At LGBT Forum, Mayoral Rivals Hit Quinn on Sick Leave, Term Extension

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Comptroller John Liu and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at the March 20 mayoral forum. | DONNA ACETO
Comptroller John Liu and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at the March 20 mayoral forum. | DONNA ACETO

The conventional wisdom is that Christine Quinn has the queer vote sewn up in the Democratic primary for mayor, but the crowd of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender voters at a March 20 debate let the City Council speaker know that they disapprove of some of her decisions.

“I think in the Bloomberg years a lot of us started to feel that the New York City we loved was being compromised,” said Bill de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, during a discussion of development policy in New York City.

“It’s been a long 12 years, it should have been eight,” he added in a jab at Quinn for orchestrating a 2008 City Council vote that altered the city’s term limits law from two four-year terms for officeholders to three. That drew loud and sustained applause from the audience.

With many supporters of the out lesbian Council speaker on hand, de Blasio, Thompson, Liu, Albanese find openings

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. | DONNA ACETO
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. | DONNA ACETO

Quinn, an out lesbian who represents Chelsea and the West Village, and de Blasio were among five contenders for the Democratic nod who spent 90 minutes debating in the 1,000-seat Mason Hall at Baruch College on East 23rd Street.

The Quinn campaign had volunteers and campaign staff outside the auditorium more than an hour before the debate holding signs and offering Quinn stickers to attendees. Judging by those stickers, there were plenty of Quinn partisans in the audience. The line to enter stretched nearly the length of the block from Lexington Avenue to Third Avenue.

Despite the large crowd and the presence of some Quinn critics protesting outside, predictions on social media and elsewhere that organized protests would erupt inside did not materialize.

However the candidates felt about the evening, it was a triumph for the five LGBT Democratic political clubs that sponsored the event as they showed campaigns they could draw a large crowd of potential voters, volunteers, and donors.

Quinn also took a hit during a discussion of the paid sick leave bill that is pending before the City Council. That legislation would require businesses with four or more employees to give workers five paid sick days per year.

Former Comptroller Bill Thompson. | DONNA ACETO
Former Comptroller Bill Thompson. | DONNA ACETO

John Liu, the city’s comptroller, de Blasio, Bill Thompson, the former comptroller, and Sal Albanese, who represented a Brooklyn City Council district from 1983 to 1998, all said they supported the bill and chastised Quinn for stalling it.

“I support the concept of paid sick leave, but not this bill in its current formation,” Quinn said. “It’s not a question for me of if, it’s a question of when.”

That comment was greeted with loud boos, but also applause. Quinn’s view is that the bill would add an additional financial burden on small businesses at a time when they are already suffering in a laggard economy. She said her office was weighing which measure to use –– for example, falling unemployment over some number of months –– to decide when to implement the benefit.

“Speaker Quinn, you need to stop blocking this bill right now,” Thompson said.

In a particularly biting comparison, Albanese recalled that the bill he supported that added sexual orientation to the city’s anti-discrimination law was kept off the floor for 15 years by Thomas Cuite, then the Council’s leader, before its 1986 enactment under his successor.

“That’s how the gay rights bill was bottled up for years and years,” Albanese said. “It should be debated and it should be voted on and members should not be terrified.”

The debate also showcased the wonkier side of three of the candidates. Quinn, de Blasio, and, to an extent, Thompson came armed with facts and knowledge of city law while Liu, who was 30 minutes late for the debate, and Albanese tended to give more general answers.

During a discussion of a proposed city law that would create an inspector general to oversee the police department –– something that four of the five candidates support –– Quinn said the Council would be doing all it could in that bill. Any such post would have to fall under mayor control, she said.

“You need to have a structure in law to monitor the police department,” she said. “This is the farthest we could go legally... By law, we cannot diminish the mayor’s powers.”

Former City Councilman Sal Albanese. | GAY CITY NEWS
Former City Councilman Sal Albanese. | DONNA ACETO

There are inspectors general for most city agencies in the Department of Investigation (DOI).

In an apparent poke at Quinn, Albanese said the City Council could monitor the police, but was not doing that.

“I think the City Council has the power to do the job if they have the courage to do the job,” Albanese said. “If you think the DOI commissioner is independent of the mayor, I can sell you the Brooklyn Bridge... This is just cosmetics.”

The candidates also agreed on many issues. The Bloomberg administration has known since 2006 that new HIV infections are increasing among young, African-American gay men, and other data suggest that new HIV infections are increasing among white and Latino gay men. City Hall has consistently cut HIV prevention dollars.

The candidates agreed that funds for HIV prevention should be increased and they agreed that $12 million to fund programs for homeless youth, including queer youth, should be baselined, or made a permanent part of the city’s annual budget, and then increased incrementally each year.

“The city has a moral responsibility to make sure these kids are not out on the streets,” Albanese said.

“This is an issue that is so profoundly defining about who we are as a city,” said Quinn.

