NEW YORK, Oct. 8, 2009 – Just moments after his Democratic opponent staged a boisterous rally on the steps of New York’s City Hall, in opposition to the extension of a term limits law that allows him to seek a third term, a feisty Mayor Michael Bloomberg strode to the podium in the Blue Room and challenged anyone to stop him from continuing to run “what is rightfully mine.”
“Thompson, schmompson. I got this one.” Bloomberg boasted. “We’ve got a month before the election and people are just now finding out who he is. I’ve spent $90 million to saturate the airwaves with advertising and took it out of petty cash.”
When an aide quickly reminded the Mayor that he had officially reported spending $64 million, Bloomberg snorted, “Whatever. I could still give every New Yorker about $10 million apiece and not even feel it. And don’t think most of them wouldn’t be grateful to get it too, since they’re probably unemployed.”
Bloomberg weighed in on a range of reporter questions, most prominently the issue of why he’s seeking a third term. At the rally, Comptroller Thompson alluded to failed attempts at a Presidential or Vice Presidential run, alleging Bloomberg had no where else to go. The Mayor poo-poo’d such thinking and when asked why not return to the business world, responded, “Been there, done that, made a billion. Don’t need to do it again.”
The Mayor turned a bit snippy when questioned about some of the assertions made in his attack ads against Thompson, specifically those suggesting Thompson was an ineffective School Board President. “Yeah? And…?” said Bloomberg. “It’s not like New Yorkers are gonna run out and do research! Repeat a lie often enough and people just believe it. HELLO! I run a media company! Don’t you think I know what I’m doing?”
In a bizarre moment straight out of a reality television series, when reminded that a recent WABC-TV poll now showed Thompson trailing him by the closest margin ever, 8 points, Bloomberg laughed defiantly at the idea enough people would actually turn out on election day to vote him out of office. “Who’s gon’ check me boo?” shouted a wild-eyed Mayor Mike, as he pointed at individual members of the press corps. “You? You? You?” He quickly apologized when he inadvertently aimed his barb at a reporter from the New York Post.
He then turned on his heels to exit the press conference. “This is my city, dammit,” yelled the Boston-born mayor.
The actual Mayor Bloomberg did not contribute to the writing of this article.
New York State residents will go to the polls Tuesday to vote in a Democratic party primary election that in many cases will make a general election in November a moot point.
Here in New York City, voters will determine the general election challenger for Mayor, but in this heavily-Democratic city, all but settle the races for Public Advocate, Comptroller, most city council seats and Borough Presidents offices. Manhattan residents also get to decide who will replace District Attorney Robert Morganthau, who is retiring at age 90.
While turnout is not expected to be high, competition for the seats has been fierce, particularly in recent weeks, with television commercials in the Public Advocate race turning particularly nasty.
I have a vested interested in the primary race for Mayor, and give my endorsements to these others who I feel can also best serve New York City.
Upstate, in Albany, another Democratic stronghold were I lived for 11 years, voters have a chance to pick a new mayor and turn out a 16 year incumbent. City Councilman Corey Ellis who has been backed by the Working Families Party, if elected would become that city’s first African American mayor. He has my support.
While we still wait to hear from the “leader of the Democratic Party in New York State,” New York City Democratic Mayoral candidate and current city Comptroller Bill Thompson has been racking up endorsements from other influential sources this week including a major labor union that will announce their support today.
Saturday, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056 officially backed Thompson, then Wednesday, Staten Island State Senator Diane Savino officially gave her endorsement, which may open doors in that traditionally Republican borough.
Now comes word that District Council 37, representing 120,000 city government workers, will come out in support of Thompson. The union, made up of many office-based workers, like secretaries, accountants and social workers, had supported Mayor Bloomberg in the 2005 election, which was a departure for the traditionally Democratic-leaning organization.
Update: Perhaps the “leader of the Democratic Party in New York State” has made an endorsement afterall?
If there is one thing the 2008 presidential campaign taught us, a political candidate needs a good fundraising operation and motivated grassroots support to win public office. Last year, Barack Obama had record numbers of both.
