Gotham Gazette

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Government

Non-Citizen Voting


When the idea of extending voting rights to non-citizens resurfaced earlier this month, it was met with equal parts enthusiasm and skepticism. The idea itself is nothing new; in Gotham Gazette last August, Michael Huang wrote about the New York City Charter Commission’s intention to ask for local voting rights for green-card holders who live in the city.

It is now the subject of legislation in the New York City Council. There is recent precedent for this; non-citizens were able to vote in school board elections and serve on school boards until they were abolished in 2002. The new proposals would allow legal immigrants who are eligible for citizenship to vote in all local New York City elections.

Whatever the outcome of this latest effort to extend voting rights in New York City, it raises interesting questions. There are approximately one million legal immigrants in New York City who would be eligible to become new voters if the legislation passed.

That’s more than one-fifth of the total voting age population in New York City. Already, political groups, community organizations, and labor unions are lining up on either side of the issue, anticipating additional votes for (or against) their candidates and causes. But while it is clear that this would represent a change in the New York political landscape, it is less easy to identify what that change would look like.

Voting Rights versus Voting Behavior

Extending voting rights to a new segment of the voting age population doesn’t give us any reason to assume that population will vote in any particular pattern. Non-citizens would be eligible to vote, but so are millions of U.S. citizens, less than half of whom typically turn out to vote on Election Day.

Voting behavior can be difficult to predict, but that doesn’t stop candidates and campaigns from trying. Making accurate estimates of who will be voting is a crucial element in any campaign strategy, because it allows candidates to target limited resources to those voters who are going to make their voices heard.

Non-citizens would truly change the political landscape not in becoming eligible to vote, but in actually voting, consistently and in large numbers.

But in order to vote, you have to be not only eligible, but registered.

Voting Registration versus Voting Behavior

Voter registration procedures have undergone some changes in recent years, with the advent of the so-called “Motor Voter” law, intended to make it easier for people, particularly young people, to become registered voters. But making voter registration easier or more convenient doesn’t necessarily make it more likely that new registrants will become new voters.

In spite of that fact, the race to register new voters remains a battlegroundby the two major political parties. It may be true to say that party loyalty has declined in recent years, but party registration, or party enrollment, is still the single most powerful voting cue in American political life today.

New York has long been dominated by Democratic party politics, a fact which is unlikely to change, no matter how many newly eligible voters there are. But it would also be impossible to categorically classify the political leanings of one million people. And at least on a national level, there are indications that immigrants are more likely than the nation as a whole to lean Republican. Even if New York’s one million non-citizen voters didn’t break along the same party lines as the national population, it would create the potential for greater partisan diversity in a city that is diverse in every way except its party politics.

Whatever the results of the newest effort to grant voting rights to non-citizens, it will increase attention paid to the concerns of legal immigrants, at least while the possibility exists that they might have a vote in the next election.

Susan Reefer is a Republican pollster and media strategist. She is based in New York City.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

State of the State Governor George Pataki January 4, 2006


Chief Judge Kaye, honorable members of the Court of Appeals, Lieutenant Governor Donohue, Attorney General Spitzer, Comptroller Hevesi, Majority Leader Bruno, Speaker Silver, Leader Tedisco, Leader Paterson, distinguished members of the Senate and Assembly, and special guests...

Thank you for another opportunity to report to you on the state of our great State of New York, to impart to you my vision for New York and to outline what I see as our shared priorities for the upcoming year.

As always, and especially this year, I would like to begin by thanking my family for the steadfast support and sacrifice that have made my tenure as governor possible.

Libby, thank you for always being there for me, for your love, reassurance, and understanding, and for being the best wife and mom a family could hope for.

And speaking of moms -- my mother, who last month celebrated her 90th birthday, is here for the twelfth straight year.

Mom, whatever I have achieved to this point in my life and whatever I may achieve in the future, is due to the values you and Dad instilled within me through both your words and your deeds.

Thank you for giving me reason to always be proud of where I come from, for teaching me to meet life's challenges head-on and to appreciate and savor all of life's blessings with grace and humility.

And to Emily, Alison, Ted and Owen -- thank you kids, for making me the proudest father in the world and for providing me with a daily reminder of why I do what I do.

And I would be remiss if I didn't say one more thank you -- to a man we all admire and respect: a trusted friend, a man who loves the people of this state like they were his own family -- thank you Governor Carey for your support, your friendship and for once again dignifying this great chamber with your presence.

And in addition to thanks, there are congratulations in order.

First, to the great Mayor of New York, Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Mayor, congratulations on a truly great win and thanks for the tremendous job you continue to do for the City of New York and its people.

And lastly, although he is certainly no stranger to this chamber, I'd like to formally welcome and wish all the best to the new leader of the Assembly Republican Conference, my good friend Jim Tedisco.

What Inspired Pataki Into Public Service

Each January for the past 11 years I have had the honor of addressing this joint session of the New York State Legislature in this great chamber.

Stepping to this podium, contemplating the splendor of the People's Chamber, and gazing upon all 212 members of New York's legislative branch, is an experience I wish all of you could know first-hand. The array of faces reflects the source of New York's distinctive greatness -- men and women from every corner of our geographically diverse state; Americans whose families came from every corner of the globe; individuals whose respective ethnic traditions, cultures and religions combine to form the most vibrant, glorious people in the world.

In marveling at the entirety of this esteemed body, I am reminded of what makes our work here so important.

I am reminded of our great responsibility to the people of New York; and of the thousands of respected legislators and scores of governors before us whose historic contributions within these hallowed halls bettered lives all across this great state.

Standing here, preparing to address this joint session for the twelfth and final time, I am reminded in the most compelling way, of the principles that led me to choose a career in public service, the principles that continue to guide me to this very day.

I was 15 years old when I heard President John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, and like so many Americans of my generation, I was inspired by the energy, optimism, and patriotism of his message.

When JFK urged us to consider what we as Americans could contribute to our nation, rather than what we could expect from it, that resonated with me, as I am sure it did with many of you.

We all bring something unique to this chamber -- the products of our own individual backgrounds and experience: our own outlook, our own value system, our own inspirations that led us here.

My governing philosophy has been shaped by many forces -- my proudly American working class family, my small-town Hudson Valley upbringing, the tumultuous period during which I went to school, my appreciation of history and my experience in government have all played a role in shaping the principles that continue to guide my actions as your governor.

What Pataki Believes In

I believe in active but limited government -- a government that is engaged and effective, but never intrusive or over-reaching: a government that works vigorously and diligently to identify problems and then creates opportunities for people to solve them; a government that staunchly protects its citizens' freedom to work, live and raise their families yet never dictates how they should do so.

I believe that government's fundamental purpose should be to empower the people we serve -- to enact the policies that create opportunity and unleash the enormous creativity, industry and entrepreneurial spirit that characterize New Yorkers.

I believe a government has no greater responsibility than the safety and security of its citizens and that people must be held accountable for their actions.

I believe that we have a moral responsibility to help those who truly need our help, and also to leave our next generation a natural environment that is cleaner and better protected than we found it.

I believe that government should not simply hand people a living, but it must ensure that they have every opportunity to earn one for themselves.

I believe in a government that works tirelessly to preserve and uphold the freedom of its citizens and takes great care in ensuring it never impinges upon it.

These are the precepts that have guided me for the past 11 years -- they are the essence of the policies and initiatives I have advocated and advanced throughout my tenure as New York's Chief Executive.

On The Passing Of Colleagues

Over these years, together with you and so many other great public servants, we have been able to make a difference, to transform our state in a variety of ways, to change New Yorkers' lives for the better.

Each of us has fond memories of departed colleagues who helped make this state a better place.

Last year, we lost a dear friend, an extraordinary public servant whose vision, leadership and dedication continue to echo through the halls of this great Capitol.

Senator Ron Stafford didn't just win people's votes, he won their hearts.

Through Ron I gained a profound appreciation of the North Country, its beauty, its promise and the promise of its hard working people.

To Ron, the people of the North Country weren't constituents, they were family, friends and neighbors.

The personal, humble, human way Ron Stafford served the people of his district, the wisdom and leadership with which he served all the people of New York, stand as an example to us all -- he will be sorely missed.

Kay, we wish you and your family all the best and pledge to continue Ron's great legacy of service to this great state.

We also mark the passing of our friends and colleagues, Pat McGee and Audrey Hochberg, who, like Ron, each made a lasting positive impact on the Empire State -- their contributions were an indispensable part of the record of achievement we've realized together.

On Senator Marchi

And whether you were elected in 1956 like Senator John Marchi, or just last year like Assemblyman Joe Giglio, every person in this chamber has been part of that record of achievement, and on behalf of the people of New York, I would like to personally thank each and every one of you for your commitment, your hard work and your partnership.

And speaking of Senator Marchi, this year he will celebrate the 50th anniversary of his election to the New York State Senate. Senator, congratulations on that truly remarkable milestone and thank you for all you continue to do for the citizens of Staten Island and the State of New York.

"We Have Achieved Much" In The Past 11 Years

When I took office back in 1995, New York was at a low point.

But what I saw was the limitless potential that the future held -- I saw a New York that was cleaner, safer, and more prosperous than ever before.

I saw our next generation of New Yorkers enjoying a wealth of wondrous natural treasures -preserved, protected, and enhanced for future generations to cherish. I saw New Yorkers walking safer streets and raising their children in safer neighborhoods all across the State of New York.

I saw New Yorkers empowered with economic freedom, jobs returning, businesses flourishing, and more and more New Yorkers moving from dependency to opportunity.

