticized charter networks that have zero-tolerance discipline policies and high staff turnover, and that tend to exclude homeless and disabled students. She emphasized instead that the state should live up to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court ruling and provide sufficient funding to all public schools.

Polanco, a long-time educator, disagreed. “This is not an issue about money, this is an issue about the culture of education in our inner cities,” he said. He decried the “ultra-left” city leadership, particularly the City Council, that he said conflates discipline with racism. Polanco promised that as public advocate he would push for a major expansion of charter schools. James said she has been supportive of some charter schools in the past and is a proponent of school choice, but that she maintains her critiques of some charter schools and networks.

There were some moments of levity at the debate, particularly during a lightning round of mostly “yes” or “no” questions near its conclusion. Polanco said that in November he will vote for a constitutional convention while James said it was “too risky.” Both were critical of district attorneys being allowed to accept campaign donations from people with business before them. James supports the legalization of small amounts of marijuana while Polanco opposes it. And while James had never voted for a member of the opposite party, Polanco said he had.

“Wanna tell us who?” Louis ventured.

“Tish!” Polanco said, with a wry smile, eliciting laughs from the entire room.

The exchange was perhaps telling of the fact that Democrats have a massive enrollment advantage in the city. Combined with her immense lead in fundraising, James is a heavy favorite to win a second term come November, though Polanco has proven a substantive and thoughtful candidate. Other public advocate candidates who will be on the ballot include Green Party nominee James Lane, Libertarian Devin Balkind, and Conservative Party nominee Michael O’Reilly.

The James-Polanco debate concluded much as it had begun, with James stressing the importance of the checks and balances provided by her office. “You can get work done and be quite effective, but you need to reimagine the office,” she said. For Polanco, winning the office itself will be a battle, in a city where there are six registered Democrats to every registered Republican. He readily acknowledged that Monday night. Everyone knows trying to win citywide office as a Republican is an uphill battle, he said, but it’s much more challenging than that. “This is climbing Mount Everest in December,” he said, “This is tough.”

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Public Advocate Debate Shows Stark Differences Between James and Polanco Tue, 17 Oct 2017 01:23:06 +0000
City Hall Pushes Back on Proposal that Hits Core Tension of Housing Plan http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7249:city-hall-pushes-back-on-proposal-that-hits-core-tension-of-housing-plan http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7249:city-hall-pushes-back-on-proposal-that-hits-core-tension-of-housing-plan housing rally sign via nyccomptroller

City Hall ralliers with Metro-IAF-NY (photo: @NYCComptroller)


Thousands of New Yorkers, many of them residents of public housing, braved the rain on Monday, October 9, to rally outside City Hall to push Mayor Bill de Blasio to adopt a new direction for his affordable housing plan. Their alternative proposal, which had been presented by the leading advocates to the mayor ten days prior, calls for a radical investment in building new housing for low-income families, especially seniors, which critics say has largely been left out of the mayor’s current housing strategy.

But there’s disagreement over whether the plan is feasible and if the city, without state or federal resources, can commit to a sweeping addendum to an already ambitious affordable housing plan.

The leaders of the community proposal and rally, reverends from Brooklyn, achieved significant attention for their plan and support from elected officials, in part because their critique of de Blasio’s housing program touched the core tension of what some see as a solid, fairly moderate approach, but others call too timid to address the affordability crisis facing the city and its residents and, in some cases, a catalyst of detrimental gentrification.

De Blasio’s Housing New York plan aims to build about 80,000 new affordable units and preserve another 120,000 by 2024. By June 30, the end of fiscal year 2017, the city had financed 77,651 units -- 25,342 or 33 percent new units and 52,309 or 67 percent preserved. The mayor has declared the plan on time and within budget and earlier this year he also announced an additional $1.9 billion investment to create 10,000 more affordable housing for low-income earners, including 5,000 more dedicated senior housing units, for a total of 15,000 senior units under the plan. There are also projects in the pipeline to build 10,000 new units on underutilized NYCHA property.

But the organizers of Monday’s rally -- leaders of the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation and East Brooklyn Congregations, made up of church-going members, homeowners associations, schools, and senior centers -- say the plan isn’t building enough housing quickly enough, particularly for those at the lowest income tiers, and is ignoring the need for more senior housing. Their plan seeks to address these deficiencies, though the de Blasio administration says it is already doing most of what is being sought in the plan, while other aspects are not possible at this time.

Of the 77,651 units financed by the administration so far, 11,505 were for families of three making less than $25,770 a year, or 30 percent on the area median income (AMI), and another 13,277 were for families making between $25,771-$42,950 (31-50 percent AMI).

The Metro IAF-EBC proposal specifically calls for 15,000 new senior housing units on underutilized NYCHA land, which it foresees would allow 50,000 people on NYCHA waitlists and in homeless shelters to move into apartments vacated by those seniors. The plan also advocates for refurbishing NYCHA developments across the city. Its proponents, while vehemently behind it, note that it is a starting point for discussion with the mayor and his team.

Mayor de Blasio, in a letter on October 7 responding to the coalition, wrote that he shares “the same values and goals: to build safe, clean, and affordable housing for all of our families at a faster rate than we have ever done.”

“I also agree with you that we have to make tough choices if we’re going to turn a corner in this crisis, and invest in our original affordable housing: NYCHA,” he added, before agreeing to collaborate, in a general sense, on the coalition’s ideas. He made no specific promises.

In an appearance on NY1 the night of the rally, Metro IAF-EBC coalition leader Rev. Shaun Lee, pastor of Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church in Brooklyn, said de Blasio’s response had been “disrespectful” so far. “They tried to placate us but they’re not really taking the plan seriously,” he told anchor Errol Louis.

Rev. David Brawley, from St. Paul Community Baptist Church, said on the show that the mayor had promised them a “thoughtful response” that did not seem forthcoming. “We don’t consider a form letter, just because it has a seal on it and a signature, a thoughtful response,” he said. “We think a commitment is a thoughtful response. Even a question, a date to meet again, is a thoughtful response. Not simply a form letter.”

The coalition has prominent allies, including Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James, both of whom spoke at the group’s City Hall rally. A spokesperson for Stringer told Gotham Gazette that the comptroller believes the coalition proposal is financially feasible in conjunction with the administration’s current plan. The spokesperson did not elaborate when asked for details.

The de Blasio administration, although agreeing with the principle behind the plan, disagrees with that notion. Some of the ideas in the plan, said spokesperson Melissa Grace, are currently also being implemented.

