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

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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

 

THE SPEAKERS SPEAK

On January 9, 2002 the new City Council must elect the new Speaker of the City Council. Under Peter Vallone, who has held the position since 1989, the Speaker has controlled nearly everything at the City Council. He has hired the central staff, appointed the chairs of committees, and set the schedule and agenda. The Speaker, along with the finance committee, worked with the mayor's budget. And unlike most legislative bodies, the Speaker has been the only member who could bring a bill up for a vote on the floor.

In the past, the Speaker was selected by the party leaders from each district who would then get each member of the council from each borough to vote as a bloc. With term limits, much in the council has changed , including how the Speaker is chosen. On December 5, the Fresh Democracy Council, a group of 17 newly elected members sponsored a public forum to hear what the candidates for Speaker had to say. "This brings the process out of the smoke-filled back room where three men with cigars made the decisions," said David Weprin who is a member of the coalition and is also running for Speaker.

Below is a partial transcript of the forum. The seven council members seeking the position who attended were Angel Rodriguez, David Weprin, Bill Perkins, Phil Reed, Al Vann, Melinda Katz, and Gifford Miller.

  1. Opening Statements
  2. What are your visions of the economy?
  3. What your priorities for education and how will you fund them?
  4. Would you post council voting records and attendance on the council web site?

Angel Rodriguez
First let me thank the Fresh Democracy Council for holding this forum. Before I begin my opening statement, I want to dispel some rumors that have been floating around in the city for a while. The first rumor is that I am unsupportive of unions and union issues. This is totally untrue. As a son of a union member, as someone who has supported labor his whole life, I consider myself a part of the union movement and I think it is unfair for me to be characterized that way. In my last campaign I was proud to receive the support of many, many unions including D.C.37, UFT, 1199 and many other unions. I recently found out that I had a 100 percent voting record with D.C.37. And that is who the true Angel Rodriguez is, a person that goes out there and votes on the issues and doesn't worry about what the record is whether it's 100 percent or 95 percent, but just votes on the issues. The other rumor that I've been hearing is that I'm going to bring back certain staff members. That's incorrect; I will not bring back any staff members. I just want to make that clear and for the record.

I'd like to lay out my vision for the City Council and for New York City. We face trying times in New York City. These times are such that we have to make sure the next Speaker of the City Council understands those issues. We have to redevelop downtown Manhattan. We have to make sure that the issues of public education, issues that were important before September 11th, are issues that are still there, when we come to these decisions. It is my understanding that we cannot allow a speaker to take office that doesn't understand those issues. Who doesn't deal with making sure we have quality health insurance, who understands that we need affordable housing for our people, who understands that labor and management has to come together to make this city better when we redevelop New York City. Now my statement is going to be cut short because I'm out of time but I can't cut short before I say these things. We're facing a $3.5 billion dollar gap and we have to be sure that our city is prepared to deal with that gap.

David Weprin
Good evening. I want to thank Fresh Democracy Council for hosting this historic event tonight. I am running for Speaker of the City Council Because I feel I have the right combination of business and financial background and prior government service to be a strong voice for the City Council. In the 1970's I served as a legislative aide in Albany, I served as a congressional intern in Washington. During the Cuomo administration, I served as deputy superintendent of banking for New York State and Secretary for the New York Banking Board and I served 13 years as a vice president and managing director in municipal finance on Wall Street. I was also unanimously elected by my peers as chairman of the Securities Industries Association which is the trade group for Wall Street. I've also been a Democratic District Leader for the last eight years.

On July first we'll be facing a projected $3.5 billion gap followed by another gap the following year of $3.9 billion. These are very tough fiscal times. The challenge facing New York City must be answered by a coalition to create a sensible means of meeting financial obligations. Together with you, I would like to move with the united City Council, with the labor movement and the private sector to restore the New York City Commuter tax which will generate close to $500 million in revenue each year. I will fight for the City Council confirmation of commissioners and mayoral judicial appointments, which I'm proud to say is now an official part of the FDC suggested rule changes. I learned from my father who was speaker of the New York State Assembly in the early 1990's the absolute necessity for the speaker to maintain an open door to all his members. He was preceded by three very powerful speakers who at times were criticized for being inaccessible to his members. Under his policy, his members who needed to meet with the speaker could do so that day between openings in the calendar. He was accessible and in doing so he created a strong and responsible working relationship. When he met with the members, it was not to sell them a package worked out in conjunction with the governor and majority leader but it was to craft the legislative agenda with them.

