Mr. Inside Goes Outside
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
been several months since I first sat down and started interviewing the candidates for
citywide office. I havent met them all yet, but Ive been having the time of my
life trying to get inside the heads of the folks who want to lead this City.
& Michael Schenkler
was mixed reactions with the four Dem Mayoral candidates and then came the Public Advocate
wanabees. And somehow, so far, one after another has made me smile.
Queens political junkie Marsha Livson emails me the other day and asks of my series of
interviews of citywide candidates, is there any one you dont like at
its not a question of like and dislike although that matters to me big-time
its a matter of who is going to best serve the people of our City. And as
Ive said before and probably will keep saying, term limits and four-to-one matching
funds has produced a crop of candidates we can all be comfortable with. There will be time
for me and you to choose which of the field is best. Right now, I want to meet the
candidates and determine if each has what it takes.
spent Thursday afternoon with Scott Stringer, now in his fifth term as an assemblyman from
Stringer is an anomaly.
has played the inside political game better than any of the other public advocate
candidates while championing his independence and willingness to challenge the system.
has demonstrated incredible political skill in building a coalition of some of the most
powerful politicians and political organizations in the City, capturing the support, among
many others, of Queens County Leader Tom Manton and his County Democratic organization.
has built a strong political base relying on the good will of his Assembly colleagues. One
after another of the large NYS Assembly delegation from the City, has fallen behind
Scotts candidacy. Stringer claims it was their urging that got Manton and other
political powerbrokers to back him. It certainly demonstrates the unity of that unique
Albany fraternity, as well as the respect Stringer has earned from his colleagues in his
ten years of serving as a Democratic assemblyman while still maintaining his independence.
is an insider a skilled accomplished political insider.
Stringer is an outsider he shouts his independence and willingness to challenge the
was raised in a political family. As a teenager, he was appointed a member of his
community board. Having Bella Abzug as an aunt can put fight into ones blood. From
the 60s to the 80s, Abzug, the Upper West Sides renegade congresswoman and mayoral
wannabe made this City sit up and take notice of liberal issues of the day. Fighting the
system was the norm for the spirited lady with a large hat.
it has been with Stringer. Although, hes done it as an insider, standing up against
injustice and his willingness to disagree with party leadership were points he emphasized
during our two-hour chat.
not his first words of choice, Scott did describe one of the major roles of the office of
public advocate as Being a pain in the ass as part of the checks and balances of
many of the other candidates we chatted with, Scott is, turned on by the opportunity
to be part of the new government. Term limits and matching funds has created this
chance. While Scott acknowledged the great group of candidates attracted to participate in
the new government, he expressed concern about the power of staff and lobbyists while new
members learned their way.
was super critical of those who attempted to overturn Council term limits without a
referendum, but would like to revisit the entire issue and place it before the voters.
was forceful and critical of the use of public funds for campaign purposes. In the
Assembly, we limit political mail 60 days before the election, said Stringer.
There must be a moratorium on the use of government mail and T.V., said
Stringer. But when asked to name names of violators, he only pointed to the Governor
I pushed the question, he explained, There are 60 days left for me to make the case
for myself, I wont do it on the backs of others.
challenged on the failure of the State legislature to pass a budget on time for the 17th
consecutive year, he insisted that, A fair budget is more important than an on-time
budget, claiming the Governor must take the greatest portion of the blame.
leadership issues in the Assembly have included: domestic violence, AIDS, abortion rights,
affordable housing and ending discrimination.
cites organizing a demonstration against the KKK to illustrate his commitment to community
points to his former boss Jerry Nadler, now West Side congressman, and Claire Shulman as
two of his City political heroes.
website reinforced his concern for the Citys infrastructure, libraries, schools and
a commitment to abolish an antiquated Board of Elections.
is more to the role of public advocate than taking on the powerful, Scott told us.
