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The Nod of the Bosses... Scramble for the City Council... Basic Training for Council Recruits... How They Stack up on Term Limit... Dynasties... The Speech that Saved Term Limits...


What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a guide to the political races in what many are calling New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history.

What is so significant about it?
For the first time in memory, most political offices in the city will be wide open to people who have neither money nor connections.

Why will the races be so open?
There are two reasons. This year, a new law goes into effect that limits the terms of New York City elected officials, forcing the mass retirement of most incumbents in the city - including the mayor, the comptroller, the public advocate, four of the five borough presidents, and 36 of the 51 members of the City Council. At the same time, a new campaign finance law kicks in, which allows any candidate who agrees to certain restrictions to collect four dollars of matching funds for every dollar they raise.

What does this have to do with this site?
As a public service, Searchlight on Campaign 2001 has a separate page for each race, including all the races for City Council, that not only sorts out the candidates -- many of them new and unfamiliar -- but also offers an opportunity to learn about the issues, and the districts themselves.

Who is behind Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a project of Gotham Gazette, a non-profit, non-partisan, non-ideological (but non-boring) web site about New York City news, policy and politics published by Citizens Union Foundation, part of the oldest and largest good-government group in the city (founded in 1897).

What's wrong with the way the regular press covers the races?
That is for you to decide. And one of our regular features, Campaign Trail, helps you to decide. Campaign Trail provides succinct summaries and links to campaign articles in the commercial press.

Who are we?


Peter Vallone's response to questions about children's issues

1. Child Welfare:

Q: Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta has indicated that he would like to continue as head of the Administration for Children's Services - but only if he has the trust and support of the new mayor that he currently enjoys. He views his cabinet-level access to the mayor as crucial and argues that ACS must be given permanent status under the city charter, separate from HRA. Will you ask Scoppetta to stay on to head ACS? Do you support Intro 770, the city council bill that would establish ACS as a permanent agency under the city charter?

A: I believe that ACS is critical to the City and thus the ACS Commissioner will play a central role in my administration. Therefore, I would only appoint a Commissioner of ACS that had my full support. Commissioner Scoppetta is on my short list of contenders for the job, but before I make a decision about who would occupy that very important post, I would first meet with experts, advocates and union members to hear their feedback and ideas.

The City Council is currently considering Intro. 770. There are many concerns that have been raised about making ACS a permanent agency including decisions about which responsibilities, currently administered by ACS, might be within HRA's purview. In addition, we must ensure that concerns of the professional staff, reporting requirement issues and other concerns of the advocate community are considered and resolved before the legislation could move forward.

2. Child Care:

Q: The city provides subsidized child care for roughly 100,000 low-income children. Many people say a crisis in supply remains, even though there has been a significant expansion of funding: there are still 38,000 children on the city's waiting list and 38,000 children in temporary, informal, care subsidized by HRA's Office of Employment Services. There are also tens of thousands of low-income children in families that earn too much to qualify for child care subsidies and too little to pay for adequate child care. Will your administration increase capacity in regulated care and/or in informal care? Do you envision changing the current configuration of slots among the different types of care?

A: Currently there is an enormous unmet need for subsidized childcare in New York City. As Speaker of the New York City Council I have fought to expand and improve childcare. In Fiscal Year 1999, I was successful in increasing the budget for subsidized care by $13 million, and in fiscal year 2001, the Council allocated $25 million in capital funds for childcare facilities. The latest budget passed by the City Council includes a new New York City Child Care tax credit that will help parents meet the costs of childcare. This tax credit amounts to 40% of the New York State childcare credit, and it will provide hundreds of dollars of financial assistance for families with child care expenses.

As Mayor, I will work to increase the capacity of both center-based and informal care slots, as those options seem most workable for families.

We must make sure that all childcare provided is of the highest quality. That means putting funding into the centers and informal care networks, and merely adding slots. We also need to educate parents about their options so they can make the best choice for their children. Given that HRA has dramatically reduced its caseload in recent years, there are many children who are no longer eligible for childcare subsidizes through HRA, but who still need care. We must work to make sure that these children and their families are enrolled in other programs for which they are eligible. The City must allocate resources into programs where the demand is high and where families meet eligibility in order to ensure that childcare is provided to families in need.