And together, we went to work to achieve that vision.

We recognized and embraced a new mandate and began to raise both the quality of life New Yorkers enjoy, and their expectations of what State government is capable of achieving.

And together, we have achieved much for our state and its people.

Together, we've re-tooled our criminal justice system from top to bottom and turned New York from one of the nation's most dangerous states into the safest large state in America.

Together, we've led the nation in cutting taxes, and put the money back into the pockets of working families, because after all, they know how to spend it best.

Together, we've slashed job-killing regulations and strengthened our businesses' freedom to compete nationally and globally.

Together, we've raised educational standards, made record investments in our children's schools and enacted the STAR program to help provide school property tax relief to homeowners across New York State.

Together, we've sown the seeds for tomorrow's economic prosperity by establishing Centers of Excellence to spur the innovations and investments that will make New York a powerhouse in the emerging global high-tech economy.

Together, we've transformed the welfare system and in turn empowered more than one million New Yorkers to break out of the tragic cycle of dependency.

Together, we've provided quality comprehensive healthcare to nearly one million more New Yorkers, granted prescription drug coverage to more seniors than ever before and increased the number of children covered by Child Health Plus five-fold.

Together, we've secured an inheritance of nearly one million acres of protected open space for the next generation of New Yorkers and a Hudson River that is far cleaner and more vital than when we found it.

And yes, together, with unshakable resolve, we've led New York and New Yorkers through and past one of our history's greatest atrocities, and helped both emerge stronger, and more vibrant than ever.

You and I, working together, helped make those dreams real for millions of people who call New York home.

The totality of our achievements over the past 11 years, the new course for New York that we charted back in 1995, has made New York a stronger, safer, cleaner, more prosperous state than it's been in generations.

So today, January 4th, 2006, I am pleased to report to you the state of our State is strong and getting stronger every day.

Yes, we've accomplished much together, but we all know that where the well-being, prosperity and freedom of New Yorkers are concerned, no amount of progress is ever enough.

Together, we have overcome some of the most daunting challenges imaginable -- we've dared to persevere, to transcend, to thrive in the face of adversity.

We Should Aim High In The Challenges Ahead >But every triumph is a gateway to another trial -- there are plenty of challenges that still lie ahead. And together, if we continue to aim high, to keep our sights fixed on all the future can hold, we can achieve even greater things for the people of New York.

What makes our actions noteworthy this year has nothing to do with one particular person, it has everything to do with the 19 million people relying on us to chart the course toward a bright, prosperous future for this generation and the next.

And the only way to chart an effective course is to have a clear understanding of where we want to go. Every strategy begins with a specific goal -- every worthy pursuit is born of a dream.

The great American architect and native New Yorker Daniel H. Burnham once said: "Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir [people's] blood and probably themselves will not be realized.

"Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency.

"Remember that our [children] and [grandchildren] are going to do things that would stagger us..." Let's aim high. Let's have the courage and foresight to envision the ideal that should shape our actions here in Albany.

Let's consider our highest hopes and ambitions for this great state and her people.

Let's envision the New York State the next generation will inherit from us -- let's consider the limitless potential the future holds for the great State of New York. Let's envision and work toward a New York that is nothing less than the cleanest, safest, most

prosperous state in America. Our mandate, our obligation and responsibility as the elected representatives of our fellow New Yorkers, is the relentless pursuit of that dream.

My work, our work, on behalf of the citizens of this great state is far from done -- indeed, so long as opportunities exist to better the lives of New Yorkers, our work is never done.

And as we proved so well last year, when we work together there is virtually nothing we cannot achieve.

Achievements Last Year

We enacted the first on-time budget in over two decades and scores of important new initiatives including landmark government reforms, Medicaid reform, Vasean's Law, tax incentives for businesses in Lower Manhattan, and we expanded Operation Impact and Empire Zones, to name just a few.

We could have simply rested on those accomplishments.

Instead, we came together just three weeks ago to enact two crucial new laws -- one that will keep illegal guns off our streets and one that will provide greater protections to the brave men and women sworn to protect the citizens of our state.

Congratulations to you all.

Sexual Predators

Now, let's build on that momentum.

I've said it many times, and it bears repeating -- government has no greater responsibility than the safety and security of its citizens.

And there is no case where this rings truer than when we are talking about our most vulnerable citizens -- our children, our future, our most precious gifts.

There isn't a single person among us who would disagree with the notion that the intentional harm of a child is among the most monstrous and repugnant acts a human being can commit.

When that harm involves the sexual predation, exploitation and abuse of children, that is unconscionable -- the physical and emotional damage inflicted by such crimes robs children of their innocence, and often their physical and emotional well-being.

As a parent, as a father, I ask you: when we know of a way to protect our children and families from known perpetrators of such crimes, how can we in good conscience fail to act on it?

Sexual predators are rarely cured -- the rate of recidivism among these individuals is among the highest of any category of criminals.

When those who stalk and rape a child can be out on the streets in two or three years, when 5,000 sexually violent predators are currently awaiting release from our state prisons, it is clear that our work is not finished.

I have endeavored to do everything possible within my scope of authority as governor to keep dangerous predators away from our children and families.

Our goal must be nothing less than to provide our children and families with every possible protection from sexually violent predators.

This year I will again send you a bill aimed at preventing the release of these predators into our neighborhoods.

Please, for the sake of our children, pass it now!

In addition, I will send you legislation that creates longer sentences for those convicted of these crimes, ends the statute of limitations for rape and other sexual assaults, makes our Megan's Law statute even stronger and requires every criminal who commits a crime to give a DNA sample.

On behalf of families all across New York State, let's waste no time in our efforts to keep violent predators off our streets and away from our children -- let's take up and pass these important measures as quickly as possible.

Terrorism And Our Brave Soldiers

Yes, it is clear that we must continue to do all we can to protect our citizens from the threat of crime, but this is only part of our solemn obligation to protect the people of this state.

As we New Yorkers understand better than anyone, in today's world, the threat of terror is all too real, and over the last five years, no state has done more to ensure the security of its citizens than New York.

And while we in government continue to do all we can to protect New Yorkers from terror, the success of our efforts depends ultimately on the brave men and women in uniform who stand in harm's way to protect and defend their fellow citizens.

We owe our utmost gratitude, respect and admiration to all of our courageous soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines - the men and women who serve so bravely and well in the global war on terror.

As the governor and a citizen of this great state, I could not be prouder of the outstanding job our National Guard soldiers and airmen have done defending freedom overseas and ensuring our security here at home.

Thousands of soldiers from the National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division, the renowned Rainbow Division headquartered across the river in Troy, recently returned from an historic deployment to Iraq.

Just as their forebears have for over two centuries, these heroic citizen soldiers left their families and careers behind to heed their nation's call to duty. They served in some of the most volatile areas in Iraq as they endeavored daily to seek out and destroy the terrorist insurgency, so that democracy could take root and thrive in that embattled nation.

Some of these recently returned heroes have joined us today, together with their fellow combat veterans from the 108th Infantry, the 53rd Troop Command and Manhattan's famous Fighting 69th.

Brave soldiers, as your governor and as the proud father of a Marine Corps Second Lieutenant; on behalf of the people of New York and everyone in this chamber, I would like to extend to you our profound thanks and infinite gratitude.

But we owe these brave returning soldiers more than our gratitude.

We owe them, and all New Yorkers, nothing less than the opportunity to succeed, to provide for their families, to live, thrive and achieve their own American dream right here in the state they call home.

That is what I've endeavored to do for the last eleven years, and that is exactly what I intend to keep doing for the next twelve months.

Let me be clear on that -- I swore an oath to serve New Yorkers until my very last day in office and I intend to fulfill that oath in its entirety.

The 2006 Legislative Session represents another indispensable opportunity to build on the great foundation of progress we've engineered together -- an opportunity we must seize in earnest.

Let's get to work.

2006 Agenda For Emerging Global Economy

Today we find ourselves at the dawn of an emerging global economy -- one characterized more and more by international competition, one in which companies on six continents are able to compete with our own on an increasingly level playing field.

In today's rapidly changing world, it is clear that we need to continue to hone New York's competitive edge and leverage the great ingenuity, industry and spirit of our people.

This year, I propose to you an agenda with straightforward, achievable objectives that will empower New York State to excel in the emerging global economy.

Objectives based on the same principles and priorities behind some of our greatest successes -- cutting taxes, improving our children's education, creating jobs, and protecting our natural environment.

It is an agenda aimed squarely at some of the most significant challenges we face in 2006:

It continues to cut taxes on working families and their employers to provide New Yorkers with greater opportunity and financial freedom; It accelerates our commitment to educational excellence to better prepare our students for global competition;

It invests in and helps build the intellectual capital and research infrastructure we need to succeed in the high-tech economy of tomorrow; and It takes decisive action to cut New Yorkers' fuel bills and protect our environment by reducing our dependency on foreign oil.

Cutting Taxes

First, let's strengthen families and create jobs by lowering the burden taxes place on New Yorkers. We've proven time and again how tax cuts create the financial freedom that yields even greater opportunities for New York's citizens.

We've led the nation in cutting taxes -- 81 cuts to 19 different state taxes that have pumped more than $140 billion back into New York's economy and led to the creation of over 600,000 new jobs. Tax cuts work. And when we cut taxes, New Yorkers work.

If our goal is to position New York State to thrive in the face of evolving global competition, our fight to cut taxes must continue. This year, I will send to you a pro-family tax cut program -- a series of measures that will reduce the tax burden on working families, stimulate the economy and foster the competitiveness that will attract even more investment and jobs to New York. Let's completely eliminate the marriage penalty to encourage rather than penalize marriage in New York State.

