To get to these decisions we had to wend our way through a number of voter minefields. We hope that sharing our thoughts with you will be helpful.
Real Estate Development: Do Candidates Receiving Contributions From the Industry Who Know What To Say Really Mean It?
Last week our attention was caught by what we think was an epitomizing exchange between David Weprin and Melinda Katz in the New York Times account of last week’s Comptrollers’ debate. Mr, Weprin and Ms. Katz, are among the four candidates running for Comptroller, all of whom are City Council members. The Times suggested that Mr. Weprin, trailing in a Quinnipiac University poll, seemed anxious to upend the race which is likely to involve a runoff.
In one of his many challenges in the debate, Mr. Weprin took aim at Ms. Katz. “How can you be independent of the real estate industry when your finance committee, which is on your Web site, is a who’s who in the Real Estate Board of New York?” he asked.(See: Councilman Attacks Rivals in Final Primary Debate for Comptroller, By Kareem Fahim, September 10, 2009.)
Ms. Katz said she had maintained her independence, but Mr. Weprin kept at her.
Ms. Katz said, “You know, David, as chair of the finance committee, I know, looking through your contributions, that we probably don’t want to have this discussion.”
Replied Mr. Weprin: “I’m willing to have the discussion.”
The exchange captures how all the candidates for city office implicitly acknowledge the overriding importance to voters that public officials not be in the pocket of the real estate industry, coupled with the deep and rightful suspicion that just because politicians adopt the rhetoric of opposition doesn’t mean that they are honestly independent of the industry. Mr. Weprin certainly knows the political facts of life. He is the son of Sol Weprin, Sheldon Silver’s predecessor as Speaker of the Assembly. (In our former public agency life we used to work for Mr. Weprin’s brother and we also used to run into David frequently in the days when he was an investment banker.)
Debate In the 33rd Race Where the Candidates Were Saying the Same Things About Development
At the same time that the Comptroller’s debate was going on we were at a debate for candidates running for the City Council’s 33rd district (currently David Yassky’s seat- Yassky is one of the other candidates for Comptroller) where the principle of how essential it is to oppose the real estate industry’s political dominance was similarly much in evidence. We have written before about how all the candidates in the 33rd (and the 39th) District races oppose the current kind of rampant development by politically connected developers, citing as touchstones that all of them are opposed to Atlantic Yards and development in the Brooklyn Bridge Park. (See: City Council candidates don't support AY project, May 08, 2009 09:20AM)
A Radical Surprise Including a Description of Real Estate and Government Corruption
What surprised us in this most recent City Council debate was to discover how radically in opposition to real estate industry shenanigans candidate Steve Levin, Assemblyman Vito Lopez’s former chief of staff, presents himself as being. Early in the debate Mr. Levin went out of his way to bring up and label as “corrupt” the events whereby, as revelatory e-mails show, the Bloomberg administration connived behind the scenes to get approval for the Dock Street project. Ultimately, Speaker Christine Quinn pushed Dock Street through the City Council despite the fact that the e-mails disclosed the irredeemable taint of an invalid decision process and intentional misrepresentations for which the senior Bloomberg officials and the School Construction Authority were responsible.
Dock Street is in DUMBO and the City Councilman for the district, David Yassky who is also running for Comptroller, opposed the project as did Councilman Eric Gioia who is running for Public Advocate. Others who voted against Dock Street include Councilman Tony Avella, who is running for Mayor and Councilman John Liu the fourth and final of the candidates running for Comptroller. Ms. Katz was amongst those who overlooked the “corruption” Mr. Levin spoke of to vote for Dock Street. Mr. Levin says that, if elected, he would put an end to this kind of corruption in the City Council. We were unaware that he did anything to oppose Dock Street’s approval when it was in the offing: Apparently he didn’t, he is only a late discoverer of the crime we (and Newsweek) were writing about at the time.