3. Juvenile Justice:

Q: As part of its campaign to improve the city's quality of life, the Giuliani administration increased the number of youth officers at each police precinct and increased the number of juvenile reports issued by police substantially - both for misdemeanors and less serious offences. In 1993, police issued 29,100 juvenile reports. In 1997, the number was 104,000. What will become of the Giuliani administration's quality of life policing practices, especially in the area of juvenile crime? Will your administration reverse or continue the administration's juvenile detention policies?

A: Recently, it has been reported that juvenile crime is on the rise. As a City we need to address this problem, both by increasing prevention and by giving youth who get into trouble, the services and attention they need. In the early 1990's, then Mayor David Dinkins and I initiated the Safe Streets, Safe City program to combat New York City's high crime rate. The program used a dedicated tax to provide almost $1.7 billion over 5 years to expand the NYPD and to fund a variety of law enforcement-related and youth-centered services and programs. The youth components of the program sought to address and prevent youth crime, drug use and delinquency. I believe we would be more successful if we attacked juvenile crime through preventative measures and not solely by punishment. It is our obligation to help youth offenders get back on the right track. This is not done by sending them to jail for long periods of time or by putting them in adult facilities, but instead by offering them a means of rehabilitation, opportunity and hope. This means providing juveniles with drug treatment, violence management and education where needed to help get them back on track.

4. Welfare Reform I:

Q: Since April 1996 the number of welfare recipients in New York City has fallen dramatically, from 1,022,000 to 512,031. In 1998, the Giuliani administration began converting welfare offices into Job Centers, which incorporate job readiness activities into the application for welfare benefits. What will become of the Job Centers under your administration and the policies they enforce such as the fraud detection initiatives and the penalties for non-compliance with program components?

A: During the current administration, New York City has implemented a welfare program that has focused largely on reducing caseload by uncovering welfare fraud and pushing individuals to find work. They have been successful at reducing caseloads. However, recent indicators such as the record high level of homelessness and hunger, demonstrate that even though the welfare caseload number may be down, there are still people who are in dire need of assistance. While reducing and preventing fraud is important, we must remember that reducing poverty should be the true goal of welfare policy. We must focus our efforts on attacking poverty, not individuals or families.

I believe that individuals who can work should work. However, I also believe that people in the welfare-to-work system need actual assistance and job-skill building so that they can break the cycle of dependence. That's why I passed a Transitional Jobs law, which was heralded by the New York Times for its creative approach to welfare reform. Now that welfare centers have been converted into job centers, they are responsible for detecting fraud, verifying eligibility, and determining compliance with programs. However, we cannot allow that these functions be the only focus of these job centers. Our job centers need to work better with individuals and families to determine what barriers they may have to finding and retaining employment and then find solutions to those barriers. I believe that job readiness development is the key to a welfare policy that results in self-sufficiency, and therefore must be central to the mandate of the job centers. Skills development is especially crucial when trying to find work for those who are hard to employ or who have limited education and skills. We need to strike a balance between job placement and skills development needed for successful, long-term employment.

5. Welfare Reform II:

Q: On Dec. 31, 2001, tens of thousands of New Yorkers will reach the five year lifetime limit on federal welfare benefits. There is not an agreement on the number of people who will actually reach the limit that day. Jason Turner estimates the number to be 38,000 people; the Independent Budget Office, using state figures, estimates it to be 100,000. The program that will replace TANF for those recipients, the state's Safety Net program, appears to require an increased investment of city funds and a substantial bureaucratic operation.Will you have a system for delivering tens of thousands of new non-cash benefits in place on December 3'st? Will you automatically enroll welfare leavers in the Safety Net program or enact the Giuliani administration's plan to encourage them to move toward self-sufficiency by requiring them to reapply for Safety Net benefits?

