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Clinton's Coronation
May 31st, 2006

The Wonkster does not consider elections over until they are really over — and the people, not the pollsters, have spoken. But many observers consider Hillary Clintons re-election as senator virtually a foregone conclusion and so viewed her speech at the state Democratic convention today as a kickoff to her presidential run.

In its description, Empire Zone noted that she ticked off grievances against Republicans, asking the crowd to ‘stand with me’ in facing them down on everything from energy policy to raising the minimum wage.”

The response to the speech? Carl Filbert, a delegate from Niagara Falls, loved it, telling Empire Zone that Clinton ranks as one of the top 10 best speakers in the world. But Daily Politics found it kind of soporific, and continues that he wasn’t alone in that impression as the crowd cheered a few times, but had none of the foot-stomping, hooting energy Eliot [Spitzer] had induced (really) the day before.

While Clinton catalogued Bush administration failings, she tiptoed around the one that many consider most grievous – the war in Iraq. According to the
Times
she mentioned it only once: Rather than defend her decision to vote for authorizing the war, as she has in the past, Mrs. Clinton emphasized the need to rely on Iraqi security forces so that we can bring our troops home.

But Iraq was clearly on the mind of many Democrats. The Times reports that the convention passed a resolution calling for a withdrawal of troops — a move engineered by Jonathan Tasini, who is mounting an anti-war challenge to Clintons re-election. New York Liberal complains about Clinton — and her fellow Democrats. The liberal writes, Senator Clinton supported the Iraq War from the start, and still refuses to admit that she was wrong to do so. …Whats worse is that many so-called progressive members of the New York State Democratic Committee are deciding that they need to back up Senator Clinton, even if they disagree with her.

And that blogger is apparently not alone. The Daily News reports that some Manhattan Democratic clubs are shunning Clinton because of her support for the war and newly cozy relationship with conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch. “She is not in Arkansas anymore,” Yayoi Tsuchitani, campaign chairwoman of the Village Independent Democrats, which voted to back Tasini, told the News. “This is New York we are dealing with, and the majority of New Yorkers are against the war.”

By on May 31, 2006, 5:08 pm
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City | Comments Off on Clinton's Coronation

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Spitzer's Speech
May 31st, 2006

Eliot Spitzers acceptance speech at the Democratic state convention showed why he’s the man to beat in New York’s 2006 gubernatorial sweepstakes, says an editorial in todays Daily News. The paper likes his attacks on Albany and promises for change, hailing the attorney general for getting “squarely in the faces of the pols and lobbyists gathered in Buffalo, vowing to end the tax-and-spend mentality, the pay-to-play culture, the lack of competitive elections and the hiring of political cronies for top state jobs.

Hearing the same speech, the Post came away less impressed. Sure, the paper says, he pushed all the right buttons. But its skeptical of his attacks on Albany. When [Spitzer] talks of the 12 years of gridlock, he neglects to mention that he himself has been in the middle of the mess for eight of those years, the editorial said. For Spitzer to pretend he’s an outsider is, well . . . a bit disingenuous.

By on May 31, 2006, 7:35 am
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Gotham City | Comments Off on Spitzer's Speech

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Facing 9/11 Death Claims
May 30th, 2006

The recent controversy over whether former Deputy Mayor Rudy Washingtons various ailments were caused by his many hours at Ground Zero — and whether he deserved workers comp as a result — highlights an even grimmer eventuality, writes Jarrett Murphy in Power Plays: the death claims almost sure to arise from Ground Zero exposures.

People aren’t just getting sick. Now, they are dying. And when they die, their families will not be able to collect disability payments for as long as they would have if the death had been in the line of duty, he writes. A bill in the legislature would address this and provide death benefits to uniformed personnel involved in cleanup efforts. No one knows how much such a measure could cost, but Murphy says, Nearly five years after 9-11, in bronchioles and bloodstreams, the attack continues.

