The Race for Public Advocate
GOTHAM GAZETTE: SEARCHLIGHT ON CAMPAIGN 2001: PUBLIC ADVOCATE

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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?
Masthead

 

Scott Stringer

This election really is good, because we are going to have a change in government. A new mayor, a new comptroller, a new public advocate. When you take into consideration we have a new campaign finance formula. We are definitely going to bring in new energy into this government. So the question seems to me, that after eight years of Rudy Giuliani what do we do next? Where do we stand, what do we do?

This fundamental question is going to play out throughout the city elections. I think we as Democrats can define what is possible going into the twenty-first century, but to do that we have to look back, and figure out where the Democratic Party has been. We are a democratic party that fought for worker safety laws, fought over housing, quality education, we fought for civil rights, and we believe actively that people of all different backgrounds, and races, can work together for the benefit of the city. Something changed within the Giuliani administration, and within the Democratic Party, and we've got to get that back. To do that we are going to have to elect a new generation of leaders that I think could possibly inspire a new generation of ideas, and for that reason I run for public advocate.

I believe that in a new government the public advocate can be at the center of fundamental change. The public advocate votes on the city planning commission, is involved in land decisions. I want to build our community, but at the same time protect our community from over development. The public advocates can introduce legislation to the council, speak out, and serve. I want to bring my legislative record of independence in Albany, because I was the one who led the fight against the commuter tax. At the same time while being activist, and independent, I've also been effective. I've passed laws to protect women against domestic violence, passed the New York stalking law, the order of protection bill. Dealing with the republican Senate that's how you have to be in the City Council. I want to be out in the streets as the advocate working for people, and neighborhoods. Whether it's retail, constituent service, or looking at larger issues having to do with moderating city agencies, making sure people get the benefits to which they are entitled.

I am trying to create an office that is independent, and also effective. I think this is an office worth fighting for, worth running for, and I believe that together as we go around Manhattan, and around the city, that the best way to govern is to do what I am trying to do in this campaign. I am trying to put together a multi-racial, inter-generation coalition of folks who want to see fundamental change in our government, who want the public advocate to be able to take on the mayor, but still be effective in the City Council, build coalitions, fight for affordable housing, fight for quality education.

It is wrong that our school children do not get the same money and opportunity as kids in Long Island, and Upstate New York. That's got to change. It's wrong that people face eviction, because we don't have affordable housing. That has to change. We've got to bring people together. That definitely has to change. I think I have been involved in the major issues of our time in the past years.

Q&A

Q-Can you tell us in a little more detail what will be the role of public advocate committee, and how will you expand, or focus that role?

A-I think what we've got to do is use the power that is there now. I want the public advocate to have a land use component in the office. I want to use that function in the office to play a leading role in how we do urban planning. Force the city planning commission to actually do planning. We are going to go into Brooklyn, we're going to go into the Bronx, we are going to take family health plus, and we're going to sign people up. We are going to tell people their rights, we're going to take complaints, and then we are going to look at those complaints, and then we are going to figure out the trends.

That's what we do in my assembly office. I've written, authored, spoken out, and written critical reports on issues. People said "That's a great idea Scott, how did you figure that out?" My constituents told me. When I went after MCI for false advertising, my constituents told me. We got them fined by the federal government for $100,000, and the "10-10" phony advertising is no longer on TV. So I want to use the power that's there, with the creativity, and energy that I think I bring to this debate. To try and figure out a way to focus this office, make it relevant, but let's use the power.

Let's legislate in the council. Term limits is going to make this thing wide open. Let's bring in new City Council members. Let's have a public advocate who understands the future of New York. Part of building a coalition is how do you get support to do this. I'm proud to be endorsed by Deborah Glick, for example, we are partners in Albany, and we'll be partners if I am public advocate, and we are going to continue to build on that.

Q-With respect to issues that you address as public advocate, could you tell us what aspects of the Giuliani administration did you find most objectionable, and how would you deal with them as public advocate?

A-First off we got to bring people together. I was arrested during the Diallo struggle. I worked in Albany with the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus to bring the police under control. I think we have to do that. I think we need a public advocate who can build coalitions, but who can also speak up for the people who view the police not as friends, but as enemies. It's really wrong when a mother now tells a child "Don't worry about the criminals, worry about the police officers." That's happening in every community of color around the city. We got to bring this back. I want to advocate every police officer from SUNY and CUNY, at making sure that we can attract younger people into the department whom come from communities.

