What do they do all day??
It is a question asked of council members and borough presidents and members of Congress. So little of what most politicians do is open to the press or the public, that it is fair to wonder what exactly those public officials are doing all day, every day, when the cameras are long gone. And it is a question of particular relevance in New York, where there are so many overlapping offices without clear charter mandates.
To find out to this question, The Observer submitted Freedom of Information Law requests to all four of the top candidates for mayor in 2013–Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, City Comptroller John Liu, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
The week of June 6 was in most respects just another five days after the start of summer, but not so late in the season that the city had emptied and political schedules along with it. But it also happened to be the week that the Anthony Weiner Twitter-scandal started to blow-up, re-configuring the landscape for the next mayoral race.
Of the four, the most robust calendar for the week belongs to Council Speaker Christine Quinn, which is not entirely surprising, since she has perhaps the most high-profile perch of the four and the one whose mandate is the clearest.
Ms. Quinn’s week mixes politics with some of the more pressing issues of the day. She begins the week with a breakfast meeting (at the Regency, of course) with the Rev. Al Sharpton, and then follow that up with a meeting with Dr. Harold Koplewicz, the head of the Child Mind Institute. There are a series of conference calls devoted to illegally converted hotels and the re-opening of a Bronx playground, followed by press conferences touting the solving of same.
Ms. Quinn met with labor leaders like Dennis Hughes, Michael Mulgrew and Harry Nespoli as budget season heated up–meetings that paid off when the Council and the Bloomberg administration staved off layoffs–and with a handful of her council colleagues.
Ms. Quinn also met with the two biggest editorial boards in town, The Daily News and The Times (notably, the meeting with the paper of record was preceded by a half-hour of prep time; the meeting with the tabloid was not) and scheduled two phone interviews with Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Saul.
She spoke with top Cuomo aide Steve Cohen, Senate minority leader John Sampson and tried to rally the troops over the upcoming gay marriage vote in Albany.
It wasn’t all drudgery for Ms. Quinn, however. She met with tennis star John McEnroe, prepared for a television shoot with Mario Batali, and went to a series of galas for various causes, like the NYC Outward Bound dinner.
City Comptroller John Liu paid tribute to Harlem leaders as well, spending a half-hour meeting the Rev. Calvin Butts of the Abyssinian Baptist Church and spending most of Monday in Upper Manhattan. His weekly schedule is dominated by what his staff lists as “staff discussions”–twice on Monday, twice again on Wednesday, five times on Thursday, and twice again on Friday. The subject matter and the participants in these discussions are not revealed. Mr. Liu attended three political fundraisers–for Congressman Jerry Nadler and Joe Crowley, and another for retiring Assembly members Audrey Pheffer and Nettie Mayersohn.
Mr. Liu has a reputation of never finding a camera or a microphone he didn’t love, but he made limited media appearances, appearing only on CUNY-TV with Ken Fisher (over the weekend he also appeared on Dov Hikind’s radio show and on KISS-FM.)
Borough President Scott Stringer has made no secret of his ambitions for citywide office, but he spent the first full week of June almost entirely in Manhattan. His main focus of the week seemed to be energy issues–speaking at a press conference on heating oil and meeting with representatives from Con Edison. Mr. Stringer always schedules “prep time” before almost every event he attends, a sign either of somebody always prepared or somebody without many other demands on their time. Mr. Stringer met with Justin Krebs, the pony-tailed founder of the Drinking Liberally happy hours and with lobbyists from the construction industry.
Mr. Stringer also had an interview with Alan Feuer of The New York Times for his profile of Cy Vance. He was not quoted in the profile.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s week showed the challenges of running an office with little authority and little funding. He spent a lot of time dealing with the media–all the PA’s office really has is a megaphone–and trying to wrestle up more money. Every day in de Blasio’s office begins with a schedule item that says “Staff briefing re: media” and he has no fewer than five slots on his schedule to talk about the Fund for Public Advocacy, which former public advocate Betsey Gotbaum started to keep the office running after budget cuts decimated it.
Mr. de Blasio also met with high-powered attorney Hank Gutman on the Citizens United case–something that de Blasio has focused on through most of his tenure–Bolton St. John lobbyist Mike Keogh (about “taxi advertising”) and State Senator Daniel Squadron.
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