Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gay City News Endorses Thompson

The Campaign That Has Not Happened
Published: Wednesday, October 21, 2009 2:24 PM Gay City News

LGBT supporters of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg cite attributes and achievements valued by other voters –– his compelling personal story as a business builder, the city’s continued success in driving down crime, the curb on indoor smoking in public spaces, an ambitious focus on greening the city.

Many also single out his advocacy for marriage equality. The mayor has made several high profile appeals to the State Senate this year to approve the gay marriage bill already adopted by the Assembly. On October 1, Bloomberg recounted for a group of gay supporters how he had, that day, called the top Democrat and Republican in the Senate and told them, “This is our number one priority.”

That’s heady stuff –– as the mayor spoke, the crowd came alive with applause and spirited shouts. There is real value in the public debate in the cumulative suasion of leaders like the mayor.

The problem is that Bloomberg’s actions regarding gay marriage have been at sharp odds with his laudable words. A disjunction between words and deeds are unfortunately all too common in the mayor’s LGBT record.

In 2005, at the same time the mayor decided to appeal a Manhattan district court judge’s pro-gay marriage ruling, for the first time he announced his support for marriage equality and pledged to lobby Albany to secure that right. That December, he told Gay City News, “When I say I’ll do something, I’ll do something.”

Yet since that statement, Bloomberg has contributed nearly $3.4 million to support the state Republican and Independence Parties, the bulk of those dollars directly funding State Senate Republican incumbents, at a time when that party’s majority refused to bring marriage equality to a floor vote. A $1.2 million Bloomberg contribution to the Independence Party last year was used to support the three most stridently anti-gay Republican senators. The mayor’s support for one of them, Frank Padavan of Queens, helped him squeak out a victory over Democratic City Councilman James Gennaro, a vocal supporter of equal marriage rights.

It’s fair to note that there are marriage equality opponents among the Senate Democrats, too, and that even after gaining the majority last November, their party did not deliver a floor vote. But it’s a good bet that had Gennaro and perhaps another Democrat or two prevailed in 2008, the two disgraceful senators who this past summer crippled a body riven by a 32-30 split would not have had their opportunity. The best information available to Gay City News indicates that without that disruption, Senator Thomas K. Duane would have gotten the marriage equality vote he seeks.

The more salient question, though, as we face November 3 is what the mayor can do to deliver Republican votes to bring the bill to the Senate floor, and on that point Bloomberg’s comments simply strain credulity. On September 17, Bloomberg told Gay City News that he “suspected” he could deliver Padavan and Brooklyn’s Marty Golden, who have both backed up their outspoken opposition to marriage equality with legislative and legal maneuvering. When the two senators’ offices were called to learn what the mayor had done to lobby them on marriage, Golden’s office did not respond. Padavan’s director of public affairs said Bloomberg had done nothing.

At an endorsement meeting on October 9, the mayor acknowledged that Padavan was not “gettable,” this time simply alluding vaguely to “upstate Republicans” whom he might bring around. Bloomberg may be, as he says, the “main funder” of the Senate Republicans, but the upstate incumbents have not accumulated the political debt that a Padavan has, so where is the mayor’s leverage?

Since the last election, Bloomberg has continued his support for the Republican and Independence Parties, donating about $500, 000, money that could return the GOP to the Senate majority in 2010, a perch from which they have consistently opposed gay marriage. Our community cannot afford that risk.

On other key LGBT issues, the mayor also talks a better game than he has played over the past eight years. He frequently mentions the continuing decline in AIDS deaths in the city, yet fails to reiterate his long-since discarded 2003 pledge to cut new infections in half. Six years later, by the city’s own data, infections remain resistant to reduction among gay and bisexual men, with transmission actually rising among young men, particularly men of color.

Asked this month why he has neglected more aggressive AIDS and condom education in the public schools, Bloomberg likened the question to divisive social debates such as evolution versus creationism. But the mayor is a world-renowned public health advocate, and he would never countenance the schools backing down from a science-based evolution curriculum. Why then did his all-star health commissioner, Thomas Frieden, now the head of the federal CDC, say, when discussing a new AIDS curriculum under development, “I don’t know that we will be able to achieve everything that you would want or I would want.”

That’s politics, not progress.

The mayor’s record on AIDS education stands in stark contrast to the positions championed by his opponent, City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr., when the Democrat served as School Board president in the late 1990s.

Elsewhere, we can see where politics has trumped progress on issues the mayor now trumpets. Just weeks before the election, Bloomberg named a commission to study the issues facing LGBT homeless youth, pulling in many of the leading advocates. But in each of the four years since the City Council began appropriating money specifically targeting this vulnerable population, the administration has refused to incorporate into its budget the funding critical to providing the beds that still number only in the dozens— intransigence that City Council Youth Services Chair Lew Fidler described as “almost cruel.”

Asked earlier this year about the false arrests of gay men in video stores throughout Manhattan, the mayor insisted questions be directed to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. Two weeks ago, Bloomberg said, “I’ve asked Kelly about it,” but then added, “I’m not so sure he’s doing an investigation.”

