Tuesday is Primary Day in New York City, and the Democratic race for mayor is going to be a straightforward popularity contest rather than an ideas-driven fight. I looked through the Board of Elections’ Voters Guide and discovered that all of the candidates want better schools, safer streets and affordable housing. This does distinguish them from the Republicans, who have said they oppose kittens, but it does little to create distinctions among them. So, I did a bit of digging and found that there just aren’t that many distinctions beyond nuanced priority differences.
Christine Quinn is Bloomberg’s preferred successor. She was part of the cabal that repealed the term-limits referendum that would have denied Mr. Bloomberg a third term — she got to be Speaker of the City Council a bit longer in exchange. She has the endorsements of the Times, Post and Daily News. She is a lesbian, and a few years ago, that might have been edgy. Mercifully, now it isn’t — hell, the mayor of Houston, Texas, Annise Parker is a lesbian. Christine wants to improve police-community relations, creating jobs and changing the focus of the school system to job-preparedness rather than teaching to the test. As a sign of her technophilia, she says, “You can download my Ideas App on your smartphone to see all of my ideas and full vision for the city.” At least, I am not afraid of her App as I would be of Anthony’s.
A final point on Christine. I got handed a nicely printed, four-color hand bill on really good paper yesterday by a man in Forest Hills who backed “Anybody but Quinn.” The group behind it is New York City is Not For Sale 2013 (NYCN4S 2013). Its website says it “was founded by three prominent New Yorkers: CWA 1180 President Arthur Cheliotes, NYCLASS President Steve Nislick, and Political Activist Wendy Neu.”
The Communications Workers of America 1180 backs John Liu. NYCLASS is an animal rights group that has clashed with Quinn over carriage horses in Central Park. And Wendy Neu is CEO of Huge Neu, which recycles electronics. Her 80-year-old mother died of pneumonia in 2010 and had Quinn not sacrificed St. Vincent’s Hospital, which was near her mom’s home, the trip to an East Side facility would not have been necessary. Whether the extra distance contributed to the passing of the woman I don’t now.
Bill Thompson is the guy who lost to Bloomberg in the last mayor’s race. That doesn’t really make him a winner in my mind. He spent eight years as city comptroller, and he used to be president of the Board of Education. He favors better schools (who wants worse schools?) and a schools-to-jobs program, which would be great if there were jobs high school grads could get these days. And jobs don’t come from the mayor’s office so much as they do from the offices of the Federal Reserve and US Treasury. Bill also has a bad habit of debunking the grandstanding positions of others. Another candidate wants to tax the rich a bit more to pay for pre-K and after-school programs. It’s a real crowd pleaser, and Bill pointed out that it would require action in Albany (which won’t happen). The logical response from voters should be “Hey, Bill, thanks for pointing that out.” What he’s getting is “Don’t rain on our populist parade, Bill.”
Bill de Blasio
The other Bill in the race is Bill de Blasio and he’s the guy whose plan Thompson dumped on. He is currently Public Advocate, which means he is next in line should something happen to Bloomberg. His campaign has been about “fighting” for the middle class, working class and poor. I’d rather he “deliver” for us, but fighting means he’s allowed to fail. He wants to end stop and frisk. Well, not exactly. If you read his material, he wants to end stop-and-frisk that profiles racial minorities. That is slightly different. If we are all stopped and frisked all the time, I guess he thinks it would be OK.
This Bill has taken some of the support away from the other Bill in the black community. De Blasio’s spouse is a black woman, and his two children have appeared at events with him. Indeed, his son sports one of the best afros I have seen since the American Basketball Association’s heyday in the 1970s. Race still matters in New York City politics, and Bloomberg this weekend complained that de Blasio was injecting race into the campaign. Most have pooh-poohed the idea, but I think Fearless Leader is onto something here. This is a sign of just how crafty de Blasio is. Imagine having the foresight to marry a black woman 20 years ago just so he could parade biracial children for the cameras during the second term of America’s first black president. Are there no limits to this man’s political calculations?