“We agree with the group’s goals, and are already advancing them in many places across the city,” said Grace, in an email. “Deeper affordability? Those very lowest-income apartments now represent nearly 30 percent of our housing plan. Building on underused NYCHA land for seniors? We’ve closed on two senior projects, with more coming. We welcome the chance to work together to accomplish more.”

Among the pitfalls of the plan, the administration points out, are that it would require heavy subsidies from the city -- building only deeply affordable housing is extremely expensive -- and it ignores the need to build middle-income housing, something de Blasio regularly explains he is steadfastly committed to. Indeed, the proposal predicts creating 15,000 new affordable housing units would cost about $3.83 billion, including about $1.875 billion in city subsidies, through the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).

NYCHA also has a $17 billion capital backlog, and the advocates have been vague about how the city could address that without federal or state funding, other than insisting that the mayor must get “creative and imaginative” with funding solutions. “The money is there. The question is, where’s the leadership,” Brawley said in a phone interview. The coalition says the city must make good on NYCHA capital repairs so that, if its plan moves forward, people want to move into the NYCHA apartments that seniors would vacate as they move into the new homes being built, often into smaller units than they may now occupy, allowing larger families to move in.

The proposal did identify at least $225 million each year in new revenue sources the city could use -- $40 million in excess revenue from the Battery Park City Authority and $185 million paid by NYCHA to the city for sanitation, water and other services. A Metro IAF spokesperson also emphasized, as have its leaders, that the pace of NYCHA “infill” projects -- like the senior projects Grace referred to -- has been too slow and that four years into the affordable housing program, few have broken ground. Grace later pointed out that the $40 million was already committed to affordable housing projects, including in communities with NYCHA developments. 

One aspect of the plan also proposes an alternative financing model for new developments through tax credits, tax-exempt bonds and Section 8 vouchers for 100 percent of the units. Using Section 8 vouchers, which are limited, at new projects on NYCHA land is also problematic, according to the administration. If Section 8 vouchers are applied, the city would require a waiver from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to allocate units to current NYCHA residents. HUD has in the past has approved an allocation of 25 percent for an area the size of a community board, according to City Hall. The Metro IAF spokesperson said, however, that these provisions of the plan are not necessarily red lines and that they are open to change.

The crucial point of the plan, said Brawley, is that the city needs to move beyond incremental increases in affordable units. “The city’s gonna have to work to do a critical mass of units. A few hundred units here or there will not do,” he said. He brushed aside the issues built into the system of constructing new housing -- the city’s process for competitive bids and the lengthy review of land use applications.

Public Advocate James, who brought Brawley to the general election mayoral debate on Tuesday night as her guest, has also recently started calling for a much more ambitious overall program of building new affordable housing, putting forth ideas like building more over rail yards across the five boroughs.

It remains to be seen whether de Blasio will be amenable to implementing some of the ideas from Brawley’s coalition -- Metro IAF has worked with the city to build multiple affordable housing complexes before. In the meantime, Brawley and Lee have vowed a sustained advocacy campaign. “We’ve increased pressure on mayors in the past to make things happen,” Brawley said. “And that’s what we’ll do. We’re going to see this plan through.”

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Note - this article has been updated.

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City Hall Pushes Back on Proposal that Hits Core Tension of Housing Plan Thu, 12 Oct 2017 04:00:00 +0000
James Defends Approach to De Blasio, Outlines Second Term Priorities http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7236:james-defends-approach-to-de-blasio-outlines-second-term-priorities http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7236:james-defends-approach-to-de-blasio-outlines-second-term-priorities tish presser nycprogressives crop

Public Advocate James (photo: @NYCProgressives)


Public Advocate Letitia James, a Democrat running for a second term, is facing a challenge from Republican candidate J.C. Polanco, who believes James has done little to hold accountable a mayor who aligns closely with her own politics. But James, an outspoken former litigator, has her defense ready as the two move toward a televised debate on October 16.

During a recent appearance on the Max & Murphy podcast, James rebutted critics of her first term and sought to dispel the notion that she has not stood up to Mayor Bill de Blasio. She also outlined other aspects of her record she is most proud of as she seeks reelection and put forth several areas she intends to focus on if given another term.

James told podcast hosts Ben Max, editor of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, editor of City Limits, that she has spent the last four years using her familiarity with the legal system to battle the administration on many fronts, whether it be improving school transportation for students with disabilities or fighting for rent exemptions for seniors. She has been critical of the failures of city agencies, such as the Administration for Children Services, and has called out the mayor for not supporting legislation that has been priorities for her office.

To a lesser degree, however, has she employed her bully pulpit to criticize the mayor’s own ethics and transparency, being less vocal than her fellow Democrat, Comptroller Scott Stringer, for instance. James acknowledged on the podcast that she has not taken her own more subtle approach to accountability, but said she has not been shy to disagree substantively or to sue or to criticize, citing several examples, but also said she has worked with the administration behind the scenes to create productive outcomes.

When she first researched the role of public advocate, the office was “ill-defined” with no clear objective, James said in the Max & Murphy interview. “There was a lot of room to engage on a lot of efforts on a wide range of issues that obviously I care about, but it all boils down to one issue, and that is social justice,” she said. “It’s part of who I am. It’s part of my DNA. It’s my raison d’etre.”

On taking office, she said, her priorities were to use her legal skills to litigate strategically, to “continue to engage in investigations on issues that impact low- and moderate- and middle-income families,” and to maintain strong relationships with the City Council, which has been a partner in passing progressive legislation proposed by James. She referenced the town halls she has held all over the city as fulfilling the need to hear directly from New Yorkers.

James’ opponent, Polanco, an attorney and former educator, is running on a platform of government reform, and that includes reforming the public advocate’s office to give it more teeth. “I really want to reform the office and make it an opportunity for New Yorkers to have a real watchdog to oversee what the mayor and the City Council is doing,” he said in a recent appearance on Max & Murphy, explaining several added powers he wants to see given to the public advocate, including subpoena power. Polanco emphasized the need for an independent voice to moderate the “extreme ultra-left agenda coming out of City Hall” and, while calling James herself “ethical,” took issue with her effectively enabling what he sees as the mayor’s unethical practices.

“I think that if you endorse a mayor as unethically challenged as this one, if you can see it took NY1 and The New York Post to sue City Hall to get email records that demonstrate a pay-to-play operation, if you can endorse someone like that, I am going to be very suspect as to why you’re endorsing them,” he said of James’ support for de Blasio.

James sees it differently, and is confident she’s been a tough check on the administration. “When I’ve agreed with the mayor on issues, I’ve stood by his side,” she said. “When I disagreed with the mayor, we’ve criticized the mayor.” She cited numerous instances to bolster her point.

