The Race for Mayor

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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?


Alan Hevesi

[Question: What would your approach be as mayor to meet the needs of the city's large and growing Latino population?]

Thank you everybody for showing an interest in this, because this is deadly serious business. It's not about slogans, it's not about charisma, it's not about celebrity, and it's not about dramatic re-statements of problems that everybody in this room knows about. You should expect from us specific answers to the questions we are being asked, how we are going to do it, what's the affordable housing program, what are the school reforms we are talking about, what are the strategies for economic development.

To specifically answer your question, my first priority is massive reform of the public schools. There are three tiers on which you build. Very simple formula, very hard to accomplish. One, Smaller classes. It is geometrically better for education to have nineteen kids in a class than twenty-five or thirty. Two, a certified and qualified teacher in every class, that's really h ard in a growing public school population and a lot of teachers about to retire, 2,100 out of 78,000. And three, parents trained to help their children learn by creating a learning environment in the home, by helping with homework, by having expectations, by being able to navigate the school system and having programs where parents are not skilled with this are helped to do that.

Economic development. We have 508,000 more jobs in this city than we had in 1993. That's pretty spectacular and at the same time you have the second highest unemployment rate of any city in America. What's the contradiction? The contradiction is that if you have credentials, a profession, if you have technological training, there's a job waiting for you. If you are a school drop out, you're unskilled, if you're poor, if you're an immigrant, there are many fewer entry level jobs than we once had. The next mayor better be very sophisticated about reviving our job training to the service economy and the information economy that's New York. We don't make things any more. There used to be a million and a quarter people that did manufacturing, now it's 200,000. We are a city of brain power and technology and creativity and so a web-worker is better off taking computer training than working in a park where there is no career at the end.

We have to open up 200 store-fronts all over the city that are computer learning centers that people can walk in right off the street just like a library, start at the beginning, then take the sequence of courses that when you are done , there's a job there that's in the same room in the same building, Chase Manhattan Bank's back-office jobs.

This is about sustaining the fight against crime and dealing with issues of misconduct. I probably should stop now and say that that may be a question, ask about it. But this is about substance, this is about serious business, this is about who has the experience and who has the qualifications to lead the city, in the most incredibly complex technological society. We're in the information technology revolution and we have an equally incredible mix of people cause we're the most ethnically diverse city in the history of cities.

[Question: A major issue facing Latinos across the country is under-representation, especially when it comes to decision making levels, and New York City is no exception. How would you specifically address this issue? What are your thoughts about city affirmative action?]

In the Dinkins administration there was an affirmative action program which I'll use as a model to answer the question for the private businesses that the city contracts with. The city expends $7 billion a year hiring private firms to provide all kinds of services from building buildings, to providing food for our schools, to providing foster care, and the Dinkins administration had a program training women-owned and minority- owned firms to get into the mix. How to apply, what kind of requirements to meet, who to hire, what the detail were. The program raised from 4 percent to 17 percent, in those four years, the number of firms that were minority and women owned businesses and I endorsed that when he did it and I endorsed it when Mayor Giuliani killed the program. In my own show, as a model, I sustained to the extent that the mayor's policy permitted, affirmative action in the hiring of the firms that market the city's debt. If you did it solely by Mayor Giuliani's way , then the hugest largest firms, Merrill Lynch and J.P. Morgan, would be selling the City's debt for $ 4 billion dollars a year. We insisted that they produce for us, before we hired them, their affirmative action partnerships and in the first thirty firms that we hired back in 1994, nine were minority owned and women owned firms.

So there are substantial advantages to the firms themselves, not just because they represent the Latino community and the African-American, but because they're good for the city. The more people that are trained and qualified and experienced to do business with the city, the more people who are hired from the community to work for the city, the greater the competition, and that means the higher the quality and the lower the price. I have committed to that from day one of my political career and public career ,and will do so as mayor. We will have a government, under a Hevesi administration, that looks like this city and that recruits from every community the best and most talented people. That's the only way to govern.

[Question: What role did you personally play, how did you respond, not just after serious incidents like the Anthony Baez police brutality case, but the infamous Seinfeld and Law and Order episodes on the Puerto Rican Day Parade and the David Letterman insulting remarks about the Columbians?]

