Friday, October 31, 2008
The name says it all. It's a classic.
And for those of you wondering, "Is there actually an Episode I in this magnicient franchise?" I present to you the following for your viewing pleasure.
This part is more cerebral, but still great.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
As a preview of tonight's State Senate debate at St. Francis College between Democratic nominee Dan Squadron and his Republican challenger John Chromczak, The Optimist presents the following interview. While some may perceive the fact that I have only interviewed one of the candidates as bias on my part, to be accurate, this interview stemmed from an earlier blog posting in which I had stated that it was a foregone conclusion that Squadron would win this race after besting longtime Democratic incumbent Marty Connor in the primary.
It was then that I received an email from Chromczak's spokesman, reminding me that Squadron had a Republican opponent and that it would be both unfair and undemocratic to simply count him out of the race. I agreed with this reasoning. Despite the overwhelming statistical odds of a Republican winning in Brownstone Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, particularly in a year that is shaping up to be so profoundly anti-Republican, it is always in the best interest of the people for us to understand all our options in the voting booth, so we can make the most educated decision possible.
Hence, the following interview. For my part, I am happy to have conducted it. Chromczak, an unconventional candidate in many ways, gave frank answers to all of my tough questions, which ranged from the recent extension of term limits to how Chromczak can reconcile being openly gay with being a Republican. Give Chromczak's answers a read. I think you might be surprised with what he has to say.
The Optimist: One of your most prominent campaign promises entails fighting for term limits in
John Chromczak: Appalled isn’t the word, it’s more like disgusted. I personally believe that nothing is more sacred in a secular society than the right of a person, in the privacy of a voting booth, to have their voices heard and their vote count. The mayor and the City Council have disrespected the people of
The Optimist: Why do you think of your opponent Daniel Squadron and why do you believe you'll be a better State Senator than him?
Chromczak: I have meet Dan a few times and also debated him once. [Chromczak and Squadron will meet for another debate at
I would be a better State Senator because I will bring real world experience, as opposed to bureaucratic experience, to
The Optimist: You only moved to
Chromczak: Like millions of others, I moved to NYC to create a better life for myself and to explore all the possibilities that the city could provide. I live in one of the fastest growing residential communities in the
The Optimist: The majority of the issues and videos on your website focus either on citywide concerns or the
Chromczak: Since I’m running for state office I have tried to emphasize those areas that a State Senator could have influence over. Some of the issues that would specifically affect
1) Removing the cap on the number of charter schools. The fact is charter schools have show to be highly effective, especially in minority communities.
2) Fighting for stronger legislation that imposes stronger prison terms on sex offenders. According to a study performed by Rep. Weiner’s office last year, there are nearly 2200 registered L2 and L3 sex offenders in NYC, over 700 of those live within
3) Congestion Pricing. I have no doubt that this issue will come up again in the future. I don’t support it because I haven’t seen one published economic impact study for the residents that would be affected by such a fee. It also isn’t going to decreases the amount of traffic on the BQE, which, according to some studies, is a cause of high asthma rates in certain areas of
4) I would pressure City Hall to stop the opening of the Brooklyn HOD. This is a perfect example of government not keeping up with the changing demographics of local communities. The area surround the HOD has become increasingly more residential with more retail businesses opening up. I believe reopening the prison is going to detrimental to the growing Brooklyn Heights/Cobble Hill community.
The Optimist: Ground Zero is within your Senate district and you say in one of your YouTube videos that you will make sure that
Chromczak: The mayor, the governor (Pataki and Spitzer), Speaker Silver, State Senator Connor. All of these elected officials had numerous opportunities to ensure that the construction and development of the WTC site (and the Fulton Street Subway Station) was done within specific budget outlines and within a certain time frame. Instead, all we had was talk, talk, talk. The right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing. Everyone wanted to go to ribbon cuttings, but nobody wanted to take any responsibility for what was happening at the site. The LMDC has been a complete and total waste of taxpayers’ money with nearly no oversight by the elected officials, who represent the community. The bottom line is the development of the WTC has been mismanaged by both the city and state governments. I’ve supported Gov. Paterson in his leadership to move the project along and I’m looking forward to learning more about PA Director Ward’s reports on defining the problems and subsequent solutions to the WTC development.
The Optimist: Statistically, registered Democrats in
Chromczak: I’m a Republican because I believe in certain ideals and values that the Republican Party has always supported: fiscal responsibility, strong public safety policies, supporting small businesses, and individual freedoms. There are roughly 200,000 registered voters in the 25th SD, yet only 30 to 40% have come out to vote in any given election for State Senator. That means the majority of voters really don’t identify with the candidates on the ballot, so they don’t come out to vote. Also, I think the Democratic Party has disenfranchised some of their own voters in the district, so there is an opportunity to get some crossover support for a Republican candidate.
There are also an increasingly large number of registered blank (independents) who may not necessarily support a Democratic agenda, yet have no choice in who they would vote for. There hasn’t been a serious Republican candidate in the 25th Senate District in over 30 years. I’ve changed that. I’ve given people a choice. I’ve put forward issues that are important to me and to many people across
The Optimist: In recent years, the
Chromczak: Fred U. Dicker wrote in a column in the New York Post a while back that the Republicans have become “doppelgangers” of the Democratic Party. In many respects, that is true. Voters across the state don’t see a difference between one or the other, so their votes are based on personality over policy differences. I’m working to change that.
The governorship has always flipped back and forth between Republican and Democrat so chances are there will be another Republican governor at some point. As for the Senate, I think in many areas the party has lost touch not only with our base, but also with the voters. Until we come back to our roots and show the people of NY that there are significant differences between our two parties Republicans are going to continue to lose elections across the state.
The Optimist: As a Republican, did you feel betrayed by Mayor Bloomberg's decision to leave your party?
