Update - 2001 Primary
The Campaign that Never Ends
The polls had barely closed in the Bronx last February when
State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. began planning the next campaign.
Espada's candidate, Edwin O. Ortiz Jr., had just lost to the
Joel Rivera, the choice of the Bronx Democratic organization.
But Espada seemed unfazed. "The minute Edwin Ortiz got 44
percent of the vote, I decided that meant that we can make
that difference up," Espada told reporters.
So a mere seven months later, Rivera and Ortiz will face
each other again in the primary, joined by Bronx attorney
Winston Rouse. And if Rivera wins he could face a third challenge
in November from Ortiz, who has staked out the Independent
and Conservative lines. Republican Luana Malavolta is also
All this means that Rivera will have run in three campaigns
all while still a college undergraduate. Ortiz is also studying
for his BA but, in his mid 30s has had other jobs as well.
The 23-year-old Rivera, who cites no paid employment prior
to his $90,500-a-year council post, is a political science
student at Fordham, getting credit for his "life experience"
in Council. His father, Jose, held the seat for 13 years before
running successfully for State Assembly in 2000.
While the two leading factions in Bronx politics fight over
who will control the District 15 seat, the two other candidates,
Rouse and Malavolta, each hope that what they see as their
independence and experience will help them pull out a surprise
victory. Neither has any campaign money to speak of -- Malavolta
says it's too difficult to ask people for their money as well
as their vote -- but argue this is not an insuperable barrier.
And both are minorities in the area: Malavolta as a Republican,
Rouse as an African-American in a predominantly Hispanic district
Rouse, an attorney and former New York City police officer
and Secret Service agent, said he decided to run back in February
when Rivera and Ortiz were seeking his vote. "The issues in
the Bronx are severe," he says, "and one reason is the quality
of people" in public office. Rouse is particularly hard on
Rivera. "What is he doing for the community? He's living off
the name." But he notes that Ortiz's campaign literature focuses
on his support from Espada, not his own qualifications.
Arguing that repeated attempts to reform the public schools
have failed, Rouse strongly supports school vouchers that
would give parents money they could use to send their children
to private schools. "In law," he says, "we have a concept
'what is in the best interests of the child?' Here we have
a concept, 'what is in the best interests of the system?'"
He says he would focus on reducing pollution and public education
in an effort to bring down high asthma rates in the area and
would fight two planned electric generators.
At least some of Malavolta's campaign springs from what
she views from her apparel store off Arthur Avenue where she
sees "people in and out all day long." She is focused on quality
of life issues, seemingly small matters, such as garbage and
noise, that can add up until, she says, they drive people
away from the area.
Malavolta hopes to involve private local organizations, such
as the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden, in providing
after-school programs that would be funded with private grants.
These institutions, she says, "are eager to introduce kids
to the things they stand for."
Even though the district is overwhelmingly Democratic, Malavolta
says she has a good chance of getting elected. Noting that
Ortiz is running as a Conservative, she asks, "How can he
possibly make the Republicans into villains?"
Feature - 2001 Special Election
Joel Rivera holds a unique qualification to represent the
15th Council district. The area of the central Bronx has the
most students of any district in the city. And the 23-year-old
Rivera is a junior majoring in political science at Fordham.
But one thing sets Rivera apart from the 24,909 other students
in the district: He is the son of Jose Rivera, who served
on the City Council from 1987 until he won election to the
York State Assembly in November. On February 20, voters
in the 15th, which has one of the highest rates of unemployment
and lowest income levels in the city, will chose a new council
member in a special election.
In his quest to take his father's place and become the youngest
city council member ever, Rivera has the endorsement of Bronx
Democratic leaders, including party chairman Roberto Ramirez,
who vacated the assembly seat now held by the elder
Rivera's strongest opponent seems to be Edwin Ortiz, 33,
who describes himself as a long-time activist and founder
of Edwin Ortiz and Associates, a firm that helps people navigate
bureaucracies. Ortiz has the backing of State
Senator Pedro Espada, a Ramirez foe.
Julio Munoz and Juan Ramos have also filed for the race with
the Board of Elections. Munoz and Ortiz both served on Community
Planning Board 6, where Joel Rivera's mother, Ivine Galarza,
is now district manager.
Since this is a special election and therefore technically
non-partisan, each candidate has had to create a party to
run under. Rivera represents what is officially named the
Unity Party; Ortiz, Peoples Choice; Munoz, the Better Neighborhood
Party; and Ramos, the Community Action Party. As far as could
be determined these exist in name only. None of them, for
example, have listed phone nunmbers.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Ortiz and Rivera differ sharply
on Joel Rivera's fitness for office. "You can't come into
our community and expect to benefit from what your father's
done or hasn't done," Ortiz says. "This is not a monarchy."
But Rivera says he's "in a good position because I had the
opportunity to grow up in the community and see community
concerns." Now, he says, he has the chance to "give something
The two men also differ about the elder Rivera's performance.
His son says that there has been "good leadership in the Bronx"
and that he'd like to "insure that the good work continues
to get done."
Ortiz, though, assails Jose Rivera's record, saying that
the district's Tremont Avenue commercial strip has languished,
while similar areas in the borough have revived. "What continuity
are they (the Riveras) talking about?" he said.
Both Rivera and Ortiz cite a long list of community issues.
Perhaps reflecting his status as a student, Rivera says he's
concerned about education, particularly decreasing class size,
keeping and attracting teachers and establishing after-school
programs. His other interests, he says, include combating
racial profiling by the police and creating affordable housing.
