GOTHAM GAZETTE: SEARCHLIGHT 2002: The Record

The Record

3/31
Was Mayor Bloomberg in charge of City Hall yesterday? Well, that's none of your business. Yet again.The mayor had no public schedule, and his press office refused to discuss his whereabouts or specify who was in charge. City rules require Bloomberg to relinquish his authority to a deputy whenever he leaves town. "The mayor agrees with the 80 percent of New Yorkers that say his personal life is none of the press' business," mayoral spokesman Ed Skyler said. (Daily News)

3/30
Here's the final eye-popping tab - $76,405,839. That's how much Mayor Bloomberg reported lavishing on his mayoral campaign and his transition committee, according to final disclosure reports released yesterday. The megabucks media mogul used his own money for the run. Bloomberg's campaign spending totaled $73.9 million, making it the most expensive campaign in U.S. history for any office other than the presidency. He spent an additional $2.5 million on his transition and inaugural committee. (Daily News)

In three months in officer, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has in many ways profoundly altered the tenor, if not the substance, of city government. In spite of the broad consensus building he has insisted on, he has yet to articulate a wide range of initiatives or goals, preferring a razor focus on three areas: rebuilding Lower Manhattan, school governance and the budget. (New York Times)

At different times, City Councilman Angel Rodriguez gave the impression that he was firmly against or noncommittal on the Brooklyn warehouse renovation now at the center of his indictment, civic activists say. (Newsday)

3/29
City Councilmember Angel Rodriguez was arrested Thursday and indicted on federal extortion charges. Rodriguez allegedly told a real estate developer seeking to build retail stores in Red Hook that he would support his project in the City Council in exchange for three apartment buildings in Cobble Hill. Upon learning this, the developer reported the bribery request to federal and city investigators. Between April 2001 and March 2002, the developer, in cooperation with authorities using wiretaps and recordings, gave Rodriguez $50,000 in cash and three Cobble Hill real estate properties at $1.5 million below their market value. Rodriguez then publicly supported the developer's plan in the City Council's Land Use Committee. Rodriguez plead not guilty to all charges and resigned from all of his City Council committee posts. City Council Speaker Gifford Miller insisted that Rodriguez's endorsement of the development did not affect its approval by the City Council, which had already approved the development in a related subcommittee. (New York Times) (Daily News) (New York Post) (Newsday)

City Councilman Angel Rodriguez of Brooklyn resigned from all his positions on Council committees yesterday, within hours of being indicted on federal extortion charges. Pending resolution of the case, he will retain his Council seat, be able to vote during sessions of the full Council and continue to draw a $90,000 annual salary. (New York Times) (Daily News)

Mayor Bloomberg's office is eyeing possible candidates to replace Schools Chancellor Harold Levy, accoring to The New York Post. "They're definitely putting together a list," a source said. "There are currently three or four names circulating." Sources said Bloomberg has to find someone to run the 1,100 schools in case he decides to give Levy his walking papers. (New York Post)

The enormous performance gap between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian counterparts shows that city schools are "failing all the kids in the city," Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday. "Parents should be screaming, demanding that we do something different," Bloomberg said. "To continue to do exactly what we've been doing is nonsensical." Bloomberg, speaking at a Manhattan firehouse, repeated calls for state lawmakers to give him control of the city schools. (Daily News)

3/27
With the city facing its worse drought in years, Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday declared a drought emergency and announced a number of mandatory restrictions on water use that will go into effect on Monday. These includes bans on car washing and on hosing down sidewalks, streets and driveways; restrictions on when lawns can be watered, and a 15 percent cut in water consumption by businesses. (New York Times) (Daily News)

3/28
Most registered city voters still approve of the job Mayor Bloomberg is doing, according to a new poll.Seventy percent of whites and 58 percent of both blacks and Hispanics gave that assessment when interviewed by Quinnipiac University. The poll, conducted March 19-25, surveyed 1,038 registered voters. (Newsday)