A: The New York State Constitution requires us to provide for the poor and needy, and therefore the State is setting up the Safety Net Assistance-Non Cash program to provide non-cash benefits to people who become ineligible for welfare. As people begin to reach the five-year federal lifetime limit for welfare benefits, the City faces an enormous challenge, especially because the people who are still receiving welfare benefits require more intensive training and support services. The City will be called upon to implement the program, and we must make sure this is done fairly. Under my leadership as Speaker, the City Council has actively conducted oversight of HRA and its policies in attempt to make sure that a satisfactory program is created. In fact, it was during one of our hearings that the Administration made public its plan to require a new application process for the Safety Net Program, a policy with which I disagree. I am committed to making sure the transition from the old program to new be seamless and that applicants are automatically transferred without having to reapply. While we all want to encourage people to leave public assistance and become self sufficient, we cannot allow children to go hungry because of confusion in the switchover process. During the remaining months in my tenure as Speaker, I will work diligently to ensure that on December 31, 2001 a system is in place to deliver benefits to those in need. I will make sure that that the five-year federal limit on benefits does not leave people in need without a safety net.


Back to NYC Issues 2001: Children

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Find what city council district you are in -- and learn more about what's going on there, and who's running.

What is this?
Gotham Gazette's Searchlight on Campaign 2001 offers a comprehensive look at what is being called New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history. (See the left-hand column for an explanation).

Districts of the Week

District 1 -- Lower Manhattan
Whoever wins the election in district 1 will represent immigrant Chinese garment workers, as well as Wall Street traders living in Battery Park City. There are several candidates hoping to be the council's firsts -- the first Asian-American man, the first Asian-American woman, the first gay Rhodes Scholar, the first dot-com guru -- running against some politically well connected opponents. Endorsements and fundraising will play a big role in this race. But voter turnout could be the main determinant of who will next represent district 1 on the council. The key question is how many voters from each community will come out on Election Day.

District 7 -- Washington Heights, Manhattan
The northern tip of Manhattan has become one of the most popular places for new immigrants to call home. The northern tip of Manhattan is a place that today's new immigrants call home. The majority have come from the Dominican Republic, but also from countries in South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia. But it is not just new immigrants that are moving in. Students, artists, and other Manhattanites looking for less expensive rents and larger apartments have also moved north. Ten Democratic candidates are competing for the 15,000 voters expected on primary day. The winner who emerges from a crowded field of candidates will have to balance the needs of the newcomers with those who have lived there for years.

District 16 -- Highbridge, Bronx
The neighborhoods of district 16 are the city's poorest, with the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest median household income. But those who live there also point out that much is positive and stable about the area, thanks in large part to local organizations, not-for-profit agencies, and houses of worship that help hold the neighborhoods together. Each candidate for City Council believes that through his or her connections to churches and local organizations, they can help empower the community toward a better life. Helen Foster, the current council member daughter, will face Michael Benjamin, who has worked as an aide to several government officials and Anthony Curry, a Bronx neighborhood activist.

District 20 -- Northeast Flushing, Queens
This year district 20 may elect the first Asian-American ever to the City Council to an area which now has the second highest number of immigrants from Korea and Taiwan in the city. There are three Asian candidates in the Democratic race who have each drawn big endorsements. Council Speaker Peter Vallone endorsed Terence Park, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi endorsed John Liu, and the New York Times recently endorsed Ethel Chen The campaign has also drawn national and international press coverage

District 25 -- Jackson Heights, Queens
Thirty-seventh Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of the most diverse streets in the world. Little India quickly blends into Little Colombia, with vendors selling Latin American food to Colombians, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and Uruguayans. And each summer, the Queens Pride Parade fills the same street with rainbow banners. So it is no surprise that this election year the district produced a diverse field of candidates. A number of them, however, found out that getting on the ballot is not an easy task, especially when the Queens Democratic organization sends teams of lawyers to challenge petitions. But five Democratic candidates survived and will face off on September 11.

District 31 -- South East Queens
When a heavy rain hits southeast Queens, many residents in neighborhoods like Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale head to the basement with a bucket in hand. And it has been that way for the last 50 years. In the rush to build housing in the area after World War II, developers overlooked the need for storm drains in hopes that the city would eventually build a city-wide sewer system. The plan never materialized and the area has experienced "100-year rains" three times in the last decade. The eight Democrats -- all with little experience overseeing massive infrastructure projects--will try to convince voters that they can finally solve the flooding problems.

District 35 -- Central Brooklyn
The residents in council district 35 have some of the highest incomes in Brooklyn and some of the lowest. They can play in a famous park and a beautiful botanical garden, and live in the city's most crumbling public housing. They can attend one of the four institutions of higher learning in the district, and the worst-scoring high schools in the city. Such juxtapositions are a way of life for a district that includes the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; mid dle-class African-American communities near Prospect Park; immigrant communities from Haiti, Sierra Leon, Nigeria, and Trinidad, and in Crown Heights, a mix of Hasidic Jews and African-Americans. Seven Democratic candidates are campaigning in hopes that they can bring some kind of unity, and attention, to the area. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the neighborhoods themselves.