In addition to being independent, you must build coalitions to accomplish
things. Stringer insisted he was the unique candidate that could achieve both.
was engaging and informed. I enjoyed the afternoon.
we sat and chatted, the election for public advocate seemed to crystallize: With a number
of skilled, competent candidates, would the people of our City best be served by having a
public advocate who plays inside or outside the system? Is the position best suited for
one whose mission it was to be the odd man out the ultimate outsider
committed to watch, monitor and report to the people on the foibles of government? Or is
it in their best interest to find the player who can play within the system and build
Stringer wants to be them both.
for a quality campaign and debate to answer the question and benefit the people of the
Bleaker Side Of The Council Races
candidates registered in the NYC Campaign Finance Board matching fund program for Council.
petitions: 88 Dems, 9 Repubs, 10 Green Pty, Liberals, Conservatives, RTLs. Thats an
average of over eight candidates for each of the 14 Council seats. Now, a large number
might not make it through the petition- challenge process and be removed by the Board of
Elections (or the courts) because of aggressive challenges to their petitions by the
Queens County Democratic Organization.
At the end of the
day, however, expect just under 100 candidates to survive and make the ballot.
Were not going
to use this time and space to rant about the antiquated ballot access rules in our State
where the organizational candidates have great advantage over the grass root candidates
but they do. Its high time New York allowed any of its citizenry to run for
office without making them jump through laborious and technical hoops. Reform is called
for. Reform is demanded.
Well, now that we
didnt rant about reform, lets assume that 98ish candidates or 7 per
seat are left standing. In all likelihood, five of them would be vying for the
Democratic line. Queens is a Democratic borough and with recent Republican scandals, can
be expected to fill seat after seat with the candidate that wins the Democratic
ON THE G.O.P.
As an aside, it is
sad to consider, that the new Council is likely to lose three Republican members from
Queens and wind up with only minority party member(s) from Staten Island. The two party
system is needed to keep the players honest.
But Councilman Tom
Ognibene and his chief of staff Dennis Gallagher, are tainted by an alleged Mickey Mouse
gift-taking scandal from some gangster who claims Ognibene did favors for him with the
Buildings Department. Matters were made worse when the financial records of Christ the
King High School, whose Board of Directors is controlled by GOP County Leader Senator Serf
Maltese and Ognibene, were scooped up by the authorities. Gallagher, who was perceived by
most as the popular Republican successor to Ognibene, seems to be in the middle of every
investigation. He apparently ran a website which sold among other things adult magazines
from rented space inside the Catholic high school.
Then there is GOP
heavyweight, Borough Presidential designee Councilman Al Stabile. Missing Little League
money and scandal seem to stick to big Al. His staff members, JoAnn Ariola and Phil Lutz,
who are competing for the Republican line to replace him, wont be immune from the
stench in big Als dugout.
Finally, clean cut
Mike Abel no we know of nothing (not even rumors) on him has held a seat in
Northeast Queens that is marginally Democratic. Lack of County GOP leadership and funds
and the lack of a big name candidate will likely result in a win for the winner of a hotly
contested Democratic Primary.
Sad, but where we
sit today, the GOP can be expected to choke and give up its three Queens Council seats.
Although, things can
change in the next seven weeks.
Now, we were talking
about almost 100-odd candidates who will fight for the 14 Queens Council seats. Weve
been chasing the candidates for months while shouting how impressive many are.
We are saddened by
how a number of them are quite unimpressive. You see, weve published notices, sent
emails, made phone calls, reached out to consultants, candidates and campaigns. Weve
contacted every name and number we could, to tell Council candidates that we are
publishing bios and statements send them to us.
We published a large
notice many times on this page and elsewhere
in our papers that requested candidates to email us: their bio -- under 200 words; their
photo; the three most important issues facing their district and how they plan to resolve
them under 200 words total.
Well, quite a number
of the candidates, many of whom told us the info was being sent, never got it to us. When
we called back, they said theyd take care of it. Quite a number didnt. There
was a tiny handful that we were unable to contact.
Well friends, time
is up. Shortly, we will name the names and tell those, who couldnt inform our
readers of their bio and basic issues, what we think of them. This is their final notice.
You want to be a legislator? You cant get your material to us in a reasonable time?
Shame on you!
If you cant
answer simple questions in a timely manner, you dont belong in the race for office.
by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com
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