Chromczak: Mike wasn’t a Republican until he decided to run for mayor. After he won a second election he had no use for the Republican brand, so he dumped it. I don’t feel betrayed, but I am disappointed. But, what can I say, money has a lot of influence in politics.
The Optimist: Although groups like the Log Cabin Republicans exist, the national platform of your party has been consistently intolerant of homosexuality. How do you reconcile being gay and being a Republican?
Chromczak: There isn’t anything to reconcile. I’m a Republican, because of my views on the function and purpose of government, on taxes, on public safety, on the role of the courts, etc. Like any family, we, Republicans, have some family disputes or disagreements. But I’m not going to abandon my party over one or two specific issues. I’m going to work from within to change those attitudes in my own party.
Who supports continuing the cycle of shame and staying “in the closet” by supporting the federal policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”? The Democrats. Is that inclusive? Who voted for and signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act? Senator Schumer and President Clinton. I don’t know of one legislative body controlled by Democrats (
At least I’m not afraid to fight for my own community on this issue. I’m not saying one thing and doing another.
The Optimist: Like many Republicans, you call yourself a fiscal conservative, yet under the stewardship of the Bush Administration;
Chromczak: The President and Congress are both equally responsible for the current economic crisis that we’re experiencing. Congress got lax on their oversight of Fannie and Freddie and the President let government spending on pork barrel projects get completely out of control.
As for Republicans living up to their mantra of fiscal conservatism and responsibility? They’ve let much to be desired and it’s shown in losses at the voting booth.
Monday, October 27, 2008
It means we might finally get a Public Advocate, who, well, advocates for the public. The Public Advocate position, created originally to give Mark Green something to do, theoretically is supposed to be a check to the Mayor's power. The Advocate is the City's watchdog, the person who makes a ruckus for the people when they are being railroaded by their elected officials.
Where was Betsy last week when our City's government was stolen away from the people? Sitting docilely in the presiding officer's chair of Council chambers, urging our Council Members to be polite as they subverted the system.
Of course, for anyone following Gotbaum's horrendous seven year tenure, this was no surprise. Our City's ferocious "watchdog" curled up on the Mayor's lap on day one of the Bloomberg Administration and hasn't moved since. Can anyone come up with a single instance where Gotbaum even so much as whimpered token opposition to the Mayor? Even her own website can't come up with anything to boast except vague platitudes.
We need a real Public Advocate now more than ever. As impotent as the position has been to date, one of the only chances our City has to protect itself from its incumbents at this point might be the Public Advocate.
Fortunately, we already seem to have two promising candidates, who would make something of the job if elected. The first is Norman Siegel, a lawyer who has made his career crusading of behalf of the downtrodden and disenfranchised.
The second is Queens Councilman Eric Gioia. Gioia is a young, fiercely ambitious politician, who understands how to command the media's attention. He was on the right side of the term limits battle and has generally shown himself to be a populist. He might not have the track record of taking on "The Man" that Siegel can rightfully claim, but I could see him zealously amassing political points while beating down injustice in the way Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo have wielded the State Attorney General job.
Whoever the people's ultimate choice may be, New York can't afford another Betsy Gotbaum. We need a fighter, not a lover.
Friday, October 24, 2008
After sitting through the Brooklyn Democratic County Committee meeting last month, I felt certain that farce would be the most ridiculous political theater of the year. But, leave it to the New York City Council to come storming back a mere month later with a production so well-orchestrated and rehearsed that it deserved Broadway's most ostentatious marquee.
At least, the Brooklyn Democratic County Committee meeting had no pretension. All of our electeds, except Charles Barron, dutifully read through the script in a homogenous monotone that laid plain the emptiness of our faux democracy. To his credit, the evening's chair Marty Connor practically admitted that our attendance was all just for show.
Contrast Connor's candor with Betsy Gotbaum, our absentee Public Advocate (talk about a term that has become Orwellian!), who only shows up when it's time to the Mayor's bidding. Rather than raging on behalf of the people, as is her job, Gotbaum dutifully presided over yesterday's sham votes, piping up only to cut our Council Members' hollow rhetoric short with the gentle admonition: "Please, Council Member, everyone else has been so good at following the rules."
Gotbaum wasted her shallow breath in chastising her kin. Practically eveyone in the chamber was playing by the rules so obediently that they all deserved a gold star for good behavior. This was an event so thoroughly scripted that I read in the Queens Crap blog in advance of the vote precisely how Anthony Como and Jessica Lappin had horse-traded their "no" votes on the amendment calling for public referendum, so they could vote a safe "no" on extending term limits legislatively.
And with whom did they collude? David Yassky, Alan Gerson, and Gail Brewer, of course. In exchange for voting down Yassky's face-saving, bogus amendment, which allowed Yassky, Gerson, and Brewer to pretend they were populists, Como gets to boast about a "no" vote to his constituents when they go to the poll in two weeks, and Lappin got to feign reformer for Upper Eastsiders, while remaining safely in the Mayor's lap.
Don't believe me? Just rewind to yesterday's press conference before the vote and see Christine Quinn hardly suppressing her glee, announcing her certainty that the amendment would fail and the term limits extension would pass. How did she know? It was all a foregone conclusion. And not just in the past couple of days. I wrote on September 25th that City Hall insiders were already sure the term limits extension was a fait accompli.
Is this to what our government has been reduced? Silly shows for the media to deceive the public? And for what? So our incompetant elected officials can further infect our City with their incompetance?
Queens Councilman Tony Avella, who has impressively distinguished himself as one of the last true warriors for the public good in this City, precisely encapsulated yesterday's travesty in the remarks he gave explaining his "no" vote:
"The people of New York know the fix was in from the beginning and I apologize to my colleagues, but you should all be voted out of office for supporting this."
From Tony's lips to the voter's ears.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
The ad, featuring real New Yorkers, asks the question: “What if George W. Bush wanted a third term?”
