Archive for October, 2006

Is What Hevesi Did So Bad Or So Different? And What's The Alternative?
October 31st, 2006

Newsday criticizes New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi today for running negative commercials about his opponent. The editorial reflects the general tone editorialists and bloggers have been taking about Hevesis use of a state employee to drive around his ailing wife.

But, as the case continues, voters realize they are likely to face a choice between him and his opponent on Election Day (unless criminal proceedings intervene), and it is provoking some differing points of view, that seem to fall into two basic categories:
1.What he did doesnt seem so bad, or at least not so different from other officials.
2.The alternative might be a nightmare.

Among the dozens of comments on the comments page of a blog post at The Daily Politics is this anonymous one: This blog and most of the media pathetically try to suck all of the blood out of Alan Hevesi and will then have themselves to blame when Comptroller Callghan incompetently mismanages pension funds, screws up state audits, and lets his GOP henchmen block the new Governor’s agenda whenever possible… So give it a rest; let the election run its course. Hevesi should still win, resign and get replaced by a competent person.
(Among the many responses: Hevesi is the personification of everything that’s wrong with Albany Callaghan couldn’t be any worse. Think of it as a “creative destruction”; at least one guy won’t owe anyone a damn thing-not 1199, not the teachers, not the unions, not the lobbyists. Because for all the “Day One” bravado, you know it’s still going to be business as usual for the rest of Albany. Somebody should be an outsider.)

Last Friday, New York Times columnist Clyde Haberman (available only to subscribers) offered a compelling tidbit from the past, repeating the recollection of someone who saw the wife of long-time New York State Comptroller Arthur Levitt get picked up every day from her office at P.S. 268 by a chauffeur driving a big black car….Back then,” Haberman observed, “that sort of practice raised few, if any, eyebrows.

Today he follows up with another column detailing more recent questionable practices by other state officials, many of whom are having (or could have) a hand in addressing Comptroller Alan Hevesis ethical lapses. Among them:

Governor George Pataki His wife, Libby, wrote a childrens book, then leaned on Republican groups to buy it in bulk. An assistant, whose salary was paid by the states Republican Party, ran personal errands for her. Unlike Mr. Hevesis situation, no taxpayer funds were involved. But it was not exactly how Republican donors thought their money would be used.

State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno — Mr. Brunos son Kenneth was for a time a lobbyist. Just whom did the younger Bruno lobby last year with mirabile dictu conspicuous success? Why, aides to his father.

And the new attorney general — It could be Jeanine F. Pirro, she who signed false tax returns that sent her husband to jail, or Andrew M. Cuomo, he who was paid handsomely by a businessman once investigated by Mr. Cuomo when he was the federal housing secretary. Neither Ms. Pirro nor Mr. Cuomo has been charged with wrongdoing. Then again, neither has received a medal for high-mindedness.

By on October 31, 2006, 12:22 pm
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Governing,Public Finance | 8 Comments »

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How Many Calories In A Whopper With Cheese? Bloomberg Wants You To Know BEFORE You Eat It
October 31st, 2006

Fat is on the minds of most editorial writers today, largely because of the hearing before the Board of Health yesterday about the proposed ban on trans fat.
The New York Times (which previously approved the trans fat ban, though with a dissent from Times columnist John Tierney) now
approves of the New York City Health Departments proposal to have the calories listed alongside prices, and in the same type size…The change would affect about 10 percent of the citys restaurants, but could have a disproportionately positive impact in poorer neighborhoods, where fast food and diseases associated with obesity abound. These consumers should know that a Whopper with cheese has 760 calories, and that a Dunkin Donuts glazed doughnut has about half the calories of a powdered cake version 180 versus 330.

Time and fat were on the minds of the Daily News, which objected to the members of the Board of Health skipping out of the hearing after just three hours. (Yes, all their words will become part of the official record, but it defies belief that anyone will read it all.) and seemed to agree with the concerns of the New York Restaurant Association, the National Restaurant Association and the National Council of Chain Restaurants, who argue it would be impossible to abide by a total ban starting in a mere nine months.

