The Race for Mayor

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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 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?


Listening To Smart People For 2030 and 2050

By Alan Hevesi

Let me come at this from my own experience as an academician and a political scientist.

A lawyer and a librarian, or an astrophysicist and a businessperson, are all taught in the context of their careers and culture and people they interact with. A brain surgeon, for example, needs to put his or her patient under anesthetic and doesn't have to communicate with them. It's a question of having hand-eye coordination skill, to cut out that tumor, to get to it fast, to be self-assertive enough to think that you're the one who can save the life.

The other doctor who's a pediatrician has to have a whole different mind-set and a whole different set of skills, because he or she has to talk to a four or five year old child.

In the same way, elected officials, politicians, operate in a mind-set in which the decision making is in the immediate. And the pressures, particularly on the level of a governor, or president, mayor, United States senator, congressmen too, legislators, is "What's the decision I have to make at two o'clock? What's the decision I have to make at four o'clock? I have another one at 4:30, I have a vote at 6, I have to meet a community group and respond to them. I hope I have enough experience, I hope I have enough information, I hope my staff has given me the blue book which will allow me to make the proper decision." And then I forget about it. The idea of thinking two days down the road, four days down the road, four years down the road is anathema.

We are a culture of short-term decision making. We don't plan, and that is re-enforced by term limits, because there's no motivation to plan. And no decisions made by the current administration are going to be helpful to the next administration. Quite the reverse. The budget that the mayor is submitting to the city council right now is a decent budget for this year and a decent budget for next year. And for the out years -- two, three and four -- there's a time bomb in terms of long-term expenditures.

Not a penny was spent during surpluses to pay down long-term debt. Even George Bush and the federal government are doing that. There's no pay-as-you-go capital; there's no one-shot fund for the one-shot revenues. That's what gets us into big trouble.

The comptroller's office, 800 people, professionals, financial managers, investment bankers, lawyers, claims managers and so on, is where we can step back from the fray and look at the long term. This re-enforced my predilection as an academician to understand that planning has to be part of smart long-term government. I'll give you an example.

Governor Pataki, in his first years before the boom, imposed massive social services budget cuts across the board without considering the long-term consequences. For example, he cut out level-two home care for senior citizens who are retirees. A level-two home care worker comes into the home for 20 hours a week, provides companionship, a little bit of shopping, housekeeping and so on. And the governor cut that out because the budgets were bad.

The governor takes the savings from the salaries that are not going to be paid but never looks at the consequence. Consequence number one, a number of home care workers lose their job and go on unemployment. And consequence number two, in one out of seven cases, we calculated, senior citizens lose their home care, lose their independence and have to go into a nursing home; you lost all the money.

You've got to do long-term financial planning. You've got to do long-term planning, regional planning. We have to have an attitude toward Long Island and upstate and New Jersey that they're not necessarily the enemy. Now, if the Port Authority short-changes us, as they do, that's one thing. But, Newark Airport is not our enemy. A third of its passengers are New Yorkers. They fly into Newark and then they make their way into Manhattan. So, regionally, we have to look at the long-term.

Your second question asked something intriguing. Who would you have as your chief planner? What are the characteristics? What struck me is that you said it should be some kind of mix of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs. I believe that if you put Robert Moses with Jane Jacobs into the same room there'd be a homicide. This is the Jane Jacobs who had compassion for individuals, small communities and small shops and, you know, had a humane view of the world. And Robert Moses, who moved constituencies, who built bridges over the Grand Central Parkway that were low enough those folks from the city whose skin is darker couldn't get out to his Jones Beach, because the bus would be too high? Is that the same guy? I don't know how you'd get a mix of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs.

What you need is a person who knows government and politics, knows all the players, loves the city, loves its neighborhoods, is a historian of the city and is a visionary. My style of managing is different than Rudy Giuliani's, which is very centrist, top-down instruction. I happen to know as comptroller how much I don't know. People ask me, you're the comptroller, are you an accountant? No. Are you a lawyer? Are you a budget analyst? Well, I know budgets pretty well from 20 years in the legislature. Are you an investment banker? No, I'm none of these things.

What I know how to do is, first, win an election. Two, how you find the best people who are much more expert than you are and delegate to them the responsibilities. You sit down with them and you say this is what I want out of your division. I want you to run it, I want you to pick your personnel, I want you to define for me next Tuesday the goals that you want to reach, in addition to the statutory mandates that you have. What is it that you want to accomplish in a month, in three months, in six months and in a year? And I want you to report to me that we've met those goals and we're going to negotiate them.

I'm your representative to the outside world, to the press, to the political institutions. But you delegate to those people, and you do it with a long-term view. So you need somebody who has a sense of what he or she wants to see the city be in 2010 and 2030 and 2050.

Now, what is the planning agenda? It is huge. And the idea that we do it c risis by crisis means we lose in the long term. We have a huge number of responsibilities. I don't believe that we can afford to allow the West Side, over by the Javits Center and that whole area, to be haphazardly developed by whichever developer gets whatever spot before somebody else. There's got to be a planning process that protects neighborhoods and that encourages residential development.

We have to zone differently to save some of the industries that are under threat, such as the manufacturing industry. A quarter of a million people make their living doing manufacturing. We have to renew the tax benefits and rebates that help to develop the downtown renewal that is below City Hall. We have to expand the empowerment zone and the methodologies that have created jobs in the empowerment zones through tax benefits.

We have to beat the hell out of New Jersey. They've taken 50,000 jobs away from us, by having a long-term plan of how to steal jobs. Those industries, those businesses from lower Manhattan, particularly, ought to be out in Queens; the back-office jobs from Chase Manhattan ought to be out in Queens. We have to protect residential neighborhoods. We have to extend the Second Avenue subway. We have to have the Number 7 line extended to the West Side. We have to build a rail freight system, because we depend completely and totally on truck traffic in this city, which is an enormous burden for us in terms of traffic, in terms of health care. The asthma rates on the routes that are used by trucks cause huge health problems. The agenda is enormous and there has to be a centralized planning function in the mayor's office.

And the final topic was how would you use your community boards? Would you add to the community boards' responsibilities and planning function? The answer is yes. I will commit in principle to [some professional planing operations for the boards], but not specifically, because that's a budget issue and I don't know where our budget's going to be.

The boom is ending. I'm going to have some greater level of austerity than we've been used to the last five years. But that planning function is critical. Bringing community boards to the table.

I believe that the mayor has to be the toughest person in the city. I really do. But the mayor also has to have a deep and profound commitment to the notion that there are huge numbers of smart people in the city that he better listen to. And not have the arrogance to think that he's got all the answers. And also to believe in consensus. Consensus means getting the best ideas, the best brains from every sector of the community, putting together a coherent plan, balancing the opinion makers and those who are active in the community, the elected officials and the civic leaders and the business leaders and so on. And do it with the sense of the long-term. It's hard to do, the pressures are great, but it's absolutely crucial to a great city.

We've had a boom. We're a great, great city and if we do this right we make this great city the greatest city for the next century.

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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
After printing and filling out the voter registration form, please send them by mail to:

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

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Poll Worker Applications

After completing the forms, please send them to the address on the form.

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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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