Tag Archives: thompson

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.

Tick Tock: The Race for Mayor in New York City Enters the Final Stretch, May the Best (or the Best Organized) Wo(man) Win.

Tick Tock …

Twenty days to the September 10th primary day and the citywide offices all have competitive races.

de Blasio, Thompson and Quinn lead the mayoral field with Weiner and Liu struggling and Albanese and Salgado along for the ride. Stringer and Spitzer spar over the Comptroller slot, a host of challengers vie for Public Advocate and if you live in Manhattan or Queens the Boro President races are torrid.

My mailbox is filling up every day with mailings from multiple candidates and the tv screen is beginning to burst with glitzy advertisements.

In the new world of social media and data collecting the science of running a campaign is both complex and sophisticated.

The “rules” for winning a campaign at straightforward:

* identify the pool of voters
* identify your voters
* get them to the polls

Candidates seek out of a number of companies who provide a wealth of data in order to target voters, for example, PrimeNY will provide.

Contributors to religious causes (over 200,000 New York State voters)
• Political contributors (over 500,000)
• Contributors to environmental groups (over 450,000)
• Home includes a child (over 1 million voters)
• Book buyers (over 1 million)
• Gardeners (over 300,000)
• Investors (over 500,000)
• Gun owners (over 200,000)
Plus income, education & housing information

Every time you use your credit card for a purchase, log on to a website, sign an online petition, your data is aggregated and becomes part of the big database in the sky.

Who are the voters?

Prime voters, the most sought after voters, are voters who have voted in three of the last four primary elections. They are older, over sixty, many are or were union members, and if retired active in a host of organizations, Michael Mulgrew, the UFT president calls retired teachers his “day time army.”

In New York State only voters registered in a party can vote in a party primary, and, you can only change party registration status a year earlier. Although 2008 and 2012 were record years at the polls – the Obama surge – the “off year” turnouts are significantly lower. The new and younger voters in 2008 and 2012 either failed to register in a party (“I’m an independent”) or lost interest in the interim years. The election seers expect a 600-700,000 turnout in the mayoral primary – in a city of eight million plus!

Who are my voters?

Can candidates identify their potential voters – perhaps Quinn singles out gay voters or Thompson Afro-American voters or de Blasio more liberal voters. Campaigns craft their message to appeal to their voters.

Either a tv commercial, a mailing, a phone campaign, candidates target voters they have identified as potentially their voters. And, you’re relentless, you may ask “how many times do I contact voters who have already committed to us – the answer: as often as possible.”

How do I get my voters to the polls?

By any and all means possible …

The most effective method of motivating “our guys” is face-to-face, that tried and true door to door canvassing. “Thanks for your support, we really need you, we know you can join us to man the phones, to spend a few hours knocking on doors, …” It’s called building a movement.

Why does the polling bounce around so much?

It is extremely complex and expensive to conduct polling with low margins of error. The telephone polls might only call land line users. not cell phone-only users, did the pollsters select a “stratified, random sample” or the best available subjects?

Harry Smoler was on the Board of his coop out in Sheepshead Bay – everyone knew Harry. At the urging of his wife, a school secretary – he ran for the local school board. His coop voted heavily for their neighbor and Harry was elected to the school board. Every two years he also ran for the Assembly, never coming close.

After many attempts one election cycle lo and behold Harry was elected. One of the sages quipped, “He had run so many times people thought he was the incumbent.”

The vast majority of voters select their candidate based on very narrow criteria. In Harry’s case they imply knew his name and liked him, there were no policy considerations, in fact, they thought he was running for re-election for an office he never had held.

Quinn was the prime architect of the plan to allow Bloomberg, and the city council, to run for a third term, a single issue that for many voters permanently tarnished her reputation.

Thompson, in a city with many minority voters, is the only person of color (de Blasio, in an attempt to counter has a tv ad featuring his bi-racial son) emphasizes his experience, president of the NYC Board of Education and eight years as the City Comptroller, and, de Blasio, has staked out the left, attacks on the wealthy, tax the rich to benefit poorer New Yorkers.

Can I actually find out the education policies of the candidates?

Yes, Gotham Schools maintains a data base here.

Every minute of every day from now to the 9 PM closing of the polls on September 10th is filled in on the candidate calendars, the dates for the mailers are set, the tv time is purchased, the army of canvassers and phone bankers is building, may the best man (or woman) win, or, the best organized?

