Pataki Rapped For Skirting Disaster Aid Fight
Governor George Pataki, whose efforts alongside Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the World Trade Center recovery following the September 11 attack gained him immense popularity as the start of next year’s reelection campaign approached, is now experiencing a political backlash from his Democratic opponents and even some Republicans for matters related to the recovery.
The governor’s opponents charge that he has failed to get involved in efforts to secure the $20 billion in disaster aid promised by President George W. Bush, and that he hurt the effort to get federal funds by submitting a $54 billion package that contained non-disaster items, which may have turned off Congressional leaders.
One of the governor’s possible opponents next year, state Comptroller H. Carl McCall, said on Sunday that the governor should submit a new bailout request and criticized Pataki for not joining a bipartisan effort to get the promised $20 billion down payment on recovery assistance.
"The governor should be down in Washington pounding on doors and fighting for New York," McCall said.
The other possible Democratic opponent for Pataki, Andrew Cuomo, has been criticizing the governor for weeks, and also said he should resubmit his recovery funding request. The former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has joined with the state’s Congressional delegation in criticizing Pataki’s non-participation in the effort to get the $20 billion.
As matters currently stand, Bush has delivered about $11.5 billion, $2 billion of which was added in response to demands from New York’s Congressional delegation to fork over the entire $20 billion.
One lawmaker, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan), declared recently: "I’m having a hard time figuring out what is going on with the governor. I’m disappointed. I hope he changes his mind. We need the money."
Yesterday, Maloney and several other lawmakers and union officials held a rally at Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan, where they announced that World Trade Center victims and labor and business leaders are going to Washington to detail heavy losses and to urge full and immediate federal aid.
There has been speculation that Pataki may be pursuing a low-key strategy by quietly working behind the scenes and making his pitch to Bush and Congressional leaders.
But critics say this isn’t working because there’s been little positive response to their demands.
Although the mayor has not joined with the Congressional bloc in asking for all the money because he thinks we’re not ready to spend it, he has at least spoken out publicly, the governor’s critics say.
Mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg has thrown his support to the bipartisan group of Congressmembers. He traveled to Washington last week to speak with administration officials.
Pataki’s aides, for their part, dismissed the brickbats, saying they are all politically inspired. Nonetheless, Pataki’s actions—or lack of them—are still laying the foundation for lots of future criticism, especially as the gubernatorial campaign unfolds.
CONSUMER GROUP BLASTS GOV, TOO: As if Pataki weren’t getting enough grief on the disaster aid imbroglio, the governor is also in hot water with the Coalition for Water Bill Justice for a last-minute about-face on a pro-consumer bill dealing with grievances on water bills.
A release from the coalition states that on October 28, Pataki signed a bill extending the period to bring a grievance about water bill charges from two years to six years. The coalition and consumer groups had advocated for the bill in order to give aggrieved parties more time to bring an appeal.
But in an abrupt about-face on November 13, the coalition said, the governor signed a bill that again shortens the time to appeal. Instead of six years’ appeal time reduced to four years’.
The coalition blames the governor’s ping-ponging on the issue on Giuliani, who had opposed any changes in the two-year appeal period for fear the city would lose revenue.
"Just when the governor appeared to be on the side of consumers, he has forged a backroom deal that undermines the progress we have made on this issue," said Michael Lockhart, chairman of the coalition.
VALLONE: ‘SAVE WATER’: Citing critically low water supply levels facing New York City, Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D–Astoria) has called on New Yorkers to conserve water use.
In making his appeal, Vallone said, "While we cannot do anything about the rain, we can certainly work together as a city to preserve the water that we have and ensure that we do not waste this precious resource."
PARTY TALK: Mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg is reputedly a party-boy type—in fact, he’s described himself that way—but while he may do some partying on New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day he will be sworn in on the steps of City Hall. A low-key reception will follow inside.
"It’s not going to be extravagant," said Ed Skyler, Bloomberg’s chief spokesman. "It’s going to be low-key."
Also to be sworn in on New Year’s Day outside City Hall will be William Thompson and Betsey Gotbaum, as comptroller and public advocate, respectively.
MARKEY HONORED: Cited for her work on behalf of the families of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty, Assemblymember Margaret Markey was honored recently by the Police and Fire Line of Duty widows of New York City at the organization’s 40th annual luncheon.
Louise Crane, the organization’s president, praised the Maspeth Democrat for her legislative efforts, such as a cost-of-living increase in their benefits.
More recently, following the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Markey proposed a bill to exempt uniformed services personnel involved in the WTC rescue and recovery from paying personal state income taxes on income earned from September 11 to December 31 of this year.
"The bill is designed to acknowledge the extraordinary service that was provided by these members during the catastrophe and the rescue and recovery effort that followed," Markey said.
Markey said the honor was even more special because of the staggering effects of September 11. She also saluted the organization’s leaders, Helen Venturelli and Florence Churchill, and those who have served as board members since the group was formed in 1960.
HOLIDAY PARTY: Councilmember Karen Koslowitz (D–Forest Hills/Rego Park) has scheduled her annual holiday party for Monday, December 17, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Kennedy House Skyroom in Forest Hills.
YOUNGEST CUOMO SON WEDS: Former Governor Mario Cuomo’s youngest son, Christopher, a tv journalist, got married last Saturday to Cristina Greeven, a magazine editor. Both are 31. The marriage ceremony took place in Southampton.
The ex-governor’s wife, Matilda, and elder son, Andrew, were among the attendees, as well as Andrew’s three young daughters, who served as flower girls.
Several of Christopher’s co-workers at Channel 7 (ABC), including Diane Sawyer and Lisa Ling of "The View", attended, as well as sports goods store chain owner Bill Modell.