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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Public Advocate News

Last week saw the first debate in the NYC Public Advocate race. The general consensus is that Betsy Gotbaum is in hot water.

Gotbaum Debate Performance: Got a Clue?

While the incumbent Public Advocate stumbled over basic issues and failed to cite a single accomplishment of note, Rasiej presents big ideas to re-imagine New York 's future.

NEW YORK -- In the first major debate of the Public Advocate campaign, incumbent Betsy Gotbaum stumbled through a gaffe-filled performance last night; failing to cite a single significant accomplishment, flip-flopping on a major campaign pledge from four years ago, and showing a shocking lack of familiarity with basic and big issues alike for someone who has been a public figure for three decades.

By contrast, Andrew Rasiej showed a clear command of the issues and presented several new ideas for connecting New York and bringing the city into the 21 st Century, including his signature plan to create a low cost citywide wireless Internet system.

"It's time New Yorkers had a real Public Advocate who does more than put out trivial reports and trumped up press releases, and that's just what voters will get with Andrew Rasiej -- new leadership, new ideas, new results," said Rasiej campaign spokesman Jay Strell.

With a live television audience watching on NY1, Gotbaum proved one thing: she doesn't need opponents to demonstrate that she's uninspiring, ill-informed, and ineffective. She's more than capable of that herself.


Ineffective: Given several opportunities to talk about her accomplishments, Betsy Gotbaum failed to name a single accomplishment of note. Not a single one. Betsy Gotbaum might be the first incumbent in history to run on a broken record -- her answer on practically every issue was "I've talked about that."

Ill-informed: In confirming her support of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards development project in Brooklyn , Gotbaum said she was unaware that Ratner was threatening to use the city's power of eminent domain to forcibly take people's property.

Given that community groups have been protesting against this use of eminent domain for months, and that the news media has been reporting on it for j as long, Gotbaum either blatantly misled the audience or showed that she is completely out of touch with one of the biggest issues in the city.

New York 's voters, and the people of Brooklyn in particular, deserve to know which is the case.

Uninspiring: She spent more time telling people what the Public Advocate's office "wasn't about" than what it "was about." She doesn't know what the office can do because she's failed to do anything.

Case in point: When Andrew Rasiej touted his groundbreaking plan to shed light and crack down on the City Council's secretive and abusive process for funding special projects, and asked Gotbaum why she had not taken a similar action to prevent public funds from being funneled to the Church of Scientology, Gotbaum's only defense was to say that the Public Advocate does not have oversight over the City Council budget. But the truth is that the Public Advocate has clear authority to introduce legislation to change the budget process, and is charged with providing the public information on what the government is doing with taxpayer dollars and a fundamental responsibility to look out for their interests.

Flip-Flop: In one of the 2001 campaign debates, Gotbaum pledged she wouldn't use the Public Advocate's office to run for mayor. According to a October 5, 2001, article in the Daily News, she said, "I am promising I will never run for mayor." Then, last night she turned around and said she was now open to becoming a mayoral candidate. We can only guess that the word "never" has a different meaning to Betsy Gotbaum than it does to the rest of us.

"If last night proved anything it's that Betsy Gotbaum doesn't have a clue, especially about how to use this office to address this city's big challenges," Strell said. "She broke her pledge about not running for Mayor without breaking a sweat, she demonstrated no understanding of the issue of the role of eminent domain as part of the Atlantic Yards development, and most important, talked more about what the Public Advocate's office can't do instead of what it can."


Is Gotbaum Master of Her Domain?
Public Advocate candidates dispute what's eminent and imminent in the Atlantic Yards deal

What's worse, feigning ignorance or being ignorant? That is the question raised by the latest attack by public advocate candidates Andrew Rasiej and Norman Siegel on the woman they each want to unseat, incumbent Betsy Gotbaum.

In Tuesday's NY1 debate, Siegel asked Gotbaum how she squared her support for the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn with her opposition to the use of eminent domain. Siegel opposes the recent Supreme Court decision allowing government "takings" for private development rather than old fashioned public uses like hospitals and highways, and he has provided legal help to opponents of Bruce Ratner's plan to build a Nets arena and housing complex around the MTA rail yards.

In March, Gotbaum told the Brooklyn Rail newspaper that she "will not support any project that is dependent on the use of eminent domain for private use," but then in July called the Atlantic Yards project—and its community benefits agreement that includes jobs for locals and affordable housing—" a wonderful, wonderful example of what development should be all about." She went on to say: "To bring all these different groups together to get everybody on board, to have negotiated like that, Bruce Ratner, I think we can only praise you to the highest."

So, Siegel asked, what gives? According to an unofficial transcript of the NY1 debate, Gotbaum replied:
Well, Mr. Siegel, let me point out to you that I am against the use of eminent domain and . . . it is not my understanding that the developer at the Atlantic Yards is going to use eminent domain. I have been told in fact that that is not the case, so if you know something different that is something I don't know, but I am against the use of eminent domain in the northern part of Manhattan and at the Atlantic Yards. I am concerned about the project at the Atlantic Yards. I am concerned about the size and I am concerned about the traffic and I am also concerned if there is to be a use of eminent domain but I have been told there is not.

Perhaps Gotbaum has new information, but eminent domain's been in the Atlantic Yards mix since the beginning, and it remains part of the equation. It's mentioned in the February memorandum of understanding between Forest City Ratner and the city and state, as well as in the May presentation that Ratner's people made to the City Council, as well as in several articles in the local papers about the Brooklyn deal.

It's true that Forest City Ratner has bought up many of the parcels that lie in the project footprint, but some people so far are refusing to sell out (Besides, selling out with the prospect of eminent domain hanging over your head is a little different from deciding freely to relocate). That's why ACORN's Bertha Lewis, a champion of the Atlantic Yards deal, told the Voice in July that she supports the use of eminent domain "if it's a last resort and they are buildings where there's no other strategy to be dealt with." Gotbaum's salute to the Atlantic Yards community benefits deal can't have hurt the public advocate when she asked for ACORN's endorsement, which she received.

A spokesman for Gotbaum's campaign says simply, "If eminent domain is part of the project she's not supporting it."

Ah, where would the PA be without someone to think for her? Apparently, in much the same place she is in now - but she'd look a lot dumber.


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