By on May 30, 2006, 9:20 pm
In category: Environment,Gotham City,Health | Comments Off on Facing 9/11 Death Claims

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Next Stop, Madison Square Garden
May 30th, 2006

As hearings begin on plans to replace the eyesore that is Penn Stations with a more fitting (to say nothing of more traveler friendly) entrance to New York, the New York Times focuses on how plans for Moynihan Station have evolved and the future of Madison Square Garden.

Rather than being placed in the Farley post office, as originally proposed, the latest plans call for splitting the train station in two — in the front section of the post office and across Eighth Avenue where Penn Station and the garden now stand. That means, the Times reasons, that the garden must go into the Farley building. Can we move the garden as we know it now one of the ugliest and most inefficient arenas in the country without destroying the landmarked beauty of the Farley Building? the paper asks. If we can, then we have a chance to replace what is also one of the ugliest and most inefficient train stations in the world.

By on May 30, 2006, 8:40 pm
In category: Gotham City,Land Use,Transportation | Comments Off on Next Stop, Madison Square Garden

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Students Against Scanning
May 25th, 2006

They say they need scanners to detect
We say we need justice and respect

Most of the attention on metal detectors in schools has centered on the cell phone ban, but some students want to put the focus on school security policies instead.

Members of the Urban Youth Collaborative Student Union gathered on the steps of Tweed Courthouse Thursday evening to protest so-called safety efforts — scanners, police, actions of security guards — that they say detracts from learning and shows a lack of respect for young people.

Charging that such security moves make students feel like criminals, the young people delivered thousands of postcards addressed to city officials and signed by kids in almost 200 public schools protesting the safety measures. The message urges the Department of Education to include youth voice and experience in formulating security policies. We hope the chancellor and mayor will see how important this is to us and how they should include youth in decision-making, Elisabeth Ortega, a student at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, said.

The students brought the cards, stuffed in several large plastic bags, to the top of Tweeds imposing stairs. Neither Mayor Michael Bloomberg nor Chancellor Joel Klein came to accept delivery.

(For a look at how many parents feel left out of school decision-making on security and other issues, see Gotham Gazette.)

Also, the New York Civil Liberties Union weighed in today on the school security controversy. In a letter to Bloomberg and Klein, the group complains that what it calls over-policing in schools creates a fortress-like atmosphere that conflicts with learning. It calls for the school system to assess how such security measures — including time consuming scanning –affects education.

By on May 25, 2006, 7:07 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Education,Gotham City | 3 Comments »

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Health Care Debate
May 25th, 2006

In New York State, almost 3 million people lack health insurance -and lawmakers in Albany are proposing two different ways to address the issue.

One proposal is modeled after the new law championed by Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, which provides near-universal health coverage for citizens. The other, called Fair Share, requires companies to spend set amounts of their payroll on health insurance for their workers or else pay the state the cost of insuring them. (Read a Gotham Gazette article on both plans).

In the Daily News, Len Nichols, director of the health policy program at the New America Foundation, argues for the first. “The plan is built on the rock of individual responsibility,” he writes. “[It ends the] free ride some take by refusing to buy insurance, seeking free care when they need it and shifting their costs to others. And the poor aren’t left out in the cold.”

The Working Families Party, however, argues that the Fair Share approach is the best way to provide health coverage for workers. The WFP blog provides the testimony of half a dozen people and organizations who testified at a recent hearing on the bill.

By on May 25, 2006, 8:45 am
In category: Albany,Gotham City,Health | 1 Comment »

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Bloomberg Gets Real on Immigration
May 24th, 2006

Immigration is “a critical domestic issue that shapes our political life for decades to come,” just as civil rights, Watergate, crime and drugs, and welfare dependency have changed the political direction of our country in years past, writes Mayor Michael Bloomberg in today’s Wall Street Journal.

A new immigration policy must be “enforceable, sustainable, and compassionate,” argues Bloomberg. He proposes a four point platform:

1) Hold businesses accountable for verifying that their employees are here legally, and create a federal database that will allow employers to identify workers by fingerprints or DNA data. If businesses won’t give jobs to undocumented immigrants than there will be less incentive for them to come.

