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Basic Training for Council Recruits... How They Stack up
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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?
NYC Issues 2001: Health
What Tone Tomorrow?
By Maia Szalavitz
There are numerous health issues that might come into
play during the campaigns for mayor and for the City Council,
but the most important health issue may be the tone these
candidates set once they become public officials -- not
just through regulations but through their rhetoric.
Candidates may argue in favor of increased health coverage
and better oversight of Health Maintenance Organizations,
or HMOs. They may say that they will put pressure on the
Governor to ensure that existing programs (like
Family Health Plus and Child Health Plus) are available
as soon and as widely as possible.
But even when they become city officials, they have little
power to create or rescind such programs, which are controlled
mainly by the state and federal governments.
What they can do, however, is control how such programs
are implemented -- with city rules, regulations and financing
and their bully pulpit -- and make services more or less
accessible and more or less effective.
Mayor Giuliani has tried to set a tough tone, and many
of his policies have actively discouraged people from
getting healthcare to which they are entitled. A study
by the Urban Institute in 2000 found that 41 percent of
people leaving welfare became uninsured, even though they
to Medicaid. In 1999, a federal judge said that New
York City was improperly denying Medicaid to thousands
of people because caseworkers had falsely told them that
they were not eligible due to failure to meet work requirements.
The mayor also illegally made applicants wait for a second
appointment to apply for Medicaid benefits, and tried
to make finger-printing a requirement for eligibility.
Numerous children fall through the cracks and lose their
health coverage because of confusing and often contradictory
bureaucratic requirements. And with enrollment in managed
care programs becoming mandatory for most recipients throughout
the city, the red tape is only increasing.
Mayor Giuliani also sought to cut health costs by using
providers whose main focus is the bottom line, and by
dropping people from Medicaid if they are arrested and
held in jail, even if the charges are dropped and they
are freed within days. It can take months for people to
be re-enrolled. This extreme emphasis on toughness may
be pennywise and pound-foolish, particularly in the justice
Here is why. In 1998, St. Barnabas Hospital became the
health care provider for Rikers Island. Quality health
care for prisoners is not even on the bottom of most politicians'
agendas. But most people are unaware of the role the prison
system plays in epidemics. One study found that 1500 prisoners
with tuberculosis released from Riker's without treatment
spread it to 36 New York zip codes before the epidemic
Since prisoners are frequently not given medications
on time, jails and prisons are excellent breeding grounds
for drug-resistant micro-organisms. And since approximately
one-third of inmates at Riker's at any given time have
a history of intravenous drug use and needles are often
shared in the jail, HIV and Hepatitis C spread.
Perhaps the most cruel and frightening example of how
cutting access to health care for prisoners has unintended
consequences is the treatment of the mentally ill. Many
of the city's most mentally disturbed people pass through
the criminal justice system, even if they are not ultimately
convicted of crimes. A full quarter of Rikers inmates
have serious mental illnesses. But the city has taken
legal action to avoid being required to give follow-up
care when these inmates are released.
To cut costs, St. Barnabas decided that rather than provide
a month's worth of medication to inmates leaving Rikers,
it would only offer several days. Mentally ill inmates,
when discharged, are left (like all other inmates) under
the 59th Street Bridge in Queens with no information on
where to go to continue their care -- and no Medicaid.
Although most people with mental illness are not any
more likely to be violent than others, this is not
true of unmedicated schizophrenics, who often prefer
not to take their medications because of their difficult
side effects. Cutting such people from Medicaid and leaving
them without medications is surely not the best way to
ensure that they are not a danger to themselves or others.
This year, St. Barnabas was dropped as the health care
provider for Rikers, following reports of inmate deaths
from negligence. It had made one million dollars in profit
each month on the $342 million three-year contract --
and had cut prisoner hospital visits by 57 percent. The
new provider, Prison Health Services, of Tennessee, has
never served such a large, sick population and is still
not legally required to connect those leaving the jail
with healthcare because the city is still appealing court
decisions on the requirement.
Another example: welfare rules currently allow people
who fail drug treatment to be cut from both welfare and
Medicaid. Drug treatment providers do not consider people
who relapse once during treatment to be failures. If they
did, they would lose 90 percent of their patients. But
under the latest regulations, one "strike" like this gets
you thrown out of treatment-- and all other medical care
-- even if you continue to want help. This may help purge
the welfare rolls, but it also damages public health by
removing access to care from many who are most likely
to get and spread infectious diseases, not to mention
continue to use illegal drugs.
Like the Rikers cuts, it can also potentially increase
crime, since addicts who stay on methadone treatment (even
with some relapses) are much
less likely to commit crime than those who aren't
All of these regulations and restrictions add up to a
tone which tells poor people that they are not welcome
in the health care system. Though Mayor Giuliani's prostate
cancer caused a change of heart, which made him push to
increase enrollment in programs like Medicaid, the attitude
of the system for the most part continues to be unfriendly
and challenging rather than welcoming.
What candidates seeking to improve the heath of New York
may want to consider, then, is how to change the regulatory
and bureaucratic environment in a way that warms up this
cold and discouraging climate.
Some other issues which may become important include:
of HMO's. With managed care for Medicaid recipients
soon to be mandatory throughout the state with few exceptions,
will New York's oversight systems be able to ensure
that needed care is not denied?
Drug Coverage for the Elderly. President Bush's
plan to include drug coverage in Medicare seems to have
fallen victim to his tax cut proposal. New York State
already provides prescription drug assistance to older
people with incomes under $35,000. But will that be
shortage. Fewer and fewer people are applying to
nursing schools as the status of nurses has declined
and salaries have not kept pace with increasing job
demands. Nurses are becoming less involved with the
patient care they wish to provide, and more entangled
in hospital bureaucracy. With an aging population, demand
for skilled nurses is increasing, particularly in New
York. What can be done to increase the number
hospitals. New York is a major center for medical
education and the current health care financing system
is squeezing medical schools. President Bush has proposed
further cuts. How will New York maintain its tradition
of excellence in teaching hospitals?
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.