Bill Perkins
Thank you very much. I want to also join my colleagues in commending the Fresh Democracy Council for its leadership in responding to changing times. I believe that the type of speaker we are looking for is the type who will be an enabler, one who will recognize the entrepreneurial spirit of a council member and support that spirit provide that member with the type of opportunities to express himself, represent his community and at the same time be there accessible, available and open to kinds of changes. There are those who might suggest that the Speaker is someone who requires dictatorial type leadership in order to be effective. I believe the stronger we make each individual member--and especially in terms of our committees--the stronger the institution will be and the stronger the speaker will be in terms of representing all the members and all the communities in the city. In that regard I believe we will be more effective especially as we begin to address the fact that our city is bleeding in terms of its economy, in terms of its fiscal health, in terms of its safety net. We need a speaker who is part of a team of people who feel strong and feel able to express themselves and I believe that type of leadership is the type of leadership that we will have under my leadership as a speaker. Thank you.

Phil Reed
I also want to congratulate all of my colleagues who were elected. I know the process and feel like I'm going through it again. And I know we have a great deal of things on our mind. You've all been given staff and have a great deal of responsibilities already, but I would also like to take ten seconds of my time to also welcome the returning members of City Council. I think they deserve a round of applause.

We really aren't that old. There are many issues that are facing us in this city and the council has been selected by the individual districts to represent them, to give them a clear and honest voice in the hard answers that we will have to come up with over these next couple of years. Certainly in the next six months, we have an unprecedented amount of work to do and we have to gain the knowledge to do that. In order to do that I think that whoever the speaker is has to try immediately to reduce whatever level of suspicion or intrigue that has been left over perhaps by this process or the legacy people have perceived of the council. That is something that I pledge to do. I pledge as your council leader to try and make our decisions as transparent as possible, certainly at all times to the membership and with all due respect, although we will need to debate and dialogue with ourselves we should also make sure that the public is able to participate. There are several issues that are key to the Fresh Democracy Council, as well as to those of us who are returning and we are fascinated to engage in that in a fair and honest way. But at the end of this process we must come together quickly and move forward to make sure that our city stays stable and safe and we work together as one. Thank you.

Al Vann
Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to thank my colleagues in the council who attended this evening. I'm a fresh delegate. I'm completing my 27th year in the New York State legislature and upstate assembly. For the last 20 years I've served in leadership positions in Albany. In January I'll be a freshman in the City council with my colleagues. I envision a city council that will be bold, will be compassionate, will be a deliberate legislative body, will be a body that will be in power to carry out and fulfill the charter mandate that will give us the power to govern this great city as a co-pilot with the mayor. Of course there is an unprecedented crisis of which we're all aware, and I believe, that will bring Herculean challenge to all of us: all of us in the city, all of us on the council, and of course the speaker.

The next Speaker of City Council must be a person who has legislative and government experience and has had proven leadership, because he must gain the confidence of the people of the city, the stakeholders in the city, and of course all those with whom he must confer and make decisions. The next speaker must be committed to empowerment, individual members, empowering to committee chairs. Transparency in government. There must be inclusion in all the decision making of our budgetary and legislative process. The next speaker has to be encouraged to maximize the power they are given by the council and the charter because they have to be able to present and preserve the interests and the priorities of the people they say they represent. The next speaker must be strong enough to lead by consensus. The next speaker has to be strong enough and big enough to be respected by federal and state. And I believe he must be balanced enough, strong enough to maintain the delicate balance between the competing interests, all the systems and all the people of New York.

Gifford Miller
I want to thank FDC for hosting this forum and say that there was a lot of concern about the turmoil, the turbulence that this was going to create. I think that anybody who was concerned about that can put their minds at rest, given the commitment, passion and competence of the members of the new class of Council Members who have come into the council and already before they have taken office articulated an agenda forcing the race for the speaker out into the open and I look forward to working with you in January regardless of what happens in the speakership race.

