Vogel: Bill Thompson misconstrues rival's comments on racism
In a clown car of mayoral candidates, former city Comptroller Bill Thompson seemed like a thoughtful moderate. The man who gallantly battled Michael Bloomberg in the last mayoral election -- and nearly beat him, despite being outspent 11 to 1 -- appeared to be an adult among adolescents.
That is, until Thompson opened his mouth last Friday and put his foot in it.
That's when Thompson made a big stink about City Council Speaker and rival Christine Quinn's use of the words "environmental racism" about his criticism of a plan to place a waste transfer station on the Upper East Side. The term refers to the zoning of toxic facilities in minority communities because their residents have less political clout.
"I have to tell you that as a black man, being accused of racism by Speaker Quinn is insulting," huffed Thompson.
I'm no big fan of Quinn, but she is clearly speaking out against racism here. The powers that be know that minority neighborhoods are less likely to challenge such proposals or seek financial compensation for health damage that can often be exacerbated by these facilities.
Thompson is trying to gain traction as a candidate, and challenging Democratic front-runner Quinn is the fastest way to do it. But saying Quinn accused him of racism doesn't quite cut it.
"You're either for reducing asthma rates in low income communities of color or you're not," said Quinn last week. Pretty clear, no?
Thompson replied that he is against putting the transfer station on the wealthy Upper East Side because it's near a playground, not because of the political clout of its residents. Maybe. It should also be noted that Thompson's biggest backer, ex-Sen. Al D'Amato, is a lobbyist for local real estate interests.
Quinn has long spoken out in favor of neighborhoods sharing equal responsibility in the placement of municipal refuse stations and was nearly booed off the stage at a forum on the Upper East Side earlier this year for this principled position.
Meanwhile, the other candidates swing back and forth on the issue, trying to appease each side.
But Thompson remains wrong and strong. He is "highly insulted" by Quinn's statement. That insults the intelligence of NYC voters.
Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.