When I first started writing this column approximately six months ago, I was excited about the opportunity to engage the readership in an ongoing dialogue about current political events. From the local news to national issues, it was my intention to give our audience an insider’s view of everything political. It was an amazing experience that I was honored to share with all of you. Recently, I was offered the position of Press Secretary to Senate Democratic Leader Malcolm A. Smith; and I accepted the honor. Changing roles from that of a political insider to someone who works inside the government means I will no longer be able to be an independent political commentator with The Queens Courier. Thus this will be my last column, but hopefully not the end of our conversation together.
Coming off the historic election of our country’s first African-American President, voters, me included are eager for a change. We are hungry for a different type of politics, one where people come before party, where elections aren’t a referendum on the personal lives of individuals running, but rather the issues they stand for. Politics can be about more than splicing up the electorate and using wedge issues to divide the public. It should be a great forum for the people and their chosen representatives to openly and honestly debate the issues and allow statesmanship to settle the day rather than showmanship.
After the transitional election we just witnessed, politics can finally be what it should be if we do not lose sight of the greater truth. There is a lot more that unites us than divides us. Why write this now, post election? Next year’s citywide elections are rapidly approaching and we cannot afford to take one step backward. We cannot afford to demand anything less of those running for office than to speak directly to us and demonstrate their vision for the next four years of how New York City should be run.
For those running for mayor, including the current Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Comptroller William Thompson Jr., Congressmember Anthony Weiner and Councilmember Tony Avella, we must hear how they intend to turn the economy around without sacrificing essential services. What parts of the budget will they cut to trim spending and what can the city do to maximize revenue and protect vital public programs? What are their plans to retain New York’s standing as the financial capital of the world while reshaping its economy into a 21st century model that is not so dependent on the whims of Wall Street and the financial service sector? Creating jobs, protecting jobs and smart and sustainable economic development are the issues we need to hear about from all the candidates before they get our most valued asset - our vote.
Expected Public Advocate candidates like Councilmembers Eric Gioia, John Liu (could run for Comptroller if not Public Advocate) and Bill DeBlasio, and famed civil rights attorney Norman Siegel are vying to be the people’s voice. We need to know how they will represent our interests in areas like consumer affairs, environmental policy, education and transportation. If they are to be our watchdog, they must first articulate what they plan to watch for and how they will approach their advocacy of the public’s diverging interests.
Comptroller candidates like Councilmembers David Weprin, David Yassky and possibly Melinda Katz (still undeclared whether she will run for her council seat or Comptroller) will be the future CEOs of our city. During times of economic distress, their fiscal management of our pension funds is absolutely crucial to the city’s return to financial solvency. What will they do to reshape and diversify the city’s portfolio of investments, how will they get the greatest return on our investment? These are the questions that must be answered before a single vote is cast.
Borough Presidents and members of the City Council, arguably the closest representative to the people should not expect our vote for what they have done in the past, but rather what they will do for us in the future. Elections are about tomorrow and before anyone gets my vote, I want to hear about their vision for tomorrow today.
Do I expect a lot? Yes, because if the prize is the responsibility of speaking for me, the greatest honor I can give another person, I want to be sure that whomever I choose can balance the weight of their decisions with the impact it has on the people they serve.
I would like to thank Vickie and Josh Schneps, Lou Parajos, Toni Cimino and the entire staff for welcoming me into The Queens Courier family. And most of all, I would like to thank the readers for inviting me into their lives and allowing me to share my most favorite love with them - politics. Thank you.