Sal’s not finished yet! Former candidate to carry on fight for good government

Sal’s not finished yet! Former candidate to carry on fight for good government
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

The primary may be over, but Sal Albanese said his fight is far from done.

The former councilman from Bay Ridge came in last among Democratic hizzoner hopefuls on Sept. 10, but he said he’s still determined to fight the political machine — which he claims keeps grassroots candidates like himself, who refuse donations from developers and corporations, from rising.

“I’m convinced more than ever, that the system is broken and needs to be overhauled,” said Albanese. “When you’re an outsider, when you’re not indebted to lobbyists and special interests, it’s hard to get ahead.”

Albanese pointed out that even without corporate cash, he got donations from more than 1,000 donors and raised upwards of $180,000 — though that fell $70,000 short of the threshold to qualify for public matching funds. Debate organizers used his failure to secure public money as reason to exclude him from five different forums. The former candidate argued this made it even harder for him to reach the voters, despite unique and innovative policy proposals like a mayor-run transit system, a bail-out for Sandy-affected renters, and educational and wellness centers for kids three and under.

The former school teacher, attorney, and financial advisor said he is looking to start or join a good government group that would push new campaign finance laws granting matching funds to any candidate with 1,000 donors behind them. He said he would also like to fight for non-partisan elections — which would abolish the Republican and Democratic primaries and replace them with a single general election — and an end to the gerrymandering of council districts. And he wants to eliminate the discretionary funds the city gives councilmen to dole out to organizations of their choice.

One of the most important issues, Sal argued, is the abolition of the Public Advocate’s office — a position with little clearly-defined purpose or power, but which Bill DeBlasio and Mark Green used as a launching pad toward the Democratic nomination for mayor. Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) and state Senator Daniel Squadron (D–Carroll Gardens) are now locked in a run-off election to replace DeBlasio which will cost the city $20 million.

“You have to think, is that really worth it?” Albanese said.

Albanese noted that only 20 percent of voters bothered to go to the polls on primary day — which he argued is a sign of cynicism and disaffection among the overwhelming majority of the populace. The solution, he said, is to raise awareness and stir up opposition to special interests and self-serving electeds.

“Most people know the system is broken, but unfortunately don’t know how to fix it,” said Albanese. “The question is, how do we engage people, how do we get them to look at our political system, which is not a sexy thing?”

Albanese hasn’t decided whether to endorse anyone for mayor, and 62-year-old said he won’t be running for office again anytime soon, but he will keep fighting to get the public to look at the big issues.

“I’m a pretty healthy guy, thank God, and I’ve got a lot of energy,” Albanese said. “I’m not the sort of person who retires.”

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him attwitter.com/WillBredderman.