Get Behind Scott Stringer

by Nathan Riley

Scott Stringer didn’t fight back, he didn’t abandon his supporters although some turned on him following an allegation that 20 years ago he forced himself on another adult who he was dating.

Weeks later only one person has objected to his conduct, so give the woman full credit for expressing her reality, the notion that the City Comptroller’s sexual life is off the rails has little evidence and needs to be weighed against other serious considerations.

Most especially the role of the police. The current crime wave is as real as earlier ones. It rests on a new metric the number of people shot every day whereas the last crime wave coming out of the 70s was based the numbered murdered.

Although new, “persons shot” is a reasonable measure of community safety, and stopping it is a reasonable expectation.

The old alliance of media and the police is alive and well. The media depends on police stories and the police depend on favorable coverage to justify their large budget. In the old days mention of race would be explicit, while today it usually appears as a hint. What remains is the vicious image that police bring safety in a war against menacing persons most often with a different skin color.

On Thursday, Comptroller Stringer released plans to reform the police Department including placing 911 calls in the hands of a separate agency downgrading the role of the role of the police at the initial intake decision. He would build up separate programs for responding to quality of life issues like mental health crises and substance abuse and move police out of One Police Plaza so more detectives would work in the precincts.

On May 25th, Politico reported State Senator Jessica Ramos and Rep. Jamaal Bowman of the Bronx questioned the wisdom of yanking their endorsement. Bowman said he wished he had asked more questions before abandoning Scott Stringer. The controversy has made Conservative Democrats the leaders in the Democratic Primary.,

The top candidates for Mayor, Andrew Yang and Eric Adams, would bring back aggressive policing of black and brown men. Kathryn Garcia supports Charter Schools and worked closely with the sanitation unions when she was City Environmental Commissioner. The fear is she will befriend the police unions. A revival of police questioning of minority youths is more than a denial of equal protection under law. When stop and frisk was police policy, almost everybody they stopped was acting legally and the police notions of probable cause were feeble. Scott Stringer can create a coalition that will prevent the return of stop and frisk.

Eric Adams and Andrew Yang will yield to the Police Department when it comes to fighting gun fire in New York City. The essence of the policy is mass intimidation of young men so they will not walk around with guns. They will be searched randomly and often, so the guns stay at home. This positive result comes with an unacceptable price: the humiliation of fathers, brothers and children of people of color who are law abiding and should be free of police harassment.

It is a breech of trust. The Democrats must support their diverse coalition if humanitarian policies are to be enacted. We should remember the attempted takeover of the Capital in Washington D.C. is evidence that Democrats may be fighting to preserve to preserve popular elections. Democrats must not get locked into a policy where they turn on their allies. The police will target are law abiding citizens. They will stigmatize and intimidate the innocent to curb the ungovernable few. It is unwise in the extreme to ask for the support of these groups and then unleash law enforcement on them.

The best alternative to intimidation is establish a rapport with the folks in the community who will tell who is selling and carrying guns. In the simplest terms, the City should be nice to them.

That this seems improbable is a big problem for Democrats. It shouldn’t be hard to tell politicians: be nice to your voters. Otherwise, they stop voting or change parties. Scott Stringer is wise enough to recognize the problem and of perhaps greater importance he is adept at creating coalitions and generating support from other government officials. He isn’t flashy, he’s a hard worker.

Scott is a man of principle who was slammed by his political allies who stopped endorsing him and backed other candidates. But my political club and City Unions still believe he is the best person, his polling numbers are down, but they are not out. One official who pulled her endorsement of Scott Stringer has second thoughts. State Senator Jessica Ramos, who is developing a reputation for political savvy, states flatly “Scott Stringer’s still the most qualified person running for mayor.” But she hasn’t decided to reendorse him.

Politico tells us that the recognition that the left is split is causing new interest in Scott’s candidacy and perhaps new endorsements. “There’s a much greater chance that we’re going to hand over City Hall to two candidates that want to increase the police budget and run as tough on crime mayors,” said one anonymous observer.

People voting absentee should hold their ballots and wait two more weeks, the Mayoral Campaign is getting interesting.

After serious thought and some debate, I am doubling down on my support for Scott Stringer as the next mayor of New York City, as 78-year-old gay man I can do no less.

The accusations against Scott Stringer remind me of the student molestation charges leveled against the Mayor of Holyoke during his ill-advised campaign against Representative Richard E. Neal, the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.

