Ten Of The 18 Public Advocate Hopefuls Came To A Forum in Dyker Heights

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DYKER HEIGHTS – The two-hour forum, hosted by The New York State Reform Party attracted 10 candidates vying for the public advocate’s seat, including Daniel Christmann, David Eisenbach, Peter Gleason, Ifeoma Ike, Tony Herbert, Nomiki Konst, Diane Signorile, Nancy Sliwa, John Tabacco and Mike Zumbluskas. That’s 10 of the 16 candidates running for the position as of Monday, two more have announced since.

The New York State Reform Party sponsored the event held in Bklyn Pizza at 1406 86th St. Host of AM 970 Radio, and Secretary of the state’s Reform Party Frank Morano moderated. Each candidate answered one to three questions from Morano following a three-minute introduction.

Public Advocate’s job is to act as a watchdog over the mayor and New York City agencies and to investigate complaints about city agencies. It is an elected position, and a special election is slated for February, a month after current Public Advocate Letitia James takes her seat as the New York State Attorney General.

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Allegations of corruption on the mayoral level sprung up throughout the evening and each candidate was strong on more oversight. For one candidate, it meant starting with campaign reform.

David Eisenbach, a Columbia University professor is running for the second time after last year’s unsuccessful primary against Letitia James. As an experienced candidate, Eisenbach condemned the mayor’s ballot initiative on campaign reform.

“Every proposal that de Blasio pitchedfor the charter revisionwas meant to enhance his power and the power of the establishment,” said Eisenbach.

This past election, New Yorkers voted overwhelmingly in favor of lowering the dollar amount of contribution limits. Eisenbach suggested lowering the threshold in which city-wide candidates can get matching funds from $125,000 to $75,000 as a better solution to attract a more diverse pool of candidates. The current policy makes it harder for candidates with little name recognition “to play ball.”

“The rich candidates who can meet those thresholds can get even more money,” he added.

Since Boro Park City Councilman Kalman Yeger sponsored legislation to abolish the office, a growing number of New Yorkers have jumped on the bandwagon, including New York State Reform Party Secretary John Tabacco who, oddly, is also running for the position. During Monday’s meeting, Tabacco said he’d gift New Yorkers $4 million—the cost to run the office—with his campaign motto of “shut it down”.

In contrast, Nomiki Konst is calling to beef up the position. The former journalist said the position should have an $8 million budget and should come along with more responsibilities.

“I would say that the DOI’s office should be within the public advocate’s office,” said Konst.

On congestion pricing: Konst opposes the current approach to congestion pricing where residents have to pay for tolls and surcharges. Instead, the candidate suggests shifting the financial burden to the transportation networks that aid in the congestion.

“I think these tech companies should be paying fully,” she said. “I think it should come from the companies and not consumers”. The self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist and activist served on President Obama’s re-election campaign and Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.

Attorney and Lehman College professor Ifeoma Ike tackled voting reform. Ike suggested early voting but overall would like to see the entire system dismantled and rebuilt.

“We have to look at a complete remodeling of the board of elections,” for it to be partisan is actually ridiculous,” she said.

The past election was fraught with voter snafus after a perfect storm of rainy weather, large turnout and the implementation of a new 2-page ballot.

Former Chairman of the Manhattan Independence Party Mike Zumbluskas championed the Amazon deal highlighting the 25,000 new jobs to come to Queens. But Zumbluskas did say lawmakers should go back to the table and negotiate more benefits for the city.

“Why don’t you build a light rail from the subway stations to your area so that could help  New Yorkers,” he said.

Similar to her attorney general election bid, Sliwa is running on an animal right’s platform. Peter Gleason, an attorney and a former NYPD officer, wants the job and promises not to run for the mayor.

Advocate Tony Herbert called for politicians to become more active in their current roles rather than “running for about almost every office [they] can find.” Hebert has run for city council, state senate and public advocate in the past. His Twitter account is private.

Diane Signorile, a Staten Island real estate broker shirked talking about issues and rather talked mainly about outgoing Congressman Dan Donovan. She claims to have evidence of eight years of corruptions against the lawmaker who will no longer be in office come January 1.  Daniel Christmann is, well, angry and wants to change things. The activist was savvy enough to secure the website, nycadvocate.com. You can see his views on housing, environment and transportation issues here.

Since the forum, speaker Melissa Mark Viveritto and Assemblywoman Latrice Walker both announced a bid for public advocate. Also, vying for the position but not in attendance at the Reform Party’s forum are City Councilmen Jumaane Williams, Rafael Espinal and Eric Ulrich, Assembly Members Michael Blake and Daniel O’Donnell and Dawn Smalls, an Obama White House appointee.

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