Let's provide a $500 heating fuel tax credit to thousands of seniors across New York to give them the ability to meet soaring home heating costs.

Let's help family farms and small businesses, and allow our seniors to spend their golden years in New York with their families and friends by eliminating the estate tax. Let's cut the income tax rate that most New York families pay, and grant even greater financial freedom to families all across New York State.

And let's cut taxes on businesses once again and give New York's employers even greater freedom to grow and create jobs.

But we all know that income and business taxes are only part of the problem -- property taxes represent the fastest growing segment of the tax burden New Yorkers face.

That's why we created the STAR program that has cut New Yorkers' school property tax bills by almost $18 billion since 1998. That's why last year, we took square aim at property taxes once again, by capping counties' Medicaid costs so that those costs would not be passed on to county property taxpayers. Now, it is time to take the next step.

My pro-family tax cut strategy includes two new enhancements to STAR. Seniors must not be forced from their homes because of escalating school property taxes -- let's provide them with an increased STAR benefit, and give them the economic freedom to continue living in the homes they have built, paid for and earned. And second, let's help families across the state, from Long Island to Grand Island, by putting a direct school property tax rebate check in their pockets.

If we are to compete and excel, if our families are to thrive in the global economy of tomorrow, we must not allow high taxes to place us at a competitive disadvantage. Let's continue to cut taxes at the state and local level and bring even greater economic freedom to New York's hardworking taxpayers and their families.

Realigning Educational Priorities

Cutting the tax burden will surely strengthen our competitiveness on a national level. But in tomorrow's economy, our stiffest competition for jobs, investment and opportunity will not come from places like South Carolina or Indiana; it will come from places like South Korea and India.

This summer I embarked on a trade mission to China to explore opportunities for partnership and investment and to see first hand the dynamics behind the world's fastest growing economy.

China has recognized that tomorrow's economic power will be driven by innovation.

Accordingly, they are making huge advancements in education -- particularly in the areas that will be most in demand in tomorrow's economy -- math and science.

In his best seller, "The World is Flat," Thomas Friedman illustrated this point by noting that in 2004, 6 million Chinese students competed for a spot in the worldwide Intel Science and Engineering Fair.

Here in the United States, just 65,000 students competed.

Six million aspiring scientists versus 65,000.

Today, opportunity follows the brain power, and companies will travel to the end of the earth to find it, invest in it and harness it. As Friedman said, "It's not follow the money, it's follow the brains."

It is clearly time to realign our educational priorities to meet the ever-changing demands of the 21st century.

Yes, we've made great strides in education over the past eleven years -- record investments in our schools, tougher standards and testing, innovative initiatives like Charter Schools, Teachers of Tomorrow, and school report cards, but it is not enough.

Let's set a goal today -- let's not only renew our commitment to improving educational opportunities for all students in New York State, let's make New York the nation's leader in preparing our students for careers in math, science and engineering.

This year, I will send to you a comprehensive package of education reforms and enhancements to provide new opportunities for our students and empower parents to ensure their children are able to realize their full potential.

Let's start out by renewing our commitment to providing additional funding to high-needs schools -- in New York City and across the state.

Next, let's give parents of students in under-achieving schools the power to maximize their children's potential. Let's give parents the chance to give their kids the tutoring, after-school programs and other educational opportunities they need to succeed.

Our Charter Schools have been a great success -- competition works.

Now, let's build on that success by dramatically expanding charter schools throughout the entire state.

Let's give middle school students an academic boost -- let's provide them with new math and science summer programs at our community colleges all across the Empire State.

Let's create more math and science high schools like the Tech Valley Science High School in the Capital Region-- schools focused specifically on teaching the skills our students will need to succeed in the high-tech economy of tomorrow.

And finally, let's invest in our future by providing free SUNY or CUNY tuition to students who pursue math and science degrees and commit to teaching right here in New York State.

Together, let's make a New York education an invaluable competitive advantage for our next generation.

Let's empower our children to be the eminent achievers, innovators and creators of tomorrow.

Empire Innovation And Centers Of Excellence

Today is clearly the dawn of a new economic paradigm -- where brains rather than brawn, research rather than resources, will be the determining factors in the increasingly global competition for growth, investment and jobs.

Over the last two centuries, the economic strength and stability of a state or a nation was determined largely by its ability to out-produce the competition.

And with our abundant natural resources, outstanding workforce, and through historic innovations like the Erie Canal, New York has led the way in commerce and industry since the earliest days of our nation.

Over the next decade, our ability to compete in the emerging global marketplace will depend more and more on our ability to innovate -- to break new ground -- to develop, apply and produce the technologies of tomorrow.

Working with our vastly improved SUNY and CUNY schools, we'll create a new Empire Innovation program that will attract even more top-flight researchers and the federal grant dollars they bring with them, to public colleges and universities throughout New York.

And let's go even farther. Our Centers of Excellence are the envy of states from coast to coast -- I'd like to thank you for your strong partnership in establishing and supporting them.

Our Centers have already attracted over $8.5 billion in new investment, and are propelling New York toward a future as a global leader in university-based research, high-tech business creation, and job development.

Last year the federal government and the nation's semi-conductor industry announced a collaborative initiative that will result in two new state-of-the-art research facilities to drive the computer chip breakthroughs of the future -- one of these facilities will be located in California's Silicon Valley.

Yesterday, we announced that the other facility, a brand new $435 million center is coming to Albany -- right here in New York's Tech Valley.

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This newest addition to New York's high-tech boom is just the latest example of how our Centers of Excellence continue to act as magnets and catalysts for investment and opportunity.

Now, it is time to take the next steps -- to propel New York and New Yorkers to the forefront of the worldwide race toward high-tech supremacy.

This year I will propose even greater capital investments in our Centers of Excellence, but that is only the beginning.

New Empire Zones

The Empire Zones we have launched together have led to new investment, opportunity and jobs all across this great state.

Last year, we authorized the creation of 12 new Empire Zones over the next four years. Yesterday, we announced the location of three new zones in Lower Manhattan, Nassau County and Livingston County.

This year I will send you legislation that ensures that every county without an Empire Zone gets one by the end of the year.

Tech Zones

The Empire Zones program and our Centers of Excellence have given rise to important new opportunities all across our state -- Why not combine the proven power of these two great initiatives?

This year, I will propose new Tech Zones that will be affiliated with our Centers of Excellence, and provide Empire Zone-like benefits that will ultimately turn research and ideas into jobs and opportunity.

By combining our Centers of Excellence and new Tech Zones with our new math and science high schools, we'll create five hubs of high-tech education, innovation and manufacturing across the state.

In Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, and Long Island, we'll train tomorrow's high-tech innovators, facilitate tomorrow's greatest technological advances, and create jobs in modern production facilities where those advancements will come to life.

Bio Research in NYC

And in New York City, home to some of the best research hospitals in the world, let's expand our efforts to keep New York at the forefront of the current revolution in bio-med and bio-tech research.

Last year, we committed $1 billion to technology improvements and upgrades for New York's hospitals to improve healthcare for every New Yorker across this great state.

This year, I will propose an unprecedented bio-tech research challenge grant initiative -- that will leverage $600 million in public/private matching funds and capitalize on the strength of great institutions like Sloan Kettering, Mt. Sinai, Cornell, NYU and Columbia to fuel even more research, jobs and opportunity in the Empire State.

Let's have the foresight and vision to position the people of New York to soar to new heights of success and prosperity.

Let's act today to ensure that New York has what it takes to compete and thrive in the emerging age of technological innovation.

Reducing Dependence On Imported Energy

For more than a decade, we in New York have been aggressively pursuing the solutions to one of our generation's greatest challenges -- reducing our dependence on expensive, polluting, terror- promoting foreign oil.

We don't have to look far for evidence that the time to transition away from foreign oil is now -- it is right there on the gas pumps and in our home heating bills.

Not just here in New York, but across the nation, our reliance on foreign oil is hampering the financial freedom of our working families and their employers; it is hurting our economy, damaging our environment and enriching regimes that support, harbor and encourage the terrorists who threaten our national security.

Since 1995, we've established New York as a national leader in environmental protection -- we've preserved nearly one million acres of open space, cleaned up rivers and revitalized waterfronts across the state.

We have made great strides to reduce pollution from power plants by implementing the toughest acid rain regulations in the nation. We enacted the nation's first green building tax credit.

Most recently we led the way as seven Northeast states put in place the first regional market-based program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in American history.

Let's continue to build on that record of accomplishment by making New York State the leader in reducing dependence on imported energy.

The entire world is now grappling with the question "where will we get the energy to power the global economy of the 21st century without causing irreparable damage to our natural environment?"

Let's make New York the place where that defining question is answered. Let's make New York the worldwide center for clean, renewable energy research, product development and job creation.

Let's attract companies from around the world that are developing the clean, renewable energy sources of the future -- let's make the entire state a tax free zone for this growing industry.

We cannot address the issue of oil dependency without talking about transportation. Because of the investments we have made in mass transit, we already have the most efficient transportation system in America, but we can do more - much more.

Our transportation system is still over 90 percent dependent on petroleum products. The huge price increases we have seen at the pump are likely to get worse as developing countries like China and India consume an increasing amount of oil.

Later this session, I will propose a plan to jumpstart a new era of statewide availability and use of renewable fuels -- ensuring that more of our energy dollars stay right here in New York. It begins with an initiative to make renewable fuels available at service stations all across the state, starting with the New York State Thruway.

