The Trouble With Christine Quinn

I attended the mayoral forum sponsored by the New York’s five LGBT Democratic clubs and Gay City News, and the newspaper’s editor, Paul Schindler, who moderated, asked rather difficult questions of the panel. Christine Quinn, the current speaker of the City Council, positioned herself as the least progressive of the candidates. It was not a pretty sight.

On issue after issue, she did little to distinguish herself from Mayor Michael Bloomberg. On the issue of police-community relations, she barely recognized the plight of young black and Hispanic citizens, predominantly men, who are constantly harassed by police because of the color of their skin. As for economic development, she paid little attention to the question asked by the moderator, ignoring the opportunities squandered by the current mayor in favoring big developers over the needs of community residents.

On issues like homeless LGBT youth, where she has been a positive force in brokering deals to save funding for shelter beds from a heartless mayor, she spoke with passion and conviction.

But mostly, Quinn sounded like someone who wanted to be mayor for most of the wrong reasons. Her cynical support of the extension of term limits, which had twice been endorsed by the voters, has enabled her to be the frontrunner in this election cycle. It was a calculated move that resulted in our living through a lackluster third Bloomberg term.

The most disturbing piece of the evening was that Speaker Quinn distinguished herself as the only candidate to oppose paid sick leave for those who work in New York City. She seemed to have no concrete analysis about how this legislation would affect small business, and when questioned about what changes in the city's economy would make her support the bill, she could not answer. As her rival Sal Albanese pointed out, she has prevented a vote on this bill, even though a supermajority of the Council supports it. This was the same tactic used in the 1980s by Council Majority Leader Tom Cuite to deny lesbians and gay men their civil rights in New York City.

I came out in 1978 working on the No on 6 campaign in California, battling a ballot proposition designed to deny gay teachers and gay-friendly teachers their right to work. We have come a long way since then, a very long way.

After 12 years of Mayor Bloomberg, we need change. We need a mayor who has a more inclusive vision of New York City when it comes to economic development, policing, education policy, and housing. Unfortunately, the speaker subscribes to the same top-down, narrow policies as the current mayor.

I would love to see New York, the largest city in America and one of the world's great cities, with an out and proud lesbian, bi, gay, or transgender mayor. But being LGBT is not sufficient in itself.

Scott Klein lives in Brooklyn and is a longtime gay Democratic political activist.