I support the 48-hour rule. You don't shoot someone 41 times, and give the cops 48 hours to get their story together. That's got to change. That's an Albany bill that I am co-sponsoring. I want to work on those issues. I have a passion to build affordable housing that started in government working to save the Mitchell Lama housing program. I have a housing program, eighteen pages. Very boring. Read it. It is subtenant, and I want to put that plan into effect. How dare Giuliani to say I am going to give you $600,000,000 to build affordable housing in the last year of his term. The truth of the matter is we need a 3 billion dollar public work project to build affordable housing.

I have an idea I'd like you to look at it. I think we've got a deal with issues like what are we going to do with our children, and what are we going to do about public school education, CUNY, and SUNY. We've got to make sure that our children, the next generation has the same kind of financial benefits, and the same kind of opportunity as those kids from Long Island or upstate New York. You know when I was growing up my mother just said "go to school, go to college, you are going to compete with some very smart kids from New York City." Parents now say "It's not about competing in New York City, it's competing globally." It's because of that computer, because of the things our kids have to learn, and it's not acceptable to have a computer in every classroom. The real issue is to have a computer at every desk. Who is going to talk about those issues? Our kids start behind, and our kids are not dumb. I think New York City kids are the smartest. We got swagger, we've got attitude, and at least I had that when I was young. Our kids are the best in the country. I will be on the Board of Education, the mayor, everybody from Albany to Washington.

Q-How will you deal with issues such as teacher shortage and police department?

A-We are going to lose 54,000 teachers over the next few years. The teacher profession has been rated under the profession of politician. That's wrong. I've served on the communications committee for seven years. Talked to young teachers in particular who want to have a career being a public school teacher. We don't pay them, we don't respect them, and it's the only profession I know that you have to come in with your own supplies. Teachers have to do that everyday. It's a system that means failure. We can not allow that to happen. I will be an advocate for qualified teachers. I will bring new teachers into the system. At the same time we have to bring the resources into the classroom. One of the reasons I think I'd be a good public advocate is when parents came to me and said, "Hey wait a minute people from Albany said eighth graders have to take mandatory exams on how to use a microscope, and a weight scale in May." They called up and said in my school there are no microscopes, and weight scales. So we surveyed the whole city, and found out we don't have them. So what we did is we set our kids up to fail the exam. If we don't have a microscope we can't learn about them. If we have ten kids have to use one microscope that is broken we can't do it. This is unacceptable, and we cannot have that exam in May, unless we bring the tools to the table, so our kids can learn. I want that issue out there.

That's not just being a mayor, or public advocate, that's being a part of good government. We give large corporations hundreds of millions of dollars to stay in New York. Good CEO's think two things. We don't need the bribe. Give us two things to stay for. Give us affordable housing, give us quality education, and of course we will want to stay in New York. The best minds are in New York. I think too much emphasis is being put on giving the big corporations the quick fix. There's a role for the public advocate in this debate, and I would like to be a part of convincing City government that if we do long range planning on these issues, that we do save money in the end.

Q-Give us examples of issues that you have dealt with in the assembly dealing with issues specifically regarding the City of New York.

A-First off let me tell you a little bit about myself. My mom ran for City Council when I was a small kid. I've been influenced by a lot of strong women. I think I felt very strongly that government, and politics is a way to affect change. I am a New York City person. I believe in the city. When school aides go to Long Island and upstate I fight that battle, When the MTA discriminates against New York City, I spoke out about that. I believe somebody has got to speak for us. Somebody's got to say that New York City fuels the economic engine that makes this state happen. If you didn't have New York City the rule of New York would be a wasteland, and the fact remains that we are not getting our fair share. That's what I fought for in Albany, that's what I am known for. I'm also picking on some tough struggles. We've had to convince some Albany people about civil rights legislation, fighting for the rights of gays and lesbians. I have been part of that fight. Mandatory testing for people with HIV and AIDS is a very difficult battle in Albany. I think that public advocates with that kind of training can continue to do that.

Q-What specific plans to you have to save the Mitchell Lama program?

A-I started out fighting to save that program, because twenty years after initial occupancy these buildings these buildings can now be bought out by the landlords raising the rent to fair market value. That's happening on the East Side, and it's happening throughout the state. The Mitchell Lama housing program is the most successful housing program ever devised--150,000 affordable housing units, 400,000 people live in these apartments. The most incredible housing units because everybody lives there.