And then, it goes a step further, by making that renewable fuel tax-free throughout the entire State of New York. This plan will also provide for the establishment of refineries that make ethanol out of agricultural products from our farms and wood products from our northern forests.

It will create shovel-ready sites and help finance advanced clean coal power plants that will burn our most abundant fuel without the pollution of yesterday's dirty plants. It will spur the development of efficient hybrid vehicles that can actually be plugged in at home or alternatively run on renewable bio-fuels.

This comprehensive strategy to reduce dependence on foreign oil, will allow us to seize the future today and create the clean energy technologies that can be exported around the world tomorrow. The time to prepare for a future powered by clean energy sources is now -- not just here in New York, but across our entire nation.

We've shown time and again that when New York leads, others follow.

Let's act this year to make New York State the energy independence capital of America, and set the stage for a cleaner environment and an even stronger, more prosperous New York for the next generation.

****

The agenda I propose today is a clear-cut, forward-looking approach to meeting some of our greatest challenges.

Greater economic freedom for our families and competitiveness for our state by renewing our commitment to cutting taxes;

New educational opportunities to produce the innovators of tomorrow;

High-tech research and jobs that position New York as a leader in the emerging global economy; and

An energy independence plan that sets the standard for our country.

While there are other critical issues and initiatives that we must and will address this year, achieving this agenda would establish a solid foundation for a successful 2006.

I believe it is a worthy and worthwhile challenge.

And like we've done so many times before, let's rise to meet this challenge and fulfill our promise to the people of this great State -- right now, this year, in this chamber, for this generation, and for generations to come.

9/11 And Lower Manhattan

If there's one thing we New Yorkers have proven over the last decade, it is that we refuse to be defined by the challenges we face. Rather, we define ourselves by the courage and optimism with which we confront and overcome those challenges.

Four years ago, we were struck by one of history's most heinous and heartbreaking attacks and with it some of the most significant challenges we have ever faced as a people.

And like true New Yorkers, we dared to transcend the challenges before us -- we established and met an aggressive timetable and series of objectives for the revitalization and rebuilding of Lower Manhattan.

Today, Lower Manhattan is experiencing an unprecedented wave of investment and construction activity -- this year, $10 billion worth of new construction involving over a dozen major projects is moving forward, 75 large companies and thousands of small firms have committed to Lower Manhattan -- all within blocks of the World Trade Center site.

Lower Manhattan is and will remain the financial capital of the world. World Trade Center 7 is ready to open its doors, PATH service is fully operational, and both the Calatrava-designed transportation hub and the new Fulton Transit Station are being built as we speak. And this spring, the crowning achievements of this noble undertaking, the Freedom Tower and the World Trade Center Memorial, will begin to take form -- to remind, to inspire, to reflect the power, promise and pride of New York. The Memorial will be an inspiring and worthy tribute to the heroes we lost on Sept. 11th, and will enable future generations to learn about their sacrifice and courage on that terrible day.

The Freedom Tower will rise 1776 feet, above Manhattan's bustling streets, invoking a pivotal moment, 230 years ago, when New Yorkers joined others who dared to dream, to embrace freedom and to transcend great challenges.

Even from under the thumb of a great global empire, they dreamt of a future of limitless hope, opportunity and freedom. Their cause was just, but the odds were long. By holding tightly to their dream, they won their freedom and gave rise to a nation.

But that was just the beginning. Who among them would have thought that two centuries later, the nation they founded would span the seas and emerge as the world's freest, greatest, most prosperous nation?

Who would have thought that their fledgling nation would give rise to the greatest upsurge of freedom the world has ever known? By relentlessly pursuing their dream the heroes of 1776 changed the very course of history. They clearly made the most of their opportunity. Let's make the most of ours. Let's heed destiny's clarion call. Let's promote freedom and opportunity at every turn.

Let's dare to dream of all our great state can be. Let's pursue that dream relentlessly, in partnership and unity. Let's fulfill New York's limitless promise.

****

Thank you for your partnership over the past 11 years. Thank you for your continued partnership over the next 12 months. God Bless you, the great State of New York, and all of its people. Thank You.

Bloomberg's Plunge In The Polls; Also: Committee On Vacancies


According to recent surveys (including those by the New York Times) Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s approval ratings and popularity among New Yorkers has continued to decline, in a trend that has remained virtually unaltered since he was elected in November, 2001.

Survey research is not an exact science, but it is the tool by which politicians determine their campaign strategy, and measure their effectiveness both as elected officials and as candidates for re-election. In the case of Mayor Bloomberg, the survey results are especially significant. When a politician runs for re-election, the strategy is usually very simple: hold on to the votes he or she got last time around. In most places, in most elections, if you can garner a margin of victory once, you can do it again. The people that voted for you before, at least in theory, could be convinced to do so again.

But Bloomberg was elected in a year in which very little could be counted on to repeat itself. He was a lifelong Democrat, elected on a Republican ticket. He was facing a Democratic opponent who had to endure a costly and fractured Democratic primary. He had the endorsement of outgoing Mayor Rudy Giuliani, at a time when New Yorkers saw Giuliani as a hero.

And so while Bloomberg could, in theory, expect to receive the support of those who voted for him last time, he also must take into consideration the unlikelihood of the same set of circumstances playing out in 2005. This makes the results of ongoing survey research all the more significant.

JOB APPROVAL RATING

For a politician, the number that is often most watched and most widely publicized is the job approval rating. It is the question that asks, simply, "Do you approve or disapprove of the job this person is doing?"

In a recent survey, conducted by Quinnipiac University, Bloomberg had a job approval rating of 32 percent, versus a disapproval rating of 56 percent. This is bad news for the mayor, for a number of reasons.

- First, it represents an ongoing downward spiral. Since he was sworn in on New Year's Day, 2002, Bloomberg has seen his job approval rating drop: from an initial 65 percent approval and six percent disapproval in February 2002, to the all-time low we see today.

- Secondly, the most dramatic drop in approval ratings is also the most recent. The mayor's approval rating in February of this year was 48 percent, with a 41 percent disapproval. This was less than a popular politician would hope to see, but not catastrophic. But the 16 percent drop in approval over the next two months was the sharpest decline so far in Bloomberg's tenure. And just to get some perspective on the value of that drop in support, 16 percent of registered voters is more than all the registered Republicans in New York City.

- Thirdly, and perhaps most significantly, the intensity of the mayor's disapproval is across the board. No one disgruntled group or dissatisfied political subset is skewing the overall results. Men, women, Democrats, Republicans, everyone is unhappy with the way Mayor Bloomberg is handling his job.

ECONOMY VS. CRIME

In predicting a politician's chances of survival, job approval is an important indicator, but it is not the most important. Job approval tends to reward results, not surprisingly. If the economy is good, the mayor gets high marks for handling the economy. If schools are good, the mayor gets high approval in handling education.

And we see this in the survey results. Bloomberg gets low marks in handling the economy (28 percent approve, 61 percent disapprove) and it's no secret why: when asked how serious the city's budget problems are, 68 percent said very serious, while 24 percent said only somewhat serious. Compare that to July, 2002, when only 46 percent thought the city's budget problems were very serious, and 47 percent approved of the mayor's handling of the budget.

In contrast, the mayor continues to get high marks for handling crime: 57 percent approve, and 31 percent disapprove. Crime is the one area in which the mayor has a positive approval rating, and crime in the city continues to decline.

In the minds of voters, it doesn't really matter which comes first, the effort or the results; voters are quick with both credit and blame.

RIGHT TRACK/WRONG TRACK

And so the other major indicator that pundits look for is more bad news for the mayor. Sometimes called Right track/Wrong track, it is a question that asks voters whether things, overall, are headed in the right direction or not. This question is often a bellwether of voting trends both locally and nationwide.

The question of how things are going in New York City shows most New Yorkers are concerned about the future: a combined 65 percent are dissatisfied with the way things are going, while only 33 percent are satisfied. And among those who are dissatisfied, nearly half, 31 percent, responded "very dissatisfied."

The amount and the intensity of unhappiness among voters is a marked increase from a year ago. In July, 2002, 64 percent were satisfied while only 33 percent were dissatisfied. The rapid reversal in New York's outlook may be in response to the mayor's handling of city issues, or his low numbers may be a direct effect of overall pessimism. Either way, it doesn't bode well.

New Yorkers Don’t Want To Dine With Mayor Bloomberg

But the mayor does have some good news. While job approval and right track/wrong track are important, they are also closely linked to current events, as we have seen. And events can change, sometimes very quickly. The numbers that are far more stable over time are known as "personal approval": what voters think about a politician personally.

In campaigns, issues matter. They can be of great importance, depending on the nature of the race. But issues tend to be more important in legislative races: Congress, state house, city council. In contrast, personality politics play a major role in executive races: president, governor, mayor. Voters may not understand all the intricacies of federalism and divided government, but they seem to have internalized the idea that legislators make laws, while executives enact and uphold those laws.

And so for Mayor Bloomberg, what may ultimately be more important than whether he is fixing all of New York's problems is whether anyone is rooting for him to succeed. Do we like this guy? Do we want him to do well? Is he the underdog we secretly hope will emerge triumphant, or is he the cocky titan, ripe for a fall?

The answers are mixed. We believe he is a strong leader, 61 percent overall. He got high marks in leadership across the board, and tested higher among Democrats and Independents than among Republicans, his theoretical base. That's important. We think he's honest and trustworthy, 57 percent. We think he's smart (89 percent), and a hard worker (75 percent). All of those are qualities New Yorkers value in their mayor.