She criticized the mayor’s reluctance to create a separate agency for veterans affairs in the city, she said, and has opposed his policies on homelessness and the administration’s use of temporary hotel shelters. She also touted the lawsuits she has filed against the administration, including one that took aim at a rule change passed by the administration that she claimed was kicking eligible seniors off the rolls of a property tax exemption. She touted a victory in opening up School Leadership Team meetings across the city to the public.

James also pointed to the New York Post editorial board’s praise for her in December last year for speaking out against the mayor over the “agents of the city” controversy, that involved the administration attempting to shield the mayor’s email exchanges with unpaid outside advisors. “Consultants, lobbyists — to me, it’s a distinction without much of a difference,” James had said at the time, part of one of the larger episodes that Polanco calls into question in terms of de Blasio’s ethics and James’ reactions.

When de Blasio’s administration was embroiled in numerous controversies, chiefly revolving around dual investigations of his fundraising practices and the work of a political nonprofit set up by his allies, James was conspicuously silent for the most part, and did not publicly condemn the mayor at news conferences as one might have expected from someone in the public advocate position. But that has been part-and-parcel of her approach to the office, she said. “I thought that as the public advocate of the City of New York and having a relationship with the mayor where we’re somewhat like-minded philosophically and politically, that I can get more done by having a conversation with him one-on-one with regards to our differences and coming to some agreement,” she said regarding the approach more broadly, not on any specific issue.

“Because we have a relationship, and because I have a relationship with a significant number of commissioners, and we are all focused on one objective, and that is a more progressive approach to legislation and a more progressive approach to dealing with these problems which appear to be intractable, we’ve achieved quite a bit in the office of public advocate,” she added, “and I would argue without any fear of contradiction that we have done more in the last four years than any previous public advocate or all public advocates combined.” De Blasio is, of course, a member of that group.

Undoubtedly, James is well-placed for a second term, with visibility among voters who are overwhelmingly registered Democrats, strong campaign finances, and near universal labor union support. And she is going into reelection with an agenda for the next four years, which includes affordable housing, criminal justice reform, property tax reform and mental health services, to name a few issues.

As she looks to talk issues, James expressed frustration that the controversy over the statue of Christopher Columbus -- which arose in the aftermath of white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia in August after a protest over the removal of the statue of a Confederate general -- has subsumed other more important matters. Following the incidents, Mayor de Blasio announced a commission that would study public monuments in the city to determine which ones are appropriate and which ones have a sordid history and should perhaps be removed.

“I think this is really a distraction from the major issues that we really should be focusing on,” James said on the podcast, insisting that she’d rather talk about issues like public housing, homelessness, mental health services and grand jury reform. For the record, James supports preserving the statue of Columbus and stresses that it should serve an educational purpose.

“The monument should remain, there should be a teaching opportunity where we talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of Christopher Columbus and how he exploited indigenous populations,” she said. “But I’d rather be having more a substantive conversation about what we can do to improve the lives of residents of public housing, what we can do to transform the third rail of politics, that is property tax, which is squeezing the middle class and resulting in so many senior citizens who are losing their property or liens being placed on their properties.”

Her largest priority is housing, she said, whether it’s NYCHA developments or affordable housing for several demographics, including homeless people. On October 9, James will rally at City Hall with members of dozens of churches to advocate for a NYCHA infill proposal that originated in the community, she said.

James wants to build off the city’s successful universal pre-kindergarten program and expand to quality infant care in the city. She said she will push for reopening dental and health clinics in public schools, which she said she fought for when former Mayor Bloomberg closed them down. And she believes the city needs to reevaluate the numerous neighborhood rezonings that are creating widespread uncertainty and discontent in low- and middle-income communities fearing gentrification. The city needs to involve community-based organizations in the conversation, she said, and build affordable housing on unused public land.

“We need a housing bond act. We need to build over rail yards...We need more integrated housing...integrated by income,” she said. “More housing set aside for homeless, moderate-, middle-income housing. We need more work-live space in the City of New York and we really need to examine these rezonings.”

She also emphasized the need for reexamination of the 421-a property tax exemption, approved at the state level, which she believes allows developers to create luxury housing and exacerbates the need for more middle-income housing. The operative issue, however, is that would require cooperation from the state.

“I think we need a better relationship with the governor of the State of New York,” she said, “and if in fact there were improved relationships with the State of New York, which holds the lion’s share of housing subsidies, we could go a long way in addressing the crisis in affordable housing and the homelessness situation.”

James can only hope, though. For the better part of his first term, de Blasio has famously feuded with Governor Andrew Cuomo, also a Democrat, and the two have been reluctant to work together even when their policy goals intersect.

At a news conference on Tuesday, when Gotham Gazette asked de Blasio about James’ appeal to comity with the governor, the mayor said it was “idealistic” to expect such cooperation, sarcastically likening it to the Republican Congress offering unsolicited aid to the city. “Likewise, I’d like to see the governor focus more on actually delivering on affordable housing for New York City. There’s been some big pronouncements but I haven’t seen a lot of delivery and we need it. I don’t think it’s about relationship. I think it’s about everyone doing their job and living up to their commitments. And you know my job...is to hold people to their commitments and be an agent of accountability when it comes to the needs of New York City.”

As for James’ call that the city take a more ambitious approach to building affordable housing, de Blasio indicated that he is always open to continuing to evaluate what can be done, but that he has set the city on its most ambitious affordable housing plan ever, at 200,000 built or preserved units over 10 years.

[Listen to the full podcast episode of Max & Murphy with Public Advocate Letitia James]

[Listen to public advocate candidate J.C. Polanco on Max & Murphy]

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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James Defends Approach to De Blasio, Outlines Second Term Priorities Wed, 04 Oct 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Letitia James http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7229:max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-letitia-james http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7229:max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-letitia-james

Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette


October 2, 2017 - Max & Murphy with Public Advocate Letitia James

tish james277Public Advocate Letitia James, a Democrat seeking reelection this year, joined the podcast to discuss her record of the past four years and what she will focus on in a second term if the voters give her that opportunity. James, the first woman of color to be elected to one of three city-wide positions, says she has focused her time as Public Advocate on "social justice," the driving force of her public service career. James defended her approach to holding Mayor Bill de Blasio accountable, citing evidence where she has disgreed with and criticized the mayor, and explaining that she has taken a measured approach in order to "get more done."

