The Race for Mayor
GOTHAM GAZETTE: SEARCHLIGHT ON CAMPAIGN 2001: MAYOR

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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

 

Ethics In Government: George Spitz

1. CAMPAIGN FINANCE: The city's landmark campaign finance program is now 13 years old.

a) What is your assessment of how the program is working? What changes, if any, would you seek in that law?

I believe The New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB) is doing an excellent job of administering a law that is inequitable and does little, if anything, and to protect the public from the deleterious effect of special-interest money. In 1997, for example, during the race for mayor, former Borough President Ruth Messinger obtained in matching funds $1,281,407, former City Councilman Sal Albanese received $254,2501 while two minority mayoral candidates, Al Sharpton and Eric Ruane-Melendez obtained nothing. The inequities could be even larger this year with the matching funds ratio change from one for one to four for one. The media is replete with stories detailing how special interests are bundling campaign contributions and how an entire industry, real estate, is distributing contributions equally among leading candidates. I would amend the law as follows: Replace matching funds with equal time on Public Access TV and Crosswalks (See reply to Question 4) for all candidates linked to an enhanced and expanded Voter Guide that would include where the candidates stand on significant issues and listing of all TV, Radio appearances and candidate forums plus instructions on how to obtain Voters Directory of non-profit groups (e.g. Citizens Union, Sierra Club, League of Women Voters, etc.), mailing prior to election of a separate Voter Guide listing and defining all contributions.

b) In 1998, the law was amended in several ways. These include a four-to-one match of smaller contributions from city residents; a ban on corporate contributions; a requirement that candidates disclose if contributors are doing business with the city; and a requirement that political action committees register with the board to qualify as contributors. What is your opinion of the impact of these changes?

Obviously the impact of these changes has not discouraged special interests, but it has made the matching funds costs far more expensive to the city treasury

2. ETHICS RULES: The city charter's conflicts of interest rules were last revised in 1988.

a) What changes, if any, do you support in the city's current conflicts of interest provisions?

New York City's conflict of interest rules are inadequate as recognized by the "New York State Commissioner on Government Integrity," headed by Dean John Feerick of Fordham Law School, formerly head of Citizens Union Foundation. The Feerick commission recommended "a ban on the solicitation of campaign contributions from those who led business dealings with the city, and a ban on the making contributions by those who led business dealings with the City."

b) The charter's "revolving door" rules prohibit former city employees from representing paying clients before their former agency for one year after leaving city service. Similar revolving door prohibition on the state level is for two years; five years on some federal level. Do you believe the city's current revolving door provisions are adequate?

They are grossly inadequate. The mediocre level of services delivered by New York City in comparison to those delivered when LaGuardia was mayor reflect patronage employees in high positions preparing themselves for raiding the city treasury once they are on the other side of the "revolving door." Elimination of patronage, having all agencies run by career civil servants and- awarding of contracts through a strict method of sealed bidding or by quasi-judicial officers would contribute towards cleaner government.

3. CITY HALL STEPS: There has been an ongoing controversy on access to City Hall and its steps, with Mayor Giuliani citing security concerns to impose a permit system for groups seeking to hold news conferences and other events on the steps and plaza area. What would be your policy on the use of City Hall for these activities? Do you support, oppose or have another position on the current permitting regulations? A bill -- Intro 657-A -- is pending in the City Council to suspend the permitting requirements for groups under a certain number. Do you support, oppose or have another position on the bill?

My policy on the use of City Hall and its steps would be to make it as easy as possible for groups to hold news conferences and stage other events. Intro 657-A is a step forward

4. CROSSWALKS: In 1993, the city created the Crosswalks channels, which cablecasts the public activities of the mayor, City Council, other officials and city agencies.

a) What, if any, changes would you make in Crosswalks coverage and operations?

Similar to Boston where it works well and has been praised by the New York Times sister newspaper, the Boston Globe, I would make Crosswalks available to candidates for political and party office on an interactive TV equal time basis. The public access channels under the control of the Borough Presidents would also be involved. If such a plan war in effect today, the city treasury could save the estimated inequitably distributed $65 to $100 million cost of the current matching fund expenditure for the city's Campaign Finance Program, much of which ends up in uninformative puff advertising and the pockets of consultants, pollsters and election law lawyers.

b) In recent years, the city has used its Crosswalks channels in a variety of ways. These include cablecast of track races to assist the Off Track Betting Corporation; leasing the channels to commercial foreign language program; and for CUNY television. Would you continue these uses? What other kind of programming would you envision for Crosswalks?

I would end cablecasts of track races. Government should not promote gambling. I would like to make available Crosswalks and Public Access Channels to the Friends of WBAI and cultural institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, etc.

5. PUBLIC INFORMATION: The 1989 charter created a Commission on Public Information and Communication, chaired by the Public Advocate. It mission includes: reviewing city information policies and the use of new communications technologies for the city; and issuing advisory opinions on Open Meetings and Freedom of Information requests. It has not been funded since 1991 and has rarely met in recent years.

a) What role, if any, do you see COPIC serving during the next four years?

I believe the first part of this question is best addressed to candidates for Public Advocate. Funding should be restored

b) What other steps would you take to assist New Yorkers in obtaining information about government activities and services?