Mr. Levin also portrayed himself as, like the other candidates, passionately against Atlantic Yards. We had reported about his opposition previously but his “many serious concerns” about Atlantic Yards seemed to be so awfully tempered (“I am against the use of eminent domain unless in the case of overriding public benefit resulting from that use.”) that his language was reminiscent of the mega-project’s supporters. By contrast the majority of the candidates in the race (without explanation; candidate Isaac Abraham was not there to express himself) all firmly support Develop Don’t Destroy’s more effective categorical opposition to the Ratner project rather than what has been described as the “mend it don’t end it” open-to-compromise approach of Brooklyn Speaks.
Do Degenerative Changes to Atlantic Yards Project Evoke a Radicalizing Passionate Response?
To be fair, since Mr. Levin first provided his views on Atlantic Yards by giving us the comments previously published in Noticing New York before the mega-project degenerated significantly with additional MTA giveaways and diminished the likelihood that anything except a net-loss arena will ever be built. It is now much easier to be passionately against the project. In fact, it hardly makes sense for any politician to be anything else. Everyone for instance now knows that the Independent Budget Office’s report to tally the no-bid giveaways of subsidy to Forest City Ratner at $726 million and estimate the net loss to the city at $220 million ($39.5 million in direct losses and $180.5 million in opportunity losses). The city is pretty much just handing Ratner a check for $726 million, no questions asked, with not much asked in return. (See: Thursday, September 10, 2009, The Surrounding Light Smears Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Arena.)
We have talked with people who are willing to wonder whether Mr. Levin in his heart of hearts has significant reservations about the kind of big, manipulated, city-involved, corrupt kind of real estate development he says he opposes and to hold open the possibility that his opposition is legitimate notwithstanding that Assemblyman Vito Lopez is routinely and deeply involved in exactly this kind of thing. Most recently, Lopez has been prominently involved with the Broadway Triangle site. (See: Tuesday, August 11, 2009, In the 33rd: Levin vs. everyone else, AY & Broadway Triangle, and the argument for IRV (Instant Runoff Voting).)
Lopez jumped into the proposed redevelopment of the immediately adjacent former Pfizer plant site right at the beginning, heavy-handedly proposing the inappropriate use of eminent domain to take the site away from Pfizer. (Pfizer Offering Williamsburg Plant Site for Affordable Housing—So, Why’s a State Assemblyman Trying to Seize It? by Eliot Brown January 15, 2008.) The ironies here two-fold: 1.) Lopez was proposing to take the site for housing but that was already the purpose for which Pfizer wanted to use the site, and 2.) Lopez was unfairly proposing to use eminent domain to achieve a private-owner to private-owner transfer that would wrest the property from Pfizer, and his ability to do so was enhanced by the infamous Supreme Court Kelo decision a case where, the shoe on the other foot, Pfizer was involved as a beneficiary of the same sort of forced transfer in the name of “economic development.”
One of the audience-submitted questions asked of Mr. Levin the night of debate was whether Mr. Levin would be independent of Mr. Lopez who was referred to in the question as the “second most powerful man in the state.” If he wasn’t, the synergistic effect of Levin attaining a City Council office could be really bad news. Mr. Levin responded with assurances that he would be independent of Assemblyman Lopez, and that the Lopez had always advised him to do the right thing.
Looking Through Doubt to Actions Taken
This then presents an ever-so typical situation. Voters know that the politicians know the principles they should enunciate about independence from the real estate industry but they wonder what the politician will actually do once in office. The best thing to do in such a case is to look at what candidates have actually done when they have had the opportunity to act. Another question asked at the debate (which we submitted) was whether candidates had submitted comment to the MTA or the Empire State Development Corporation opposing the most recent revisions to the Atlantic Yards project which pile extra inappropriate benefits onto Ratner without any quid pro quo in return. Our question also asked: “Why or why not?”
