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Vallone Sr. Weighs in on Term Limits and The Two New Yorks
November 30th, 2005

Former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone said he supported extending term limits for city council members from two to three terms at Gotham Gazette’s Reading NYC Book Club. (As Wonkster has noted earlier, all the candidates for council speaker are also in favor of doing this). Going to the voters would be ideal, said Vallone, but it would not be inappropriate for the council to simply pass legislation extending term limits despite two referenda in which voters called for such limits. These votes were unfair because the pro-term limit side had vast resources but opponents could not afford to get their case out, said Vallone, who recently supported billionaire Republican mayor Michael Bloomberg’s reelection campaign.

Vallone also gave a slightly different take on the “two New Yorks” theme. He suggested that New York City consider seceding from the state because it regularly gets shortchanged by Albany, and would also have more clout in Washington as a separate state. He did not have a strong stance on which New York would get to keep the name.

A full transcript of the event will be posted on Gotham Gazette shortly.

By on November 30, 2005, 11:49 pm
In category: Electoral Politics | 2 Comments »

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Republican Rumble
November 30th, 2005

For political aficionados, the scene now shifts to the state as a whole, and there it’s the Republicans who seem to be fussing and feuding.

“The state GOP is leaderless, distracted and — under present circumstances — can’t be expected to select competitive statewide candidates in 2006,” says a Post editorial. The paper goes on to praise Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno for stepping “forward to fill the leadership void.” Bruno and Congressman John Sweeney have called on the party to postpone its December 12 meeting, to anoint statewide candidates for office.

Much of the concerns center around Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro, the party’s choice to run against Hillary Clinton. Bruno wants her to run for state attorney general instead. “Pirro has no chance of defeating Senator Hillary Clinton next fall — none whatsoever,” says the Post.

Jason Gooljar in Working Families Party Man agrees with Bruno but wonders why Pirro has come under such attack. “The conservative press like the New York Post also came out against her very aggressively. I’m not sure what the reason for that was.”

And the GOP faces difficulties in the gubernatorial race as well. Party leaders have turned to former Massachusetts Governor William Weld. But, Bouldin says in the Daily Gotham, “Joe Bruno has recruited the one person for the gubernatorial race whom George Pataki can be presumed to loathe more than any Democrat: Tom Golisano. In terms of sheer desperation, this is roughly comparable to the idea of Harry Reid trying to recruit Ralph Nader to the 2008 Democratic ticket.”

By on November 30, 2005, 9:42 am
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing | Comments Off on Republican Rumble

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Ferrer's Loss
November 30th, 2005

With the final election results showing that Fernando Ferrer got about 175,000 fewer votes than Mark Green did in his unsuccessful run for mayor in 2001, the post mortems continue. There was a panel at the New School Monday and a Ferrer interview with El Diario.

Many commentators fault the Ferrer camp for blaming everyone — the press, fellow Democrats, even poor New Yorkers — except the candidate and his staff. “The fault, dear Freddy, lies not with your stars, but with yourself. writes bella figlia dell’amore.

“By firing a blast of blame at everybody except himself, Fernando Ferrer compounds the drubbing he took on Election Day,” writes Michael Goodwin in the Daily News. ” There is no polite way to say this: Ferrer has proved beyond doubt he is not fit to be mayor. ”

But in the Observer Terry Golway is a bit more understanding: “Few of us would have exchanged places with Mr. Ferrer over the last few months.” Golway goes on to assess Bronx Democrat leader — and Ferrer ally — Roberto Ramirez’s claim– that Ferrer was a victim of anti-Puerto Rican bigotry. Golway compares Ferrer with Al Smith, the first Catholic to run for president and says both probably paved the way for candidates to follow. But Golway wonders if Ramirez “is prepared for the third stage of ethnic voting (defeat and success being the first two), when Latinos are freed—as Catholics were in the Presidential election of 2004—to reject one of their own.”

Enough already, Just in Time tells The Politicker: “why don’t we start talking about the issues that this mayor most focus on, like how every night there is a story about someone being murdered.”

