Editorials

Moskowitz and Miller: Two Rising Stars

The departure of Gifford Miller and Eva Moskowitz from the City Council is a genuine loss for all New Yorkers, not just those on Manhattan’s East Side whom they represented. Both young—he’s 36, she’s 41—and bristling with ambition, they’ll hardly fade into the sunset. But having been nudged into the Democratic primary races for Mayor and Manhattan Borough President because of term limits, and having lost those races, both Mr. Miller and Ms. Moskowitz will have to struggle to keep themselves in the public eye. It will be a worthy struggle, however, since their time on the Council showed that they’re of the new breed of New York politician, squarely in the Bloomberg mold, eager for results and not afraid of upsetting the status quo in favor of significant change.

Before term limits, Giff Miller would not have run for Mayor last fall. He’d only been Council Speaker for four years, and clearly would have benefited from another term or two in the Council, mastering local politics, before seeking a promotion to Gracie Mansion. Term limits, however, meant that he’d be out of a job in January, so he ran. On the bright side, his 2005 campaign showed a willingness to break with the single-interest and ethnic pandering that often characterizes the New York Democratic Party. He spoke of adding 1,000 police officers, demonstrating an understanding that public safety is what makes prosperity possible. He proposed taking subway security out of the hands of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and putting it in the hands of professionals.

His inexperience was stunning, however. He was rightly attacked for using $1.6 million in taxpayer money for Council mailings that featured his picture. That, and other gaffes, told voters that Mr. Miller wasn’t quite ready for the big time.

Meanwhile, Eva Moskowitz, who chose to leave the City Council after one term to run for Manhattan Borough President, was no humdrum Council member. As chairwoman of the Council’s Education Committee, she was a strong and effective advocate for schoolchildren, holding hearings on the absurd work rules that governed the school system, thereby earning the deep disfavor of the United Federation of Teachers. She likewise distinguished herself by refusing to coddle the powerful Independence Party’s resident anti-Semite, Lenora Fulani. Had Ms. Moskowitz—a former college professor with a Ph.D. in developmental psychology and a mother of three—prevailed in the race for Manhattan Borough President, she would have been a terrific champion for schoolchildren, crime victims and others whose voices are often drowned out amid the chorus of special interests in New York.

Mr. Miller says that he’s not sure what his next move will be, but one hopes he’ll continue his commitment to public service. Ms. Moskowitz, who says she plans to run for office again, has taken a job as executive director of the Harlem Success Charter School. She hopes to expand the model to 40 other schools over the next seven years. Befitting her character, it’s a bold and risky step, since voters in future races will be able to judge Ms. Moskowitz based on her success, or lack thereof, with the charter school.

New Yorkers who worry about what the city will look like on the day when Mayor Michael Bloomberg eventually heads off into the Bermuda sunset can be reassured by young pioneers like Eva Moskowitz and Gifford Miller.

Reverse Racism Over Brooklyn Seat

Major Owens, a veteran Congressman from Brooklyn, will be stepping down next year. His decision to forgo re-election has set off a free-for-all, as retirements are known to do in politics. Among the several candidates interested in Mr. Owens’ job is City Councilman David Yassky, who has been one of the Council’s brighter lights. This would seem a natural step for an ambitious politician, but Mr. Yassky is coming under fire for his interest in the Congressional seat.

The problem, you see, is that Mr. Yassky is white. The district he seeks to represent is majority black. This, in the view of some of Mr. Yassky’s fellow Democrats, is simply unacceptable. In their view, Mr. Yassky should stand down, not because he is unqualified, but because he is white.

Though few of his critics will put it so bluntly, that is the gist of their argument. There are four black candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat, including Mr. Owens’ son, a former member of a community school board.

In another world, one might raise questions about Chris Owens, the Congressman’s son, and his meager qualifications. But that isn’t the issue in the 11th Congressional District, which is about 60 percent black, 25 percent white and 12 percent Hispanic. No, the issue is Mr. Yassky’s race. According to Letitia James, a City Council member from Brooklyn, Mr. Yassky’s mere presence in the race means the campaign to succeed Mr. Owens will be “heated” and “racially charged.”

If this is the level of political debate in New York, it’s hardly a wonder that the city fares so poorly on the national stage. Who could hear such arguments and take seriously those who make them?

According to the critics’ logic, a white candidate shouldn’t run for political office in a black-dominated district. Why? Well, because that’s how it’s done, you see. Black politicians should represent black districts. But do not ask if black politicians are allowed to run in majority-white districts. Of course they can. This is America, after all.

Here is the dilemma for the practitioners of racial politics: They do not wish to see a white candidate successful in a black district, and the fear in Brooklyn is that the four black candidates will split the black vote and allow Mr. Yassky to win. But they would consider it a sign of racial progress if a black politician won an election in a white district.

You’d never know that the civil-rights advocates of a generation ago dreamed of a color-blind society. What would they make of those who object to Mr. Yassky’s candidacy not because of the content of his character, but because of the color of his skin?

Doped Up on Shopping

As the city streets swell with red-cheeked residents and tourists laden with shopping bags, it may be more than the holiday spirit that’s motivating people. While it’s long been known that shopping tends to make people feel good, new research indicates that it has a direct effect on the brain’s pleasure centers. It seems that a trip to Bergdorf’s or Barneys can flood the brain with dopamine in a manner not dissimilar to that experienced by a drug addict getting a fix, or someone jumping from a plane for the first time, or someone tackling a new golf course. That’s because dopamine tends to get involved when someone is faced with something new, thrilling or challenging. A rack of designer dresses, apparently, holds the promise of the new and unfamiliar. And so a “shopping high” is the result. Which would also explain the somewhat empty feeling one has a few hours after making the purchase: The dopamine has, in effect, receded.

Indeed, as recently reported in The Wall Street Journal, M.R.I. brain scans show that high dopamine levels are actually associated with the anticipation of a pleasurable experience, rather than with the experience itself. Which means the pleasure you think you’re getting from shopping is actually coming from your planning and preparing to shop. Taken to its logical conclusion, then, the best way to get a true shopping high, with none of the lows, is to get yourself ready to go shopping—and then stay home.