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The District 3 City Council race, for the seat held the past 14 years by Speaker Christine Quinn, pits two passionate and energetic L.G.B.T. contenders against each other for what has often been dubbed “the gay seat.”
Yetta Kurland is an attorney who has won some impressive civil rights victories in her career, remains outspoken on the closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital, and has rallied community members on other issues, including Superstorm Sandy relief.
Corey Johnson has also been a community activist during his 13 years in New York and has served for eight years on Community Board 4, encompassing Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, including two terms as board chairperson.
The two broadly share common progressive views on a host of issues, including the need for more affordable housing, more classrooms, increased spending on H.I.V. prevention, greater citizen participation in allocating funds available to the councilmember, and curbs on the excessive use of stop-and-frisk tactics by the New York Police Department.
A central theme of Kurland’s campaign has been her willingness to take on established powers in the city, an approach typified by her 2009 challenge to Quinn’s re-election and her tireless activism around the St. Vincent’s Hospital issue.
Johnson emphasizes his skill at working with government bodies and other stakeholders to achieve the goals he values. Evidence for that includes his demonstrated mastery of policy details and the confidence his C.B. 4 colleagues placed in him by twice electing him chairperson.
We believe that Johnson’s skill set and his vision for his role as a councilmember make him better suited to represent the diverse communities within District 3.
The bitterness and pettiness that has characterized this contest –– including determined whisper campaigns waged by surrogates for both candidates –– is disappointing, and both Johnson and Kurland bear responsibility for not having run a more positive race. Kurland spent far too much time trying to link her opponent to the evils of the real estate industry based on two staff jobs with developers he held for relatively short amounts of time. Johnson, for his part, for too long was inexplicably opaque about his résumé, which did little but fuel the sense there was something to be uncovered.
The Aug. 26 debate at the Chelsea Bowtie Cinema, however, nicely clarified the choice between the two candidates. Johnson offered detailed explanations for community board work he has accomplished, which gave credence to the proposals he discussed. He also set a generally positive tone for the evening that suggested he has the ability to work with community members of widely divergent opinions. He acknowledged that Kurland had led the charge on the hospital issue, and pledged, if elected, to work with her to restore a full-service hospital to the Lower West Side.
Kurland offered her vision and also a profile of herself that matched that vision. She was too often, though, short on specifics, a flaw that has hobbled both of her Council runs. She also has an unfortunate tendency to use upbeat language to mask serious aspersions she is suggesting about her opponent –– ones she apparently is unwilling to make directly.
Should Johnson be elected, we hope he will recognize the vital importance of transparency in his public life. His community work to date suggests significant promise and we urge a vote for him.