By on November 30, 2005, 9:18 am
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A Cop Is Killed
November 29th, 2005

Three of the dailies have editorials about the shooting death of Police Officer Dillon Stewart, a 35-year-old father of two young daughters, who was shot by a suspect after stopping him for running a red light. The one in the New York Sun calls for a reinstatement of the death penalty in New York State.
The New York Post asks: “how is it that the streets — supposedly so much safer these days — are still so violent? Surely, this is a question [Police Commissioner] Kelly — and Mayor Bloomberg — will have to confront in a very serious way. They need to consider a return to some of the tactics employed by Giuliani & Co. back when the thugs ruled. They might reconstruct the famously effective NYPD Street Crimes Unit, which was essentially disbanded in the wake of the Amadou Diallo tragedy — but not before the unit’s frequent stop-and-frisks led to a record number of gun seizures, dramatically driving down shootings.”
The Daily News offers no such suggestions, its editorial arguing only that “New York will be the poorer for losing another hero.”

By on November 29, 2005, 7:43 am
In category: Crime & Safety | Comments Off on A Cop Is Killed

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Do Matching Funds Benefit Incumbents?
November 28th, 2005

Azi Paybarah has a post on the Drum Major Institute’s blog, DMI Blog, where he looks at how public funds can benefit incumbents, rather than level the playing field. According to his number crunching of Campaign Finance Board disclosures, incumbents averaged close to 200 percent more in matching funds than challengers in 2005 City Council General Elections.
As a solution, he advocates tying the amount of matching funds distributed to incumbents to that received by challengers, but doesn’t get into details.

Update: Azi writes us to say his original calculations were incorrect. But the basic point remains.

By on November 28, 2005, 4:35 pm
In category: Electoral Politics,Public Finance | Comments Off on Do Matching Funds Benefit Incumbents?

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Will NYC Transit Go on Strike?
November 28th, 2005

The Daily News reports today that the city is preparing for a possible transit strike. Transport Workers Union President Roger Toussaint has said that if the MTA does not negotiate fairly he may instruct his union to follow the example of Philadelphia transit workers, who went on strike last month.

The Daily News editorial board urges both sides to compromise. “Toussaint would do better to follow the example of his New York City union brothers and sisters, who completed successful labor talks with Mayor Bloomberg, often winning substantial raises. And the MTA would be wise to emulate Bloomberg’s insistence on securing productivity savings in exchange for especially large raises.”

However, several blogs point out big differences between Philadelphia and New York City.

Dan Zukowski, who writes about transit issues, provides a link to the Taylor Law, which makes strikes by public employees illegal in New York State. Pennsylvania has no such law.

Also an article from Governing.com entitled “Do
Cities Always Lose in Strikes?”
argues that New York mayors no longer fear the strikes like the one that plagued Mayor John Lindsay.

“The Lindsay lesson,” writes Otis White, amounted to “Don’t let municipal workers go out on strike. Talk tough but, in the end, settle on their terms.”

But “strikes are hardly sure things these days,” he continues. “Lots of unions lose them and end up accepting far less than they wanted (and sometimes less than management originally offered)… [And if] the public sees the unions as greedy, then there’s an excellent chance a city can win.”

For the latest news on negotiations and other transportation-related issues, check out the latest entries in this Wonkster blog. For links to news in the mainstream press, go to Gotham Gazette’s transportation links in the news.

For helpful links in the event of a strike, go to Gotham Gazette’s page, Preparing For NYC Transit Strike

By on November 28, 2005, 8:50 am
In category: Transportation | 13 Comments »

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What to Expect This Budget Season
November 28th, 2005

Despite the news that tax collections have driven down the city’s expected budget gap from $4.5 billion to $2.3 billion, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council still have a fiscal challenge ahead. Newsday’s Dan Janison runs through the basic arguments that New Yorkers can expect to hear from officials over the next few months:

“Gov. George Pataki and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno are ready to kill a proposed commuter tax – again.

Expect to hear Democrats talk – again – of extending an existing personal income tax surcharge on upper-income city residents rather than let it expire as scheduled.

Expect more posturing about that aging court order requiring better funding for public schools and just how to interpret it.