But when asked if Mike Bloomberg cares about people like themselves, only 33 percent responded yes, while 60 percent said no. When asked if the mayor understands the concerns they face in daily life, 29 percent said yes, 66 percent said no. And when asked if he shares their views on issues they care about, 30 percent thought he did, while 62 percent said no he did not. That's a problem for the mayor.

The straightforward question, "Does he have a likable personality?" might seem harmless, but may in fact be deadly: only 39 percent said yes, while 51 percent said no. And so the most creative question in the survey could also be the most telling: when asked if Bloomberg would be fun to dine with, 40 percent said yes, but another 46 percent said no.

Would New Yorkers vote for someone they wouldn't want to share a meal with? Maybe. New York has a long history of electing controversial mayors, many of whom were loved and reviled in nearly equal numbers. But those mayors had intensity of support, and those supporters were intensely loyal. Their numbers came out a little higher on the love side, even if only enough to tip the scale.

Voters can be convinced to overcome their disinclination toward a politician and vote for him or her regardless of their personal feelings. But they need a compelling reason to turn out and do so.

And that reason may yet present itself. Numbers don't tell the whole story, they only reveal outlines and predict future direction; a direction which can still be headed off at the pass. But Mayor Bloomberg will have to overcome a great many obstacles, not the least of which is history, on his path toward re-election.

COMMITTEE ON VACANCIES

Geoffrey Davis announced a week after the murder of his brother that his name will replace Councilmember James Davis's on the ballot. This is because of a provision in New York State election law.

When Davis was killed, on July 23rd, the deadline for filing a petition to gain a spot on the primary election ballot had already passed. Davis had successfully filed by the July 10th deadline.

In the event of a candidate's death or inability to run after the filing deadline, the process of choosing a replacement candidate falls to that candidate's Committee on Vacancies. The Committee on Vacancies is chosen by the candidate, and the members are designated at the time when he or she files a petition.

A candidate is not required to select a Committee on Vacancies; if they do not designate such a committee at the time of filing, there would be no provision to select a successor to fill that candidate's vacancy on the ballot.

As outlined by New York State election law, the Committee on Vacancies must include at least three members, and there is no limit to number of members that may be designated. The law does require that the number of members be an odd number.

Councilman Davis designated a Committee on Vacancies for the Democratic line which includes five people; the committee is led by his mother, Thelma Davis. Candidates typically choose close supporters or family members to comprise their Committee on Vacancies.

According to Chris Riley, Director of Communications, New York City Board of Elections, a committee has ten days from the time the vacancy occurs to name a successor. The Committee on Vacancies for Councilman Davis had until August 4th. Four of the five members of the committee reportedly chose Geoffrey Davis, who will now run in the Democratic primary in September.

Candidates who file under more than one party line must designate a different Committee on Vacancies for each party.

The Committee on Vacancies is required to choose a candidate who is a registered voter, and who is enrolled in the nominating political party.

Susan Reefer is a Republican pollster and media strategist. She is based in New York City.

Housing in the Heights


Though for decades Washington Heights has been a haven for new immigrants particularly from the Dominican Republic, many of the most recent arrivals to the area are already New Yorkers and are increasingly white, young, and middle-class.

Some long-time residents say that the latest wave of newcomers is driving up rents.

"After 9/11, we have seen many people from midtown and downtown moving here," said Roberto Lizardo, one of three Democrats challenging incumbent City Councilmember Miguel Martinez this fall. "It is beautiful and the rent is affordable, but our community cannot compete."

Roberto Lizardo, who lost to Councilmember Martinez in 2001 by some 340 votes, said that not only are rents going up, but much of the existing housing is in poor condition and, if elected, he said he would fight to get more building inspectors and tougher eviction laws.

Ydanis Rodriguez, another Democratic candidate who finished third in the 2001 campaign, agrees. "When I see how people are living, it's incredible," said Rodriquez, who recently visited an apartment on 167th Street to find its ceiling was collapsing. "When I looked at the other apartments in that building, most were in the same condition."

In response to concern over housing issues, both Ydanis Rodriguez and Roberto Lizardo vowed not to accept donations from the real estate industry, so as to deal fairly with tenant-landlord conflicts if elected.

Councilmember Miguel Martinez, who has made no such promises, maintains that the key to affordable housing is to create opportunities through job growth and new construction, while fighting for better rent control laws.

Martinez is involved in a plan to rehabilitate abandoned waterfront along Sherman Creek on 201st Street and 10th Avenue to build new housing and commercial business space, as well as parkland. "We need more protection for businesses," said Martinez. "Many merchants up here pay more per square foot than they would on Wall Street."

Martinez noted that he had sponsored legislation to reform the Rent Guidelines Board to give the City Council power to review the mayor's appointees to the board. Martinez was also one of a dozen members to vote against a program that gives developers incentives to build housing because it does not adequately target neighborhoods like Washington Heights.

Another key issue for the area is education. Candidates talk of some schools being so overcrowded they hold classes in converted bathrooms, closets, and hallways.

"The budget keeps getting cut more and more as the classes get more crowded," said Jose Adames, another Democrat who works as a school paraprofessional. "The council member is satisfied with getting a piece of the pie, but not fighting Mr. Bloomberg's cuts."

Roberto Lizardo suggests that the large corporations based in Washington Heights – the Metropolitan Transit Authority, Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, Bell-Atlantic, and Verizon – unite to create a vocational school that would prepare students for future careers.

Ydanis Rodriquez, who helped found an alternative school for immigrants in the area, said parental involvement and after-school programs are essential to success. "It's too easy to blame the schools," he said.

However, Councilmember Miguel Martinez warned that the power of the council is limited in the area of education. He also said that Mayor Michael Bloomberg's educational reforms have created "total chaos" in the school system and he would keep pressure on the administration to ensure that it does not violate the law.

Another immediate issue is transportation. The 191st Street 1 and 9 subway station stop is closed for repairs until December 31, 2003. Ydanis Rodriguez said that MTA's $50 million renovation of the station is welcome, however, the authority provided "no alternative plan for 24-hour transportation," only shuttle buses during rush hour. Rodriguez recently held a rally to protest.

It will be difficult for the challengers to unseat the incumbent. By mid-July, Councilmember Martinez raised over $120,000, six times more than Roberto Lizardo and Ydanis Rodriguez, who have both raised around $20,000. Felix Figueroa, who is Republican, could not be reached for comment.

Adames, who has lost races for State Senate, City Council and even the president of the Dominican Republic in the past, said the campaign would be difficult for the challengers. "I don't know if I have a chance," said Adames. "But someone has to keep fighting for our community."

Posted July 28, 2003

Campaign Update:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's executive order allowing police officers to inquire about a person's immigration status has become a campaign issue in district 10. Roberto Lizardo refuses to be seen with the mayor. He has accused Councilmember Miguel Martinez of not being a "proactive leader" and criticized the council member for appearing with the mayor on several occasions.

Martinez told the New York Times, however, that he will not appear with the mayor in the future. "But if we are at the same place, like the Dominican Day Parade, I will give him the respect that he deserves," said Martinez.

Martinez has raised by far the most money, with $131,285 in contributions and an additional $28,760 in matching funds, which he has not yet received. Lizardo has raised $36,707 and will receive $24,473 in matching funds. Rodriguez has raised $28,737 and will receive $18,702.

Updated August 29, 2003

 

Where Taxes Matter


Last winter, when Democrat Vincent Gentile campaigned in a special election for City Council district 43, he characterized himself as a "tax cutter."

It was not a particularly surprising statement. Voters in the neighborhoods of Bay Ridge and Dyker are known for their opposition to taxes and have elected Republicans to local office in the past. Just a few months earlier, Vincent Gentile lost his State Senate seat to Republican Martin Golden, who left his spot in the City Council. Gentile was then seeking the council seat left open by the Republican.

Gentile even included a photo of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Upper East Side townhouse in his campaign literature and criticized the mayor and the City Council for increasing property taxes by 18.5 percent. "Unlike our billionaire mayor, Vinnie Gentile knows how hard it is to make ends meet," the mailing read.

Gentile's strategy worked. In a close race, he beat his main Republican opponent Rosemarie O'Keefe by just 31 votes.

Now, less than a year later, taxes are again the primary issue of a campaign where two new Republican candidates are seeking to unseat the Democratic incumbent.

Republicans Stephen Maresca and Pasqualino "Pat" Russo said Councilmember Gentile broke his campaign promises when he voted to hike the city sales tax and to increase the personal income tax for New Yorkers who make more than $100,000 a year. Gentile did not vote for the property tax because he was not in office at the time.

"He should have voted against all those taxes," said Stephen Maresca, a financial analyst. "Raising taxes is only a short-term budget fix. I would have liked to see them deal with the budget problem from the administrative side."

For Pat Russo, a lawyer, the city's budget problems stem from over-spending and a lack of accountability. "I am going to become a watchdog for people of my community to hold the line on spending and look for the ways where we can to make the quality of life better, " said Russo.

Gentile said his vote to raise the city sales tax and personal income tax are "absolutely consistent" with his campaign promises and believes the council handled the current budget crisis in a proper manner, preserving sanitation services, parks funding, and senior centers.

"Those are the ways we are able to raise the revenue without [further] increasing the property tax, and they came at the least expense or pain to the people I represent," said Gentile.

Other issues beside taxes are important in this district that is known for its relatively clean and safe streets and quiet neighborhoods.