Fat and chicken were on the minds of the the New York Sun, which devotes most of its editorial to the bucket of trans fat-free Kentucky Fried Chicken delivered to their offices, eventually getting around to arguing that there is no point to the proposed ban on trans fat: The fetishization of trans fat has only distorted the public’s perception of what exactly makes unhealthful food unhealthful. Healthy eating is about balance and moderation, not fixating on individual ingredients.We recognize that many health problems, especially obesity, are related to diet. We’re not against ‘public health.’ But a ban on trans fat will do little to address that and comes with its costs. A ban threatens the kind of small, local, often ethnic restaurants that are as important to New York’s culinary culture as the hautest of haute cuisine

By on October 31, 2006, 9:38 am
In category: Gotham City,Health | 7 Comments »

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Hevesi Strikes Back
October 29th, 2006

Transcript of Hevesis commercials against his opponent for New York State Comptroller, Chris Callaghan (via Newsday):

Who’s Chris Callaghan?
Callaghan was cited for a “lack of proper accounting records” and “significant weakness” in management.
Callaghan couldn’t run an office of 12 people, he can’t run New York’s hundred billion dollar pension fund.
Callaghan. Wrong for Comptroller.

Who’s Chris Callaghan?
Callaghan’s the politician who wants to raise your taxes 7 billion dollars per year for the next 20 years.
Callaghan says, its “fiscal responsibility” to raise your taxes by billions.
Callaghan. Wrong on taxes. Wrong for Comptroller.

Who’s Chris Callaghan?
Callaghan wants to privatize the state’s pension fundjust like George Bush wants to privatize Social Securityand Callaghan wants to raise your taxes by billions.
Callaghan. Wrong for seniors. Wrong on taxes. Wrong for Comptroller.

By on October 29, 2006, 8:27 pm
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Public Finance | Comments Off on Hevesi Strikes Back

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Street Vendor Hike In Fines, Pro and Con
October 29th, 2006

The Daily News offers two essays reaction to the Bloomberg administrations hike in fines for street vendors in New York City, which number about 12,000. Sean Basinski, director of the Urban Justice Center’s Street Vendor Project (which conducted a recent survey), writes that the hike in fines are unfair. Vendors are hard-working immigrants (mostly) who pay taxes and are seeking to follow the path of previous pushcart peddlers who built great retail empires, such as D’Agostino and Cohen Fashion Optical. I was surprised to learn that vendors get an average of 6.7 tickets every year. With numbers like that, vendors are likely the most highly regulated small businesses in the city.

John Catsimatidis, head of the Red Apple Group (which includes, but is not limited to, some 50 Gristides and Sloans supermarkets), sees it differently. With lower prices made possible by the absence of basic overhead costs, he writes, street vendors take millions of dollars away from tax-paying New York businesses. The hue and cry over the recent city “crackdown” on peddlers is a hysterical overreaction; the city’s efforts are simply part of a long overdue push to make all businesses play by the same rules. They also clog and litter the streets.

By on October 29, 2006, 12:20 pm
In category: Community Development,Gotham City,Public Finance,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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Bereft Of Banks
October 28th, 2006

An editorial in El Diario
decries the lack of banks in Latino and immigrant neighborhoods in New York City the entire neighborhood of Bushwick has only two bank branches and explains why banks are preferable to the check cashers, pawn shops, and money transmitters [that] fill the vacuum. These businesses frequently attach high fees and interest rates for limited services that dont allow immigrants to build needed credit history.

By on October 28, 2006, 10:04 am
In category: Gotham City,Public Finance | Comments Off on Bereft Of Banks

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Ban Metal Bats
October 28th, 2006

An editorial in the Staten Island Advance supports Councilmember James Oddos effort to ban metal bats in New York City public high schools. Studies presented at a recent City Council hearing, along with testimony by parents whose children were hurt or killed during a game, indicated that aluminum bats make the ball go faster than wooden bats. Faster equals more dangerous, the Advance says. Why increase the danger?
The answer is the monetary advantage — some $200 million for the metal bat industry and countless dollars saved by leagues and teams not having to replace chipped and split wooden bats. That they think a few extra gravely injured kids is a small price to pay for that advantage is an absolute outrage.