Poll says New Yorkers don't care where Mayor Bloomberg goes on weekends. (New York Post)

3/27
With the city facing its worse drought in years, Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday declared a drought emergency and announced a number of mandatory restrictions on water use that will go into effect on Monday. These includes bans on car washing and on hosing down sidewalks, streets and driveways; restrictions on when lawns can be watered, and a 15 percent cut in water consumption by businesses. (New York Times) (Daily News)

3/26
While Rudolph W. Giuliani tended to favor drivers when he focused on transportation, Mr. Bloomberg frequently seems to be siding against them, in a way not seen since Mayor John V. Lindsay's "car-free weekend" experiments. In Mr. Bloomberg's budget, in his policies, even in the example he is setting by riding the subway to City Hall most mornings, he is questioning the assumption that New Yorkers with cars should be able to take them where they want when they want with few hindrances - other than the heavy traffic created by too many other drivers doing the same. He summons up little sympathy for people who are finding it more difficult to drive into central Manhattan. "In the end," he said during one of his recent weekly radio programs, "we all have to take mass transit." (NY Times)

A bill that would force former Mayor Rudy Giuliani's think tank to return more than 2,000 boxes of Giuliani administration documents to the city was introduced in the City Council yesterday. (Daily News)

More than half the members of the City Council introduced a bill yesterday that would rewrite a 1999 lead-poisoning prevention law to make it easier for the parents of children with lead poisoning to sue their landlords. The new bill represented a potentially significant break between the members of the new City Council - which, thanks to term limits, has had more than two-thirds of its 51 seats change hands this year - and the old one. Several current council members described the 1999 law as too lenient and derided it as little more than a "landlord protection act." (New York Times)

Not in my neighborhood, Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday when asked about the garbage incinerators he's been promoting. Bloomberg insisted it's not practical to put incinerators in wealthy areas because that would "drive away the revenue base that supports this city." Wading into dangerous political waters, he admitted publicly what most politicians only whisper in private: The rich have a lot more clout than the poor when it comes to blocking unwanted facilities. "If you were to put an incinerator on Park Avenue, you would drive away the revenue base that supports this city," Bloomberg, who lives in a townhouse on the Upper East Side, told a reporter who asked if he'd welcome such a plant near Gracie Mansion. (New York Post)

Choosing to back one of its own, the full City Council voted yesterday 43-0 (with six abstentions) to reject a $10 million housing renovation in Crown Heights that was strongly backed by Mayor Bloomberg. The planned renovation of a half-vacant building at 320 Sterling St. into 113 affordable apartments had been opposed by Councilwoman Yvette Clarke. (Daily News)

3/25
Bloomberg, barely 80 days into his mayoralty, is taking considerable political risks to balance the city's budget, as required by law, while addressing an estimated $4.8 billion deficit. As he dredges more than $1.8 billion from city agencies - cutting what he calls "sacred cows" like recycling, parks, libraries and police and fire services - Bloomberg has angered a cross-section of residents. Experienced political observers and even some City Hall officials say this could damage his ability to achieve his other political goals, such as mayoral control of the school system. (Newsday)

"You don't have to close the schools, you don't have to fire teachers, you don't have to close the summer schools," Bloomberg said yesterday during an interview on WABC-AM radio. "We can do all of those things," the mayor said, while still trimming the nearly $12 billion Board of Ed budget by three percent... Only half of the moneys that we spend through the Board of Ed go to instruction in the classroom," Bloomberg said. "To say that we can't save 3% by cutting overhead and other things ...is ridiculous." (Daily News)

