Campaign 2001 Feature
GOTHAM GAZETTE: SEARCHLIGHT ON CAMPAIGN 2001: FEATURE

Learn About
Your District

Click on the pull-down menu and select your district




Archives

Recent Feature Stories:
The Nod of the Bosses... Scramble for the City Council... Basic Training for Council Recruits... How They Stack up on Term Limit... Dynasties... The Speech that Saved Term Limits...

 


What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a guide to the political races in what many are calling New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history.

What is so significant about it?
For the first time in memory, most political offices in the city will be wide open to people who have neither money nor connections.

Why will the races be so open?
There are two reasons. This year, a new law goes into effect that limits the terms of New York City elected officials, forcing the mass retirement of most incumbents in the city - including the mayor, the comptroller, the public advocate, four of the five borough presidents, and 36 of the 51 members of the City Council. At the same time, a new campaign finance law kicks in, which allows any candidate who agrees to certain restrictions to collect four dollars of matching funds for every dollar they raise.

What does this have to do with this site?
As a public service, Searchlight on Campaign 2001 has a separate page for each race, including all the races for City Council, that not only sorts out the candidates -- many of them new and unfamiliar -- but also offers an opportunity to learn about the issues, and the districts themselves.

Who is behind Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a project of Gotham Gazette, a non-profit, non-partisan, non-ideological (but non-boring) web site about New York City news, policy and politics published by Citizens Union Foundation, part of the oldest and largest good-government group in the city (founded in 1897).

What's wrong with the way the regular press covers the races?
That is for you to decide. And one of our regular features, Campaign Trail, helps you to decide. Campaign Trail provides succinct summaries and links to campaign articles in the commercial press.

Who are we?
Masthead

 

"Changing the Rules"

by Ronnie Eldridge

Edited Transcript of the Jan. 27, 2001 Lecture at the Baruch School of Public Affairs Training for City Council Candidates

From a City Council's perspective the Charter outlines basically three responsibilities.

First, the Council has the final say on the budget, because the Mayor proposes the budget. We hold hearings on it, we respond to it; he comes back with a final budget, and we vote on it. We hold hearings on those, we can make changes, he has the right to veto it, or let it go. Second, we have oversight of city agencies. That is what the committees are assigned to, and they have certain oversight responsibilities. And then we have the final participation in the land use process, which is a very important process.

The rest of the conduct of the Council is basically set out in the rules.

THE RULES OF POWER

The rules are adopted the first meeting of the Council and each year after. When the new Council is constituted it has to not only adopt new rules, it has to elect a new Speaker, and that meeting is the key to everything.

The unstated, but underlying political structure of the Council is determined by the county party organization. That's why if you look at committee assignments you will see that the chairs of those committees have an historic basis of coming from the same borough. The only important committee that is chaired by somebody from Manhattan is by Stanley Michels for environmental protection.

In my opinion, the county leaders basically elect the Speaker. And you guys if you are independent are going to have a very important role to play. Manhattan has a weak county leader, and so the delegation operates on its own. When Vallone was elected in an agreement of the Bronx county leader, and the Queens county leader and one member elected him from the Manhattan delegation that broke his commitment to his Manhattan caucus. He surprised everybody at the last minute vote, and voted for Peter Vallone. As a result he became chair of the state and local legislation committee, and no other person from Manhattan ever chaired a committee.

I have been talking about the rules now for two years, because it seems to me that is the most important thing. I would like to everybody here to understand the importance of that part of the process. The rules give the Speaker an unlimited amount of power. It may be the history of legislative bodies that they have a strong leader, and that everybody follows, but I think it is time since we are changing other things in history that we re look at the leadership of a legislative body.

That has to be broken, because there is no point to all this. You can go and you want to serve, and if you really want to serve you go into the Council, you cannot serve at all.

NO RESPECT

I used to joke years ago. I supported Robert Kennedy, and I worked in his presidential campaign of 68, and people would say, "Well what do you expect she comes from New York." So then I went to work for Mario Cuomo, and I thought well now I'm from New York, and they say, "Well what do you expect she comes from the city." Finally I got elected to the City Council, and they say "Well what do you expect she comes from Manhattan, and then from the West Side?"

TOO MUCH POWER FOR THE SPEAKER?

The Speaker once appointed has already met with many people in that coalition to determine what the rules are. The Speaker has the power to appoint committee chairs; even the Congress of the United States has changed that process. Now people volunteer. They submit resumes, they hold hearings, and it is recommended by a group. The Speaker makes assignments to the committees. If you look at many committees there is not one committee that has a majority that he might lose. Every committee has an assured majority of the Speaker.

The Speaker controls the committees, he controls the legal office where the legislation is written for you, he controls the calendar and what gets introduced, and what doesn't get introduced to you, he controls what gets voted on in a committee.

You can look at the Speaker's choice of committee chairs, and at how much he's decided to pay each one of them, and then you can look at the members of his informal steering committee. You look at the votes, and see how often they voted against the Speaker. I don't think there's any time in the history of the Council that I've been in the Council that that's happened.

