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?


Julia Willebrand

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

It's quite something to sit next to the comptroller, the public advocate and a borough president and think about this wonderful city that we all live in. I think the best city in the world. Certainly, each of them has contributed a great deal. The question is, they are proposing that they will do the same only better, and I wonder whether or not it would be fruitful to think about the things we are not satisfied with in this city. For instance the minimum wage at the moment that no one can live on unless they can work eighty hours a week. How about a living wage bill, passing that. Something like sixteen cities in the country have already passed a living wage bills and we're struggling in New York to get it passed despite the fact that the comptroller and public advocate are sitting here. What about the schools and housing? Could we possibly solve both problems in one fell swoop. I think we could.

We have desperate need for affordable housing, we have a thousand public schools within New York City, every single one has air rights over them. Trinity, the fanciest private school on west side, built in its air rights and it seems to be doing alright. How about building affordable housing in the air rights over the thousand schools that we have in New York City right now. And lets do something about the teacher problem, we can't get teachers in our schools, that's why we're in a shortage of them. Salaries are too low, they don't begin to compare with salaries outside the city.

A new young teacher comes into New York, even if they could live on the salary, where will they live? A studio in Manhattan now goes for $2 thousand a month, lets guarantee them a place to live in that affordable housing we build over the schools. That's another possible solution.

In this city, the Latino community is the community that suffers the most in asthma rates, that suffers the most from air pollution, yet the city does almost nothing about it. Much of the air pollution problem in the city has to do with diesel fuel in busses, diesel fuel spewing garbage trucks, diesel fuel spewing school busses. All of that could be remedied by replacing our city owned transportation system with CNG, that is Clean Natural Gas Engines. Its been proposed for ten years and it hasn't been done. That's the fault of the system as it stands. We need a change in the system. There are any number of other proposals that I'll make, but I think I'll wait until the rest of the questions are asked. Thank you.

[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 programs ?]

The Green Party has a saying, " Vote Green for change." I'd like to add another dimension, a change in who is elected to represent us. We have planning boards, we have community boards, and advisory boards. Everyone of those boards is more or less powerless because they are all volunteers. I would like to propose that all those boards become elected boards which would mean that a local community would be voting for their community board representative and that community could vote for their solid waste advisory board representatives. They would be part time jobs and they would be paying part time jobs. All of us know teachers that are working two jobs to pay the rent, all of us know many people in the city that are working two jobs just to stay in the city. If we went to part time elected representation, people would get the training to move on to higher levels and they will be able to do the volunteer service that right now can only be done by those who can afford to volunteer. It would be a wonderful change and a change in representation.

I asked a friend of mine who teaches bilingual science in a high school, what she would do about increasing representation, and she said most people she knew have no clue about what they should do to become a politician. They need to start some place and I think one of the places they could start would be, start with planning boards, community boards, advisory boards that are elected by communities and part time jobs that are paid. Thank you.

[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?]

I don't have a public office to speak out from, and I'm really, really happy to sit at a table with people who are using their public office that way, but I do belong to a party, a party which is not just a state party, or a national party, but it's a world party. We just had our first world congress in Australia on Easter weekend, that I was supposed to be the US delegate to it, and I want to tell you there is a world summit program that includes as a key value, diversity. That means simply that as a party we do not tolerate any sort of bigotry, it is built into our platform. I am not running simply as Julia Willebrand, I want to be the Mayor of New York, but I am running on a platform, I am running on ten key values, and I am running on something that no other party in this country can say, that they have a platform that the candidates actually run on. This candidate is running on something you can see in writing. I don't have a public office to speak from, but I do have a party to speak from and we are absolutely, utterly opposed to any sort of bigotry and it is included in our key values.

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

I plan on reaching Latino electorate by changing the way we view things. Right now, in this city, corporate welfare has number one priority on just about everybody's list. I didn't hear a single mayoral candidate objecting to the $1 billion corporate welfare bonus that we are giving the stock exchange by building them a new exchange floor. A billion dollars is a thousand million dollars, that is four or five times the health department budget of the city that's being handed in corporate welfare to people that do not need it. Last year the stock exchange made, or the new York stock e xchange had a profit of $13 million, and they're handing them another billion. Change the way we spend our money. The Latino community is a community that is starved for resources and we are not giving it to them because we are busy giving it to Mr. Steinbrenner in the form of stadiums and the stock exchange. It is an endless handout to people that don't need it.

[Question: What would you do specifically for bilingual education?]

Well, specifically I would enhance the funding of it right now and I would turn to some of the creative efforts of bilingual teachers . I started out as a teacher of adult education in the south Bronx 37 years ago, became an ESL specialist, in fact I have a doctor's degree in it, so I know something about the subject and I also know that teachers are underrated and their creativity is underrated and what we need to do to enhance bilingual education is to give some of that back to the teachers. But more importantly, all over the world, bilingualism is considered a valued skill that all the population has. In this city we only talk about bilingual immigrants, why not changing our system so that we make all of our citizens bilingual? What about paying, for instance, our police officers a salary incentive if they are bilingual. Imagine if the tourists that come to this city could actually ask an officer for directions and perhaps he can respond.

[Question from the audience on police misconduct]

Well, what do we do about racial profiling, about the 48 hour rule, about street sweeps? We stop them. One of the major things that we can do is think out of the box. The New York City police now has a mission, their mission is to apprehend criminals. Change that mission. Yes, of course catch criminals and punish criminals, but how about preventing crimes. One of the reasons why Diallo was killed was because four policemen were operating under cover to apprehend a criminal. If those four policemen had been in uniform, they might have been preventing some crime and it is highly unlikely they would have shot an innocent civilian in his lobby. One of the problems with the city police department is the mission. The mission should be preventing crime, preventing crime is best done by providing policemen in uniform on the streets.

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

I am beginning to feel like a broken record, but I'll repeat again, this city must re-order its priorities. The city must stop spending 10-20 percent on corporate welfare and put it where it needs to be put, with its citizens and with citizen services. The problems of AIDS services are endemic to under-funding them, so we have to change our funding priorities.

My Street Address:

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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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