Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Harlem debate for State Senate seat

Amsterdam News

Harlem debate for State Senate seat
Amsterdam News Staff
Originally posted 5/3/2006

The four Democrats vying for the Harlem State Senate seat currently held by David Paterson slugged it out in their first debate Tuesday night on the Upper West Side.

Candidates looking to replace Paterson, campaigning as gubernatorial hopeful Eliot Spitzer�s lieutenant governor, include several names already well known by the community. Eugene R. Daniels III, son of former Harlem Assemblywoman Geraldine Daniels; C. Virginia Fields, former Manhattan borough president; Bill Perkins, former Harlem councilman; and Ruben Dario Vargas, an NYPD evidence specialist, are all in the race.

Candidates tackled issues like affordable housing, immigration rights, healthcare and mayoral control of schools, among a veritable soup of hot topics.

Affordable housing is among the issues why former Councilman Perkins says he is seeking the Senate seat that includes East Harlem, Central Harlem and the Upper West Side. Calling the term �affordable housing� a �misnomer� and a �bad joke,� Perkins called for a re-definition.

�Technically the term �affordable� is determined by the medium income of the metropolitan area,� Perkins said, adding, �unfortunately that definition does not apply to the community where very often the housing is being built because it�s too high. The technical definition is too high.�

National hot topics also made their way into Tuesday night�s discussion, particularly the question over immigration legislation.

Ruben Dario Vargas, a Hispanic immigrant, outlined what kind of immigrant should be permitted into the country.

�I have accomplished the American dream� said Vargas, an Upper West Side resident. �That�s the type of immigrant we need here, people who come here legally, people who come to work and people who come to serve.�

Vargas said he supports measures to erect a wall along the Mexican-American border to deter immigrants from illegally entering the country.

The recent wave of proposed hospital closings citywide prompted questions of how these closings can be prevented. To which Eugene Daniels answered, �If we tackle Medicaid fraud hospital closings will become a moot issue, because there�s so much waste, there�s so much fraud.� Daniels accused senior state representatives of working in league with health insurance companies and ignoring the widespread fraud.

On the issue of mayoral control of schools C. Virginia Fields, together with Vargas, supported the idea while stressing greater accountability.

�Mayoral control does not mean excluding the voices of parents and principals and others who are the stakeholders in the academics and education of our children,� Fields said. Both Daniels and Perkins opposed the idea of continuing mayoral control of schools.

Perhaps the most interesting question of the night had little to do with issues, but amounted to political ribbing. During a portion of the debate when candidates were allowed to question each other, Daniels held up a brochure from Fields� mayoral campaign last year and asked why a picture of his mother appeared in the brochure when the former assemblywoman didn�t endorse Fields.

The question harkened back to the revelation that photos in Fields� 2005 campaign flyers were doctored.

In response to Daniels� question, Fields answered, �It [the photo] was to highlight work I, as an individual, was doing, as opposed to suggest an endorsement of the Honorable Geraldine Daniels.�

Democratic primaries are scheduled for Tuesday, September 12, 2006.

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