Riots, Gutballs, and Scumbags (A Debate Continues)
Last week, Tracie McMillan of City Limits and I hosted a debate for the independent candidates for mayor. We asked for questions from the audience but ran out of time to ask all of them, so I submitted the leftovers to the participating candidates to answer. Here they are, starting with
Seth Blum (Education Party): Because a vast majority of the people have a job, some food to eat, air to breathe, water to drink and can walk down the streets without being harassed by officers. Remember, I said "a vast majority". Until that is not the case, people are content not to riot, but to try and get a good night's sleep for the next working day.
Christopher Brodeur (Democrat): Because it's human nature to do what you're told, and Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, "all history hath shown that men are disposed to suffer ills that are sufferable rather than right themselves of those ills" (paraphrased). Our education system and our media are designed deliberately to foster obedience and trust for authority, because a smart populace is a fearsome populace. And I'm running to let them know they don't have to tolerate the MTA or City Hall anymore.
Tony Gronowicz (Green Party): They are psychologically beaten down. Once Great Depression-like circumstances kick in they will take some initiative
Andy Horowitz (Blog Party): Well, there are countless reasons why people aren't taking it to the streets. One reason is that for at least the past twenty years people have come to consider themselves consumers rather than citizens. Regardless of income, most people imagine that one day they too will be part of the wealthy class, so they are reluctant to tear down a system they believe might one day benefit them. Consumer culture has supplanted civic engagement and political awareness. The conservative backlash to the Sixties - and the subsequent campaign to demonize and trivialize the politics associated with that era - has been a success. And rioting no longer inspires fear anyway. Look at the protests leading up to the current war in Iraq. Huge numbers of people around the world took to the streets to no avail. And I think most people are, understandably, reluctant to engage in violent protest.
Audrey Silk (Libertarian): There are four kinds of people in the free world: The apathetic, the beaten, the approvers, and the opposers. The apathetic don't riot because they don't know enough to care or until it really affects them personally. The beaten don't riot because they figure by now there's nothing they can do. The approvers (aka bleeding heart liberals) are those who actually believe we should all be paying MORE in taxes to fund entitlement programs. That sadly leaves a small number of opposers whose numbers can't add up to a riot. And so I am here trying to "riot" for them.
Chris Riggs (Green Party): Tax payers are not rioting in the streets because they are brainwashed by TV.
Q: How about the 850 million surplus the Transit Authority wants to invest in real estate. The gutballs.
Seth Blum: Well, perhaps the Transit Authority is like everyone else, trying to cash in on the extraordinary housing boom that has been taking place. But be wary, for it's when everyone jumps on the bandwagon that the bandwagon starts to collapse.
Christopher Brodeur: The MTA is one of the most corrupt agencies on earth and I'm the ONLY candidate who not only promises to fix this forever (guaranteed in writing or else I and the City Council do not get paid) but to ALSO arrest and prosecute each individual scam they pulled on straphangers over the last 50 years. See my 100 INNOVATIONS FOR NYC at MayorBrodeur.org for details. They've already gotten caught misspending hundreds of millions and I intend to get that money BACK by any means necessary. (I'm not soft on crime like the "major" candidates.)
Tony Gronowicz: Open the books. Fire Reuter for his inane comment about the Chambers Street fire, which demonstrates how clueless he is.
Andy Horowitz: I love the subway, but The MTA is irresponsible and untrustworthy. The first step is to bring control back to the city. The second is to do a thorough audit of the agency, its management and its books. Overhaul the whole thing.
Chris Riggs: Real estate is at a high now is not a good time to buy. Transit should stick to what they know which is transit and build more train lines and improve service.
Audrey Silk: What other answer is there other than the TA should be using it for their budget and not a nice new home for them to put their feet up at?
Q: To Seth Green: As a teacher, I know dictated "standards" are hard to deal with, but how do we know our students and teachers are performing without certain objective benchmarks?
Seth Blum: My name is Seth BLUM (not Green), and as a teacher, I respect the need for those standards. But, there are different ways of teaching and assessing those standards in the classroom. Instead of one mandated curriculum for teachers, teachers can submit their own curriculum to be approved for a catolog of curricula that aligns to the standards. And, instead of one single high-stakes standardized test, we can use a more holistic approach to assess students such as a portfolio review using rubriks.
Christopher Brodeur: I don't think Seth or anyone is against dictated "standards" but rather the sole obsession of a small number of tests at the expense of the big picture. Politicians are forcing kids to memorize rote tests so Bloomberg can say "see? THESE scores improved!" and that's wrong and corrupt.
