Fri, 17 April 2009
As moderator of a three-hour political forum for Teamsters Local 237, I expected to spend Saturday tending my stopwatch and introducing a parade of candidates for Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate.
The breakfast event, at the New York Hilton, was for 200 or so shop stewards and business agents. (FYI: the 27,000 members of Local 237, the largest Teamsters local in America, include 9,000 public housing authority employees and 5,000 school safety agents).
I was as shocked as anybody when Councilman Eric Gioia of Queens, a candidates for Public Advocate, suddenly lit into Mark Green about 50 minutes into the forum. Here's a transcript of the 2-minute exchange.
Eric Gioia: "For too long, politicians have misled us. Politicians have distracted us. Politicians have given us so much B.S. it’s hard to believe. And I have to say, growing up in Woodside, I was always so offended when politicians got up and acted like they knew what my family was going through – like they knew what it was like to put food their family’s table, or not be able to make their rent.
"And I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on my colleague Mark Green saying ‘You and I’ in terms of tax rates, saying Bloomberg and Rockefeller pay one rate and ‘You and I’ pay another.
"Mark, I don’t hold it against you that you’re wealthy, I don’t hold it against you that you live on Park Avenue, I don’t hold it against you that you spend weekends in the Hamptons and use corporate jets. I don’t hold that against you. But it’s offensive when you look at this audience and tell them you have any idea what they’re going through, ‘cause you don’t. I challenge you to tell me how much money they make a year and how much money you make a year. It is wrong of you."
Errol Louis: "Um...I’ll give Mr. Green an opportunity to respond."
Mark Green: "What’s really important, as we all talk about the city and the future, is trying to avoid petty, personal attacks that take away from what’s good for you."
Overtalking follows, including me saying “let him finish, Eric," and Gioia saying “you’ve misled the public for a long time, and it’s time it stops, Mark. Be honest with your campaign."
Mark Green: "Calm down, Eric. We’ve got a long way to go.
"Two points if I could. I haven’t saved money in 10 years because of my public service and public life. I haven’t. My goal when I got out of law school was to be the lowest income earner in the Harvard Law School class of 1970 – and I succeeded because I’ve never been a private lawyer. I’ve only been a public lawyer. And for Eric to make fun of me and my family who’s always been in public service, I think is odd.
"If you want to talk about consistency, let’s be careful that we all act honorably and ethically, and that none of us take monies from interests who the City Council gives member items to. I think that’s wrong, I think that’s unethical. I think that should be illegal, Eric."