There were a number of opportunities to be involved. in this regard Even though the MTA raced with incredible speed to give these benefits to Ratner after their nature was revealed, Councilman candidate Yassky testified before the MTA to oppose them. There were two days of ESDC hearings in which people could make statements as many did, followed up by a month in which comments could be formulated and submitted. Many may predict that those comments are destined to be ignored (although that they are ignored may be a basis for litigation). For those feeling frustrated by the strong suspicions that comments will be ignored there was the opportunity to join a political rally in opposition to the megaproject held before the ESDC hearings began. Other candidates submitted comments and testimony in this process and almost all of the candidates for the 33rd District showed up at the rally in opposition. (Isaac Abraham did not.) (See: Thursday, July 30, 2009, At lightly-attended (and sometimes raucous) public hearing, dueling electeds, some déjà vu, and a “sham process for a sham project”.)
Mr. Levin did not show up or participate in any way in any of these activities, not even taking advantage of the month in which he could have submitted written comment. His excuse was that he was just very busy and wasn’t really conscious of an opportunity to fit things in. We were particularly curious about whether he would participate given that the Friday before the ESDC hearings and the opposition rally we ran into him at breakfast and reminded and encouraged him to show up. We even supplied some additional encouragement when we wrote about running into him and wondering in our post whether he would show up. (See: Wednesday, July 29, 2009, First Day of ESDC Hearings on New Sight-Unseen Version of Atlantic Yards: Some Noticing New York’s Testimony and Questions Asked.)
Notwithstanding, even the Friday morning we ran into him we suspected that Mr. Levin wasn’t going to show up or involve himself. Though we reported that he “spoke critically about the way the project had degenerated since his above statement, together with the new $100+ million package of giveaways with which the MTA recently sweetened the developer’s deal” he referred rather vaguely to probably having to knock on voters’ doors or do something else that would prevent him from showing up.
Not even submitting written comment in opposition during the month long comment period does not bespeak passionate opposition. There are billions of public dollars involved here, violations of every conceivable principle of good government and potentially great harm directed at the district Mr. Levin is hoping to represent. At one point during the debate evening Mr. Levin said that he had sent a letter to the Governor urging him to sign the proposed Public Authority Reform bill. Atlantic Yards is the current preeminent example of why that bill needs to be signed. To focus only on the abstract principles of reform while failing to directly address an immediate and concrete example of the actual wrong is dangerously abstract and distracting.
The Avella/Thompson Race for Mayor: Thompson’s Implodingly Mismatched Rhetoric and a Critical Mystery About Megadevelopments
So when politicians mouth the expected pieties about opposing sell-outs to the real estate industry and you inevitably want to know if they mean what they say we suggest that, as with Mr. Levin, you can only look at what those individuals have actually done.
The race for the Democratic nomination for Mayor between Comptroller Bill Thompson and City Councilman Tony Avella is another race where enunciated opposition to favors for big real estate developers has featured prominently while the question of what the statements of one of the two candidates actually means couldn’t be more stark. We may see that the Thompson campaign implodes, now or after the primary because its actions are so utterly at odds with its mouthing of rhetoric.
Thompson has made criticism of Bloomberg’s gifts to big real estate developers a standard part of his regular stump speech. (See: Monday, July 13, 2009, Waiting for What Thompson Will Say Specifically about Atlantic Yards.) He made it part of both his opening and closing statements in the first mayoral debate. These are the refraining words Mr. Thompson began his opening statement with (after an obligatory statement of thanks to the hosts of the debate):
For the last eight years, we’ve had a Republican mayor, Mike Bloomberg, who is focused on Wall Street, big developers, and the wealthy.Thompson also spoke harshly in both mayoral debates criticizing the failures of the Bloomberg megadevelopments. In the second debate he was asked to list the three top failures of the Bloomberg administration and cited its failed megadevelopments. In the first debate he said this when talking about the economic failures of the administration:
Let’s look and be honest. The Bloomberg administration, as we look at the mega-projects that they’ve rolled out for growth and development: most of those have failed. Most of those aren’t moving forward. Whether it’s the stadium on the West Side, whether its Hudson Yards, whether it is places like Willets Point and Atlantic Yards. . . Those projects haven’t moved forward. There has been this over-reliance on Wall Street and it appears that they thought Wall Street would carry us forever. That didn’t happen. We need to diversify the economy of this city. I talk about smart growth and fair growth and fair growth that involves communities. . .The above reminds us of our own criticism of Bloombergian megadevelopments. We think megadevelopments involve an inherently flawed approach, especially with projects like Atlantic Yards and Willets Point, that contain the seeds for their own inevitable failure. The problem however: It is not clear that Thompson is saying this or exactly what he is saying. Is Thompson against Bloombergian megadevelopments because they are inherently flawed or is his criticism instead that Bloomberg hasn’t pushed megadevelopments through and made them work? Because his list includes palpably flawed and unpopular projects like the West Side Stadium and Atlantic Yards it might seem that he means the former. But this is not actually clear and if he means the latter then Thompson, inconsistent with his rhetoric about not focusing on big developers, may well intend to out-Bloomberg Bloomberg in terms of blindly sinking public resources into megadevelopment.