I think the City Council is by definition a people's voice and we're blessed with a council that has members from diverse walks of life, diverse experiences: educators, community leaders, activists, former legislators, police officers and I feel confident the next council will well represent the people of the city. But the first task that we have to undertake is to elect a leader who will work hand in hand with all of those on the council, and maximize the potential in this room. We need somebody who will empower other members to articulate agendas like the ones we're hearing about today, and many others, in order to address the needs of the people in the city. I'm running for speaker of the city council because my experience over the past six years which I've found to be both energizing and frustrating. Energizing in the sense that in the last six years I've had the opportunity to write the most progressive municipal voter registration laws in the country, to create the first family planning program in the city of New York, to negotiate a deal to get disabled accessible liberty service for all New Yorkers. These are opportunities we all have, but it's been frustrating because I've felt there's been so much more that I could have accomplished if I'd had the opportunity to do so. The choice that we have is to draw up a leadership team that will draw upon all the energies on this panel and create a structure and a format for the council to accomplish great things for New Yorkers. Thank you.

Melinda Katz
I would like to thank everyone in this room for being here. As someone who had the privilege and the honor of serving in the assembly with councilman-elect Vann and I got there after Oliver Koppell. I think this is a terrific forum that we have here and everyone in this room certainly should be congratulated for joining us today and taking an interest in the future of our democracy and the future of our city. We're entering a very exciting and challenging time in the city of New York and I think the speaker should be able to handle the issues we are now facing, which of course because of the last few months would boggle the minds of any city in the entire United States of America. But New York City has to deal with it and I think we are strong enough to deal with it, as case in point: the last few months. But to do that the speaker is going to have to bring this council together to speak with one voice when appropriate. He or she will also have to be able to draw upon the expertise of each of our council members. Now that means together we need to make sure that we are able to get the money from Albany that we so sorely rely on. We rely on a lot of money from them and as part of the assembly before I would hope that I'd be able to bring some of that to the council in getting that money. We're going to have to do job creations together. We're going to have to be able to speak as one voice as we rebuild New York City, as we rebuild lower Manhattan. But we also need to remember that each and every one of my colleagues in the New York City Council got elected to represent their district and as we represent the City of New York and as we worry about rebuilding downtown Manhattan and really rebuilding the entire city by creating jobs and creating the economy and doing economic development, in the city of New York, that each of these council members has to bring money and finances back to their districts. We need to continue to worry about public hospitals, we need to continue to worry about the Board of Education, we need to continue to worry about child safety in our school system, and to make sure we're getting health care for all our kids. So it's a twofold process. Together we speak as one voice for the City of New York, but the speaker has to draw on the expertise of each and every council member. Thank you very much.

Q: What is your vision of the future of New York City's economy including all five boroughs?

Reed: I think that your question speaks to what's on all of our minds and it's interesting because certainly all of the new council members, if there's any hope, those of us that were here in two years will have a chance to run for reelection. I guess that means I'd like to see us change term limits [you can applaud]. And the fact of the matter is the overwhelming majority of your energy, as well as all of ours as council members, is going to be spent in our districts over the next two years. And while it is im portant that we establish some rules of engagement while we are at City Hall, what we're here to make sure is to bring back to our district some substance, some realities of the promise that we were just about to achieve. That vision I have of what we do economically speaks to all the people that are here.

I know so many people who are advocates of this movement who I've become friends with and known, know that for instance we've got a terrific staff at City Hall right now. I just wanted to have the opportunity to say that because the advocates out here can not shake their heads in a negative fashion. Many times they have gone to our staff for the advice and the council about how to get their programs sustained. I don't think anybody in here wants to see a wholesale change of that staff. That is going to impact our economy in the city. How we balance the proposal for a tax reduction how we go to Albany and tell them 'goddamn it give us back the commuter tax.' We perhaps are able to establish a fund that gives us at some future date an opportunity to say there's a rainy day we should have had that in place. I want to make sure that all of us come together, every single person in this room is going to have to look at living with less. But I assure you that East Harlem isn't going to live with any less then your community does or that the far Rockaway do. We will have to balance those needs and find new engines of economic recovery that we put all of our faith in that stock industry is now coming to us to be proved to be short-sighted. So there we industries we ignored that need to be reestablished.