On the website it launched today, www.changenyc.org, the nascent organization promises that it will be “growing quickly and showing you plenty of ways you can keep the energy of change thriving throughout the five boroughs and beyond.”
Monday, October 20, 2008
Here's the 411:
WHAT: Elected Members of the Kings County Democratic County Committee and their constituents will be joined by Brooklyn Councilwoman Letitia James to voice their outrage over the Mayor and City Council's proposed legislative change to New York City's term limits law.
WHERE: The steps of City Hall in Manhattan
DATE: Tuesday, October 21st, 2008
TIME: 1 p.m.
Hope to see you there! Come up and introduce yourself, fearless readers.
While this may be true in theory, it doesn't hold water in practice. Incumbents have an arsenal of advantages that unbalance the playing field. Among them are:
1) The ability to send out taxpayer-funded campaign literature under the guise that it is consituent outreach (notice how you never hear from them except in an election year?).
2) Having had years of disbursing "discretionary" funds to buy the praise and allegiance of area nonprofits, community organizations, etc.
3) The unspoken code of elected officials and party leaders not to endorse against one another, so that everyone can keep their jobs and enjoy the status quo.
4) The ignorance of the electorate and the power of name recognition. Since most people pay no attention to local elections, they go into the voting booth and pull the lever for whatever name is most familiar to them. Why do you think our Council Members put their names on our trash cans? (Incidentally, this type of self-serving public advertising should be banned.)
Still don't think incumbents have an unfair advantage? In 2005, 28 of the 34 Council Members up for reelection didn't face a primary opponent, which in a whoppingly Democratic city means they were effectively unchallenged. Of the six who did, four of the incumbents received more than 80% of the vote!
The only incumbent who was defeated was Southeast Queens Councilman Allan Jennings. I had the interesting experience of getting to know Jennings well when I was managing editor of The Queens Courier. I'd have enough material to fill a book if I chronicled all of the insanely bizarre (if not criminal) incidents that characterized Jennings' time in office. And that would be before I even started to interview the legions of Council Members, reporters, and constituents who quickly came to loathe, fear, or ridicule Jennings over his four years in the Council.
Even in Jennings' case, it was no mere challenger who succeeded in getting rid of him. It took Thomas White Jr., the former Councilman who was term-limited out of office in 2001 (clearing the way for Jennings), to come back to reclaim his seat.
By the way, Jennings was not just a local embarrassment. His craziness earned him the spotlight of the national media. Below is Jennings on The Daily Show. Jon Stewart calls this hilarious clip "maybe my favorite thing...ever."
Friday, October 17, 2008
For the audience at St. Francis College to whom Louis would recount this story a few minutes later, his advice couldn't have made more sense. This wasn't a group of corporate raiders, moguls, and CEOs, recovering from the bankrupt maxim "greed is good". No, this crowd well understood the value of money and a hard day's work: that both are valueless if not wisely invested in the infrastructure of our souls.
Louis had come as the keynote speaker for The HOPE Program's biannual graduation ceremony, which honors the admirable achievements of HOPE's students, teachers, and volunteers. HOPE is one of the City's finest nonprofits, an organization that gives New Yorkers afflicted by life's most devastating challenges the opportunity to regain their sense of self through the empowerment of gainful employment. The students at HOPE are adults of all ages, many of whom have triumphed over homelessness, drug addiction, and tragedy, thanks to the love of HOPE and the unique appreciation for life that comes from having known a life of hopelessness.
National Book Award winner Ron Chernow, another of the evening's speakers, recalled once asking one of the program's students where he would be if it weren't for HOPE. The man responded: "I'd be dead".
This is the magic of HOPE.
It is not just a program that offers exemplary counseling, professional resources, and job training. It promises its students that no matter how solitary and nasty life may seem, as long as they stick with HOPE they will never again be alone.
The program's luminous Executive Director Barbara Edwards Delsman affirmed this promise when it came time to give each of the students awards recognizing their accomplishements. Rather than first acknowledging those who had found jobs through the program, she praised those who had not yet done so. "Your tenacity inspires us," said Delsman with inspiring sincerity.
One of the students still looking for work is Marisol Carambot. Carambot has almost finished an internship at the Legal Aid Society and resonates the confidence of a woman who knows it is only a matter of time until she succeeds in every way she is determined to do so.
Only three years ago, however, Carambot was living under the Madison Avenue Bridge in Manhattan and dealing drugs on 125th Street to support her own habit. A widowed mother of two beautiful young girls, Carambot hit rock bottom when Social Services took away her children. It was then that Carambot vowed to turn around her life and get back her daughters. Fortunately, she found HOPE.
Carambot was composed and compelling while recounting her past, but it was in recognizing the boundless future ahead of her that she turned emotional. With one of her daughter's looking on from the front row of the auditorium, Carambot spoke through her tears. "Our lives have turned around at HOPE, because HOPE changes lives."
Program graduate Victor Serrano echoed Carambot's sentiments in reflecting upon his own transformation. Currently employed as a machinist who makes signs, Serrano remembered that it was an exchange he had in prison with a man sentenced to life that set him on the path to HOPE. "You know what I miss?" the prisoner confessed to Serrano. "Fridays."
Thanks to HOPE, Serrano now savors Fridays. They mean the end of another week spent doing exactly what he wants to do: work.
Serrano smiles. "I'm even looking foward to paying taxes."
In the end, it was all just a bunch of sound and fury signifying nothing.
As I began to approach my third hour sitting in the audience of yesterday's public hearing at City Hall on the extension of term limits, I decided to give up and go home. I had signed up to testify around 5 p.m. and realized that it would be hours more until I would get my chance to do so, once the committee chair Simcha Felder announced at 8:15 that the slate of speakers called to the microphone had submitted their names just a little past 1.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Ladies and gentlemen:
My name is Morgan Pehme and I am a proud resident of Greenpoint,
What I have come today to say is this: Shame on you, Council Members!