Interview with Dr. Benjamin Chu, Bloomberg's choice to head the Health and Hospitals Corporation. His four-point plan: Redesign hospital visits. In a pilot program at Harlem Hospital last year, Chu's team cut the average hospital visit to 52 minutes from the usual three to five hours. Enroll many more patients in managed care through better counseling on options and simplified forms, then bill the programs for every cost. Streamline computer data systems. "Mistakes get made when it is in paper and pencil," Chu said. Invest in communities. "Hospitals are relatively passive, people come to us," Chu said. In Harlem, prostate cancer is "big," but few come for screening. "We have to do more," he said. (Daily News)

Mayor Bloomberg yesterday defended John Whitehead, chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., who was forced to drop out as headliner of a GOP fund-raiser, calling it "laughable" that business and real estate leaders hoping for contracts to rebuild Lower Manhattan would have felt pressured to contribute. (New York Post)

Mayor Bloomberg weighed into the Catholic child-abuse scandal yesterday with a blunt message: The church is not above the law. "In a case where somebody alleges that another person committed a terrible crime, particularly against children, it seems to me that's what the police are there to do, an investigation," Bloomberg told WABC radio, "and the courts are there to decide whether you're guilty or not." His comments came on the eve of state legislation being introduced today by Assemblyman John McEneny (D-Albany) requiring all religious groups to hand over the names of clerics accused of molesting children over the past 20 years. (New York Post)

Two more City Council members joined the chorus yesterday demanding that Mayor Bloomberg apologize for what they called insensitive comments about the city's black and Latino parents. The flap was touched off after Bloomberg was asked this month about a poll that found a majority of black and Latino parents don't support his efforts to take over the city's school system. The mayor said some parents "don't understand how poor a job is being done" by public schools. City Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn), along with members of the Council's Black and Latino Caucus, demanded an apology last week. Yesterday, two white Council members - Oliver Koppell (D-Bronx) and Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan) - joined in Barron's criticism. (Daily News)

3/24
As scandal grips Brooklyn Supreme Court, there is one thread that binds every judge elected to the bench since 1990 - they all were approved by Kings County Democratic leader Clarence Norman. Norman, also an assemblyman, is a gatekeeper to the bench, commanding the political clout to make or break a party nomination that all but guarantees election in the overwhelmingly Democratic county.With at least seven elected Brooklyn Supreme Court justices under investigation for alleged wrongdoing or ethical lapses, Norman bristles at any suggestion that he should bear some blame. He strongly defends his role shepherding judges to the bench and the merits of an elected judiciary.(Daily News)

3/23
Mayor Bloomberg asked Congress yesterday to hold a historic joint session in New York five days before Sept. 11 in memory of the nation's worst terrorist attack. New York last was the host for Congress in 1790, when it was America's capital city before Washington was built. (Daily News)

Days after Mayor Bloomberg said he wants the Board of Education to move to the Tweed Courthouse from Brooklyn, the Transit Authority is preparing to move across the East River to lower Manhattan.The TA is set to shift its headquarters and most of its 1,800 workers to 2 Broadway from 370 Jay St. in downtown Brooklyn as part of an effort to place as many workers in one building as possible. (Daily News)

Mayor Bloomberg insisted yesterday that garbage incinerators throw off "no pollution" - and anyone fighting a new proposal to burn New York's trash just wants to "grandstand." Allen Hershkowitz, who has written three books on trash burning, called Bloomberg's stance "an unfortunate oversimplification." (New York Post)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg Friday reflexively tried to deny a statement he made about black and Latino parents not understanding how bad the schools are. Bloomberg's hair-trigger denial appears to fit an emerging pattern in his young political career in which he disavows flippant remarks he is reported to have said, after the statements emerge in a negative light. (Newsday)

3/22
The city Campaign Finance Board is opening an investigation into the campaign spending of Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Clarence Norman. The agency said it was reacting a news report that disclosed a series of unusual financial transactions involving political committees that Norman controls in his roles as assemblyman, county party chairman and local political club leader. (Daily News)

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said yesterday that he would most likely release a heavily edited version of his tax returns, without specifying how much money he earns, just as he did during the mayoral campaign. (New York Times)