Vann: I think the first thing that I would do is there must be a coordinating strategy for New York City using our congressional leader to demand the maximum resources that we deserve and to expedite those resources relative to the World Trade Center disaster. Victims, heroes, families, they all need to be paid for their pain and suffering for their economic loss. We have to reemploy the people who have been unemployed as a result of that. But the first thing we do is make sure we maximize our dollars from the Federal Government. Then we must use our relationships and friendships in the state so they will maximize their aid to New York City. That will take pressure off of our city budget. If we have to extend our budget to cover those expenses it should readily be federal and state and we have a more serious deficit than we are being estimated at this point in time. If we're able to do those things our deficit will be manageable and we will be able to, working together, in concert be able to manage the 1.3,whatever that deficit may be that we will determine because we represent the people in our districts and in our city. We will hold some things without harm, like education, economic development, and service issues that affect people most directly. I think it's very important that we get those dollars coming from the Federal and State government so we will have an opportunity to manage the necessary deficit we will have and move to a point because we must have a budget that's in balance. We must have a balanced budget so we have to hit the ground running. And it's the Mayor who will estimate the revenue. It's true that we have the mandate of power to develop a budget but it is his power alone to determine what the revenue level will be. We will work with the Mayor.

Miller: It's a good question. I think we have to acknowledge that the first challenge facing the city and it's not gonna be one we'll be able to address in a short period of time is rebuilding our financial sector and the hole in the ground we have in the Wall Street area. The Wall Street area does drive the economy it doesn't just provide employment just to one borough. It provides employment to all five boroughs. In fact it's a regional issue it's not just a Manhattan issue. We need to have a very close eye on the city's role and the council's role and the redevelopment commission and be sensitive Alan Guerstin wherever you are, to the fact that the financial district is also a residential district and we need to ensure to address those issues as well. As part of our economic development.

But I think the second challenge we have is converting Federal and State dollars--and getting Federal and State dollars--to expand our infrastructure. I think we have an opportunity sad though it may seem in this time of crisis to get dollars. I don't just mean infrastructure serving the Wall Street area but in terms of linking all of our boroughs. I know that Chuck Schumer's group the 35 did a very thoughtful report on economic development. They showed that 80 percent of added employment was office sector employment, so we need to be focused on that. And we have an even lesser supply now as a result of this terrible tragedy. Some of that can be addressed through looking at other parts of our boroughs and converting and zoning to support commercial office development. At the same time as we have also recognized that we have a manufacturing sector in this town. We've used our land use policies to support the manufacturing sector. A great example is the garment industry, where we use land use policies to make sure that we preserve those manufacturing jobs. The final thing I'll say in my final 15 seconds is I think it's a disgrace hasn't had a health care policy for the last eight years. Does anyone in this room have any idea what the city's health care policy is? The health care industry is a major, major industry in this city. It kept the city alive during the past recession. If it wasn't for the health care growth in the '89, '90, whatever's recession we would have been on death's doorstep, so I think we need to focus on that issue as well.

Katz: This is obviously an issue we need to look into in much greater detail than a two-hour debate. I think we need to rebuild lower Manhattan with Alan Gerson certainly being a part of that. We need to rebuild it while respecting the lives of those we have lost there. I think there is a way to get a balance on that. We need to create jobs in the City of New York which will help every borough with the trickle down effect, there is no doubt about that. We are losing 93,000 jobs according to Comptroller Hevesi in this year's budget. In next year's budget we need to make sure that we create those jobs. We need to have incentives. We're losing businesses to New Jersey. We're losing businesses to Long Island. We need to make sure that our businesses are staying here in the City of New York. Let's bring them out to Queens, let's bring them out to The Bronx, let's bring them out to Brooklyn. That's three boroughs right? Of course in Staten Island.

