Julie Menin said that she had expected it to be a slow news day, in her opening speech to the 50 guests who were gathered at the Community Board 1 chairperson’s Tribeca duplex for the Women’s Campaign Forum’s annual gala Monday night.
“Obviously, this is not politics’ finest hour,” she said, alluding to the sex scandal involving Governor Eliot Spitzer. America ranks 68th in the world in terms of women in government office and the forum, which is focused on helping women get into public service, had lots of work to do. “Tonight, I want to focus on the good in public service,” she said.
No such luck!
“So we were just talking, don’t you think there’s something to this—you know, first all the priests get in trouble and now this,” said a guest seated next to the Transom.
The Governor’s wife, Silda Wall Spitzer, had attended this dinner for the past three years running, and several of the guests at the table knew the family personally. It was an even split at the table between those who were surprised and those who were not.
“Everyone at my table was talking about what the headline the next morning in the Post was going to be,” said an attendee. (The Post went with “Ho No!”)
During the appetizer course, City Comptroller William C. Thompson said the Spitzer scandal was certain to be the topic of conversation at City Hall for at least the next month. Later, in his remarks to the crowd, he said he was proud that in his office, which allocates between $5 billion and $7 billion, “women control the finances.”
Amanda Burden, chair of the City Planning Commission, drove a similar line about Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s cabinet.
“I think it’s very important to mentor young women of all ages and to create a network,” said Ms. Burden, after dessert—a sort of chocolate cream ball confection—had been served. “I was always the only woman in the room, except in [the Bloomberg] administration, where there are so many women commissioners that that’s really the bedrock.”
Had the day’s big news affected her evening at all?
“It’s very tragic,” she said. “Everybody’s very upset, especially for the family.”
A young woman approached Ms. Burden and began asking for career advice. She, too, wanted to be a city planner one day.
The irony of the day’s events were not lost on criminal defense attorney Gerald Lefcourt, who recently represented billionaire Jeffrey Epstein after he was accused of soliciting sex from very young women. “It was only a few years ago that Eliot Spitzer was at this very event, nobly lending his support to and championing the cause of women candidates everywhere,” Mr. Lefcourt wrote in an e-mail the next morning. “Yet as we all sat there, we most assuredly were thinking the same thing: Isn’t this just another reason why we need to turn the power over to women?”