Kathryn Garcia

A month ago, languishing in the mid-single-digits in the few mayoral polls that had been conducted, Kathryn Garcia did a campaign ad, standing in a red booth, wearing a white T-shirt. Outlining some of her plans, she pulled a black leather jacket off a hook, put on protective glasses and declared, "For the last 14 years, I've been New York City's crisis manager, from pumping out water during Hurricane Sandy to delivering a million meals a day during the pandemic." 

Abruptly, a large pane of glass shattered and Ms. Garcia stepped out of the booth and into the shards, flicked a piece of glass off her jacket and said, "When there's a crisis, sometimes you gotta break glass to solve it."

The visuals were striking even if you didn't connect the glass to her trying to become the city's first woman Mayor. They established her as a blue-collar candidate wearing red lipstick and succinctly laid out her credentials without even mentioning the job for which she is best known: the city Sanitation Commissioner who significantly improved collection operations while also upgrading private sanitation operations here.

Suddenly people were paying attention to her campaign. Most of the city's biggest unions had already committed to other candidates who were deemed to have better shots at winning the June 22 primary, which figures to virtually guarantee election in November, given the lack of real qualifications for the job of the two Republican candidates and Democrats' huge advantage in voter registration.

But Ms. Garcia won the endorsement of The New York Times, and then the Daily News. She is not closely identified with a single compelling issue the way that Eric Adams is with fighting crime while trying to build better relations between the Police Department and the city's communities of color. Instead her selling point is her proven competence in handling tough tasks that meet the needs of a broad cross-section of New Yorkers, sometimes in emergency circumstances. 

And while the unions with large memberships and reputations for getting out strong vote totals for their candidates have gone elsewhere, it is no small thing that the heart of Ms. Garcia's support comes from the groups that know her best: the three Sanitation Department unions led by the Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association, and that union's fellow Teamsters local representing workers in the private-collection industry. It signals that she has gotten good results while also earning the loyalty of the employees whom she pressed to make changes.

Put it all together, and it's reason enough for us to endorse Ms. Garcia for Mayor.

It would be an unusual leap for a skilled administrator to make the jump to Gracie Mansion without having held elected office; the only person who did so first time before the voters was Michael Bloomberg, who was given credibility by having earned several billion dollars in his own business and benefited from the sense among many voters that his success in that area left him particularly prepared to move the city out of the financial straits into which it had been thrust less than two months before the 2001 election by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Ms. Garcia's work as a high-level official in the last two mayoral administrations, particularly when taken out of her comfort zone by emergencies in which she was responsible for devising the solutions, provides confidence that she is capable of making a daunting transition.

She was the official at the Department of Environmental Protection following Hurricane Sandy who got city water systems back online after service was knocked out in many areas by the October 2012 storm. While continuing as Mr. de Blasio's Sanitation Commissioner, she made significant strides in reducing lead contamination in Housing Authority apartments after years of failure by others, and that prompted him to turn to her to run the city's emergency food program in the early days of the pandemic.

She has realistic plans for the Police Department, although her idea of requiring city residency for future officers could face a tough road in Albany. Rather than measuring productivity by activity goals that often amount to quotas—most notoriously in the shameful overuse of stop-and-frisk during Mr. Bloomberg's tenureshe has pledged to promote officers who put a priority on community engagement that helps drive down crime. She wants to increase the hiring age for officers to 25 to improve the maturity level of patrol cops and has vowed to be tough on those who violate NYPD rules, but opposes cuts in the police budgetin sharp contrast to those chasing what they consider the progressive votebecause she believes it would hurt the department's efficiency.

In this year of ranked-choice voting, Mr. Adams will be second on our ballot. Not surprisingly, given his 22 years in the NYPD, from which he retired as a Captain, he has been the most-vocal of the candidates on the need to balance public safety with fair policing. What has been somewhat of a surprise is that in his running battle with Maya Wiley, the former Counsel to Mr. de Blasio who also chaired the Civilian Complaint Review Board, he has been the candidate with the more-nuanced and thoughtful positions on hot-button issues like stop-and-frisk.

He offers a compelling story as someone who grew up poor in a one-parent home in Jamaica and was severely beaten by cops when pulled into a station-house at age 15 more than 40 years ago, but let that experience fuel a desire to change the department from within and remained outspoken as he rose through the ranks.

We have doubts that his plan to be the final disciplinary authority for the NYPD is workable, given that it would undermine the authority of whoever he selects as Police Commissioner in the eyes of rank-and-file cops. We also worry that campaign contributions from hedge-fund operatives who favor a significant expansion of charter schools could influence him to take positions that would undercut the need to upgrade city public schools. But aside from Ms. Garcia, he strikes us as the next-best choice for the job.

Ray McGuire, another man who overcame a hardscrabble childhoodin his case to become a ground-breaker on Wall Streethas seemed uncomfortable in the rough-and-tumble of campaign skirmishing, but he offers some solid positions on key issues, and will be third on our ballot.

Scott Stringer will be our fourth choice. He has strong credentials based on good work as City Comptroller. We give no weight to the uncorroborated accusations of a former campaign volunteer that 20 years ago he molested her. What bothers us are political choices he has made over the past several years to ingratiate himself with the hard-left edge of the Democratic Party. The speed with which virtually all those supporters deserted him when the molestation claim was madewhile unions have stuck by himwill give him something to think about when this is over.

The last name on our ballot will be Shaun Donovan, who performed well in top jobs for Mr. Bloombergwhom he tends not to mention on the campaign trailand President Obama, whom he mentions frequently to gain currency with voters. But his idea of cutting $3 billion combined from the NYPD and Correction Department budgets makes him the rich man's Dianne Morales.

Among those who won't be on our ballot are Ms. Wiley, who has said she entered the race partly because of the city's handling of last summer's protests and has failed to adapt to the reality that this issue has diminished in importance as crime continued to rise. What one analyst described as an "assertive" first-debate performance vs. Mr. Adams we would characterize as "loud wrong," and she delivered more of the same in the June 2 in-person debate.

Andrew Yang, described earlier this year by his campaign manager as "an empty vessel," has failed to dispel that perception by showing a firm grasp of the issues, and Ms. Morales's platform built on gutting the NYPD has been overwhelmed by the internal chaos in her campaign.


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(2) comments

ParkSlopeG

Yes! My first and second choices are Adams and Garcia - or Garcia and Adams. I will not be ranking Wiley, Morales or Yang on my ballot.

ParkSlopeG

Wish there were no paywall on this on Facebook. I’ve been “sharing” it. But no one has commented at all. Maybe you could remove the paywall on your editorials. It might actually increase your readership.

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