We need to make sure we create jobs. I think it would be great if we could refinance our debt. We've never talked about that before. There are some rules now about refinancing debt. Our hands are tied but some of that would save the City of New York money with a lower interest rate. I would love to see the City of New York get more money from the federal government. Right now the federal government is not giving us one dime for building of our school system. We should be getting half from the federal government. We are educating every child who comes into the City of New York, as we should be, but we also have to make sure we have the facilities here to house them. I know many of the senators and many of the congressmen have bills in Congress to make sure we get funds that we deserve to rebuild our schools. And we should be getting money from the State of New York on the expense budget for education. A Judge ruled with a decision that said New York City is not getting its fair share of spending. That decision has been appealed. We deserve our fair share of spending in the City of New York. We certainly have a lot of the children in our school system. What are the other boroughs? We need a permanent way of getting rid of our garbage. There you go, so we can save money on that. But with all due respect to all my council members, obviously creating jobs and doing economic development in the City of New York is important to bring back to our districts.

Rodriguez: In trying times, we have tremendous opportunities, the redevelopment of downtown Manhattan is a tremendous opportunity for our city, but as you go into the other boroughs you have to think. What's worked and what hasn't worked? I chair the subcommittee on small business, retail and merchant technologies. And as a result of that we have had eight digital divide districts in New York City. One is in the district of DUMBO and as you're aware, DUMBO has become an area in which great job growth has come as a result of the high technology industry. That has been done as a result of the work that was done in my committee and as a result of digital divides districts in that area. We have to look at that and see how we can expand that and do other things. We have an opportunity with biotechnology. We have more teaching hospitals than anywhere else in the country, but we haven't taken the opportunity to explore the biotechnology sector. We have to look at the freight rail. How do we get the freight rail toned up.

As we go through this process we have to reach out to all the people in all the communities. Education is the most important thing for someone to get so they can get a job. The current [budget] modification, just so you can know what's expected, $3.5 million was taken away from CUNY, for the scholarship program. That's wrong, That stuff we can not do. We have to make sure that this council stands up to those types of cuts and figures out other ways to get the budget gap done and the economy going. I think it is important to understand that education is the key to making sure that each and every one of us has a fair opportunity. I am here today because of the public education this city provided me and I will make sure that 15 or 20 or 10 years from now another young person is sitting here doing the same thing that I'm doing. Thank you.

Weprin: I think we have to look at this year with our upcoming $3.5 billion deficit and the following year a predicted $3.9 billion deficit. This is a major fiscal crisis. We have to compare it to 1975 which is the only measure we can really compare it to in our history. Back in 1975 we had a coalition of labor, private sector and government working together and it was that coalition that basically bailed out New York City. I think we have to think out of the box about ways to reach out to the private sector. I come from the securities industry and there's a lot of untapped resources in the industry. We've been a disproportionate amount of the employment and the taxes, the last year or so has been a tough year although I understand today was a good day at the market. Economic development is crucial throughout the five boroughs. I've been involved for the last fifteen years with the Greater Jamaica development corporation, sitting on their board and we've done a lot of economic development in the whole area. And I served on the Urban Development Board as an ex-officio member when I was a deputy in the banking department. The number 1 immediate priority is to rebuild downtown, but we also have to look at the ripple effect. We've been hurting throughout the five boroughs. We have to look at it as a fiscal crisis and we have to build the type of coalition we had in 1975 with labor and with the private sector and if we all work together we can solve these problems.

Perkins: In the short term the economy of New York doesn't look good, obviously. We are bleeding, as I pointed out earlier, in terms of our budget, we have big holes in our budget that have to be filled. If we don't fill them, our city will be taken over by the emergency financial control board and that in itself will not be good. In the long term we want to look at exactly what exactly is going on at the World Trade Center. There's $20 billion that's promised to our city, substantial amounts of that money are going to be used down there. Employment opportunities, entrepreneurial opportunities, training opportunities that are going to be available to all the boroughs, all the citizens of New York are going to come out of that. That's not a short term project, that's a long term project. It's going to have a ripple effect in all the boroughs. But there's a problem with what's going on there now. I'd like to take a moment to plug a hearing that I'm having tomorrow. The contracting that's going on downtown at the World Trade Center and how it is threatening to not only violate the rules of government in this city but is also denying New Yorkers jobs and is denying New Yorkers contracts, something that is very important not just for people in Manhattan but for people throughout the city. So I think that we have an opportunity to fix our budget. (It's going to be difficult to avoid being taken over by the Emergency Financial Control Board.) So that then we can begin to find other creative ways of improving our economy. I'd like to also echo the point that my colleague Angel Rodriguez made about our public education. I think that it's very important, in terms of our economy that our public schools are top notch schools.

