Tag Archives: Alan Maisel

Working the Polls on Election Day, Democracy on the Ground.

Monday: 11:30 am

Arrive at City Hall for a Thompson rally, the crowd builds, the union distributes blue “”Thompson for Mayor” shirts …. a couple of hundred fill the steps of City Hall, a sea of blue, the media is there in force, Thompson shows up and delivers a vigorous speech … the media shouts out questions and Thompson patiently answers, an upbeat rally … As we were waiting on line to go through security/scanning outside of City Hall a young man asks me what’s going on, I explain, he’s unaware of the candidates although he totally dislikes Bloomberg.

I ask, “Do you vote?”

He replies, “I voted for Obama, no, I usually don’t vote, there’s no difference and one vote doesn’t matter”

I go into my “teacher” rant: “Every vote counts, this is a democracy, we can only keep a democracy if we all participate, and we all have a responsibility to be a knowledgeable voter – what issue pisses you off the most?”

“Stop and frisk – the cops stop me all the time.”

“One of the candidates will be mayor, he or she will pick a police commissioner, they decide policies, don’t just bitch, vote.”

He looks at my UFT shirt and laughs self-consciously, “You sound like one of my teachers.”

Monday: 11:00 PM

I leaflet my building with a personal letter recommending candidates based on a few neighborhood issues.

Tuesday: 8:00 AM

Vote – I’m number 39 – last year I had to wait two hours to vote in the presidential election – this time no wait at all. At the requisite distance from the polling place pamphleteers handing out lit for their candidate … between the mayor, the comptroller, the public advocate, the borough president and the city council I count twenty candidates, I have been getting 4-5 pieces of lit in the mail every day – mostly from the borough prez candidates.

Hang out in my lobby (the polling place is in the community room of my building) and chat with neighbors – some “thank you” comments for my letter recommending candidates. In my neighborhood voters either vote on their way to work or after work, looks like a low turnout.

Tuesday: 10: 00 AM

One of the pamphleteers is screaming at voters as they enter the polling place – some heated comments from the other pamphleteers, the Community Relations officer explains the rules – tempers cool.

Tuesday: 3:00 PM

Speak to the polling place director – he expected a lot busier day. Some confusion with the old manual machines – a little hard to locate all the candidate names – and you really have to jerk the handles.

Tuesday: 6:00 PM

Off to Brooklyn to help in a City Council race – will hand out flyers outside of a polling place for a few hours and back to campaign headquarters. The captains are reporting in … they’re knocking on doors reminding neighbors to vote … checking on voter turnout by election district … setting up a lit distribution for people returning from work. Your GOTV (“get out the vote”) efforts win and lose elections, no matter the number of mailings it always comes down to getting your guys/gals to the poll. Fascinating to watch the pros checking the turnouts by the hour, shifting volunteers from polling place to polling place to bus stops and train stations, all politics is local.

Tuesday: 9:15 PM

The poll watchers start returning to the headquarters with tally sheets. We’re watching the president’s speech at the same time. The returns look good; we’re getting the right counts at the right polling places although the Thompson tallies are far below expectations in heavily Afro-American election districts.

Tuesday: 11:00 PM

The headquarters are packed, over 100 workers as Frank Seddio steps to the microphone – announces, “We won ….,” to cheers and applause. The workers are the rainbow that is New York: White, Caribbean, Haitian, Afro-American, mostly older, The candidate, Alan Maisel, thanks the workers and singles out for special thanks the key players, and especially points out the UFT teachers who volunteered to man the phones and watch at the polling places.

Tuesday: Midnight

Everyone’s exhausted, the poll watchers arrived at 5:30 AM. De Blasio is hovering at 40%; Thompson gave a rousing, “We will fight to count the last votes” speech. Frank is really concerned about November 5th; will a battle to an October 1 runoff so weaken the winner that Lhota, the Republican can become the third straight Republican mayor in an overwhelmingly democratic city?

No one is sure…

Why I Am Voting for Bill Thompson.

Choosing a candidate in a NYC democratic primary usually has more to do with a personal attraction than policies – the candidates agree on most issues. (See a comparison of the candidates here)

The candidates spend months “defining themselves,” searching for an issue to separate themselves from the pack.

The UFT invited the candidates (pre-Weiner’s entry) to panels – they all made ten minute presentations and answered questions before audiences made up of hundreds of union members. At the Brooklyn meeting Howie Schoor, the UFT Borough Representative, asked a question about continuing the ATR pool, the candidates didn’t know what ATRs were – and stumbled – Howie interrupted, “Do you want to know the ‘right answer?'”

The candidates all were attempting to satisfy UFT audiences with “right answers.”

The only candidate in a legislative office is Christine Quinn, a strength, and, as it turns out a fatal weakness. While Quinn thwarted Bloomberg efforts to layoff thousands of teachers, provided funding for the Community Schools project and worked closely with the union on many issues she could never overcome her leadership of the coup that allowed the mayor and the council to serve a third term in spite of voters, in two referenda, turning away attempts to kill term limits.

John Liu, the current comptroller, although extremely knowledgeable and hugely popular among teachers could not overcome the conviction of two key aides on charges of violating fund raising laws and lingering doubts about the involvement of his campaign.

Thompson chaired the Board of Education in the nineties, at a time when each borough president appointed a member and the mayor two members. Thompson had to carefully steer the board through the morass of geographic political interests as well as a republican mayor, he did a skillful job. His board presidency was followed by eight years as comptroller and a hugely underfunded run for the mayoralty in 2009.

I did not know much about de Blasio, an undistinguished council member representing “Brownstone Brooklyn,” who spent his term as Public Advocate chipping away at Bloomberg and setting the stage for his mayoral run.

My one interaction was negative.

Two years ago the department rolled out yet another list of closing schools. One of the schools was PS 114 in Canarsie. The department stuck with a grossly incompetent principal who overspent by several hundred thousand dollars – the department removed the principal but deducted the overspending from the school budget. A coalition of local electeds, led by Councilman Lou Fidler, devised a strategy which included Assembly member Alan Maisel, State Senator John Sampson and Councilman Charles Barron, all spoke at the public hearing, carefully avoided bashing the mayor and asked for two years to turn around the school with specific targets. (Read contemporary account here)

de Blasio, without any advance notice to the coalition members called a press conference on the steps of the school building, with TV coverage, and bashed the mayor, endangering the efforts to keep the school open.

The school was the only school removed from the list – private meetings convinced the department that they bore some responsibility.

de Blasio, who almost derailed the efforts to keep the school open, gloated claimed credit for keeping the school open.

I fully understand politics is politics – the only “rule” is to win – you do what you have to do. de Blasio grabbed a headline, and in process jeopardized the discussions that kept the school open – so be it – there are no rewards for finishing second – although he lost my vote.

Thompson worked with electeds from around the city with diverse interests while de Blasio is pretty much of a loner.

His “tax the rich” campaign and a wonderful appearance by his son and his Afro in a TV commercial have been very effective.

I wonder whether Bloomberg and his allies will pump tens of millions into the campaign attacking de Blasio as driving the city into fiscal doom and supporting policies that will increase crime?

Will twenty years of republican mayors in an overwhelming democratic city be replicated with a Lhota victory?

I feel more comfortable with Thompson, a more middle of the road candidate who can put together a broad coalition to both win in November, and, run the city in a collaborative manner. The “rich” are not the enemy and stock transfer taxes and corporate real estate taxes drive the city budget.

In the somewhat sleazy world of politics I try to make my decisions based on deeds, not promises.