This November, two citywide offices are up for grabs, and several local incumbents are facing Republican challengers at the polls. To give voters a better idea of the men and women vying for their support, we asked each of the candidates to fill out a brief questionnaire explaining their positions and goals in 300 words or less. Responses have been edited for style and clarity.
Manhattan Borough President
Incumbent: Scott Stringer, Democrat
Educational background: I graduated from New York City public schools, including John F. Kennedy High School and John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Qualifications for office: As a lifelong Manhattanite, I am devoted to public service. I served for 13 years in the State Assembly, where I authored legislation to protect victims of domestic violence, led the successful fight to end “empty-seat voting” in Albany and voted against every attempt to weaken rent regulations. As Borough President, I have revitalized Manhattan’s community boards, built coalitions among diverse stakeholders, used the land-use process to tackle issues ranging from affordable housing to school overcrowding, and worked to make Manhattan healthier, greener, safer and more affordable.
Three goals I’d most want to accomplish during my next term: 1) Manhattan’s public schools will top my agenda. Continued progress on public education is essential for the future of our children and our economic vitality. Although English and mathematics test scores have improved, many challenges remain. My work on school overcrowding created new schools and started reforming the city’s planning process for school construction to prepare for the likely addition of a million residents in the next two decades. 2) I will bolster Manhattan’s economic security by working to create jobs, support small business and diversify our economy beyond Wall Street. 3) I will strive to make New York the greenest and healthiest city in the United States by fighting to reduce diabetes and asthma and expanding my “Go Green” programs that add farmers markets, plant street trees and give people healthier food choices.
Why my challenger is the wrong person for this job: I believe the office of borough president plays an indispensable role in giving neighborhoods a voice in development and solving Manhattan’s problems. My challenger, who seems like a very nice fellow, does not.
Challenger: David Casavis, Republican
Educational background: B.A., SUNY Buffalo, history/education (teacher’s certificate); M.B.A., PACE University; M.S. in real estate valuation and analysis, New York University.
Qualifications for office: There is almost nothing left to the office of borough president except for urban land issues. I have worked on, and extensively written about, these issues for more than 20 years. These included an impact study on New York City if the city won the 2008 Olympic bid, and a projection of where the new central business district of Berlin would form after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when East and West Berlin came together as one city. I have been involved with the ULURP land-use review procedure and assembled the Society of Industrial Office Realtors’ annual report. I will continue to work on such land-use issues long after my opponent moves on to his next appointive position. I hope to utilize my vast expanse of technical expertise in the field to represent Manhattan.
Three goals I’d most want to accomplish during my first term: There is only one issue in any borough president’s race: whether to keep a vestigial organ or to remove it. Like the human appendix, it is benign until it becomes infected—and then it must be removed. Twenty years after the U.S. Supreme Court found that the Board of Estimate proffered unconstitutional representation to different boroughs, the president of the Board of Estimate is still on the ballot. I promise that, when elected, I will make it my sole impetus to eradicate the office of the borough president, beginning with my own seat in Manhattan.
The incumbent’s biggest failing: I am running against an office, not an individual. Yet I am moved by the many rank-and-file Democrats who labor diligently for their party and their beliefs only to be scorned by one of the elected officials they labored so hard for.
John Liu, Democrat
Educational background: I am a proud product of New York City public schools, beginning with kindergarten at P.S. 20 and going all the way through to the Bronx High School of Science. I went on to earn a degree in mathematical physics at SUNY-Binghamton.
Qualifications for office: I am a certified actuary, and immediately prior to my historic election in 2001, I managed a team of actuaries at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, working on the largest pension plans in the country. This professional experience, combined with my extensive understanding of city government gained through my terms in the City Council, qualify me well to serve as the next city comptroller.
Three goals I’d most want to accomplish during my first term: 1) Ensure federal stimulus funds are actually used for capital infrastructure projects (i.e. roads, bridges, mass transit) and for creating jobs in New York City. 2) Ensure equal opportunities for women- and minority-owned businesses, especially with regard to the procurement process. 3) Accountability and transparency in city agencies, achieved by fully utilizing the power of audit (both financial and operational) upon city agencies, particularly the Department of Education, the Industrial Development Agency and the Economic Development Corporation. Also examine past and future city development deals that feature(d) specific promises of affordable housing and job creation.
Why I am a better choice than my opponent: As my fellow comptroller candidates, I offer professional financial expertise. However, unlike the other candidates who would likely face a much steeper learning curve, I bring the deep understanding of how city government and agencies work in order for me to hit the ground running on January 1, 2010.
Joe Mendola, Republican
Educational background: Archbishop Molloy High School, Queens, N.Y., class of 1980, Fordham College, Bronx, N.Y., class of 1984 (final rank 3/605), Columbia University School of law, class of 1987.
