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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?
and Immigrants Overview
New York has been and always will be a city of immigrants.
Roughly forty percent of city residents are foreign born, the
majority of whom are from Latin America and Asia. Thanks in
large part to this wave of immigration the racial composition
of New York City has greatly diversified. One can no longer
discuss race in solely black and white terms.
The subject of race always seems to be a contentious topic.
Immigration is much the same way. Both deal with populations
that have suffered discrimination and prejudice in this country.
For that reason, many members of racial and ethnic communities
feel it is important to elect one of their own members to represent
them and their interests in the city government. This may be
the year that the first Asian American gets elected to a citywide
office? New York may see its first Hispanic mayor. But whoever
gets elected to whatever position public must govern a city
in which issues involving race and immigration are difficult
Arguably the greatest concern for the city's minority residents
has been the actions of the New York Police Department. The
fatal shootings of four unarmed black men in a little more than
a year's time starting in February 1999 sent shivers of fear
and outrage through minority communities. The findings of the
United States Commission on Human rights and of federal prosecutors
last year that the police department engaged in racial profiling
made official what minority members have felt for a long time.
A May Quinnipiac University Poll found that by a margin of 65
to 23 percent, New York City voters said that the police engage
in racial profiling. Even though there has not been a high profile
incident in the last year, many minority members still distrust
the police. Seventy one percent of blacks described police brutality
as a very serious problem in the city and another twenty-two
percent deemed it somewhat serious. Regardless of whether the
department has changed, the perception is still there.
Instead of addressing those concerns, Mayor Giuliani chose
to defend most of the controversial police actions, and did
not engage in a dialogue with any leaders of minority communities,
for which he was highly criticized even by some of his supporters.
A bill is being proposed to define and ban the practice of
racial profiling in New York City. Some advocates have suggested
that the police department launch an aggressive campaign to
hire and promote more minority members, both through affirmative
action programs and by imposing a city residency requirement
on police officers. How seriously will the next administration
seek to eliminate police misconduct and racial profiling and
improve police-community relationships?
THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM AND THE DEATH PENALTY
Over 94 percent of inmates doing time in New York State for
drug related charges are people of color, even though the majority
of drug users and drug dealers are white. This staggering statistic
can be attributed to what is almost universally acknowledged
to be the discriminatory and draconian Rockefeller drug laws
that were passed in 1973 requiring mandatory minimum sentences
for small drug offenses with no regard to a person's previous
criminal record. Uprooting individuals and breaking up families,
these drug laws have a devastating impact on communities of
color. Instead of focusing on punitive and reactive measures,
there is a real need for alternatives to prison, especially
for non-violent offenders. Treatment programs have shown to
be more effective at reducing crime and are less costly than
Another area of concern for minorities within the criminal
justice system is the death penalty. Studies show that race
plays a huge factor in determining who gets the death penalty
as blacks are disproportionately sentenced to state-
sanctioned killings,. Those who kill whites are also more
likely to receive capital punishment. Since the death penalty
was reinstated in New York in 1995, the district attorneys in
Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island have never sought it,
instead choosing life-without- parole in all eligible cases.
But in that period, the Brooklyn district attorney has sought
capital punishment seven times and the Queens district attorney
five times. What will the next mayor's position on the death
penalty be and will city candidates press for a statewide moratorium?
Aimed at righting the wrongs of discrimination past and present,
affirmative action was originally conceived with the intent
of addressing grievances of blacks in an effort to open their
opportunities to jobs and higher education.
It has since grown to encompass women and all racial and ethnic
minorities, an inclusion that some argue has come at a disadvantage
to blacks. In the past eight years, black employment in all
city agencies has declined, reversing a decade of significant
growth before that. The city's fire department is still over
93 percent white, and a majority of the city's police officers
are white as well. Statewide, black unemployment is 7.9 percent,
more than double that of whites at 3.9 percent, and Hispanics
are only slightly below blacks at 6.9 percent. No one speaks
of quotas when advocating for affirmative action; rather they
talk of goals and timetables that seek to widen avenues of opportunity.
