Potholes and Prostitutes:

The Weekly Planet Mayoral Questionnaire

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Every would-be mayor has a spiel. Listen to the candidates at campaign events, and each will promise to grow the city’s economy, support neighborhoods, fight crime, protect equal rights and civil liberties etc. etc. These are all good goals, and a few of the candidates might even have some decent skills for attaining them.

How many of us judge a mayor’s performance, though, on how good the city feels to us personally?

Do our streets flood every time it rains? Is there trash on the sidewalk? Can we walk the dog without worrying we might get mugged?

No mayor, no matter how brilliant, can afford to ignore these so-called quality-of-life issues — the kind of small-scale complaints that come to City Hall every day. With this in mind, we devised an exercise to see how each of the five major candidates would handle pesky questions from their constituents. We imagined a series of cranky residents accosting Hizzoner (or very possibly, Herhonor) at lunch counters in various parts of the city — you know, someplace where the big cheese can’t just pass the complaint along to an assistant. How would the mayor handle each complaint, and what would she or he say?

Sly dogs always, we also asked a follow-up question designed to gauge how each candidate might balance street-level politics with a more strategic vision. After all, we do want a mayor who can see the big picture, who understands how systemic change is what often makes the little problems go away and who can do more than just schmooze and pander to the person in front of him/her.

(We do want this in a mayor, don’t we?)

Finally, we hoped by printing the candidates’ answers verbatim, we might reveal a little something about their intellects and characters — at least a little more than what their campaign slogans and other rehearsed speeches say. Senior writer Eric Snider wrote the questionnaire and talked to the candidates last week.

Think of our little game as part of a major job interview (we’ll do other things in coming weeks). Read the candidates’ answers, consider the words they choose, then tell us what you think.

Five nights a week, a guy gets off a bus on Nebraska Avenue after working a 2 to midnight shift. Hookers constantly proposition him while he walks home. He's called the cops, but they haven't taken his complaint seriously. How do you respond?

DON ARDELL : My first response would be that I would follow up his concern as I would on any citizen complaint. I'd get particulars, take notes from him. I'll ask the police chief, ask someone designated to that neighborhood — is it true that this is happening? Then I follow up on that, make sure that someone got back to him. I personally would want to know what communications took place to ensure that city employees respond to the citizen's complaint.BOB BUCKHORN: Well, first off (I'd tell him) he's absolutely right — having to tell a visitor take a right at the second hooker is no way to live. Nuisance crimes, quality-of-life crimes, I've been focusing on them for the last eight years. I'd also tell him that over the last eight years I've taken steps to alleviate these nuisance crimes. I initiated "John TV." I've initiated an ordinance that allows the city to impound the vehicles of johns that we arrest. We've impounded more than 4,000 vehicles. But more importantly, I'd tell him I'm going back to basics when I become the mayor. Community policing. The principles of Giuliani in New York: nuisance crimes and qualify-of-life crimes are the top priority, whether it's streetwalkers, street level drug dealing or what have you.

PAM IORIO: (Pause) I would listen to what he had to say, get all the specifics, then I would call the police chief and discuss it with him or her, and I would have the police chief get back in touch with (the resident) to discuss the specifics of the incidents. I would want the police chief and citizen to talk about it — about what occurred, about the lack of response. I'd make sure the police chief let the citizen know all the police efforts in dealing with prostitution in the city. After that conversation, I'd have the police chief get back to me, with recommendation to address the prostitute problem. After that (chuckles), I would call the citizen back, and let him know we had followed up and plan to address the problem in more comprehensive way in the future.CHARLIE MIRANDA: First of all, I think police did a terrible job if that's the case. I'd tell him, "Call me so I can record it. When you finish work — you work, what, 10 hours? — we want to make sure when you get home that no one bothers you. So you call me." I would also go out with police to find out what's going on. I've done that before in different scenarios.FRANK SANCHEZ: In that particular case, I consider trying to clean up Nebraska Avenue as high priority in terms of quality-of-life issues and public safety. I call my chief of police and ask him, "What are we doing to achieve the goal to eliminate streetwalkers on Nebraska? We have that as a stated goal. This is what was told to me by a constituent. It needs to be revisited." I hold my department heads to goals and objectives. One would be to help neighborhoods in and around Nebraska, to reduce and eliminate street walkers. Whatever it is we're doing is not working. We need to revamp (our efforts).

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