One reason to believe that Thompson is a fan of forcing through megadevelopments such as the West Side Stadium and Willets Point is that Thompson has formally, come out in favor Atlantic Yards. Thompson was, in fact, in favor or Atlantic Yards at the outset though he has implied that the history is otherwise. Recently Thompson has come out again in favor of the Atlantic Yards megadevelopment after and despite its significant degeneration into a different and far worse project than it was in the beginning. (See: Thompson "Late Supporter" of Atlantic Yards. Says Urban Planning Not About "Developer Accommodation" 9.01.09.) By implication Thompson is necessarily favoring all the recent excessive extra giveaways from the MTA and ESDC to the developer about which he, like Mr. Levin, was silent.
In the second debate listing the three greatest failures of the Bloomberg administration Thompson listed Bloomberg’s override of term limits as the greatest failure. For the second greatest failure (about 20 minutes into the debate) this is what he said:
Megadevelopment and the failure of the megadevelopments that Mike Bloomberg has moved forward to the exclusion of small business across New York, that’s probably number two.That’s not very elucidating, but that is what he said.
Thompson’s remarks about megadevelopment and whether he, ostensibly, favors or opposes them were so ambiguous we contacted the Thompson campaign for clarification. We asked: “What does he then believe is wrong with Bloomberg's record of megadevelopment and to what errors on the part of Bloomberg does he attribute the failures that he apparently would correct?” We received no response.
Again, let us think this through. Thompson says he is against a focus on big developers. If Thompson then opposes megadevelopments rather than promoting them how can he be in favor of the quintessentially objectionable developer-focused megadevelopment, Atlantic Yards? Consider just how many very sweet developer-focused megadevelopment-cookies Ratner is trying to take out of the cookie jar. (See: Friday, July 31, 2009, Ratner: The Little Boy Trying To Get Too Many Cookies Out of The Cookie Jar and Getting None.)
We think Thompson’s campaign is destined to implode. These inconsistences convince us of that together with Thompson’s obvious discomfort during the second debate when he was asked about pension investment scandal matters and his office’s handling of them.
Avella Sounding Like Jane Jacobs
By contrast Tony Avella’s position on megadevelopment, what was wrong with megadevelopment and what would work better is absolutely clear and un-Bloombergian.
In the first debate, NY1's Juan Manuel Benitez asked Avella about his opposition to big development:
You are a fighter against big development. After the collapse of the financial industry don’t you fear that new York City will lose its international clout if you don’t think big in terms of development and innovation?Avella responded:
Naturally you have to do that* but I also think that there is advantage in thinking small and thinking from the bottom up. A lot of the philosophy in this city including the planning and development is all from the top down. It’s the Mayor, it’s the Department of City Planning, it’s the real estate industry that controls the agenda and Wall Street. I think we’d do much better if we did things from the bottom up and let the people work in their own neighborhoods to plan for thie own neighborhoods, for their communities. Let THEM work with the developers. I think if we did that we’ll have a much better city and you’ll find those innovative solutions come out of those discussions(* Note that Mr. Avella and Mr. Thompson had both earlier criticized Bloomberg for not effectively handling the one big megadevelopment project that is necessarily a given, the redevelopment of Ground Zero.)