Qualifications for office: Legal, compliance and risk abatement and audit specialist with expertise in the rules governing investments, the formulation of investment strategies and the tools necessary to conduct effective audits—two skills essential to any successful New York City comptroller.
Three goals I’d most want to accomplish during my first term: 1) Minimize taxpayer contributions to New York City pension fund payments by effectively investing the New York City pension funds in appropriate and sound investments. 2) Complete the first thorough and comprehensive fiscal audit of the New York City Department of Education. 3) Eliminate $300 million in fees paid by the city to so-called “outside experts” hired to “assist” the comptroller in managing New York City pension funds.
Why I am a better choice than my opponent: I am not a career politician, I have no interest in running for mayor and will not use the office as a stepping-stone to higher citywide office. I am not beholden to special interest groups, such as the Working Families Party and ACORN and, as such, I will make decisions using my private-sector expertise with a goal toward safeguarding New York City taxpayer funds.
Bill de Blasio, Democrat
Educational background: bachelor’s degree from New York University; master’s in international and public affairs from Columbia University.
Qualifications for office: As a Council member, I have been a dedicated advocate for New Yorkers, keeping government accountable and defending our right to full participation in the democratic process. Whether advocating for parents and children as a school board member, exercising tough oversight over the city’s child welfare and homeless services as chair of the Council’s General Welfare Committee, or leading the effort to oppose the mayor’s term limits law, I’ve never shied away from a tough fight or making tough choices.
Throughout my career in public life, I’ve gotten results for New Yorkers. I’ve found that this takes persistence, creative thinking and the ability to assemble broad coalitions of support—qualities New Yorkers should demand of their public advocate.
Three goals I’d most want to accomplish during my first term: 1) Education: increasing parent engagement in public schools. 2) Reforming the Civilian Complaint Review Board: improving civilian oversight and restoring public confidence. 3) Affordable housing: promoting the creation of affordable housing through the land-use process and organizing communities around development projects.
Why I am a better choice than my opponent: My priorities as public advocate will reflect my values: a belief in efficient and transparent government, dedication to helping New Yorkers and the willingness to make hard choices. The job of the public advocate is, most fundamentally, that of a watchdog—ensuring that all New Yorkers receive the city services they deserve and have a voice in shaping the policies of their government. Through exercising the specific powers of the public advocate’s office and my position as an independent, citywide leader, I will advance key issues and advocate for New Yorkers each day.
Alex Zablocki, Republican
Educational background: I am a proud product of the New York City public school system and I earned a bachelor’s in finance and investments from the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College in Manhattan.
Qualifications for office: For more than six years I have worked in city and state government, serving as director of land use and chief of staff for City Council district 51 from 2003-2006, and as district director for State Senate district 24 since 2007. As director of land use, I successfully worked with civic associations and numerous city agencies on eight rezoning applications to fight overdevelopment. In both the Senate and Council, I have worked with residents to fight for better city services, more funding for community-based programs and schools, housing, traffic solutions and more mass transit options. Since 2001, I have owned and operated a small business, and in 2007, I obtained a financial services license (Series 7).
Three goals I’d most want to accomplish during my first term: 1) Decentralize the office and work closely with all community boards to bring local issues to City Hall, giving all residents a seat at the table. 2) Work with local groups and community boards to look at zoning and traffic/transportation problems and bring forth solutions. 3) Use the duties of the public advocate to hold government accountable, make it more transparent and fight to make our city more affordable to live, work and start a business in.
Why I am a better choice than my opponent: I am not a cookie-cutter politician and will bring extensive government, small business and financial experience to the public advocate’s office. Unlike my opponent, I am not supported by special interests and I’m not a political insider. I am one of you, your neighbor and your friend, and I understand how important it is to have an independent voice in government. My plan for office can be found at alex2009.com/plan.
City Council District 6
Roughly covers the Upper West Side from West 56th to 96th streets
Incumbent: Gale Brewer, Democrat
Educational background: M.P.A, Kennedy School, Harvard University; B.A., Columbia University and Bennington College
Qualifications for office: I’ve represented the 6th district for eight years. My terrific staff and I have assisted thousands of constituents: saving people’s homes, creating jobs, protecting our quality of life, and writing laws to make government more open. After 40 years as a West Sider, and three decades in public service, the private sector, non-profits and Community Board 7, I know the diversity of the West Side and how to represent it.
Three goals I’d most want to accomplish during my next term: 1) Reduce school overcrowding and offer students more choice in middle and high schools; 2) Protect our affordable housing, require it in many new buildings and stop illegal hotels that take units off the market; 3) Preserve and bring back neighborhood mom-and-pop stores.
How I voted on term limits and why: I voted against it, and supported a ballot referendum to let the public decide. The vote was 29-22; I was in the minority. New Yorkers had made their views clear in two referendums and should have been given the chance to do so again. I have always believed, however, that a 12-year term makes a Council Member a more effective representative. You need that long to complete large and complex projects like the multi-million dollar renovations of St. Agnes Library, 59th Street Recreation Center, Harmony Atrium and the new Frank McCourt High School. In large part I am running for a third term to finish what I’ve started, and bring these projects to fruition.
