Volume 75, Number 14 | August 24 - 30, 2005


A pass for now on the Democratic mayoral contenders

The race for the Democratic nomination for mayor may make for interesting theater at times, such as during last weekend’s debate, but the race has been a disappointment on substance. The four frontline candidates are fighting to compete against a well-financed mayor who has done a pretty good job, and they have not yet made the case for making a change at City Hall.

The primary will be Sept. 13. After watching the campaigns and two televised debates, we don’t hold out hope that one of these four will be able to convince us in two weeks that he or she should be the next mayor. One of them will win the primary, however, and we may think differently about this person two months from now when the Democratic nominee will be taking on Mayor Mike Bloomberg in a head-to-head contest. The four candidates are not equal, but picking one simply because she or he is better than the other three is not enough.

Congressmember Anthony Weiner is a good communicator who has put forward some interesting ideas. He has a better understanding than the others as to why Democrats have lost three straight mayoral elections in one of the nation’s bluest cities. But he is new to the citywide stage and he may not have enough experience. His quick wit is not always an asset.

Former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer has the necessary presence to do “the second-toughest job.” He knows his way around city government and is committed to issues like affordable housing. We do have concerns about how he tacks differently each time he runs for mayor and about his feelings toward Lower Manhattan — he called for dispersing the Downtown economy while the World Trade Center fires were still burning four years ago and he opposes the Goldman Sachs deal now.

City Council Speaker Gifford Miller demonstrated remarkable political skills to rise to an important position at a young age. He has had housing successes, such as helping to preserve the affordability of Independence Plaza in Tribeca, but he takes credit and denies blame too easily. Spending $1.6 million in city money for a mailing that served his candidacy did not violate the law, but it was unfair to his Democratic opponents who are working under the same limits he is.

Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields has some qualities to make a good mayor — she’s dignified, likable and her heart is in the right place. But she has not run an effective office and has handled her community board responsibilities badly. Ignoring a conflict of interest problem at Community Board 2 for far too long, removing Chairperson Madelyn Wils from Community Board 1 without answering questions and not responding to a Freedom of Information Law request by one of our reporters regarding basic community board information are the latest and most egregious examples of what has been a pattern.

There are other important races that will be on the ballot on Sept. 13 and there is merit to voting for the best mayoral candidate in the Democratic primary. There’s just not enough reason to endorse one — at least not now.

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