James explained some of what she's most proud of from her term, including advancing universal free school lunch, banning city employers from asking salary history of applicants, and more. As for a second term, she said she wants to focus on affordable housing, property tax reform, "quality infant care," and more. Regarding affordable housing, James said the city and state need to work better together and all involved must think big -- James wants to see a massive building project to add many thousands of new low, moderate, and middle income housing units to the city.

Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @jarrettmurphy. You can hear the episode through the embedded audio below or download it wherever you get your podcasts.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Letitia James Mon, 02 Oct 2017 04:00:00 +0000
James Agrees to General Election Debate in Public Advocate Race http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7212:james-agrees-to-general-election-debate-in-public-advocate-race http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7212:james-agrees-to-general-election-debate-in-public-advocate-race letitia james via teamsters

Public Advocate Letitia James (photo: @TeamstersJC16)


Public Advocate Letitia James, a Democrat seeking reelection to one of three citywide positions, has agreed to debate her Republican opponent regardless of whether the challenger, J.C. Polanco, meets the fundraising requirements to qualify for an official debate sanctioned and sponsored by the New York City Campaign Finance Board.

James, who easily won in the primary, is well ahead of Polanco, who did not face primary competition, in fundraising and name recognition. Polanco has, however, put forth detailed policy proposals and a rationale for seeking the office, while also challenging James to debate him for the good of the public electoral process. James has decided to pursue the opportunity, despite any risks debating may pose to a heavily-favored incumbent, to take the debate stage.

“The exchange of ideas and information is essential to democracy and good governance,” James said in a statement. “I welcome the opportunity to debate and discuss my key accomplishments as Public Advocate and outline my vision for supporting and empowering all New Yorkers.”

James has focused her efforts as public advocate on litigation and legislation, suing the city on several occasions and introducing and passing more legislation than her four predecessors, who include Mayor Bill de Blasio.

It is not clear how many debates James will agree to or who will sponsor any that do occur. For public advocate candidates participating in the Campaign Finance Board’s public matching program, two formal, televised debates are required for those who meet the criteria, which include both fundraising and spending thresholds. But, James may be the only candidate in the field, which also includes the Green Party’s James Lane and others, to qualify for the debates. A campaign spokesperson did not indicate how many debates James would participate in.

Polanco, an attorney and the New York City liaison for the state Assembly minority, has promised to run a positive campaign and debate the role of the office and policy proposals. He has called James “ethical” and expressed his fondness for her as a person. He has also challenged her to debate him even though he is many thousands of dollars short of meeting the legal thresholds for the official, televised debates, which would provide him a much-needed boost in profile.

“As my opponent stated: ‘Brooklyn people don’t hide,’” James said. “I am proud of my record of standing up for New Yorkers and look forward to a spirited discussion with my Republican opponent on the issues that impact New York.”

While James is indeed a Brooklynite, and used to represent part of the borough in the City Council, Polanco is from the Bronx, where he still lives. Though Polanco has pledged a positive campaign, he has critiqued James for not speaking up more forcefully about de Blasio’s ethical lapses. Polanco is running on a platform of pushing for changes to the public advocate position itself, perhaps through a city charter revision commission, and a variety of other agenda items. Unlike James, Polanco is an outspoken proponent of expanding charter schools. He’s also advocating for allowing qualifying NYCHA residents to purchase their public housing units.

As she seeks a second term, James is especially proud of her legislation, passed through the City Council and signed into law by de Blasio, that bans employers from asking job applicants for their salary history. It is a move aimed at helping reduce the gender pay gap.

In order to qualify for public matching funds from the Campaign Finance Board, a public advocate candidate must raise at least $125,000 from 500 donors living in New York City. When matching funds are dispersed, up to $175 of eligible donations are matched six to one. Public advocate candidates are eligible for up to $2,369,350 in public matching funds for what is deemed a competitive race. Participants have a general election spending cap of $4,357,000.

As of her most recent filing, James had raised a total of $943,854. She had spent about two-thirds of it, leaving her about $325,000 in the bank, and not yet qualified for public matching funds.

Polanco had raised just $21,675. He has explained how much of a challenge fundraising has been given that New York City Republicans have a major registration deficit and most attention for any hope of a citywide victory is given to the mayoral race. Polanco has also said that his opposition to President Donald Trump has hurt him among GOP establishment figures and potential donors.

When informed that James had agreed to debate him, Polanco said in a statement to Gotham Gazette, "I am glad my opponent has taken up my challenge for a spirited debate on the issues. I took on the Herculean challenge so that New Yorkers have choice. I believe we are best served as a democracy when we compete for votes. I look forward to discussing my plans to push for charter school expansion, fixing the MTA train delays, keeping jails out of our neighborhoods, protecting kids from the horrors we have seen at ACS and standing up to a mayor regardless of party."

Part of James’ calculation in agreeing to debate may have to do with being granted matching funds. A campaign spokesperson did not reply to a question about the subject.

Earlier this year, the Campaign Finance Board and its debate sponsors scheduled the two televised public advocate general election debates for Monday, October 16 and Saturday October 24.

“The CFB’s debate program aims to give New York City voters the opportunity to compare candidates side by side in preparation for Election Day. The law was enacted to ensure that candidates in the public matching funds program debate their opponents, and we are excited that the Public Advocate debates will continue as planned. We will do everything we can to support and promote a vigorous debate,” said Katrina Shakarian, public relations officer at the Campaign Finance Board, in a statement to Gotham Gazette.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Note: this article has been updated with a statement from Polanco, a statement from the CFB, and other additional information.

Note: this article has removed incorrect information about Comptroller Stringer being in a similar position to James. Stringer's Republican opponent, Michel Faulkner, has met the fundraising threshold to qualify for a CFB-sanctioned debate.

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James Agrees to General Election Debate in Public Advocate Race Sun, 24 Sep 2017 04:00:00 +0000
2017 New York City Primary Election Results http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7190:2017-new-york-city-primary-election-results http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7190:2017-new-york-city-primary-election-results nyc votes i voted sticker

NYC Votes sticker, design by Marie Dagata and Scott Heinz


Mayor Bill de Blasio prevailed convincingly in the Democratic primary Tuesday as he seeks a second term. De Blasio was facing four challengers, most prominently former City Council Member Sal Albanese. With 98% of precincts reporting, de Blasio had secured 74.4% of the vote, to Albanese’s 15.4%, and Michael Tolkin’s 4.7%, Robert Gangi’s 3.1%, and Richard Bashner’s 2.4%. De Blasio had about 317,000 votes; Albanese with about 65,450 in a very low turnout election, where about 15% of more than 3 million registered Democrats cast ballots.