The Speaker also has the power to bring something up to a vote. We have the power to vote to discharge, but by the act of voting to discharge you are voting against the Speaker, against the leadership vote. You are then threatening your position on the committees, or your stipend, so you don't vote for it. We never had motion to discharge in the Council since I have been present.

YOU HAVE TO KNOW THEM TO CHANGE THEM

So this is the importance of those rules, and you can't do it at the last minute. Look at these rules, and study them, and speak to us, and people that you think will be able to help you. Then you will be able to do it.

The shortcomings in the Council are the oversight which has been a total bust for the last eight years, because the Giuliani people don't tell you anything, and if they tell you anything, they lie. It's a very difficult thing to have oversight.

The connection between the oversight, and the budget is an intimate connection, but they're treated separately, and also we've been powerless in this last administration, because we can put money into the budget, and the Mayor decides not to spend it. He ignores the budget, and therefore you may think you are starting new programs, but you're really not, because the money hasn't been spent, or the inspectors haven't been hired.

GET TOGETHER

We never have a caucus. We've had one caucus this year, and that's because the Queens county organization didn't have a meeting to nominate their member of the Board of Elections. The Council Democrats met as a caucus. That's the only time we meet.

We do not have the opportunity to speak to the Speaker about anything. I've tried for two years to have a meeting with him, and I haven't had the meeting with him. Although when he sees me, he kisses me and loves me.

Councilwoman Ronnie Eldridge has represented District 6 in Manhattan since 1989.

My Street Address:

My ZIP Code:



Find what city council district you are in -- and learn more about what's going on there, and who's running.


What is this?
Gotham Gazette's Searchlight on Campaign 2001 offers a comprehensive look at what is being called New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history. (See the left-hand column for an explanation).


Districts of the Week

District 1 -- Lower Manhattan
Whoever wins the election in district 1 will represent immigrant Chinese garment workers, as well as Wall Street traders living in Battery Park City. There are several candidates hoping to be the council's firsts -- the first Asian-American man, the first Asian-American woman, the first gay Rhodes Scholar, the first dot-com guru -- running against some politically well connected opponents. Endorsements and fundraising will play a big role in this race. But voter turnout could be the main determinant of who will next represent district 1 on the council. The key question is how many voters from each community will come out on Election Day.

District 7 -- Washington Heights, Manhattan
The northern tip of Manhattan has become one of the most popular places for new immigrants to call home. The northern tip of Manhattan is a place that today's new immigrants call home. The majority have come from the Dominican Republic, but also from countries in South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia. But it is not just new immigrants that are moving in. Students, artists, and other Manhattanites looking for less expensive rents and larger apartments have also moved north. Ten Democratic candidates are competing for the 15,000 voters expected on primary day. The winner who emerges from a crowded field of candidates will have to balance the needs of the newcomers with those who have lived there for years.

District 16 -- Highbridge, Bronx
The neighborhoods of district 16 are the city's poorest, with the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest median household income. But those who live there also point out that much is positive and stable about the area, thanks in large part to local organizations, not-for-profit agencies, and houses of worship that help hold the neighborhoods together. Each candidate for City Council believes that through his or her connections to churches and local organizations, they can help empower the community toward a better life. Helen Foster, the current council member daughter, will face Michael Benjamin, who has worked as an aide to several government officials and Anthony Curry, a Bronx neighborhood activist.

District 20 -- Northeast Flushing, Queens
This year district 20 may elect the first Asian-American ever to the City Council to an area which now has the second highest number of immigrants from Korea and Taiwan in the city. There are three Asian candidates in the Democratic race who have each drawn big endorsements. Council Speaker Peter Vallone endorsed Terence Park, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi endorsed John Liu, and the New York Times recently endorsed Ethel Chen The campaign has also drawn national and international press coverage

District 25 -- Jackson Heights, Queens
Thirty-seventh Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of the most diverse streets in the world. Little India quickly blends into Little Colombia, with vendors selling Latin American food to Colombians, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and Uruguayans. And each summer, the Queens Pride Parade fills the same street with rainbow banners. So it is no surprise that this election year the district produced a diverse field of candidates. A number of them, however, found out that getting on the ballot is not an easy task, especially when the Queens Democratic organization sends teams of lawyers to challenge petitions. But five Democratic candidates survived and will face off on September 11.

District 31 -- South East Queens
When a heavy rain hits southeast Queens, many residents in neighborhoods like Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale head to the basement with a bucket in hand. And it has been that way for the last 50 years. In the rush to build housing in the area after World War II, developers overlooked the need for storm drains in hopes that the city would eventually build a city-wide sewer system. The plan never materialized and the area has experienced "100-year rains" three times in the last decade. The eight Democrats -- all with little experience overseeing massive infrastructure projects--will try to convince voters that they can finally solve the flooding problems.

