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Socialist or Social Worker - Reviewing C. Virginia Fields

Politics really is boring. There's absolutely nothing new, innovative, nor shocking about New York politics if you really reflect on what candidates say. In New York, (as I would imagine it's like in every city and state), it's always about the same issues: better education, housing and business, and always more jobs. Time and again, Dems and Republicans volley with these exact same issues, making any new candidate the equivalent of a recent college grad applying as an administrative assistant; politicians fumble around attempting to articulate their real value to their city because they're addressing an audience that can't reach a consensus on how to measure the esoteric value of a candidate: the number of relationships that they mediate, facilitate, and leverage to achieve their objectives. (Assuming, of course, that they have all of the pre-requisite qualifications.) In my opinion, this would be how I'd rate a Democrat.

Last week (1), I had the honor of listening to a more substantive mayoral candidate for New York City than Fernando Ferrer, C. Virginia Fields, at Judge Howard Goldfluss' "Meet the Candidates" at the Friar's Club. The career politician claims to be the longest serving elected official in NY, a title she'll hold forever due to new changes in term limits. Prior, she was a social worker. Ms. Fields is a for-the-people Democrat competing primarily against Fernando Ferrer. She's the third woman competing in NYC's history, and if she wins, she'll be the first African American female mayor of the city, giving her one more whammy than Freddy's Hispanicness. And in case you didn't know, she's gaining momentum in the polls.

There's no question she cares about the city and helping out her fellow citizens. And based on how I'd rate a Democrat, she's apparently had a successful tenure. As expected of a good Democrat, she's all for spending more on education; spending more on career services to provide more jobs for local residents; and giving the West Side (of New York City) to developers to create more affordable housing instead of stadiums. (With regards to this last point, Ms. Fields made a near-Republican point which merits mentioning. She said no International Olympic Committee should dictate how NYC uses its land. This means that anyone who says otherwise isn't working for the interests of the city and its citizens, a unique rebuke of Mayor Mike's independence, which I pointed out as a positive in a prior report on Fernando Ferrer.)

Ok, so Ms. Fields has charisma. She's also got some discouraging ideas on fixing up our schools. She doesn't agree with Mayor Mike's more centralized approach to educating our kids, mainly because she believes it excludes the experts and parents. Mike's a manager; he saw inefficiency, poor performance (or lack of accountability), and too many administrators and parents letting children down with their own bickering, and he did the only thing he knew always works - he took away their power. Ms. Fields also wants accountability, but in social-worker-eeze, she believes in more spending on "resources" (which research hasn't proven to actually be more effective, but always wins the teacher unions vote) such as parent conferences, subsidizing jobs for young people entering the labor force, subsidizing affordable housing for teachers, and get this, subsidizing tutorials for teachers to help retain them. Wow; maybe I should quit my day job and join the NY Board of Ed. If Ms. Fields gets elected, I'll probably get sent to Hawaii as my reward for staying past 3pm everyday.

With regards to providing more "affordable housing", last time I checked, such an action hasn't exactly correlated to safe and secure neighborhoods, (another NYC concern, and one which Giuliani successfully addressed.) But more importantly for a city dependent on tourism, since when did project housing become a revenue-generating tourist attraction?

Call me a Republican, (or a NY entrepreneur contributing to the local economy and not willing to subsidize municipal charities nor allow the city to tell me who to employ), but Ms. Fields is a little too maternal for me. She genuinely believes that the city should spend more on training minority workers, matching them up with jobs, and offering more community services to anti-social "disconnected youth". Despite her good intent, she believes opportunities grow on trees and it's her job to pick them for everyone; she believes that managing a city is similar to managing a borough and intends to create a social utopia in the capital of capitalism - in 4 to 8 short years. Does Ms. Fields honestly believe lazy people simply lack opportunities? Would a lazy person even know what an opportunity looked like?

And here's where you sorta forget that no matter what Ms. Fields or any politician says or does, no matter who gets elected, it won't make a difference to someone like me, the casual observer: I don't have children going through NY schools (and knowing what I know, won't ever let my kids go through it); I understand basic supply-and-demand economics, so since I cannot afford to live in Manhattan, I don't; and the city never trained me nor found me a job, and I'm not in dire straits. Furthermore, I don't do business with the city; don't get tax breaks; and don't employ enough people for any agency to notice or care. If this sounds like you too, you probably also agree that politics are boring.

Since I have no stake in whoever wins, I have no qualms about giving a Republican a chance. Mayor Mike's only been on the job for less than 4 years and he's turned a stifling bureaucracy on its head by doing things his way, consensus be damned. Sure, not every action he's taken has been received well, but if we use "pace of change" as a benchmark of his performance as a Republican mayor (rather than his ability to mediate), his has been a successful administration. Honestly, I procrastinated almost 6 months to replace a 5-gallon toilet with a 1-gallon one and in that time, Mike's brought the city back in the black. Folks, wasn't that why Mayor Bloomberg was elected in the first place, to right the NYC economy? The amount of money he spent was to allow a Republican to compete in a Democratic city. Personally, I think Ms. Fields is a warm and fuzzy gal who can definitely manage a borough, but I believe it takes something she doesn't have to manage this city. My vote's still with Mike.

Write to Al Berrios at



(1) March 29, 2005


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