This Candidate Wants Your Clothes

Last year's presidential contest cost $700 million. That's enough money to buy insecticide-treated nets for about 300 million people so they can be protected against malaria, a disease that kills almost a September 11th's worth of people (roughly 2,700) each day.

But the money spent by Dubya, Kerry, and company didn't save any lives. Instead, it paid for the band at the Republican National Convention that, with no sense of irony, played "Takin' it to the Streets" during an intermission, and it funded the lobbying breakfast for Democratic delegates in Boston, where a Tennessee congressman actually prayed for "the corporate sponsors."

In the last mayoral race, winner Michael Bloomberg spent more than seventy of his own millions, while his major Democratic rivals (Fernando Ferrer, Mark Green, Alan Hevesi, and Peter Vallone Sr.) dished out a combined $37 million. That $100 million total would've bought 267,000 people—say in sub-Saharan Africa— a year's worth of Combivir treatment to prevent their HIV from turning into AIDS. It bought Bloomberg's glossy bio-mailings and Green's attack ads instead.

This year, at least one New York City Council campaign is trying a different approach. Guar Tsabar, who works as an analyst for Speaker Gifford Miller, is running for the district 2 seat being vacated by Margarita Lopez (she's term limited and seeking the Manhattan borough presidency).

Tsabar's campaign is combining the required petition drive to get on the ballot with a clothing drive. Every morning from 7-9, at the 6 train stop at Astor Place and the F stop at 2nd Ave., Tsabar's volunteers collect signatures and donated clothing. Originally, all the donated duds were going to go to the Henry Street Settlement. "But we've just collected so much, they can't take it all," Hilary Keller, a campaign aide, tell the Voice, so other nonprofits will get the surplus.

The clothing drive is the latest installment of Tsabar's "community service-oriented campaign." Previous good deeds included a collection of 75 deactivated cell phones, which were then turned over to senior citizens so they can call 911. Back in December, the campaign collected 500 books for P.S. 63's holiday book fair. The reason for the campaign's approach, Keller says, is that campaigns have grown so expensive that "you really feel that the money can be used in different ways, for better purposes." Not to mention, it's good politics. Somebody gets the clothes they need, somebody else gets to clean out that hall closet, and Tsabar gets his signatures—as well as voters' kudos for doing something nice.

So far this season, the mayoral candidates have dished out $13.6 million. How many books for P.S. 63 would that buy?


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