On October 18, 2005, three candidates for City Council district 4 debated issues of the city budget, eminent domain, noise, and whether or not Michael Bloomberg is a good mayor. The candidates are: Dan Garodnick (Democrat/Working Families Party), Jak Jacob Karako (Libertarian) and Patrick Murphy (Republican/Liberal/Independence). The event was sponsored by Citizens Union in partnership with the Carnegie Hill Neighbors and Friends of the Upper East Side. It was moderated by Edward-Isaac Dovere from Our Town newspaper.
The following is an edited transcript of the event.
Dan Garodnick:My name is Dan Garodnick, and I am the Democratic nominee for the City Council in this district. I am glad to see so many people here. It is important for us to take interest in our local process. I would like to recognize my opponents who are here tonight. And I want to tell you about my background.
I am a candidate with very deep roots in this district. I grew up here on the East Side. I was born and raised on 20th Street and 1st Avenue in a rent-stabilized apartment where my parents still live in today. My father is in the second row. I am a lawyer with a background in civil rights. I went off to Dartmouth College and University of Pennsylvania Law School. I served as the editor of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review.
I came to New York after college and did civil rights work almost immediately, directing a program in 42 public schools, in every borough in New York City, teaching students how to unlearn stereotypes and teaching them civics. It was a program created in the wake of a racially motivated murder in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. You will remember the Yusef Hawkins’ murder in 1989. We were able to grow this program that taught students how to interact collaboratively in the classroom rather than taking problems out onto the streets. We grew it to 42 public schools.
I also litigated on behalf of fair funding for public schools as part of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. I represented the Partnership for New York City, the business community here in New York, making very similar arguments as the education advocates, but with the additional piece that failing public schools are also bad for business and bad for the economy.
I represented 13 same-sex couples seeking marriage equality here in New York State, a civil rights struggle which I am very proud to be a part of. I also traveled to down-South to rebuild African-American churches that were burned by arson in 1995 and 1996. I went to religious organizations here in New York City and asked them to sponsor me because I thought it was important for us to respond, to take a principled stand when our neighbors down-South were being subjected to acts of hatred. Central Synagogue agreed with me, and they sent me as a representative, and I spent a month doing that.
I look forward to talking with you about housing, council reform, and the budget tonight, but I share this with you because I want you to know that I am someone who stands on principle. You know where I am coming from and I am going to be a principled representative in the City Council seat. Thank you.
Jak Jacob Karako: This not my first time running. They call me the marathon man among my friends.
One thing that has been really great about this campaign is that I have met a lot of wonderful people. I’ve had a lot of intelligent conversations. And I am really glad that this has happened. I ran in the Democratic primary and I lost again.
I found myself talking less about principles and more about policy, things that I thought people wanted to hear. That is why I ran in the first place. I took the opportunity to come back here, not to be a wedge between the two other candidates, but to speak my mind on why I came to the U.S., and why I think this is the best country in the world despite all of our shortcomings, and why I think we are losing sight of certain dimensions.
I am Jak Jacob Karako and I am the Libertarian candidate. I think Libertarianism is a philosophy that requires a lot of intellectual challenge and understanding. I am still on the ballot. I am running to make a statement on the principles that I would like to make tonight.
Patrick Murphy: I am Patrick Murphy and I am running for City Council. I think this city has come so far with 12 years of mayoral leadership. We have really had a renaissance. But we are at a tipping point again, where we can keep moving forward or move back. We have some serious issues. We have an education system that is only beginning to turn around. We have a looming budget crisis that will decimate what is left of the middle class in this district and the city if we don’t take some steps now to solve it.
I think this mayor has done a great job. He has stood up for principle. He has stood up for what is right. And he has a common sense approach to solving problems. The City Council has its head stuck in the sand. It spends more time obstructing the mayor or not helping him on key things like education reform. And if we don’t get more help in the council, more activist voices, we are really going to be in trouble in the city. That is why I am running, because I think the council needs more independent voices and people who will talk about these issues that are not easy to solve. Some of the problems that we solved in the 1980s and 1990s were much easier. These are difficult decisions that we are going to have to make that impact real lives.
A little background on me: I have lived in New York my entire adult life. I always wanted to live in New York. I moved to a rent-stabilized apartment here in the district -- and have never left the city since 1989. I have been a marketing strategy consultant for 15 years for Fortune 500 companies.
