Term Limits, Slush Fund Debated by Quinn, Kurland and Passannante-Derr

From Bloomberg Watch, by Mike Dang

About an hour or so before the Council District 3 debate between Yetta Kurland, Maria Passannante-Derr and incumbent Christine Quinn was supposed to begin, City Hall News reporter Andrew Hawkins found himself being prevented from entering the building. The press, we were told, were not being accommodated in any way, and would have to wait in line for a chance at receiving a ticket for entry to the debate hosted by The Villager and Gay City News at NYU.

Mr. Hawkins wasn’t alone. Public Advocate contender Norman Siegel was also prevented from witnessing the debate. They would have had to arrive several hours prior to guarantee themselves a ticket in — that is, if they had arrived before the crowd of Quinn campaign staffers and supporters who had come in droves to make sure they would gain entry and others would not. Candidate Passannante-Derr made sure to note this when the debate began, observing that her supporters were barred from attending because Quinn’s paid staffers had overwhelmed the line. (more after the jump)

I had arrived two hours before the debate began to gain entry, and that didn’t even get me into the debate hall — heck it barely got me into the overflow room. Same for a handicapped man in a wheelchair, who I later learned gained entry only after some persuasion from Mr. Siegel. Apparently a few other reporters were also turned away from what would become a war of the words.

When Kurland and Quinn introduced themselves, Passannante-Derr took a different route and quickly attacked Council Member Quinn for “selling out her community,” her involvement in the slush fund scandal and overturning the city’s term limits, and being a “rubber stamp” for a right-wing mayor.

When Quinn argued that given the extraordinary economic times we live in, the city needed to overturn term limits to give voters a choice, audience members booed. Kurland argued that the issue wasn’t about term limits, but was about a democratic process that the public should have been involved in. She said voters made it clear in two referenda that they wanted two terms, and asserted that Quinn ignored voters.

When the debate turned to the slush fund scandal, Quinn played innocent and said her office called for investigation as soon as she discovered that something illegal was occurring.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is a racket,” Passannante-Derr declared.

Kurland said she was deeply troubled by Quinn’s response and said voters were owed some answers.

“Where is the investigation?” she asked. “We need an investigation. We need to know what’s going on.”

Later, when asked if each candidate would commit to supporting the Democratic nominee for mayor, Kurland and Passanante-Derr said they would. Quinn said she was not going to commit at the moment.

She was met with a shower of boos. I suspect some of the boos even came from her own campaign.