By on October 28, 2006, 9:22 am
In category: Education,Gotham City,Health | 4 Comments »

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Back To Hevesi: Republican Commercials
October 27th, 2006

From the New York State Republican Committee, via the Albany Times-Union blog Capitol Confidential

Using Hevesi Against Spitzer (stupendously protecting his cronies at our expense)

By on October 27, 2006, 11:42 am
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics | Comments Off on Back To Hevesi: Republican Commercials

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Something Not About Hevesi: First Amendment Versus Fires And Floods, Envy And Wrath
October 27th, 2006

One of the two gleeful editorials in the New York Post today does not mention the name Alan Hevesi. (although the other one is all about him). Entitled Freebies, Floods, & Fires, it expresses deep concern over massive flooding and fire in the tracks in the subway purportedly caused by.the Posts competitors, AM New York and Metro:
The papers, designed to be read quickly and then thrown away, blow on the tracks and clog up drains – which is what happened in the flood. An earlier MTA report found that added trash from the giveaways played a significant role in increased subway fires.

The Post is outraged: Let’s be perfectly honest: The Post is not a disinterested party in this affair. The free papers, after all, compete for readers and advertisers with the one you’re reading right now.
But the problem is that the publishers of the freebies don’t obey the rules, and the NYPD refuses to enforce them – out of wholly unwarranted First Amendment concerns.

The blog Gawker seconds the Post (though perhaps theyre being snarky ): We agree that, if nothing else, careless distribution of the papers adds to the litter and find the First Amendment rationale to be specious.

Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign has a different take:
“The reality is that we have a record number of riders, the highest since the 1960s, and there is going to be more litter. So, the solution to me is not to blame the free newspapers, it’s to provide more cleaners for the subway.”

By on October 27, 2006, 11:13 am
In category: Civil Rights,Gotham City,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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Lukewarm Comptroller Endorsements: Daily News For Hevesi, Times For Hevesi's Opponent
October 27th, 2006

The New York Times endorses Christopher Callaghan for New York State Comptroller, though calling him an extremely unimpressive candidate and declaring that the incumbent, Alan Hevesi, has done a good job running the comptrollers office over the past four years. But Hevesi was the subject of a damning report by the State Ethics Commission about his use of government drivers to chauffeur his wife. Are the ethical issues enough to tip the scale? In this case, yes.

The Times rejects the scenario of having Hevesi resign so that the state legislature can pick his successor. That strategy smacks very much of the Albany political culture, in which almost anything can be papered over by a few powerful officials sitting down privately to make a deal.

If the Times endorses Callaghan with trepidation,
The Daily News endorses Hevesi at this time because his deeply troubling ethical lapse is akin to a misdemeanor rather than a felony, and his opponent Callaghan is absolutely unprepared to take custody of the retirement accounts of almost 1 million public workers. He seems like a nice, decent man. The Wall Street sharks would surely have him for breakfast and toss the bones.

Other Hevesi-related editorials:

Its Time, Alan (NY Post) meaning time to resign.

No Aberration (NY Sun) meaning Hevesis defense is not true.

First line in Newsday editorial: Alan Hevesi should take the hint – the increasing number of hints, even from his friends – and resign.

By on October 27, 2006, 7:37 am
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Governing,Public Finance | Comments Off on Lukewarm Comptroller Endorsements: Daily News For Hevesi, Times For Hevesi's Opponent

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It Was The Best Of Buses, It Was The Worst Of Buses. It Was The Age Of Idiots
October 26th, 2006

East Village Idiot points out that the M14A bus (known to civilians as the 14th Street crosstown bus) was voted best bus in New York in the Village Voices Best of New York issue six days before it was voted the slowest bus in New York by NYPIRGs Straphangers Campaign

By on October 26, 2006, 7:56 pm
In category: Gotham City,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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Man of $teal
October 26th, 2006

Illustration: NYS Comptroller: Man of $teal From Urban Elephants

By on October 26, 2006, 4:23 pm
In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Man of $teal

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Let Them Ride The Subway, And Other Hevesi Hypocrisies
October 26th, 2006

Daily News columnist Michael Daly has unearthed an audit from the Office of New York State Comptroller that found too many ailing Medicaid patients using ambulettes when they did not need this specialized type of service and could have been transported by less costly means such as livery or public transportation, according to the audit.