During a closing round of questions that required the candidates to answer yes or no, a rule that they tended to violate, Quinn and Albanese said that churches should be barred from holding worship services in city schools. De Blasio was the only candidate who promised to ban horse-drawn carriages and who supported the Bloomberg administration ban on the sale of large soft drink portions in restaurants.

All five agreed that the city had not done enough to address a meningitis outbreak among gay and bisexual men, that a state ban on surrogacy services contracts should be overturned, and that using condoms as evidence in criminal prosecutions should be barred. They also committed to pressing for a state cap on rents facing people living with AIDS that has been fought by the Bloomberg administration.

The debate was sponsored by the Gay & Lesbian Independent Democrats, the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, the Lesbian & Gay Democratic Club of Queens, and the Stonewall Democrats of New York City. Gay City News was also a sponsor and the newspaper’s editor, Paul Schindler, moderated the debate.


Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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Reader feedback

Andy Humm says:
Sal Albanese said that the City gay rights bill was bottled up by then-Majority Leader Tom Cuite who prevented it from coming out of the General Welfare Committee--except once in 1974 when it became the first bill in the history of the Council to clear committee and lose on the floor. But when Cuite blocked it in committee thereafter, we in the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights demanded that our sponsors bring it to the floor through a discharge motion three times so that we could get Council Members on the record on the isssue. Those discharge votes were defeated, but we got more votes each time. When Cuite retired, the bill passed committee in 1986 and won handily on the floor. Today's advocates and Council Members who say they support the sick leave bill refuse to use the discharge tactic--ceding control of the Council to Quinn as well as deep-sixing the sick leave bill. It is unquestionably a tactic that risks the wrath of the Speaker, but today's Council Members are not willing to pay that price for this bill that they say they care about so much.
March 21, 2013, 3:05 pm
Robbie says:
I am not voting for Quinn, she paved the way for Bloomberg to have a 3rd term after the people of New York voted 2 different times to not allow a third term and to up hold term limits! Which also gave her a third term as well.
March 21, 2013, 5:40 pm
Roberta Sklar says:
sounds like politics as usual-- not willing to take the power, and happy to leave it in Quinn's hands and then diss the speaker-- thanks for the history and the insight .
March 21, 2013, 5:44 pm
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
Quinn isn't worried. She has over 29 billion dollars backing her and assuring her victory in the next election.
March 21, 2013, 6:08 pm
GiorgioNYC says:
She may have that much money but she'll never have my vote.
March 21, 2013, 6:47 pm
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
Mine either.
March 21, 2013, 6:51 pm
Sheri Clemons says:
Thank you Andy for your analysis and history of the GLBT rights bill. And I agree with Andy and Roberta's point about council members not willing to take the power and responsibility for pushing legislation to the floor, but then complaining when it does not get to the floor for a vote. I am supporting Chris Quinn. She has taken the responsibility to lead City Government in a way that none of her opponents have. It is easy for them to take shots at her, when they have less substantive profiles themselves. I think Chris Quinn is the Democrat who has the courage and credentials to win the General election against the Republican opponent who wins that primary.
March 21, 2013, 8:34 pm
rebecca porper says:
andy knows the history better than some. i trust his recitation of the history. i worked with andy a long time ago.
March 21, 2013, 9:06 pm
Willima Stribling says:
MS Quinn carries Bloomberg's water - pro landlord, corporations, anti real rent protections, autocratic rule of the City Council, failure to protect even her own district from developers, and she is not 100 percent there for the GLBT Community. New York has turned into the sexually uptight and she's supported moves in that direction.
March 22, 2013, 12:50 am
@PerleyThibodeau says:
Pleased to see that everyone else has caught on to her, too. She's so blatant in all of her gang buster dealings.
March 22, 2013, 7:57 am
@PerleyThibodeau says:
I think the most hilarious part of her career as a political opportunist was when she recently announced that she is going to write a book that details her heart wretching account of having come out as a lesbian. It was then announced that she had already hired a ghost writer to pen her memoirs for her.
March 22, 2013, 10:18 am
@PerleyThibodeau says:
Sorry: I meant to write wrenching. At least I didn't write retching. This could well apply to the situation proposed, also.
March 22, 2013, 10:55 am
Donny Moss says:
Of course Council Members are afraid to buck the Speaker by forcing a vote. She controls the $50 million annual allocation of discretionary funds that that CMs need for their districts. Quinn has proven over and over that she will withhold funds from those who step out of line. Quinn cut Peter Vallone's discretionary funds by $600,000 after he voted against renaming the Queensboro Bridge after Ed Koch, who was a big Quinn supporter.
March 23, 2013, 3:30 pm
Simon says:
It doesn't take "courage" to win a general election in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 10 to 1. We need somebody who is firmly progressive and not a quasi-closeted Republican like Quinn. Please, she even wants to keep NYPD commissioner Kelly who is the architect of this city's racist Stop and Frisk program. Fuggedaboutit!
March 24, 2013, 11:57 am

Comments closed.


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