And I am a political activist. I have always stood up for what I think is right regardless of my party affiliation and put principle above party, and I think we need more of that in the council. I have been very involved in the community. I have rolled up my sleeves and spent time at over 200 community board meetings. I am the candidate who has done that. I have met with over 200 community leaders because I think that is the kind of council person we need in this district. It is such a broad and varied district, from Murray Hill all the way to Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. I look forward to talking with you tonight.
THE CITY’S DEFICT
QUESTION: How do you propose the city address the projected deficit in the city’s 2007 and 2008 budgets? Are there new revenue streams you would propose? Are their specific inefficiencies or wasteful programs that you would seek to eliminate?
Patrick Murphy: This is clearly the most pressing issue that we will be facing in this city. I have spent a lot of time on this issue and looking through some of the recommendations. I think the Citizens Budget Commission, which is truly a non-partisan organization, has the right road map. We are looking at a $3 to $5 billion deficit in the out years. It could be more if have a little blip on Wall Street or in real estate; then we are in even more trouble.
Here is the issue: Budget growth is coming in four areas - current benefits to city employees, pensions, state-mandated Medicaid benefits, and debt, which continues to rise. Debt has gone up $10 billion in the last five years.
Here is what have to do: All of the things that have happened in the private sector in the last 20 years haven’t happened in the city sector. We have got to start moving from a defined benefit program to a defined contribution, 401K. Twenty-two percent of city employees will be new by that time, so we can do that without changing our promises to current employees. We have to start asking employees to pay for health benefits. That has been a challenge in the private sector, but people have done it. That would be a billion dollars right there. My road map is the Citizens Budget Commission’s. This is going to be a very difficult budget.
Jak Jacob Karako: On financial issues, I can’t give you a whole discourse. It would take a few hours to explain why we are expecting to be in deep trouble soon.
One thing we have to do is stop spending. You cannot spend what you do not have. I think that is one thing I learned from my mother -- one can be very generous with other people’s money. Unfortunately, New York City has been very generous in the past. The debt we have accumulated is $50 billion; it is not small change. The whole country of Argentina went bankrupt because they could not pay the debt, $100 billion from their perspective, but what they couldn’t pay was actually about $3 or $4 billion. They just ran out of money. I think that is what is happening.
When you say revenue stream, what is that? I am blaming Bloomberg as much as every one else in this process. There is no additional revenue stream, per se, that is new taxes. You have to increase taxes. That is how you close a budget. You either stop spending money or you increase taxes.
New York City has been on the wrong way for very long time. We have to take some drastic actions.
Dan Garodnick:Next year New York City faces a $4.2 to $4.6 billion budget deficit. In my view, this was precisely the wrong year for the City Council to initiate $200 to $230 million in new spending programs. We need to make sure we get the city’s debt burden under control. We have a $50 billion budget in New York City, $40 billion of which is dedicated to pension costs, Medicaid, debt service, and mandates. And we are getting very close to our debt ceiling.
What we need to do is take a good look in times of surplus, perhaps this even requires a charter amendment in New York City, to take the surplus dollars and apply them directly to debt reduction. This is something that will be part of a long-term process for me as a member of the City Council and as a fiscally responsible Democrat representing this district.
With regards to the question about additional revenue streams, I think that we need to reinstate the commuter tax. This is not within the jurisdiction of the City Council, but it is something I will be very enthusiastic about working with my allies in Albany to accomplish and to make sure we bring back. People are enjoying the services of New York City and not paying for them.
I support congestion pricing, as a way not only to reduce the number of cars on our streets and reduce traffic and congestion, but also to raise money for the right cause.
In any $50 billion budget there is waste and there are inefficiencies. I am someone who is trained as a litigator; I am trained to ask the right questions. And I can perform the oversight powers of the City Council.
REFORMING THE CITY COUNCIL
Q: Do you feel the operation of the City Council is in need of reform? If so, how would you help create a more open, effective, and transparent City Council?
Jak Jacob Karako: First of all, I think 51 seats for City Council is way too many. You can definitely reduce it back to some meaningful number: 10 or 11. An odd number would be better, I guess. That’s number one.
Number two is of course it makes a lot of sense that council members have a little more power, and not toe the line with the speaker. As you know, in the State Assembly, State Senate and City Council the speaker has all the strings. It’s absolutely a must that the members themselves bring certain bills to vote, and that they have a little bit of separation from the speaker.
Dan Garodnick:There are a number of reforms that the City Council needs to implement. One of the things I did when I decided to run for this office was read the rules of the New York City Council. There are a number of things that jump right off the page at you if you read the rules.
