By Patricia Adams
The last of the locally sponsored candidate debates took place last Thursday evening in meeting room at St. Barnabus Church. The Queens Chronicle and The Forum served up the first 45 minutes of questions and then opened the floor for a 20-minute round of pre-screened audience questions. There were pointed questions regarding a number of issues asked, some were answered, others skirted, while some left the candidates downright stumped.
There was no applause meter necessary to distinguish that Eric Ulrich drew the most active and verbal support of the standing-room only crowd. Of course everyone realizes that historically, candidates pack the audience with supporters and planted hecklers, but Mr. Ulrich was not only the recipient of cheers of those who accompanied him. The supporters of his opponents liked what he had to say as well. Ulrich came out way on top of this debate and deservedly so. For his command of the issues, combined with the best speaking style and the fact that he was so well prepared, we put him at the head of the class for this event.
Lew Simon was Lew Simon. Opinions of his candidacy were expressed here weeks ago and we believe that his long-standing track record of documented untruthfulness eliminates him from consideration because of the obvious deficits in character associated with not telling the truth. And really why elect Lew to the city council? According to him he’s already doing the job for you, so why not just get two councilmen for the price of one. It is only fair to give credit where it is due however, and we must say that Lew has a somewhat effective dynamic when speaking and does have a strong command of many of the issues-- albeit seen in his own light.
Glenn DiResto is apparently a nice guy. A retired NYPD Lieutenant, DiResto makes no bones about the fact that he is not a politician or a polished speaker. He simply wants to come in and do what’s best for the district. Touting his years in law enforcement as a strong training ground for understanding what the district needs, DiResto cites the same experience as his foundation for understanding the structure and mechanisms of city government. We like DiResto and have a feeling we will be seeing more of him in the future. For now though, he is not ready, but certainly has had a great opportunity to experience some of the highs of politics and bear witness to some of the all time lows we’ve ever seen in a local race.
When speaking about Mike Ricatto we can’t really say more than Mike says himself. He’s a businessman. While we have great respect for the success of people who make the most out of a good business model, in the times we are facing currently, the savvy of business is not what will bring home the bacon to this district. A true understanding of the issues, priorities and functions of city government is the only formula for any semblance of holding on for the upswing; for according to the proposed budget, there is no bacon to bring home. His obvious unfamiliarity of the area, centered both on geography and major issues, and his political inexperience will not send Mike Ricatto to the City Council this time around.
The remaining candidate, Geraldine Chapey, brought with her something the other candidates seemed to have left at the door — an attitude. A bad one. Chapey spent most of her opening statements reveling in a tale about a “kindergarten epiphany” when her mother, also named Geraldine Chapey, essentially explained to the teacher that while other children were quick to give up tasks, her Geraldine always took them on and finished them. Her answers to the questions were indirect, lacked substance and often spoke about connections to other governmental representatives with whom she had good working relationships. The position of city councilmember is just that. The district is not seeking an ambassador.
Chapey largely emphasized her academic achievements but if this were a classroom, we can’t see her even approaching a passing grade for this event. Her answers drew boos from the crowd and in a collective opinion, an angry audience delivered a message to Chapey—they were disgusted with her antics. Her apparent unwillingness to answer a direct question did not bode well. Transparency, when it comes to the spending of public money is something voters all across this country are clamoring for. The public has a right to know. Elected officials and wannabe elected officials are subject to open questioning from those they seek to represent. Voters have the right to seek information and it is the obligation of a candidate to answer direct questions directly without dissembling.
But it wasn’t until the last round - when candidates got to pose questions to each other — that were taken from interesting and informative, to shall we say — a new level. When Eric Ulrich brought what he called to the room “the eight-hundred pound gorilla,” he touched on the subject that has everyone up in arms over the legitimacy of this race. Ulrich asked a pointed question of Chapey — “Geraldine why don’t you want Frank Gulluscio in this race?” Her first response was to ask Eric why he challenged the petitions of another candidate. Once again Ulrich rose to the top expressing that Frank Gulluscio belongs in the race because of all his work and experience in the district and making perfectly clear that his challenge to Mike Ricatto was because in his eyes, Ricatto was a ‘Johnny-come-lately to the district’ carpetbagger.
It was at this point when Chapey revealed herself to be, not a viable candidate for city council, but one who considers this election comparable to a game. “When you go into the pool hall,” Chapey said, “the rules are posted on the wall.”
Well guess what Dr. Chapey, you are trying to head for City Hall, not a pool hall where random balls are sunk into felt pockets using cue sticks. You don’t need a cue, you need a clue. This is no game.
Your answers and your attitude were not one bit reflective of the academic, Christian and proud Irish heritage you claim is the fabric of your existence. In an all important special election in the 32nd, you’ve created an upheaval not at all deserved by the people of this district, especially in an already difficult set of circumstances.
Until next week…