Residents often complain about transportation problems with limited subway service, traffic congestion, and slow commutes to Manhattan even with express bus service. Gentile counts his efforts to preserve Brooklyn water ferry service from the Army terminal on 58th Street and 2nd Avenue in Brooklyn to Manhattan as one of his main accomplishments in his short time in office.

Education is another concern. Both Pat Russo and Stephen Maresca support Mayor Michael Bloomberg's recent reform of the education system. However, Maresca believes more time is needed to see whether it works; Russo believes further reduction of the workforce in the Department of Education is needed to make it efficient and accountable.

Councilmember Gentile is not pleased with Mayor Bloomberg's educational reform thus far. "I am not convinced yet that the new system is going to benefit the parents and students in my neighborhood," he said.

The areas of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights are known for their traditionally Irish and Italian-American residents. However, a recent study found that the area is also one of the fastest growing Chinese American neighborhoods in New York City. With past elections being decided by just a few votes, some in the Chinese American community hope that they can be an important political force this year.

According to a recent article in the Chinese language newspaper Sing Tao Daily residents may give their support to the Republican candidates because they are concerned that the incumbent has not worked aggressively enough to diversify the leadership of the local community board. On the campaign trail, Russo is quick to talk about his own immigrant background and has appeared at recent Chinese community events with Republican State Senator Martin Golden.

Russo and Maresca will face off in a Republican primary in September. Gentile can focus on the general election since he has no Democratic challengers.

Posted July 28, 2003

Campaign Update:

Republican Stephen Maresca lost his place on the ballot when Councilmember Vincent Gentile successfully challenged that he did not have enough valid signatures on his nominating petitions. Maresca's removal eliminates the need for a Republican primary and leaves Pat Russo as Gentile's only challenger.

Because of this, Gentile said Russo is no longer entitled to $20,625 in city matching campaign funds - money that was supposed to be spent on a primary that will never take place. The city's campaign finance board agreed and said the money would count against whatever Russo would normally receive for his general election campaign against Gentile.

Updated August 29, 2003

 

The Incumbent is the Campaign Issue


A nondescript three-story brick building at the corner of Clarendon Street and Nostrand Avenue in East Flatbush could determine City Councilmember Kendall Stewart's political future.

Stewart, who is facing four challengers, owns the building, which has a café on the first floor and apartments above. Earlier this year, as the City Council began to hold hearings on a bill that would toughen the city's law on lead paint - a measure that Stewart, many landlords and the Bloomberg administration oppose - the Daily News reported that his property on Nostrand had 144 building code violations, including peeling lead paint.

Confronted with this, Stewart said many of the problems had been corrected and reportedly blamed the building's woes partly on his Haitian tenants. "It's a cultural thing,"The Daily News quoted Stewart, who was born in St. Vincent, as saying. "The Haitian folks, because of their poverty, will have five to eight people living in an apartment, and they will break the locks if one doesn't have a key."

Since then, Stewart has variously denied making the comments and said he was misunderstood. In an interview with Gotham Gazette, he said, "These things hurt but it gives me the impetus to let people know what I've been doing for the Haitian folks...I am an adopted Haitian."

Councilmember Stewart said he opposes the tough lead pain bill proposed by Councilmember Bill Perkins because he said it will not solve the problem. Instead, Stewart said he is working on a proposal that would require an apartment to be inspected and certified as lead free before children under the age of seven could live in it. If lead were present, the landlord would have to clean it up.

Stewart has four opponents - three Democrats and one Republican. To the three Democrats, this furor over the building is one more item to be added to their list of grievances against Stewart.

Earlene King, a former aide to onetime council member Lloyd Henry, said that when she visited Stewart's building four years ago "it was not fit to be lived in.""He is a slumlord,"said Sam Taitt, a communication professor at Kingsborough Community College who ran against Stewart two years ago.

The three other Democrats all say that they were approached to run by people in East Flatbush because Stewart was not doing enough for the community. "He's unaccountable and inaccessible,"Sam Taitt said. He has "failed miserably,"said Omar Boucher, a Democratic Party consultant who ran unsuccessfully for State Senate last year. Earlene King said the council member has failed to provide constituent service. "I have been told as I walk around the neighborhood that these people are not being serviced,"she said.

Omar Boucher and Sam Taitt fault Council Stewart's vote in favor of last year's 18 percent property tax increase. Taitt attacks Stewart for endorsing Governor George Pataki, a Republican, over Democrat Carl McCall in last year's gubernatorial election. As a district leader as well as council member, Taitt said, Stewart's "responsibility is to strengthen the Democratic Party."Stewart counters that he endorsed the governor "not because of labels but because of performance,"particularly Pataki's efforts to provide health care to children who are undocumented immigrants.

Further, Councilmember Stewart said he has accomplished "quite a great deal" in his two years on the council, including introducing legislation that would make it easier for foreign teachers to be certified in the city's public schools and helping to spearhead a resolution opposing the war in Iraq.

As a representative of district with a large number of immigrants, most, but not all from the Caribbean, Stewart said he has tried to focus attention on what he sees as the excesses of the federal Patriot Act. "A lot of our folks have been detained indefinitely,"he said. "That is really not what America stands for. That is not just."

Stewart also said he has brought in money for computers in the district's school, kept local senior citizen centers open and tried to get a mall on Flatbush Avenue near Brooklyn College, a project that stalled when K-Mart withdrew from it. If re-elected, Stewart hopes to try to improve transportation to senior centers, bring in money for commercial revitalization of the district - and open a Haitian history library.

Aside from faulting Councilmember Stewart, his opponents embrace a number of issues, many geared to economic development of the economically diverse East Flatbush community. Earlene King, for example, urges that more be done to attract businesses to the community, including creation of the long-awaited plans for the mall on Flatbush Avenue. This project, she said, could create 500 jobs and provide vendors with a safe place to conduct business.

Sam Taitt said he would create a credit union in East Flatbush, work to make businesses in the area aware of city contracts so that they could bid on them, and establish a community center in the area that would help provide computer access to young people in the neighborhood. "That will address the requirements of living in the 21st century,"he said, noting, "many of our kids don't have computers and many of our parents have never touched a computer."

Boucher said he would fight to repeal last year's property tax hike and replace it with a stock transfer tax. He also calls for a multi-purpose community center to help train residents and more day care slots. To achieve some of this, he says, "I am for the community rolling up their sleeves and doing for themselves."

All three Democrats say they can beat Stewart. Sal Grupico, who could not be reached for an interview, may be less sanguine about his chances. He received 10 percent of the vote in 2001 and told the New York Times then that he had trouble finding Republicans in the district, commenting "I think most of them are gone and dead."

The Democrats note that in the 2001 primary, Kendall Stewart captured only about 21 percent of the vote. Omar Boucher, Sam Taitt and Erlene King all say they have been urged to run by community residents. King believes that being a woman (all the candidates last time around were men) will help her chances. Taitt says he has boosted his visibility in the community since he ran in 2001 and got only 15 percent of the vote.

"It's always tough to take out an incumbent unless he shoots himself in the foot, and [Stewart] has certainly done that,"said Boucher.

Posted July 28, 2003

Campaign Update:

Four candidates remain on the ballot for the Democratic primary in district 45, with Salvatore Grupico picking up the Conservative Party line, along with the Republican slot. Stewart holds a substantial lead in fund-raising, having collected four times as much money from contributors as the number-two fund-raiser, Erlene King. In addition to money from small individual donors, Stewart has received contributions from realtors and labor unions.

Updated August 29, 2003

 

Maverick Politics


Queens City Councilmember Allan Jennings does not believe in the old adage "politics is the art of compromise."

In just his first two years in office, Jennings, who represents the neighborhoods of South Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, and South Jamaica, has made a habit of publicly confronting the most powerful people in the city.

Last fall, Jennings was one of only three Democrats to defy both Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and vote against the 18.5 percent property tax. Jennings said the Mayor Michael Bloomberg responded like a "dictator" when the mayor took away his City Hall parking permit.

Then Jennings likened himself to Jesus Christ and Speaker Miller to a Roman emperor when Miller removed him from a council committee. "Two thousand years ago, there was a man from Galilee who did not agree with Caesar and he too was sacrificed and punished," said Jennings on the floor of the council.

A few months later, Jennings angered police officials at an oversight hearing in the City Council when he released the names, badge numbers, and job titles of undercover officers. Police Commissioner Kelly said the council member put the lives of officers at risk; Jennings said that the police department was avoiding using civilians to do work assigned to uniformed officers.

The council member maintains that he is just speaking his mind and being an independent voice for his constituents. "I will never be anyone's rubber stamp," Jennings said.

However, not everyone in the district agrees that the incumbent's tactics are the best way to represent the community. This fall, Jennings faces five Democratic challengers and one Republican who contend that the council member's actions are nothing more than showmanship.

"It is facetious for the incumbent to talk about voting against the property tax," said Democratic challenger and economist Inderjit Singh. "He knew it would pass anyway. I would like to have seen him work with his colleagues to come up with other options."

Jennings is also not endorsed by the county's Democratic Party.

"I have the respect of the community and of the city agencies," said Yvonne Reddick, the head of community board 12, who has the backing of the party. "My priority is to open lines of communication and get things accomplished."

Personalities aside, all of the candidates agree that there are serious issues – like economic development, education, and crime - facing the district.

Thousands of people travel through district 28 every day while driving on the Van Wyck Expressway, on the Long Island Railroad, or flying out of John F. Kennedy airport, but few stop to do business or spend money there. Some argue that the area should be getting more benefits from the area's transportation infrastructure. "There is $25 to $30 billion worth of work going on at the airport, but there is high unemployment in the community," said Inderjit Singh.