To be continued: The runoff among the top two candidates on October 1 and the democrat versus the republican on November 5th, and, BTW, will Mike Bloomberg toss in last minute millions to support the republican? Isn’t politics wonderful?

David Steiner Engages Bill de Blasio: A Discussion with a Candidate at the Roosevelt House

I have attended too many mayoral candidate forums.

The formats have either been all the candidates answering questions, with pretty similar answers or a speech by a candidate followed by moderator questioning.

Christine Quinn at the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School gave a lengthy detailed education speech, well, sort of. After the obligatory personal narrative she laid out her vision, nice, however, her vision was deeply flawed, it was shallow.

“Let’s do away with the A-F grading and institute a red-yellow-green light system,” what’s the difference?

“Let’s identify highly successful principals and have other principals emulate their practice.” Unfortunately she asked a “highly successful principal” in the audience to stand, a month or so later she was under investigation for manipulating Report Cards scores.

The CUNY Institute for Education Policy at Roosevelt House is a lovely venue – the newly renovated home of FDR and Eleanor and Sara Delano Roosevelt, the mother-in-law. Eleanor and Sara despised each other and in the reception area an artful paintings of the pair facing each other – someone has a cruel sense of humor.

David Steiner, the host and discussion partner has a future as a Charley Rose replacement, good questions, prodding, smart banter, with utmost respect from the guest.

Steiner began with a rhetorical question: As mayor, why would you want to be in charge of education? Schools in every urban center are struggling.

De Blasio has sharply criticized the Bloomberg-Klein education policies; Steiner recounted the “pluses,” the long list of increasing metrics and asked Bill what he was criticizing?

The candidate backed away, he wanted to build in Bloomberg’s success … a copout.

The core of the di Blasio education policy is to tax individuals who earn over $500,000 and the use the dollars for universal all-day pre-kindergarten and extended days in high poverty middle schools.

Tax increases require the approval of the City Council, the State legislature and the Governor – Steiner questioned whether there was the political will – de Blasio had “faith” that the political forces would support his plans. Steiner pushed, de Blasio defended. In reality the Republicans, who control the Senate, and the Governor, have vigorously opposed any tax increases. The current 2% property tax cap across the state (excepting NYC), has resulted in the loss of preK programs. The Governor placed a measly $25 million in competitive grants for preKs in his budget for the entire state – de Blasio’s plan would cost $500 million for NYC.

Steiner was particularly forceful on the charter school issue: if charter schools in NYC were doing so well, as the CREDO Report claims, why was he so anti-charter school? Well, he wasn’t anti-charter school, charter schools were a distraction, and they only account for 5% of seats.

On Michael Mulgrew: he half-jokingly reminded the audience that since no city union endorsed him, like Bloomberg, he had no obligations, and spoke generally about “coming together” with unions and their members. On the lack of a teacher contract (since 11/1/09) he acknowledged the complexities and was sure that he and the unions could work out an agreement

A last question: merit pay, opposed tying pay to pupil achievement, however, interested in a career ladder from teacher to assistant principal to principal, and, ideas about lead teachers, an intelligent response.

In the question period he danced: he supported continuing mayoral control, did not support veto powers for CECs over co-location, bemoaned the lack of involvement of the poorest neighborhoods, had no answers for the extremely low black, male graduation rates, and supported increasing Community Schools from the current handful to 100 – with no funding notions.

A slick, polished presentation by an experienced politician.

A former District 15 (Park Slope) school board member, a current public school parent, eight years as a City Councilman, four years as Public Advocate … can he win in the democratic field of seven, plus a runoff plus a fight against a Republican in November?

Did he distinguish himself from the “pack” of candidates?

Thompson and de Blasio, not surprisingly, are the most knowledgeable about education, Liu is probably the most personable and Quinn the most business-like.

At this point the sages, the political professionals who make a living working in and predicting results see Quinn, Thompson and de Blasio battling for the two spots in an October 1 runoff.

Interestingly the heavy funders on the Republican side can probably live with Quinn or Thompson, not de Blasio, and would pump major dollars into a Lhota versus di Blasio November tussle.

I’m waiting for the candidate who says, “I’ll pick a chancellor with extensive urban school experience, with evidence of the ability to work with teacher unions and communities, and get out of their way,” probably a long wait.

Urban mayors do not have a good record in education – Chicago is involved in substantial school closings and layoffs and faces a huge deficit, in Los Angeles the union and the superintendent are in total conflict, with a newly elected school board opposing the superintendent. Detroit is in default, Atlanta’s “success” was eraser-driven.