Fortunately there are many ways to answer this question, because essentially this question is how much bigotry will you tolerate if you're mayor. The answer for all of us has to be zero. So for example, there was a gentleman, who was actually identified with the Giuliani administration, who volunteered to help in my campaign, who happened to be Jewish. A few months ago he tells a Jewish newspaper that the candidacy of Fernando Ferrer would be bad for the Jewish community, that it would restore a bad coalition that would be bad for the Jewish community, and his language was stronger than that. I immediately removed him from the campaign. He had no official position. He had volunteered to do some fund-raising and had not done it, but I cut him off, I denounced him. No bigotry in any way, in governance or politics in my operation. His statements about Freddy Ferrer were just absolutely irresponsible, wrong, and terribly damaging to the city in general. When Julia Harrison, a member of the council, made anti-Asian remarks, the community she partly represented in Flushing, we held a rally to denounce her bigotry.

When the Ku Klux Klan , two years ago, marched at the court house, I went down to the court house and joined the 7000 other New Yorkers and maybe the people on this table to denounce those sick bigots. 4000 of them, I believe, wanted do bodily harm to them, which I'm not recommending. In every occasion where there is a hint of bigotry, we have to speak out.

My maiden speech, my inaugural speech, as New York City Comptroller in 1994, on the steps of City Hall was not about deep discount bonds and variable rate debt, as important as they are, it was the denunciation of any form of bigotry in this city, cause here's the lesson for us all, and I'm not going to repeat what I've said in church's and synagogues all over the city. I'm Jewish and I've said in synagogue, it is not enough for us as Jews to target the anti-Semites, the bigots who focus on us, and attack that bigotry, and destroy that bigotry through whatever means are necessary and then at the same time accept the racist who is sitting next to us cause it's our uncle and our cousin. It's not enough for African-Americans to target the racists that are focused on them in this country for 300 years in a condition of slavery, and Jim Crow, and apartheid, and lynching, and destroy the bigotry that focuses on them and tolerate the anti-Semites that sit next to them or any other form of bigotry.

It is our obligation, everyone in this room and in this city, zero tolerance for any form of bigotry, no excuses, we don't tolerate it, we don't allow it, we have to be the most tolerant city in the world ,and we have to revel in our incredibly culturally rich differences that will make us the strongest people, the strongest city in the world.

[Question: What is your campaign strategy for reaching Latino voters?]

To be very clear and articulate in a program of school reform, of job development, of strategies to bring jobs to the city, to provide the revenues that will allow us therefore to meet our mission which is to provid e good education to every child in the city , and affordable housing, and an opportunity for everybody. And to say to everybody that will listen, that the job of the mayor and the mission of this mayor is to provide opportunities for the 40 percent of New Yorkers who are immigrants, so they can live well, so that they can prosper, that they can develop professionally and that they can raise their families in a decent way. And convey that message to every Latino in this city, and to every other person in this city, in every way possible, on television, on radio, and through mailings and through endorsements. By the way I have been endorsed by 51 elected officials.

[Question: What are the most critical problems you think are faced in the Latino- immigrant population and how would you address them as mayor?]

You asked the question about immigration and the Latino community and Freddy's right, we should explain what we have done, because it is a sign of what we would do. I have an immigration advisory council made up of the leading advocacy groups. We've been meeting regularly and organizing an agenda which includes lobbying for an extension of 245-I, to allow permanent residence to immigrants who have been left behind, and fifteen other projects, including providing social services for immigrants, connecting them to lawyers when they need that kind of assistance and lobbying for the restoration of benefits that have been eliminated by the federal government. I have a Latino advisory council with similar issues. Angelo Falcon has spoken on the census and the impact on our communities.

But more significantly, when there was a hurricane that devastated the Dominican Republic and Haiti, I arranged for the military to provide airplanes and helicopters to bring 240 tons of supplies and food material, and health care, and medicine both to the Dominican Republic and Haiti and took that material down to those two devastated islands.

The bottom line here is for immigrants is that I want to fix the schools, provide affordable housing and create jobs in the cities. The schools have th ose three elements. You have to pay teachers more, they are paid 25 percent less than in the suburbs. There are 21,000 teachers that are eligible to retire in the next two years. My idea is to pay them 50 percent of their salary plus their entire pension to keep them on for three years or five years by contract so the new teachers who recruit are dealing with the shortages. A longer school day, a longer school year.

