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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?
Everything Comes Down To Planning
By Peter Vallone
I ran for governor three years ago, and it was
quite an adventure. If you think planning is necessary
in the city, you better take a look at the state,
go to places like Syracuse and Buffalo and Rochester,
and see these once bustling, great cities, their
downtowns with no business, no people, no action.
They built, five miles out, 10 miles out, huge,
sprawling megamall shopping centers. They kill the
town, they kill the city. We faced those problems
30 years ago, and we understood you have to work
in harmony. And you have to work with people who
are most affected.
Everything comes down to planning. When you do
adequate planning, when you figure how to get people
back and forth, you can do many things. What I'm
so proud of, in my tenure as [Council] speaker,
is our land use commission. In 10 years, we have
handled every single matter that we received from
City Planning within 50 days. Every single matter
was handled openly, and every single issue was decided,
based upon what was good for the entire city, but
never, ever, without getting local community input.
Is there anybody here who doesn't think we need
power plants? Of course we need efficient power
plants, because they do so much better than older,
more polluting ones. I happen to be an expert in
this field. I started off with a thousand people
picketing John Lindsay because he wanted to expand
the coal-burning capacity. I led a charge. The mayor,
to his great credit, agreed. And he switched from
coal to low-sulfur oil. At that time, it was a huge
improvement. Our environment cleaned up. Birds in
my back yard. Nobody wants a power plant but obviously
we have to have power.
What happens today? The state says you need more
power, uses 20-year old maps, doesn't advise anybody
⤳ the mayor, the council -- what they are doing.
Somebody comes and says "We're taking these nine
locations for new nine power plants". We know it's
a necessity, but an eighth of a mile away, there's
a vacant lot which is perfectly suitable for this.
Really outrageous. It's an example of the worst
planning. Yes, we need [the power] but not even
the city is consulted, never mind the local community.
And scaring people, that if they don't go along
with this, we're going to run out of power.
The reason I'm running for mayor is because, for
10 years you could see what I've done in planning,
in public education, in public safety, affordable
housing. We've gone through a financial crisis,
we've gone through a public safety crisis and now
you're going to have a crisis of government, because
we all leave office at the same time.
That's just not elected officials, that's staff.
I'm sure that if every one of you in this audience
left at the same time there's probably a lot of
people out there who are very qualified to take
your place. The only problem is, they don't have
experience. They don't know what you went through,
they don't know who you've talked to, they don't
know what mistakes you've made, they don't know
how to get around those mistakes and plan for the
I recently had an operation on my knee. The doctor
recommended to me was a brilliant young graduate
of Harvard medical school. And the interview went
something like this: "I'd love to be able to operate
on your knee, I think I would do a terrific job.
I've never done it before, and I can't wait until
we get started. And I said no, thanks very much,
And then I went to another who had done it a thousand
times. He only went to CCNY, but he has a record.
Obviously, that's the doctor I chose, and the result
is I can play tennis just as well, or better as
I played prior to the operation. That's pretty much
the example I'm using for what's going to happen
in the city. You're not taking a chance with it.
You know what I've done, you know what I'm likely
to do, and you know I've never closed my door to
anyone. And you know that I've got the best staff
anywhere, in the United States of America.
Whether land use, whether finance, investigative,
lawyers my staff has been excellent. So, it's highly
likely that I will bring the same skill to choosing
a city planning commissioner. It's going to have
to be someone who has a record, someone who has
a vision and someone who is likely to know how important
it is to build from the bottom, up.
On our city planning commission will be people
who know my belief in government. Even if it's not
popular, if it's the right thing to do, .do it,
and don't worry about anything else. Your responsibility
is to give me the best advice you can and make the
right decision. And that's the way I'm going to
try and run the city.
Do you support building the Second Avenue subway?
It's amazing that 100 years ago we were able to
build the greatest subway system in the world, and
we still have one buried in the ground for fifty
years that we haven't moved on. It's absolutely
outrageous. We're going to have to get that Second
Avenue subway built.
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.