The New York City mayoral race has turned into a twenty-one-ring circus (For the number of candidates running). I’ve been struggling to decide where I should devote my support. Not a single campaign has been a clear winner or aligned with my personal values when it comes to governing the beast that is New York City. As late summer/early fall approaches closer to the primary and an election, I’m starting to grow more concerned. Can Bloomberg just buy another four years? Holy crap, I never thought I’d hear myself say that!
“The Future of Education, Arts and Culture in New York City”
A conversation moderated impeccably well by WNYC’s Leonard Lopate and NPR’s Kurt Anderson with “invited” NYC mayoral candidates was held last night at Columbia University’s Joyce Berger Cowin Auditorium to a packed house of people from the arts, culture and arts education community.
Hosted by Teachers College/Columbia University, Young Audiences New York and One Percent for Culture, the evening proved to be part informational, part LOL entertaining, part disturbing, and as always, the best conversation was happening on Twitter. As @mattpaheenan tweeted: “Has there ever been a more tweeted mayoral debate than this?”
The event wasn’t really a debate, more like a forum for a fancy job interview. Each candidate, individually seated in a speed dating talk show format, was given approximately twelve minutes to answer questions given by Lopate and Anderson. For some of the candidates the format worked, for others it was an excruciatingly painful twelve minutes to sit through. And Mr. Weenie, the “Carlos Danger” AKA Anthony Weiner: a total no-show loser.
Here’s my play-by-play of the candidates who showed up and stood out:
I tweeted “@BillThompsonNYC wants to mandate dedicated #artsed funding in NYC public schools w/more parent involvement. #ArtsEdCultureNYC” Sure, doesn’t everyone essentially? Nothing new here but more of the old. A DOE school administrator colleague of mine said it best in a text message, “Thompson is romanticizing the good ole 80s and 90s when superintendents were feudal lords and the school system was embroiled in school board gridlock…a dinosaur.” Next…
Now that Weiner is crashing and burning a second time, the once again front- runner Quinn with the most money in the coffers immediately swooped in and took over the stage – like a vulture. Although theatrically engaging her barraging the audience with a rehearsed list of arts and culture talking points and constant “When I’m Mayor” speak was overtly presumptuous. She leans in a bit too much and this is a problem, not just for Quinn, but all women who really want a female leader. Quinn’s personality at times can come off snarky and her top association with present-day NYC politics as City Council Speaker are strikes against her. With a disappointed sigh, I’m left wishing that I could support her.
His name is simply impossible to pronounce let alone spell. Mayor C. would be a lot easier, but don’t worry it’s never gonna happen. This guy may have a lot of money but saying, “I’m a Manhattanite, I feel sorry for people who aren’t” and “when you spend a couple million dollars on bicycles, you have a lot of money to spend.” Well, sorry Mr. C. you’re just not my kind of guy.
Mr. de Blasio, out of all the front-runners, is my top pick so far. Every time I listen to him speak, especially when it comes to education and the arts, I feel a sense of connection to him over any other. Last night he spoke about affordable housing for artists, mandatory after-school programs with a focus on middle school and called out the NYC Department of Education’s inability to meet minimal state requirements that mandate baseline K-12 arts education services. Pulling my arts educator heart strings, he spoke about how his son and daughter attended MS 51 in Brooklyn where theater not only taught his children specific artistic craft, but provided real world life skills. If it comes down to de Blasio and Quinn in a primary, de Blasio will be my choice.
The candidate who surprised me most? Joe Lhota. Former Guiliani staffer and most recent MTA Chief (which already spells “scumbag”), Lhota rode the post Hurricane Sandy aftermath just long enough to look sort of like a transportation superhero. Or, just long enough until it was time to announce his mayoral bid and resign from the MTA before more rate hikes. “Peace out suckas.” With the addition of his Guiliani administration association and strong Republican ties I had almost written him off. But because he spoke so eloquently about arts, culture and education last night AND apologized for his part in the Brooklyn Museum “art war”. I realized I’m going to have to give Lhota one more iota, I mean, second look.
I listen to Mr. Liu and I think, “whiny pants.” Another of my Twitter thoughts: “Listening to @JohnLiu2013 speak about corruption within the DOE & just can’t get past his recent cooking the books scandal” Liu can talk all he wants about how he “didn’t know” or “wasn’t aware” but he’s guilty by association and I simply can not lend him my ear let alone endorse him.
And last night’s winner is…Jack Hidary. Wow. Who is this guy? Independent candidate Hidary, if he had a better PR and social media strategy along with a more robust, informative website, could be a contender and not the described “long shot.” If people actually knew who the hell he is, front-runner status could be a possibility. According to his talking points last night (where the house was so quiet you could almost hear someone’s cell phone vibrating), the Hidary platform centers around a three-point plan modeling the tech startup industry – which I love.
His insight about co-working spaces for artists and how education and the arts could function in new innovative and creative ways (like using Soundview Academy and the school’s digital media film lab as one example – full disclosure, I’m working with this school on a new Digital Arts Consortium model) got me sitting up in my seat. He has my attention now, but his so-called entrepreneurial tech prowess compared to what you actually see online leaves little to be desired. Hidary is my wait-and-see candidate with the greatest potential to lead.
Credico, the comedian who gave the audience a twelve-minute stand-up comedy break and Berkowitz, the gum chomping worst-candidate-interview-for-the-job train wreck who claimed artists could make “a couple hundred thousand dollars a year” were entertaining for sure, but seriously? One of the best tweets of the night about Credico came from @alexsarian who wrote, “I smoke pot occasionally too” closing with an impression of Louis Armstrong. WHAT A NIGHT @Credico2013 #artsedculturenyc” So really, what’s preventing someone like me from running for NYC mayor? Nothing! There’s nothing preventing me or anyone else of intelligence from being part of this crazy pack. 2018 anyone?
So there you have it folks…
Until last evening, I hadn’t really identified one candidate to support over another and had been feeling supporter malaise. Weiner – DOA. Bill Thompson – crickets. Christine Quinn, although I wish I could support her, represents more of the current administration philosophy and too much theatrical queen drama. Joe Lhota earned a possible second look. John Liu’s recent campaign finance scandal has me turned off. And there’s the go-to guy, Bill de Blasio. Who, when it comes to educational related conversation and overall all with-it sensibility, seems to be the best choice if Jack Hidary doesn’t pick up momentum, and quick. Until next time, let the mayoral circus continue!
“My NYC Mayoral Dilemma: A Twenty-One –Ring Circus” originally appeared on the website jessicawilt.com. Jessica Wilt is Program Committee Co-Chair for the Roundtable.