Statistics Still Do Lie

Ferrer and Undecided lead muddled Democratic primary pack

Just as with the mailings, Miller's spokesman told the Voice before the Sun story appeared that his campaign had only claimed $500,000 to $600,000 in exempt expenditures. And just as with the ongoing sidestepping of CFB rules, Miller became speaker by creating a committee outside the public finance system he so often salutes, raising contributions that exceeded its limits.

Ferrer's character flaw is more par for the political course: He hypes, extrapolates, and repositions. His Diallo comments have been egregiously overplayed by the Bloomberg-backing tabloids, but he stumbled all over himself at the WCBS debate Sunday on late-term abortions, unable to explain how he could move from blasting the procedure as "barbaric" in 1997 to supporting it. Though this issue has dogged him for years, Ferrer abandoned his previous concession that "barbaric" was a "dumb" answer and trotted out a new explanation in the Sunday debate, claiming he was responding to a "politically charged" question. Changing both his position and his explanation compounds his problem.

Ferrer has also made the dropout and graduation rates his number one statistical critique of Bloomberg education policies, claiming the city "could only graduate 38 percent of schoolchildren on time" on Sunday, but he is gilding a lily. A 54 percent graduation rate, up three points since Bloomberg took office, is a ready-made target for Ferrer, so why does he have to make it worse than it is? Why is he still saying in every debate that the mayor has only produced 10,000 units of affordable housing when his actual and approved production—28,500—is demonstrably short of need and even of Bloomberg's promise?

Miller: Dominates debates, subverts reforms
photo: Kate Englund
Miller: Dominates debates, subverts reforms

Even Weiner, the bright new face who debuted on the citywide scene in this campaign, looked shallow on Sunday when he could not get specific about the cuts in waste he stresses so often as the engine that will finance the tax cuts he plans to do as mayor. Pressed about any reductions in pension benefits, even for new hires, he rejected it out of hand, saying that "money going to middle-class New Yorkers is money I want to go to them." If Weiner can't find waste in the fastest growing category of city costs—soaring from $1.3 billion when Bloomberg took office to $4.5 billion in the current fiscal year—he is wielding a very selective scalpel, protecting the same old special interests he rails against.

Weiner also went from being the only candidate at the NY1 debate to say Rudy Giuliani was a better mayor than Bloomberg to listing Bloomberg's top achievement on Sunday as "reducing racial tension in a post-Giuliani era." Weiner is targeting Giuliani and Koch Democrats in the outer boroughs—and 61 percent of those who favor him say they will vote for Bloomberg if he loses, far more than the supporters of any other Dem. His 40 percent property tax hike theme—even though it's been debunked by the Times—resonates among homeowners and, when rate and assessment increases are combined, it's accurate. Whoever wins in September is guaranteed to make it a part of their November message.

The best measure of the Fields campaign was her endorsement last week by the Citizens Union, a once-grand civic organization chaired now by a Bloomberg appointee. It endorsed Bloomberg in 2001 and is likely to do so again even though he is Public Enemy No. 1 of one of its pet causes, campaign finance reform. Strangely, the Times suggested Sunday that CU rejected Weiner because of his relatively mild apparent violations of CFB rules. Bloomberg L.P. contributed $5,000 to CU's coffers last year, Bloomberg was its dinner honoree in 1994, and its executive director couldn't think of "any proposal" Fields has made that "stood out," praising instead her ability to "get everyone involved." The CU's vacuous rationale for its endorsement of the vacuous Fields is the clearest indicator yet that Bloomberg is still hoping for a divisive Ferrer/ Fields runoff.

Research assistance: K. Emily Bond, Nicole D'Andrea, Bryan Farrell, Alex Gecan, Leslie Kaufmann, Ian Kriegish, and Stephen Stirling

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