Just Can’t Seem To Level The Playing Field
We are dependent –
dependent on an awful lot of things.
But for me, and many of us,
it’s our computers – they rule us.
Nothing was clearer than
when on Saturday morning, Allison called to me and said, “The fan
No, she wasn’t talking
about the central air conditioning system – she was speaking about my
computer’s power supply unit.
Allison has her own computer
but my high-speed DSL connection is the reason she borrows mine whenever
I’m not on it.
By the time I rebooted, it
was clear that the power supply unit was toast – needed to be replaced.
Now, I probably could have done it myself: take the computer apart; remove
the old, conveniently-located unit; go shopping for a new one; install it;
Well, the computer needed
some other upgrading and I quickly decided to leave the work to the Trib’s
skilled consultant, John Leo.
However, my zip disk with
many of the files I had to work on was in my computer’s zip drive and
unaccessible without power. I could go back to the office, copy the files
onto another disk or disks and come back home and work on my laptop.
In order to do this, my
laptop needed some work – it wasn’t just a matter of taking it out and
turning it on. I had to hook up –through a complicated maze of port
connectors and cables – a cd-rom drive, a zip drive, install my new
printer and DSL modem hardware and software, before I could do my weekend
I was cursing . . . quietly.
I had a lot of weekend work
– more than usual due to the glossy anniversary retrospective we
published last week. As a matter of fact, I had brought home three 100 meg
zip disks filled with files to work on.
I had dummied the Trib
Friday night and forwarded the electronic files to editorial and sales. I
had to write and layout this column, edit and compose QConfidential,
and – due to staff changes – select, edit, and lay out a PressPix and
two TripPix pages...all deadline work due Monday morning. I sure do
my best to keep the entire shop on schedule.
I also spend weekend time on
my computer doing non-editorial business work which piled up since the
previous week’s special kept me at the office for many more hours than
usual. I also had my own personal stuff to take care of.
I was not happy.
And to make matters worse,
Lil reminded me that I had promised to scan photos of her nursery school
class and prepare and print individualized photo canvases for their artist
What to do?
I turned on the laptop and
started writing what you are reading. It required nothing more than a
flick of a switch. I put off any decision on how to proceed with all the
other tasks at hand.
The notes for the rest of my
column were online, on the unaccessible zip disk and at the office. This
was as far as I could go without facing cables, ports, drives and
I couldn’t get through the
weekend without my computer.
I can’t get through a day
without my computer.
How did this ever happen?
When did it all change?
Is it good or terrible?
When did I become dependent
on e-mail? When did paper give way to electronic files? When did my
weekend workload fit on a storage device smaller than a wallet? And I was
shopping for newer smaller hoohahs.
It doesn’t really matter.
It happened and I’m hooked. I am a computer junkie.
My personal finances, my
hobbies, my writing, my work, my business, my life seems a bit too
dependent upon the flow of information in and out of the computer box.
Welcome to the 21st century.
Now I have to do some work.
The four-to-one campaign
finance match has not worked.
We’ve spent considerable
time talking about leveling the playing field: creating a set of
circumstances where aspiring office holders could challenge incumbents and
be seriously competitive. One certain way of holding elected officials
accountable is to give them a race on election day. Enabling an energetic
wannabe to enter the game on relatively equal footing would, the theory
went, attract quality people and insure challenges. This would accrue to
everyone’s benefit providing for periodic review of elected officials
— at the ballot box.
In New York City, where
historically the incumbent has been almost always returned to office, it
seemed once elected, always reelected. And quality of performance
suffered. I write of legislative positions: City Council, Assembly,
The only way to get someone
out of office in our borough – or our City – seemed to be death or
indictment... and indictment didn’t always work.
Big money, name recognition
and the perks – staff and mailings
– that came with holding office presented an absolutely
insurmountable obstacle for challengers.
Then they started to slowly
eat away at those advantages – or so we thought.
Using staff on campaigns
during working hours was illegal – but enforcement is a different story.
