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24th May

First Published in The New York Sun, May 24, 2005

By Andrew Wolf

There is a disconnect between the issues that the newspapers and broadcast outlets have put on the front burners and those that are really important to voters.
Look at the West Side stadium proposal for the Jets and the Olympics that we don’t yet have and are unlikely to get.This issue has dominated the news and the campaign. But where I live, in Riverdale in the northwest Bronx, there is no visible evidence that anyone cares. I have yet to meet an ordinary resident who is outraged, one way or the other.

Bronx politicians fall into two categories: the knee-jerk “Don’t build anything, anywhere, ever” type, and the “What’s in it for me?” kind. In the case of the stadium, the latter are looking to pick the deep pockets of Cablevision and the New York Jets.The stadium has been a godsend for them and their campaign war chests.
Similarly, few here seem to care about the problems plaguing the redevelopment of downtown. Sure, most want to see movement, but there is no outrage over the delays.
Yet these two issues dominate media coverage. Is it any wonder why no candidate, not Mayor Bloomberg nor any of his six Republican and Democratic rivals, has managed to capture the public’s imagination?
In the absence of any visceral issues, we are reduced to silly speculation about a Democratic hero coming from nowhere to push aside the four current candidates. Remember Robert Kerrey? The name of Rep. Jerrold Nadler came up in an article in yesterday’s New York Times. Why? Is his stature that much greater than that of his congressional colleague Anthony Weiner? Is there a shortage of candidates who can appeal to the West Side liberal
vote? In fact, it is Mr.Weiner’s apparent moderation (outside of New York, he would be considered a wild-eyed radical) that makes him a potentially more compelling candidate than Mr. Nadler.
The other candidate the Times speculates about is the Reverend Alford Sharpton. As a candidate or an endorser, Rev. Sharpton is just a shadow of the huge presence he once was. Last year, his presidential primary bid fizzled badly, not just in Montana or Arkansas, but right here in New York.
Now a viable black candidate has emerged in the race for mayor, Manhattan Borough President C.Virginia Fields. Despite speculation that Rev. Sharpton “wants” to find a reason to endorse Fernando Ferrer — if “he would only apologize for the Diallo comments,” if “he would only be grateful for the help he got in 2001” — why in the world would Mr. Sharpton risk his support among the city’s black community when one of their own is a front-runner in the race for the Democratic nomination?
In this vacuum,even Mr.Ferrer’s mustache is worthy of comment. This mustache,which I assure you is no new facial innovation (in fact,I have always been of the belief that Mr. Ferrer was born with this adornment), is said to make him look like Groucho Marx.This is unfair to Groucho, who was fast enough on his feet to have long wiggled out of the Amadou Diallo mess in which Mr.Ferrer finds himself irretrievably mired.
It is hoped that some real issues will emerge, ones that resonate with the voters. Otherwise, Mr. Bloomberg can begin writing his second inaugural address, since incumbent mayors — in the rare instances that they lose — generally lose for a reason.
Mayor Beame was crushed in 1977 by an electorate that felt he was responsible for the city’s dire financial straits.

David Dinkins defeated Mayor Koch in 1989 because voters felt that Mr. Dinkins was better equipped to handle the city’s racial tensions. Four years later, with anxiety greater than before, voters turned to Rudolph Giuliani.
What is the overwhelming reason to defeat Mr. Bloomberg? The stadium, the shape of the Freedom Tower? I don’t think so.
An interesting contest is emerging between Council Speaker Gifford Miller and Mr. Weiner. Wisdom holds that only one of them will emerge as a major candidate from the depths of the electoral cellar in which they both now reside. A clue may come Wednesday night.
That’s when they go toe-to-toe at Riverdale’s Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club. They are the leading candidates to walk away with an endorsement. At the club’s candidate forum earlier this month, at which all four Democrats appeared, Mr. Weiner was the clear choice of those present.
But Mr. Miller has snagged the endorsement of Council Member G. Oliver Koppell, who is trying to pull as many votes for his man as possible. There is much at stake — for Mr. Miller, in terms of his ability to draw support outside of his base; and for Mr. Weiner, who could use the 5,000 petition signatures the club can deliver to their favored candidate.
Congressman Eliot Engel and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz are said to favor Mr. Weiner. Mr. Dinowitz will speak for Mr. Weiner at the meeting, while Mr. Koppell will make the case for Mr. Miller. Odds are Mr. Weiner will narrowly prevail.

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