Mike Bloomberg is a CEO of a mayor –– he attracts top talent and empowers them with important missions. But some smaller issues, especially those that are thorny –– homeless LGBT youth, gay men falsely arrested –– never make it onto his radar, and other important questions –– marriage equality and AIDS education –– take a back seat to political imperatives, whether helping out GOP friends in the State Senate or letting his schools chancellor overrule his health commissioner.

Bill Thompson has a longer and stronger suit on LGBT rights issues. On every issue that the mayor claims bona fides, the comptroller was there first and holds a more unambiguous position. His advocacy for workplace fairness –– through shareholder resolutions aimed at companies in which the city pension funds invest –– has led to nondiscrimination protections and equal partner benefits for LGBT workers at nearly 75 major corporations. That is a significant accomplishment that had helped reshape American business well beyond the borders of New York.

Given Thompson’s record, it is unfortunate that the mayor has made the divisive argument that the comptroller is laying low in this campaign on the question of marriage equality in order to pull out his African-American base.

But Thompson’s limited campaign funds –– Bloomberg is currently outspending him more than 16 to 1 –– has given him a very small window for snaring public attention; unfortunately he has not used it to best advantage. It is certainly appropriate that the Democrat emphasize an issue that disturbs many New Yorkers –– the mayor’s machinations last year that allowed him to run for a third term. But “Eight Is Enough” is simply not enough of a public reassurance for voters during anxious economic times.

We have known Thompson throughout his tenure as comptroller, and have taken a favorable measure of the man and his core principles. Recently, we had the chance to sit down with him for an hour to discuss the current campaign. While his record, we believe, makes him the superior candidate on LGBT issues, we have been disappointed that his campaign has not built on his animating beliefs to better articulate a vision for steering the city at a time of great potential but also severe fiscal stress.

The mayor’s unfettered personal spending on his own campaign does real damage, but the victim is not Bill Thompson. The real losers are the voters of New York, who deserve real debates on questions for which neither our elected officials nor our somnambulant city press corps are providing clear answers.

During this campaign, we should be addressing the intractable problem of HIV transmission.
Bloomberg ought to explain why he brags about how few people live on the streets compared to other large cities, even as the census of families living in city shelters breaks records.

Thompson needs to convince voters that he has concrete ideas for smart and tough-minded stewardship of the city budget when resources are severely reduced. Both candidates must address, in detail, how they will balance the budget in a climate of falling city revenues and uncertain transfer payments from a state in even worse shape. It is easy to talk about new programs, but voters need to hear the specifics of how each candidate will go about cutting programs or increasing revenues in this brutal fiscal climate.

On the question of policing and crime prevention, how do we balance the need for public safety with the NYPD’s appalling rate of stop and frisks–– pegged at more than 600,000 a year, the vast percentage of them people of color?

The city deserves debate about whether vacancy decontrol has canceled out the progress on building new affordable housing.

Elections are about making choices, no matter how dissatisfied we as voters may be about the responsiveness of candidates to our desire for informed debate. Mike Bloomberg has not convinced us that he and his Republican allies will put the needs and aspirations of the gay community ahead of politics. LGBT New Yorkers are looking for a leader and advocate in City Hall. We urge a vote for Bill Thompson.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Queens and all of New York City say
Join Us in Support Hate Crime Victim Jack Price
Stand With Us Against
Anti-Gay Violence & Homophobia
In response to the violent beating of openly gay 49-year old Jack Price
by two men outside of a convenience store in the College Point neighborhood
of Queens early Friday, October 9th, two events are planned:

Friday, Oct. 16th, 3pm
Education Outreach at Flushing High School in Flushing, Queens
We'll be distributing information about LGBT issues and speaking to students.
Directions: Take the 7 train to Main Street and walk up to Northern Blvd;
cross the street; the school is a huge brick building. Meet us at the front gate.
By bus: Take the Q14, Q16, Q17 or Q44 to 35th Avenue. School is on the corner.
Take the Q25/34, Q65, Q67 to Main Street.
Walk along Main Street toward Northern Boulevard.

Saturday October 17th 2pm.
March and Rally in College Point
We'll be marching down College Point Boulevard from 20th avenue until 14th avenue.
and then holding a rally at nearby Popenhusen playground. Speakers TBA.
Directions: Take the 7 train to Main Street and then the Q65 bus from Roosevelt and Main Street to 20th ave.
Please bring signs without wooden sticks, banners, friends, and your best self.
These event are endorsed by Generation Q/the Queens Community House, the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee, the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights, St. Pat’s for All Parade, Astorians United Against Hate Crimes, Gay Peruvians of the Americas, the Long Island City Alliance, the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens, Las Buenas Amigas, Integrity NYC, Western Queens for Marriage Equality, the Anti Violence Project, Campaign to Stop the False Arrests, Queer Justice League, the International Socialist Organization, Carmen’s Place, the New York Civil Liberties Union, Project Reach, Make the Road NY.