Alex Morse was asking for trouble when he challenged Mr. Neal; the Chair of House’s tax committee does a lot of good for Massachusetts.  Having a local official occupying such an important position is an asset no State should forfeit. Imagine what would happen to someone who challenges Chuck Schumer. He holds the position for Democrats that Mitch McConnell once held for the GOP, His position brings immeasurable benefits to New York State. The Covid-19 shutdown drastically reduced State revenues, but when the Rescue America Plan passed and we got the $1400 checks, Federal aid made the State’s cash problems manageable. That is how important Chuck Schumer is to New York.

This digression has a point: the false charge that Mayor Morse dated college students is predictable; he violated a sensible political rule – don’t challenge successful leaders who are assets to your state. Morse challenged a major Washington player and Democrats played hard ball.

Morse met people including college students on dating apps, he is 31 well within the range that undergraduates find attractive. The accusation was a college professor was dating his students and it was totally false. He was a man meeting other men on gay dating apps. His sin was challenging the Chair of Ways and Means, the accusations exploited homophobia to punish Morse.

Gov Cuomo faces a grave threat, a mounting drum beat, that he is bad for the state. The attacks make him look odious but are provoked by an intense dissatisfaction with the Governor from within his party. With great relish he bullies his allies. During periods of prosperity, he refused to raise taxes and back new government initiatives like allowing drug users to consume drugs in health facilities to reduce overdose deaths. Education and health care stagnated under his false frugality. Opportunities to reduce property taxes and win the friendship for Democrats in upstate counties were lost.

If dissatisfaction with Cuomo is widespread, a multitude of misdeeds are bringing him down including mounting charges of sexual harassment. In December, Lindsey Boylan, a candidate for Manhattan Borough President, tweeted about her tense relationship with the Governor quickly other women added their voices saying it’s true. His callous treatment of seniors in nursing homes who were sent to live up close with others infected by Covid-10 revealed an astounding negligence. These allegations are matters of life and death. Quickly the Assembly opened an impeachment inquiry. Cuomo is watching while his levels of popular support erode. The objective is to make it difficult if not impossible for Andrew Cuomo to win again in 2022.

The point is that accusation of sexual harassment can be political, sometimes well-reasoned, sometimes exaggerated.

Ending sexual harassment is essential to establish women’s equality and pay equity, it also offers an opportunity to ease the pain and hurt that come from learning that it wasn’t your work but your body that was being judged. It also satisfies the anger for those deeply disgusted by the men making the passes.  A dramatic change in enforcement and office mores is in the works. Dating is moving onto to the web and negotiations often precede the date.

The behavior that Jean Kim alleges “Scott Stringer repeatedly groped me, put his hands on my thighs and between my legs,” exposes her deep disgust. A video from a zoom meeting shows her with a great smile telling the group “I had to ‘me too’ a politician because he couldn’t keep his thing in his pants.” She is clearly pleased that she hurt him as much as he hurt her.

This abuse occurred 20 years ago.

The story is personal, but the timing is political. Ms Kim a lobbyist who worked around Scott for years recognized that two months before the election was a point of maximum vulnerability. There is no escaping the sense that part of this story is revenge is a dish best served cold. This payback is critical for women because equality requires the ability to inflict pain as well as receive it.

The story creates a political crisis for Scott Stringer who is the leading candidate for Mayor among the pro-labor left Democrats who are intensely devoted to ending sexual abuse.

Ms. Kim did not answer any questions at her news conference. The scandal is awaiting corroboration from others. I’ve known Scott for nearly forty years. I’ve seen him learn issues and then turn into a persuasive advocate for those asking for help. Left groups and businesses have rallied to his support. He would push NYC in a progressive direction.

This one charge of abuse flipped the Working Families Party. It withdrew its endorsement even after Stringer said he was staying in the race and denied the accusation. Stringer’s posture infuriates activist who want men to accept responsibility and confront the hurt they cause. The Mayor’s race is entering a bitter phase.

Elected officials who have taken an active role in women’s issue, decriminalizing prostitution and helping the poor also withdrew their endorsement.

As the drama plays out, these groups and individuals confront a risk. An endorsement means that after careful evaluation a decision was made that Scott Stringer is the best person among all the candidates. A political campaign has its ups and downs; in politics loyalty is a necessary quality. Those people who dropped Stringer at the first sign of trouble will face problems down the road if the accusations don’t hold up. It is not a good thing to be a fair-weather friend.

The question of whether Scott Stringer is an Alex Morse facing exaggerated political charge or Gov. Cuomo facing a multiplicity of misdeeds isn’t decided, but major players like the UFT, the teacher’s union, are standing firm. I belong to the Three Parks political club which hasn’t changed its mind. Campaigns run into fire storms and seasoned political players appreciate the virtue of patience.  Scott Stringer has taken a punch, but he has not been knocked out of the race.