Which candidate is the “healer,” has the ability to bring together the disparate communities across the city, can negotiate a contract with unions who have been without a contract for years, can work with the business community that provides the tax base?

Is David Steiner interested in running for mayor?

It’s Thompson: The Teacher Union (UFT) Enthusiastically Endorses a Mayoral Candidate

Over 2,000 teachers have attended union-sponsored candidate forums – and many have attended neighborhood and organization sponsored forums, Thompson, Liu and de Blasio were the most popular among the teachers at the forums. (The union conducted straw votes at each forum).

In spite of the wide ranging views among the membership Thompson is a popular choice, as well as a pragmatic choice.

The six Democratic candidates will duel for the eighty days leading up to the September 10th primary, and the top two will joust for three more weeks to the October 1st runoff.

The Republican candidate will opt out of campaign finance, and raise big bucks to fund an aggressive negative campaign.

In June, 2001 who heard of Michael Bloomberg? He was polling in the single digits as the Democrats flailed away at each other.

The thousand delegates at Wednesday’s meeting overwhelmingly applauded the putting forth of Thompson’s name, and the delegates, with a handful of negative votes endorsed Thompson enthusiastically.

Thompson thanked the delegates and launched into his stump speech, his mother, a career New York City teacher, his teachers in elementary school in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Hudde Junior High School and Midwood High School; his “promises” were to collaborate with parents and teachers and to fix, not close schools. Elect Bill Thompson signs appeared and within an hour I received a robo call and a text message from the union.

Gotham Schools reports,

“When I’m mayor, I’m going to fight day and night for the teachers of New York, because you’re critical for the future of New York,” Thompson said, to cheers.

Several teachers said the energy in the room was electric, particularly after Mulgrew announced that the endorsement was official. “When he said it, it amped it up 100 percent,” said John Leftridge, who teaches at P.S. 93 in Brooklyn.

“It was kind of like Obama in there,” said Charlene Johnson, a teacher at P.S. 64 in Manhattan.

As the days of school fritter away teachers will scatter to the winds, or take a week off before they begin to toil in summer school. The union has to round up the core campaigners, the teachers who want to spend the summer knocking on doors, setting up neighborhood meetings, and that last minute Go Out The Vote push on the September 7th, 8th and 9th.

Aside from union members another potential pool of Thompson voters are voters of color. The union has developed strong ties with parents, advocacy organizations, pastors and community leaders, a substantial pool of voters.

The Thompson-UFT efforts will target neighborhoods and try and hook up with the City Council candidates, political clubs and political county organizations.

The dog days of summer are also the dog days of campaigning, sloughing from meeting to meeting on 90 degree plus humid days.

The political mavens are predicting that de Blasio, Liu and Weiner will falter as the summer lengthens and Quinn and Thompson will emerge as the contenders. Who knows? It is a campaign without passion – the passion of the Obama campaigns in 2008 and 2012, the Schumer – D’Amato head to head, occasionally candidates evoke the passions of voters who dedicate themselves for their their guy or gal. When I asked a neighbor who they were thinking of voting, after I assured him Bloomberg was not running, he thought, “Let me see, the redhead, Quinn, the tall guy, the Asian guy and the Black guy.” The populace has not focused in on the candidates, and may not until a week or two before the September 10th primary.

The candidates are personalities, it is difficult to define the candidates by issues – stop and frisk, schools, bike lanes, affordable housing, they all sort of agree, The NY Post and Daily News will continue to rip away at all the Democratic candidates and probably endorse the Republican candidate in November.

Thomas Edison wrote, “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

The stakes are high for the union – an early commitment to a candidate, a maximum effort, UFT president Mulgrew pushed all his chips to the center of the table, “we’re all in.” If Thompson stumbles and does not make the runoff the reputation of Mulgrew and the union is tarnished.

If Thompson makes it into the runoff and loses the union can jump on board the October 1st winner – an embarrassment but not a disaster.

If the specter of 2001 is revisited, the union candidates lose in the primary,the runoff and the November election it would be a triumph Bloomberg, in essence the Republican candidate would continue the Bloomberg vista.

In 2009 Bloomberg shelled out over a hundred million dollars and choked the airways, pumping up his reputation and denigrating his opponent. With all the Democrats opting into the campaign finance program, and assuming they max out their contributions, they will have equal dollars in the eight million dollar range. Over the final two weeks the airways will be flooded with glossy presentations, and, jabs. “Third parties” can raise unlimited dollars to campaign, thank the five-members of the Supreme Court in the Citizen United decision.