Ortiz, who says he began organizing tenants in the district
when he was 17, lists the main issues in the 15th as housing,
health matters, jobs and the quality of life, particularly
drugs. He says one of his main goals as a council member would
be to bring money into the community.
Certainly, the 15th has more than its share of problems.
The median household income is $28,643, and some 44 percent
of the residents are eligible for Medicaid. Of the district's
students, 93 percent qualify for school lunch, while only
26 percent score at or above the national average in reading.
Whoever wins the election could have only a short respite
from the campaign trail. The special election is a non-partisan
contest in which whoever wins the most votes -- even by the
slimmest of margins -- takes the seat, but only for the remainder
of Jose Rivera's term. So there could be a primary fight in
September and a general election contest in November. By then,
Joel Rivera might be a senior trying to figure out what to
do after graduation.
Posted January 2001
Note: Rivera won the special election
Luana Malavolta is a life-long resident of the district
who owns a woman's clothing store off Arthur Avenue. A former
member of Community Planning Board 6, she has been active
in the Arthur Avenue Merchants Associations and in the 48th
Precinct Community Council.
Edwin O. Ortiz Jr. is a long time community activist,
who has worked on a variety of issues including housing, tenants
rights and youth concerns. A former member of Community Board
6, he is founder and executive director of Young Adults Against
Drugs and Alcohol. Before joining the Espada camp, he worked
for a number of politicians allied with the Bronx Democratic
organization, including Roberto Ramirez and Adolofo Carrion.
He ran for State Assembly in 1998.
Joel Rivera was elected to City Council in a special
election last February. The son of former Councilmember and
currently State Assemblyman Jose Rivera, he is a Fordham University
student majoring in political science. He has been involved
with several community organizations including Not in My Neighborhood
You Don't, Friends of Crotona Park and Tanima Productions,
a youth cultural organization.
The Norwood News asks the candidates running for City Council
a series of questions. If you are elected to the City Council,
will it be your only job or do you plan on holding another
position as well? What are your three top priorities? What
specific proposals do you have concerning these priorities?
As an elected official, what improvements would you propose
for the Williamsbridge Oval park? Do you support the 1 percent
for parks proposal? How do you propose to help solve the overcrowding
problem in School District 10? Where will you have your district
Edwin Ortiz has accused his opponent in the City Council race,
Joel Rivera, of improper use of public funds in his campaign.
Ortiz alleges that Rivera's mother, Ivine Galarza has misused
her power as a member of the Board of Community Planning (Board
67) by spending city money from the planning board's budget
to mail out campaign literature for her son. Galarza was not
surprised by the allegations, countering that Ortiz fabricated
the claims. "I don't doubt that Ortiz took an envelope
that my office sent him and stuck any campaign literature
of my son's inside it," she declared. Rivera dismissed
the accusations, saying that Ortiz "has no credibility"
and is "only trying to confuse the voters" (El Diaro)
City Councilmember Joel Rivera called the jailing of his father,
State Sen. Jose Rivera, as well as Rev. Al Sharpton, Bronx
Democratic Party chief Roberto Ramirez and City Councilmember
Adolfo Carrion "a total injustice." The four were arrested
for trespassing on Navy property to protest the shelling of
the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. (Newsday
as reprinted by Newsmax)
City Councilmember Joel Rivera says he and community groups
will fight plans for a proposed motel in the northeast Bronx.
The community is afraid that the motel at 420 Morris Park
Avenue will bring prostitution and drug trafficking back to
the area. Community leaders are also concerned that the motel
could eventually house homeless families. (Bronx
Joel Rivera's victory in the special election for City Council
from the 15th District is not surprising. What is surprising,
considering the Bronx Democratic organization's support for
Rivera, is his relatively small margin of victory. But forces
aligned with State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr., who supported
insurgent candidate Edwin Ortiz, can find little comfort in
losing the race in this district, nor in the way in which
the race was conducted. (bronx.com)
22-year-old Joel Rivera savors his win as the youngest person
ever elected to City Council. "I am nothing but a child within
the village of the 15th Council District," he told supporters
at Bronx County Democratic headquarters. "This campaign was
22 years in the making." Meanwhile, state Sen. Pedro Espada,
who backed his rival, announced plans to run for Bronx borough
president, in a continuing showdown between the Espada and
the Ramirez political factions in the Bronx. (Daily
Among the many children seeking to follow their parents into
City Council, Joel Rivera, son of former Councilmember Jose
Rivera, got a head start when he won a special election on
February 20. (Daily
In the special election in the 15th City Council district
in the Bronx, a 22-year-old junior at Fordham College has
been elected to his father's old seat. Joel Rivera received
2,937 votes, or 57 percent, while Edwin Ortiz received 2,246
votes, or 43 percent, according to unofficial tabulations
by the City Board of Elections. It is a win as well for the
Bronx Democratic Organization and its leader Roberto Ramirez.
Special Election in District 15 in the Bronx
next Tuesday pits two political science majors against one
another for a seat on the City Council. (Daily
Race for special election to the City Council in District
15 in the Bronx exposes rift in Democratic Party. (Daily
Three candidates are running for the vacant city council seat
from District 13. The article includes biographical information
on Joel Rivera and Edwin O. Ortiz Jr. (Norwood
Many of the District 15 candidates have served on Community
Board 6 -- or their mother has. (Inner
City Press' Bronx Reporter)
District 15 race represents another round in an ongoing
political feud. (Daily
Special election to be held to fill Jose Rivera's council