on the pull-down menu and select your district
Recent Feature Stories:
The Nod of the Bosses... Scramble for the City Council...
Basic Training for Council Recruits... How They Stack up
on Term Limit... Dynasties... The Speech that Saved Term
What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
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?
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?
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
What does this have to do with this site?
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?
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?
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
Who are we?
Issues 2001: Education Overview
By Jessica Wolff and Joseph Wardenski
Education will clearly be the dominant issue in this
year's citywide races. The four Democratic mayoral candidates
have each declared reform of New York City's public schools
their top campaign issue, and all four have issued certain
specific proposals on how they would improve education
The intense attention to education in this year's political
races should come as no surprise to New Yorkers. The problem
of how to educate the city's 1.1 million public school
children receives constant attention in the local and
national media, and the ongoing games of tug-of-war between
Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the Board of Education, and the state
are no secret. As education reform has emerged as a major
topic nationwide--in the 2000 presidential election both
George W. Bush and Al Gore focused an unprecedented amount
of attention on the issue--the pressure for city candidates
to take public school reform seriously has only heightened.
So far, political candidates' education proposals have
focused on specific solutions: smaller class sizes, salary
increases for teachers, increasing professional development
opportunities for teachers and administrators, giving
parents more public school-choice options, strengthening
technology instruction in the schools. As candidates move
forward in the 2001 campaign, they must also tackle the
broader barriers that stand in the way of improving education
for all the city's students.
These sticky problems should define the education debate
in New York City:
- ensuring adequate funding of the public schools
- creating system-wide accountability
- improving teacher quality
- addressing school governance
- fixing infrastructure and facilities problems
- dealing with the needs of the school system's growing
These issues, and questions to guide the political debate
this election year, are offered below.
In January, Justice Leland DeGrasse of the New York State
Supreme Court ruled in Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE)
v. State that the state's education funding formula violated
the state constitution by failing to provide thousands
of public school students -- especially those in New York
City -- with the opportunity for a sound basic education.
Justice DeGrasse ordered the state to completely overhaul
the current funding formula, a complex and arbitrary product
of years of political deals.
The CFE decision is being appealed by Governor Pataki,
but Justice DeGrasse's ruling clearly illuminates the
detrimental impact of inadequate funding on New York City's
public school students, most of whom are minorities. High
percentages of unqualified teachers, overcrowded classrooms,
and obsolete school facilities are among the major factors
preventing the public schools from providing a sound basic
education to their students.
This year's mayoral candidates will be faced with several
critical questions on school funding:
- If the CFE decision results in more education funding
for New York City, what will be the top spending priorities
for those funds?
- Is the city spending enough of its own budget on education?
Should the city share the responsibility for devoting
more resources to the public schools?
What are the means by which we ensure that the city's
students are getting the education they need? New York
City's current school accountability system has a number
of components, including standardized testing of students
to determine promotion eligibility; Regents exams for
high school graduation; performance-based contracts for
principals and superintendents; annual school report cards
that make school-level student outcome and other data
available to the public. The city does not have system
wide accountability to ensure that schools and students
have the resources needed for successful teaching and
- Are current school accountability strategies sufficient?
What other measures need to be put in place?
- How will the city be held accountable for ensuring
that increases in school funding result in improved
- New graduation requirements, including required Regents
exams, without new resources to ensure student success,
will result in a soaring dropout rate, especially among
immigrant students still mastering English. What should
be done to prevent this?
Improving Teacher Quality
New York City's teachers have been working without a
contract since November 2000. Contract negotiations with
City Hall are currently at an impasse. Mayor Guiliani
wants a pay-for-performance system; the union wants competitive
salaries for all teachers. The next mayor may inherit
the high-tension job of working out a new teachers' contract.
- Teachers need a raise; suburban teachers often make
25 percent more to teach fewer children in better working
conditions. How much can the city afford to pay its
teachers and what should the city ask in return?
- What else can the city do to recruit, train, and retain
Governance and Decision Making
Who should run New York City's public schools? Should
governance of public schools rest with a powerful central
office or should decision-making power be decentralized
to the school level -- to principals, teachers, and parents?
These questions have been prominent ones during the current
mayoral administration, and are likely ones the next mayor
will face during his term.
Mayor Giuliani has been unabashed in his call to abolish
the Board of Education and replace it with central administrators
appointed by -- and held directly accountable to -- the
mayor. Giuliani has also been a proponent of privatization,
backing unsuccessful efforts to allow parents to use publicly
funded vouchers to attend private schools and to turn
over management of five schools to Edison Schools, a private
At about the same time the mayor was publicly calling
for a strong re-centralized system of education governance,
the state legislature two years ago mandated that every
public school in New York City establish a school leadership
team composed of the principal, teachers, and parents.
While in some schools these teams have begun to involve
parents meaningfully in school decision-making and to
involve school communities directly in decisions that
affect them, the New York Times recently reported that
"only a fraction of the groups in place actually use their
legally authorized power to create spending plans, select
curriculums and draw up blueprints to improve academic
- What is the future of school leadership teams? Should
the success of school-based decision-making on critical
academic and budget matters be a priority of the city?
- Should control of the public schools be given directly
to the mayor or should the Board of Education remain
independent as the central governing body of the New
York City public schools?
- Where do the 32 community school boards fit into this
debate? Do they provide a necessary balance to central
control and school-based decision-making, or do they
add an unnecessary and inefficient layer to the city's
- Is privatization an appropriate option to consider
for poorly performing public schools in New York City?
Are for-profit companies equipped to run public schools?
As a result of chronic disinvestment in the city's public
schools, school facilities are in bad shape. School buildings
are overcrowded and crumbling; they are inhospitable and
often dangerous. Students lack even the technology and
equipment necessary to tackle material required by state
graduation exams. Many schools lack sports and physical
education opportunities for students.
- How should the city solve its school facilities problem?
- How can the city better encourage public/private
partnerships for school construction?
Over 50 percent of school-aged children in New York City
come from immigrant families. Nearly 15 percent of all
students are English Language Learners, representing over
140 different languages. Some 90 percent of these students
live in high need/low resource districts. These students
are among those most at risk for dropping out.
- How will the city ensure that the school system can
cope with the needs of immigrant students?
- What can be done to ensure that English Language Learners
have enough teachers qualified to meet their needs?
York City Board of Education
Board of Ed's information page on School Leadership Teams
United Federation of Teachers
for Fiscal Equity
Links to Mayoral Candidates' Statements on Education
Jessica Wolff is Director of Policy Development and
Joseph Wardenski is Program Assistant at the Campaign
for Fiscal Equity, Inc. The views expressed are their
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
for Party Affiliation
Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)
1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance
program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
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
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
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.