Expect the new City Council speaker to take a fresh new whack at lobbying Albany on these perpetual issues.

Finally, expect an extra dose of political caution from most state lawmakers – who are up for re-election in 2006.”

By on November 28, 2005, 7:44 am
In category: Public Finance | Comments Off on What to Expect This Budget Season

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Three Men In A (Court) Room?
November 28th, 2005

The New York Times praises the lawsuit by Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, and Assemblyman Tom Kirwan, a Republican from Newburgh, that argues “their ability to represent their constituents has been unfairly and in some cases unconstitutionally limited by Governor George Pataki, Senate Leader Joseph Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. These are the ‘three men in a room’ who, despite some rules changes earlier this year, so notoriously hold the state legislative process by the throat.” The millions of voters who elected Senate Democrats (the minority party in the Senate for decades) and Assembly Republicans (the minority party in the Assembly for the same number of years), have been effectively disenfranchised by the process.

By on November 28, 2005, 1:50 am
In category: Governing | 1 Comment »

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The Times Speaks: Pare Back Atlantic Yards
November 28th, 2005

“For economic, aesthetic and practical reasons,”
The New York Times concludes
in an editorial Sunday, the Atlantic Yards development project in Brooklyn “should be pared back.”

Part of the problem is that the project has grown by more than a million square feet, but much of that is in luxury apartments, and the number of jobs that the project generates might wind up being a small fraction of the 10,000 promised. The Times also objects to the city and state governments each having chipped in $100 million. “There is no reason to expect taxpayer money to be used to help fund a profit-making real estate venture like this one; those costs should be absorbed by the builder. ”

By on November 28, 2005, 1:33 am
In category: Community Development,Land Use | 2 Comments »

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Unfit For Public Office?
November 26th, 2005

The Daily News expresses outrage at Assemblywoman Diane Gordon’s having “pled the Fifth” in the second corruption trial this past week of former Brooklyn Democratic boss Clarence Norman. (second editorial, entitled “Witless Witness”). Norman’s lawyer said she is asking for immunity from prosecution before she agrees to testify about an alleged campaign contribution. ” it may well be she’s guilty of doing exactly what Norman is being tried for – diverting a campaign contribution into a personal bank account. No wonder she doesn’t want to answer questions under oath. But there’s another oath – the oath of office by which all Assembly members pledge to uphold the law. Gordon raised her right hand, and she must now explain exactly what she did, saw and heard. If Gordon can’t or won’t, she’s unfit for public office.”

By on November 26, 2005, 12:40 pm
In category: Crime & Safety,Governing | 1 Comment »

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Malling Downtown
November 23rd, 2005

Reviews of the Port Authority’s possible plans for retail development near the World Trade Center site are trickling in, and they are not favorable.

“One of the more striking features of the retail component is its mallness, which isn’t quite suburban though it is certainly second-rate Californian,” writes theboxtank, a blog about “big-box urbanism.” Theboxtank seems particularly dismayed about the Cortland Street atrium, which “looks as though it will be a pleasant perch from which to look out on the tourists in the memorial, without ever having to leave the comforts of shopping.

“Does the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey really want to put a retail shopping center on the Church Street side of the World Trade Center memorial site?” asks Howard Sherman in his Nuggets blog. Sherman wonders how many people will want to “Spend some time taking in one of the greatest disasters in U.S. history and then buy a snow globe?”

Others are more dismayed at what the development would apparently replace. “According to the rendering , Century 21 …has simply ceased to exist! All that is left in its place is a patch of brown — one might almost say scorched — earth,” laments
Meme First
. And 911memorials.org notes that the “Freedom Center and Performing Arts Center are also missing” from the authority’s drawings.

By on November 23, 2005, 2:17 pm
In category: Gotham City,Land Use | 1 Comment »

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Ground Zero Power Struggles
November 23rd, 2005

Faced with the lack of demand for office space downtown, developer Larry Silverstein might get out — for a price. Peter Slatin writes in the Slatin Report that Silverstein may be maneuvering to get a high-priced buyout. At the same time, he wants to make “a fully credible show as the archetypal New York developer by squeezing out the last dollar from anyone wandering into his orbit.”