Challenger: Joshua Goldberg, Republican
Educational background: Pace University (1986-1990) with a double major in journalism and political science. I have a keen interest in history and politics in general and New York particularly. I like to say I am also a graduate of “Dad University.” My father, Sidney Goldberg, was brilliant with a steel-trap intellect and wit.
Qualifications for office: I am independent. I have funded my campaign only with individual contributions and have taken NO money from special interests, political action committees, unions or public matching funds. I have what some have called an “encyclopedic” knowledge of New York City history and politics. I am a lifelong Upper West Sider. I have held a number of quintessentially “New York jobs,” from working at the Fulton Fish Market, Yellow Cab, the New York Post’s “Page Six,” sales for the New York Press and I am a licensed New York City tour guide. I have worked on several local campaigns, too. Also, I know intimately what it is like navigating the health care system in New York due to my wife’s chronic illness (sickle cell anemia.)
Three goals I’d most want to accomplish during my first term: 1) Get control of the budget and the wasteful, run-away spending. 2) Reform the way the Council does business by making the position of Council member a full-time job and eliminating non-profit political slush funds. 3) Take control of the subways from the MTA (Albany) and give it back to the city. New York needs to have control over its own transit system that is the life-blood of the local economy.
The incumbent’s biggest failing: Two things: her willingness to house dangerous felons and sex offenders in residential, family neighborhoods and her defiance of the public will by running for a third term even after she came out very strongly in favor of keeping term limits. She cynically voted to keep term limits while on the floor of the Council but acts in opposition to her record.
City Council District 9
Covers a sliver of the Upper West Side from Broadway to the Hudson River between West 96th and 110th streets
Incumbent: Inez Dickens, Democrat
Educational background: I am a product of the New York City public school system. I also studied urban development and land economics at New York University and Howard University.
Qualifications for office: For over 30 years, I have actively been involved with the political process. I believe that the power of the ballot can improve the quality of our lives and the environments in which we live. I volunteered in community service organizations before I was elected to office. During my first term in office, I focused on creating affordable housing opportunities and improving infrastructures of community service organizations, especially in the area of public health issues related to our children.
Three goals I’d most want to accomplish during my next term: 1) Create more affordable housing opportunities. 2) Improve access to financing for small business enterprises. 3) Jobs and job training programs for young people (emancipated youth) and adults, along with educational enrichment programs for our children.
How I voted on term limits and why: I voted to extend term limits because I have always been against term limits. I believe in the power of the vote, and that is how you can exercise term limits. Furthermore, I believe that term limits disenfranchise people of color, as term limits can prevent people of color in office from attaining seniority and significant leadership positions.
Challenger: Abbi Lee Rogers-Haff, Republican
Educational background: University of Hard Knocks, New York, N.Y., business management and administration, accountancy, marketing.
Qualifications for office: Entrepreneur experience: negotiate government and corporate contracts to promote sales, eliminate competition and the bid process; write proposals and opportunity to bid according to rules, regulations and government codes of law. White-collar undercover investigator for national clothing manufacturer—became consultant to create a system of checks and balances to prevent embezzlement and theft. Professional experience: national general manager for the United States division of an international company based in the United Kingdom. Real estate building manager responsible for 50 exclusive residential buildings, Douglas, Elliman Gibbons & Ives.
Three goals I’d most want to accomplish during my first term: I propose to “follow the money” and regulate wasteful spending by the Council for purposes that are self-serving, special-interest and a conflict-of-interest. Power to the people! I will serve the district full time as City Councilwoman, attend community meetings and create a system of communication between the community and Council to represent my constituents in an efficient manner. Review proposed affordable housing to be income-targeted, based on median income in the district, with a percentage of affordable professional/retail space allocated to small businesses in the district at a reduced lease amount. This concept will deter the displacement of residents and small businesses.
The incumbent’s biggest failing: Councilwoman Inez Dickens does not represent the residents of District 9. Councilwoman Dickens voted against her constituents, in favor of extending term limits to Mayor Bloomberg, and in favor of the 125th Street rezoning plan. In addition, the Council budgeted $600,000 for the Metropolitan NY Coordinating Council on Jewish Poverty, Councilwoman Dickens budgeted $100,000 in her name only, and $5,000 for the Harlem Little League.
Tags: Abbi Lee Rogers-Haff, Alex Zablocki, Bill de Blasio, City Council District 6, City Council District 9, comptroller, David Casavis, Gale Brewer, Inez Dickens, Joe Mendola, John Liu, Joshua Goldberg, Manhattan Borough President, Politics, Public Advocate, Scott Stringer
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