NYC Issues 2001
GOTHAM GAZETTE: SEARCHLIGHT ON CAMPAIGN 2001: CHILDREN

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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

 

NYC Issues 2001: Children

By Peggy Farber

Policies for children claim a substantial portion of New York's municipal resources, yet many pass into established practice with minimal public debate. During the Giuliani administration, radical shifts in children's programs took place out of the public's view. One popular after-school program grew by thirteen thousand percent, one highly regarded juvenile probation program was extinguished. The budget of the Administration for Children's Services doubled.

Indeed, the Administration for Children's Services, the city's agency for handling cases of child abuse and neglect, has the fifth largest budget, more than the Health and Hospitals Corporation, the Department of Sanitation and the Department of Transportation combined -- $2.4 billion of the $39.5 billion city budget. Only the Board of Education, the Department of Social Services, and the Police Department get more money. And of course, the Board of Education has something to do with children too.

Among the many decisions the new mayor will have to make about Mayor Giuliani's children's programs are whether to keep Nicholas Scoppetta on as head of the Administration for Children's Services, whether to reverse an unannounced alteration of the city's day care, whether to continue the mayor's energetic push to enroll all eligible uninsured children in public medical plans, and whether to save children's health clinics, many of which were temporarily rescued from closing in May.

The candidates respond to our questions on children's issues:

Measured by many indicators, the condition of children in New York City has improved over the eight years that Rudolph Giuliani has been mayor. The percent of children living in poverty has dropped from 44 percent to 34 percent. Fewer children are being born to teenaged mothers, and a smaller portion of mothers are giving birth without ever having had prenatal care. The foster care population has shrunk from a high of 45,000 at the start of the Giuliani term to 31,000 in March this year, and the number of new admissions is steadily declining (after a burst of admissions in the agency's first few years).

WILL SCOPPETTA STAY ON?

Nicholas Scoppetta has made no secret of his desire to continue as commissioner of the Administration for Children's Services. "I haven't made any other plans," he said recently. However, Scoppetta's willingness to continue under a new mayor depends on having the kind of access to the mayor he has now, he said. As head of a major agency, Scoppetta has Giuliani's direct support, participating in the mayor's daily 8:00 a.m. meeting where there is an opportunity to talk to and lobby the mayor that Scoppetta deems invaluable.

At the moment, the Administration for Children's Services exists as an independent agency at the pleasure of the mayor. A bill to make it permanently independent of the Human Resources Agency is stalled in the City Council. Scoppetta has made passage of the bill a top priority and a lot may be at stake in its passage.

Scoppetta has brought about reforms of the child welfare system few would have thought possible at the start of his term. These include a major upgrade in caseworker training, a realignment of services along neighborhood lines, an assertion of authority over contract agencies - but the reforms may not be firmly rooted enough to withstand Scoppetta's departure.

In addition, despite improvements at the top of the system, appalling practices continue at many contract agencies. For example, according to a new state audit of the city system, in 71 percent of cases where the goal for a foster child is reunification with his or her parents, caseworkers fail to arrange even two one-hour visits a month between children and parents, as state law requires. This failure rate is up from 57 percent in 1997. If Scoppetta is not at the head of the agency during the next mayoralty, whoever takes over will have to be capable of carrying his reforms out to frontline practitioners if the system overhaul is to last.

City Council members, including speaker Peter F. Vallone, a mayoral candidate, resist making the Administration for Children's Services a permanent charter agency because they think some of the programs currently assigned to that agency might be better off back at the Human Resources Administration. They point to the city's child care system, a $600 million line in the Administration for Children's Services budget.

STEALTH DAY CARE

One of the most serious hazards threatening the stability of low-income families in New York is a severe shortage of affordable child care, a crisis that is continually deepening as thousands of New York City parents lose welfare benefits. The Giuliani administration has quietly effected a major change in the city's day care policy, and the next mayor will have to decide what to do about it.

New York City has an extensive, largely unheralded, network of public day care centers for low-income families, administered now by the Administration for Children's Services. The centers, the creation of the John V. Lindsay administration, provide care for roughly twenty-five thousand pre-kindergarten children. The Administration for Children's Services also manages a comprehensive network of licensed family-based centers for low-income children. These are run by individuals in their homes under the supervision of the city and non-profit agencies. Both networks are absolutely full, with waiting lists of 38,000 children.

