Sunday, January 4, 2009

When asked if the mayor's recent addition of Spanish was merely pandering, Ferrer said. "Of course it is ....

Mayor Bloomberg starts speaking Spanish at pressers

Sunday, January 4th 2009, 4:00 AM

Mayor Bloomberg - who has his eye on a third term at City Hall - has introduced a new twist to his standard news conference: Translation or, rather, traducción.

"Before we go to questions, I would like to summarize today's announcements for some of our Spanish speakers," he says at the end of most public events.

He then launches into two sentences of Spanish that - though heavily accented and somewhat mispronounced - are sure to land him on Spanish-language TV and radio.

"It's extremely smart," said Fernando Mateo, president of Hispanics Across America who advised Bloomberg on Latino outreach in his 2005 campaign.

"To hear it through a translator is not as good," he said. "It's someone else interpreting what you're saying."

Latinos are a sizable and rapidly growing segment of city voters - as much as 20% by some estimates - and with no Latinos in the race at the moment, every viable mayoral candidate is brushing up on his pretérito verbs.

City Controller William Thompson has been taking Spanish lessons - and pays his tutor out of campaign funds.

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner routinely brings prepared Spanish remarks to press conferences to read for the Spanish-language outlets.

"Anthony has taken Spanish lessons in the past and practices his Spanish whenever he can," spokesman John Collins said.

Bloomberg has famously taken Spanish lessons for years - as often as every day - and uses it at public events, including Spanish-language press conferences on a visit to Mexico in 2007.

He added Spanish to his almost-daily public events about two weeks ago.

"It's a smart idea," said Endy Rodriguez, a senior assignment editor at Noticiero 47, a Spanish language news program on Telemundo.

The station recently ran a live feed of the mayor speaking Spanish at a time when the cameras would otherwise have turned away.

The mayor's pronunciation might trigger laughter among native speakers, Rodriguez said, but "as a Spanish-speaking person, you would understand."

Getting on major Spanish networks could be good for politics. More New York adults watched the 6 p.m. weekday newscasts on the two major Spanish channels in November than were watching on CBS or NBC, according to Univision.

Simply speaking Spanish, though, isn't enough.

"At the end of the day, what's going to mean something to Latinos is policy," said Bloomberg's 2005 Democratic rival, Fernando Ferrer, who says he was the first mayoral candidate to hold bilingual press conferences.

When asked if the mayor's recent addition of Spanish was merely pandering, Ferrer said. "Of course it is .... Would it have anything to do with the fact that we're a few days from 2009, which is an election year? You think? That is certainly propitious."

Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser did not respond to requests for comment on why the mayor is using more Spanish.


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