NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Call it the tale of two New Yorks. Some natives are allowed to walk, shop and hail cabs freely. Others are not. It is more than economic inequality; there is a racial divide.
On Tuesday, Nov. 5, New York picks its 109th mayor, in a race that has become about race, crime and the city's Stop-and-Frisk policy. Republican Joe Lhota is going toe-to-toe with Democrat Bill de Blasio, a relative unknown until a few months ago.
De Blasio gained voter support from liberals, progressives and minorities by campaigning against the city's Stop-and-Frisk tactics. Many believe the policy is divisive as it routinely targets lawful African Americans and minorities.
Stop-and-Frisk is seen by critics as an institutionalized form of racism. The Tea Party's lack of steam in the north has liberals happy. But there is still a quiet race war brewing in the city -- one that could become deadly, if it goes unchecked.
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To shine light on the issue, de Blasio introduced his interracial family, featuring wife Chirlane and children Chiara and Dante, in television ads during the primaries. Olivia Pope of ABC's political-thriller series "Scandal" could not have timed or worded the commercials any better. They featured his gorgeously big-haired son Dante, who looks familiar and strange at first.
Call it a sign of the times, or a socially preferred swirl -- he is white, she is African-American and a former lesbian, rather than the other way around. One wonders how far it would fly if she was white and he was African American. Whatever the reason, New Yorkers are supporting de Blasio and his family.
Stop-and-Frisk has become "Shop"-and-Frisk at major retailers Barneys and Macy's (M), says the Reverend Al Sharpton, president of National Action Network. Reuters reports a list of African American shoppers, including actor Rob Brown of HBO's "Treme," who say they were detained by police after buying luxury items in both stores. Lawsuits are now pending.
Community leaders are calling for boycotts of the major retailers in an attempt to hurt their bottom line this holiday season. Hip hop artist Jay Z defends his Barneys fashion line deal; part of the proceeds will go to college students, reports say. The artist and Barneys are feeling social media heat, receiving lots of online hate following the profiling accusations at the flagship Madison Avenue store, the Daily News reports.
"If a store racially profiles, that store should be punished, that person who ordered it to happen should lose their job," Lhota said during a New York City mayoral debate.
Rather than narrowly targeting stores, de Blasio is addressing a breakdown in the system.
De Blasio says he will fire Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly; Lhota supports Kelly. De Blasio wants an independent group to oversee the NYPD, which Lhota is against. De Blasio called Kelly "the architect of the overuse of Stop-and-Frisk that has had such a negative effect on the relationship between police and community and so many communities of color," during the televised debate.
De Blasio is not alone. In August, U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled that Stop-and-Frisk is unconstitutional and that it relies on racial profiling. A few days ago she was dropped from the case and her sweeping reform orders were put on hold. A de Blasio win could change that.
Lhota says the city would be more safe with him at the helm, and that crime would rocket under de Blasio -- a suggestion de Blasio calls fear-mongering. Lhota is the former chairman of the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority and former deputy mayor under Rudolph Giuliani. He obviously lives in the New York that believes things were great for everyone under Giuliani's rule.
"He obviously doesn't understand what millions of New Yorkers felt during the Giuliani years, where they felt overt divisiveness from their own mayor, where they felt communities were pitted against each other," de Blasio said in a heated debate with "Rudy Lhota."
De Blasio holds the elected position of New York City Public Advocate, which serves as a watchdog between the electorate and the city government. He's also a former New York City Council member. The anti-Bloomberger says he is more grass roots than suits.
Polls favor a de Blasio win; he's up by 39 to 45 points, depending on the poll you cite. This is no surprise in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 6 to 1.
As for the candidates' other polices and plans, these New Yorkers are worlds apart. Ideas on education, jobs, housing and taxes range from Democratic idealism to Tea Party constipation.
Lhota wants to cut several taxes, including property taxes and a tax on capital that he says hurts entrepreneurs and small business. "Barack de Blasio" wants to raise taxes on the rich, Obama-style, to fund education. I won't bother looking into Lhota's education plans, because I doubt they involve putting new school books in Tay Tay's hands. (That's got to be the big-haired kid's nick name.)
At the end of the day, deals will be cut, money will move -- or block -- agendas, and the mayor may secretly sellout some of his plans. Stop-and-Frisk will not likely be one of those plans sold.
-- By Cherella Cox in New Jersey