Eye on politics
Bash Mayor’s Proposal To Oust Parties From Elections
In a possible slap at Mayor Michael Bloomberg, City Councilmember David Weprin last week testified against the elimination of party primary elections at a City Charter Revision hearing.
The same day, the mayor, who is the prime mover behind banning political parties in elections, denounced a proposed city council bill that would specifically ban him from using his $4.8 billion for the charter revision campaign.
Several years ago, cosmetics millionaire Ronald Lauder, who had failed in several attempts to win elective office, used a substantial amount of his cash to get the term limits law passed.
Speaking about the proposed bill that would bar him from spending money on the proposed charter change, the mayor said he didn’t think the bill would go very far and said it was unconstitutional.
"I have a right as an individual citizen to spend my money," said the mayor, who spent $78 million in his successful mayoral election in 2001. However, he said he does not plan to spend any money on the charter change.
In his testimony against the move to ban political parties in elections, Weprin said, "This proposal will make the elective process an economic function based upon one’s ability to amass funding, and only then will a candidate be able to become part of our election program."
Weprin (D–Hollis), council Finance Committee chair, told the commission that studies show trends of lower voter turnout in non-partisan elections, especially among voters from lower economic groups.
He stated, "Political parties serve a populist function that gives a voice to individuals to become both adherents and leaders in delivering strong social messages to our government. Additionally, they provide the platform to let the public know more about the candidates’ backgrounds and affiliations".
Although aimed at all political parties, the Bloomberg-proposed charter change would hurt the Democratic Party most. In every borough, Democrats hold a wide advantage in registered voters over all others. When Democrats endorse a candidate for election, he or she almost instantly becomes a strong choice to win that election. It also means that Democratic candidates then become virtually unbeatable in the general election.
THOMPSON BERATES MAYOR, TOO: Also taking some potshots at the mayor last week was city Comptroller William Thompson, who blasted the mayor’s plans to establish non-partisan elections and accused the mayor of favoring Manhattan over the other boroughs in his budget-making and administrative roles. On the latter complaint, Thompson pointed to the mayor’s proposal to make fewer garbage pick ups in the four boroughs while leaving the status quo in Manhattan. He also criticized Bloomberg for closing the Brooklyn and Queens zoos and for proposing bridge tolls which would hurt residents of boroughs other than Manhattan.
Thompson’s lashing out at the mayor was seen by some as evidence of his possible intentions to challenge the mayor in the 2005 elections.
WEPRIN ON BUDGET: The issues on which Thompson criticized the mayor were also on Weprin’s mind last week as he asserted the city council is eager to restore changes in the budget proposed by the mayor.
Weprin, the council chief budget negotiator as Finance Committee chairman, has several times spoken out in opposition to reducing Queens and Brooklyn to one garbage pickup a week instead of two. Other councilmembers have also attacked the mayor’s garbage collection plan and it appears there is a consensus to try to force the mayor to drop the proposal.
Weprin confirmed this and added that the council will try to keep the Queens and Brooklyn zoos open, keep libraries open at least five days a week, and restore cuts to seniors. On Sunday, there was confirmation on the council’s aims for seniors as the mayor announced he was adding $1.6 million to the budget to restore a seniors’ social services program which affects hundreds of thousands of elderly individuals.
AVELLA PUSHES PROBATION FEE: Martin F. Horn, commissioner of the Probation Department, stated at a recent council hearing that should state funding fail to materialize. The safety of New Yorkers would be jeopardized by ex-offenders on the streets without supervision. Upon hearing this, Councilmember Tony Avella (D–Bayside) contacted Horn. "[I am] astounded that you have not pursued my suggestion of charging a nominal monthly fee to individuals on probation. If the situation is as serious as you stated, initiating this fee can only help improve the agency’s fiscal position," he said.
VALLONE HEARING ON FAULTY POLICE RAIDS: In the wake of a series of high profile police raids, gone bad; Councilmember Peter Vallone (D–Astoria) announced that his Public Safety Committee will hold hearings to examine Police Department procedures for conducting "no-knock" search warrants in people’s homes and to discuss ways to prevent further mistakes from happening.
"Officers break down a door to a residence, storm in with their guns [drawn] and it turns out to be a completely innocent person, minding their own business," Vallone stated. "It is difficult to imagine how traumatic that must be. We need to take a hard look at this process and fix it."
Last month, one such raid in a Harlem apartment led to the death of the occupant, Alberta Spruill, 57, from a heart attack. The apartment turned out to be the wrong target.
NOLAN ‘DEEPLY DISAPPOINTED’: Commenting on the United States Justice Department pre-clearance of the new City Council district lines, Assemblymember Catherine Nolan (D–Ridgewood) stated:
"I am deeply disappointed with the Justice Department’s pre-clearance of the proposed new City Council district lines, which would split Ridgewood in half and totally destroy our voice in council decision-making and short-change us in the delivery of city services.
"We strongly disagree with the Justice Department’s decision and will continue to fight to keep our Ridgewood community together in one council district."
Nolan and other Ridgewood residents in Queens objected strongly to severing a part of their community and adding it to a new council district in an adjoining section of Ridgewood in Brooklyn.
The lines were redrawn according to the population count in the 2000 census and will be used in this year’s council elections.
TERM LIMIT APPEAL: A recent court decision upholding the law which would allow City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and five other councilmembers to run for another two-year term has been appealed to the court of Appeals, New York state’s highest tribunal. Attorneys who filed the appeal are challenging whether the city council had the authority to amend the term limits law and extend the time that the six members could remain in office.