2) Ensure that there is a workforce to replace retiring baby boomers by increasing the number of visas for both manual laborers and professionals. Give them the opportunity to get permanent status if that’s what it takes.

3) Secure the borders, a task that is only possible if the number of people trying to sneak into the country is reduced through the first two items.

4) “Get real” and stop talking about mass deportations, which will never work.

By on May 24, 2006, 3:53 pm
In category: Immigrants | 2 Comments »

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Bloggers Delight
May 24th, 2006

With the proliferation of political blogs, the race in Brooklyns 11th congressional district is getting more than its share of ink — or whatever its called in cyberspace.

Yesterday, State Assemblymember Nick Perry dropped out of the race to fill the seat once held by Shirley Chisholm and now being vacated by Major Owens. This came a day after the Daily Politics reported Perry was conducting a poll to find out how his opposition to gay marriage would play in a largely Carribean and black district. Maybe the answer was not too well.

Perry said he had little chance of winning and, according to Empire Zone, worried that his presence in the race would have added to the danger of causing the loss of a seat in the Congressional Black Caucus.

Perry and three remaining contenders in the predominantly black district are black, but the one white candidate — Councilmember David Yassky — has outpaced everyone else in fundraising. Yassky also has the dubious distinction of being the only candidate in the 11th with an entire web site that exists only to attack him. StopYassky.com claims to represent concerned New Yorkers asking only that Major Owens replacement not be David Yassky. Others attribute the site to people with more complicated motives.

After Perrys withdrawal, Room 8 reported that another contender, City Councilwomen Yvette Clarke will revamp her campign. Yvette wants to shift gears and move into winning stride, the blog says. Its her race to lose after a soporific start.

Yassky, along with Carl Andrews and Chris Owens, would beg to differ.

By on May 24, 2006, 11:17 am
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing | 1 Comment »

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Celebrating Silverstein
May 24th, 2006

With the opening of 7 World Trade Center, Larry Silverstein , often derided as a greedy developer, is now hailed a champion of perseverance and private sector know-how.

The official opening yesterday of the newly rebuilt 7 World Trade Center is a vivid testament … to the never-ending harm that public officials inflict on New Yorkers, says en editorial in todays Post. After lambasting Governor George Pataki, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other officials for malfeasance and ineptitude, the paper concludes, Hats off to Larry Silverstein for 7 WTC. And for his rock-solid commitment to rebuilding the Ground Zero pit.

In City Journal, Nicole Gelinas hails 7 World Trade Center as a stunning piece of work… the first tangible evidence that lower Manhattan will triumph over 9/11. Like the Post, she criticizes public officials and then praises the private developer: Silverstein has replaced with hope the dread that infused lower Manhattan after 9/11. Yet pols and the press condemn him because hes in the private, not the public, sector.

Sunny (Brooklyn) also lauds Silverstein — the first to come through with any promise down there on the ground — and likes the building: The David Childs designed monolith in mirrored glass towers over the gaping hole like a set piece from a Superman movie.

But in the Times, David Dunlap is less effusive, focusing on 7 World Trade Centers forlorn neighbor — Fiterman Hall, an office building converted to classroom space for Borough of Manhattan Community College and now mired in bureaucracy, awaiting demolition. As Silverstein, entertainers and other celebrated 7 World Trade Center, Dunlap, writes, With its shattered walls and missing windows, its emptied floors behind shroudlike nets, the 15-story Fiterman Hall played silent counterpoint like the unwanted party guest that everyone notices but no one acknowledges.

By on May 24, 2006, 9:52 am
In category: Gotham City,Land Use | 1 Comment »

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Weld -- for What It's Worth
May 24th, 2006

The Daily News today takes sides in the contest for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, urging party leaders to select former Massachusetts Governor William Weld as their candidate for November. The editorial praises Welds accomplishments as governor of the neighboring state and hails him for falling into the proud tradition of New York Republicans who part company with the narrow-minded tendencies of the national GOP. Fiscally conservative and socially moderate, with broad experience and ample personal charm, the News says, Weld is the GOP’s best hope to head off a Democratic tsunami in November.