Representative Charles Barron and Mayor Bloomberg's staff argued over whether or not a comment made by Bloomberg last week was racist. Council members said they took issue with the suggestion made by the mayor that minority parents were ignorant because they disagreed with the mayor. "For the mayor to say that they don't understand the poor job the schools are doing on their children is racist and insulting," said Barron. Bloomberg's press secretary demanded that Barron apologize for "making such a divisive and absurd charge." (New York Times)

The City Council's Land Use Committee just about killed a Crown Heights housing plan favored by Mayor Bloomberg yesterday. The 11-member panel voted 10-to-0, with one abstention, to reject a city plan to sell a troubled building at 320 Sterling St. Members of the Land Use Committee said they rejected the plan because it was opposed by Councilwoman Yvette Clarke, who represents Crown Heights. (Daily News)

3/21
The campaign committee of Brooklyn Democratic boss Clarence Norman got $115,000 in no-interest loans last year from the county party he heads, but failed to disclose the cash as required by state law. (Daily News)

Foot soldiers for Mayor Bloomberg and his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, traded barbs yesterday over two major initiatives of their administrations - stadiums and the Tweed Courthouse - sparking one of their most public spats to date. (Daily News)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city's overwhelmingly white Fire Department needs a more diverse pool of recruits. (Newsday)

A successful campaign for higher wages by the powerful health-care workers union last year helped push spending on lobbying in New York to a record $80.4 million. (New York Post)

3/20
The City Council leadership yesterday offered its plan for running New York City schools. The proposal, approved by the Council Education Committee, would give the mayor control but still retain a Board of Education. The chancellor would be appointed by the mayor, subject to the Council's approval, and would oversee daily running of the schools, the budget and implementation of educational policy. That policy would be set by a board with 11 members, six of whom would be appointed by the mayor. That board would replace the existing Board of Education. (New York Times)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday called a City Council proposal to create a larger but weaker Board of Education "encouraging." Previously, he had condemned such a plan as a "terrible, cruel hoax." (Daily News)

A major union representing New York health care workers yesterday announced its support for Governor George PatakiÅs re-election bid. In making the announcement, Dennis Rivera, president of Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union, said, ÑNever in the history of 1199, SEIU, has a governor of this state demonstrated such an unwavering commitment to the delivery of quality health care or been so responsive to the needs of the workers, the patients and the entire health care industry, as has Governor Pataki.É Earlier this year, Pataki and Rivera negotiated a multi-billion dollar state package aimed at raising salaries for health care workers. (New York Times) (Newsday)

3/19
A confident Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said yesterday that when he takes over control of the city's public schools he will place the central office of the Board of Education and a new school in the storied Tweed Courthouse, which was revamped at great expense and had been promised to the Museum of the City of New York. Mr. Bloomberg's statement - before a group of schoolchildren at a photo opportunity - surprised museum officials, legislators in Albany and other city officials. (New York Times)

Mayor Bloomberg today will boot one of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani's closest allies from the board of the Museum of the City of New York. Cristyne L. Nicholas, who served as Giuliani's communications director, will be replaced by Vincent LaPadula. LaPadula will be a nonvoting member of the board, which was dealt a major blow yesterday when Bloomberg upended the deal struck with Giuliani to turn over the newly renovated Tweed Courthouse to the museum. Instead, Bloomberg said he'd put education officials into Tweed along with a school. "I personally wasn't sure that it would have been good for them in the Tweed Courthouse because this is not a neighborhood that gets a lot of tourists," Bloomberg told reporters in City Hall (New York Post)

As part of what is becoming a daily blitz from his bully pulpit, the mayor's surprise proposal to make the historic Tweed Courthouse the city's education headquarters and a model school serves as an attention-getter° The historic building is practically next door to City Hall, the move a fine way to show the mayor is keeping an eye on schools bosses. The renovated structure is "drop-dead gorgeous," as one of the plan's outside admirers said, so it sends a supportive message to whoever takes over the system. And its quarters are smaller than 110 Livingston St., meaning fewer offices and the much-trimmer bureaucracy the budgetary times require.

