In about six weeks New York City residents will go to the polls to select a new mayor. They have a choice between an eight-year incumbent, the billionaire businessman, former registered Democrat now registered Republican but running as an Independent, Michael Bloomberg, and the current city Comptroller and Democratic Party nominee Bill Thompson.
Despite the fact that city residents voted for term limits and twice voted down efforts to overturn that law, Bloomberg and certain members of the City Council who stood to directly benefit from a change, connived to enact legislation extending their own right to serve, and that of the mayor, to a third term.
To some, this breach of democracy has made the upcoming election seem like a done deal or perhaps more aptly, a stacked deck. They look at the nearly $100 million of out of pocket campaign financing Bloomberg is spending and assume that no one can possibly stop him. That familiar sense of hopelessness and inner frustration that Americans felt during the eight years George W. Bush spent in the White House, now grips New Yorkers. It is unhappiness mixed with a large dose of ambivalence over what seems to be a near certain outcome.
But New Yorkers have faced adversity before and overcome, and they can again this time too. We’ve got to realize that the power to correct this situation is entirely in our own hands.
Bloomberg is clearly scared of the Thompson challenge, otherwise why would he spend so much money on television ads and glossy brochures mailed to city residents? (I personally shred mine, then put the shreddings in an envelope addressed to his campaign headquarters, without a stamp attached.)
His ads are taking on a particularly nasty tinge, attempting to defend his own questionable record as ultimate authority over the city’s school system by attacking Thompson’s record when he was school board president.
In a touch of irony, the same week Bloomberg unveiled these ads, an independent study by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University shows that NYC public school graduates are woefully unprepared for college. The Bloomberg approach to primary and secondary education is to focus so much on test scores that very little actual learning takes place. This is in contrast the ten point plan laid out last week by Bill Thompson, where he stressed the need for a real educator in charge of the system, smaller class sizes, more accountability and parental involvement.
Educators like the Thompson plan.
So the challenge for voters is to ignore the snowstorm of an expensive advertising campaign and look at the truth. When people ask themselves, “Am I better off now than I was 8 years ago?” their own reality should tell them that 8 years of Bloomberg is enough. Quite enough.
Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in this city 5-1. If Democrats simply show up and vote for Bill Thompson, there will be real change in the Mayor’s office. But if people stay home and do nothing, we’ll have four more years of a mayor who wants to run this city as his private company, making decisions that affect our lives without ever asking for our input.
Our opponent is apathy. Doing nothing is not acceptable.
Up in Albany, where Mayoral challenger Corey Ellis lost the Democratic primary while getting 44 percent of the vote, the campaign may not be over. Ellis has the Working Families Party line and can run again in November. He gave four term incumbent Mayor Jerry Jennings his toughest competition to date, and has sent a fundraising appeal to his supporters to gauge which way to go.