This is an off year, with local and congressional races dotting the country. Add a measurable degree of campaign fatigue to a populace struggling through a nationwide recession, mix in hot button national issues like health care reform, economic stimulus plans and wars that still rage in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this year’s campaigns are struggling to get attention.
Here in New York, we are faced with what was supposed to be a complete change over in city government. Term limit laws, enacted just before the 2001 city-wide election, then put new people in the office of Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, and most of the city council seats.However eight years later, a political end run has occurred. Billionaire media mogul and two-term incumbent Mayor Michael Bloomberg masterminded a change to the law with full support of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who reportedly has her own eye on the mayor’s seat, at some point in the future.
The term limits law was brought into existence by popular vote of the people of New York, and twice voters opposed efforts to overturn it. Yet through a backroom deal orchestrated by the very people who will benefit from it, the City Council used a loophole in the law to vote themselves and all other incumbents an extension. So instead of new, wide-open races, like it or not, New Yorkers are faced with incumbents trying to justify why they deserve yet another term in office. That especially includes the Mayor’s race.
One candidate not holding onto his seat is out-going City Comptroller Bill Thompson, who is instead seeking (and expected to get) the Democratic Party nomination to oppose Bloomberg for Mayor. (Bloomberg, once a Democrat, now a registered Republican, is running as an Independent.) Political pundits, who are often known to be wrong, look at Bloomberg’s deep pockets (he finances his own campaigns) and have dismissively suggested he’s a shoo-in. Sentiment among the grass-roots electorate is not so clear cut however.
While Mayor Mike doesn’t carry the polarizing persona of a Rudy Giuliani, the popular impression is that he is no more in touch with the concerns and problems facing middle, working and lower class New Yorkers than his predecessor, and still too quick to sell this city off to real estate developers. Throw in that now touchy issue of the term limits extension and New Yorkers are slowly waking up to the fact that the game is being rigged, and they don’t like it.
In the interest of full disclosure, I support Bill Thompson for Mayor and I am actively volunteering on his behalf. As a middle class citizen, while I make a decent income, I am still increasingly seeing my paycheck come up short at the end of the month as the cost of basic living rises and judging by my friends and neighbors I know I’m not alone.
Luxury high rise apartments have been built around me in Harlem that are clearly not intended for the people who presently live in that community. All over the city, Mom and Pop retail establishments have closed to make way for big box national chain stores and small business owners are finding it harder to make a go of it. Who will still be able to afford to live in New York in the next 20 years remains as much a mystery now as it did eight years ago when Bloomberg took office. It’s time for a change.
Bill Thompson will never be able to match Bloomberg in campaign spending (although every contribution helps). Since about the beginning of the year, the Mayor has spent around $40 million of his own money on campaign ads and slick brochures. I get a new one every week. My shredder stays busy.
But that all important grassroots support may make the difference in this campaign. In July, Thompson cut a Bloomberg lead in half in a Quinnipiac Poll, with fewer financial resources and having run no television ads. There is growing public awareness that there is a viable alternative candidate. As awareness grows, expect the lead to shrink further.
The Democratic Primary is a month away, the general election in November. There will be more to this campaign before all the votes are counted. New Yorkers should get informed and get involved.
One hundred fifty miles up the Hudson River, in the state’s capital city of Albany, (where I lived for 11 years) another incumbent mayor faces a challenger with an uphill battle.
In a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 11-1, elections are over after the primary. Mayor Jerry Jennings is seeking a fifth term (no term limits there) and faces opposition from Third Ward City Councilman Corey Ellis, who would become that city’s first African American Mayor if elected.
There are two other campaigns around the country we’re watching.
In California’s 10th Congressional District, Iraq War veteran, Harvard graduate and out gay candidate Anthony Woods has considerable grassroots support in an 11 candidate field for a special election to fill a seat held by retired Representative Ellen Tauscher.
A bipartisan primary is set for September 1 with a November 3 run-off if no single candidate wins an outright majority.