Yesterday, Governor George Pataki indicated he could possibly accept less office space downtown after all — in contrast to Silverstein’s position. While Pataki said it was important to build a “critical mass” of commercial space at the site, he qualified his stand: “Down the road, I’m not going to project where things might be with office space demand five, 10 years from now.”

At the same time, the governor said he would stay involved downtown — despite Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s sudden interest in Ground Zero . Gothamist thinks it knows why: If Pataki can make the World Trade Center site a success, perhaps he can “translate the post-September 11 oversight into a presidential candidacy.”

And Pataki’s comment bolsters Matthew Schuerman’s anaysis in the the
Observer
that the Pataki and Bloomberg may be headed for a meeting of the minds on Lower Manhattan — despite disagreements and a possible power struggle. “Instead of a brawl,” he writes, “Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Pataki appear to be chipping away at each other’s differences, inching closer to each other’s views, and pretending that they weren’t very far apart in the first place.”

By on November 23, 2005, 2:13 pm
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Criticizing Council
November 23rd, 2005

On the heels of last week’s debate among candidates for City Council speaker (see transcript) and the council’s vote on contributions from labor unions, the city’s legislature is coming in for lots of criticism.

In the Voice, Wayne Barrett slams Councilmember and speaker candidate Bill de Blasio for “ramming through a bill that tilts the finance system’s level playing field on behalf of the unions that back him.” (Click here for an explanation of the bill.) The measure , Barrett says, is popular among council members who get union contributions and who will select the next speaker, thus prompting de Blasio to morph into a ” special-interest backslider hurriedly reversing reform.”

Post columnist Charles E.F. Millard blasts all the contenders for speaker — with the possible exception of Lew Fidler. Millard rattles off a litany of sins: de Blasio pushing a commuter tax, even though the state legislature would never approve it; Melinda Katz’s attacks on the Campaign Finance Board; David Weprin and (again) de Blasio’s health care stands. And six of the seven want to change the term limits law, without going back to the voters. Millard figures Fidler as the best of a bad lot: “He’d never go so far as to support a complete repeal of term limits without going back to the voters. After all, the voters have spoken — and that, in Fidler’s generous view, ‘deserves some consideration.'”

By on November 23, 2005, 8:59 am
In category: Electoral Politics,Governing | 2 Comments »

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Voting Machine Choices
November 22nd, 2005

The new voting machines New York is about to purchase will be “among the most expensive, error-prone and inaccessible machines available,” if the state Board of Elections has its way, charge two staff of the Brennan Center for Justice in an essay in today’s Daily News. Lawrence Norden and Jeremy Creelan say the agency is misconstruing an obscure 1899 state law and insisting that every race and ballot initiative be put on one big page.

Meanwhile, The Daily Gotham and The Ithaca Journal touch on different aspects of another controversy over voting machines, whether to choose optical scanners (like the fill-in-the-bubbles of SAT tests) or “direct record electronic” (DRE) machines (like an ATM machine) — with the grassroots tilt towards the scanners, since they have a paper trail that can be double-checked.

For more on New York’s choice, see New Voting Machines by Doug Israel in Gotham Gazette’s Voting Topic Page.

By on November 22, 2005, 6:50 am
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Reacting to Longer Term Limits and the Speaker's Debate
November 20th, 2005

The seven candidates for City Council Speaker all said they want to extend the term limits for the council and criticized the Campaign Finance Board in a debate last week co-sponsored by the Citizens Union Foundation, which publishes the Gotham Gazette (we have a transcript up).

Some others weigh in on what was said:

* Citizens Union, the sister organization of Citizens Union Foundation, takes issue with the idea that the council would alter the term limits law — which came into effect because of voter referenda — without going back to the voters:

While the City Council has the authority (under section 10 of the New York State Municipal Home Rule Law) to revise the City Charter, it would be deeply distressing for the body to take the undemocratic step of ignoring the wishes of the voters twice expressed … Should the Council act on its own to extend term limits, Citizens Union would support a referendum and work to overturn this undemocratic act and urge voters to keep in place the term limits of the two four-year term. 