One is that in a body of 51 members there are 32 standing committees. That means 60 percent of the members of the body are chairs of committees. In my view that is too many, and it is not conducive to an environment where you can operate efficiently. By way of comparison, the US House of Representatives has 20 standing committees for a body of 435 members; the Chicago Board of Alderman has 20 standing committees for a body of 50 members. And I fully believe in independence from the speaker, and empowering committee chairs, giving them the opportunity to hire their own staffs, giving them the opportunity to have meaningful impact on legislation, but only if you take constructive steps to limit the number of standing committees, because otherwise it doesn’t make sense. I have a package of council reforms, which I’d like to introduce. That’s part of it.
I also think there should be uniformity in mail, between what one member can send to their district and what another member can send to their council district. There need to be very strict timeframes on legislative drafting. There are members who want bills to be drafted, they put them in for legislative drafting services and they never see them again. I think there is a need to be strict timetables. If you are a duly elected member of the New York City Council, whether or not your bill is meritorious at all, you deserve to have it drafted, you deserve to have it heard by a committee or by the council as a whole. I think there are a number of council reforms, and those are just a few of them that I’d like to propose.
Patrick Murphy: I think the way you reform the council is to have more independent voices. We’re going to call the council out on its shenanigans. We’re going to call it out and speak out articulately against its self-dealing. And I’m going to do that, and I’m in a position to that that because that’s what I’ve always done. For example, the council is trying to vote itself an extra term, when the voters voted for [term limits] twice. That’s ridiculous. They shouldn’t be doing it. If they want an extra term, go back to the voters.
They’re going to vote themselves an extra pay raise right after the election -- everybody knows that -- when we’re facing multibillion-dollar deficits. They’re trying to do a runaround of the Campaign Finance Board, and let unions drive a Mack truck through our campaign finance laws. That’s Intro 564-A, which I oppose, but my opponent supports. That would be Dan, not Jack, I don’t know if you’ve taken a position on that.
You need to start calling people out on these things, and you also need to begin to articulate a vision, working with this mayor on things like education reform, talking about the tough things that we’re going to have to do on budget reform. And that’s going to require people who haven’t made deals with the vested interests and the unions that control a lot of this city. That’s how you’re going to do it; you’re going to bring more independent voices who are going to speak out. And you can use your power in the council with the bully pulpit. People listen.
And that’s something that Citizens Union started five years ago in Albany, and it’s beginning to snowball. That’s how you’re going to do it; you’re beginning to try to do it in City Council as well. And I pledge to stand right with you and do that starting in 2006.
Q: This is a question from the Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts. We have been working for many years to landmark important examples of modern architecture on the Upper East Side. What are your thoughts on the preservation of modern architecture?
Dan Garodnick:The Upper East Side has 125 landmark buildings and six historic districts. As someone who has lived in Manhattan and lived on the East Side my whole life, I understand, respect, and cherish these landmark buildings and these districts, recognizing that these are some of the most valued sites in America. When you consider landmarking additional buildings, this is something I would be a very eager participant in, bringing the community along with the preservationists to make sure it is done in a reasonable and sensible way.
I do not feel constrained by the idea that modern architecture does not deserve landmark status. I think there are a number of buildings which very likely do. I think one of the appropriate ways to handle this is to do a survey right off the bat. I would like to work with the preservationists in the district to take a look and see which buildings qualify, which buildings might qualify, and put them on a list and see if we can get them calendared before the landmarks commission, and to move forward in a constructive and collaborative way. These are buildings and districts which I will honor as a member of the City Council.
Patrick Murphy: I am lucky enough to live in a historic district. And I thank God everyday that in 1965 we passed the landmarks act. It took the demise of Penn Station to do it. Someone said it took Penn Station to die so that others could live. And thank God we did that and we have it in New York. The character of this neighborhood is so wonderful because of it. People fought on the front lines and saved Grand Central and other things like that.
But this is a difficult issue. We’ve got to have a discussion citywide and get some objective criteria for what is good architecture. There are a lot of arguments about buildings that are representative of an era and that we need to keep them. But is that truly good architecture? I don’t know. I am throwing out the question.
Those are the kinds of conversations we haven’t had. The argument we are having is: “We want a hearing before the landmarks preservation commission now!” That is happening in this district. It is happening at 2 Columbus Circle. We really need to dialogue. I am a member of the Municipal Art Society, and I think that is a great place to begin this dialogue and come up with some objective criteria. What is modern architecture? What is good architecture?
