09/24/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It's Our Democracy, Stupid!

Sometimes I'm asked how is it that our odd candidacy is catching fire
for voters in New York City.

Its because we have one great wedge issue. We've seen abortion, prayer
in the schools, same-sex marriage. Undeniably real wedge issues. Well,
we've got a very good one. New Yorkers are shouting in the streets!

It's called Democracy. My opponent Mike Bloomberg is buying his 3rd
term, and now talks of a 4th. He's an old-fashioned strong man of the
type we didn't think existed in America. His $300,000 a day keeps us
consuming his little video performances about jobs, schools, the MTA or
the Yankees – whatever ad is in rotation. But he is changing the
subject. The only issue is Democracy and all the other issues become
important after we've talked out our facts and our positions in a
democratic way. That's because we are citizens, not consumers.

Democracy is a system of government, where a maximum number of people
contribute to the enactment of laws. It is also a feeling, an instinct,
a way of life. Bloomberg not only doesn't like Democracy, he doesn't
have the knack for it. I'm not saying it's easy. We're always learning
how to do it. You have to listen. It takes a patient love of the human
comedy. You ever sat through a community board meeting about the future
of Coney Island? You have to let that messy drama of Democracy run its

PlaNYC, the future-as-greenwashing that has such radiance in the mind of
Mike -- this is supposed to be the map of our city's future. PlaNYC has
more than a hundred goals for the green apple of tomorrow. Except that
it wasn't shown to, discussed with, or vetted through New Yorkers.
Very few people in the neighborhoods remember PlaNYC in its formative
days. Neighborhood advocacy groups, urban environmentalists, water and
air and clean energy experts -- they sort of remember a slide-show about
the mayor going by in a blur. But when it was published with city hall's
fanfare, it came as a surprise to most.

This is not just a political blunder. The quality of this grandest
document is now severely limited in its application. Created by
secretive professionals for the man who thinks of the city as his
corporation, our green blueprint has the perspective of its authors,
from somewhere inside an office building. You can't imagine PlaNYC on
the ground, in the world of families, parks and schools. It is written
in professionalese to be read by professionals, and it will make many
clumsy mistakes if it ever arrives in the communities where real lives
are being lived.

We want this to be the last time that Democracy is a wedge issue. Our
plan for New York is that Democracy will be the basis for the politics
of all the citizens running for office.