Less than two years ago, this body voted itself a $22,000 pay raise. I want to know if you intend to roll back this raise when you vote yourselves four more years in office? Or, perhaps, you think you should be rewarded for your outrageous and ongoing slush fund scandal?
I almost have more respect for those of you who have publicly admitted that you intend to vote “yes” on the proposed extension, than for those of you who still pretend to be undecided. At least, those of you voting “yes” have the gumption to admit your contempt for we, the people.
As for those of you who are allegedly undecided, what arguments remain for you to hear? Your silence is deafening. What it says it that you lack the courage to lead and that you cower from your convictions.
Your silence has proven you don’t deserve another term in office.
We, New Yorkers, aren’t stupid, though you often treat us as if we were. We know that you are shamelessly calculating your self-interest at this moment, trying to balance whether the backroom deal you have been offered outweighs the political fallout of betraying your constituents.
At this point, it no longer matters how you decide.
We already know where you stand.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Before I lay out exactly why you should be against the City Council's move to extend term limits without your say, let me start by putting two common misconceptions to rest.
The movement against extending term limits is not about whether Mayor Bloomberg has done a good job in office. For the record, I think that he has. And if the City Council puts extending term limits on the ballot, as I believe they must, then you will have still have the opportunity to re-elect our Mayor if the measure passes.
So many New Yorkers are confused that this is an anti-Bloomberg initiative because that is how the Mayor has shrewdly framed the issue. Since the majority of New Yorkers feel pretty positively about him, miscasting the debate as “Bloomberg vs. No Bloomberg” twists the odds in favor of his agenda.
Second, this is not a debate about whether term limits are good. Personally, in an ideal world, I would be opposed to term limits, because the people should have the right to vote for whomever they want, for as long as they want. Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world. But I’ll get to that in a moment.
The real question about extending term limits is whether our City Council should be allowed to run roughshod over the will of the people, just so they can keep their jobs for another four years. When you understand that this is what's at stake, then there is no good reason to support or stay undecided on the Council's backroom deal to extend term limits.
Twice in the past 15 years, the people of
The last Council election in 2004 once again demonstrated the power of iron-clad incumbency. In the entire city, the only Council Member voted out of office was Allan Jennings of Queens, a guy whose private and public behavior was so bizarre (and allegedly criminal) it verged on insanity. Even then, it took a former Councilman unseated only because of the City's term limit laws - Thomas White Jr. - to beat him.
The current class of City Council Members has done little to convince the public that the Council has reformed its ways since Lauder's 1993 initiative. On the contrary, under Speaker Christine Quinn's leadership, the entire Council has come under investigation from the U.S. Attorney's Office for one of the worst scandals in recent City history. Uncovered earlier this year, the "slush fund scandal" exposed the Council's longstanding practice of funneling millions of dollars of taxpayer money into phantom organizations, so that the funds could later be doled out by the Speaker for political favors. Because the Council's previous bylaws allowed its Members to hide who made the specific requests to pour money into these dummy organizations, we don't know just how many Council Members should be directly implicated in these illegal transactions. Only the Federal investigation currently underway by U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia can tell us. But what we do know about is some of the public fall out, like the fact that two top aides to Brooklyn Councilman Kendall Stewart were indicted for their role in the scandal and that Speaker Quinn has hired a criminal attorney at taxpayer expense to defend herself. The entire Council as a body has also retained Quinn's lawyer.
The reason I bring up the Council is that it is often forgotten that the price for keeping around our popular mayor is another four years for the majority of our Council Members. Many of us like Bloomberg, but you would be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to go to bat for extending term limits just to keep our Council Members in office.
Anyone, that is, except for our Council Members.
Neither myself, nor almost anyone else in opposition to the Council's move to extend term limits is arguing that a third-term for our elected officials would necessarily be bad. What we are advocating for is that the people of
It is a fundamental conflict of interest for our Council Members to vote to rewrite our City's laws when they are the sole beneficiaries of that change. And, for those of you who question my characterization of our Council Member's motives, keep in mind that the Mayor has made it abundantly clear that he intends the third-term to be applicable only to the current crop of term-limited elected officials. That's the main reason why the few Council Members who aren't term-limited in 2009 are so incensed. They stand to gain nothing for playing ball with the Mayor and Speaker Quinn.
The Council is moving quickly to vote on extending term limits, so that more New Yorkers don't have a chance to understand what's really going on. They've reduced the entire public discourse on this event to a slim two-week window and arranged for only a single, solitary public hearing on the issue – and only in
In any case, if the Council were willing to put term limits on the ballot for us to decide, this whole debate would be over in an instant.
But the Mayor and Speaker Quinn know that their scheme doesn't stand a chance if the voters get their say. They argue that a ballot referendum would be undemocratic because so few voters participate in special elections that the outcome of a vote just on term limits wouldn't really be representative of public opinion.
This is simply not true.
The real reason is that they don't trust the voters to do their bidding. They know that if we vote their initiative will fail and then they'd be out of a job. Twice in the last 15, New Yorkers have voted in favor of term limits. Recent polls show there is no reason to suspect that the third time would be any different. In fact, what Bloomberg and Quinn secretly understand is that generally only the most passionate and informed voters tend to show up for special elections – precisely the voters they won't be able to dupe with their self-serving propaganda.
A lot of fear has been used to manipulate us. Above all, we've been threatened that only
But until we get the chance to vote, I ask you to put your personal feelings aside about Mayor Bloomberg. Were you among the legions of New Yorkers outraged when Mayor Giuliani announced after 9/11 he wanted to stick around for another term, because only he could keep us safe? Are you a New Yorker who would have rioted in the streets and stormed the White House if President Bush had insisted on a third term? When we change the rules to benefit a good man, we also benefit those with the worst of intentions.
Share with your friends the real reasons to oppose the Council's attempt to deny us our voice. And make sure to call your Council Members to let them know they work for you, not for themselves.