It’s never going to be perfect, but we have to bring it back to that level. Emotions are flying. We have too much subjectivity. We are going to have an opportunity to landmark a lot of wonderful buildings here on the East Side and throughout the city.
Jak Jacob Karako: This is one of the insane questions. People think government is the answer for everything, for every problem, for every whim, for every wish -- it is not.
We are required to be an accountant to manage debt. We are required to be an artist and understand what is worthy art and what is not. We are required to be an architect to understand what is a good building and what is a bad building. We are required to be an educator to know which method is better to teach. We are required to be a zoning specialist to know how high a building should be.
This is not the way. You cannot have all of these elements. If you have any one of these elements in one person, you will be talking about a Messiah and he will save us.
How is a building saved from destruction or change? If enough people care for that building, you buy it and you preserve it. That’s it. You don’t let anyone else touch it.
Q: This is from the Carnegie Hill Neighbors Association: How would you work City Council and mayor to reduce noise from construction in residential areas?
Patrick Murphy: The first thing that the council has to do is put politics aside and work with the mayor on the revised noise code that he has put forth over a year ago. They sat on it for political reasons. I’ve spent a lot of time on this issue. I think we have got to get back to the enforcement issue.
I have put forth recommended revisions to the noise code, in addition to what the mayor has proposed. Construction noise is key. While the new noise law would add more restrictions to construction noise, what it doesn’t do is even though you can’t start work until 7:00 a.m., people start arriving at 6:00 a.m., setting up, making noise, blasting their radios, and there isn’t enough enforcement of that.
You have to begin to use technology. You know those traffic lights where it takes a picture if you drive through a red light. There is now a lot of technology that can monitor noise remotely. That way we don’t take police away from really protecting citizens from violent crime, but you are able to monitor this on an ongoing basis. You find people that way. Of course, it would require oversight. There can be abuses. But those are the types of ideas we have to bring forth. That is a balanced way to continue to allow the type of growth that drives the economy forward and respect the community.
Jak Jacob Karako: I’ll be brief on this one. I’m suggesting free earplugs for everybody.
One policy decision that was a mistake in the first place in creating noise was to kick smokers out who are drunk in the middle of the night onto the streets.
Dan Garodnick:We all know that noise complaints are the number one complaints that come in through the 311 system, a system which by the way I think was a very useful one. Not only does it give citizens a way to register their complaints, to feel heard, and to feel like government is working for them, but it is a tool for the City Council. It gives us data to be advocates for residents. And to be able to make arguments in a compelling fashion to police departments and to those who oversee construction sites to make sure that laws are being complied with and that there is nothing is going on out there that is inappropriate and illegal.
It is correct that there is frequently a lot of noise with regard to construction sites. You can ask folks who live on the far side of Normandy Court in this district and are surviving a fair amount of construction on 96th Street. It has been an incredible burden on them.
We need to ensure that we pass a sensible noise code that addresses construction, that addresses noisy bars, and we need honest brokers who can work with the community, work with bars, work with construction sites and make sure that they collaboratively come to appropriate solutions. I am the sort of person who can work with people and can accomplish these things.
With regard to horn honking, I think the police should undertake experimental crackdowns from time to time to let people know that these laws are going to be enforced.
Moderator: Candidates will now have a chance to ask questions of their opponents.
THE $1,250 DONATION
Dan Garodnick:This is a question for Patrick Murphy. We all know that President Bush is anti-choice. We all know that he decimated the EPA and that he doesn’t give New York its fair share of homeland security dollars. We all know that he proposed an amendment to ban gay marriage. But a lot of people here may not know is that you wrote a check to President Bush for $1,250 in March of last year, which was nine days after he proposed his federal marriage amendment to ban gay marriage.
My question to you is: What was it in the president’s first term that prompted you to write a check for that dollar amount to Bush for his reelection?
Patrick Murphy: Dan, I’ve explained this before and I will explain it again now. I didn’t give money to support George Bush. I spent $1,250 to go confront Karl Rove at an event that was happening before the federal marriage amendment was announced to tell him that we did not want this federal marriage amendment and that we would fight him tooth and nail to stop this.
This was based on a strategy. I am a member of the national board of Log Cabin Republicans. We sat down in early February 2004 and said this federal marriage amendment is coming down the pike, what are we going to do? And we came up with a strategy to intercept administration officials at public events. Someone said Karl Rove is going to be here next week. And I said, “I am going. I am going to confront him and tell him this will not stand.”
