Katz in the Cradle
“If I have to bring Carter with me -- to an event, to City Hall for an emergency session -- do I have to think twice about being accused of using him as a political prop, or do I decide to take whatever comes because I need to do what's best for my kid? Do I heed the advice of political consultants who tell me I should mention being a mother as much as possible? Having conceived through in vitro fertilization, do I answer personal questions from reporters who ask about Carter's parentage? Regardless of whether I answer or choose not to, I run the risk of having my answer become politicized.” --City Councilwoman Melinda Katz in the Huffington Post.
This year’s race for City Comptroller, like those held in the past, features a groups of candidates virtually no one cares about flailing about desperately for attention. Each of the Comptroller candidates has at least one notable quality which separates them from the rest.
David Yassky in the only Brooklynite in a field of candidates from Queens, and doubtless, his residence in Brooklyn Heights will prove a tremendous advantage in places like Brownsville and Bushwick.
By contrast, David Weprin, the modern Orthodox Jew in the field, is the only candidate who keeps his head covered at all times with a scheitl.
Despite Weprin’s having a more credible claim of being Latino than Vito Lopez (his mother is from Cuba), John Liu is considered the only non-white candidate in a field of blanquitos. Those of us who remember the late and repugnant greengrocer boycotts organized by the late and repugnant Sonny Carson (whose memorialization by street sign Liu championed) are duly bound to be in awe that an Asian American aspirant for Citywide office could be basing his campaign largely on an effort to attract the votes of African-Americans. Regardless of whatever one thinks of Liu, this is truly an occasion for Thanksgiving.
And yet, it is a different contender whose candidacy has brought to mind basting the turkey.Until yesterday, almost that no one in the media beyond Andrea Peyser of the New York Post (an institution almost as influential in NYC Democratic Primary politics as the Club for Growth and The Church of Latter Day Saints), had cast any negative aspersions upon Melinda Katz’s decision to embark upon a run for citywide office by first undergoing an expensive procedure for artificial conception (ineligible for reimbursement with matching funds) in order to become a single parent. And Peyser's article was over a year old.
Something obviously needed to be done.
In a City full of single mothers by accident, there are doubtless a few traditionalists who are rankled by the concept of one who became such by choice. Perhaps there are even some Democratic Primary voters out there who look askance at the concept, but none of Katz’s opponents have had the bad taste to bring up the matter, forcing her to raise the non-issue herself (in the now well-linked Huffington article).
“Having conceived through in vitro fertilization,” Katz asks rhetorically, “do I answer personal questions from reporters who ask about Carter's parentage?”
It is now almost petitioning time and no one was asking, raising a more important concern. Would she rather be answering questions about Carter’s literal father or her own figurative one? Here is a women whose political career was conceived in a back room occupied by Alan Hevesi, Hank Morris, Ray Harding and Jack Chartier. With David Weprin almost the political step-son of former Governor Mario, who made him Deputy Banking Commissioner when he was a 20-something child of virtually the only outer-borough Jewish state legislator to support him in the 1982 Governor’s primary against Ed Koch (and who later made Weprin’s father the Assembly Speaker), could it be that Katz would like to change the subject before Mario‘s son Andrew drops another bomb on her political family?
I suppose one could come up with a scenario theoretically worse for a Comptroller candidate than having one’s political parents accused of turning the state pension fund into a candy store. How bout an actual parent convicted of banking fraud? [That would be Mr. Liu]. But surely, it is enough excuse for one to start raising the strawlady of double standards which one’s opponents know from their polling would only redound to their personal disadvantage.
However, since I’m not running for Comptroller, I’ll give it a shot.
Speaking as a parent, the idea of someone consciously choosing to do it on their own, rather than having that choice thrust upon them, almost boggles my mind. I’m home every night by six to relieve the babysitter, prepare dinner and supervise the homework. If I get a boy’s night out once every two weeks, I consider it a blessing, even though I’m usually too exhausted to enjoy it.
And I have a partner in my endeavor. Doubtless, there are times when that makes things more difficult, since if one does it on their own, one does not need to fight about every decision. But most times, even with a sister-in-law who acts as a virtual third parent, there are not enough hours in the day or enough pairs of hands.
How do people who work around the clock manage?
Back when I was single, a very close friend of the Sapphic persuasion who resembled Courtney Cox once asked me to be her sperm donor; I told her to help herself, but she demurred. The request came again a few years later, when I was a dad. This time, my cultural conservatism won out. It seemed quite likely that she and her latest girlfriend were not in it for the long haul, and might not even make it through the ride back to Jersey. Nothing was going to shake my conviction that a child was better off with two parents, and it was by no means clear that Heather was going to have two mommies [and she ultimately did not].
But my personal views concerning what part I chose to play in such an endeavor have no relevance to the question of whether Katz’s no longer so unique family situation should be any of my concern, or any of yours. Having worked for an elected, I know that civic groups are reluctant to accept any excuse for the boss’s missing a meeting, including the fact that it is a session day, but I also know that the kid having a soccer game gets forgiven every time.
More importantly, when push comes to shove, most pols, just by their choice of careers, have already shown they have more pressing concerns than quantity time with their offspring. For every Joe Biden, who famously almost resigned his Senate seat before he’d ever filled it, because of the death of his wife, there are dozens, including one of Ms. Katz’s opponents (Mr. Yassky) who’ve proven capable of uprooting their household to be within the right district lines.
The idea that any candidate in this race is going to let family concerns get in the way of their future is preposterous. The work of the Comptroller’s office will not suffer because a single parent holds the position (at least, not because she is a single parent).
Moreover, little Carter Katz will not suffer because his mother is the Comptroller. The sort of person who would chose to become a single parent on the eve of beginning a campaign for Citywide office is not suddenly going to subsume their ambition to the joys of parenthood (such as they are) because they do not achieve it.
There are doubtless many good reasons not to vote for Ms. Katz, but concern for the future of little Carter should not be one of them.
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