With six Democrats, without major policy differences, personality and feet on the ground will prevail.

Remember a Derek Jeter and/or a David Wright endorsement is far more valuable than the candidate’s views on co-location. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West could probably “make” a mayor – sadly it’s the world we live in.

Celebrity and music resonates more than political policy.

I have high hopes for Thompson, he just seems like he understands the pulse of the city beyond the East River.

For those of a certain age the raps are the new folk music,

Check out Lupe Fiasco, “Around My Way Freedom Ain’t Free.”

And for those of us who resent the noblesse oblige attitude of the current administration perhaps Leonard Cohen speaks for us, check out “Democracy“

Gwen Verdon, Méphistophélès and the Democratic Mayoral Primary: Will UFT Troops, or a Contract With Beelzebub Decide the Election?

Every few hours on my TV screen I see New Yorkers rag on Christine Quinn, an example of negative campaigning – welcome to the world of big time politics.

All the Democratic candidates are participating in the NYC Campaign Finance which provides matching funds for the primary and the general election. Outside organizations, “third parties,” can spend unlimited funds supporting or opposing candidates. The current nasty ads erode Quinn’s lead – such is the world of politics in the 21st century.

On September 10th voters who are registered in the Democratic Party, at least some of them, will go to the polls to cast their ballots for a mayoral candidate, a comptroller and public advocate, all of which require 40% to avoid a runoff, two, or maybe three weeks later. In addition most voters will choose a borough president and a city council candidate; there is no 40% rule requirement in non-citywide races.

The experts, the political consulting firms charge big dollars to run campaigns – and they’re very good at it

Check out Red Horse Strategies, Brown, Miller Groupand Bill Lynch Associates, among many others.

The Brown, Miller Group promises,

IT’S ABOUT THE DATA. Every direct contact plan needs to be built on a foundation of detailed analysis. Turnout trends, polling, tested messages, the things unique to every client, every campaign, and every neighborhood – these nuances and individualities are the basis of a successful mail program.

Data is available in an endless array, by geography, by race and ethnicity, by gender, by age, by frequency of voting, by type of dwelling, Prime NY will sell you the data disaggregated any way you choose.

For candidates a core question: who are the voters and who are your voters?

In November 2012 I stood in line for over two hours to vote – the line was overwhelmingly Obama voters, and, as I chatted with voters on the line many had not voted since 2008. Most experts expect a relatively light turnout in spite of six Democratic contenders (Quinn, Thompson, Liu, De Blasio, Weiner and Albanese). None of the candidates are magnetic, yes, Asian voters, if they are registered Democrats are Liu voters, the furthest left are De Blasio voters, Afro-American voters are probably Thompson voters, LGT voters are Quinn voters, none of the candidate constituencies have the passion of Obama voters.

The experts are predicting between 600 and 700,000 voters – in a city of 8 million plus residents. New York City has among the lowest level of voter turnout in the nation, and, the percentages are declining. New York is at the bottom of the nation in citizen participation in elections,

New York ranks among the lowest states with voter turnouts. In 2010, only 35 percent voted according to a George Mason University study.

“New York City had lower voter turnout in the presidential elections in 2008 than any other major city in the country,” said Amy Loprest, executive director of the Campaign Finance Board said. “While I don’t think any jurisdiction would say that they have great voter turnout, I think that New York has a particular problem.”

In 2001 785,000 Democrats voted in the mayoral primary and 790,000 in the runoff. In the 2005 and 2009 general elections the Democratic turnouts were meager, (Ferrer – 503,000 and Thompson – 534,000), and, yes, Democratic voters did “cross-over” and vote for Bloomberg.

The early media buys are examples of negative campaigning, effective in diminishing the votes of opponents, and generally turns off voters and decreases turnouts.

Candidates “mine” data: the key voters are “prime” (voted in three of the last four elections) and “double prime” voters (voted in four of the last four elections). Websites provide keys to collecting voter information.

See an excellent site here.

I am told by a knowledgeable consultant that the average age of a voter in the Democratic primary is sixty years of age, and more likely than a younger voter to have a land line. Polling organizations randomly call registered Democrats with land lines; the many potential voters with only cell phones are not polled.