In other words, let them ride the subway, Daly writes. But, how can you tell an elderly and destitute woman in Brooklyn to hobble down to the A train when you are having your wife chauffeured around at taxpayer expense?

Daly then cites other cases that offer a contrast between Hevesis personal conduct and the behavior demanded of others by his office: Hevesi has lost the moral authority to put his name on any more audits, such as one that faulted upstate sewer workers for not reporting the private use of state vehicles as taxable income. Hevesi’s effective performance in last night’s debate does nothing to change the facts. He has to resign and he has to do it immediately. The only thing Alan Hevesi should be doing on Election Day is volunteering to drive the poor and infirm to the polls so they can vote for somebody without taint.

By on October 26, 2006, 7:50 am
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Public Finance,Transportation | Comments Off on Let Them Ride The Subway, And Other Hevesi Hypocrisies

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How Do You Spell Chutzpah? In New York, D'-A-M-A-T-O?
October 26th, 2006

In an essay in the New York Post today entitled Hevesis Mess And GOPs Duty, former Senator Alfonse DAmato calls New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesis actions when he had his wife chauffeured by a government employee stunning in their disregard of ethics and the law. DAmato thinks Hevesi should resign and Republicans should rally around his opponent, Chris Callaghan, to get his message of personal integrity and professional competence before the voters.

Left unmentioned was DAmatos own history of what critics would call a stunning disregard of ethics. The Senate Ethics Committee, for example, reprimanded him while he was in the U.S. Senate for allowing his brother, Armand, to use his Senate office on behalf of a law client seeking a government contract, writing that Senator DAmato ”conducted the business of his office in an improper and inappropriate manner.”

By on October 26, 2006, 7:25 am
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Governing | 3 Comments »

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October 25th, 2006

Its happened again. Another state legislator has been indicted on charges of political corruption. Of course, the legislator is presumed innocent until proven guilty and so Im not going to name him. But the charges against him are stunning. Here are some of the amazing ones:

that he not only illegally obtained $2.2 million from contractors, taxpayers and labor unions over the last decade with an almost rapacious glee, but also consistently treated his union brothers and sisters as serfs.

According to the indictment, he used their dues to pay for his country club membership and other personal expenses. It also charges that he had them pick up his garbage, collect his shoes at a shoe-shine shop, shovel his snow, hang his Christmas lights and catch rodents in his basement when there appeared to be a much larger one upstairs one who used stolen money to buy his wife a Mercedes-Benz worth $80,000, which is the combined salaries for four entry-level clerks in Civil Service.

In short, he has been charged with using his campaign contributions to enrich himself personally, charged with steering government contracts to cronies, charged with padding his legislative expenses with no-show jobs and with lying about his attendance in Albany and billed the state for travel that never occurred.

These charges are, of course, represent disgraceful behavior, yet every one of these allegations has shown up in other instances of Albany corruption. Despite previous convictions of lawmakers for political crimes and that led in some cases to prison sentences, New Yorks ethics law has remained weak and unenforced. The governor and the legislature have not acted in the past and so no reforms were passed.

The latest scandal should not only be an indictment of unethical behavior by one elected official, it should be an indictment of Albanys political culture. A culture that is far more interested in maintaining a clearly ethically challenged status quo than working for change.

Instead of overhauling the states ethics law after previous scandals, lawmakers chose to do nothing. Instead of strictly limiting the use of campaign contributions, they did nothing. Instead of boosting oversight of legislative expenses, they did nothing. Instead of establishing an aggressive ethics watchdog, lawmakers kept the current, weak system in place.

