Magazine article The New Yorker

FARM TEAM; DEPT. OF SCHOOL SPIRIT Series: 3/5

Magazine article The New Yorker

FARM TEAM; DEPT. OF SCHOOL SPIRIT Series: 3/5

Article excerpt

The aftermath of an election follows a certain predictable cycle: mourning (on the part of the losers) gives way to soul-searching (both sides), and soon enough the speculative horse race is in full swing, with future contenders jockeying for early position and handicappers assessing the odds. Here in New York, on the Tuesday after Election Day, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, a Democrat, of course, and a prospective candidate in the beat-Bloomberg sweepstakes, issued a manifesto, "A Message from Gifford," to hundreds of local donors and politicos. "While we are angry and disappointed, it is vital that we continue the fight," Miller wrote. "Our City can be a model of contrast to the Republicans' extreme policies, as we lead the way not just on educating our children and emergency preparedness, but on issues like choice, gun control and stem cell research."

The City Council, by convention a rubber-stamping, ribbon-cutting sort of institution, might not seem an ideal incubator for a national progressive revival, but Miller is not alone in thinking it can be. In certain Council circles, the phrase "farm team for Democracy" has recently achieved currency as a motivating mantra. The prospects--a half-dozen ambitious young Council members--view municipal government as a laboratory for developing ideas and agendas that might be replicated in, say, Gary, Indiana, as one Queens councilman, Eric Gioia, suggested last week.

For instance: Where better than New York to demonstrate the potential clout of the religious left? ("Brooklyn is called the Borough of Churches, for God's sake," one Council aide said.) "I always talk about Matthew," Gioia explained. " 'When I was hungry, did you give me food? When I was thirsty, did you give me drink? When I was in prison, did you give me comfort?' This is New Testament stuff. Well, that's Democratic stuff." He added, "My hope is eventually we're going to show the Party how to win again."

So, then: The same day that Speaker Miller sent out his call to arms, he held a press conference on the steps of City Hall, flanked by the twin eminences Barbara Walters and Ivana Trump, to raise awareness for an impending piece of legislation known as Jazzy's Law. It is a kennel-regulation ordinance inspired by the untimely death of a Yorkshire terrier (Jazzy) that belonged to the gossip columnist Cindy Adams. Miller, who has two cats, said, "There is no tragedy short of losing a child that can cause such enormous grief for people as losing a pet."

Eva Moskowitz, who represents much of Manhattan's East Side, convened a hearing, that same morning, to discuss the condition of our schools. …

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