Christine Quinn has been leading all the polls for months; however her early lead, which was approaching the 40% mark, has eroded significantly. Nate Silver in his NY Times Five Thirty Eight column does an analysis of Democratic primaries since 1989 and predicts Quinn will be the winner.

The latest poll, a Marist May 28th poll predicts a very close vote on September 10th,
• 24% Christine Quinn
• 19% Anthony Weiner
• 12% Bill de Blasio
• 11% Bill Thompson
• 8% John Liu
• 1% Sal Albanese
• 23% Undecided

The next polls, due in a few weeks will reflect whether Weiner has “staying power,” the impact of the negative ads aimed at Quinn and the impact of the recent union endorsements.

Paul Egan, the UFT Political Action Coordinator avers that 60,000 UFT members are registered Democrats residing in New York City and if you count UFT households about 100,000 voters – a significant chunk of the expected turnout.

No wonder the candidates are acolytes of Gwen Verdon in “Damn Yankees.” (Watch U-Tube of “Whatever Lola Wants”). The favorite play and opera among the candidates is Faust, and, a political consulting firm named Mephistopheles Strategies would probably be overwhelmed with clients.

Michael Mulgrew half-jokingly lamented, “I’m going to go from six really close ‘friends’ to one ‘friend.'” The UFT will be endorsing a candidate at the Delegate Meeting scheduled for the afternoon of June 19th.

The candidates will spend the summer attending every event they can find, from bar-b-ques to street fairs, from baseball games to cricket matches, trying to scrape together a vote here and a vote there – a percentage point may very well determine who makes the runoff.

This is a particularly difficult year – the Thursday and Friday before the September 10th primary is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and one of the holiest days of the year; a key time in which campaigning will be limited.

The acronym which will decide the winner(s) is GOTV.

GOTY = Get Out the Vote. You’ve spent months identifying your voters, getting out your message, now; you must take that last step and make sure they get to the polling place. TV and radio and social media allow you to frame your message – GOTV determines winners.

Both in 2008 and 2012 Obama had an army, millions of foot soldiers knocking on the right doors. Endorsements are helpful, phone banks important, the “decider” is the push in the last four days, the GOTV efforts. Can you knock on the tens of thousands of doors of voters who have indicated they are your voters – not random doors? Get Out The Vote means get out your vote.

Can the UFT get their 60,000 registered Democrat voters go door to door on the weekend of September 7-8 and ask, “Can I depend on you to go the poll on Tuesday and vote for _______?”

The vast percentage of potential voters are far more concerned with ups and downs of their favorite sports teams, the woes of the Yankees and the Mets and the upcoming football season – the Giants and the Jets. My neighbor is more interested in the latest episode of the Game of Thrones than the election, in fact, the citizenry is only vaguely aware that Bloomberg can’t run again. Voters will only focus on the election in mid-August, if at all.

Can a teacher who favors candidate “A” be convinced to switch his/her vote to the candidate that the UFT endorses? The election may hinge on this crucial question.

If Michael Mulgrew can get his troops into the field – he can make a mayor – if not, the specter of 2001 – the UFT endorsed three losers and an unknown who had never been involved in politics seized the office – once again, can a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic city be elected, or, can a Democrat hostile to unions grab the scepter and the orb?

Perhaps Winston Churchill said it best,

“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter” and “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

See NY Times article re power of labor unions in NYC mayoral election.

Who Will Elect the Next New York City Mayor? What is the Path to Victory?

In 2008 I proudly displayed an Obama poster on my front door. My neighbor, with whom I had a nodding relationship, gave a big “thumbs up.” We began to chat about politics as we sorted our mail at the mailbox, traveled up and down on the elevator and met at the compactor room – those couple of minute conversations we have with neighbors in the urban environment.

The other day as we were riding down in the elevator, I asked,

“Who are you supporting for mayor?”

He mused for a while, “I guess Bloomberg, I know he screwed up the schools but overall he’s done a good job.”

I was surprised, “He’s not running,” I replied, “He’s term limited.”

“He can get around that, wasn’t he supposed to be term limited last time?”

“Yes, not this time.”

“I guess I have to pay attention to the pack – let’s see – the redhead, the one who just got married, Quinn, let me think, an Asian guy, a tall guy, a black guy and Weiner, the guy with the appropriate name.”

“Who you voting for?”

“I have no idea – it’s a long time till November, I’ll have to start paying more attention.”

“The primary is September 10th – are you a registered Democrat?”

“Good question, I don’t know – are their big differences between them – marriage equality, stop and frisk …?”