Official bulk mailings were limited as Election Day approached. Good
government groups and some newspapers started printing and distributing
materials providing equal coverage and balance between incumbents and
Still Election Day meant all
incumbents go back to office – year after year, election after election
– good, bad or ugly.
Along came some very smart
legal crafters and created a new wrinkle to level the playing field for
the City Council – no we’re not talking term limits. They created a
publicly funded election system where if you followed the rules and raised
a reasonable amount of money from City residents, you get lots of money to
run your campaign. Your expenses are capped as are your opponent’s. And
in the last City Council race, just about everybody participated in the
Campaign Finance Program and just about all candidates had a fair shot at
spending roughly the same amount of money.
Bravo! The playing field was
certainly more equal – or was it?
It doesn’t seem to be the
case in this year’s upcoming Council election.
Normally, freshmen — as
are all 14 Queens Council members — would receive serious challenges in
their first test. With a generous four-to-one match they should be coming
out of the woodwork to run for office.
Last week, the filing
deadline for matching funds passed. A quick perusal of the list files
reveals the likelihood of: three seats with no race (Districts 25, 29,
30); five seats with nominal races (20, 22, 23, 26, 27, 32); minor
contests in two (19, 21); one slightly more than minor contest (24); and
one real interesting race (28); and one where the incumbent is the
No, Councilmember Allan
Jennings – who has become known for his bizarre behavior – is not the
underdog. Jennings – who is being opposed for reelection by the Queens
County Democratic organization – is however a hard worker, knows the
political game and right now has five opponents. With five opponents or
any more than one, Allan will waltz back to City Hall (can’t you picture
it?). Look for the County Dems to try to knock everyone, but their
designated candidate – Yvonne Reddick, District Manager of Community
Board 12 – off the ballot. But even if County helps Reddick raise money,
knocks the other challengers off the ballots, and exposes Jennings bizarre
behavior including his domestic disaster, we believe Jennings will outwork
Reddick. It will take more than Reddick has shown so far to beat this
So who is the underdog
According to the Campaign
Finance Board, Councilmember James Sanders has failed to file for matching
funds. The deadline has passed. His two challengers did file. One –
James Blake – who also ran last time, beat the organization’s
candidate last year to become a Democratic District Leader ousting a
longtime incumbent. Blake is a bright, sophisticated organizer. Unless
Sanders can raise over $150,000, expect him to be outspent by Blake who
could receive a 5-to-1 money match, according to CFB rules.
Sanders did not return calls
and his office had no comment as to why he did not file. Certainly, one
should never count the incumbent out. But failure to file here was the
worst mistake of the political year. Consider the challenger Blake, the
In the 19th, Democratic
incumbent Tony Avella faces a minor challenge from old-time Repub
candidate Phil Ragusa in an area where the GOP can win.
In the 20th, John Liu has an
easy race with three challengers — one named Jay Liu. The confusion game
isn’t going to work. Now if it were JLo....
Hiram Monserrate will be
slightly tested by Eric Ruano-Melendez in the 21st.
In a Jewish district, Jim
Gennaro has two Jewish opponents in a seat he worked hard to win against
two Jewish challengers. There is no reason to believe the race won’t be
easier for Gennaro this time out.
Eric Gioia’s (26th)
potential race disappeared when Joe Conley dropped out to spend time
attending the Virginia trial of his father’s accused murderer.
Leroy Comrie (27th) will
have it easier in a four-person field this time out.
Peter Vallone, Jr. (22nd),
David Weprin (23rd), Helen
Sears (25th), Melinda Katz (29th), Dennis Gallagher (30th), Joe Addabbo,
Jr. (32nd) all have little or no race.
The Dems didn’t even try
to challenge the lone Republican member Gallagher. Another case of live
and let live. Hmmm!
We’re lucky that most of
the incumbents are fine public servants.
Otherwise, it seems all we
could do is wait for term limits.
by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com
Click Here For The Not 4 Publication Archives