If a fifth grader doesn't have a B average, he doesn't go home 3 o'clock. They continue to work under supervision until 5 o'clock. Teachers work longer and they get paid more.

And I have a flash that the board of education doesn't understand⤲not every kid can go to college, some kids come from poor families, they need to go to work right away after high school, and there are jobs out there. 2000 electricians needed today at forty dollars an hour and we're not training our kids for that, or a mechanic, or a construction trades. A core curriculum, massive amounts of reform for public schools.

I'll tell you the final point, I'll tell you something that's really bad politics and good government. I don't think we need to now because we still have a surplus and we have a Campaign for Fiscal Equity court case which will result and that will bring more state aid into the city because we have been systematically cheated to the tune of $40 billion since 1987. But the bottom line here is that we have neglected to focus on the financing of the schools until this court case.

I'm the only candidate as mayor that is willing to say that if we needed to, as a last resort, I would support a restoration of the income-tax surcharge, raise the income taxes in order to pay for the reforms so that we don't lose another generation of kids because the economy has gone sour.

[Audience member asks a question about police misconduct]

Street sweeps unconnected to a crime are illegal and there should be no street sweeps. It is absolutely appropriate to do crime profiling. A crime is committed, a witness says that " I saw it happen, the perpetrator is a six foot white man with red hair," it is appropriate for the police to stop white men with red hair. What is not appropriate is the racial profiling that was featured by the Street Crime Unit in which 40,000 New Yorkers, mos tly young Latinos and you African-American men, who were rounded up unconnected to any crime , harassed, stopped, frisked, humiliated, and many of them arrested and then released a day later.

It is unacceptable, it is illegal, there are standards called reasonable search and probable cause. Let me respond in context how I have responded to this. I have gone on television in this campaign. My first add was a biography, my second add was about education as a priority, the third said zero tolerance for crime, zero tolerance for misconduct including profiling. I used that word in the TV add and mayor Giuliani went bonkers, he went mad and ordered his staff to punish me any way they could, because he took this personally. My response had to be, and I'm not qualified as a shrink, but I did use the term, the mayor is in denial. And if he doesn't believe me, ask the deputy mayor, Rudy Washington who was in the New York Times for being stopped and harassed, and profiled, or ask my deputy Comptroller.

There is another measurement that I think is as powerful as any, and it's my experience, I'm the claims officer for the city. When somebody sues the city I have to make a judgment with the Mayor's lawyers that there is a settlement to be made. In 1998 the city of New York paid out in police misconduct claims, $28.3 million, in 99' it was $42 million, in the year 2000 it was $36 million. $106 million in three years. Now Freddy's right, we have a great police department and the majority of cops are decent caring professional people. Some are racist, some commit acts of misconduct. It's not to damage the police department, the we suggest we don't tolerate misconduct, it is to make the great police department even greater. And you do it by a systematic program of holding police precinct commanders responsible, not only for crime reduction, but also for the bad cops in their own precincts.

[Question: What initiatives would you take in city government to address the problem of AIDS and HIV in the Latino community?]

Very good question, we've sort of been lulled into a sense of calm over the AIDS catastrophe because there are now these programs of medications which are sustaining HIV positive patients in the city. But it turns out that those who have been on these medications for a long period of time are finding that the results start to shift, that there are side-effects and so on . There's been a change in behavior that has hit hardest in the Latino and African-American community. This is now a people of color problem that is very dramatic. We have to provide additional resources for research, for treatment, for development and focus on the communities that are hit hardest which are the African-American and Latino communities. We have to clean up the absolutely poorly run Division of AIDS Services. I believe that they have to get computerized. I remember a couple of years ago the Latino Advisory Council people told us, and the Gay Latinos told us that 13000 paper files had been lost of patients. We recommended some technological changes and administrative changes. We have to make this a highest priority. This is life and death.

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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
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Board of Elections
32 Broadway, 7th Floor
New York, NY

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Poll Worker Applications

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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
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

National non-partisan sites
Ctr. for Responsive Politics
Common Cause
League of Women Voters

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart


Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

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
Right to Life
Working Families
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
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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