By Penny Mintz

A retraction is in order. Contrary to what was reported here last month, the Downtown Independent Democrats had never declined to endorse Carlina Rivera in her bid for re-election to the City Council in District #2. On the contrary, at their meeting on December 7, 2020, DID enthusiastically endorsed Rivera. They also endorsed Erik Bottcher for City Council in District #3. These endorsements occurred one month after the DID candidate forum that took place in November, during which the six candidates in District #3 and Rivera in District #2 had the opportunity to fully discuss their positions on numerous issues.

On December 10, 2020, just three days after the meeting at which DID made its Districts 2 and 3 endorsements, the Village Independent Democrats held a candidate forum and endorsement meeting. The VID meeting was very different from the two candidate debates held in November. Besides the one conducted by DID, a candidate forum had been co-hosted by Progressive Action of Lower Manhattan, a chapter of the New York Progressive Action Network, and by the 504 Democratic Club, a city-wide political club that focuses on the needs of people with disabilities. After a two-minute opening statement, the candidates at the PALM/504 forum were allotted one minute to answer each of eight questions. The questions had been prepared by the moderator, State Assembly Member Harvey Epstein. None of the candidates had advance knowledge of the questions, and the clock started running after each question was asked. Each candidate, therefore, spoke a total of eleven minutes, which included a one-minute closing statement.

At the VID meeting, where many more candidates were interviewed, each candidate had a two-minute opening statement and then answered three questions. The questions and answers were allotted five minutes. So the candidates were left with less than three minutes for their answers. Under these circumstances, says Arthur Schwartz, who is a candidate for City Council in District #3, five of the six District #3 candidates believed that the format was not one where they would have a fair opportunity to present themselves. In addition, the five other District #3 candidates believed that the VID decision was a foregone conclusion because Erik Bottcher was a member of the VID executive committee. Accordingly, the five candidates made a group decision to decline to participate and, as a group, prepared a statement explaining their decision.

The five District #3 candidates assigned Schwartz to read the group-prepared statement during the time that Schwartz was given to make his presentation as VID’s elected District Leader. Several VID members were incensed with the candidates’ statement. Some expressed their belief that this was a political stunt. Others pointed out that the five non-appearing candidates had missed an opportunity to present themselves to the more-than 100 people in attendance at the meeting.

In the end, VID endorsed Bottcher.

On the same night, December 10th, PALM voted to endorse Arthur Schwartz in District #3 and Carlina Rivera in District #2.

Michael Schweinsburg, president of the 504 Dems, reported that the 504 membership has not yet voted on whom to endorse. The members want to see answers to a written questionnaire before they make their decision. However, the 504 Dems’ screening panel recommended endorsing Schwartz in CD #3. The vote was five to one. The screening panel voted four to one with one abstention to recommend endorsing Rivera in CD #2.

Upcoming this month, on Tuesday, January 19th, PALM, the 504 Dems, and other NYPAN chapters are co-hosting a meeting about the COVID vaccine. The rollout of the vaccine, hesitancy and myths about taking it, and equity are among the issues that will be discussed. As of this writing, the speakers are City Council Member Mark Levine, chair of the Health Committee, Anthony Feliciano, director of the Commission on the Public’s Health System, and Cherisse Berry, Associate Trauma Medical Director at Bellevue and Assistant Professor of Surgery at NYU. There will be ample time to ask questions of the speakers. You can find the Zoom access to this event by checking out the Facebook page of PALM or of the 504 Democratic Club.

POLITE ARGUMENTS, like the one at VID or the one in this post-Civil War cartoon, can be unpleasant, but they are inevitable when human beings have First Amendment rights. Image credit: Library of Congress.

Leave a Reply