There was no Republican primary for mayor as Nicole Malliotakis will be the party's nominee for the general election. Malliotakis and independent candidate Bo Dietl both made a last-minute push to win the Reform Party nomination through write-in votes allowed by the "opportunity to ballot" that had been filed ahead of primary day despite the fact that the Reform Party had endorsed Albanese. The results of that challenge will be determined soon, but Albanese said Tuesday evening he had held on to the line.

There was also no Republican primary for the other citywide positions of Public Advocate and Comptroller -- the general election GOP nominees will be J.C. Polanco and Michel Faulkner, respectively. There was no Democratic primary for Comptroller, incumbent Scott Stringer moves ahead to the general election in search of a second term.

In the Democratic primary for Public Advocate, incumbent Letitia James easily won. James had nearly 77% of the vote, with 277,405 votes, to David Eisenbach’s 23% and 84,457 votes. Eisenbach's campaign never got far off the ground as the Columbia professor attempted a long-shot challenge based on his belief that James has not been a forceful enough check on de Blasio.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. won his primary with 86% of the vote. None of the other borough presidents had primaries.

Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, who took over after the death of Ken Thompson in 2016, won a resounding victory in a crowded Democratic primary that fully determines the race, given no general election competition. Gonzalez received about 53% of the vote with 98% of precincts reporting. The second place finisher was Anne Swern at 11.5%, followed by Marc Fliedner at 10%, Patricia Gatling at 9%, City Council Member Vincent Gentile at 9%, and Ama Dwimoh at 7%. [All numbers in this race and others may change slightly when all the votes are finally tallied.]

In general it was a big night for incumbents, led by de Blasio, James, Diaz Jr., and Gonzalez, but also down through the City Council, where several incumbents were facing tougher challengers than those bigger name officials.

One exception, however, is in City Council District 1, where Council Member Margaret Chin and challenger Christopher Marte finished the night in a race too close to call. With 100% of precincts reporting, Chin had 5,220 votes (46%) to Marte’s 5,020 (44%). Two other candidates combined for about 10% of the vote. It is unclear when the race may resolved given counting of affidavit and absentee ballots, or a potential recount.

Most of the City Council intrigue coming into the night was around the majority of the 10 “open” seats where an incumbent was not running. But there were about 15 competitive Council races.

Carlina Rivera won the District 2 race handily, with about 61% of the vote in a crowded primary to replace Rosie Mendez.

Keith Powers won the crowded District 4 primary in the race to replace Dan Garodnick with more than 41% of the vote. Marti Speranza came in second with about 23%.

District 8 is another race without a final conclusion as primary night ended. Diana Ayala had 3,646 votes to Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez’s 3,556 votes. Two other candidates combined for about 1,000 votes. Ayala declared victory shortly before midnight, however, though it had not been called by the Associated Press. Just after midnight, Rodriguez said the “race is far too close to call.”

An Ayala win would be considered an upset given Rodriguez’s stature as an elected official, and a boon for both City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who campaigned for Ayala, her aide, to replace her as the district’s representative, and Mayor de Blasio, who also endorsed Ayala. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Comptroller Scott Stringer had endorsed Rodriguez. Many other electeds were split in the race.

Assemblymember Mark Gjonaj, who set spending records in his race, has won the Council District 13 race to replace James Vacca, with about 39% of the vote. Vacca’s preferred candidate, Marjorie Velazquez, won about 34%, and John Doyle came in third with about 19%. Two other candidates combined for about 8%.

Continuing the partial Albany exodus, State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. won the race to replace Annabel Palma in Council District 18 with about 42% of the vote. Amanda Farias earned about 21%, Elvin Garcia about 15%, Michael Beltzer about 14%, and William Moore about 9%.

In one of the most-watched races of the night, Assemblymember Francisco Moya won the District 21 race to replace Julissa Ferreras-Copeland over Hiram Monserrate. Moya earned about 56% of the vote to Monserrate’s 44%.

Adrienne Adams has won the race to fill the vacant seat left by former Council Member Ruben Wills, who was convicted on corruption charges this summer. She received about 39% of the vote to Richard David’s 32% and Hettie Powell’s 29%.

Mike Scala won a three-way Democratic primary to see who will challenge incumbent Republican Council Member Eric Ulrich in the general.

Brooklyn Council Member Laurie Cumbo won the Democratic primary with 58% to challenger Ede Fox’s 42%.

Notably, there was one Green Party primary, in Council District 35, which was won easily by Jabari Brisport, who will now attempt to unseat Cumbo in November.

In District 38, incumbent Carlos Menchaca won his primary with about 49% of the vote to Assemblymember Felix Ortiz’s 33%, Chris Miao’s 9%, Sara Gonzalez’s 6%, and Delvis Valdes’ 3%.

Incumbent Council Member Mathieu Eugene won his primary with 41% of the vote against Brian Cunningham’s 30% and Pia Raymond’s 22%. Jennifer Berkley earned 6%.

Alicak Ampry-Samuel won a crowded Democratic primary in District 41 where the field was competing to replace Darlene Mealy. Samuel won 31% of the vote, to Henry Butler’s 22%, Cory Provost’s 11%, and a number of other candidates between 9% and 3%.

In the District 43 Democratic primary, Justin Brannan prevailed, with about 39% of the vote, followed by Khader El-Yateem’s 31%, Nancy Tong’s 16%, Vincent Chirico’s 8%, and Kevin Carroll’s 6%.

The Southern Brooklyn district was also home to the one competitive Republican primary, which John Quaglione won. Quaglione won about 49% of the GOP vote, to Liam McCabe’s 32%, Rober Capano’s 15%, and Lucretia Regina-Potter’s 5%.

Brannan and Quaglione will now face off in one of the few competitive general election races in the city in District 43.

Incumbent Debi Rose won her primary against challenger Kamillah Hanks. Rose earned about 70% to Hanks’ 30%.

In other, less competitive races:
Manhattan incumbents Ben Kallos in District 5, Helen Rosenthal in District 6, Mark Levine in District 7, and Ydanis Rodriguez in District 10 all won handily. Rosenthal was thought to be facing a tough challenge from Mel Wymore, and the election was fierce, but Rosenthal won more than 65% of the vote in the high turnout district.

Council Member Bill Perkins, elected in a February special election, won the primary with about 50% of the vote against several competitors, most notably Marvin Holland, who earned about 20% of the vote.

Bronx incumbents Andy King in District 12; Fernando Cabrera in District 14; and Rafael Salamanca in District 17 all won their primaries.

Queens incumbents were victorious include Council Members Peter Koo in District 20; Barry Grodenchik in District 23; Rory Lancman in District 24; Daneek Miller in District 27; and Elizabeth Crowley in District 30.

