Progressive Politics and Our Town Memories

| 04 May 2021 | 03:05

Progressive sanity - Back in his day, Ed Koch described himself as a liberal with sanity. Ed Koch is no longer and no longer is the Liberal Party. Most older types of the Koch era probably have either stayed moderate or have moved leftward. However, few identify as liberal and generally shun being categorized or called liberal. They’re wary of today’s progressive politics which are defined by a younger generation. Agree with Koch or not and whether you consider yourself a liberal or a progressive, let the latter take on the mantle of being progressive with sanity. I reference the current mayoral race and wonder if anybody remembers the 1950s film, Rashomon? Where an event was described in a variety of ways by multiple witnesses? In current parlance it often comes down to a he said/she said. And, when it comes to allegations of sexual assault, it’s no longer that a woman is ignored or not believed. She has the right to come forward, be heard, and be believed, and the accused has the right to come forward and be heard. The ultimate decision must be made in the court of public opinion, not in the courtroom. In the case of the allegations by Jean Kim against Scott Stringer, the court of public opinion is the voting booth. The voter has the right to decide whose truth to believe. Remember, we’re in the heat of a vigorously contested, very contentious mayoralty race. Organizations, individuals, political clubs have the right to rescind their endorsements. However, opposing candidates should not be engaging in bullying rhetoric and tactics to get a candidate out of the race. Stringer’s on the ballot. Let the voters rank him.

Some more Our Town memories - This time from the UES’s and self-described “41-year Yorkvillian” and NY’s own Jeff Gold, Director, Institute for Rational Urban Mobility, Chairperson, Metro NY Health Care for All Campaigns, among many many others:

It was easy to meet Our Town, since there was a pile of fresh off-the-press copies in the lobby of the building I moved to when I returned to NYC in 1980 and it was easy to like Our Town, since I had written for weeklies in the burbs as a kid and later on in Massachusetts where I wrote for weekly Village Voice knockoffs. So I was pre-disposed to local coverage as essential to an informed citizenry.

Our Town did have a rep outside Manhattan since many of us politicos remembered a story about a race between Bob Postel and Pete Grannis for Assembly in what is now the Upper East Side. It was Pete’s first run for office. Pete endorsed by Our Town and word was that his opponent arranged to have copies of Our Town scooped up all over and replaced by another publication with a front page endorsement of himself. Our Town sued. Don’t know if they won. But Grannis did. Grannis had Our Town’s endorsement. Postel had the NY Times’s. The power of the local press prevailed.

Later I ran challenger campaigns to GOP incumbents. In those days, there were quite a few Republican candidates on the East Side. So I bought ad space in Our Town for candidates. In the process got to meet cranky original publisher Ed Kayatt, to whom I was favorably disposed, since cranky publishers were the stuff of literature and films (“Front Page,” “Superman” etc.) and all my previous publishers had been rather bland. Ed was clipped, got to the point, liked to debate, and seemed to think I wasn’t so bad since I had worked his side of the ink-stained newsroom in both editorial and advertising.

I remember Our Town’s going after crackpot Lyndon LaRouche, who posted his minions at NYC airport terminals in the days when I often had to fly for work. So Our Town always gave me fodder for airport arguments with cultists. I recall Our Town’s coverage of our efforts on the UES to save the City and Suburban Houses, and it was an Our Town reporter who caught then Mayor Koch on City Hall’s steps shaking his finger and berating me for “perverting the letter and spirit of the Landmarks Law, saying, “Mr. Gold - it is a perversion!”

As a community board member I was grateful for Our Town’s coverage, and often thought some of the reporters were sometimes better stylists than those writing for larger papers. And I was right. One was able to get a handle on me in an OTTY profile. Another ended up as a NY Times bureau manager in Beijing. And talk about grassroots. Our Town covered block association and community board meetings. Bette Dewing’s column moniker, “For A Gentle City,” encapsulated everything I ever wanted out of this burg, even when I found myself quoted by Bette in her column when I least expected it after I’d uttered what I thought was a casual throwaway observation.

So we need Our Town, and all the weeklies that try to help us make sense of our neighbors and give voice to issues that are closest to us, geographically and probably in our hearts. Warmest wishes for a Happy 50th Birthday, Our Town.