A third sector has come out of nowhere and ballooned into a major New York City child care initiative under Giuliani: The Human Resources Administration now issues its own childcare vouchers. These go to parents who must participate in work-related activities in order to receive welfare benefits. Because the two programs from the Administration for Children's Services are full, welfare mothers use the vouchers to pay relatives, neighbors, and boyfriends as babysitters. Some 38,000 children are now, suddenly, in unsupervised care under the aegis of the Human Resources Administration.

Child care experts worry that Giuliani's decision to spend money on unstable babysitting arrangements rather than established child care programs means the city is weakening its existing system and consigning thousands of parents to failure in the job market. "We need at least 90,000 new child care places over the next five years," said Philip Coltoff, executive director of the Children's Aid Society, "and the answer is not more vouchers. I want to see the slots in fully licensed center-based programs. If we don't do this it's going to be self-defeating. A lot of moms who are getting jobs are going to have to give them up."

One child care program has grown exponentially during the Giuliani years, the Beacon Schools. These are school-based, after-school programs, run by community groups throughout the city, originally funded by a city income tax surcharge raised at the end of the Dinkins administration for crime-fighting initiatives. The Beacons are administered by the city's Youth Services Division, which is an agency the mayor tried to eliminate early in his tenure. Eventually, Giuliani folded Youth Services into the Community Development agency. Funding for the Beacons has grown from $217,000 in 1994 to $29 million in 2000.

At the same time, the mayor has eliminated a nationally-acclaimed teen probation program called Family Ties, and has made a yearly ritual of threatening to eliminate the entire youth services budget, which, in addition to Beacon Schools, funds a wide range of comprehensive after-school programs, youth jobs, and community arts programs for kids.

Youth services proponents are praying the new mayor doesn't replicate Giuliani's strategy for restraining budget growth. "The most damaging thing about this mayoralty," said Michele Yanche, staff director of the Neighborhood Family Services Coalition, "has been the propensity to propose enormous cuts in the budget which then get restored by the City Council. The act itself is damaging because every year all the advocates have to spend tremendous amounts of valuable time convincing the City Council to keep the programs going."

The mayor readily admits to playing this game with advocates. "Every year you have to be willing, if you are the mayor, to have a good sense of humor and have The New York Times and The Post and The Daily News and everybody else write that you are cutting pacemakers for people and putting old people in the zoo or something," Giuliani told The New York Times last January. "In order to make sure the budget does not grow by 7 percent, 8 percent, 10, 12 percent, that is what you do."

KIDS' HEALTH

Some of the new mayor's decisions will involve Giuliani initiatives that win applause from children's advocates. The next mayor will have to decide, for example, whether to continue Giuliani's campaign to find and enroll hundreds of thousands of children in Medicaid and in Child Health Plus, the public insurance program for children whose families earn too much for Medicaid and too little for private insurance. Last July Mayor Giuliani organized an executive-level task force to find and register every eligible uninsured child.

Donna Lawrence, executive director of the Children's Defense Fund of New York, said the mayor's initiative comes as a welcome boost. The city conducted a computer match, for example, of children receiving food stamps and children enrolled in health insurance and, finding 70,000 uninsured children, then arranged for automatic enrollment of the children. "This has been a very, very positive step forward," Lawrence said of the weekly status meetings the mayor's office holds on children's health insurance, "and no other mayor has done this. We certainly hope it will be continued."

The city has not kept up funding for the Health and Hospitals Corporation, though, and one result has been a threat to children's medical clinics. The Health and Hospital Corporation's budget, even without taking inflation into account, is smaller today at $943 million than it was in 1994 at $983 million. In May the corporation announced that it would have to close 27 children's clinics because of huge deficits. A last minute reprieve came when funds from the city's school health program were used to plug the gap, but the relief is only temporary.

One of the biggest issues for the next mayor will be something no mayor has ever had to face before. On December 31st, 2001, tens of thousands of New Yorkers will reach lifetime limits on federal welfare benefits. Mayor Giuliani puts the number of people at 39,000 but the Independent Budget Office, using state figures, estimates that 100,000 people - 58,000 children - will lose cash benefits overnight. New York State and the city will jointly offer vouchers, equivalent to cash payments, to families losing federal welfare, but so far no one has made plans for transferring families to the safety net program. The new venture will require a major investment of city funds and a substantial new bureaucratic operation. Perhaps the most pressing question for the mayoral candidates is how the city is going to avert a catastrophe for children whose parents no longer have any cash income.

 

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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.


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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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