The total projected cost of Forest City Ratner's plans has exploded beyond its original estimates and now, with the economic crisis, Ratner is having a tough time borrowing money to finance his complex. The lucrative naming rights deal with Barclays Capital for the Nets' arena also appears in jeopardy.
Give up, Ratner. Brooklyn won. You lost. Go back to Cleveland.
Como's vote is as stiking an indication of where the majority of the public stands on this issue as any opinion poll released so far. Como is currently locked in a fierce primary for his seat against Democrat Elizabeth Crowley, who he edged out by only 38 votes in a special election in March of this year. Since he is again squaring off against Crowley this November, it is clear that Como thinks voting "no" on the extension is what he must do to satisfy his constituents and hold his seat.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Last Friday, this incredible story from blogger Gary Tilzer on the website Room Eight uncovered a staggering scandal that exposes shocking connections between our City's lobbyists, political consultants, and elected officials.
In his piece, which is written as an open letter to U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia, Tilzer calls on Garcia to launch a criminal investigation into the Council for letting lobbyists infiltrate City Hall and dictate the legislative agendas of the Council Members they got elected.
This piece blew the Optimist's mind and so thoroughly crushed the lingering remnants of respect he held for the City Council that it threatened to make the Optimist, well, not optimistic any more about City politics. But I will endure. I remain optimistic, because I know that there is always a possibility (albeit faint) that extending term limits will fail or that we will finally vote these clowns out of office (albeit even fainter).
THIS ARTICLE IS A MUST-READ. It is so important that I held off writing about it until this week, because I didn't want to just let it make a rumbling for a few days and then slip out of the news cycle into oblivion.
I encourage all of my readers to forward it to their friends, write to the mainstream media to pick it up on TV and in the major papers, and call U.S. Attorney Garcia to demand he investigates the thick web of corruption that covers City Hall.
This is no joke. If you aren't outraged, you haven't read this article.
Tomorrow at St. Francis College, HOPE will honor a number of the distinguished graduates of its program. Many of the graduates will be recognized for having successfully maintained employment for years now, and even gaining promotions to higher-paying positions.
Air America radio host and Daily News columnist Errol Louis will be the keynote speaker at the graduation. Louis, who has distinguished himself as a strong progressive voice for the City, wrote an excellent article in April lauding HOPE as "a splendid charity" and adding that "The [City] Council should spend less time swiping public dollars and more time wisely investing in Hope and programs like it that tackle the city's toughest problems - and succeed."
Louis will be joined by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow, who will present the Valerie Chernow Volunteer Award (named in memory of his wife) to an outstanding HOPE volunteer.
But don't just come to the graduation to see its famous guests. "The most exciting part of this ceremony is seeing how proud our graduates are of their accomplishments," enthuses Barbara Edwards Delsman, Executive Director of HOPE.
The event runs from 6 - 7:30 p.m. St. Francis College is located at 182 Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights. For more information, click here to go to HOPE's website.
And don't forget to make a donation to HOPE today. I'm going to!
Among the artists whose works will be on display is my fellow blogger and Brooklyn painter Michael Sorgatz (his work is pictured above). His studio is one of many at the collaborative Brooklyn Artist's Gym (BAG) at 168 7th St. between 2nd and 3rd Avenues.
If painting is not your thing, A.G.A.S.T. promises many other artists of all media who will be personally presenting their creations in their intimate work environments. The studios span the Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, and Boerum Hill neighborhoods. For a complete tour map and directions, click here.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Apparently at the Sikorski Meat Market on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint "hot kielbasa" was a code word for "cocaine". No reports yet on whether anyone mistakenly ordered nose candy from the Polish-Dominican drug ring (you don't read about that cartel every day!) hoping for spicy sausage, but twenty-six suspects are under arrest by the Feds.
How effective was Council Speaker Christine Quinn's announcement that she would be supporting Mayor Bloomberg on extending term limits? Well, after Quinn's announcement yesterday, Brooklyn Councilman Mathieu Eugene (D-Kensington, Prospect-Lefferts, Ditmas Park) decided AGAINST siding with the Speaker's self-serving agenda.
Looks like Quinn's efforts to marshal her troops isn't going as well as planned. Quinn needs 26 votes in the Council to steamroll over the will of the voters, but by her own count there are currently only 15 votes in favor, 17 opposed (make that 18, counting Eugene), and now 18 undecided.
Relying upon shameless cognitive dissonance, Quinn insisted that there has been no “horse-trading or arm-twisting” involved in the massive effort to lobby Council Members for their support. But the public statements of pressured Council Members, clergymen, union leaders, and a host of other influential New Yorkers refute Quinn's fictitious claims.
Though I could not reach Councilman Eugene for comment this morning, I have a sneaking suspicion that the calls that so many of you have been making to Brooklyn Council Members played a part in Eugene's decision.
Congratulations, Optimist readers! And thank you, Councilman Eugene!
Attention Council Members David Yassky, Simcha Felder, Sara Gonzalez, Michael Nelson, and Kendall Stewart, the eyes of Brooklyn are upon you. It's time for you to step up and stand with the people.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Anyone paying attention knew how City Council Speaker Christine Quinn stood on the Mayor's scheme to extend term limits long before Bloomberg formally announced his intentions. Today, Quinn used the political cover of a slow Sunday news cycle to make public her embarrassing position.
Surprise, surprise. She's for staying Speaker another four years.
Once upon a time, Quinn would have said "no" to extending term limits. Almost three years ago, she roared into the second most powerful job in the City with all the promise that being both New York City's first female and first LGBT Council Speaker carried with it. She was a darling of the City's progressives - a dynamic figure that would set the City free of the pro-establishment tilt that had long characterized the Council. The day she got into office the buzz that she would be New York's next Mayor began.