Dan, I wasn’t thinking about someone doing opposition research on me. I would do it again in a second because it was the right thing to do. And then I spent the whole last year fighting against this amendment. I organized the largest rally at the Republican National Convention, calling for a more inclusive party, saying that it should be pro-choice and pro-gay. I also helped raise over $1 million for Log Cabin’s efforts throughout this country to defeat the federal marriage amendment.
And guess what? We helped defeated the federal marriage amendment because we got in to see Senators like John McCain who said they wouldn’t support it. And then I put principle above party when I voted with the vast majority of the Log Cabin board not to endorse this president.
I hope this clears it up again. I spent $1,250 to confront Karl Rove not to support George Bush. The money was given before the amendment. You know it. I’m tired of hearing about it. And you can keep using these cheap partisan attacks, because it’s not going to work.
Dan Garodnick:I won’t belabor the point, but $1,250 is a lot to spend for a confrontation.
UNION CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS
Patrick Murphy: Dan, as you know the City Council has proposed Intro 564-A, which would allow the council to overrule the Campaign Finance Board and allow unrestricted union contributions, which would mean that union money would flow to council members and would overwhelm individuals who are limited to $2,750 contributions.
You support that legislation, I oppose it, and Citizens Union opposes it. You have also received the endorsement of DC 37, which made this a condition of their endorsement and didn’t give their support to those didn’t agree to go along with them.
How can you claim to be a reformer when you already agreed to a quid pro quo?
Dan Garodnick:Let me be very clear on my position on the subject of union money in politics. There are proposals right now to limit the contributions that come from unions, specifically if the umbrella of the union, like DC 37, supports and contributes to a political candidate, and then none of the affiliates below could not contribute specifically to a candidate.
My view is that it is a real problem when you have a union that can controls the locals and can possibly direct them to contribute their full $2,750 to an individual of candidate, making them a wholly owned subsidiary of a union. That is what we should try to oppose, and that is exactly what I will oppose as a member of the City Council.
But what we should not try to stifle the First Amendment rights of these organizations. We do not want create a situation where an 1199 and a 32BJ, which are two separate unions, but fall under the same umbrella, should not be able to make contributions to separate candidates.
My view on this issue is very clear: prevent the former, but allow the later. It is what will prevent corruption in politics. And we need to work with the Campaign Finance Board to define very clearly how you draw that line. It is not a clear and simple answer, despite the way that my opponent will make it sound.
Patrick Murphy: I would like to point out that Dan did not answer the question. And he did agree with to a quid-pro-quo from DC 37 and that is the way he got the endorsement from them. I think that’s a key thing and he is clearly against reform. We need reform in the City Council.
EMINENT DOMAIN AND ROCKEFEELER DRUG LAWS
Jak Jacob Karako: I’ll throw two things at you guys and you can pick whichever you like. One is eminent domain, which is happening in a number of places in the city and around the country. What can the New York City Council do about this? The second is what do you think the council’s position on the Rockefeller Drug Laws should be?
Patrick Murphy: If you are looking to build something for economic developer, is it incumbent upon the developer to work with property owners and renters to find a suitable way for them to move out and to compensate them the value of the property.
It is important to remind people, however, that there are good ways to use eminent domain. Most of New York City public housing has been built using eminent domain, and that has provided a lot of good for the city and a lot of shelter for people who needed it. It’s a balancing act. The council must stay vigilant. Land use is one of the most important things that the council has jurisdiction over through the ULURP process. We have to be very careful. There may be cases where there is one hold out. Rockefeller Center has those two little buildings for those two people who held out. There may be cases where you have a big economic development and one person holds out.
On Rockefeller Drug Laws: I believe a lot in redemption and rehabilitation. Putting someone away for a youthful mistake goes beyond being tough on crime. I think that’s criminal in itself. We have made some progress, but we have a long way to go.
Dan Garodnick:I agree that eminent domain should not be used for commercial purposes. It is a useful tool when talking about a broader social policy like a subway line or other elements like that, which serve a broader good. When you do that, of course, you need to pay just compensation as determined by the United States Constitution. So we need to be very careful. The U.S. Supreme Court decision, which allowed that to happen, I thought, was ill advised.
With regards to the Rockefeller Drug Laws, I too do not support the Rockefeller Drug Laws. I am very proud that the leaders of the efforts to repeal them are the Working Families Party, which has endorsed my candidacy. I look forward to working with them on that issue, among others.
