Pity The 2013 Political Candidates

Written by Tom Allon on . Posted in News Our Town, News Our Town Downtown, News West Side Spirit.


The public and the media has neglected to cover two interesting and important races

It’s hard enough braving the wilting summer heat and standing at subway stations each morning shaking hands and passing out flyers.
Then there’s the endless public events and candidate forums that occupy every waking moment – when you’re not on the phone with potential donors pleading for money.
But perhaps the greatest ignominy heaped on the good citizens of New York running for public office in 2013 is that they are all being virtually ignored while the traveling Anthony Weiner circus – and the occasional Eliot Spitzer caravan – sucks all the oxygen out of the political season.
There are two other pretty important – and very competitive – races going on citywide and in Manhattan: for public advocate and for Manhattan borough president.

Tom Allon

Tom Allon

The public advocate is technically the second highest office in the city and akin to the Vice President’s role in the federal government – if the mayor dies or is incapacitated, the public advocate ascends to be mayor.
As the first Vice President John Adams famously said: “Today, I am nothing. Tomorrow, I may be everything.” Same is true of public advocate, an otherwise toothless job with very few staff.
Some people, however, like Mark Green and Bill DeBlasio, have used the office in the past to be a thorn in the mayor’s side and as a jumping off point to launch a later campaign for mayor.
This year, four relatively unknown people are vying for this office: Brookyln Councilmember Tish James, State Senator Daniel Squadron and two non-elected candidates, Reshma Saujani and Cathy Guerriero.
Their debates and public policy ideas have largely been ignored by the mainstream media; all four are thoughtful and intelligent people who want to be one of the three top citywide officials in 2014 and it behooves us to start paying close attention.
One of them could, through succession or future elections, become mayor, although unless Bill DeBlasio wins in November, no public advocate has yet moved up the ladder in city government.
In the Manhattan borough president’s race there is a fascinating mix of geographically diverse candidates: Upper Manhattan Councilmember Robert Jackson, Lower Manhattan’s former Community Board Chair Julie Menin, West Side Councilmember Gale Brewer and East Side Councilmember Jessica Lappin.
Each has represented a different slice of Manhattan and each has particular strengths that would make them worthy successors to current Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
Here, too, the media and the public don’t seem to be paying enough attention yet to an important race. The Manhattan borough president has important land-use powers, as recently exhibited by Stringer’s conditional endorsement of Mayor Bloomberg’s bold rezoning of the midtown commercial district.
I have met, and in some cases worked closely with, these eight fine public servants and they deserve our attention and our respect during this important election season. They care about the important issues facing us in the years ahead – how we fix our public school system, how we save our city hospital system, how we balance the need to build and develop residential and commercial space while improving our infrastructure in a growing city, how we improve mass transit, and other pressing issues.
These two races – unlike the mayoral and comptroller races – have been free of personal drama and I find that refreshing. No one is speaking about sexual pecadilos, failing marriages or other largely irrelevant topics when judging our leaders.
Perhaps this is because six of the eight candidates in thes two races are women?
I hope over the next month my colleagues in the media give these two races the ink, airtime and digital space they richly deserve.
Issues and vision and management skills should trump personal issues and self-destruction when we decide who to vote for in September.
Tom Allon, the president of City and State, NY, is the former Liberal Party-backed candidate for Mayor.

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