We think Mr. Avella is right. His answer is very Jane Jacobs-based. Mr. Benitez challenged Avella to defend his answer:
So you don’t have any big projects in mind? In case you are mayor of the city, you would wait for neighborhoods to come up with plans and projects?Mr. Avella:
That’s what we do now. There’s no planning in this city. Mike Bloomberg isn’t doing planning. He reacts to the real estate industry in this city. And how many of his major projects have actually happened? We have to change the whole philosophy in this city. because the problem with what you are saying is that it comes down to money. It shouldn’t be about money. It should be about people in this city. And until we change that dynamic we ‘re always going to be in the same situation. Talk about the financial crisis: Absolutely we have to deal with this. But the way to deal with this is to strengthen small business, to bring back the manufacturing jobs which the mayor has basically undercutMaybe it was what Mr. Avella had just said set forth above that led Mr. Thompson to make his own ensuing similar sounding remarks about failed megadevelopment.
Different Kinds of Elections: When It Is Wise to Vote For the Best candidate and When It Isn’t
After voters figure out which candidate’s deeds in office might actually comport with their campaign rhetoric they still have to figure where their votes can be effective. There are two kinds of elections going on this primary. Citywide elections will result in run-offs if no candidate receives more than 40% of the vote. City Council District primaries are decided by mere plurality.
Starting with the Easy Avella/Thompson Race: We like Avella
The primary election between Thompson and Avella is a straightforward matter for the voter: Just vote for the best candidate, or if you feel that Bloomberg is destined to win the upcoming general elections because of the hundreds of millions he is spending on the election, vote for the Democratic candidate who will send the clearest message to Bloomberg. Avella is clearly the best candidate.
Running Off to the Public Advocate Race: We Like Siegel
In citywide races with multiple candidates, the voter first must guess whether a runoff is likely. If a runoff election is expected or likely, a voter can send a clear message by voting for the candidate who is actually best. For instance, a runoff is likely in the race for Public Advocate. We think that voters should therefore vote for Norman Siegel since he is best suited for the job.
Of all the candidates for Public Advocate Mr. Siegel is the one who has essentially already started the job. The budget for the Public Advocate office has been substantially cut and Mr. Siegel is surely the best suited to be able to do a lot with a little. He already does, partly by knowing how to use the law.
One way or another this election is going to be about those who will be able to take on Bloomberg and restore a balance of power. For instance, Eric Gioia did an excellent job at the kind of thing that Public Advocate will have to do when he championed opposition to the Dock Street approvals. We think Mr. Siegel is most likely of all the candidates to be able to do that kind of job well and dependably. We note that Mr. de Blasio, like Mr. Siegel, joined in the lawsuit to challenge Bloomberg’s override of term limits. Still, for Mr. de Blasio the Office of Public Advocate is just a stepping stone to another office and the office doesn’t seem to really suit his temperament. It was not his first choice. Originally he wanted to run for Borough President.
Suitable candidates for Public Advocate (and for Comptroller) should all have shown their suitability by coming out in opposition to the Atlantic Yards and by criticizing the recent MTA giveaways. Norman Siegel did that and he has been consistently fighting eminent domain abuse. While Mr. de Blasio has expressed reservations about Atlantic Yards but as the project had grown significantly worse de Blasio has been waffling and inexcusably hiding out. Mr. de Blasio has also never opposed eminent domain abuse.
Running Off to the Comptroller Race: Liu or Yassky?
The Comptroller’s race is another race likely to go to a run-off election. Noticing New York readers worried about Bloombergian-style development and manipulation should NOT vote for Melinda Katz. Candidates Yassky and John Liu both oppose Atlantic Yards and are both likely to do well in the election. As both are able, what should be the deciding factor? It has been complained that Yassky should have opposed Atlantic Yards earlier and he likely could have been more strongly in opposition quite recently. Liu has many principled votes to his credit where he has often been heroically in the minority to oppose Christine Quinn-led Council Vote fixes. Where Liu shown commendably and Yassky behaved inexcusably was on the vote to overturn term limits. Yassky should never have supported Bloomberg’s power grab and the power garb has left the city multiple problems that will now be much harder to address.