Q: To Andy Horowitz: How do you get the title "cultural activist"?
Christopher Brodeur: I call myself a cultural activist too. Heck, the Beatles and Elvis were cultural activists. Most people don't recall that Republicans tried to ban Chubby Checker's "The Twist" because they thought it breeded individuality----"anarchy" as they put it----unlike all prior dance steps (which demanded some sort of discipline, like the Charleston)! Art and culture are the bedrock of any civilized society and have more profound affect often than most politicians ever will.
Andy Horowitz: I've been involved in arts, culture and politics to some degree my enitre life and the title seemed apt. I'm a cultural activist in the sense that I am concerned about issues that effect artists, art and culture. I'm also a cultural activist in that my primary means of engaging with political issues is through arts and culture. I'm not a policy wonk, I'm not a career politician - I'm a creative person who is concerned about the state of the city and the world at large. As I've said before, there are (at least) two New Yorks. There is the physical city, of course. And there is the imaginary city - the NYC that is legend, that is created in books and music and theater and film, the imaginary city sustained by the creativity of the citizens. From the costumed revelers in the Caribbean Day Parade to Allen Ginsberg's East Village angel-headed hipsters to the immigrants from around the world who come to NYC seeking the Promised Land, the citizens of this city keep it alive not only physically, but in spirit. And we must tend to both the body and the spirit, we must all be cultural activists if we want this city to stay great.
Q: For the Blog Party: How do you expect to reach citizens who don't have internet access?
Christopher Brodeur: This was a problem for me too, as I'll be in the Voter Guide mailed out to all 3,000,000 voters before September's primary, and I always direct voters to my website, but elderly people disproportionately vote (unlike young people) and most don't use the web. (I was going to put our campaign phone number and tell them we'd mail them a hard copy of my platform, but we couldn't squeeze it in.) It's the MEDIA's JOB to tell their audience about each candidate. But they won't do that because they've been hindering reform in NYC since day one. (This is why we must reform corrupt media. See my 100 INNOVATIONS.) We must ALL demand media covers ALL the candidates on issues of MERIT (not Bloomberg's Billions) and NOTHING else. REMEMBER: FCC laws say we get equal time on tv and radio and Non-profit laws say we get to be in ANY debates or forums with the "major" candidates so please join me in threatening NY1 and the rest with lawsuits.
Andy Horowitz: While the internet has served as the ideological locus of my campaign, much of my work has been done the old-fashioned way: going out and meeting people, shaking hands and explaining what I am doing. The internet is just a tool to help facilitate networking in the real world. But it is a tool that must be available to all.
Q: Do you believe that mandating public spending through charter amendments is viable governmentally?
Christopher Brodeur: This question is too vague, so let me say that I'm the ONLY candidate who promises a Charter Revision Commission my FIRST year in office. I want to put most of my 100 INNOVATIONS (and many other innovations) ON THE BALLOT and let voters decide which they like and hate, and then make them PERMANENT in the City Charter (which is basically NYC's Constitution.) The argument that voters aren't smart enough is a ruse to keep power concentrated in the hands of the few money interests. My plan would dramatically educate voters on the real dirt so they can't be tricked by the New York Post of the Times. (See "Election Magazine" in my 100 INNOVATIONS for instance.)
Tony Gronowicz: No
Audrey Silk: Spending the public's money, no matter how it's accomplished, is what I intend to curtail and reduce. Of course, there are some routes taken to spend our money that are more offensive than others (like using charter amendments) but in the end, there is no route, or reason for that route, I find acceptable.
Q: How will you take your radical messages to the scumbags who might sadly stay in power this year?
Seth Blum: First, I would not refer to them as "scumbags". I will continue to try and reach anyone in power through dignity and respect, the same way I would like to be treated by others. Second, I would not call our message "radical". We are simply trying to change the way we look at education, from a business-like mandated system to a more open foundation where the goal is turning students on to life-long learning. I will use all available channels to let them know that there are other approaches to learning than what we are currently using at every level of education in this country from city to state to federal. I will also use my position as a teacher to further try and reach fellow teachers and people in the administration.
