Tuesday, June 22, 2021: As the first light of dawn broke over New York City, the Primary Day reporter’s reliable opening sentence phrase–“a palpable air of uncertainty”–hovered over the skyline, just as it has been doing ever since our best minds in medicine took a hard pass on the notion of masks (with an about-face soon to follow, imploring us to mask up whenever we’re within six feet of each other (and before that, 12 feet). And as we step out and into our polling place today, uncertainty shows itself in the first-ever use of Ranked Choice Voting, and the very real unknown of post-pandemic NYC, which the new crop of leadership will be charged with navigating. One thing’s for sure: It’s better to be part of the process than to wonder what might have been. With that in mind, we put a few final questions to those running for term limited Corey Johnson’s NYC Council District 3 seat.Of the six candidates, an appropriate three responded (in all fairness, the questions arrived only yesterday, and everybody seemed to be preoccupied with… today). For info about the Primary Election (right now!) and the General Election (Nov. 2), visit https://vote.nyc.
BONUS CONTENT: To read Chelsea Community News’ early campaign era Q&A with Erik Bottcher, Aleta LaFargue, Phelan Dante Fitzpatrick, Marni Halasa, Leslie Bogosian Murphy and Arthur Schwartz, click on their names, which appeared earlier in this… sentence.
Scott Stiffler, for Chelsea Community News (CCNews): Ranked Choice Voting allows for voters to choose up to five candidates. Why should you be in the Number 1 position?
Leslie Boghosian Murphy: I believe I should be District 3’s next City Councilmember because I have the unique combination of experience, background, and ability to both care for our community and fight for it at the same time. My professional experience as an EMMY award winning investigative journalist combined with my community activism and life experience allow me to tackle tough issues by identifying problems and fixing them.
I am solutions oriented and in those solutions I value balance and I value pragmatism. And not just solutions for now, but long-term because I believe that’s how we create and maintain strong and balanced neighborhoods. We need someone who will put resident voices first–because I believe resident voices and community participation is paramount to any programs and policies impacting our neighborhoods.
Marni Halasa: I should be in the number 1 position because I am, above all, an advocate for the neighborhood. I am proud of my plan for affordable housing & saving NYCHA against privatization, as well as my plan for bringing back mom & pop businesses. But these plans come straight from listening to our community and its priorities, rather than well-heeled developers, and well-connected insiders. And I push hard, unafraid to call out bad policy decisions that are harmful to the community and those in government who are responsible. I see my role as putting the people in power; connecting the needs & issues for the ordinary people with City Hall. And I am proud of it.
Phelan Dante Fitzpatrick: Because I have the lived experience to represent District 3 on behalf of the people who actually live here and not corporations or political interests. I’m a Black, gay, single dad and a small business operator right here on the West Side. If you can believe it, I’d actually be the first person of color to ever represent us in the City Council. We need a different kind of leadership. We need one of us.
CCNews: Zoom and other online events changed the way candidates take their message to voters. What did you learn from this new form of engagement, and how can it be improved?
Leslie: Video meetings have allowed more community engagement in otherwise scarcely attended public sessions. That is a big benefit – more people are engaged and would like to know what’s happening in their neighborhood. The convenience of participation has allowed for greater awareness. But nothing will replace the live, in-person conversations for me. Improvements can always be made but to be able to meet in person cannot be digitally replicated.
Marni: I believe Zoom runs the risk of excluding seniors, the disabled, and the less economically-advantaged from the political process. Currently, public housing residents have complained to me personally that they have been shut out of the process because they do not have access to computers, Wi-Fi or even Zoom technology. They prefer in person events which allows greater democratic participation. It is a priority to me that we resume accessible hybrid online/in-person events. Online accessibility cannot replace public review events where the community needs to be present to have an informed process. My goal is to bring the community back into these settings of political deliberation.
Phelan: As if navigating a campaign as a first-time candidate wasn’t enough of a learning curve, we did it during unprecedented times. I’m grateful we had the technology to safely reach more people, more efficiently. But there’s simply no replacement for meeting your neighbors face to face. It’s amazing how much we have in common if we just have a conversation about how to improve life in our community.