But that could be Republican wishful thinking, according to another News writer, Michael Goodwin. While not taking sides in the contest between Weld and the other republican hopeful, John Faso, Goodwin says, If the race for governor of New York were a boxing match, the referee would be stopping it about now. Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is pummeling his opponents so badly they are in danger of being killed.

Since Spitzer is in such an enviable position Goodwin urges him to drop his guard for a round and speak candidly about the state’s problems — especially the ones that lead to high spending, high borrowing and high taxes

By on May 24, 2006, 7:49 am
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THE SYSTEM IS BROKEN
May 23rd, 2006

To those who pay close attention to state government, last weeks Quinnipiac poll was no surprise. The poll found that by a margin of 72 to 20 percent, New Yorkers believe that state government is broken and needs to be fixed. The only people surprised may be legislative leaders, who after two years of on time budgets, may have expected to see some positive feedback.


But there was none.


After two decades of late budgets, partisan infighting and legislative gridlock, the public expects more than on time budgets, they expect reform.


Even last years action on public authorities reform was not enough. Despite touting it as a major reform, the Governor and legislative leaders got another dose of bad news when a gubernatorial panel examining the new law determined that last years reform was not enough. Much more needs to be done.


That panel, created as part of the authority reform legislation, determined that there needs to be a truly independent authorities budget office to monitor the finances of state authorities. Last years reform legislation was supposed to create an independent budget office, but in reality the office is controlled by the Governor the person who also controls state authorities. This new budget office is hardly independent.


The scandals and controversies at state authorities including the now infamous Canal Corporation agreement to steer development rights to the Erie Canal for $30,000 to a favored developer have contributed mightily to the public disgust with Albany.


Last years authorities reform legislation was supposed to be a response to the mounting evidence of incompetence and corruption at state authorities. Sadly it was not and the panel led by the Governors lead man on authorities unanimously agreed that much more work is needed, including the creation of a truly independent budget office.


In one week the political parties will be holding their state conventions in order to agree on their election tickets for the Fall elections. It better be clear to Albanys political elite that action, not words, is what the public wants from incumbents running for re-election.


And so far, there has been too little action to match the rhetoric.


Of course, there are still six weeks for lawmakers to achieve some real reforms before they face the voters in November. Unfortunately, it appears that the Governor who will not be on the ballot will offer no help to the reform effort. For there to be any real progress, it will have to come from the legislative process.


And what are the issues that New Yorkers want addressed?


For starters, it would be a good idea for lawmakers to actually enact real reforms to bolster oversight of state authorities reforms that include creation of a truly independent authorities budget office.


In addition according to pollsters, New Yorkers by a 3 to 1 margin want legislation passed to create an independent redistricting commission to establish the boundaries of legislative districts, not politicians, as is now the case.


Also according to pollsters, a majority of New Yorkers believes that state legislators do not represent the publics best interests at the Capitol. Reforming New Yorks broken campaign finance system would help address this problem.


Its not too late. Lawmakers can act on these issues and other needed reforms before the session wraps next month.


Thats all for now. Ill be keeping an eye on the Capitol and will talk to you again next week.


By on May 23, 2006, 1:31 pm
In category: Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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The N Word
May 23rd, 2006

The trial of Howard Beach teenager Nicholas Minucci for attacking Glenn Moore with an aluminum baseball bat has inspired several columns about what is being called in court and in print the N word. Minucci, a.k.a. Fat Nick, who is white, is being charged with a hate crime because he uttered the racial epithet during the assault on Moore, who is black. Minucci claims that he meant the word as a greeting in a hip-hop way, not as a biased remark.