Victorious Brooklyn incumbents include Council Members Antonio Reynoso in District 34; Inez Barron in District 42; Jumaane Williams in District 45; and Chaim Deutsch in District 48.

Districts not listed did not have any primary contest.

The general election will be Tuesday November 7.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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2017 New York City Primary Election Results Tue, 12 Sep 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Voters Guide for the 2017 City Primary Election http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7157:voters-guide-2017-new-york-city-primary-general-election-mayor-city-council http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7157:voters-guide-2017-new-york-city-primary-general-election-mayor-city-council de Blasio voting election

(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Voters Guide for the 2017 City Primary Election Tue, 29 Aug 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate David Eisenbach http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7158:max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-david-eisenbach http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7158:max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-david-eisenbach

Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette


August 28, 2017 - Democratic Public Advocate Candidate David Eisenbach

public adv candidate david eisenbach277pxDavid Eisenbach is a history professor at Columbia University seeking to unseat incumbent Public Advocate Letitia James in this year's Demcratic primary. Eisenbach, who has raised minimal funds for his campaign, believes that James has not been a strong enough voice in addressing ethics problems in the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio. He also believes James has not been active enough in addressing the city's small business crisis.

On the Max & Murphy podcast, Eisenbach discusses several of the reasons why he is running, what he believes in, and how he would approach the job of public advocate.

Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @jarrettmurphy, and guest @Eisenbach4NY. You can hear the conversation through the embedded audio below or download it wherever you get your podcasts.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate David Eisenbach Mon, 28 Aug 2017 04:00:00 +0000
10 Great NYC Debate Moments http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7139:10-great-moments-in-nyc-debates http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7139:10-great-moments-in-nyc-debates quinn liu de blasio albanese

Quinn, Liu, de Blasio, Albanese (from 2013)


Debates have been an invaluable part of political discourse and elections for centuries. The face-to-face interactions between candidates reveal a lot about their character, policies, and ability to perform under pressure.

Debates for citywide races in New York -- for Mayor, Comptroller, and Public Advocate -- have played no small part in helping New Yorkers decide which candidates best represent their interests. Ahead of the 2017 debates, which begin Wednesday with the first Democratic mayoral primary debate between Mayor Bill de Blasio and former City Council Member Sal Albanese, Gotham Gazette presents 10 great moments from New York City debates of the last few decades.

1. Giuliani declines debate, spurs matching funds/must debate law
1993 General Mayoral Debate; 10/17/93
Candidates: David Dinkins (D); Rudy Giuliani (R); George Marlin (Conservative)

A non-debate on a debate list belongs because of the importance of the decision, both during the contentious 1993 rematch between Dinkins and Giuliani, which Giuliani would win, and the long-term implications of the subsequent change in law.

Mayor Dinkins wanted to include the Conservative Party candidate in any debate between himself and Giuliani, but Giuliani would only agree to a one-on-one debate, and so the two major party candidates did not have a single debate before the election that year. In response, the City Council voted on legislation that forced any candidate taking public matching funds (as both Giuliani and Dinkins did) to participate in two debates before both the primary and general elections, given certain criteria.

At the debate that Dinkins and Marlin did have, they both attacked Giuliani for not participating, and on other grounds. In his closing statement, Dinkins, who had bested Giuliani in 1989, said, “It takes a certain kind of temperament and personality to deal with the various legislative bodies in order to achieve [my accomplishments], I suggest to you that Rudolph Giuliani does not have the temperament to get the kind of consensus necessary to achieve the things that we’ve done.”

For his part, Giuliani explained, “I have a letter from April of this year, where I had a firm commitment for a one-on-one debate with Mayor Dinkins, which NBC has now allowed him to sneak out of, because he rolled over for them. He shouldn’t do that, it’s wrong. And I know why David Dinkins won’t face me. On 12 occasions in 1989, he ducked out of one-on-one debates with me. On 7 occasions, he has ducked out of one-on-one debates with me in this election. They shouldn’t allow him to do it, because I’ll ask him the questions that some of you won’t ask him about how he’s cheating.”

Watch the October 17, 1993 debate between Dinkins and Marlin here.

2. Mayor Bloomberg tries to speak Spanish
2009 General Mayoral Debate; 10/13/2009
Candidates: Michael Bloomberg (i); Bill Thompson (D)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempts to speak Spanish are well-known and much-skewered, most famously by the @ElBloombito Twitter account. Bloomberg used to end each news conference by summarizing his statements in Spanish, and he occasionally gave entire interviews in his second tongue. In a 2009 general election mayoral debate, Bloomberg tried responding to a question about diversity in his cabinet from Juan Manuel Benitez, host of Pura Política on NY1 Noticias, in Spanish. Although the mayor received applause, the moderator had to ask him to repeat his answer in English, as many in the room and at home had no idea what he had said.

Watch the moment here and watch the entire October 13, 2009 debate between Bloomberg and Democrat Bill Thompson here.

3. David Yassky sings Beyonce
2009 Comptroller Debate, Democratic Primary; 9/10/2009
Candidates: David Yassky (D); Melinda Katz (D); John Liu (D); David Weprin (D)

A crowded Democratic primary for Comptroller in 2009 included a lightning round of questions during the September 10 debate. When candidates were asked if they had listened to Beyoncé, all candidates said yes, and Melinda Katz even quietly said, “To the left.” But only David Yassky actually sang, to the amusement of the audience, especially the moderators. Yassky sang the chorus to Beyonce’s 2006 mega-hit, “Irreplaceable.”

Yassky’s singing prowess did not carry him to victory, however, as John Liu won the primary and became Comptroller.

Watch the moment here, and watch the entire September 10, 2009 Democratic Primary Comptroller debate here.

4. Giuliani calls out Henry Hewes for not even being his party’s official candidate
1989 General Mayoral Debate; 11/5/89
Candidates: David Dinkins (D); Rudy Giuliani (R); Henry Hewes (Right to Life)

Before he refused to debate with a third-party candidate present in 1993, Republican mayoral candidate Rudy Giuliani showed his distaste for them in this surreal moment from the second of two general election debates that took place the week before the 1989 election, which Giuliani narrowly lost to Dinkins. Eight minutes into the hour-long debate, Giuliani claimed that Right to Life candidate Henry Hewes didn’t deserve to be there. He then explained Hewes was not even the officially registered candidate of the Right to Life Party, as he pulled out a letter from the Board of Elections confirming that, indeed, Henry Hewes was a registered Republican and had not filed any declaration of his candidacy on the Right to Life ticket.

