Our Election Picks
Lest the daily overflow of campaign mailings didn't tip you off, there is a primary election in New York City on Sept. 15, with several key offices up for grabs. We hope that voter turnout will be high to reflect this particularly important juncture in city history. Readers should note that for two of these offices (comptroller and public advocate), the winner from a field of four candidates needs to get 40 percent of the vote. That means that if no one broaches the 40 percent mark?a very likely occurrence?there will be a Sept. 29 run-off election between the top two contenders, prolonging the politicking.
Mayor: Michael Bloomberg
The general election for mayor isn't until Nov. 3, but since the Democratic primary will determine nearly all of the most hotly contested races this year, we are including our choice for the city's chief executive officer with this slate of candidates. New York City is at a pivotal point in its history. While the city is arguably the most livable it's ever been, fallout from the imploding financial sector and real estate industry still lingers, despite some initial signs of improvement. The key at this critical juncture is nursing a more diverse economy back to health while maintaining and building on the gains of recent years in education, business, public safety and the vibrant culture that defines New York City. We think Mayor Michael Bloomberg is best qualified for this job. Throughout the past eight years, Bloomberg has advanced ambitious plans to overhaul the largest public school system in the country, mitigate traffic and congestion, increase and improve green space, foster arts and culture and rezone the city to fit the residential and business needs of tomorrow?all while driving crime to record lows, and keeping a vigilant eye on a terrorist threat that still lingers. We're impressed with the caliber of staffers Bloomberg has trusted to enact this agenda, and the record he's shown in working amicably with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. It's a refreshing change from the past, one that engenders a climate of productivity, rather than political squabbling. But what's most compelling about this mayor is the overall vision orienting these initiatives: his goal is to enhance New York City's best attributes to make it a place where people want to live, do business and visit. A keen businessman, the mayor understands that these three goals are inextricably linked, and he has the foresight and drive to make them all priorities. Certainly, Bloomberg's record has not been perfect. The administration's focus on teacher quality and blind support of residential development has left classrooms at overcapacity and kindergartners on wait-lists for zoned schools. This was a problem that many saw coming several years ago, and the Department of Education should not have had to scramble to find seats. Likewise, we think he could do more to help small businesses. Bloomberg's "Business Solution Centers" assist entrepreneurs with networking, cost cutting and navigating city regulations. He asserts that the biggest help the city can provide is to create a climate that attracts more customers. But this shies away from what's really hurting mom-and-pops: skyrocketing rents. A more aggressive approach using carrots and sticks, like zoning changes and tax incentives, is worth exploring. And Bloomberg's suggestion, during our endorsement interview, that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority be responsible for aiding businesses hurt by Second Avenue subway construction is unreasonable, given that agency's reputation for dysfunction. The city, state and MTA should collaborate to share the financial burden. But these are flaws in a record that has, on the whole, been bold, inventive and overwhelmingly successful. We'd like to see Bloomberg both build on these accomplishments and address these shortcomings in a third term, leaving a legacy of perhaps one of New York's greatest mayors. One issue we have not addressed here is the mayor's successful bid to change the term limits law. We came out in favor of this proposal, as we thought it was important to have the leadership of a talented incumbent during these economically challenging times. Bloomberg himself has stated that if voters disagree with his actions, the Nov. 3 election is their chance to weigh in. Certainly William C. Thompson is an estimable candidate. But during his successful tenure as city comptroller, he has often been in alignment with the mayor, and there are few major points of difference between the two candidates. We feel that Bloomberg is the right leader for the next four years, and we support his reelection on Nov. 3.
Comptroller: David Yassky
The comptroller can be seen as C.F.O. of the city, responsible for making sure that budgets are tight and inefficiencies are pinpointed. In this economy, New Yorkers need a comptroller who will audit city agencies, kill contracts that waste money, propose a wise pension fund investment strategy and be a leading voice on transparency and government reform. But we also need more than a bean-counting bureaucrat. That's why we feel New Yorkers should vote for Brooklyn Council Member David Yassky as the city's next comptroller. Yassky showed independence by being the only candidate to endorse legislation that will create a new level of pension benefits for future retirees, with the goal of reducing taxpayer costs. This is the kind of leadership that the future comptroller must exhibit to help the city get through the recession. (Full disclosure: Yassky's campaign rents separate office space from this newspaper's parent company, Manhattan Media.) Yassky has an evenhanded approach to managing the city's $83 billion pension fund. He understands the need to have a diverse portfolio that will protect the pensioners and taxpayers when the economy suffers. His idea to invest in biotechnological companies as an alternative is not reckless, like some of his opponents' plans. Yassky's campaign also posted the city's budget and member items on a website, www.ItsYourMoneyNYC.com. While this information is already online, it is buried in the Council's website and has never been presented in a format that regular New Yorkers can read easily and understand. The other three candidates?Queens Council members John Liu, David Weprin and Melinda Katz?are qualified. Katz has too many connections to the real estate industry, and her plan to use pension funds to invest in viable but debt-strapped businesses is irresponsible. Liu will surely bring the same tenacity to the comptroller's duties as he does to Council committee hearings, but we're concerned he'll be too focused on using the office as a bully pulpit. Weprin, though he has the financial expertise, lacks a broader vision for the office. Yassky is a well-rounded candidate who can balance experience with leadership, and we endorse him in the Democratic primary for comptroller.