You have to wonder what might have happened had he been graced with a richer vocabulary, Clyde Haberman of the New York Times writes in a column today entitled Finding Hate In A Whack On The Head. What if, while swinging that baseball bat, he had called Mr. Moore, say, a boil-brained dolt? Would the charges against him have been lighter? Apparently. The attempt to divine a suspect’s inner feelings, instead of letting his actions stand on their own, is what troubles many opponents of hate-crime laws, like the one enacted by New York State in 2000. Critics also dismiss these laws as little more than feel-good measures.

Errol Louis in his column in the Daily News also points to the absurdities of the states hate crimes law. Legislatures and courtrooms are the wrong place to stage fights to end the spread of hateful, dehumanizing images and epithets. The right place, he says, are in public and informal arenas, including the Internet, where a new Web site, Abolish The N Word includes horrific images of violence against African-Americans, prefaced with the statement: Every Black person who was murdered by lynching was probably called the N word first.

By on May 23, 2006, 10:14 am
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety | 5 Comments »

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Times: Keep Up The Gun Fight, Mayor
May 23rd, 2006

An editorial in the New York Times praises Mayor Michael Bloomberg for filing “a smart lawsuit aimed at rogue dealers whose guns are used in crimes in New York,” and gently chides him for having made “sizable campaign contributions to pro-gun Congressional candidates.”

By on May 23, 2006, 6:37 am
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News: Reopen Statue Of Liberty
May 23rd, 2006

A Daily News editorial echoes the call of public officials for the federal government to reopen the Statue of Liberty to the public by the Fourth of July. The spiral staircase and the crown with the windows looking upon the harbor have been closed since September 11, 2001. “Security is no excuse. Every visitor already must pass through a metal detector before boarding the boat to Liberty Island and again when entering the statue’s pedestal for a reservation-only tour. Adding tours of the crown should be simple enough.”

By on May 23, 2006, 6:30 am
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Dealing With Shock Jocks
May 22nd, 2006

Several weeks ago, Power 95’s DJ Star ranted about a rival DJ, insulting his wife wife racial slurs, making sexual threats about his 4 year old daughter, and offering money for information about where his daughter went to school. Several members of the City Council went after Star and his employer, and he was fired and arrested.

Councilmember John Liu is now reportedly going after Clear Channel Communications, the radio station’s owner.

In the Daily News, rock historian and DJ Pete Fornatale agrees that Clear Channel, which owns the station, is to blame. The “fat cat executives,” he writes “would look the other way at any kind of perversion that helped them squeeze a quarter of extra profit.”

The problem, Fornatale believes, is deregulation. It has consolidated ownership in a few hands, meant that those audiences who aren’t attractive to advertisers go unserved, and allowed radio stations to become more obscene and shocking if they think it will bring them higher ratings. He’d like to see the industry re-regulated.

“If we aim our fire at one loose cannon like deejay Star, we will fail to see the real problem: an insatiable media conglomerate swallowing up anything with a transmitter pulse in its path, with the implicit blessing of the governmental organ charged with protecting the public interest.”

But in the Queens Tribune, Michael Schenkler writes — ever so politely — that maybe Liu should leave good enough alone. He points out that Star has been fired, and that Clear Channel has apologized.

“When governmental officials suggest putting radio stations out of business for on-air comment, on-air comment is stifled. The beauty of this nation is we allow diverse views,” writes Schenkler. “We permit the Ku Klux Klan to speak and publish. We allow Howard Stern and his imitators to speak. Gone are the days when Lenny Bruce or George Carlin wind up in jail because they crossed lines of community values.”

By on May 22, 2006, 2:25 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Gotham City | Comments Off on Dealing With Shock Jocks

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Times Lauds Council Lobbying Reform
May 22nd, 2006

The City Council is on the right track with lobbying reform, writes the New York Times in an editorial. The Times praised a plan pushed by Council Speaker Christine Quinn, saying it does a good job increasing disclosure, toughening enforcement, placing a symbolic ban on gifts from lobbyists, and excluding lobbyists’ donations from the city’s campaign finance program. [Others feel differently, describing the restrictions as violations of free speech.]