Question: Tell us specifically your priorities for education, and then tell us how you will ensure funding for education and those priorities?

Vann: I think that's one of the most important questions that's been asked tonight because I think we all agree on the significance of education in ensuring our survival and providing hope and opportunity for our children and our grandchildren and beyond. I support the traditional responses about education. Yes we must retain our teachers our teachers from going to the outlying areas by providing adequate salaries. Yes we must have reduced class size so that correct instruction can occur and we can retain the learning atmosphere. Yes, we must have more school buildings and we need help from our federal government to build our school system. And we also need that which is not getting the funding it should be, the proper funding for the school based initiative. That is the involvement of parents and community in making decisions about what happens in the classroom. We recognize the we have a tremendous deficit and we may not be able to fund all of the municipal services to which we have become accustomed, but I believe and I hope that our council will see that education should be held accountable. We need to fund it at the appropriate level because not to do this is to ask for other social ills. If we do not educate we incarcerate at a much higher cost to society and to our fiscal bill as well. So I think those are my priorities on education and I stress that studies have shown that decision making closer to the children is where you have the better schools. So I would ask that we provide the assistance as well as the resources to prepare our parents and communities to participate with our teachers and administrators to provide the best education possible.

Miller: Well first off let's admit that we have tremendous challenges in front of us. As I recall three fourths of 8th graders failed the state math test, two-thirds of 8th graders failed the reading exam. We have tremendous challenges ahead of us. The first thing we have to acknowledge is that we have to get rid of the board of education. The notion that the board of education removes politics from the process-- which was the reason which was the reason for it being put in in the first place--is just absurd. And we have to get away from the point where people can point fingers at everybody except themselves. I want to see a department of education that is responsible to the mayor and to the council and give us the actual opportunity to follow through on all the promises that we'd like to be able to make.

Secondly, absolutely no school vouchers. I don't want to see one dime taken out of our educational system. That's non-negotiable for me and I think for most of our colleagues as well. Third, what do we need to do that? Once we've got control of the educational system the answers are not mysterious. We need to retain teachers by paying them decent salaries, by giving them the opportunity to do the teaching in the classroom that they want to do. We need to reduce class size. This is not rocket science. I know there've been lots of studies that show smaller class size improves outcome. But hey, I can't believe we had to study this. Of course it improves outcome.

And how do we pay for it? First off, the state needs to pay its fair share. And if they don't I'm going to sick Robert Jackson on them again. We also need to recognize that this is a long term problem. We have a short term budget problem over the next couple years, but it's a long term problem and we need to take a long term approach to it and find funding as a matter of priority over the next several years.

Katz: With an $11 billion educational bond in the budget, we just cut about $100 million from the budget. The council's going to have to vote on that in the next 30 days, I believe. With that cut was about $1 million to place extra teachers in overcrowded classrooms, $2 million for safety, $20 million for maintenance of the buildings and these are important issues. One of the things we need to do is to make sure that we spend the appropriate amount of money on education. Now everyone says to me, 'Well we're running a bad budget this year, we might not be able to afford it.' The fact of the matter is in order to educate our children in the right way we're going to have to spend the money. They do it on Long Island. They do it upstate and unfortunately it may not be that popular but in order to do it right, we're gonna have to. We gonna have to get the money from the federal government to help build our schools. We are not building them fast enough. If we start building them now, our five year capital project will still be far behind. We need to get our fair share from Albany. We need to make sure we're doing that. When we were up in Albany the City of New York Assembly members consistently fought and screamed and yelled and argued that we are not getting our fair share in the City of New York. We have very special needs in the city; it's important that we do get that money for our children.