Should the city government play an active role in shaping employment
and training policies that benefit minorities both within the
city government as well as with companies that it has contracts
with in order to create a level playing field for all of its
New York City remains a popular home for those newly arrived
to the United States as over a million immigrants have settled
in the city within the last ten years. In that time, Asians
have grown by more than fifty percent and Hispanics, who can
be of any race, have overtaken blacks as the largest minority
group in the city. Immigrants and their American-born children
make up close to sixty percent of the population.
A central tenet of contemporary politics takes as a given the
priority of United States citizens over foreigners. With that
in mind, of primary importance to immigrant advocates is the
passage of a general amnesty by the federal government that
would provide permanent-resident status to those here illegally.
President Bush has recently made overtures of that nature but
restricted only to Mexicans.
There are few steps that local politicians can take to effect
that sort of change, but there are many steps public officials
can take in order to better serve the city's large immigrant
communities. Politicians must make difficult decisions on how
to allocate scarce funds on programs that affect the growing
immigrant population, including those here illegally.
One of the most pressing concerns for immigrants is healthcare
coverage. Those here illegally are not allowed primary or preventative
care and are left with no recourses but to use city emergency
rooms. Legal immigrants have just been granted access again
to Medicaid after a recent ruling by the New York State Court
of Appeals on the unconstitutionality of the 1996 federal welfare
reform bill, remedying a fundamentally unsound healthcare policy.
But despite city studies that show that neighborhoods with high
numbers of foreign-born women have slightly higher infant mortality
rates than the rest of the city, illegal immigrant women are
not entitled to prenatal care even though once born, their children
will be American citizens. The cost of taking care of so many
uninsured patients gets passed on to the New York City Health
and Hospitals Corporation, the city agency in charge of operating
the city's public hospitals and clinics. Mayor Giuliani has
reduced funding for the agency, thereby adversely affecting
the poor and immigrant populations of the city. To avert a public
health crisis, increased funding should be a priority in order
to ensure that the immigrant and poor populations of the city
receive proper medical attention.
With over a million students in the New York City public school
system, immigration has a huge impact on the student body. Fifteen
to twenty percent of children in public schools are foreign
born. While it is hard to dispute the overcrowding and the general
inferior quality of education at schools in low-income neighborhoods
that a majority of immigrants live in, bilingual education is
one of the more controversial topics. There are over 140 different
languages spoken by NYC public school children, and in an effort
to help them learn, bilingual education classes are offered
in twelve different languages. Responding to critics of the
current system, the Board of Education recently voted to overhaul
bilingual education. Parents now have a choice of whether to
enroll their children in programs ranging from intensive English
as a Second Language programs where English is the predominant
language to the more traditional bilingual classes where complicated
subject matters are often taught in native languages. This new
program comes at a cost of $75 million, adding to the long list
of much needed funds for the public school system.
Most immigrants will tell you that they are interested in learning
English. A major problem is a lack of publicly funded English
as a Second Language Classes in addition to long workweeks and
the high cost of enrolling in private classes. Limiting access
to city agencies and social services to those who can only speak
English therefore tends to be detrimental and does not help
people to learn English.
With a large underground economy that preys on illegal immigrants,
many abuses go undetected by the authorities. Failure to pay
minimum wage and overtime, as well as neglecting standard workplace
safety standards is commonplace. Ignorance of the country's
labor laws combined with a fear of being fired -- or, worse
yet, deported -- ensure that most immigrants don't speak up
when they're taken advantage of. Things generally change though
when immigrant workers learn that the labor laws apply equally
to them no matter their immigrant status. Should a task force
be assigned to monitor the city's burgeoning immigrant workforce
in order to promote fair labor practices and catch unscrupulous
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.