WHO DO YOU ADMIRE?
Q: Which elected official from a party other than your own do you respect or admire?
Dan Garodnick:I must admit that I admire the mayor. This is a mayor who arguably is of the other party. And I think that he has done some things very well and done some things less well. For example, I supported his willingness to take control of the public school system. I agree with his ability and willingness to end social promotion here in New York City. I agree with his courage to increase the property tax, at a time when it was very difficult for him and it was very difficult in the outer boroughs to do, but at a time when New York City fiscally needed it.
That said, there times when I have disagreed with the mayor. I disagreed with his plan to build a stadium on the West Side of Manhattan. I disagree with his position today on the cross-harbor rail tunnel, which is a program that would significantly reduce the number trucks in New York City, trucks which are estimated to increase by 70 percent by the year 2025. I also disagree with the mayor’s decision to appeal the Supreme Court Justice’s ruling on gay marriage here in New York City. I was one of the lawyers who represented 13 same-sex couples seeking marriage equality. I see some of my colleagues here in the room who were part of the effort to argue this case before the third department.
On balance, there is a member of the opposite party whom I admire.
Patrick Murphy: There is one member of the opposite party I don’t respect and that is Freddy Ferrer. Dan, you have a list here of 25 different Democrats who have endorsed you, but shockingly Freddy is the only one not on this list. Perhaps it’s due to political expediency. You have run as the insider in this race. And suddenly, because you know it’s a problem in this district, you are running away from it.
Let me get to the question. Daniel Patrick Moynihan is someone I have incredible respect for. This is a man who spoke out against so many issues, like poverty and social security reform. He is just an incredible role model who was dedicated to his party, but was an American first.
Another person I have great respect for is Bob Kerrey, who is now the president of The New School. He was a man who gave so much to his country. And always spoke so honestly. He spoke hard truths about the issues. He worked across party lines again and again. He would really talk about things facing this country, honestly.
One thing about Daniel Patrick Moynihan. I go to Saint Ignatius Church. And I used to try to work my way up. He would go summers at 11 o’clock and I would try to talk to him. I was once at a charity benefit and they were auctioning off one of his bow ties and a signed letter. And I got into a bidding war. So I have a framed picture with Daniel Patrick Moynihan and his bow tie and I have it in my office. It is something I really cherish.
Jak Jacob Karako: I’m not going to mention any names. Most of these people I’ve never met. I did meet Clinton from distance once. But I really appreciate the writings of the founders of this country. I think they created a document that is really remarkable. They appreciated every single individual and every single individual has worth. But I really appreciate America’s past, regardless of the present.
Q: Can you please talk about street vendor issues as they impact quality of life?
Patrick Murphy: One of the things that I am going to propose when I get to the City Council is to have a “Street Vendor Summit.” There is a total confusion on what the laws are. At the last 19th Precinct council meeting that I was at, even the police officer who enforces vendors could not exactly articulate who could be where.
It has to be totally revisited and needs leadership that we haven’t had. It needs help in Albany, because they control a lot of this, as well as the City Council. We have to be vigilant. And I promise to do that. Some people ask why are you focusing on this? But really it is a quality of life issue and it is menacing for seniors who can’t get to the wheelchair ramps and things like that. This is definitely an area that I will focus on.
Dan Garodnick:The street vendor issue is one that continues to be a very challenging one for the Upper East Side. I have a package of reforms that includes not only having a collaboration with the multi-jurisdictions that actually control what a street vendor can do, but also takes into consideration the community needs and fact that in parts of the Upper East Side we are too cluttered with street vendors.
I think we should have more uniformity in what the tables look like. I think that there should be signage that is handed to vendors upon licensing, which would identify them for pedestrians, for purchasers, and for the police as legal or not legal. I think those signs and licenses should not be counterfeited, that people cannot just throw together a license and put themselves on the street. And most importantly, and this is critical for street vendors themselves and the police, is that no one seems to know exactly where the contours of these laws apply. It’s bad for street vendors. It’s bad for the residents of the Upper East Side. And I think we need to have people in the police department who know the rules and know how to enforce them. This is a package of reforms that I would be happy to introduce in the City Council.
Jak Jacob Karako: Pass.
Q: What is your experience with public schools?
