Queens is the largest and most diverse borough in the city. To know everything about Queens means having to serve this borough for a lifetime. Katz has served in the City Council and the State Assembly, but perhaps more importantly, she put in her time working for Claire Schulman, the former – and long serving - Queens borough president.
This column has always been skeptical of the office of the borough president, regardless of who holds it. It seems difficult to justify more government in a time when we are constantly looking to pare down. To better grasp the importance of this office, who better to talk to than Melinda Katz?
“We are approaching a time (next January) when we will have a new mayor, a new comptroller, and a new borough president,” says Katz. “The new person needs to see that we get our fair share.”
Candidates can only bring so much individualized experience to this office. For example, a candidate like Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr., with his background in law enforcement, would speak well to those concerned about crime.
Katz’s time at the City Council was spent in large part with the Land Use Committee. In 2001, candidate Mike Bloomberg told a crowd of people at a restaurant outside of Forest Park that middle-income affordable housing was necessary for the future of the city. That is still true 11 years later.
Katz’s experience heading the Land Use Committee may be useful for an office that still seems like a work in progress to many people.
Capital money, the kind of discretionary money that goes to parks and other projects will be important to Queens in the next ten years. Not only for beautification purposes, but for housing and the construction jobs that could come with it.
Queens has a lot of trade union workers that would benefit from wise use of capital discretionary money. If Katz can show in the next ten months that she is the candidate to best develop land and keep housing affordable, she will have a strong platform.
The Democratic field can get crowded in a hurry, however, and that might be why she is hitting the ground early. This column has never really endorsed a candidate, and it would never do that this early in a race, but there is great value to having served in two bodies of government and under a borough president.
The Power of Floyd Flake
Four years ago, I started covering the candidacy of then-Comptroller Bill Thompson in his bid to become mayor. The criticism about Thompson then has come up again this time around.
People say that he is not inspiring enough to energize his base. They say that he has run many times. They say that he only gets far in primaries because the field is usually weak. Despite all of these reasons, I would say – yet again – he is the frontrunner.
The fact that Thompson is not simply a firebrand candidate makes him stronger. And he has not run for mayor as the Democratic nominee more than once. That is why he got the endorsement of the Reverend Floyd Flake last week.
Flake spent a long time in Congress, and his Queens district was diverse. He was a centrist who sometimes backed Republicans. If Thompson can impress Flake, he is already further along than a lot of other candidates in the Democratic field.
Consider that Thompson is pretty strong in Brooklyn, his original hometown (Harlem is his new home). He is strong in upper Manhattan. And with Flake’s help – if he gets it – he can make a dent in Queens.
Thompson, before announcing his candidacy, made the rounds in predominantly Hispanic circles in the Bronx for the last few years. As long as the press is all over Christine Quinn, Thompson can build up support in the outer boroughs. Having run four years ago is an advantage to Thompson. All of his negatives have been flushed out already.
Anything can happen from now until this really heats up in the spring. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio will get most of the union support. Quinn will get a lot of party help, especially in Midtown and below.
This means that the field, which is not a weak one, will be split. That’s good news for Thompson. If Thompson can push the Democratic primary to a run-off, and he probably will, he can win the nomination.
Barring a blockbuster change in the Democratic field, like Hillary Clinton jumping in (which will not happen), this is good terrain for the former Comptroller.