Watch the November 5, 1989 debate here. The moment is at 7:50.

5. Donald Trump’s influence on New York City
2005 General Mayoral Debate; 10/6/05
Candidates: Fernando Ferrer (D); Thomas V. Ognibene (Conservative)

During the lightning round of this 2005 general mayoral debate, the moderator asked Democrat Fernando Ferrer and Conservative Thomas Ognibene (Mayor Michael Bloomberg did not attend as he was addressing a potential threat in the city), “Is Donald Trump a positive influence on the city?”

At the time, this was a throwaway question about an infamous New York celebrity. Before Twitter, before the presidential run, Trump was a local tabloid legend, real estate baron, and TV personality to most New Yorkers. The candidates agreed in their initial response: “I could care less.”

Listen to the lightning round that included the question here, or watch the entire October 6, 2005 debate here.

6. Scott Stringer goes for Spitzer's jugular
2013 Democratic Primary Comptroller Debate; 8/12/13
Candidates: Eliot Spitzer (D); Scott Stringer (D)

The 2013 Democratic primary for Comptroller was defined by consistent antagonism between the two candidates, then-Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and former Governor Eliot Spitzer.

Five years earlier, Spitzer had resigned while under federal investigation, and during a section of the debate in which the candidates could ask each other a question, Stringer seized. “So Eliot, if you were the chairman of a large company, and you hired a CEO, and they engaged in money laundering, illegal wiring of funds to shell corporations, and if the CEO was under federal investigation - criminal investigation - and that CEO was fired, would you hire that CEO again?”

Listen to highlights from the debate, including this moment, here, or watch the entire August 12, 2013 debate here.

7. Democrats try to tie each other to Mayor Bloomberg
2013 Public Advocate Democratic Primary Run-off Debate; 9/24/13
Candidates: Letitia James (D); Daniel Squadron (D)

The end of Mayor Bloomberg’s third term was a time when many New Yorkers were seeking change in city leadership. Candidates capitalized on this desire, and in few places was this more apparent than the 2013 Public Advocate Democratic primary. Candidates Letitia James and Daniel Squadron -- locked in a run-off for the nomination -- traded the usual barbs about each other’s backgrounds, but they often simply used any kind of tie the other candidate had to Bloomberg as an attack.

James stated that Squadron had stayed silent when Bloomberg’s third term was being debated, while Squadron claimed that it was not right that James had “stood with the mayor over 98 percent of the time.”

Listen to highlights from the debate, including this moment, here, or watch the entire September 24, 2013 debate here.

8. Bloomberg pressed by moderator and opponent about book of jokes he allegedly made
2001 Republican Primary for Mayor; 9/9/01
Candidates: Michael Bloomberg (R); Herman Badillo (R)

During his initial run for mayor, Michael Bloomberg was repeatedly questioned at a primary debate about an article in New York Magazine in which columnist Michael Wolff described a gift given to the future mayor at a company party in 1990. The gift was a booklet of quotations supposedly said by Bloomberg, some of which were blatantly misogynistic and homophobic.

During one of the 2001 Republican primary debates, both moderator Gabe Pressman and rival Herman Badillo pressed Bloomberg on whether or not he said what was written in the booklet. Bloomberg repeatedly claimed he did not remember saying any of those things, and in the end, he attempted to move the debate along, claiming, “It was in a book written by somebody else. Let's go on to the issues. Come on…”

Read a transcript of debate highlights, including this moment, here, or watch the entire September 9, 2001 debate here.

9. Candidates debate prevalence of racial profiling in NYPD
2001 Mayoral General Election Debate; 11/1/2001
Candidates: Michael Bloomberg (R); Mark Green (D) 

Michael Bloomberg’s implementation of widespread “stop-and-frisk,” a police tactic criticized for disproportionately targeting African-American and Hispanic men, is perhaps the least popular aspect of his legacy. During a 2001 general election mayoral debate between first-time candidate Bloomberg and Democrat Mark Green, one exchange reveals Bloomberg’s early views on racial profiling in the NYPD. When asked, Bloomberg agreed that racial profiling must be combated because “the perception is widespread.”

Watch the moment here, or watch the entire November 1, 2001 debate here.

10. Bill de Blasio targeted as Democratic frontrunner
2013 Democratic Primary Debates; 8/14/13 & 8/21/2013
Candidates: 8/14/13: Christine Quinn (D); Bill de Blasio (D); John Liu (D); Anthony Weiner (D); Bill Thompson (D)
Candidates 8/21/13: Sal Albanese (D), Christine Quinn (D); Bill de Blasio (D); John Liu (D); Anthony Weiner (D); Bill Thompson (D), Erik Salgado (D)

As the fast-moving 2013 Democratic primary moved to within a month of a vote, Bill de Blasio made a surprise leap into the lead of the polls. Just after a new poll showed de Blasio in the lead for the first time, the leading Democratic candidates showed for a debate, and the other candidates clearly recognized the new order by attacking de Blasio more than they previously had, when it appeared that Christine Quinn, Anthony Weiner and Bill Thompson were all likelier nominees.

Quinn said de Blasio “was in the Council for eight years, he didn’t pass one bill to create a good paying job, not one bill to help our schools, not one bill to keep our city safe. That’s not a record of results,” according to The Daily News.

“The only difference between Speaker Quinn and Bill de Blasio is Speaker Quinn has been more successful. They made the same promises to the same people. She got elected speaker and he’s never gotten over it,” Weiner said.

A week later, for the first of two official, Campaign Finance Board-sanctioned primary debates, those same leading Democrats, along with Sal Albanese and Erik Salgado, took the stage in prime-time. De Blasio was again the focus of many attacks. He would go on to win the primary less three weeks later, even securing the 40 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff.

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by Thomas Duda
with reporting by Ben Weiss
@GothamGazette

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10 Great NYC Debate Moments Sun, 20 Aug 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Republican Citywide Candidates Hopeful Despite Slow Fundraising http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7091:republican-citywide-candidates-hopeful-despite-slow-fundraising http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7091:republican-citywide-candidates-hopeful-despite-slow-fundraising Faulkner

GOP Comptroller candidate Michel Faulkner


Ahead of the citywide elections, Republican candidates for Comptroller and Public Advocate -- Michel Faulkner and J.C. Polanco, respectively -- have struggled to raise funds for their campaigns, trailing their respective opponents by large sums.

With just over three months before Election Day, both Faulkner and Polanco need to significantly increase their fundraising prowess to run competitive races against Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James, both Democrats.