District 35 -- Central Brooklyn
The residents in council district 35 have some of the highest incomes in Brooklyn and some of the lowest. They can play in a famous park and a beautiful botanical garden, and live in the city's most crumbling public housing. They can attend one of the four institutions of higher learning in the district, and the worst-scoring high schools in the city. Such juxtapositions are a way of life for a district that includes the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; mid dle-class African-American communities near Prospect Park; immigrant communities from Haiti, Sierra Leon, Nigeria, and Trinidad, and in Crown Heights, a mix of Hasidic Jews and African-Americans. Seven Democratic candidates are campaigning in hopes that they can bring some kind of unity, and attention, to the area. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the neighborhoods themselves.

District 39 -- Park Slope/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
The candidates in district 39 include a chief of staff for an Assemblywoman, the husband of a member of U.S. Congress, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, an attorney and president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, the district manager of Community Board 6, and a labor organizer. This is the race to watch this year. The group of high-profile Democrats have raised a lot of money, almost $1.4 million combined.

District 45 -- East Flatbush
In no place in the city are the effects of campaign finance reform and term limits being felt more than in East Flatbush. The seven Democratic candidates seeking to represent this largely West Indian district come from a number of Caribbean nations. Many have been working on politicians' staffs and serving with community groups, clearly hoping someday to win their own elected office. Term limits has presented them with that opportunity, and they want to make the most of it. But this race that usually draws only about 8,000 voters could be decided by just a few votes. The candidates are attempting to come up with anything that will separate them from the pack.

District 49 -- North Shore, Staten Island
Staten Island has always been somewhat of a suburban stepchild to New York City. When a 1998 survey asked New Yorkers why they go to Staten Island, the top two responses were ''visiting friends and relatives" and ''passing through.'' But in many ways, the north shore has more in common with areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn than with the rest of the Staten Island. The top priority for all the candidates -- Jon Del Giorno, an administrative manager for the Board of Elections, Mike McMahon, an attorney and counsel to current Councilmember Jerome O'Donovan, and Debi Rose, an administrator at the College of Staten Island and the first African-American candidate in Staten Island politics -- is to make sure that the island becomes more than just a turn-around-point for the over one million tourists who ride the free ferry from Manhattan each year.


Register To Vote or Be A Poll Worker

Voter Registration Forms
After printing and filling out the voter registration form, please send them by mail to:

Board of Elections
32 Broadway, 7th Floor
New York, NY
10004-1609

You will need Acrobat Reader to view these forms.



Poll Worker Applications

After completing the forms, please send them to the address on the form.

You will need Acrobat Reader to view these forms.


Links You Can Use

Government sites
NYC Campaign Finance Bd.
NYC Board of Elections
NYC Voter Assistance Comm.
NY City Council
Federal Election Comm.

Local non-partisan sites
SavvyVoter.org
NYVote.com
Votesmart
NYPIRG
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

National non-partisan sites
Ctr. for Responsive Politics
Common Cause
DemocracyNet
League of Women Voters

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart

E-Voting
Election.com

Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

Media
Gotham Gazette
The Empire Page
Campaigns and Elections
Legislative Gazette

Political columnists
Andrea Bernstein
Joe Conason
Mario Cuomo (radio)
Rudy Giuliani (radio)
Clyde Haberman
Nat Hentoff

Joseph Mercurio
Joyce Purnick
John Tierney
Michael Tomasky

Political parties
Conservative
Democratic
Green
Independence
Liberal
Republican
Right to Life
Working Families
Communist
Libertarian
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Socialist
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
DL21C
Central Queens Greens
The Jefferson Democratic Club of Flushing
NY Young Republican Club
Stonewall Democratic Club
Village Independent Dems.


Abbreviations for Party Affiliation

American Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Communist (Com)
Conservative (Con)
Constitution (CST)
Democratic (Dem)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Green (Gre)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Independence (Ind)
Liberal (Lib)
Libertarian (LBT)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Republican (Rep)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)


2001 Election Calendar

June 1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
June 5 - First day for candidates from the eight major parties (Democratic, Republican, Indpendence, Conservative, Liberal, Green, Working Families, and Right to Life) to circulate petitions. Candidates running for City Council must collect the signatures of at least 900 people living in the district for which they are running in order to appear on the Primary ballot. Candidates not running under these eight major parties do not appear on the Primary ballot and have a separate set of deadlines.
July 12 - Deadline for major party candidates to file petitions.
July 10 - First day for unaffiliated candidates to circulate petitions, in order to appear on the ballot in the General Election. They must collect the number of signatures equal to five percent of the total enrolled in that party.
August 7 - Board of Elections announces candidates appearing on the Primary ballot.
August 17 - Last day for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the Primary Election.
August 21 - Deadline for non-major party candidates to file petitions to be included on the General Election ballot.
September 4 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the Primary
September 10 - Last day to personally deliver application for absentee voting in the Primary Last day to postmark absentee ballot for Primary
September 11 - Primary election; Polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m.; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.
September 25 - Runoff Primary election for Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate, if needed
October 12 - Last day to for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the General Election
October 30 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the General Election
November 5 - Last day to hand-deliver an application for absentee voting, or to postmark an absentee ballot for the General Election.
November 6 - General Election; polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m. in NYC; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.

This website is brought to you by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by grants from the Charles H. Revson Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the New York Times Foundation and viewers like you.