Jak Jacob Karako: I read something in the papers a week or so ago and I responded with a letter to the editor. Teachers were protesting in front of the mayor’s office, saying that if these were contracts with a private company making widgets that then it would have been resolved long ago. And it hit me. I said I have to respond. I am really glad they aren’t making widgets because if 50 percent of them fail, it’s not acceptable. The system thinks that 50 percent failure rate is OK. If these teachers worked for a private company, most of them would have been fired and the company would have gone out of business.
Dan Garodnick:I am the son of a New York City public school teacher, who could not be here tonight, taught for 27 years. I accompanied her frequently and saw with my own eyes exactly what it takes to be a public school teacher here in New York City, where classes frequently exceed 35 students, where you can’t credibly ask a teacher to teach or a student to learn.
It is why I got involved in this program in city schools -- the unlearning stereotypes and civil rights and racial issues program -- to engage students in discussions about how to make their lives better, not only through unlearning stereotypes, but through civics and public activism and using the processes of government to affect social change.
It is also why I litigated on behalf of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, which I mentioned in my opening statement, but I am going to mention it again because it is so critical to New York City students who right now are being shortchanged. They are being shortchanged as a matter of New York State Constitutional law, a “sound basic education.” The New York Court of Appeals has adjudicated this issue and gave the State Legislature a deadline of July 30, 2004, which came and went without any action.
It is one of the reasons I am motivated to run for this office, to put legislative action into effect, to speak, and to advocate for New York City public school students. This is perhaps the number one issue for New York City today. And it is one in which I will not miss a beat in replacing the outgoing chair of the education committee, who by the way has endorsed me for City Council, and the state education committee has also endorsed me for City Council.
Patrick Murphy: I am a product of the public school system and there are a lot of lessons from my experience that I take with me to this day. I was fortunate enough to have parents who were very involved in my education. They knew where the good schools were. They know who the best teachers were. And that helped guide my education. So many people today don’t have that luxury.
My siblings are teachers. My grandmother was a teacher. I have great appreciation for the sacrifices that teachers make. And they make choice to a higher calling. I also know the faults of this school system, when my sister and her husband decided to leave the city because they didn’t feel comfortable that their kids could get a good education. And that’s what is happening throughout the city each and every day.
I support increased spending, and I think the Campaign for Fiscal Equity is a good step. Under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, the per pupil student spending will be $20,000. With the private school kind of spending, we need private school standards. We need to ask more of not only teachers, but our students and our parents. I have put forth some proposals to get parents more involved. That is a key issue in helping kids.
Q: There are a series of questions about Michael Bloomberg so we will put them together. Which candidate is each of you supporting for mayor? Can you give an example of a time when you disagreed strongly with Mayor Bloomberg? Is a candidate spending $100 million healthy for a democratic society?
Dan Garodnick:Who am I endorsing for mayor? The answer to that is that I am not endorsing anyone for mayor. I am running for office for the first time. I am trying to introduce myself to voters and get them to understand and be comfortable with me. So I don’t think it’s the time to be endorsing or stumping for other candidates right now. I haven’t taken any position on any other races.
When have I disagreed with Mayor Bloomberg? I gave you a few examples of where I disagree with Mayor Bloomberg: the stadium, the reversal of his position on the cross harbor tunnel, which I think was a mistake, and the decision to appeal the decision calling for the New York City’s clerk to issue same-sex marriage licenses. I was very disappointed in him with that.
Is $100 million healthy for a political system? The answer is simply, no. We have a very aggressive campaign finance system in New York City, one that I am proud to be a participant in. I think it encourages new candidates who otherwise are not self-funded to introduce themselves to the public and be part of the political process. So no, I don’t think it’s healthy for $100 million to be spent in a political election, especially when last time there was a pledge not to do so again.
Patrick Murphy: I am supporting Mike Bloomberg because I think he is the right man for the job, and he is the best candidate we have out there. I met Mike Bloomberg for the first time in 2001. I was very concerned about where this city was heading. I didn’t know anything about him. I went to see him. And he gave honest answers about why he was running and what he wanted to do - no baloney, no bull. I think that is true leadership. I am proud to be running with him. I have been endorsed by him. I have clearly endorsed him. I think we need more people in the council who are like him who use common sense and independence and aren’t going to make decisions based on political deals. I am proud to support him. I am a first time candidate and I don’t think that takes anything away from my candidacy.