CCNews: What has the campaigning experience taught you about time management?
Leslie: Listen to your campaign manager and prepare for child care in advance.
Marni: I already thought that I was a decent multitasker, but now I realize that I can do so much more than I ever dreamed. Time management is everything, but the ability to prioritize what is important is I think the most important skill that I’ve really learned on the campaign trail. Also important is the ability to synthesize complicated issued into understandable conversational English, so you can reach every voter from every walk of life. When regular people, working families, seniors, public housing residents are armed with knowledge, and they can use it to do good for the people.
Phelan: Being the only candidate who never stopped working, running a business with nearly 30 employees, and being a full-time dad has shown me how many obstacles there are for normal people like me to become civically engaged. The intensity, cost, and power grabbing behind our political system forces anyone seriously considering a run to essentially make it their full time job. That’s why we keep electing career politicians. It’s too hard for real people to stand up and serve.
CCNews: Early on in the campaign, we asked you to name your favorite Golden Girl. What qualities of that Girl have come in handy on the campaign trail?
Leslie: Sophia’s down-to-earth personality and sense of humor. I sincerely believe the best way to broadcast your message is to be direct, honest, and forthcoming–no mixed messages. I appreciate straightforwardness and I think others do, too.
Marni: I chose Blanche for her engaging personality, fun demeanor and her ability to never allow disagreement to come between her and the relationships she holds dear. I have found this very helpful on the campaign trail. Often people have conflicting strategies, different opinions and stress — but I am extremely happy to say that our campaign has always been able to work out issues, big or small, and for the most part has been a lot of fun. I am so proud of our volunteers, my neighbors, my figure skating colleagues, small business owners, public housing residents and even several from our unhoused community, who have all contributed so much time and effort because they believe in this people powered campaign. To see this campaign blossom into what it has become in the past three months has been amazing to witness!
Phelan: I love Rose for so many reasons, the biggest is because she cares more about the needs of others more than her own. The fact that Rose works as a grief counselor says a lot about who she is and what she stands for. I put my personal cell phone number on every piece of campaign literature we have sent out from the beginning of my campaign, because I felt like our representative, if anything, should be accessible. I’ve received hundreds of phone calls over the last few months, because even as a candidate, we have been helping so many people in our community with everyday problems. Some of those issues have been really intense, and I think for most, just being able to talk to someone who will listen has been a big help for them, but also for me. This is the quality that we love best in Rose. Her ability to listen, and try to help whenever she can.
CCNews: Any last words to our readers?
Leslie: A big thank you. My team and I have had the best time crisscrossing the district and meeting the most wonderful, caring people. Chelsea is special and I want to work with you to keep it that way. I give you my word to work my very hardest and make you proud as your next City Councilmember.
Marni: This is probably been the most interesting and compelling experience I have ever had, and it’s really been an honor to run for public office. I don’t know what will happen on the 22nd, but what I do know is it has made me much closer to my community, more intimate with its residents and I understand what is needed to help others. In the past three months, I have helped a NYCHA tenant get a motorized chair she had been waiting for, for eight months. I have inspired other residents in the community to work with me to give political education classes to others to broaden civic education and engagement. And I was part of a group of tenants that pushed Senator Brian Kavanagh to put The Blueprint, scheme to privatize public housing in this district, on hold. This is the beauty of running for office, which makes all the sacrifice and hard work well worth it.
Phelan: I’m running for City Council because when the pandemic hit and I needed help the most, our representative and his staff were nowhere to be found. And I know I’m not alone. Help me break the “machine” and rank us #1 on the ballot. If you’re a small business operator or a parent in our district who is worried about our community, I hear you. Diversity in representation is not only important for our city, but important for our democracy. It allows all voices to be heard, no matter what you do, or how much money you make, or what zip code you live in. We all deserve the opportunity to have a voice in the decisions that affect our everyday lives.
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