Woods’ opponents include California’s Lt. Governor, a State Senator and an Assemblywoman, all of whom have a solid fundraising infrastructure. Yet in a recent July filing, Woods had the highest percentage of contributions from individual donors. He’ll need to continue to raise money to get into the November run-off.
Woods may be able to take inspiration from Detroit City Council candidate Charles Pugh, another out gay candidate who recently came in first against 17 opponents seeking City Council seats. Pugh, a former television broadcaster, won with 59,560 votes and 8.9 percent of the vote.
Pugh did not hide his sexual orientation but appealed to voters on the issues. However he won support of both the AME Ministerial Alliance and the Council of Baptist Pastors.
What I remember most about September 11 was that it started out as just a beautiful day weather wise. Not too hot, not too cold, a picture perfect blue sky and not a cloud in sight. Simply gorgeous.
I woke up excited because it was election day. The party primaries were being held, and that year because of term limits, the entire New York City government was going to be overhauled. After too many damn years of Giuliani we would get a new mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough presidents and almost the entire city council. I had been active in a brand new political organization, the Out People of Color Political Action Club and we had made our first endorsements and were aggressively trying to get out behind our candidates. So I wanted to start my day by getting to the polls to cast my vote before heading downtown to work.
On any other day I leave my apartment building, walk west to Broadway then down five blocks to take the 9 train to my office. But my polling station was a block east. After voting, I thought it was too much trouble to retrace my steps, so decided to continue east another block and take the local C train to work instead. It would place me about the same distance from my office, just on another street, and I’d get a different perspective on the morning commute.
The train pulled into the station at 8th Avenue and 25th Street at about 8:50 am. I climbed the stairs to the street and saw a group of people standing in the intersection, all looking southward. I looked up and saw a clear view of the Twin Towers. However the North Tower had a gaping hole in it and smoke was slowly billowing out.
A crossing guard mentioned that a plane had just hit the building. My first thought was to the story of the airplane that hit the Empire State Building sometime back in the 1940’s. But that happened during a fog. This was a clear day. I also thought, maybe it was a small private plane like a Cessna, but then as I stared I realized that gaping whole was several stories wide. I looked at my watch, it was now five minutes to 9, and I remember thinking, “I just hope not too many people have gotten to work yet.”
I had a 10:30 training session to conduct with a client over in Brooklyn and needed to get to my office, but I still wanted to find out more about what was going on. When I arrived, none of my co-workers were even aware that the plane had hit. We didn’t have a tv or radio in our area, so I tried the only way I knew how, the Internet. Nothing there yet.
I continued to prepare for my appointment when a few minutes later another co-worker came through with information that a second plane had hit the other tower. Shock and disbelief was my reaction, with fear creeping up fast. This was not an accident and we all realized that instantly.
My office was on the 9th Floor, but our main office was up on 12, so many of us went up there where there was a tv set in the kitchen. We got news on that showed the smoking buildings and told us whatever they knew, which wasn’t much. Outside, you could hear sirens racing down 7th Avenue, and a palpable fear gripped everyone in the room. Outside our kitchen window we have a clear and unobstructed view of the Empire State Building just a few blocks over, and no one knew if that would be another target.
As can be expected when you have little to no information, speculation runs rampant. As word that a third plane had struck the Pentagon down in Washington, we knew we were under attack, but from who? How many more were coming? When and where? All the while there was no one telling us what the hell was happening and what to do to be safe.
As a staff of social service workers who have a responsibility to help other people through crises, we tried to keep brave faces on, but tears and just-below-the-surface hysteria were getting the best of us. A consultant we used who was in to conduct a training that day, was in near panic. Her company office was in the Towers and her co-workers were all back there. I clearly recall wondering if I was going to die that day. I thought about how at 41 years old I still had things I wanted to do, but no certainty at that moment I’d ever get a chance to do them. I thought about how I don’t have any family in New York and that I might not get a chance to say goodbye to my loved ones. We just didn’t know what was happening and how long it would continue.