(Joyce Purnick also writes about the issue in today’s Times)

* The Daily News also disapproves of the candidates’ wishes to change the term limits law. All of those vying for council speaker, the newspaper notes in an editorial, owe their jobs to term limits, which forced the changing of the guard that brought them to power:

The arrogance of it! Having benefited personally from the term limits law, they want to benefit personally from its abolition.

Voters should be aware of this planned end-run around the citizenry’s declared desire. If the pols want to change the rules, let them put the proposition before the people. Again. Afraid to do that, gentle councilfolk? Please tell us why.

* Backroom Deal Breaker, the blog dedicated entirely to this contest, said the debate wasn’t worth the hassle, but still listed the top ten things it learned (which fell into two categories: how much the candidates hate term limits and how much they hate the Campaign Finance Board).

* The horse race folks, meanwhile, discussed who won in a Politicker post entitled “Fidler’s Zingers.” Aside from debating whether Lewis Fidler is funny, some also wonder whether there is any point to having a public debate concerning a position for which the public doesn’t get to vote.

By on November 20, 2005, 11:15 pm
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing | 1 Comment »

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Congestion Pricing Pro and Con
November 20th, 2005

Since the reelection of Mayor Bloomberg, interest around congestion pricing — where cars are charged to drive in an area, for instance, Manhattan below 59th Street. Business groups seem interested, even if the mayor has neglected to get behind the idea — at least for the moment. [As reported in an earlier Wonkster post, Bloomberg prefers reinstating the commuter tax.]

This Sunday, the Daily News runs a pro and con:

Paul White of Transportation Alternatives, arguing in favor, writes that cars take up too much space, and that reducing their numbers in Manhattan would benefit the 80 percent of commuters that doesn’t use them. By implementing congestion pricing while improving public transportation, he adds, London has reduced traffic in its city center without a problem.

Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban policy and planning at New York University, provides the opposing view, writing that while traffic and air pollution are problems congestion pricing is not the best way to deal with either one. It would be better to address traffic problems by cutting back on free parking, he said, and the federal government should take the lead on air pollution. Congestion pricing will hurt the city’s hospitals, cultural institutions, and communities underserved by mass transit, he added.

The two sides agree that mass transit improvements are essential to any solution to the city’s traffic problem.

By on November 20, 2005, 7:43 pm
In category: Transportation | 1 Comment »

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Rebuilding, 50 Months Later
November 19th, 2005

It has been more than 50 months since terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center, and the latest editorials connected to 9/11 offer a snapshot of how little progress has been made in rebuilding what is still called Ground Zero.

When Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed some of his most trusted aides (including Deputy Mayors Marc Shaw and Daniel Doctoroff) to the board of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation this past Thursday , The New York Post offered up a “modified, limited atta-boyModified, because it is by no means clear that what Bloomy now says he wants for Downtown is what’s best for Downtown — or the city. Limited, because given the mayor’s astonishing lack of curiosity since 9/11 regarding Ground Zero recovery, it’s not clear that he has either the attention span or the staying power needed to finish what he seems to be starting. And an atta-boy, because if ever a quasi-public entity needed a swift kick where it hurts, it’s the LMDC — George Pataki, Proprietor. ”

Newsday today is less mitigated in its praise for Bloomberg’s reversal of “his minimalist role regarding Ground Zero,” and supports not just his new appointments but his recently expressed “strong preference for new housing” over office construction.

Michael of the blog you-are.us predicts that the biggest issue in Bloomberg’s second term will wind up being the “urban planning fight” over how much of rebuilt lower Manhattan will be residential rather than commercial. He also points out that the appointment to the LMDC board of Doctoroff, who headed the efforts to bring the Olympics to NYC, “forms an interesting bridge between the mayor’s botched and ill-advised plans for the West Side stadium and his new vision [for] the World Trade Center site and the whole lower Manhattan neighborhood.”

The Daily News, meanwhile, today attacks actions last week in both the House and the Senate that in effect reduce money for New York’s efforts at rebuilding and security: “Washington seems ever more determined to give it to New York on the chin when it comes to 9/11 funding.”