Education is another concern since only 38 percent of high school students in the area graduate on time. Among his accomplishments while in office, Jennings is most proud of starting after-school programs and securing $7.5 million to purchase computers for every 3rd, 4th, and 5th grader in the district. "Education is the number one issue in the community," said Jennings. "Everyone is anxious about the restructuring of the Board of Education.”

Crime is also a top priority. In the first six months of the year, there have been 15 murders in the 103rd police precinct, more than in all of the previous year. Some crimes have been covered extensively in the news and have given the area a notorious reputation. For example, Jam Master Jay of the rap trio Run-DMC was killed in a Jamaica-area recording studio late last year.

"Instead of wasting time with what the mayor did or did not do, we need to solve our own problems," said Republican candidate Carolyn Younger-Nolan, the founder of an organization Black Families International. "Black-on-black crime is my top concern."

Candidates Garth Marchant and Stephen Jones are also running as Democrats (neither could be reached for an interview), but it is unlikely that all of the candidates will get on the ballot. In 2001, there was a flurry of legal challenges as the candidates sued to knock each other off. "It all depends on how my competitors behave," said Inderjit Singh, who was knocked off of the ballot last time. "I am not surrounded by a bevy of lawyers."

The incumbent Councilmember Jennings said he is not worried about the legal challenges from the Queens Democratic Party or the fact that they are not endorsing him. "I am still going to win and that means I am still a free man," said Jennings.

Posted July 28, 2003

Campaign Update:

In mid-August, Councilmember Allan Jennings became the first incumbent politician in the history of the city to be knocked off the ballot by his own party.

The Queens Democratic Party, which has a history of conflict with the one-term council member and is supporting Yvonne Reddick , challenged Jennings in court, claiming that his 3,300 signatures were fraudulent. State Supreme Court Justice Janice Taylor - who has received the backing of the Queens Democratic Party throughout her career - kicked Jennings off the ballot.

For a few weeks, it looked like the incumbent might not be able to run for his own seat.

Jennings appealed and a five five-member panel of the Appellate Division eventually reversed the lower court ruling, citing "irregularities" in the signatures, but no fraud.

"I feel personally vindicated," said Jennings. "This is now a race between me and the Queens Democratic organization."

Yvonne Reddick said that the she did not take part in the challenge and countered that Jennings had challenged the petitions of each of his opponents. Jennings was successful in knocking Democrats Stephen Jones and Garth Marchant and Republican Carolyn Younger-Nolan off of the ballot.

Democrat Inderjit Singh was also kicked off for a few weeks, but he was successful in his appeal and is back in the running. "Most people when they hear you are in court or have been knocked off of the ballot think that you have done something wrong," said Singh. "I know it's part of the game, but it is wrong."

In fundraising, Allan Jennings has raised $43,235 and will receive $16,003 in matching funds. Yvonne Reddick has raised $25,044 and will receive $14,770 in matching funds. Inderjit Singh has not posted any fundraising information with the city's campaign finance board.

Updated August 29, 2003

Death of a Council Member


Given the game of politics as played in Brooklyn -- especially the intensity with which Councilmember James E. Davis played it -- there is little surprise in the speed with which politics resumed after Davis was shot and killed in City Hall on July 23rd by a would-be political challenger named Othniel Askew.

"Phone calls to potential candidates, it is said, were being placed as the assassinated councilman was being carried down the steps of City Hall," wrote Errol Louis, a columnist for the New York Sun who himself once ran for the district 35 council seat.

It is a pace at which the council member himself was familiar.

19 MONTHS IN OFFICE

Two years ago, Davis, a police officer and community activist, astounded many political experts when he defeated several prominent candidates, including the choice of the Brooklyn Democratic organization, to win the council seat from district 35.

In his 19 months in office, Davis had focused a lot of energy on constituent service, and in winning over people who had been skeptical of him, an effort that apparently was at least partially effective. "James had grown on us," said Dan Cantor of the Working Families Party, which ran Letitia James against Davis in 2001.

"There wasn't a minute of the day that James wasn't reaching out to somebody," says Peter Williams, a Medger Evers College administrator who also ran against Davis for the seat, which includes Fort Greene and parts of Crown Heights. Davis, he says, "had the most presence of any elected official in Central Brooklyn."

Davis was also an aggressive politician. A former rival of Davis's told the New York Times that Davis warned he would investigate his child support payments if the rival challenged him. Last winter, the Courier Life Newspapers quoted voice mail messages that Davis had left for State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, threatening to back an opponent if he couldn't count on her support in the 2003 election: "If you support somebody against me in 2003, fine - 2004 is coming. If I lose in 2003, fine. You and me in 2004. So disrespect me, I make a note of it." Senator Montgomery was not available to confirm this account.

But this type of pushing is not uncommon, State Senator Kevin Parker told the Times. "It's what happens in Brooklyn and in politics across the country. But nothing [Davis] did was more egregious that anything anyone else was doing. If James was guilty of anything, it was the elimination of the pretense that people use when they are doing the same thing."

Doug Israel, a staff member at the good government group Citizens Union (the sister organization of Gotham Gazette's publisher), said that in a conversation before the shooting with Anthony Herbert, who was planning to challenge Davis in the primary for the district 35 seat, the candidate told him his campaign staff had been threatened by Davis's staff. "He said that he has had a terrible experience over the past several weeks," said Israel. (Two days after Davis' murder, Herbert denied that either he nor his staff had ever been threatened).

Othniel Askew made a similar accusation on the morning of July 23rd, when he called the New York City office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and claimed that Davis had threatened to reveal his criminal history -- Askew had been arrested for drunk driving and for assaulting his boyfriend with a hammer -- if Askew stayed in the race.

Askew had hoped to challenge Davis for his council seat and had circulated campaign literature, filed with the city Campaign Finance Board, and claimed to have collected over 2,500 signatures. But he would not make it on the ballot this fall, he told reporters, because he narrowly missed the Board of Election's filing deadline.

Members of Davis' s staff have told reporters that Askew's allegations are delusional and said that, after Askew failed to make the ballot, he approached the council member about a job. They recalled the young man's intense and strange demeanor. As recently as the day of the shooting, Askew had also approached fellow candidate Anthony Herbert, asking him to withdraw from the race and support Askew instead.

Police are still investigating the events leading up to the crime, but what is clear is that Askew came to City Hall as a guest of Davis and was able to bypass the metal detectors because he was with the council member.

In the council chambers, Davis introduced Askew as a former rival turned friend. A few minutes later in the balcony, Askew fired a silver, 40-caliber handgun six times into the council member's chest. A plainclothes police officer on the floor of the chamber shot and killed the gunman.

THE CONTEST

In the midst of the shock and the struggle to understand came a practical reality. If a person was going to take Davis's place on the ballot, that person has to be chosen soon. Candidates for office in New York State can name a committee on vacancies to choose a new candidate in the event the initial candidate dies or becomes disabled. Davis chose a five-member committee headed by his mother, Thelma Davis, a registered nurse.

Exactly a week after James Davis was slain, that committee submitted the name of James Davis's younger brother, Geoffrey Davis, director of a youth services program at Medgar Evers College. "The torch has been passed," the younger brother announced. His press conference was less than reverent, reporters asking questions about a criminal record -- Davis pleaded guilty to attempted possession of stolen property in a case dating back to 1985 -- and Davis was less than responsive, refusing to answer a question about how many children he had.

Geoffrey Davis does not have the record of activism in the community that his brother had but many observers believe his connection to the slain council member will give him an advantage in the race. He reportedly has the support both of City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and of Brooklyn Democratic leader Clarence Norman, who had repeatedly clashed with James.

Geoffrey drew attention immediately after his brother's death. Standing outside NYU Downtown Hospital, where James Davis had been taken, Geoffrey told reporters, "The system killed my brother. Everybody knew my brother wouldn't stop fighting the system. It's the same way they killed Malcolm X and Martin Luther King."

Later that same day, outside the family home in Crown Heights, Geoffrey promised to continue his brother's crusade against violence. He has also indicated the family may file a lawsuit against the city for allowing Askew to enter City Hall with a gun. "Security was lacking," he told the New York Post. "Askew should have gone through the metal detector."

The day after the murder, Herbert said he expected to remain in the council race. Being on the council, he said, has "always been a dream of mine. I know how government works and what it takes to bring people together."

Herbert has criticized Geoffrey Davis for his response to his brother's death. "We don't need people going on in the hotness of the moment," The Sun quoted Herbert as saying. "If this is how he's going to react - 'The system killed my brother' - how is he going to interact with the council?'"

But Herbert was kicked off the primary ballot when the Board of Elections ruled that he did not have enough valid signatures.

Another announced candidate in the overwhelmingly Democratic and African-American 35th district is Abraham Wasserman, a Hasidic Jew running on the Conservative Party line who received less than 10 percent of the vote in the 2001 primary.

Shortly after James Davis's death, Letitia James, an aide to Assemblyman Roger Green who narrowly lost to Davis in the primary election of 2001, filed to get on the ballot. She will be a candidate on the Working Families Party line in November.

In the past, James has worked in the office of the State Attorney General and served as counsel to Al Vann. In the 2001 General Election, she won 42 percent of the vote on the Working Families Party line. James said she is running because residents asked her to and called offering help and donations. "This is grass-roots organizing, and I was drafted, if you will," James told the New York Post.