Despite a series of scandals in both the legislative and executive branches, lawmakers chose to leave an honor system in place. This latest scandal must force change.

The reforms must include:

  • Creation of an independent ethics commission, one with the authority to monitor, investigate and punish political crimes. Amazingly, New York has a model for such an agency, the state Lobbying Commission. Its hard to believe that lawmakers would be so unconcerned with ethics violations if David Grandeau of the Lobbying Commission were enforcing that law. Lobbyists quake in their boots when the Lobbying Commission comes calling, lawmakers should worry about their ethical transgressions in the same manner.

  • Strict limits on the use of campaign contributions. No legislator should even think that its OK to use campaign contributions for home remodeling, country club memberships, or trips abroad.

  • Strict standards of ethical behavior. For example, lawmakers should Combined with a tough enforcement office, clear guidelines for whats ethical ok and whats not, lawmakers would know that they are in Albany to do the peoples business, not enrich themselves.

The days of insider political trading, shady ethics and personal corruption must end once and for all. And the only way to ensure that the Albany has cleaned up its act is when clear and enforceable ethics standards are put in place. It looks like itll be up to the new governor and the legislature to make it happen.

Lets hope that this latest scandal marks the end of the bad old days in Albany.

By on October 25, 2006, 9:05 am
In category: Eye on Albany | Comments Off on WHEN WILL THEY RESPOND?

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Post Picks Callaghan, Cuomo
October 25th, 2006

Taking the position with “a bit of sadness,” the Post today endorses the Republican candidate for state comptroller, former Saratoga Country treasurer Christopher Callaghan. The paper makes it clear that the choice arises from Hevesis having used a state employee to chauffeur his wife, commenting, “Hevesi’s been around local politics for ages – 35 years – and has for the most part served well. But his demise is of his own making.” While the step to state comptroller is a big jump for Callaghan, the Post thinks he “should be able to rise to the challenge: “He’s been managing public money for 35 years (as long as Hevesi’s been in politics); he knows the ropes.”

Allegations of impropriety also guided the Posts other endorsement today: Democrat Andrew Cuomo for attorney general. The paper may not be thrilled with Cuomo; it says, “There aren’t many substantive political issues on which we agree with him.” But, while both candidates have flaws, those afflicting Republican candidate Jeanine Pirro are worse, in the Post’s view. “It’s hard to keep track of all the investigations she may or may not be involved in – not as a prosecutor, but as a subject or witness,” the editorial says.

By on October 25, 2006, 7:51 am
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Gotham City | 4 Comments »

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Somethings Ugly In The Senate Race (And It Isnt Hillary Clintons Face)
October 24th, 2006

Far less opinion has been offered about the two debates between Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and her GOP challenger, former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer, than about remarks Spencer made about Clintons looks to Daily News political reporter Ben Smith on the airplane up to the second debate. Spencer said, according to Smith, that the former first lady had been ugly, but had spent millions of dollars on plastic surgery. “You see a big picture of her back then?” he was quoted as saying. “Whew.”

Spencer initially denied saying this, Clinton more or less laughed it off (and her spokesman denied she had any cosmetic surgery), but Marie Wilson did not find it funny.

Writing in the Daily News, Wilson, the president of the White House Project, which tries to put women in leadership positions, pointed out this isn’t the first time that a woman campaigning for office has been maligned based solely on superficialities, and cited the experience of Elizabeth Dole when she ran for president in 2000. When an opponent or a reporter focuses on trivialities, like a woman’s hair, hemline or husband, he undermines a woman’s authority.

Phil Reisman of the Journal News, who covered Spencer when he was mayor of Yonkers, said if Spencer really uttered the reported comments, he was being ungallant and mean. On the other hand, he got some publicity out of it something he could certainly use and he was being himself: He is not a practiced, sound-bitten political cyborg whose profile was molded in the plastic works of the D.C. beltway. Clinton gives off the aura of a pre-programmed cyborg. Spencer is the opposite. He’s a Yonkers guy – unpolished, combative and self-taught. If Yonkers had an official dog, it wouldn’t be a poodle. It would be a pit bull. Spencer can be refreshing, charming and funny. And he can be pit-bull nasty.