The Republican mayor clearly anticipated the criticism that his plan for the schools remains only a blank frame for reform. "I should not be the commissioner of education any more than I should be the police commissioner," Bloomberg told reporters yesterday. "My job is to select the person, and to provide the ethics, and assure accountability and protection." And the Tweed building's layout would be conducive to his favored "open-plan" work atmosphere, similar to the City Hall offices. (Newsday)

What the Tweed Courthouse will look like under the mayor's new plan. (Graphic in the Daily News)

Mayor Bloomberg is closer than any of his predecessors to grabbing control of the public schools - and he's been in office for just 21/2 months. "He's certainly moved the ball down the line," said Joseph Viteritti, a professor of public policy at NYU who wrote a 1983 study of the Board of Ed titled "Across the River." "He's moved it to a point no one believed imaginable a year ago." Of course, the mayor still hasn't scored his ultimate goal: abolishing the Board of Ed so he can appoint his own commissioner. That decision rests with Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), who's met twice with Bloomberg without making any commitments publicly. (New York Post)

The Pentagon's plan to halt 24-hour fighter jet patrols over the city drew a ho-hum from Mayor Bloomberg yesterday - and blunt opposition from New York's senators."I guess the good news is that the federal government feels that the threat to this city has diminished," Bloomberg said at City Hall. (Daily News)

Is New York City's largest borough getting just a little too large? Maybe so, says Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and that has prompted him to ask all Brooklynites to go on a two-month diet. "He feels that there are a lot of people who could use help with this," Markowitz spokesman Glenn von Nostitz said Monday. Starting in mid-April, Markowitz will establish weigh-in stations at hospitals and government offices all around Brooklyn, which has the largest population of the city's five boroughs. Those who participate will have their starting weight recorded, and that will be compared with where they stand two months later. (Associated Press)

3/18
The Bloomberg administration's proposal to let the MTA collect tolls at the city's East River bridges could provide hundreds of millions of dollars to mass transit - in the suburbs. Prompted by the city's fiscal crisis, Mayor Bloomberg is considering charging tolls at the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and 59th Street bridges - and leasing the spans to the MTA to operate. But under a decades-old state law, all surplus revenues at the MTA's current roster of interborough bridges must be split almost evenly between the city Transit Authority, Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road. Efforts to change the law have been blocked in Albany for years. (New York Post)

Just weeks after local politicians slammed feds for keeping mum about a possible nuclear attack on New York, former Mayor Ed Koch revealed a long-kept secret: a threatened plutonium contamination of the city's water supply - and a positive test for plutonium traces at the reservoir - during his administration. (New York Post)

Mayor Bloomberg stepped up his assault on the Board of Education yesterday, deriding a plan to expand it as "a terrible, cruel hoax."Bloomberg mocked the beleaguered board, saying that when he likened it to a "rinky-dink candy store" last week he was "trying to be nice." "And generous," the mayor added with a sarcastic laugh. Bloomberg, speaking on WRKS (Kiss FM), compared the city's schools to a doomed ship that cannot be righted by the board - no matter its size. (Daily News)

Schools Chancellor Frank Macchiarola has joined forces with Mayor Bloomberg in calling for elimination of the Board of Education. (New York Post)

Profile of Bloomberg Communications Director William Cunningham, who publicly warned that if Green went negative, "we'll knee-cap him." And he took issue with a passing reference to Joseph Stalin in Green's 1982 book, "Winning Back America," seeming to imply that Green was a Red. Those two comments led one Green aide to call Cunningham "kinda goofy."

In an interview, Cunningham conceded the knee-cap remark was "an old term from Brooklyn that we could probably have done without." But he still argued he wasn't red-baiting Green.