City Council Plurality-Take-All Elections, The More is Less Equation
When it comes to City Council races, the voter has to decide on candidates based on which are likely to win the winner-take-all plurality. That regularly means forcing oneself to ignore lots of worthwhile candidates. For instance, it is not that the races for the 33rd and 39th Council Districts don’t have many exceptionally worthwhile candidates: They do, but paradoxically, the more candidates a Council District can field that truly reflect the district’s wishes and concerns, the greater the mathematical probability that, in the end, the district will not actually be represented by such an individual. “Circular firing squad” is one phrase that Norman Oder and others have used to describe this more is less proposition by which a multiplicity of good candidates cancel each other out in favor of a bad one.
In Atlantic Yards Report Norman Oder has recommended, and we agree, that the current system of plurality take-all voting should be replaced by a system like San Francisco’s instant runoff system which simulates a series of runoffs on one ballot by allowing voters to rank candidates in order of preference. Unfortunately, that has not happened here yet so rather than voting for the best candidate voters need to vote for the best candidate likely to win. (See: Tuesday, August 11, 2009, In the 33rd: Levin vs. everyone else, AY & Broadway Triangle, and the argument for IRV (Instant Runoff Voting).)
Race in the 33rd: Jo Ann Simon- (Or Evan Thies?)
As we noted, there are serious questions about what to expect from Mr. Levin if he obtains a City Council seat. Those who would like to see someone else in office should probably then vote for either Jo Ann Simon or Evan Thies as the most likely to win. Of the two Ms. Simon is probably ahead and probably has the most critical endorsements including the New York Times. We find it odd that the two merging papers (Brooklyn Paper and Courier-Life) from the CNG chain endorsed two candidates running against Ms. Simon, Mr. Levin and Mr. Thies. The endorsement of Mr. Thies might conceivably benefit the other chain-endorsed candidate, Mr. Levin. (See: Friday, September 04, 2009, Looking at the weekly newspaper endorsements: James, Thies, Skaller, plus some contradictions.)
Race in the 39th : Josh Skaller
In the race for the 39th it is less obvious that there is a mismatched minority viewpoint candidate highly likely to win who would pose a problem for the community if they won. We think a vote for strong Atlantic Yards opponent Josh Skaller would be the voters’ best choice in this race. We recognize that Brad Lander is also likely to win and we recognize that Mr. lander has been quite eloquent in his statements opposing Atlantic Yards. Mr. Skaller is likely to do better against Mr. Lander given that in a surprise move the normally conservative pro-Atlantic Yards Courier Life has endorsed him. Of course, it is possible that if votes are split between Mr. Skaller and Mr. Lander, John Heyer may do better. John Heyer has been endorsed by the formerly more liberal but increasingly conservative, increasing pro-development Brooklyn Paper. Mr. Heyer’s views on Atlantic Yards are complex and he is the candidate who is least opposed to the extremely unpopular development.
Working Families Party: The Anti-Endorsement
One way we suggest deciding between candidates like Ms. Skaller and Mr. Lander these days is, all things being equal, (and things are not always equal) make sure you don’t vote for the candidate supported by the Working Families Party. The Working Families Party’s eagerness to broker power makes it the entity that is first to sell out a community’s interest after coaxes the community’s into reliance upon it. We think this means that a Working Family Party endorsement should be looked upon suspiciously as a likely indicator that the endorsed candidate is closer than other candidates to the conventional business-as-usual power structure.