The Times’ only gripe is that the council should have pushed to put more restrictions on “bundled” donations, where lobbyists pull together other people’s smaller donations, thereby “us[ing] other people’s money to gain influence.”

By on May 22, 2006, 8:01 am
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City | Comments Off on Times Lauds Council Lobbying Reform

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Outlawing Bad Education
May 19th, 2006

State attorney general candidate Charles King wants to make bad schools illegal, Errol Louis writes in todays News, and that clear, powerful idea … is likely to resonate with parents fed up with schools plagued by fraud, poor management and violence. Louis concedes, It’s not clear the attorney general’s office is the right agency to clean up failing or corrupt school districts. But he advises all attorney general candidates to come up with plans to end the theft of millions that crooks and chiselers are stealing from schools that badly need the money.

By on May 19, 2006, 7:37 am
In category: Albany,Crime & Safety,Education,Electoral Politics,Gotham City | Comments Off on Outlawing Bad Education

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Budget Finale: He shoots…he scores?
May 18th, 2006

From March Madness to May Mayhem the final budget was released last Friday in a full report.

Legislative Gazette 5/1/2006. Hotdogs, Hamburgers and Hoops–Gov. Pataki shooting aroundwith the University at Albany bball team after a lunch honoring the team’s success.

Time to update yourfantasy budget negotiationsleague stats.

Resulting Budgets:

2006-07: balanced

2007-08: projectedgap of $3.7 billion

2008-09: projected gap of $4.3 billion

Team Numbers:

Governor vetoes: 207 items and the entire “revenue” bill

Legislature overrides: 165 items, including many education funding and member appropriations.

Constitutionality questions raised during the season: numerous

Player Stats:

Number of Governors potentially running for president: 1

Number of legislative seats up for election this fall: 212

By on May 18, 2006, 7:12 am
In category: Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Budget Finale: He shoots…he scores?

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Tax Breaks Don't Equal Job Creation
May 18th, 2006

Tax breaks for corporations dont always translate into jobs for New Yorkers that is the warning in a report by State Comptroller Alan Hevesi highlighted on the Drum Major Institute blog.

A recent audit by the comptroller found that two-thirds of Industrial Development Agencies, independent public authorities that offer tax breaks to companies in an effort to boost business, did not meet job creation goals.

“It’s simply not enough to say that with an investment of public capital, jobs will be created,” writes Adrianne Shropshire. “For poor and working-class communities the quality of those jobs will mean the difference between being able to afford to live in your community and being gentrified out.”

By on May 18, 2006, 6:02 am
In category: Community Development,Gotham City | 4 Comments »

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Unimpressed With Bush on Immigration
May 17th, 2006

Both El Diario and the Daily News have opinion pieces on President Bush’s recent speech on immigration, and neither one seems very impressed:

An El Diario editorial (in English and Spanish) criticizes the president’s lack of consistency: “He used contradictory language, praising most undocumented immigrants as hard workers and law abiding people while at the same time saying illegal immigration ‘brings crime to our communities.'” The newspaper was also disappointed that he didn’t address the need to fix a system that forces immigrants to wait years and pay large sums of money before their families can legally join them here.

Michael Goodwin of the Daily News, meanwhile, writes that Bush’s speech is not likely to be taken seriously because he has little credibility on the immigration issue. Goodwin thinks Bush’s first step must be tougher enforcement of immigration violations. He describes the president’s plan to secure the border with the National Guard as “a system that would be expensive, logistically difficult and probably not very effective”, and says Bush is offering the possibility of tougher enforcement in front of immigration opponents as a trade for his guest worker program and a path to legal citizenship for some undocumented immigrants.

“He doesn’t deserve that deal,” writes Goodwin, “and won’t get it, because the National Guard idea is half-baked and because of his track record. It’s a record of all talk and no action on immigration.”

By on May 17, 2006, 7:06 am
In category: Immigrants | 1 Comment »

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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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