African-American people, Latino people, Asian people, Caucasian people, single people, gay people, lesbian people, you name it, and everybody lives in Mitchell Lama. It's a great experiment, and it worked. The people, who moved into those buildings after W.W.II, moved into slum areas. No one wanted to live there. No one wanted to live in the West Side or Downtown. These pioneers came in and built these schools, and built these day care centers. Now they want to evict the people that made these communities, and I say that's wrong. My housing plan talks about building more Mitchell Lama. Mitchell Lama 2 would take three billion dollars. Force the insurance companies to get into the housing business. Force California insurance companies to voluntarily come in. Let's build a hundred thousand affordable housing units. Now who is going to build it?

Let's do two things. Community based organizations to build the housing units, and let's get those young entrepreneurs in the housing business. Get the best and the brightest to do it. Let's build affordable community housing. The Giuliani plan is disgraceful. On the seventh or eighth year you say here's $600,000,000. What do you spend it on? You give one little non-for-profit group build 14 housing units. We lose 14,000 affordable housing units every single year and we build but 5,000. What's happening is we are jeopardizing our senior citizen population, our disabled population, and we are not going to have housing for the new generation of people moving in here. We are losing the artist, the creative people, the young students, and I believe that if I am public advocate we are going to have this public debate. I am going to use this campaign to talk about how to get affordable housing.

Q-What do you think about New York City's anti-smoking laws?

A-I have voted for every law that would restrict smoking. In Albany, I support the Vallone proposal. Years ago I was honored by the American Cancer Society because of the role I played in Albany in terms of position in lobbying the tobacco companies.

Q-How do you plan on taking on the homelessness problem?

A-I'm responsible for the 4218 program south of 26th street. Let's create a center program for the Bronx and other communities that cry out for economic revitalization. The fact remains that in Albany during the battle to save rent control and rent stabilization, the real estate lobby spent millions of dollars giving it to the Republicans in Albany, and Democrats to buy votes to reduce rent protection.

I was the only Democrat to vote no. We have got to organize. Twenty years ago when people wore buttons that said "I'm a tenant and I vote." We got to hold politicians accountable for that. Campaign finance reform is a step in the right direction. I think we limit these folks with the city's campaign finance system, but we got to do that on a state level. Candidates for a citywide office can take $4,500. Candidates for governor can take $50,000. Soft money into the Republican committee, the Democratic committee equals millions of dollars. We got to stop the money trail.

Q-Are you familiar with preservation?

A-One of the great things about preservation landmark status is protecting the beauty of our city. I support it. We have two stock differences over on the Upper West Side. One on Western Avenue, and one on Central Park West. When I worked for Jerry Mather as his chief of staff that was one of the issues we work on. I have been involved in that struggle for many years, and certainly on the local issues I get around, and am more familiar with issues. I would certainly work with you on it. One quick statistic. You all think that I represent just the Upper West Side, but if you check the map my district goes down to Gansevoort Street. Now there is no population south of 14th, but I represent the piers, and the fish.

Q-Advocate something dealing with crime

A- I think reducing crime is something a city should do, and we should be smart on crime take dangerous people preying on people very seriously. That's why I created the New York stalking law, which says you can't prey on women, or hunt them down, because you can go to jail. That's my law. I think that we deal with criminal justice issues in a bizarre way. We build prisons in Albany for example not to reduce crime, or help prisoners, but really as an economic development engine to build up little communities. They build these prisons, and then they build stores, and jobs around the prisons. That's been happening for a long time, for no reason. In the old days we used to have a military industrial complex, we now have the prison industrial complex. We build them, and they will come. There is no plan for zero prison population growth. We should have that in the city, and we should have that certainly in Albany. Public Advocate is willing to speak out on these issues, to play a role in talking about how we create zero prison population growth, and decreasing it. Part of that is my fight to conform the Rockefeller drug laws. Let's do that already. Let's save some of these lives. Let's recognize that two-thirds of the people in prison are there, because they have a drug problem, and let's make room for the truly dangerous. People who prey on people, people who kill their spouses, people who prey on people because of bias crimes. Let's open up the prisons for those people who abuse others, but for God's sake, let's have a real understanding that we can't keep building prisons without a plan to create schools, and drug programs for people. That's what I am going to advocate as Public Advocate. I got to tell you something. We cannot go after certain groups of people based on race. Racial profiling in the city is horrible. The end result is that young man in the Bronx who was shot 41 times, and it was not just the cops who did it, it was the whole climate Giuliani began to permeate among the police force, and among the people. That's going to change, and I am going to play a role, and I am going to play a role in the change.

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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.


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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
SavvyVoter.org
NYVote.com
Votesmart
NYPIRG
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

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

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart

E-Voting
Election.com

Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

Media
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
Conservative
Democratic
Green
Independence
Liberal
Republican
Right to Life
Working Families
Communist
Libertarian
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Socialist
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
DL21C
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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