District 39 -- Park Slope/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
The candidates in district 39 include a chief of staff for an Assemblywoman, the husband of a member of U.S. Congress, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, an attorney and president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, the district manager of Community Board 6, and a labor organizer. This is the race to watch this year. The group of high-profile Democrats have raised a lot of money, almost $1.4 million combined.

District 45 -- East Flatbush
In no place in the city are the effects of campaign finance reform and term limits being felt more than in East Flatbush. The seven Democratic candidates seeking to represent this largely West Indian district come from a number of Caribbean nations. Many have been working on politicians' staffs and serving with community groups, clearly hoping someday to win their own elected office. Term limits has presented them with that opportunity, and they want to make the most of it. But this race that usually draws only about 8,000 voters could be decided by just a few votes. The candidates are attempting to come up with anything that will separate them from the pack.

District 49 -- North Shore, Staten Island
Staten Island has always been somewhat of a suburban stepchild to New York City. When a 1998 survey asked New Yorkers why they go to Staten Island, the top two responses were ''visiting friends and relatives" and ''passing through.'' But in many ways, the north shore has more in common with areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn than with the rest of the Staten Island. The top priority for all the candidates -- Jon Del Giorno, an administrative manager for the Board of Elections, Mike McMahon, an attorney and counsel to current Councilmember Jerome O'Donovan, and Debi Rose, an administrator at the College of Staten Island and the first African-American candidate in Staten Island politics -- is to make sure that the island becomes more than just a turn-around-point for the over one million tourists who ride the free ferry from Manhattan each year.

Register To Vote or Be A Poll Worker

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

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

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Poll Worker Applications

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

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Links You Can Use

Government sites
NYC Campaign Finance Bd.
NYC Board of Elections
NYC Voter Assistance Comm.
NY City Council
Federal Election Comm.

Local non-partisan sites
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

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

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart


Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

Gotham Gazette
The Empire Page
Campaigns and Elections
Legislative Gazette

Political columnists
Andrea Bernstein
Joe Conason
Mario Cuomo (radio)
Rudy Giuliani (radio)
Clyde Haberman
Nat Hentoff

Joseph Mercurio
Joyce Purnick
John Tierney
Michael Tomasky

Political parties
Right to Life
Working Families
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
Central Queens Greens
The Jefferson Democratic Club of Flushing
NY Young Republican Club
Stonewall Democratic Club
Village Independent Dems.

Abbreviations for Party Affiliation

American Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Communist (Com)
Conservative (Con)
Constitution (CST)
Democratic (Dem)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Green (Gre)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Independence (Ind)
Liberal (Lib)
Libertarian (LBT)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Republican (Rep)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)

2001 Election Calendar

June 1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
June 5 - First day for candidates from the eight major parties (Democratic, Republican, Indpendence, Conservative, Liberal, Green, Working Families, and Right to Life) to circulate petitions. Candidates running for City Council must collect the signatures of at least 900 people living in the district for which they are running in order to appear on the Primary ballot. Candidates not running under these eight major parties do not appear on the Primary ballot and have a separate set of deadlines.
July 12 - Deadline for major party candidates to file petitions.
July 10 - First day for unaffiliated candidates to circulate petitions, in order to appear on the ballot in the General Election. They must collect the number of signatures equal to five percent of the total enrolled in that party.
August 7 - Board of Elections announces candidates appearing on the Primary ballot.
August 17 - Last day for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the Primary Election.
August 21 - Deadline for non-major party candidates to file petitions to be included on the General Election ballot.
September 4 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the Primary
September 10 - Last day to personally deliver application for absentee voting in the Primary Last day to postmark absentee ballot for Primary
September 11 - Primary election; Polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m.; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.
September 25 - Runoff Primary election for Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate, if needed
October 12 - Last day to for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the General Election
October 30 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the General Election
November 5 - Last day to hand-deliver an application for absentee voting, or to postmark an absentee ballot for the General Election.
November 6 - General Election; polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m. in NYC; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.

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