Then reality reared its ugly head. Quinn quickly became everything her supporters abhorred. She turned her back on progressives, good government advocates and the LGBT community. Instead, she decided to replace Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum as the Mayor's most obedient ally. As the Times reports, "Jokes about Ms. Quinn being a deputy mayor in the Bloomberg administration abound in the Council."
But that was just the beginning of Quinn's fall from grace. Up until several months ago, Quinn still had illusions (or delusions) of becoming New York City's first female Mayor. Then came the slush fund scandal. Under Quinn's leadership, the Council expanded its longtime illegal practice of "squirreling away millions of dollars in the name of made-up organizations". If you don't understand why that's so bad, check out this article.
Quinn tried to blame the scandal on two of her aides, but no one except the most gullible of reporters was buying. The steady stream of big money contributions Quinn was getting in preparation for a Mayoral run quickly started to dry up. Two of Brooklyn Councilman Kendall Stewart's top aides got indicted for their role in the bogus bonanza. Quinn, herself, hired a criminal defense attorney, using City funds to do so.
In short, Quinn's dreams of Gracie Mansion fell apart. She could never run for Mayor now that a major investigation and the word "scandal" hung heavily over her head. The end of her Council term in 2009 was shaping up to be the end of her political career.
Enter Mayor Bloomberg. The Mayor's proposal to save his own job was a godsend for Quinn. Four more years would mean that Quinn could have a chance at redemption - a chance for people to forget. If she could escape the slush fund scandal unscathed (I wonder if Mayor Mike might help her here?), four years from now she might once again be a viable candidate for mayor. Gosh darn it to heck, it worked good enough for John McCain to win his party's nomination for President twenty years after the Keating Five scandal almost sunk him.
Four years from now expect to hear Mayoral candidate Quinn argue that all is forgotten. Whether it will be is up to government investigators and, of course, you to decide.
Councilman Tony Avella Says "YES" to 35 Brooklyn County Committee Members Who Say "NO" to Extending Term Limits
Queens Councilman Tony Avella is on top of it! Only a few hours after receiving an open letter from 35 Brooklyn Democratic County Committee Members to the City Council opposing the extension of term limits without voter input, Avella wrote back, saying he agrees with us.
Avella, a declared candidate for New York City Mayor, who has pledged to stay in the race no matter how his colleagues decide to vote on term limits, quickly demonstrated a responsiveness to the constituents of Brooklyn that our own Council Members have yet to show.
Though he is perhaps the least known of the Democratic contendors for Mayor, Avella has repeatedly distinguished himself of late as the candidate who is perhaps the most deserving of our party's nomination. He has stood up to Speaker Quinn and the Mayor on many issues where rank-and-file Council Members demured from ruffling feathers, most notably the atrocious slush fund scandal. He has also been a leader on animal rights issues and is a favorite of the League of Humane Voters of New York City, an advocacy organization Mr. and Mrs. Brooklyn Optimist strongly support. He even has the best attendance record of any City Council Member.
But enough about Tony. Here's his letter:
Dear Brooklyn Democratic County Committee Members:
Thank you for your October 10th email indicating your support for term limits. Rest assured, I completely agree with you.
The people of New York City have indicated not once, but twice their firm support for two-four year terms for City officials. Their wishes could not have been clearer.
I believe it is a betrayal of the public trust if the Mayor and the City Council vote to overturn/extend term limits. By campaigning for public office, we made a covenant with the people that we accepted term limits – eight years and out. Any attempt to amend the term limits law breaks that covenant.
I have already publicly stated that even if they succeed, I will not serve a third term – I will not break the covenant with the voters.
Changing the law to allow anyone particular person to stay in office, not matter how popular that person maybe, is simply wrong. That is the day we take a step towards dictatorship.
I will vehemently oppose any attempt to overturn/extend the term limits law.
In order to stop this action, I just introduced in the City Council, Resolution #1640, which basically asks the State Legislature to step in and mandate that a public referendum be conducted to change the term limits law. Attached below is a more complete description/explanation of my bill.
Reso. 1640/2008 – Term Limits Mandatory Referendum Resolution
Council Member Avella’s resolution calls upon the State legislature to adopt legislation amending the State Municipal Home Rule Law (MHRL) to give the City the authority to provide in its Charter that any change in the City’s term limits law must be subject to voter referendum. Even if the City fails to take action to change the Charter, once the State acts their action governs what the City is required to do – in other words mandate a public referendum.
The State MHRL, Article 3 §23, and the New York City Charter, Chapter 2 §38, both set forth a list of actions that can only be accomplished by voter referendum. This resolution will ask the New York State Legislature to amend the MHRL to add to this list of actions that require mandatory voter referendum any action which amends, in any manner, term limits laws.
Council Member Avella’s Reso. 1640 is phrased to “give the City authority to provide in its Charter that any change in the City’s term limits law must be subject to referendum” but the practical effect of the State’s requested action would be to amend the MHRL which would affect term limits laws from all municipalities throughout the state.
A Resolution to the State is the only way in which the City can effectively change its own Charter provisions on this issue, since the state law preempts local law in this area. Therefore the State must act first before the city can amend its own Charter provision and any local law attempting to change the Charter on this issue would be ineffective before the State gives the City the authority to act.
As a matter of public policy the City Council should not be vested with the sole power to extend the length of its members terms by legislation alone and it is therefore necessary to amend these sections of the Charter in order to preserve a balance between the right of the Council to carry out its legislative functions and the right of voters to have their expressed will carried out by the legislature.
Friday, October 10, 2008
But still the City Council and Mayor Bloomberg are less than two weeks away from pulling off the most shameful power grab in the history of New York. This is the time for all New Yorkers to stand up and save our City from the naked ambition of our elected officials.
Here's what you can do right now that's quick, easy and effective: Call Our Council Members! Below you'll find a list of all of the City's Council Members, their contact information, and where they stand on the issue. If we don't all work together to apply pressure to the Council Members, who are undecided or support the extension of term limits, then NO ONE WILL!