Cynthia Nixon’s Impressive Launch

BY NATHAN RILEY | Cynthia Nixon successfully opened her campaign denouncing Governor Andrew Cuomo as a man who cares more “about headlines and power” than about people.

“New York is my home. I have never lived anywhere else,” she says in her first ad. While identifying healthcare, mass incarceration, and the subways as key issues, she highlighted upstate poverty and economic stagnation, arguing that New York’s fundamental problem is income inequality: “Our leaders are letting us down, we are the most unequal state in the entire country.”

Her announcement drew a positive response, and it seems clear she will be taken seriously. The governor responded through surrogates who said the actor couldn’t do the job and, besides, it didn’t matter — she has neither the money nor the name recognition to overcome Cuomo’s incumbency advantages.

PERSPECTIVE: The Long View

But Harry Enten, a CNN commentator and contributor at Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com, said Nixon could win. He pointed to Ned Lamont’s Democratic primary victory over US Senator Joe Liberman in 2006 — just six years after Lieberman, who began the race with at 65-to-19 percent edge over Lamont, was their party’s vice presidential nominee. (Cuomo, of course, is not saddled with George W. Bush’s Iraq War, as Lieberman was.)

The political class is quietly giving Nixon room to make her case. Gale Brewer, the Manhattan borough president, and Letitia James, the public advocate, have so far stayed neutral even as the governor worked to drum up endorsements. Media outlets across the state gave ample coverage to Nixon’s charge that Cuomo is a “bully,” often accompanying it with comments about his “hair-trigger temper.”

Scott Stringer, the New York City comptroller, released a report slamming the MTA for cutting back on off-hour service during the Great Recession but not restoring it in the years since 2010, inconveniencing hospital workers, building maintenance crews, nightlife employees, and other low-income workers who often work the night shift or have early starts. “The MTA runs 60 percent fewer trains citywide from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. than it does from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., and 38 percent fewer from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.,” the comptroller’s report pointed out. Whatever Stringer’s intentions, the report undercuts the governor’s claim, eight years after taking office, that he inherited a deteriorating system. Nixon is expected to argue the governor used the MTA as a piggy bank for other projects — think of those three upstate ski resorts — shortchanging necessary maintenance and renovations.

Only forty percent of New Yorkers told pollsters they had heard of Nixon, but the other potential Democratic challengers mentioned — State Senator Michael Gianaris from Astoria and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner — came nowhere near her in terms of name recognition. Cuomo well knows that the strongest candidate is challenging him.

The New Republic poo-pooed the claim Nixon is inexperienced — calling it “an elitist obsession with qualifications” — pointing out that being a citizen satisfied voters who elected New Jersey’s Bill Bradley, California’s Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Minnesota’s Al Franken.

Nixon’s first Albany appearance on Monday displayed her qualifications, speaking at a news conference called by the Alliance for Quality Education, an activist group she has worked with for years dedicated to ending the gap between the school budgets of poor communities without large property tax revenues and those of model schools in well-to-do communities. She slammed legislative leaders and the governor for being a “boys’ club.” Cuomo’s budgets “bully our children and our families by shortchanging them, boxing them in by denying them the opportunities they are owed. It reminds me of the behavior we see from Donald Trump every day.”

Nixon’s wife, education activist Christine Marinoni, is registered as a member of the Working Families Party, which has close ties to organized labor. Marinoni’s registration, however, will bar her from voting in the September Democratic primary — a restriction that doomed Bernie Sanders’ campaign here — and in other states — in 2016. Working Families itself will no doubt have a heated debate about whether to back Nixon, the candidate who shares its values, or Cuomo, the incumbent who could punish affiliated unions the next time contracts are negotiated. Nixon on the November ballot, even not as the Democrat, could spell trouble for Cuomo.

Nixon will certainly promote herself as a proud user of city services: she takes the subway, she graduated from public schools, and lived in a fifth-floor walk-up with a single mom. Now she walks the talk and sends her teenage boys to public school. Cuomo loves his Corvette and is more likely to be photographed in the state helicopter than underground during rush hour.

The opening act in this drama promises a furious, hard-fought campaign where Democrats on the left will give vent to their hostility toward neo-liberal centrists. In a New York Times column, Ginia Bellafante wrote that Nixon will slam Cuomo for “too little investment in public schools, too little effort made at eradicating inequality, too much capitulation to big-moneyed interests and venal and corrupt state legislators.”

Stayed tuned.

Posted on GayCityNews.Com on March 29, 2018