We also need to look at leasing space. If we're not able to build our schools fast enough. We're going to have to lease space from the private sector, from wherever we can, to make sure we have seats for our children. Smaller classrooms are obviously a priority. A lot of things are a priority to me as well that we may not talk about as much, but I think are very important. I grew up in a very cultural family, my father was the conductor of the Queens Symphony Orchestra. I think arts in education is imperative for our children. Kids learn things from after-school programs, from the arts curriculum, from physical education programs, from music programs that they think they have learned in regular classrooms, and those things are just as important to the well-being of our children.

Rodriguez: Let me first tell you something about Angel Rodriguez, I am a product of New York City's public schools P.S. 196, Junior High School 126, Norman Thomas High School, and CUNY. I have two children in public schools. I understand that in order for my children to have the opportunity that I have been given by this great country, they have to have the same educational opportunities that I had and they don't right now. When I was growing up, you could go to college for free, but they can't right now. The budget that we're looking at for modification right now removes some of the scholarships that city council put in. We have to fight that. So we can go through the list of things we have to do, but when we end this process, the commitment to ensure that we expend the money and that we get the money. 'Get the money' means that we get Robert Jackson... 'Get the money' means going to the federal government and saying 'We need money for schools, we need money for buildings.' But the bottom line is we have to understand that one of the commitments that I made is no school vouchers. Why? Because that will take money out of my children's schools and I am not willing to do that.

I insist and we lease more space so that we have new school space. I insist that we get the money from the federal government, from the state government, or whatever we have to do to make sure the teachers get paid a fair salary, not a high salary, a fair salary, so we don't have brain-drain and all the great teachers leave our city and go to the suburbs. So when you look at me you look at someone who understands that our educational system has to be the best in the country so we can produce people who can do the jobs in the future. When I was talking about biotechnology, when I was talking about computers, those are the jobs of the future and our children need to be prepared and the only way to be prepared is for them to have the ability to get the proper education.

Weprin: A number of my colleagues have brought it up but I can't stress it enough: the most important part of the educational system is to have good teachers and keep the class sizes down, No one goes into teaching and I know, my mother was a teacher for 40 years--for the money. They go in because they want to be good teachers. However, when the suburbs are paying 25-30 percent more to also teach and to teach with smaller class size, you have to look at it like a business and it's really impossible to compete. We have to pay our teachers more, without a doubt. We have to find the money and we have to keep class size down. I am optimistic that Robert Jackson's lawsuit for fiscal equity, that we've heard so much about, will succeed at the appellate level and we will have that additional money. We can use some of that to subsidize some of the existing system.

I too am strongly opposed to vouchers. I'll even go further, I am also opposed to charter schools. We don't have the luxury of exploring the academic experiment with charter schools when we have a major crisis n our own school system. We don't want to take away from the resources of that system. We have to look at ways of subsidizing the traditional funding for the school system and one of the ways to do that is to reach out to the private sector. I come from an industry from Wall Street where computer technology becomes outdated within a year. There's lots of very good computer technology, computers that can be donated by Wall Street, if we reach out to them. I think we have to look at ways of bringing in the private sector in order to help solve our crisis in the public schools.

Perkins: In addition to agreeing with my colleagues about not supporting vouchers, I also want to state that I am against the privatization of our public schools by private management companies....I think that we have to command more money from Albany for our schools, our percentage of the budget reflecting our percentage of students. I think, obviously, that we need to improve schools and, reduce class size. And again another source for funding could come from public-private partnerships. I've seen some ways in which those types of collaborations can be helpful to our children. I think that the place where our children can be most successful is when their parents are involved with the schools. So I very strongly support the school- based government proposals and making sure it gets funding for those parents to have access to those schools. I think finally that the federal government has to come in and provide us with the kind of resources necessary to build some more schools and to provide our teachers with the kind of salaries that they need.

Reed: Virtually all of us spent the last two working days down at Baruch college...It was exciting, the rainbow that is there, that is our city in those schools. I am absolutely dedicated to finding every opportunity we can through the city Council to sustain that energy that we saw from the first grade on through that. I think as the council speaker, however, I think it is appropriate that I respond and say I am opposed to vouchers. But you're asking me what it is I would do as the Council Speaker. I certainly think that for the education committee and the higher education committee it is critical and essential that they do the proper oversight because so much of what we do in the council unfortunately is reacting. I'd like to make sure that that committee as well as the other committees will be proactive and put initiatives forward.