Christopher Brodeur: Well, just as it took 150 years for women to get the right to vote, I'm trying to start the ball rolling on many progressive innovations, from Free Subways (which in fact SAVES us billions of dollars while making life far better) to outlawing all deceptive statements by govt. And many of my ideas have eventually become sort of a reality. (EX: I was pitching the 311 hotline for a decade before Bloomberg did it.) (EX: I was pitching one-color police cars to save 100% of that waste, for a decade before the NYPD finally did it. Ditto the smaller-mesh public trash cans, the Potty Parity law, letting 16 year olds vote, letting legal immigrants vote, and many other ideas.) I'm trying to inspire OTHERS to think and talk about these progressive solutions, including Councilmen and others. Even the major candidates are talking about things I was talking about years earlier, like Gay Marriage and repealing the Urstadt laws. If the media was slightly honest, everyone would be talking ISSUES and solutions instead of how much money Ferrer raised last quarter. (This is another reason why I say Media is the number one enemy of society.)
Tony Gronowicz: By trying to enter the debates
Andy Horowitz: I'm loath to characterize mainstream politicians as scumbags - they are people who, for better or worse, have accepted the status quo of what government is and how it operates, and have chosen to perpetuate it. As long as the system remains the same, well-meaning people will enter politics only to be transformed by the culture of corporate influence and political cronyism. Personally I plan to continue the Blog Party and find new ways to address the issue of citizen access to government both online and off, regardless of who is elected. Hopefully we can find some visible -but fun - ways to keep the important issues afloat and try and spur the career politicians to make unprecedented and creative changes.
Chris Riggs: The scumbags will only stay in power if you let them stay in power ! Don't be afraid to fight for your country ! Look whats going on in Texas right now one women has gwb hiding in his house. She decided to take a stand and its working. You have to fight for your rights otherwise your going to wake up one day and not have any rights left.
Audrey Silk: First of all, my message is not "radical." Secondly, the message needs to be taken to the voters first, who are the ones who elect "the scumbags." And it is at forums like the one held that I hope to reach the voters.
Q: Given the inadequacies of Ferrer, Fields, Miller, and Weiner, are any of you prepared to endorse Christopher Brodeur in the Democratic primary?
Seth Blum: I really enjoy the passion and desire of Mr. Brodeur. He is a great thinker who should be listened to, and his questions deserve serious answers. As Mayor, I would hire him for my cabinet or as a consultant on my staff, as I would with all the current candidates for Mayor. However, I do not believe in primaries, which coincide with belonging to an unnecessary group. As humans, we are constantly separating ourselves into unnecessary groups, whether it be race, religion, sexual orientation or in this case, political beliefs. I want to discourage that trend as much as possible. I want to encourage people to belong to one group, the Human Race, to be independents and allow others to do the same. Therefore, my only endorsement is to register as an independent voter, not to vote in primaries and vote for The Education Party at the general election on November 8th, 2005. Towards that end, please help us collect signatures to get on the ballot so that you CAN vote for us on November 8th! Go to www.EducationParty.org to learn how.
Christopher Brodeur: I was going to ask my fellow progressives the same thing. (I've already asked Tom Ognibene to endorse me for the Democratic primary and am waiting for his reply.) I'd love to have a Libertarian, the Greens, the Education Party and the Blog Party endorse me on the steps of City Hall as a superior choice to the Flaccid Four. What do you say, guys? ALSO: I forgot to tell the audience last night that Martin Koppel, the Socialist candidate didn't make it. They should know they have even more choices.
Tony Gronowicz: No. The Democratic Party is part of the problem. Just look at the Bronx.
Andy Horowitz:While I admire Christopher's singular passion, intelligence and commitment, I would not endorse him. City Hall needs someone who will listen to people, not just talk at them. City Hall needs someone who will build coalitions and networks amongst citizen advocate groups, not unilaterally dictate 100 Innovations for NYC. The most brilliant ideas for the future of this city will not come from one person, but rather from the unleashed creativity of a broad, open-source collaboration amongst citizens. The governmental changes that this city requires are paradigmatic - we need to shift entirely away from the rock star cult of personality that defines politics and move to a new, connected, peer-to-peer, information-age model.
Chris Riggs: I'm running as a Democrat and Green party member ! What this whole thing comes down to is who can pull in the VOTES. To see that all you have to do is get off your ass and come on down to one off my jam packed parties !
Audrey Silk: Uhhhhhhh, no. I like Chris. I thought his closing statement that night was due applause because it was very well said and more about candidates like us running for office and less about himself. But it's wrong form to endorse anyone else's candidacy while you are a candidate yourself (even if one has no stake in the primary).