The American Thinker, a Web site that describes itself as devoted to the thoughtful exploration of issues of importance to Americans, insinuates there may be some truth to Spencers comments, judging from Senator Clintons changing facial landscape over the years but they were better left unsaid; such mean-spirited comments on looks will do her no harm and him no good.

Fred LeBrun of the Albany Times Union saw the story as benefiting Clinton, because it took the attention off of substantive issues like the still-failing upstate economy: In 2006, the public and media buzz is whether she’s had a face-lift, and whether she’s going to run for president. From a U.S. senatorial re-election strategy, you couldn’t ask for a better scenario. It’s not exactly a free ride, but awfully close.

Update:The coverage has not ceased. Elaborating on this idea of a free ride, Media Matters for America quotes Tucker Carlson on MSNBC arguing that the Daily News story “almost seems like a plant” by the Clinton campaign, because “that’s how she wins in every case, when people think she’s wronged and that she is the benefit of a double standard in which she implicitly says to voters Treat me like a man while her opponents get flattened for not treating her like a lady (Remember Rick Lazio?)

By on October 24, 2006, 9:40 am
In category: Electoral Politics,Governing | 5 Comments »

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Hevesi Not A Hero
October 24th, 2006

There is a predictable reaction by editorial writers to the report by the New York State Ethics Commission alleging that New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi broke the law when he had state employees drive his wife. The headlines tell most of the story:

Hevesi Gets Quartered And Fried (Daily News).

The End Of Alan (NY Post)

Callaghan For Comptroller (NY Sun)

NY: Should Hevesi Resign? (Daily Kos, national political blog. Among the dozens of comments on this post are those entitled: I won’t vote for himHe will resignA sad caseHevesi always seemed like a good guyAre there any formal censure provisions?…I hope this doesnt hurt Spitzer)

The New York Post also provides an essay on the
duties and function of the Office of Comptroller.

By on October 24, 2006, 8:43 am
In category: Albany,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Governing,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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The Other Shoe Dropping on Hevesi?
October 23rd, 2006

The controversy surrounding Alan Hevesi is heating up after a State Ethics Commission found that the State Comptroller’s transgressions were worse than originally thought. (link in pdf format).

And everyone’s talking about it.

Republicans are lamenting their party’s failure to take advantage of the situation, Democrats are castigating their leadership for not dealing more aggressively with Hevesi, and calls for his resignation abound.

And the predictions, of course: Thompson will take over, Pataki will get to pick a replacement, Spitzer will get to pick a replacement, Silver will pick a replacement and Spitzer will change the replacement …

By on October 23, 2006, 5:01 pm
In category: Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Gotham City | Comments Off on The Other Shoe Dropping on Hevesi?

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Breaking The Clubhouse-Courthouse Connection
October 22nd, 2006

An editorial in the New York Times is glad that the federal courts have ruled unconstitutional the 80-year-old system that has allowed Democratic Party leaders in overwhelmingly Democratic New York City to pack the state Supreme Court with their handpicked favorites. What to replace it with? The permanent fix would be amending the state Constitution to provide for a new merit selection system.

By on October 22, 2006, 7:35 am
In category: Albany,Gotham City,Law | Comments Off on Breaking The Clubhouse-Courthouse Connection

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Hevesi On A Milk Carton
October 21st, 2006

A new campaign by the New York Post: “It’s now been 15 days since state Comptroller Alan Hevesi admitted using New Yorkers’ tax dollars to pay for three and a half years’ of chauffeur service for his wife. Since news of the scandal broke, Hevesi has fallen out of contact, failing to take phone calls or respond to the many invitations to debate his opponent, Chris Callaghan. Fearing for his health and safety, The Post is asking readers for their help in tracking down New York’s MIA comptroller. “

By on October 21, 2006, 12:20 pm
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics | 3 Comments »

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