In the races we are talking about in this post, the Working Families Party has endorsed Bill Thompson, John Liu, Bill de Blasio, Mr. Levin, Mr. Lander, Christine Quinn and Tish James. We wrote before about how the Working Families Party mentioning their endorsement of Mr. Lander told us that they endorse candidates who are opposed to Atlantic Yards even though they have unresolved conflicts of interest respecting business relationships with the developer. (See: Thursday, July 9, 2009, A Street Encounter Raises Questions About The Working Families Party, ACORN and Atlantic Yards That Seem To Lack Satisfactory Answers.)
Another endorsement that might, like the Working families Party endorsement, be considered an anti-endorsement and a reason NOT to vote a candidate is an endorsement by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. Mr. Markowitz has endorsed Mr. Levin. He has also endorsed Mr. de Blasio who, before term limits were overridden, wanted to succeed Markowitz as Borough President and Mr. Markowitz has endorsed David Yassky.
Race in the 35th : Tish James
Not all rules are hard and fast, and as we indicated things are not always equal between candidates. There is no question about whom to vote for in the 35th Council District. Tish James has been endorsed by the Working Familes Party but she is one of Atlantic Yards most stalwart opponents and is the only truly qualified candidate in the race. There is something glaringly wrong with the fact that the New York Times did not endorse anyone in this race given that Ms. James ought to win and her main challenger, Ms Hunley-Adossa, is essentially on the Forest City Ratner payroll and utterly incapable of uttering a coherent thought or English sentence. Ms Hunley-Adossa also hides out, something we saw firsthand when we could not get her to respond to or answer our question about whether she had any knowledge about the level of subsidies going into the Atlantic Yards project. We asked her repeatedly but got only a stony silence. (See: Friday, August 28, 2009, Looking at the 35th District debate: Delia Hunley-Adossa surfaces (and shows why she's been inaccessible).)
Dumping Christine Quinn: One of the Most Important Races In the Primaries- The Race in the 3rd: Vote Yetta Kurland
Perhaps the most important Council race in the city is the race for 3rd Council District currently held by Christine Quinn, the current speaker of the City Council. Nothing would do more to send a message to Bloomberg about his override of term limits and his Bloombergian megadevelopment policies thant to defeat Quinn. A strong vote against Ms. Quinn could convey a powerful message even if it didn’t defeat her. Voting against Quinn should also send a message to the other members of the City Council that the balance of power between the mayor and the council needs to be restored. It would send a message that the council should not be a rubber stamp for the shenanigans of the politically connected, including the redistribution of wealth to the wealthy in Bloomberg’s megadevelopment projects. A message sent could also result in the removal of Quinn as speaker even if she is re-elected to her council seat. Let’s hope she isn’t though.
To name just a few things, Quinn in her time has been responsible for funding Atlantic Yards, the abuse of eminent domain in the Columbia expansion and at Willets Points, the corruption of the Dock Street project and the dismantling of the Coney Island amusement district and the selling off a portion of the Greenwich Village Historic District for development. She is also an impediment to an appropriate downsizing of Hudson Yards in her own district.
There are two candidates running against Quinn. We believe the one to vote for and the one who has the best chance of unseating Quinn is Yetta Kurland. It is not clear whether the other candidates is running just to set herself up for the next run while in the meantime consciously participating in vote-splitting that will impair the Quinn opposition.
Yesterday we were returning from time we had spent with a group that marched through Chelsea handing out flyers and carrying banners calling for Quinn to be dumped. As we reached the subway we happened to run into Yetta Kurland. We hope that is a good omen. She told us she was a Noticing New York fan. We were pleased. We didn’t know she was one of our readers.
We hope all of the above helps you get through tomorrow’s minefields. Good luck to us all.
(Here are the latest helpful links from Atlantic Yards Report: Monday, September 14, 2009
Thinking about the 33rd Council District (Part 1), Monday, September 14, 2009, Thinking about the 39th: why Dov Hikind causes Brad Lander to sound curiously like Charles Barkley, Monday, September 14, 2009, The Daily News's non-endorsement in the 35th District, Monday, September 14, 2009, Thinking about the 33rd Council District (Part 2): why I'm voting (gingerly) for Simon)