“Nope, nuances, not big differences.”


2,000 UFT members will have attended meetings and listened to the five announced candidates, the overwhelming number of potential voters barely know the names of the candidates. In my district, counting citywide and local candidates, there will be a dozen candidates vying for the Democratic slot on the ballot. The last week in August and the first ten days in September my mailbox will be filled with election lit – why should I vote for one candidate or why some other candidate is the sporn of the devil.

On September 10th about 700,000 voters will select the Democratic candidate for the November 5th election – unless a candidate does not reach the 40% cut off – if no candidate has 40% of the vote for a citywide office a runoff will be held on September 24th.

In 2001 785,000 votes were cast in a four-way Democratic primary and 1.5 million in the November general election.

In 2009 330,000 votes were cast in a 2-way Democratic primary and one million in the November election.

One of the primary rules of campaigning is: identify your voters and get them to the polls.

1. Fund raising: In New York City a campaign finance law sharply restricts and levels the playing field, all the current
Democratic candidates have committed to participate in the campaign finance program. You can track every contribution by candidate and by contributor on the website (http://www.nyccfb.info/).

2. Identifying potential voters: Prime NY, run by Jerry Skurnick, sells data disaggregated any way you choose. Read an excellent, brief explanation of how to breakdown key data here (http://gograssroots.org/files/analyzevoters.pdf). Who are “your voters?” Asian voters are likely to vote for John Liu – how many Asian voters are registered Democrats and how many are likely to vote? For Bill Thompson – Afro-Americans are a large potential block of voters. Thompson’s “stump speech” to Afro-American audiences references his grandparents as immigrants from the Caribbean and his 88 year-old father who still goes to work every day.

You may identify potential voters – how do you motivate them to go to the polls?

3. Endorsements. Some organizations can potentially “deliver” their members on Election Day. Unions, churches, environmental organizations, LBGT organizations, have loyal memberships who may abide by an endorsement, especially unions. Newspaper endorsements, NY Times, the Post, the Daily News and the foreign language press can influence voters, at the local level endorsement by civic or block associations, by a neighbor, the more local the better.

4. Communications. Getting out the message is a challenge … free “publicity” through press releases, appearances at events, Christine Quinn in her role as leader of the City Council has the opportunity to garner headlines, speaking at Columbia and disclosing her battles with alcoholism and bulimia, releasing her autobiography. Bill de Blasio attacking high stakes testing, as well as attacking Christine Quinn, John Liu, in his role as Comptroller issuing a range of reports, obliquely attacking the Mayor.

As the election nears the candidates will take to the airways – TV commercials, mailers, robo calls, flyers and social media.

5. Street Operations. You’ve identified your voters, you’ve made the phone calls, you’ve attended scores of community meetings, sent out letters and flyers as election day nears – and in the final week you put hundreds and hundreds of supporters on the streets – standing on street corners handing out campaign buttons or palm cards, ringing door bells, urging friends and neighbors and strangers to show up at the polls, and that last push – those “triple” prime voters – making sure they get to the polls.

Teachers are passionate in their dislike of the current mayor and their desire to elect the “anti-Bloomberg.” a mayor who respects teachers and will select a chancellor who will return sanity to the school system. Every municipal union is without a contract: which candidate will be most likely to negotiate a satisfactory contract?

Most New Yorkers are not passionate, the election hasn’t resonated – like my neighbor the election is far away, a candidate choice has not coalesced – the candidates are still “the redhead, the Asian guy, the tall guy and the black guy”

At the Brooklyn UFT candidate forum Borough Rep Howie Schoor asked each candidate what was their path to victory, they all answered: the UFT endorsement.

They’re probably right.

Read NY Times editorial (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/20/opinion/education-and-new-york-citys-mayoral-race.html?hpw)

Endorsing a Candidate: How Will the UFT Select a Candidate in the September 10th Democratic Primary?

Over 1200 UFT members packed the Hilton ballroom at 8:30 Saturday morning to listen to six candidates (Quinn, DiBlasio Liu, Thompson, Albanese and Carrion). UFT President Mulgrew and Elementary School VP Karen Alford asked the questions for an hour and audience members lined up at microphones and queried the candidates for the last half hour.

Gotham Schools has been “collecting” statements of the candidates – with so far over 150 comments – an “issues tracker,” (http://gothamschools.org/2013-mayoral-race/)

The election wonks are predicting a 600-700,000 voter turnout for the September 10th primary. Who are the voters? Do the polls include new voters of color? Asian voters? How will the “outer borough” antipathy towards Bloomberg translate at the polls? Will endorsements translate into votes?