Where do I disagree with the mayor? I disagreed with him on the stadium. I thought that was ill advised. I disagreed with him on his appeal of the same sex marriage ruling. And I did so publicly, while I was a candidate because I though it was a matter of fairness and if he let it go it would have been a major step in the civil rights process. I also don’t agree with him on everything on education. I think we need more transparency. I think the rules about teaching are too rigid.
Jak Jacob Karako: I am not endorsing anyone for mayor.
I think the biggest mistake the mayor made was increase the real estate tax, which has a tremendously bad effects on the real estate industry. I can’t believe the City Council went along with it. You cannot have affordable housing, when you raise property taxes. It was a big mistake and it should be reversed.
Dan mentioned something about First Amendment rights. It’s the mayor’s money and he has the First Amendment rights to spend it as he wishes. It’s up to the residents of New York City to make that decision. If someone can be bought, you have to go back to education system and create critically thinking people who vote with critical thinking skills.
Patrick Murphy: This is such an incredibly rich district -- and I don’t mean financially -- I mean, although that tooâ€¦ in some places, like Park Avenue where we are now. But incredibly rich and diverse in our education, our health care, our museums, and different people from different walks of life. From Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village which helped house World War II veterans and helped rebuild this city, all the way to Carnegie Hill, which is one of the most historic districts in this country. We are so incredibly lucky to live in this area.
I think with that good fortune, we have to work harder to make sure all of New York and all of this district is working well. This district has always had a history of supporting independent minded people, from Stanley Isaacs, who helped end discrimination in housing, to Andrew Eristoff, who provided level of constituent service that I will emulate and who really rolled up his sleeves and got involved, to Eva Moskowitz, who stood up to the unions at great peril to her career.
I am truly the candidate who is the independent. I have stood up again and again regardless of the political implications. I have a track record of independence. I believe the council needs more of that. I believe we need more agitators for change. I will provide the best level of constituent services you will see in this district. I will bring that back, bring it to the people. I will fight for reforms in the council so that union money doesn’t gut the campaign finance laws. And I will speak honestly about the fiscal crisis that we are facing, that will decimate the middle class in this city. Thank you.
Jak Jacob Karako: Two months ago, I approached one of the candidates, who is not here because she lost in the Democratic primary and I said, “Why are you running?” And she didn’t have an answer. I said, “If I agree with you, I don’t have to run. I’ll come and support you instead.” And here is my pledge and my pledge is still here.
I am here for a reason for a reason, because I believe in certain ideas. If you should need my assistance for any reason whatsoever, after the elections, I will be here. I will be available to you guys.
I want to make a very important distinction about why I decided to run. The American Bill of Rights says you a right to pursue your own happiness. I think this is tremendously important statement, and you can delete everything else and if you leave it, the essence is there. It doesn’t say you are guaranteed to be happy at the end. If you think you will be happy by banging your head on the wall, you know, you are free to try, but we cannot guarantee you will be happy at the end.
So you have to understand the difference between a right and a need. Rights cannot be voted away. Rights do not require an approval. You have them because they simply exist. Unfortunately, I think we are losing sight of what is a right and what is a need. And that is why certain democracies around the world are not working, because they do not understand what a right means. A right does not impose an obligation on someone else. Just leave me alone, that is what a right is. If it puts an obligation on someone else it’s not a right, maybe it’s a need, maybe is a want, a wish. I wish you luck guys. We are in it together. Let’s work together.
Dan Garodnick:I want to finish by asking you for your vote because the election is three weeks away. And I suggest to you that I am the best choice for this district, as somebody who has real roots here, as somebody who grew up in a rent stabilized apartment right in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, right here in the heart of the district. I was born at the NYU Medical Center in this district.
I have been committed to making New York City a better place, through work in the tenants association in my community, through founding a new tenants association to fight against an electronic key card system, which was being proposed. Working on the transportation committee of the community board to fight for the Second Avenue Subway line and to try to develop new transportation initiatives on the East Side in advance of the Second Avenue subway line like bus rapid transit. I will be somebody who will work to put those things into action. To stand up for fair funding for city schools. To get our debt under control. To enforce our quality of life laws.
I am an independent and principled person, who has stood on principle throughout my career. It is exactly what this district has had. It is exactly what this district needs. And it is exactly what I will bring.
I have been endorsed by the National Organization for Women, NARAL-Pro Choice New York, the League of Conservation Voters, as well as our Senator Chuck Schumer, Eliot Spitzer, Liz Kruger, Jonathan Bing our assemblyman, and by the outgoing councilwoman Eva Moskowitz herself. Thank you.Â