Editorials

On Tuesday, Sept. 13, New Yorkers will head to the polls for the 2005 primary elections, which feature several heated contests. Throughout the city, Democrats will choose from among four candidates seeking their party’s Mayoral nomination. If the first-place finisher doesn’t receive at least 40 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will face each other in a runoff election two weeks after Primary Day. That scenario seems likely.

In Manhattan, two other races are of special interest. The winners of the Democratic primaries for Manhattan District Attorney and Manhattan Borough President are assured election in November. So Democrats won’t simply be choosing a nominee; they will, in essence, be choosing a D.A. and a B.P.

Here are The Observer’s endorsements.

Gifford Miller

This page has had its differences with Mr. Miller, the Speaker of the City Council, through the years. But it is our view that he is the best of the four candidates vying for the unenviable task of taking on incumbent Michael Bloomberg, a Republican, in the fall.

Mr. Miller is young and relatively inexperienced (he has been Council Speaker for just four years). Frankly, he hasn’t been much of a counterweight to Mr. Bloomberg in the traditional sparring between the city’s chief executive and its legislature.

In another era, Mr. Miller wouldn’t be running for Mayor this year. Like his predecessor, Peter Vallone, he would slowly master local politics before seeking a promotion to Gracie Mansion. Term limits, however, have changed the tempo of city politics and have required ambitious politicians to readjust their schedules. Mr. Miller is running this year because he’s out of a job as of January. So why not run for Mayor?

During the ’05 campaign, Mr. Miller has demonstrated energy and a willingness to break with the usual single-interest and ethnic pandering that all too often characterizes “debate” in the New York Democratic Party. That’s a sharp contrast with two of his more senior opponents, former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer and current Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields. Both seem to be wedded to old politics and old ideas, as if Mr. Bloomberg and his predecessor, Rudolph Giuliani, hadn’t dramatically changed the dynamics of governance. Mr. Ferrer, who has run for Mayor two previous times, is simply out of touch. He seems to have one solution for every problem: higher taxes.

Mr. Miller’s plan to add 1,000 police officers shows that this young Democrat certainly learned something from the Giuliani-Bloomberg years: Public safety makes so many other things—especially prosperity—possible. Mr. Miller also wants to pay police officers higher starting salaries. Why not?

In a similar vein, Mr. Miller has proposed taking subway security out of the hands of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and putting it in the hands of professionals. That’s a worthwhile idea, and one certainly worth discussing in light of the attacks in London.

Moreover, he has shown that he has the authority to keep a City Council full of 50 other members working together—no small achievement for a 35-year-old.

All in all, Mr. Miller has emerged from the Democratic pack as the candidate most worthy of nomination. A Miller victory might well be the turning point for New York’s Democrats, who haven’t elected a Mayor since David Dinkins beat Rudy Giuliani in 1989. With his youth and ideas, Mr. Miller could emerge as the new leader the city’s Democrats need.

Robert Morgenthau

For the first time in years, the Manhattan District Attorney has a serious electoral challenge on his hands. But there is no reason for the borough’s voters to turn aside the legendary Robert Morgenthau.

The incumbent’s opponent, Leslie Crocker Snyder, has made much of Mr. Morgenthau’s age—85—suggesting that the longtime prosecutor simply isn’t up to the job. But the record suggests otherwise. Mr. Morgenthau has been an effective and important part of New York’s amazing fight against the bad guys. Rudolph Giuliani, Michael Bloomberg and their police commissioners usually get most of the credit for the city’s startling decrease in crime. But let’s not forget that prosecutors, especially Mr. Morgenthau, deserve a fair portion of the credit, too.

Mr. Morgenthau is more than just another incumbent office-holder. He is, for good reason, an icon. His record will stand the test of time, and his name will take its place alongside other legendary prosecutors like Thomas Dewey, Frank Hogan and Rudy Giuliani.

Mr. Morgenthau’s office has been on the front lines in the war against street crime as well as the fight against white-collar crooks, like the bandits who ran BCCI over a decade ago and, more recently, looters like Tyco’s Dennis Kozlowski.

There simply is no reason to dismiss Mr. Morgenthau from office. Indeed, there is every reason to treasure his service, and to ensure that it continues.

Eva Moskowitz

New Yorkers realized that Eva Moskowitz was no ordinary City Council member when she convened hearings on some of the ludicrous work rules that governed the city’s school system. She earned the eternal enmity of the United Federation of Teachers and other unions—not a bad thing at all.

Ms. Moskowitz has a charming habit of standing up for what she believes in. For example, this year she chose not to pander to the Independence Party after Lenora Fulani, who has long-standing ties to the party’s leadership, refused to disavow anti-Semitic remarks she made years ago. Most New York Democrats pretend that Ms. Fulani doesn’t exist, or that her ties to the powerful third party are tenuous at best. That’s how badly they want the party’s support. Ms. Moskowitz, however, decided that she could do without such dubious friends.

After admirable work on the City Council, Ms. Moskowitz is running for Manhattan Borough President. The job, it must be said, isn’t particularly challenging. Indeed, few would miss it if it were eliminated.

It does, however, offer smart and intellectually honest politicians a platform to act as an advocate for schoolchildren, crime victims and others whose voices are often drowned out amid the chorus of special interests in New York.

Eva Moskowitz figures to be a terrific borough president. She is a voice that will be heard, an advocate who won’t be bought, and a parent who knows what it takes to raise a family in Manhattan.

New Orleans

As one of the greatest American cities turned into a terrible tableau of death and destruction last week, New Yorkers joined the rest of the country in expressions of shock and sympathy. With thousands of lives presumed lost, billions of dollars in property damage and widespread civic disorder, New Orleans buckled and broke in the face of Hurricane Katrina, showing once again that mankind’s proudest achievements are not immune from obliteration by the implacable forces of nature.

The political fallout, and assignment of blame, will sort itself out over the coming months. But at the moment, the focus must be on helping the survivors of the hurricane reclaim their dignity and some measure of their former lives. New Orleans had a poverty rate of 30 percent, and the majority of those displaced by the flood were struggling economically long before the levees broke. Now they are truly America’s own refugees, and the strength of our society will be shown by how we cope with this tragedy.

Just as the nation turned to New York after 9/11, New Yorkers now turn to New Orleans and its half-million far-flung residents as they wait out the days and nights, many of them on makeshift beds in stadiums, hotels, shelters, civic centers and other temporary homes. Many were torn from their families in the mad rush to escape the rising waters and the subsequent rush to escape the horrors of the Superdome and other unfriendly and fetid camps.

New York City has sent 300 police officers and 300 firefighters to New Orleans, along with 100 city buses. Privately, New Yorkers are giving generously to the Red Cross and other relief organizations, remembering how the state of Louisiana was among the many who came to New York’s aid after 9/11. New York and New Orleans now share the uncomfortable distinction of being the two American cities that have witnessed devastation on a mass scale in the 21st century.

Editorials