The huge voting blocks are teachers and parents, how will they vote

The UFT, the teacher union, is a “major player” because of the potential power at the polls – well over 100,000 registered democratic voters, and, how will a UFT endorsement influence parent voters?

At the April UFT Delegate Meeting members overwhelmingly supported making an endorsement at the June 16th meeting; the May 22nd Delegate Meeting will include a “speak out,” an opportunity for delegates to advocate for or against candidates.

In each of the boroughs the UFT is sponsoring candidate forums, and, asking UFT members in the audience to “vote” for their choice by a secret ballot before they leave.

At today’s Brooklyn forum over 200 union members packed the meeting space. It was a diverse group – by gender, by race, by teaching level and from different districts.

From a little after 4 PM until near 7 PM, no one left as Liu, Quinn, Di Blasio, Albanese and Thompson fielded similar questions.

There were no surprises, and not much of a difference in policies. Liu is an “old friend,” endorsed by the union as a City Council candidate and in his race for Comptroller. A product of the school system with a 7th grader in a public middle school he fielded question with ease.

UFT Borough Rep Howie Schoor reminded the audience that while Quinn supported a third term for the mayor and the council she is responsible for thwarting Bloomberg’s budget which would have laid off 7,000 teachers. Quinn skillfully answered questions and used the word “collaboration” many times.

Di Blasio, also a public school parent, continued to attack Quinn, over her support for a third term, and called her the “Bloomberg Lite” candidate.

Sal Albanese, a teacher for eleven years, as one teacher noted, seemed to be running for chancellor.

Bill Thompson thanked the audience for waiting and charmed with stories about his mother, a career teacher in District 16 in Brooklyn. A graduate of Hudde JHS and Midwood High School, both in Brooklyn, Thompson reminded the audience that he spent 55 of his 58 years in Brooklyn. Time and time again he rapped the Bloomberg administration and in the strongest terms said he would hire an experienced educator as chancellor. The audience applauded as he criticized Tweed, policies made by a staff without much school experience, and, “not a lot of diversity.”

Each of the UFT Borough Offices has, or, will be hosting the same type of meeting; a thousand or so union members, from every district and level, will be participating in the forums and casting ”straw” votes.

I think the final endorsement will be driven by the “straw votes” at the borough meetings and the attitude of the delegates at the May 22nd meeting.

Will the fund-raising convictions of Liu staffers fatally impact his campaign?

Is DiBlasio too far to the left? Will he “turn off” the middle of the road voters? Will he mobilize the business community to make an all-out effort for Lhota? (Lhota is about at the same level as Bloomberg was at this time in 2001)

Can Thompson capture voters of color: Afro-American and Hispanic? Are his middle of the road economic and safety views acceptable to a wider swath of voters?

And, the key issue: will the union membership follow the union endorsement?

Between the delegate meeting, the Spring Conference candidate forum and the five borough forums over 2,000 union members will have participated in the endorsement process.

The mantra from Michael Mulgrew has been – let’s not pick a winner, let’s make a winner.

With many opportunities to participate in the endorsement process it is likely that an enthusiastic, involved membership just may make the difference in September and November.

How Do You Select a Candidate in the September 10th Democratic Primary? Is Mayoral Control the Core Issue? and, BTW, How Should NYC Schools Be Governed?

At each mayoral forum the candidates are asked, “Do you support mayoral control?” If the candidate answers, “No” the audience, usually made up of parents and teachers, applauds.

Around the world schools are run by the federal or regional government authorities – with no parental or community involvement – maybe a school council at the school level. Curriculum are national, teacher union contracts are national or regional. In a French school, a lycee, the same lesson is taught on the same day throughout the country. High stakes tests determine placement in secondary schools and colleges.

Education in the United States is governed by 16,000 elected school boards under rules set by the states.

In the late sixties urban policies advocated giving communities as much authority over schools as possible. If local voters and parents had “ownership” of schools communities would create policies at the local level to assure improvements in academic achievement. The decentralization law created 32 semi-autonomous school boards, elected in proportional representation elections with the authority to hire superintendents, hire principals and determine budget priorities. The seven-member salaried, staffed central board – one appointed by each borough president and two by the mayor selected a chancellor and set overall city policy.