Faulkner, a former New York Jet and reverend, has over $91,000 cash-on-hand as of the latest filing. Over the course of his campaign, he has received $157,875 in loans, $126,800 of which is his own money. Notably, former Republican candidate for mayor Paul Massey and his wife both donated $4,950 to his campaign in May, the maximum amount that is legally permitted. Massey and Faulkner had endorsed each other before Massey dropped out of the race.

A political consultant and aide in the state Assembly minority, Polanco has even less in the bank, with only $10,386 on-hand, though he only recently entered the race. Public Advocate James, meanwhile, has $309,720 cash-on-hand.

Similarly, Comptroller Stringer holds $1,663,140 in the vault as of the July filing, far surpassing Faulkner.

Polanco and Faulkner are both energetic campaigners, but it is unclear if they will be able to pick up the fundraising pace. In order to have a chance, they must be able to fund campaign activities, meet the Campaign Finance Board’s threshold to receive public matching funds, and qualify for the debates.

In a heavily Democratic town -- roughly 80% of New York City voters voted for Hillary Clinton this past Fall -- gaining traction as a Republican is always difficult. Still, the Faulkner and Polanco totals are particularly low, according to George Arzt, a long-time New York City journalism and communications professional. “That’s dreadful,” he said, reacting to a reading of the candidates’ fundraising totals. Arzt is a Democrat who worked for Mayor Ed Koch.

Their struggle raising money, particularly from Republican and Conservative groups and individuals, comes as no surprise to Arzt, though. “Would you put money into their campaigns knowing that they have about under a 5 percent chance of winning?” he asked rhetorically. “Would you waste your money if you were the organization?”

However, in interviews with Gotham Gazette, both Faulkner and Polanco expressed optimism about their campaign’s ability to gain traction in the coming months. Both candidates believe they have a crossover message that doesn’t fit neatly into a typical Republican box. (They also have significant differences, given that Faulkner is a strong proponent of President Donald Trump, while Polanco is a longtime critic of Trump.)

Faulkner pointed to his heterodox message on social services: “People ask me, ‘well are you going to cut services?’ The answer is no, we need more services.” And on unions: “I’m not a union buster, I believe in labor, I was a member of the Teamsters union.” He also sports a more conventional urban conservative message backing charter schools and on policing. “My biggest challenge is my party affiliation,” he said.

More true to the job of comptroller, Faulkner has a harsh assessment of his opponent’s history holding Mayor de Blasio accountable. “He’s a tame, weak watchdog, who’s only watching. He’s not barking, he’s not biting, he’s not growling,” Faulkner said of Stringer, who has been tough on de Blasio but did endorse the mayor for a second term. “He’s part of the problem,” Faulkner said, insisting Stringer is too complacent with an unacceptable status quo. “The reason I’m becoming concerned about Stringer is he campaigned as an activist,” he said. However, Faulkner alleged Stringer “has become complicit in everything that's wrong with government.” “He’s a government bureaucrat who’s worse than de Blasio,” he added.

Faulkner said he is unfazed by Stringer’s fundraising advantage. “He has more money, but he doesn't have a fundraising advantage because he doesn’t have Michel Faulkner’s heart,” he said. “I don’t need his money; I need enough money,” Faulkner said. “I don’t need as much as he needs to run a campaign. I don’t have to, I’m a whole different breed of cat.”

Still, Faulkner acknowledged he needs to get the ball rolling with his fundraising efforts. “Do I have enough money now? No, but I believe I will have enough.”

He went on to explain why he has gotten off to a slow start in fundraising, pointing to his short-lived mayoral campaign, which he ended to run for comptroller, where there was no Republican candidate. “To say that it’s been a challenge is a real understatement,” he said. “Because I tried so much stuff for the mayoral campaign, the pivot is very difficult to getting back on track.” Faulkner said he is going to add more “call times,” periods spent on the phone talking to potential donors.

“We actually had a very exciting call [recently] and Ed Cox is helping,” Faulkner said of the New York State Republican Party Chair. “The county leaders are going to get behind us and work with us, we’re putting the pedal to the metal,” Faulkner said.

Polanco, a self-described “Never Trump Republican” who strives to be an independent voice willing to speak out against wrongdoing regardless of party, is focusing his campaign on political and ethics reform. He also promises to be a stronger watchdog of the mayor than the current officeholder he is seeking to unseat.

In the interview, Polanco described how difficult the fundraising component has been for him during his short campaign. “There's no question that fundraising is the toughest part of this campaign,” Polanco said. “The two hardest things to do are losing weight and getting financial contributions for a public advocate’s race. I’m convinced of those two things” he said in his typical upbeat tone. “But I’m working at it.”

“When I got into the race,” he continued of his early June launch, “I had to go through all this paperwork so that I could qualify to be able to fund-raise. From the moment I got the OK to the moment of the first [campaign finance] filing was only about three weeks. I’m continuously calling to try to make it happen, to generate excitement so that I could have a respectable race and show some credible fundraising numbers.”

Polanco expects the bulk of his donations to come from small-dollar donors and cited complications with getting large dollars from the Republican Party apparatus. In a prior interview with Gotham Gazette, around the time of his campaign launch, Polanco said he wouldn’t be campaigning full-time for a while, given the need to support his family.

“That's exactly what you want to be doing is focusing on individual, small-dollar donations to qualify for the match program,” said Republican consultant and communications professional Jessica Proud. “For the city, the mayor’s race tends to get the focus of the attention when it comes to earned media,” she said. “J.C [Polanco] got into the race a little bit late so I think he’s just getting started now.”

“It takes a little time to build up an organization,” Proud added. “It's not like you’re flipping the switch and they give you a big check,” she said of the matching funds program, wherein the public money supplements small-dollar donations to political campaigns.

Arzt argues it is not good timing for Republicans to win citywide, including mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis, a Staten Island Assembly member and the presumptive GOP nominee. While Republicans Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg had success running city-wide, times have changed, according to Arzt. He noted that Giuliani succeeded a troubled Dinkins administration and Bloomberg came in just after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The current Republican candidates, he said, currently lack any evident “catastrophic event that could propel them into office,” though one could occur at any time. “Its tough to go up against an incumbent unless the incumbent is tainted by scandal or misjudgement,” Arzt added.  

Proud, who does communications for Cox and the state GOP, expressed support for Polanco and Faulkner, and their non-ideological positioning. “There's no Democrat or Republican way to pick up the trash,” she said. “And I think that's the kind of positioning you need to have as a Republican in New York City.”

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Republican Citywide Candidates Hopeful Despite Slow Fundraising Thu, 27 Jul 2017 04:00:00 +0000