Forward this blog post to all of your friends and urge them to take action! I know that we're all wrapped up with getting Barack Obama elected, but to bring about the change we need in America we all have to do our part in our own community. Spread the word!
COUNCIL MEMBERS WHO ARE UNDECIDED OR THEIR POSITION IS UNKNOWN
Christine Quinn (Council Speaker - Manhattan)
District Phone: (212) 564-7757
District Fax: (212)564-7347
Legislative Office Phone: (212) 788-7210
Legislative Office Fax: (212) 788-7207
E-mail Address: http://council.nyc.gov/d3/html/members/home.shtml
Matthieu Eugene (Brooklyn)
District Phone: 718-287-8762
District Fax: 718-287-8917
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-7352
Legislative Office Fax: 212-788-8087
Simcha Felder (Brooklyn)
District Phone: 718-853-2704
District Fax: 718-853-3858
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-7357
E-mail Address: email@example.com
Sara Gonzalez (Brooklyn)
District Office Phone: 718-439-9012
District Office Fax: 718-439-9042
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-7372
Michael Nelson (Brooklyn)
District Office Phone: 718-368-9176
District Office Fax: 718-368-9160
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-7360
E-mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kendall Stewart (Brooklyn)
District Office Phone: 718-951-8177
District Office Fax: 718-951-8191
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-6859
David Yassky (Brooklyn)
District Office Phone: 718-875-5200
District Office Fax: 718-643-6620
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-7348
E-mail Address: email@example.com
Michael McMahon (Brooklyn/Staten Island)
District Phone: 718-556-7370
District Fax: 718-556-7389
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-6972
Legislative Office Fax: 212-341-3045
E-mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Anthony Como (Queens)
District Phone: (718) 366-3900
District Fax: (718) 326-3549
Legislative Office Phone: (212) 788-7381
E-mail Address: email@example.com
Melinda Katz (Queens)
District Phone: 718-544-8800
District Fax: 718-544-4452
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-6981
Legislative Office Fax: 212-788-7052
E-mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
James Sanders (Queens)
District Phone: 718-527-4356
District Fax: 718-527-4402
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-7216
Legislative Office Fax: 212-227-1210
E-mail Address: email@example.com
Helen Sears (Queens)
District Phone: 718-803-6373
District Fax: 718-803-9832
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-7066
E-mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hiram Monserrate (Queens)
District Phone: 718-205-3881
District Fax: 718-205-4145
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-6862
Legislative Office Fax: 212-442-2725
E-mail Address: email@example.com
Peter Vallone Jr. (Queens)
District Phone: 718-274-4500
District Fax: 718-726-0357
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-6963
Legislative Office Fax: 212-788-8957
Thomas White (Queens)
District Phone: 718-843-0792
District Fax: 718-845-0817
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-6850
Legislative Office Fax: 212-442-2729
E-mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gale Brewer (Manhattan)
District Phone: 212-873-0282
District Fax: 212-873-0279
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-6975
Legislative Office Fax: 212-513-7717
E-mail Address: email@example.com
Inez Dickens (Manhattan)
District Phone: 212-678-4505
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-7397
Legislative Office Fax: 212-442-2732
Alan Gerson (Manhattan)
District Phone: 212-788-7722
District Fax: 212-788-7727
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-7259
Legislative Office Fax: 212-788-7727
E-mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jessica Lappin (Manhattan)
District Phone: 212-980-1808
District OFax: 212-980-1828
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-6865
Legislative Office Fax: 212-442-5503
E-mail Address: email@example.com
James Oddo (Staten Island)
District Phone: 718-980-1017
District Fax: 718-980-1051
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-7159
Legislative Office Fax: 212-788-7232
Helen Foster (Bronx)
District Phone: 718-588-7500
District Fax: 718-588-7790
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-6856
E-mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
COUNCIL MEMBERS FOR IGNORING THE VOTERS
AND EXTENDING THEIR OWN TIME IN OFFICE
Erik Dilan (Brooklyn)
District Phone: 718-642-8664
District Fax: 718-642-8639
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-7284
Legislative Office Fax: 212-227-5636
E-mail Address: email@example.com
Lewis A. Fidler (Brooklyn)
District Phone: 718-241-9330
District Fax: 718-241-9316
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-7286
Legislative Office Fax: 212-227-3176
Diana Reyna (Brooklyn)
District Phone: 718-963-3141
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-7095
Legislative Office Fax: 212-788-7296
Domenic M. Recchia, Jr. (Brooklyn)
District Phone: 718-373-9673
District Fax: 718-373-0195
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-7045
LegislativeOffice Fax: 212-788-7769
E-mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Albert Vann (Brooklyn)
District Phone: 718-919-0740
District Fax: 718-919-0744
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-7354
Legislative Office Fax: 212-788-8951
E-mail Address: email@example.com
Leroy Comrie (Queens)
District Phone: 718-776-3700
District Fax: 718-776-3798
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-7084
Legislative Office Fax: 212-788-7093
Robert Jackson (Manhattan)
District Phone: 212-928-1322
District Fax: 212-928-4177
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-7007
Legislative Office Fax: 212-788-9190
E-mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Miguel Martinez (Manhattan)
District Office Phone: 917-521-2616/2640
District Office Fax: 917-521-1293
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-7053
Legislative Office Fax: 212-227-1215
E-mail Address: email@example.com
Maria del Carmen Arroyo (Bronx)
District Office Phone: 718-402-6130
District Office Fax: 718-402-0539
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-7384
Legislative Office Fax: 212-788-8920
E-mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Maria Baez (Bronx)
District Phone: 718-294-3950
District Fax: 718-294-3955
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-7074
Legislative Office Fax: 212-788-8849
E-mail Address: email@example.com
G. Oliver Koppell (Bronx)
District Phone: 718-549-7300
District Fax: 718-549-9945
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-7078
E-mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Joel Rivera (Bronx)
District Office Phone: 718-842-8100
District Office Fax: 718-842-6280
Legislative Office Phone: 212-788-6966
Legislative Office Fax: 212-788-8977
E-mail Address: email@example.com
COUNCIL MEMBERS FOR LETTING THE PEOPLE DECIDE
Joseph Addabbo (Queens)
Tony Avella (Queens)
Charles Barron (Brooklyn)
Bill de Blasio (Brooklyn)
James Gennaro (Queens)
Vincent Gentile (Brooklyn)
Eric N. Gioia (Queens)
Daniel Garodnick (Manhattan)
Vincent Ignizio (Staten Island)
Leticia James (Brooklyn)
John C. Liu (Queens)
Melissa Mark-Viverito (Manhattan)
Darlene Mealy (Brooklyn)
Rosie Mendez (Manhattan)
Anabel Palma (Bronx)
James Vacca (Bronx)
Thursday, October 9, 2008
cc: Mayor Mike Bloomberg
Council Speaker Christine Quinn
Dear Council Members:
What if President Bush had decided to amend the Constitution so that he could run for a third term? Surely, since 47 out of 51 of you are Democrats, this notion must be pretty frightening. Yet it is this concern that best sums up why we oppose the proposal before you to extend term limits.