There is a blurriness to my memory now as to what happened between the time the plane hit the Pentagon and the 10:00 hour when we were told we could go home. We were all just trying to get information and figure out what to do. The subways had been shut down and bridges and tunnels closed, so traffic was not going in or out of NYC at all. Ever the responsible one, I tried to contact my 10:30 appointment to tell them I wouldn’t be able to get there, but apparently they had already vacated or just not come in because I only got voicemail. I would find out days later, the husband of one of the people I was to meet with narrowly got out of the Towers alive. Also, had I left for my appointment, my train to Brooklyn would have taken me directly under the World Trade Center.
Again, with blurry recollection, I remember being up in the office kitchen with everyone else, as we watched the tv images of the first Tower collapsing. Screaming, crying and wide-eyed amazement was all we could manage. I felt my heart racing but my breath unable to keep pace. What in the world was happening. This was like a very bad dream, a very scary movie I didn’t want to see any more. What else was going to happen?
They told us to go home. There was nothing we could do there and if we had family, surely we’d want to be with them now. I don’t remember if we had to walk down 12 flights or if elevators were still operating, but I wound up on the 26th Street side of the building with a co-worker. She and I both lived way uptown and had no idea how we were getting home. We decided we’d walk to 6th Avenue to see if we could get the #5 bus.
As we got close to the intersection, a wave of people began running south, stopping to look up. We ran too to see what was up, and as I got there, a cloud of dust and debris was forming at the top of the remaining tower. An image that can only be described as surreal unfolded before my eyes as the second tower collapsed onto itself, one floor at a time, reduced to rubble in what were mere seconds. Cries of “Oh my God!” and “Oh shit!” seemed to be automatic responses from everyone present. Sadness and rage overtook people on the street. My co-worker began to cry, and I tried vainly to comfort her while tears streamed down my own face.
I looked at the gaping hole in the skyline where two 110 story buildings had once stood and it was as if someone was playing a cruel trick on us. Those buildings were just there a few hours earlier. And what happened to all the people inside? It was too horrible to imagine.
The thing that sticks out the most now about the long walk home that day is that unless you were there, you have no idea how frightened everyone was. Pictures of the masses of people walking cannot convey the emotional tension that gripped the city. Those of us on the street probably had the least information of anyone in the country. To top it off, cellphones and pay phones weren’t working. Their antennas and switching equipment were all located in the Towers. Many local tv and radio stations lost their signals as well. We had no information except the knowledge that we’d been victims of some sort of terrorist attack by unknown attackers.
New York streets are always crowded, but at 10:45 that morning, they were jam-packed. The eery part of it was everyone seemed to be walking in the same direction, and EVERYONE was having the same conversation. You could eavesdrop on any two people and hear discussion of the same topic. That just doesn’t happen.
Along the route, bank ATM machines and supermarkets had long lines. Cash and provisions were being acquired for the unforeseeable future. Parents were arriving at schools to get their kids. Instant carpools were being formed by strangers all headed to the same vicinity.
My frustration at not being able to reach family was abated when I remembered my two-way pager. I stopped around 62nd Street and tapped out emails to my brothers in Delaware and Maryland letting them know I was ok, but very scared. Several blocks later I got replies, and learned later that they had reached other family that I could not.
Arriving home hours later, the rest of my day was spent in confusion, exhaustion, anger, depression, all of which would be compounded several times over in the weeks and months that followed. The media was no help, replaying images of the burning buildings over and over again, insensitive to the trauma so many of us had faced.
I remember the thankless search for loved ones, and how any blank wall in the city became a bulletin board for “Missing” and “Have you seen…” posters put up by the family and friends of those who worked in the Towers. They hung onto hope that somehow their family members had gotten out and were someplace safe. But as the days and weeks passed, and reality set in, these posters became memorial sites for all those who had died that day.
Last year I was very deliberately vacationing out of the country on this date because I wasn’t ready for the onslaught of remembrances. I had only just then stopped having dreams about seeing the tower collapsing.
Two years later, I know I’m not completely over it, but I’m a little better.