Public Advocate: Bill de Blasio
Each of the candidates running for this office brings something to the table when it comes to being the city's ombudsman. But Brooklyn Council Member Bill de Blasio has the most far-reaching vision for this office, and the most detailed plans for executing that vision on a shoestring budget. De Blasio plans to leverage the public advocate's meager resources by working with organizations like Transportation Alternatives and the Brennan Center for Justice, at New York University Law School. Through the public advocate's appointee to the City Planning Commission, he pledges to be an aggressive watchdog on development, making sure that affordable housing, landmarks and neighborhood context are given adequate consideration in the approval process. We also like his promise to examine the "consultant" culture at the Department of Education, as well as the proliferation of testing under Schools Chancellor Joel Klein's leadership. The other candidates in this race certainly have their attractive qualities. Mark Green, New York's first public advocate, has a long and distinguished record of challenging the powers that be, but he seems too focused on the past to enact a forward-looking agenda. Norman Siegel likewise has an impressive resume as a civil rights lawyer, but he has run a lackluster campaign and we aren't convinced that he will most effectively execute the public advocate's duties. And Queens Council Member Eric Gioia has become an effective and vocal advocate for constituents, but we feel he's spending too much time touting his history, rather than detailing his plans for office. There are, however, a few reservations about de Blasio's candidacy. If elected, he'll be tasked with policing the large swath of elected officials and unions that have endorsed his bid for office; we hope this doesn't make him too cozy to be an effective independent check on city government. And we feel that de Blasio should be more proactive in addressing the questionable services provided to his campaign by the Working Families Party and its for-profit company, Data Field Services (a series of stories in our sister publication, City Hall, highlighted some serious questions). Still, de Blasio strikes us as the candidate most ready to hit the ground running in January, and we endorse him in the Democratic primary for public advocate.
Manhattan District Attorney: Leslie Crocker Snyder
This year's race to be Manhattan district attorney is a historic one. The winner will succeed Robert Morgenthau, the legendary prosecutor who was sworn into office in 1974. The Manhattan district attorney's office is the most important prosecutorial body in the country. It has far-reaching jurisdiction that has successfully tried complex white-collar crimes, international crime, governmental fraud and violent murderers and attacks. The district attorney needs experience in trying such cases, as well as the vision and management skills necessary to prevent and target criminal activity. All three candidates?Leslie Crocker Snyder, Cyrus Vance, Jr. and Richard Aborn?are well qualified. They have detailed similar plans for the office, including implementing a community-based justice system, improving technology in the office and minimizing and addressing wrongful convictions. But we feel that Snyder has the experience and drive to follow through with these plans while being an able prosecutor. Snyder has varied and lengthy experience as an assistant district attorney, defense lawyer and a judge in New York State's Supreme and Criminal courts. In 2005, she had the courage to challenge Morgenthau in the Democratic primary. The move was potential political suicide, and we endorsed Morgenthau in that race, but we feel that her courage to take on such a popular figure and highlight the office's flaws demonstrates the kind of gumption that Manhattan's next D.A. needs. With a three-decade-long background in criminal justice, we feel confident in her plans to open a Second Look Bureau to prevent and rectify wrongful convictions, train assistant district attorneys to better prosecute white-collar crimes and manage one of the largest criminal justice offices in the country. Her opponents are also qualified for the position. Vance is an able prosecutor, but we are concerned that his ties to Morgenthau?his biggest supporter?would not be broken. Aborn's work on gun-control laws and crime prevention are exemplary, but his ideas are lofty. We are concerned about the negative tone Snyder has brought to the campaign in recent weeks, as the district attorney needs to show public restraint. But we feel that once elected, Snyder will be a fair-minded and tough prosecutor. We endorse Snyder in the Democratic primary for Manhattan district attorney.
City Council District 3: Christine Quinn
Traditionally an area of Manhattan known for progressive politics, especially involving gay and lesbian issues, City Council's District 3 has also seen record development and improvement of services. Although some constituents feel incumbent Christine Quinn is detached from the daily issues affecting the West Village, Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen due to her duties as City Council Speaker, we feel that Quinn has served her district well, using her considerable clout to negotiate and broker deals that have benefited the area. While Quinn can appear too-closely aligned with the mayor these days, she is not afraid to come out against him in vocal ways and we feel she remains the strongest advocate for her district, as well as the city as a whole. We still see a great many positives in Quinn's time in office. She remains one of the most powerful voices in New York politics and her activism continues; Quinn has spent a great deal of time lobbying for marriage equality with State Senators. Since it appears Bloomberg's hope for a lasting legacy rests in West Side development?both with the Hudson Yards and extension of the No. 7 train line?we want Quinn to weigh-in on these issues. We admire the achievements of the two women who have challenged her in the race, especially Yetta Kurland, whom we hope to see run for office again. We feel that Christine Quinn's pragmatism and skills will serve her district and the city best at this critical juncture, and we endorse her for re-election. -- In the interest of full disclosure, readers should also know that earlier this year, Manhattan Media?the parent company of Manhattan Newspaper Group, publishers of Our Town, West Side Spirit, New York Press, Chelsea Clinton News and The Westsider?formed a separate company called Madison Square Partners, LLC. Clients of this ad placement consulting firm include the campaigns of Michael Bloomberg, Norman Siegel, Cyrus Vance, Jr. and David Weprin. In order to separate the business interests of Madison Square Partners, any individuals involved with that division were not included in the endorsement process. Endorsement decisions were based on candidates' records, proposals and on-site interviews conducted collectively by the editorial board of the Manhattan Newspaper Group.
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