Despite his embrace of Bloomberg, a-Democrat-turned-Republican, Cunningham has a decades-long Democratic Party pedigree. He served as deputy state commissioner of transportation in the Carey and Mario Cuomo administrations. In 1985 he even took a leave to become executive director of the state Democratic committee. In 1995, after helping re-elect U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), Cunningham became the senator's chief of staff. He joined Bloomberg after a four-year stint as senior vice president for public policy at Fleet Bank. (Newsday)

3/17
In 11 weeks in office, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has quietly but swiftly canceled or postponed more than a dozen of the highest-profile priorities of his predecessor, Rudolph Giuliani, whose backing helped the Republican novice win a long-shot victory.While new mayors always make changes, Bloomberg ran as Giuliani's preferred successor and accused his Democratic rival of threatening to reverse the two-term mayor's accomplishments. Since his inauguration, Bloomberg has abandoned two Giuliani privatization drives, dropped at least one high-stakes Giuliani lawsuit, shelved pet capital projects, changed course on welfare policy, and pulled back from a major agency merger° Bloomberg aides have re-estimated the coming fiscal year's budget deficit as nearly $2 billion higher than the last administration was projecting, and ordered deeper cutbacks accordingly. "He's done it very diplomatically and deferentially. But there's no mistaking the fact that he is taking a wholly different tack in governing," said Fernando Ferrer, the former Bronx borough president who ran for mayor last year in the Democratic primary. (Newsday)

3/16
Mayor Bloomberg took dead aim at the city teachers union yesterday, saying the United Federation of Teachers "has more say in the educational system in New York City than the chancellor does." "And that's wrong," he said during his morning radio show on WABC-AM. (Daily News)

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg acknowledged yesterday that he would not be able to hold up negotiating a contract for the city's 80,000 teachers until he gained control of the school system. As he continued down the warpath against the Board of Education, Mr. Bloomberg said that even if he did wrest control from the board, he still might not be able to solve the schools' problems. (New York Times)

A Board of Education lawyer was picked Friday by Queens Democrats to run as their favored candidate for the state Assembly district represented by the late Pauline Rhodd-Cummings. The vote by district leaders in the Queens County Democratic Organization makes Michele Titus a virtual shoo-in for the April 16 special election. District 31 extends from Far Rockaway through southern Queens and as far north as Richmond Hill, including portions of Laurelton, St. Albans, Rosedale and South Ozone Park. (Newsday)

3/15
The Village Voice learns that the newly elected leader of the Bronx Democratic party, state assemblyman Jose Rivera, was once such a rolling stone that city investigators found he never lived at three different Bronx addresses he claimed as legal residences over a five-year period. (Village Voice)

City Councilman Tony Avella yesterday charged that a proposed reduction of 75 daily EMS ambulance shifts will seriously affect the health and well-being of New Yorkers.(Daily News)

3/14
Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan) introduced legislation yesterday that would require departing members to pay "fair market value" for the chairs, as determined by the city's commissioner for administrative services. when all the term-limited Council members left office in January, many took advantage of a city law that allowed them to buy their chairs for $35. The new chairs cost $935 each. (Daily News)

The U.S. Justice Department approved a city request yesterday to push back the vote to next May, leaving current board members in place for another year - and leaving open the possibility that the boards may eventually be dismantled. (Daily News)

3/13
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have been meeting in an effort to reach a compromise on the future of the city Board of Education. Bloomberg wants the board abolished and the mayor given full control of the schools, while Silver has resisted efforts by previous mayors to eliminate it. Currently, he is believed to favor less sweeping changes, such as expanding the current board to give the mayor a majority of appointees. Bloomberg continued his attacks on the board yesterday, charging that it runs the city's schools "like a rinky-dink candy store." (New York Post)

In a new poll by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, half of New Yorkers surveyed rated Mayor Michael Bloomberg's performance as excellent or good. (Daily News)