By executive order all activities of the government would be accessible to the media and the public.

6. WHISTEBLOWERS: What additional protections, if any, would you support to protect city employees who report government corruption, waste or inefficiency?

The Human Rights Commission would have authority to handle civil liberty complaints in the same manner as civil rights complaints. As Mayor, I would encourage whistleblowing.

7. CONTRACTING: New York City purchases more than $7 billion a year in goods and services. The new charter made sweeping changes in the way the city contracts, placing basic authority for the award of city contracts with the office of the mayor. What steps have you taken and would you take to insure efficient and ethical city contracting?

Much of the contracting is either useless or could be done by civil service at a savings of easily 75 percent, according to a 1992 Parks Department study. All other contracts should be done by sealed bidding. The Feerick Commission On Government Integrity recommended an end to Request for Proposals (RFPs). This should be enacted promptly. A major problem for clean government is the fact that no bid contractors sit on the boards of advocacy groups, including sponsors of this questionnaire, that are supposed to be advocating government reform. This is at least partly responsible for the mushrooming contracting out costs that the city has faced in recent years. Reducing contracting, privatization and patronage will free funding for providing New York City with a satisfactory human and physical infrastructure.

8. DEPARTMENT OF INVESTIGATION: The Commissioner of Investigations serves at the pleasure of the mayor. Some have argued that granting the commissioner a fixed term would increase their independence; others have said that it is important for the commissioner to be fully accountable to a mayor and thus removable when necessary. Do you support, oppose or have another position on having the commissioner serve for a fixed term?

The Department of Investigation should be completely free of interference of the mayor or other elected officials. The Commissioner and all employees should hold civil service rank.

9. PRIVATE FUNDS: There has been continuing controversies about the use of private funds in government projects.

a) Past mayors have set up private corporations to solicit funds for summit meetings, travel abroad, parades, inaugurations and other events. What is your view on the appropriate role for the use of private funds to support these initiatives?

There is no appropriate role for private funds to support these initiatives, many of which should be abandoned for less two organizations such as the Association for a Better New York.

b) City parks officials came under fire for requiring groups wishing to use parks for private events to pay differing fees to benefit a private parks foundation. How would you handle this situation?

The groups should pay reasonable costs for the events. Private parks foundations should solicit their own money.

10. POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT: What are or would be your guidelines for insuring that government staff and resources not be abused for political campaign purposes?

In accordance with the policies of Richard Childs, Samuel Seabury and other Citizens Union leaders, patronage would be abolished and government staff and resources would not be involved in political campaigns except as individuals exerting their First Amendment rights.

11. VOTER REGISTRATION: Nearly two million New Yorkers who are eligible to vote are not registered to vote. In 2000, the city enacted a Pro-Voter law to strengthen voter registration activities by city agencies, including the non-partisan Voter Assistance Commission. As mayor, what steps would you take to encourage voter registration and participation? What role do you see for the Voter Assistance Commission?

The mayor should use his bully pulpit to press for maximum registration. This will be a top order of business.

12. INDEPENDENT BUDGET OFFICE: Both former Mayor Dinkins and Mayor Giuliani opposed establishing an Independent Budget Office, saying it was unnecessary despite civic and editorial support for the office. The IBO was eventually set up in 1995 by court order. Do you support, oppose or have another position on the continued existence of the IBO?

I recently, with the assistance of the Independent Budget Office, uncovered a $701 million shortfall in the New York City pension fund (NYCER). This office should be maintained and properly funded.

13. ELECTIONS: What steps would you take as mayor to improve and modernize how city elections are run by the Board of Elections?

Actually, The Board of Elections is not a badly run agency by current New York City standards. The employees are courteous, helpful and knowledgeable to candidates and others seeking information. The outdated equipment the Board of Elections employs is largely the fault of the mayor, the former Board of Estimate and the City Council. All employees should be civil service. The Campaign Finance Board is also a well-run agency by city standards with courteous, helpful and knowledgeable staff. Laws that require amending restrict both agencies.

14. TERM LIMITS: Term limits for all elected officials are due to take effect his year. Do you support, oppose or have another position on the city's term limits law?

I supported term limits both times it was on the ballot and would back it again while recognizing it is not a panacea. Term limits could be amended for New York City Council elections if proportional representation would be restored as I advocate.

15. OTHER STEPS: What other steps, not discussed in answer to any of the above questions, would you take to enhance the integrity of city government, to fight corruption, and to reduce potential conflicts of interest in city government?

Elimination of patronage, privatization and no bid contracting would go a long way towards enhancing the integrity of city government. That will be a first order of business of the next administration if I am mayor. The influence of no bid contractors, and recycled patronage employees on civic groups, including sponsors of this questionnaire, is properly beyond the reach of the mayor. The integrity of city government would be enhanced if these civic groups compared their own miniscule records in fighting corruption and wasteful government with the titanic results of Citizens Union, The City Club, etc. when, during the 1930s and 1940s, they were under the influence of Richard Childs, Samuel Seabury, George Hallet and others of like mind (and no bid contractors and recycled patronage employees played no role).

My Street Address:

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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

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Poll Worker Applications

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

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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.

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