By any measure decentralization failed in the poorest neighborhoods in the city – the neighborhoods that were supposed to benefit the most suffered from extremely low voter turnout – elections dominated by local electeds and special interest pockets – chaos and corruption in the poorest districts reigned while higher income districts thrived with high levels of parent involvement.

Esmeralda Simmons, a Dinkins appointee described borough president appointees who spent their time wheeling and dealing political “contracts,” a totally politicized board unconcerned with education policy.

Mayoral control began in the mid-nineties in Boston – a close mayor-superintendent (Menino-Payzant) relationship that was praised across the board

In an often-quoted State of the City speech in 1996, delivered in the auditorium of the troubled Jeremiah Burke High School, Mayor Thomas M. Menino challenged residents to “judge me harshly” if his overhaul of the city’s schools failed. It was one of the most passionate speeches he made in his two-decade quest to be known as the “education mayor.”

As Menino prepares to leave office next January, he can proudly point to an array of impres¬sive accomplishments: historically low dropout rates, skyrocketing standardized test scores in many grades, full-day kindergarten available for all 5-year-olds, rising college completion rates among Boston high school graduates, and ¬extended days in dozens of schools, to name just a few.

As the mayoral control system moved across the nation, in 2007, Kenneth Wong, a Georgetown University professor examined mayor control. In his book, “The Education Mayor” he concludes,

… although mayoral control of schools may not be appropriate for every district, it can successfully emphasize accountability across the education system, providing more leverage for each school district to strengthen its educational infrastructure and improve student performance.

In New York City, in 2013, mayoral control is associated with the unpopular policies and personality of Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Unfortunately the mayoral forum moderators do not follow up – a “sound bite” and applause is not a policy.

If you oppose mayoral control, what do you favor?

Should we move to the LA system – an elected board representing geographical areas?

In the current round of school board elections in LA millions of dollars are pouring in from around the country – most of the dollars from “pro- (de)form interests.

Should the Mayor appoint a majority of the seats? Should the City Council, the Borough Presidents and the Mayor appoint members with no group having a majority?

Would a divided board lead to internal wheeling and dealing returning to a totally politicized Board?

Should all appointees serve fixed terms?

Should we consider a CUNY, SUNY model?

A majority of the CUNY board is appointed by the Governor with the “advice and consent” of the NYS Senate – a minority appointed by the Mayor – the president of the Faculty Senate serves on the Board. The Board meets six times a year with duties specified in detailed bylaws. The Chancellor, Mathew Goldstein has sweeping powers. The SUNY board trustees are appointed by the Governor with the “advice and consent” of the NYS Senate, also meets six times a year with clearly enunciated powers and selects a chancellor, Nancy Zimpher (http://www.suny.edu/chancellor/. also with extensive powers.

Should a board select a chancellor and grant the chancellor wide authority, and restrict itself to policy decisions?

As SUNY and CUNY trustees, should the central board have extensive backgrounds in other leadership positions?

Comptroller and mayoral candidate John Liu in an excellent report, “No More Rubber Stamps” calls for a screening panel to vet candidates and limit appointees to those candidates.

With four months until the September 10th primary Christine Quinn leads, far below the 40% threshold,

• 26% Christine Quinn
• 15% Anthony Weiner
• 12% John Liu
• 11% Bill de Blasio
• 11% Bill Thompson
• 2% Sal Albanese
• 1% Other
• 22% Undecided

Among registered Democrats in New York City including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate, if the Democratic primary were held today, here is how the contest would stand without Anthony Weiner in the race:

• 30% Christine Quinn
• 15% Bill de Blasio
• 14% Bill Thompson
• 11% John Liu
• 2% Sal Albanese
• 2% Other
• 26% Undecided

If no candidate receives 40% of the vote in the September 10th Democratic primary the top two vote-getters will “runoff” in an election held on September 24th.

New Yorkers have yet to focus on the election – in 2009 Bill Thompson was 20% behind the Mayor a month before the election and closed to 5%…

It will probably not be until the waning days in August and the days leading up to September 10th that voters will focus.

With an excellent chance of a September 24th runoff can the Democratic winner stumble? Not according to the current polling, however, if the Working Families and the Independence Parties supported other candidates – four names on the November 5th ballot, who can tell…

Remember what did Winston Churchill said about democracy, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others,” or, if you’re a little more pessimistic, another relevant Churchill quote, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter,” then again maybe Abraham Lincoln got in right, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer.”
― Abraham Lincoln