3/12
City agencies, already under orders to make up to $1.8 billion in cuts, were told yesterday to draw up plans for an additional $500 million in possible budget slashes for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Uniformed services and the Board of Education were told to plan cuts of 2.5 percent, all other agencies, 7.5 percent. A deadline of March 20 was set for submitting the contingency plans. The additional cuts would be imposed in the event state and federal officials don't deliver on some of the $800 million requested by Mayor Bloomberg in the preliminary budget plan he issued last month. (Daily News)

The head of the teachers union yesterday filed an unfair-labor charge against Mayor Bloomberg for "illegally" holding pay raises hostage to City Hall's campaign to abolish the Board of Education. "The city is not negotiating in good faith because the mayor is illegally linking our contract talks with school governance," said United Federation of Teachers spokesman Ron Davis. (New York Post)

3/11
Mayor Bloomberg diplomatically downplayed criticism yesterday that he's holding teacher contract talks hostage to his bid for mayoral control of city schools „ saying he only wants to do what's "best for the kids." (Daily News)

3/10
As budget hearings begin in earnest tomorrow, the stage is set for a robust discussion about the city's $4.8 billion budget deficit and the best way to fill the gap. Some City Council members have called for the mayor to consider a variety of tax increases „ including an increase in property taxes „ to help solve the city's budget crisis. Mayor Bloomberg has steadfastly denounced any tax hike other than his proposal to raise the city's tax on cigarettes to $1.50 per pack from 8 cents. But others, including Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan), want the mayor to keep his options open, even if a property tax increase is a long shot. "The speaker certainly hasn't ruled anything out," said Chris Policano, Miller's spokesman. "Just because the mayor said [a tax increase] isn't an option doesn't mean it's not an option." (Daily News)

3/9
Former first lady Nancy Reagan presented the Ronald Reagan Presidential Freedom medal to Rudy Giuliani for his leadership during 9/11, at a $1,000-a-plate dinner at the Beverly Hills Hilton that featured GOP California gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon, and which Mayor Michael Bloomberg also attended. Giuliani, who is campaigning for Simon, shrugged off any suggestion that he and the GOP are trying to make political hay out of the Sept. 11 tragedy. "I endorsed Bill Simon well before Sept. 11," he said, adding, "I'm still entitled to have my beliefs." (New York Post)

3/8

Michael Bloomberg spent nearly $2.2 million of his own money on his transition and inaugural ³ $569,000 more than last reported. The new tally was provided by the mayor to the Campaign Finance Board before 5 p.m. Thursday, the deadline for him to submit updated filings. The updated tally of Bloombergês spending from Nov. 23 to Jan. 1, his ceremonial swearing-in, stands at $2,175,508. ( Newsday)

City Council Speaker Gifford Miller won't be following in Peter Vallone's footsteps in the St. Patrick's Day Parade. The new Council leader is skipping the annual march up Fifth Ave. because of organizers' ban on gay groups, a spokesman said yesterday. But like his predecessor, the Manhattan Democrat will hold a preparade breakfast, where he'll schmooze with union leaders, lobbyists and fellow politicians. ( Daily News)

3/7
Gifford Miller, the speaker of the City Council, offered a rare glimpse of the new council's vision for the city yesterday, focusing on cuts to children's services and raising taxes as potential battle lines in budget negotiations with the Bloomberg administration He added that the city needed a better long-term plan to help reduce solid waste because of limited outlets and escalating costs for shipping garbage. (New York Times)

City Council Speaker Gifford Miller continued to plug for tax increases yesterday to help bridge the city's $4.8 billion budget gap. He specifically urged bringing back the commuter tax, which raised $500 million for the city until it was repealed by the state Legislature in 1998. He also defended colleagues who have suggested raising property taxes. (Daily News)

