Low voter turnout predicted in NYC elections as community media ponder tough questions for candidates

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red line

By Cristina DC Pastor

A politician convicted eight years ago of slashing his girlfriend’s face with a broken glass is making a comeback.

In New York City where the politics is often colorful and quirky, Hiram Monserrate’s return still grabs attention. At the July 13 panel discussion “Covering the NYC elections,” it was disclosed the former state senator was running for a seat in the City Council’s District 21 after incumbent Julissa Ferreras-Copeland decided not to run, and that his chances are “very strong.”

The panel of journalists and political observers predicted low voter turnout due to lack of competition. They discussed how some politicians are dusting off old tricks and recycling their resumes initially for the September 12 primaries and ultimately the November 7 polls.

“It’s going to be a snooze,” said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, a non-partisan watchdog. He warned that a lack of competition could result in issues not being “sufficiently discussed.”

“Turnout will be very low,” declared Ben Max, executive editor of Gotham Gazette.

He compared these elections to the previous 2013 polls, considered a crowded race. In 2013, according to reports, only 24 percent of registered voters went to the polls, an “incredibly low” turnout, according to Max.

Up for grabs in the upcoming elections are the positions of Mayor (currently held by Bill de Blasio); Public Advocate (Letitia James), Comptroller (Scott Stringer), 51 seats in the City Council, five Borough Presidents, and two District Attorneys in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Dadey said eight of the 51 council positions are “open seats,” where the incumbents are term-limited. He said he sees no strong challengers in those contests.

Zenaida Mendez, director of Manhattan Neighborhood Network public access television, offered a different viewpoint. She believes the coming elections will see many first-time voters going to the polls. She also pointed out that of the 13 women in the City Council, four are term-limited, and for some voters, “it is critical to maintain gender balance” in the council.

Panel speakers from left:   Dick Dadey of Citizens Union, Zenaida Mendez of MNN El Barrio Firehouse Community Media Center, Javier Castaño of Queens Latino, Ben Max of Gotham Gazette, and Rong Xiaoqing of Sing Tao Daily. The FilAm photos

Panel speakers from left: Dick Dadey of Citizens Union, Zenaida Mendez of MNN El Barrio Firehouse Community Media Center, Javier Castaño of Queens Latino, Ben Max of Gotham Gazette, and Rong Xiaoqing of Sing Tao Daily. The FilAm photos

The panel speakers urged the community and ethnic media to be critical in their reporting and to ask tough questions.

“Don’t believe anything they say,” said Javier Castaño, director of Queens Latino newspaper. “They always say they are protecting immigrants but they are not protecting anyone.”

Pay attention to who is the real candidate and who is really campaigning, said Max. In a race where there is no opponent, it is still important to examine the incumbent’s performance. “What is his voting record like?” he said.

He urged reporters to know who the Establishment candidates are and what kind of machinery do they have backing them. He stressed the importance of getting interviews with the candidates and “not settling for their representatives.”

“Ask if they know what the job of the City Council is,” he added.

Mendez stressed that it is the responsibility of the ethnic media to cover neighborhoods in an informed way.

“There is a lot to cover,” she said, citing the rezoning of districts as an important issue to watch.

The race for Brooklyn District Attorney is an “interesting” one, said Rong Xiaoqing, a reporter for Sing Tao Daily. She shared how candidate Vincent Gentile, when interviewed by her paper, avoided direct answers about the Peter Liang case. Liang is a Chinese American NYPD officer sentenced to five years’ probation and 800 hours of community service in the unintentional killing of African American Akai Gurley in 2014. Some sectors in Chinatown believe he was wrongly convicted.

She also disclosed how politicians would use the Chinese characters of their names on the ballots, hoping this would endear them with Chinese voters. While this practice is allowed by law, sometimes the Chinese name is not accurate and therefore not understandable to the voter.

The panel discussion was organized by the Center for Community and Ethnic Media and held at the CUNY Gradate School for Journalism. NY1’s political anchor Errol Louis, moderated the discussion.

In a related development, Filipino American candidate Edward Santos who was running for a seat in District 8 announced recently he was pulling out of the race in favor of his opponent Assembly Member Robert Rodriguez.

“Robert and I have known each other since my very first year on the community board more than 10 years ago,” said Santos in a statement. “I firmly believe Robert is in a unique position to build a strong coalition in the district that will fight to ensure every child has a great education, every person has a great job, and every family has a safe, affordable place to call home.”

Copyright © 2017 The FilAm

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