Which brings us to Anthony Weiner. Here is the great conundrum for me. I live in his old congressional district. He was not bad at constituent services. He certainly is left-of-center. However, I probably wouldn’t give him a character reference either. He has written two books of ideas for the city. I haven’t read them, not because I think I would be bored, but I am afraid they might be illustrated. I’ve seen enough of Anthony’s pictures. His TV ads are rather good, but when he is shaking hands in public, he’s as likely to yell at voters as woo them.
John Liu is currently the city’s comptroller — the job Eliot Spitzer now wants. John’s a highly regarded accountant, and he’s the product of New York public schools from kindergarten to college. He likes community policing, hates stop-and-frisk. He believes education is the best long-term investment we can make, and he wants to create sustainable economic growth for the city. He would “ eliminate big corporate giveaways, help grow small businesses/entrepreneurship, and fund youth development and job training programs. Let’s reform our personal income tax rates to be fairer so that those who make over $500,000 annually pay slightly higher rates, while those below get a reduction in their tax bill.” Alas, a former campaign aide and a fundraiser of his have been convicted on charges related to wire fraud to circumvent the campaign finance limits. John has always denied any knowledge of the matter. I believe him. Nixon didn’t know about the Watergate burglary either.
Of course there are more people on the ballot than those five. But even among political hacks, the percentage able to name all nine candidates is probably in the low single digits. And there are two reasons for this. First, the bottom four are poorly funded and organized, which in theory suggests they would be lousy as mayor. Second, though, is that any good idea they have that threatens the status quo can be ignored as a crackpot’s idea. Democracy is a Three-Card Monte game. You may vote for acceptable choices only. Please ignore the candidacies and ideas of the following names.
Sal Albanese, for instance, was endorsed by the Uniformed Firefighters Association. He represented Brooklyn on the city council from 1982 to 1997. He’s currently Managing Director of Mesirow Financial. His big claim to fame was passing the NYC Living Wage Bill some years back. He’d like to consolidate educational programs like Head Start and Universal Pre-K under a single agency. He wants 3,800 more cops, and to reform stop-and-frisk with better training at the police academy. He wants to change the tolling formula so all five boroughs are treated fairly. Plausible ideas all, and worthy of debate. But since Sal mentioned them, they aren’t taken all that seriously. Sal’s big crime is simple — he’s been out of politics for too long.
Then there is Erick Salgado, a minister and radio personality. He wants to end ticket quotas for police officers and to increase the number of parking spaces (paving over Central Park perhaps?). He believes that those who litter should be fined, not the property owner where the litter lies. He favors increased parental participation in education. He is, in short, lacking specifics, but were he to participate in the debates, he might have communicated them to the public or maybe developed his ideas more.
Neil Vincent Grimaldi
Neil Vincent Grimaldi is also a man of faith, or in his words, “an interfaith reverend and religious person.” He describes his mission as one to develop “a holistic education system and a character-emphasis development educational system that includes all views of god and teaches spiritual individual development, self love and inner happiness.” He’s not exactly my cup of tea, but I’d love to hear the other candidates actually address these issues — if would be good for a laugh at the very least.
And speaking of laughter, political satirist and activist Randy Credico is also running for mayor as a Democrat. He wants to tax the top 1% more and the lower 99% less, establish free health care and college education for NYC residents, get rid of subway and bus fares, repeal the smoking ban and cabaret laws, and fire Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Some of this sounds good, some sounds silly, but we haven’t heard anything about it because the one thing that the other candidates and the political establishment cannot handle is the kind of mockery that is Randy’s profession. Politicians can handle anything but mockery — ask Sarah Palin about Tina Fey.
So, there you have it, a mixed bag to be sure. For whom will I vote (I am a registered Democrat for reasons of pure political calculation)? I haven’t the foggiest. After all this research, I possess more uncertainty than before I started.
Check out our Guide to the NYC Public Advocate Primary.