It is unlikely that any of the candidates running against Michael Bloomberg will prevent the billionaire incumbent from winning a third term as Mayor of New York City. Bloomberg is rich, inoffensive and radiates an uncontroversial managerial competence that is, if not compelling, at least comforting to a city less interested in policy details than its own financial future. This is benevolent despotism at its finest. But this is an endorsement, not an indictment.
Green Party candidate Bill Talen, aka the Reverend Billy, has long focused on the principles we hold dear at The L Magazine:
• The importance of public space in the face of an increasingly corporatized approach to urbanism that favors the developer over the individual.
• The need for strong local economies generated from within (rather than imposed on) the city's neighborhoods.
• Community policing that reconstitutes law enforcement as self-determination rather than occupation.
• Serious investment in public transit, with a focus on sustainable, human-scale infrastructure.
• A heightened eco-consciousness that moves beyond conventional green solutions and radically reconsiders the city's relationship to the broader world.
• Above all, the idea that we are citizens, not demographic statistics or "clients" to be sold to, marketed to, dismissed, or marginalized. The city is not a corporation, democracy is not a product, and we are not mere consumers.
These principles may be derided as fuzzy or unrealistic, but we are tired of being told to stop imagining a better future, tired of self-interest and greed masquerading as political "realism." It is from the world's great cities that change will come, and New York City should be leading the way. Principles like these are no longer on the political fringe, and have been realized in municipal policy from Winnipeg to Berlin to London--that management has become such a celebrated virtue in New York speaks to an electorate conditioned by crisis, existing in a state of low-grade anxiety, craving reassurance rather than innovation.
A vote for Reverend Billy might be a protest vote, but that's the point here, to protest. A vote for Billy is to protest Bloomberg's arrogance in seeking a third term; a vote for Billy is to protest the pusillanimous state and city Democrats more concerned with hanging onto power than advocating on behalf of their constituents; a vote for Billy is to protest a New York slowly losing the very thing that has always made it a truly great city, its neighborhoods.
Reverend Billy winning the election would be a miracle. We recognize that his campaign is symbolic, that massive amounts of money are required to seriously compete for higher office in America, but we celebrate the intensity, dedication and courage of those who, along with Reverend Billy himself, have fought to bring the aforementioned issues into the broader discussion. The Billy campaign has served as a focal point for disparate constituencies across the city, bringing New Yorkers together to fight for social justice at the local level, neighborhood by neighborhood.
But this fight does not end on Election Day.
Going forward, we must look to the Billy campaign as a blueprint, an example of how it is still possible to organize for change, even if it just begins on your own block. Imagining a better world is one thing, but realizing it is another--and that is why we endorse the Reverend Billy for Mayor of New York City, because he's shown us how that world might still yet happen.
--The L Magazine