Whether term limits are good for New York City is not an issue we care to argue. In the past 15 years, the voters of our City have twice decided that philosophical debate for themselves. In fact, it is as a result of their decision that most of you owe your current jobs. But now that you are on the verge of having to relinquish your power to a new generation of leaders, many of you are having second thoughts.
Surely, you can’t expect voters to interpret your motivations to extend term limits as anything but a self-serving power grab. Every dictator in world history faced with term limits has argued at the last minute of their reign that the political climate is so serious the people must keep them in power or else fear ruin. Well, New York City didn’t buckle when Mayor Giuliani tried to stay in office after 9/11. Now, we ask you to show the same courage and stand up to Mayor Bloomberg.
The people of New York need your help as City Council Members to protect our vote. The major newspapers, so many of our elected officials, and even Ron Lauder, once the foremost champion of term limits, have all abandoned us or cut backroom deals. You’re the last hope of the little guy. If you really think that New Yorkers want this change, then put Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal back on the ballot for referendum and let us decide.
We 35 members of the Brooklyn Democratic County Committee ran for office to be the voice of our neighbors and our communities. We thought you ran for office for the same reason. Here’s your chance to prove us right.
Llewellyn Armstrong, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Alice Backer, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Martin J. Bernstein, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Evan Burr, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Vallie Copeland, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Craig Czarnecki, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Christopher Diamond, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Esteban Duran, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Ellen Enders, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Hal Friedman, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Sabrina Gates, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
David Greenson, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Jen Halbert, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
MacGregor Harp, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Jamila Jabulani, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Cyril Joseph, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Steven Juskowicz, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Glenn T. Kelly, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Cheryl Krauss, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Jeff S. Merritt, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
David Michaelson, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Gilford T. Monrose, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Ethan Nichtern, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Chris Owens, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Morgan Pehme, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Colin Phillips, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Mireyda Reyes, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Sam Ritchie, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Joy Romanski, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Bill Salzman, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Josh Skaller, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Eva Talmadge, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Kelly L. Thompson, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Theodore Wright, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
James Zika, Kings County Democratic County Committee Member
Apparently, I was wrong. From the looks of Wasilla, it's just another racist hick stronghold with a fondness for drinking and crystal meth. Judge for yourself:
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
City officials won't be the only ones making out on this backroom deal. Our Statewide politicians will see big dividends too.
Why does Governor Paterson favor doing away with term limits? Let's see. Do you think that it could have anything to do with Mayor Bloomberg being the only candidate who could beat him in 2010?
State Senators and Assembly Members across the five boroughs will breathe a sigh of relief the day the Council extends term limits. Why? Just ask longtime incumbent State Senators Serph Maltese and Frank Padavan from Queens. Both of them are locked in tense general election campaigns, because Council Members Joe Addabbo Jr. and Jim Gennaro thought they had to go looking for new jobs now that their time in the Council was up.
Yes, the issue of the Democrats taking control of the Senate is an indisputable catalyst too, but, if this aim were first and foremost for Addabbo and Gennaro, how come they didn't run for these seats in 2006? The Democrats wanted the Senate then too.
For the past couple of years, our Assembly Members and State Senators have secretly feared the same fate as Maltese and Padavan. And don't think this is just a Democrat vs. Republican thing. Our City Council Members, for the most part, are ambitious men and women, for whom retiring into the private sector (read: obscurity) has little charm. Do you not think that there are plenty of Council Members eyeing up their fellow Democrats' seats?
What about Bronx Councilman Miguel Martinez? When Martinez announced his bid to run for Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat's seat this past June, the City Room headline in The Times read "Assembly Primary to Match Friends Turned Rivals". In the article, Jonathan Hicks decribes Martinez and Espaillat's former rapport "as a big brother and little brother relationship — or at the very least political mentor and mentee". What changed? The lust for power.
Strong political friendships routinely disintegrate when they are no longer convenient for one of the parties to maintain. How many other City Council Members have their sights set on a seat currently occupied by a "mentor"? We won't find out until 2013 if term limits are extended.
If they are, expect a number of longtime lovefests to start dissolving around 2011. That will give the Council Member just enough time to forge the track record of indignation necessary to justify his or her challenge of a one-time pal.
Our State Senators and Assembly Members aren't stupid, especially when it comes to calculating how they're going to stay in office. They know that the only challenge that could likely topple their otherwise iron-clad incumbencies would come from someone with the name recognition and donor base of a fellow elected official.
As long as our Citywide officals stay put, so too will our Statewide electeds. You can be sure that everyone in Albany has their eyes (and their influence) firmly focused on City Hall.