At the request of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Board of Education and Chancellor Harold Levy agreed yesterday to a two-month postponement of the board's decision on whether to extend Levy's contract for another year. (New York Times)

3/6
More than a dozen Democrats have emerged as possible candidates for the Assembly seat that has been held by Edward C. Sullivan since 1976. The 69th Assembly district, which Sullivan, a Democrat, represents, is on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, an area with strong Democratic clubs and a long-standing tradition of political activism. (New York Times)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he would not support a measure being considered in the City Council to alter the term limits law for council members. "The public has spoken twice through referendums, and I think that if the public changes its mind, the public has a right to do so," Bloomberg said. The mayor added he would have to Ñthink long and hardÉ about whether there should be a third referendum on the issue.

Bill Perkins, chair of the council's Governmental Operations Committee, said that the main issue was not repealing term limits but rather modifying the law to eliminate a quirk that restricts him and several other members to a total of six years rather than the full eight available to most elected officials. Because of redistricting, the current and the next council terms will be for two years each. That means current members who have already served a four-year term would have to leave office after only six years, instead of the usual eight. (New York Times, New York Post, Daily News)

3/5
New York's top elected leaders - plus former Mayor Rudy Giuliani - unleashed a barrage of criticism yesterday at the Bush administration's decision to withhold information about a suspected nuclear attack on the city.The doomsday threat, received by top federal officials in October, was kept under wraps because of concerns it might panic an already terror-ravaged city, Time magazine reported this week. (Daily News)

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said that everything from tax hikes to increased state aid must be explored to prevent service cuts under Mayor Bloomberg's proposed budget. Markowitz and the members of the Borough Board heard testimony on the budget's impact from representatives of nearly 30 Brooklyn-based senior, health, education, and social services and government organizations yesterday at Borough Hall. The hearings were held to provide Markowitz and the board with information needed to outline Brooklyn's budget priorities before they sit down with city officials next week. (Daily News)

Governor George E. Pataki, who has at times entertained thoughts of a run for national office, today would not commit to serving a full four-year term if he is re-elected this year. (New York Times)

Plans are in the works in the City Council to throw out term limits as they currently exist. Because of a glitch in the city's term-limits law, several of the 51 council members aren't eligible to run again next year - even though they've put in only six years. Those members feel they are being shortchanged because term limits were intended to allow officials to serve a maximum of eight years, and are looking for ways to extend their term. (New York Post)

3/3
Just like Rudolph Giuliani before him, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is demanding total control of the school system, with the Board of Education replaced by a mayor-appointed education commissioner. But Bloomberg, who built a reputation as a master salesman in his multibillion-dollar business, is singing a much sweeter - and more ideologically liberal - tune about mayoral control than Giuliani ever did. And this less-confrontational stance improves the odds that he'll get more of what he wants - although it's very unlikely he'll get all of it, elected officials and education experts say. (Newsday)

Three city assessors indicted in a bribery scheme last week had previously been caught lying - and two of them had managed to climb back up through the ranks. (New York Post)

3/2
Mayor Bloomberg threw down the gauntlet yesterday to state legislators - giving notice that he won't accept any compromise to his plan to abolish the Board of Education. (Daily News)

With $4.4 billion, Bloomberg rose to 72nd richest person in the world, according to Forbes Magazine, which adds he is trying to sell his company for $10 billion. (Forbes)

3/1
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced a spate of appointments yesterday. He appointed Patricia J. Lancaster, an architect who has worked for the city's Department of General Services and the Port Authority, to run the corruption-scarred Department of Buildings. Christopher O. Ward, currently chief of planning and external affairs at the Port Authority, was appointed to head the Department of Environmental Protection. (New York Times)

The latest Mayor's Management Report details a decline in city services following the September 11 attacks. With many police officers diverted to disaster relief, regular police enforcement and administrative operations suffered. Overtime payments to city employees surged 88% to $496.7 million from the same period the year before. (New York Daily News)

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