Q: Would you be willing to make the operations of the council public by putting attendance records and voting records on the council web site?

Katz: Yes. And I also support each council member holding town hall meetings in our own districts. I think it's extremely important that the agencies show up in the districts and understand that they have to work hand in hand with the council members. As an elected official before we did that. We got agencies to come into our districts and talk about the different issues that were relevant to each council member's area. Thank you.

Rodriguez: I work for 150,000 people and they have a right to know what I'm doing. So yes I would agree for my record to be up. If my record were up there maybe there wouldn't be some rumors flying around about me. Yes, I think the community reports should be up, because the reality is each and every one of us has a responsibility to those 150,000 people to let them know what it is we're doing. What is it we're doing? What is our record? What are the things we're sitting there and working on. I think that as we go t hrough this process we have to understand that our responsibility is to the people of the City of New York, our individual responsibility is also to the individual districts we represent. And they have every right to know what you're doing on City Council. Thank you.

Weprin: I would also support the opening of the web site for voting records and attendance. I think the New York City Council is probably more open than most legislative bodies in the country, but I think we should continue that tradition and strengthen it. There's something called room nine and I think there are some members of room nine here today. Room nine of course is the press corps and the press corps does a very good and effective job advertising what we do with the city council. There's also something on cable TV where they actually broadcast the proceedings of the City Council. That is controversial in a lot of other legislatures, but I think it's important to do and I commend the City Council and the TV stations that do do this. You have an opportunity to observe the workings of City Council. I also am a very strong advocate of having town hall meetings and I signed on very early to that proposal group to try and get everyone to commit to having town hall meetings and the appropriate newsletters. Thank you.

Perkins: Of course I would agree to posting committee reports and the voting records. I think it's very very important for accountability and letting the public know what we're doing individually. I think also we've been fortunate, in that Crosswalks the cable program alluded to by Councilmember-Elect Weprin. And even New York One had focused a lot more attention on the deliberations of the City Council. I would like to see perhaps the City Council have town hall meetings or meetings in the various boroughs so that the public can see us in action. I don't know exactly and mechanically how we would do it but it would seem to me that we might be able to go on the road with our show every once in a while to give a sense of accessibility to the council.

Reed: Yes to all of what you've asked. It would also be the initiative that I would let the chairs have. We have done that. I have brought several of the committees I serve on, that I wasn't even a chair, to the community but if you were the chair of a committee and wanted to do that I'd certainly provide you with resources and the opportunity at least twice a year. The problem with that is you've got to get all of your colleagues to want to go with you. .That's part of the problem the demands that many people have , and that's the practical side of so much of what we really need to look at; I've found myself sometimes having two committees that I serve on meeting simultaneously and one day I had three committees that I was serving on. I would lastly suggest that as a council member I've found Crosswalks extremely useful, because sometimes I just couldn't be at a hearing that was important to me and the opportunity to take a look at what my colleagues were talking about or reexamine the issue quietly was very useful. Thank you.

Vann: Yes, I support the proposals. In addition to that what we really talked about establishing a healthy democracy where people are involved in making decisions about their life. So I am also on record wanting to support the electoral process and voter participation. And I support as well as bringing town meetings to our voting communities, I think it's important that our budgetary process become more transparent so people understand what's involved in making these decisions. I think we should expand the City Council Internship program and get young people from around the city to come in and work with us and get an understanding of how we work. We have to improve inter-group relations in our city because we are many people but one city.

Miller: As my colleagues said before the answer to that question is yes. This is actually not going to be very hard. It's amazing but true that there is actually an on-line legislative tracking system for the City Council that City Council members do not currently have access to. You have to be a member of central staff if you want to find out what a bill is you don't have access to it; you have to be a member of the staff in order to have access to what they call LegiStar. Not only should City Council members and their staffs have access to this but the public should have access to this. Anybody at a computer terminal, at a Public Library, wherever, could be able to get online, get a copy of a bill, see whether there was a hearing whether there's been a second hearing, whether there are amendments to the bill, what the amendments were. This is not rocket science. It's easy. In fact it's already been done we just have to give the public and council members access to it. Thank you.

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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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