By on November 19, 2005, 11:43 am
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Saving Children
November 19th, 2005

An editorial in the New York Times, entitled “When A Village Fails A Child,” writes of the deaths of 25 children this year who “were being tracked by the system” — monitored by the Administration for Children’s Services — and makes special mention of “bright-eyed 7-year-old” Sierra Roberts, whom prosecutors allege died as the result of beatings by her father. “Few people would want to return to the days when children with less than ideal family lives were automatically taken from their parents and placed in an overwhelmed foster care system. But it isn’t clear why Sierra came to be placed with a father she did not know, a father with a history of drug use, after she had spent her first few years with foster parentsThese cases are especially shocking because the city’s Children’s Services was overhauled in the last few years and has shown improvements.”

An editorial in the Daily News (scroll down to the bottom), offers one way for individual New Yorkers to help foster children. It is entitled “Be A Mentor, Save A Child,” and it urges people to sign up for the mentorship program, either by telephoning 311 or by visiting Chelsea Piers today between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. where “some of the 800 kids already matched with mentors will be there to encourage people to sign up.”

By on November 19, 2005, 10:48 am
In category: Crime & Safety,Social Services | Comments Off on Saving Children

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And In 2009?
November 19th, 2005

In his latest column, Henry Stern (NYCivic) travels through a wide range of mayoral-related subjects — another analysis of this month’s mayoral election; trivia from past NYC mayoral elections (for example: since 1934, ten mayors have won re-election; only three have lost) — before discussing the “2009 Race For Mayor” that he alludes to in his title.

Stern seems most impressed with Anthony Weiner, who in the primary “carried [rival] Gifford Miller’s home district on Manhattan’s east side, and appeared to the public to be the candidate who best captured the New York spirit, part cab-driver, part policy wonk, part cheerleader.” Weiner “will now have four years to show New York Democrats why he would be a better mayor than City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr., who is the obvious establishment choice. Among other distinctions, Weiner’s parents were school teachers. Thompson’s father was a respected Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. And don’t forget Adolfo Carrion, the articulate Bronx Borough President, who will be term limited out of his job, or Marty Markowitz, energetic tub-thumper for Brooklyn.”

By on November 19, 2005, 10:19 am
In category: Electoral Politics,Governing | 1 Comment »

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Are Public Polls In The Public Interest?
November 19th, 2005

In his latest column, Joseph Mercurio asks, “Are Public Polls In The Public Interest?” and then only really addresses the question in one of his eight paragraphs: The polls, he writes, “were covered in a way to influence the final outcome. Pollsters, pundits, commentators, operatives and newspapers played the coverage of the polls to [a]ffect the outcome of the election. Both sides will argue that it lowered turnout, and particularly its own voters.”

For a more complete answer, it is useful to refer readers to an old article on polls in Gotham Gazette, by Steve Ross, a journalism professor who is himself a pollster, and the author of a book on statistics: “I’m a big fan of polling. But I’m not a big fan of most reporting about polls. News organizations use polls to call a winner. We should instead be using polls to understand the pols, and how they are framing their campaigns. Journalists should be more upfront about the limitations of our polling methods — and there are many. And we should spend more money to do the job of polling correctly.”

Ross explains the reasons why polls are inherently inaccurate, and the demographic changes that make it increasingly difficult to get a representative sample of the voters. He points out that most journalists don’t understand polls, and simplistically reduce them into misleading reports of who’s ahead, who’s behind.

Why would news organizations intentionally mislead the public in this way?

“By using polls for ‘horse race’ reporting, news reporters don’t really have to think, and the news organizations that employ them don’t have to pay them extra for the time to do so,” Ross writes. “Why actually read and understand the candidates’ position papers when you can report on poll results, especially results of others’ polls you haven’t put any money or effort into?”

Journalists’ “shallow use of polls,” Ross concludes, “winds up reinforcing the standard images of the candidates (often created, or helped along, by their opponents).”

By on November 19, 2005, 9:40 am
In category: Electoral Politics,Governing | Comments Off on Are Public Polls In The Public Interest?

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Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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