Despite the chaos in the aftermath of the murder at City Hall, there will, as Cantor says, soon be a new councilperson from the 35th district. That person, says Pete Williams, may well be able to provide services and representation to the people of the area as well as James Davis did. But, Williams adds, whoever it is, "no one can emulate his style."

Posted July 28, 2003

Campaign Update:

After briefly considering entering the race, activist Eric Adams, longtime leader of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, decided not to run for the council seat from the 35th District. Adams has condemned Geoffrey Davis for not paying child support, but he did not explicitly endorse Working Families Party candidate Letitia James.

On August 29, Anthony Herbert, who was knocked off the Democratic ballot, said that he would run as a Republican in the general election. Herbert said that he had met with Republican leaders in Brooklyn, and that they had invited him to take the place of Republican Party district leader Francis Voyticky, who had been on the ballot. Voyticky said that he thought Herbert would be "the better candidate to carry the Republican banner."

Rather than running its own candidate, the Independence Party endorsed Geoffrey Davis, despite the disclosures about his background. Bob Conroy, chair of the Brooklyn Independence Party, said party leaders "feel comfortable that those things took place in the distant past."

Updated August 30, 2003

 

New Face of Brooklyn


The two-mile stretch of Brooklyn waterfront between the Williamsburg and Pulaski Bridges is an industrial area, dominated by warehouses, old buildings, and crumbling concrete. However, if Mayor Michael Bloomberg gets his way, over the next few years the area will be transformed to include parkland, a pedestrian promenade, and even sites for beach volleyball and archery as New York competes for the 2012 Olympic bid. In June, the City Planning Commission introduced a waterfront rezoning plan that will remake the industrial area into a mixed residential, commercial, and recreational area.

But two Democratic candidates running for City Council this fall say residents are primarily concerned about housing.

"Housing is the number one issue in the community," said Juan Martinez, a former president of community school board 14, who is trying to unseat incumbent Councilmember Diana Reyna. In the 2001 Primary, Martinez lost to Reyna by 571 votes.

Martinez said he can only support the mayor's rezoning plan if it includes a significant amount of low cost housing in the area. Councilmember Diana Reyna agrees.

"Rezoning will have to be used as a catalyst for affordable housing," Reyna said. Although she generally supports the plan, she said that the city must be careful to "create a mixed environment and not promote segregation based on economic situation."

The mayor's plan does include housing - including some for low- and middle-income residents - but much of what will be built will be rented and sold at market rate. Some residents fear that the rezoning will bring more gentrification in the district, which has already seen an influx of young and more affluent residents in recent years.

"No portion of any new housing structures going up in the area right now is affordable," Martinez said. "They are fancy co-op condos and $2,000 lofts that the folks who already live here can not afford."

A group of leaders from community groups Los Sures and St. Nicholas Preservation Group have formed a coalition called Mobilization Against Displacement (MAD) that calls on the city to require at least 40 percent of the new housing to be affordable housing. The mayor's response has been to offer incentives to private developers to create affordable housing, but community advocates say this is not enough.

Councilmember Reyna, who sits on the housing committee of the City Council, feels that her experience on the council will help in working with the mayor as the plan moves ahead. Reyna also said she has been willing to vote with the interests of the community in the past even when it means going against the mayor and the City Council Speaker; last year, she was just one of a dozen council members to vote against the city's 421-A program that gives incentives to developers, because she felt it did not adequately target areas outside of Manhattan.

Education is another critical issue in district 34, which includes the neighborhoods of Bushwick and Ridgewood, Queens.

Martinez, who has worked as a family worker, teacher, and president of the community school board, said he has the background to help parents and teachers negotiate Mayor Bloomberg's reformed education system. This past year, he said, community school board district 14 was the most improved district in the city. Martinez also led an effort in the area to keep community school district offices open and said he remains "guarded, concerned, and vigilant" about the mayor's new plan.

Martinez also challenges the incumbent's record on education. "She has not delivered for the community," Martinez said. "We have seen reduced day-camps and have not seen any additional funding under her tenure."

Councilmember Reyna defends her record and said as a member of the council she fought to keep education cuts to a minimum and made the tough choice to raise taxes in order to keep the school system and other social, senior, and parks programs running during the fiscal crisis. Martinez said he would have voted against both the property tax increase and sales tax increase that Reyna approved.

The race between Diana Reyna and Juan Martinez is also a campaign between rival Democratic factions in Brooklyn. Reyna is a former aide to Assemblyman Vito Lopez. Martinez has the backing of Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez.

Also this year when all of the City Council district lines were redrawn to reflect population changes in the 2000 census, district 34 changed significantly as part of Ridgewood, Queens and approximately 20,000 residents from the area were added to the Brooklyn district.

Many residents of Ridgewood are concerned about the change, arguing that it will create racial divides in the neighborhood as a largely Hispanic section is politically separated from the rest of the area. Residents also fear that politicians and the press will overlook their concerns. "The Queens newspapers are not covering the district 34 race because they see it as a Brooklyn issue," said Queens Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, who is backing Martinez.

Diana Reyna said she has reached out to community groups in the Ridgewood area and looks forward to representing them if reelected. Juan Martinez, who testified against the redistricting change and has a campaign office in the area, recently won support from the Ridgewood Democratic Club.

Cesar Estevez, a Conservative candidate, could not be reached for an interview.

Posted July 28, 2003

Campaign Update:

A trip that Councilmember Diana Reyna took to Trinidad earlier this year and a photo from the trip has become a focus of a bitter campaign.

Shortly after returning from the privately funded trip, a photo of Reyna in a Carnival parade costume appeared in local newspapers. Recently a campaign flyer, showing the picture of the council member with a bulls eye and the words "Target Reyna," was circulated at a housing project. Reyna filed a complaint with the police. A campaign worker for Juan Martinez said he was not aware of the flyer.

Martinez has a slight advantage in fundraising with $95,085 in contributions and matching funds. Reyna has raised $76,955 in contributions and matching funds.

Updated August 29, 2003

 

Handling the City's Trash


The Queens neighborhoods of St. Albans, Hollis, and Cambria Heights have a distinctly suburban appearance with single-family homes, lawns, and quiet, well-kept streets. However, these seemingly pleasant, middle-class African-American neighborhoods are also home to much of the borough's garbage.

Six of the county's 20 waste transfer stations - temporary dumps where trash is collected and repackaged before being shipped out to land-fills – are located here, some just a few hundred feet from homes. Thousands of tons of garbage are transported through the area every week and residents complain about odors, rodents, and dust.

For an elected official representing the areas in the City Council - or for a challenger trying to win the seat - trash is a major campaign issue.

"Our district is over-saturated with these sites," said Councilmember Leroy Comrie, who was elected to represent district 27 two years ago. "I have been very active in protesting their proposed expansion in my district."

Helen Cooper-Gregory, a lawyer and one of two Democratic challengers seeking Comrie's council seat, goes further than opposing their expansion; she wants them shut down. "These sites should not be located where they are in the first place," said Cooper-Gregory. "If zoning laws were enforced properly, this would never have happened."

But getting rid of the transfer stations is a difficult proposition, another lawyer and Democratic challenger, Stephen Jackson, admitted. "It's a problem of 'not in my backyard,'" he said. "While it is very easy to say we do not want these dumpsites, it is undeniable that they must exist somewhere." Jackson advocates for extensive community involvement in monitoring the environmental and safety conditions of the dumpsites.

The trash issue also highlights a challenge that faces every City Council member - balancing time and responsibilities at City Hall and the concerns of voters in the district.

Since taking office, Comrie has become an influential part of the council, serving as the head of the Queens delegation and Democratic Majority Whip, working closely with Council Speaker Gifford Miller. His challengers claim that the incumbent's attention is focused too much on citywide issues and not on things like the garbage sites.

Another key example, charged Cooper-Gregory, was the property tax hike of 18.5 percent, which the council passed in November 2002. The bill to raise the tax passed through the City Council in just 11 days, and she said, Comrie did not hold a town hall meeting for citizens to voice their opinions and for officials to explain why it was needed.

Cooper-Gregory said she would have tried to seek a lower increase; Jackson said he would have voted against the property tax increase. Comrie defends his vote on the property tax hike saying it enabled the council to preserve recycling, police, fire, and after-school programs and other services that would have otherwise been cut. "It had to be done in order to generate revenue necessary to keep public services functioning within our district," he said.

While the candidates may not agree on the issue of taxes, they all agree that education is a top priority.

Comrie sees a greater need to engage parents in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's reform of the education system. "The new system is complex, and parents must become involved for it to succeed," he said.

Jackson agreed, adding that a council member must demonstrate "proactive, aggressive leadership" for the system to work. Cooper-Gregory pointed to funding as the primary challenge, and advocates increasing the budget for school supplies and teacher training.

All three candidates running in 2003 faced off two years ago in the 2001 primary. In a tight race, Comrie came out ahead of Cooper-Gregory by just 177 votes.

Predicting the outcome of any council race is always difficult and in 2001, the polls were particularly skewed. Jackson went to bed on primary night after the television station NY1 reported he had a 4 percent lead. He woke up the next morning to find he had lost by more than 3,000 votes and finished fifth out of six candidates. Jackson filed a lawsuit to look into the election results, but later withdrew his case to focus on running again.

Posted July 28, 2003

Campaign Update:

Stephen C. Jackson was removed from the ballot by the Board of Elections in late July. This leaves the incumbent Leroy Comrie running against his main 2001 opponent, Helen Cooper-Gregory. Comrie, however, has the financial edge, having raised $133,057 in campaign funds to Cooper-Gregory's $34,684.

Updated August 29, 2003

 



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