Vol. 14, No. 16    Aug. 30 - Sept. 12, 2001 


Campaign Money Trail Stops Short of Area
Only Carrion Scores Contributions from Locals


One could never guess that the candidates for City Council in the 11th District were vying to represent Norwood or Bedford Park by looking at their contribution lists. A survey of records available on the Web site of the New York City Campaign Finance Board revealed that out of hundreds of contributions, a mere handful came from local residents in that Council race and in the race for borough president. Only Councilman Adolfo Carrion who is running for borough president did well among area residents.

The 11th District covers Norwood, Bedford Park, Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Woodlawn and part of Wakefield, but the bulk of contributions to all four candidates came from Riverdale and neighboring Kingsbridge, where all the candidates live.

School Board President Oliver Koppell got just four local donations out of a total of 329. Candidate Laura Spalter, a Norwood schoolteacher, got just three contributions in Norwood and Bedford Park out of a total of 358. Mark Vogel got two contributions out of a total of 257 from local folks. District leader Terry Bastone did a little better with 15 contributions out of 251 from local residents.

Bastone insisted the low number of local contributions wasn't for lack of effort. "Many people don't have the money," she said. "They can't afford it. Ten dollars means a lot to a person that doesn't have the money."

The city's new campaign finance law, considered one of the most progressive in the country, matches each dollar up to $250 a New York City resident gives with four dollars in public funds, and imposes spending limits. The changes were intended to level the playing field and encourage grassroots participation, but candidates are apparently finding the grass greener outside of Norwood and Bedford Park, particularly in Manhattan.

Council candidates Carrion and June Eisland scored more than half their support from residents of Manhattan and other boroughs and parts of Westchester and New Jersey. Altogether, Carrion racked up 1,232 contributions and Eisland got 1,068.

"I have a lot of friends. What can I tell you?," Carrion joked. "... It's a lot of folks who do business in the city of New York who recognize upcoming leadership."

Eisland and Carrion both pointed to their work in the City Council as reason for so much Manhattan support.

Eisland also said that her Bronx contributions have grown since she announced her candidacy. "Much more than half [of my contributions] came from the Bronx over the past few months," she said.

Candidate Pedro Espada, Jr., a state senator, amassed a total of 484 contributions, most of them from Bronx residents, but more than a hundred of those came from his own employees. Espada is the executive director of the Soundview Health Center in the south Bronx.

Eisland and Espada generated little enthusiasm in local neighborhoods in their fund- raising bids. Of Eisland's 489 contributions from Bronxites, 407 came from the Riverdale/Kingsbridge area. Only 32 contributions came from the three zip codes that include Norwood, Bedford Park, Fordham Bedford and University Heights.

Eisland resides in and represents Riverdale, but during her 22 years as councilwoman, she has also represented some parts of Norwood and/or Bedford Park. Now, all of Norwood and most of Bedford Park falls in her district.

"I do have a variety of people [who contributed]," Eisland said. "I don't think they're concentrated in one place, except for the area I've served for 22 years. It's natural to get contributions from your neighborhood."

The majority of Espada's support came from the south Bronx, in areas including Soundview, Parkchester and Castle Hill. Altogether, Espada racked up less than 34 contributions from residents of Norwood, Bedford Park and Fordham Bedford.

Carrion's financial support was more spread out, with contributions coming in from all parts of the Bronx. Carrion got 475 contributions from borough residents, and much of his support came locally. Carrion received 130 contributions from residents of Norwood, Bedford Park, Fordham Bedford and University Heights.

"I asked people in the area to have fund-raisers in their neighborhoods and their homes," Carrion said. "I made direct appeals to people. I know the folks who are civic leaders and community leaders and they reached out to their friends. The response has been incredible."

Carrion even got a good deal of support in the Riverdale/Kingsbridge area, Eisland's home base, picking up 73 contributions from residents there.

Carrion's borough-wide appeal may be because he has the backing of the official Bronx Democratic Party, which provides plenty of networking opportunities.

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