McLaughlin Bows Out Of Mayoral Race; Miller Challenges Mayor On Budget
In a surprise move, Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin has withdrawn from seeking the Democratic Party nomination for mayor next year, saying he should be focusing on the needs of working people in his capacity as president of the New York City Central Labor Council.
This makes the Flushing lawmaker the first mayoral hopeful to quit the race. McLaughlin’s move leaves former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, Congressmember Anthony Weiner, city Comptroller William Thompson, and Council Speaker Gifford Miller in the race. McLaughlin had raised $1 million to fund his candidacy, but said he now would concentrate instead on the interests of the 1.1 million members in the labor coalition and issues affecting them.
"We need to do something about the unemployment situation in this city and about the absolutely abysmal treatment of public employees," McLaughlin declared, referring to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s failure to negotiate contracts with city workers.
Polls had not placed McLaughlin among the leaders on the list of Democratic aspirants. The most recent survey had him running sixth behind Ferrer, with 26 percent of the vote, Mark Green, 23 percent, Manhattan Borough President Virginia Fields, 12 percent, Weiner, 5 percent, and Thompson, 4 percent. McLaughlin drew 2 percent, as did Brooklyn Councilmember Charles Barron.
MILLER SETS BUDGET BATTLE LINES: Miller, meanwhile, took the occasion of his State of the City address last Wednesday to establish his parameters on upcoming budget negotiations with Bloomberg. Not surprisingly, the budget discussions set the city’s two top officials on a collision course.
Miller called for a 2 percent reduction in the 18.5 percent tax increase that was imposed on private real estate owners in the city last year.
The mayor immediately rejected the proposal—he wants to keep the tax at the current level. But Miller’s supportive Democratic majority in the council indicated strong approval of their leader’s proposal.
Next, Miller rejected the mayor’s proposal to give each property owner a $400 rebate on real estate taxes to make up for some of the added taxes they paid under the higher 18.5 percent rate.
Miller said the rebate proposal, which is being considered by Albany leaders, is a gimmick and "a page torn straight from the Bush playbook. It is not a tax cut, it is a one-time check written out to only 20 percent of the property taxpayers in the city."
Miller’s 2 percent property tax cutback would apply to business owners and co-op and condo owners. It would not require approval by the state legislature, as Bloomberg’s $400 rebate does.
Noting that the largest savings under Miller’s plan would go not to private homeowners but major real estate owners, the mayor denounced it as being a favor for big corporations and big landlords.
Miller was greeted as if he were mayor as he arrived for his annual address at City Hall, making political ramifications of his offerings clear. He even offered senior citizen property owners a special bouquet—a proposal to repeal entirely last year’s 18.5 percent real estate tax increase for residents who are at least 65 and earn less than $30,000 a year. He also proposed a $20 to $215 tax credit for city households that earn less than $34,692 a year.
Council Finance Committee Chairman David Weprin (D–Hollis), who would be the key player in getting Miller’s proposals approved, expressed agreement with them. Weprin said the Speaker’s proposed tax cuts would offer greater relief for his constituents in Eastern Queens. He said, "It’s great in theory to get a rebate, but if that’s offset by a huge assessment increase, that minimizes the benefit."
MISGUIDED: That’s what City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria) had to say about the city’s new guidebook for released prisoners, which is written in street language by former inmates and is filled with curse words and expletives.
Vallone, chair of the Public Safety Committee, said he had problems with the guide.
"It sends the wrong message" said Vallone. "If you’re going to try to help someone adjust to society, you should start teaching them that such behavior is not acceptable, not reinforcing that behavior."
The book was produced by the city Commission on Human Rights with a $35,000 federal grant.
CROWLEY, MALONEY: ‘CITY’S SHORT CHANGED’: Congressmembers Joseph Crowley and Carolyn Maloney charged the federal Homeland Security Department last week with shortchanging the New York City Fire Department by spending more money on small town fire departments than they’re spending on the NYFD.
Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) and Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx) said that Republican congressional districts received 60 percent of last year’s grants under the Fire Act and said New York City was particularly underserved because the program caps the amount that any single fire department can receive at $750,000.
"City firefighters will meet the terror threat first, but they are being thought of last when it comes to homeland security funds from Washington," Maloney said.
FOOD STAMP PROGRAM FAILING: Councilmember Eric Gioia charges that, although the federal food stamp program is feeding almost 950,000 New Yorkers, red tape and other problems is causing the city’s Human Resources Administration (HRA) to miss another 800,000 eligible individuals and families.
Gioia, chairman of the Council Oversight and Investigations Committee, said, "The city must update its Web sites to ensure they provide correct information. It must make short, easy to fill out applications available at all food stamp offices and job centers [and] it must cut the red tape, including training all workers to focus on the true goal: enrolling hungry low-income families."
Gioia (D–Long Island City) made the comments in an op-ed piece he co-authored with Councilmember Bill DeBlasio (D–Brooklyn) in the Daily News.
WEINER: FEDS LAG IN SCHOOL FUNDS: When President George W. Bush’s Secretary of Education Rod Paige called the National Education Association a "terrorist" organization last week, Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D–Queens/Brooklyn) responded, "Calling teachers ‘terrorist’ is an outrage."
Weiner pointed out that New York City schools "are still waiting for $1.2 million under the No Child Left Behind Act [and] the city’s share of high threat anti-terror funding dropped from 25 percent of the national pot last year to an all-time low of 6 percent today."
DEM CLUB OF FLUSHING: The Democratic Club of Flushing will take a look at the present state of the schools at its next meeting on Sunday, March 14 at 5 p.m. in the auditorium of Flushing Hospital. Club president, Sally Kahn, a former School Board 25 member, will lead a discussion panel with Jean Paul Bianchi, Region 4 Instructional Superintendent, and Manfred Korman of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators and former I.S. 25 principal to evaluate the new Department of Education.
The Flushing club is headed by former Councilmember Julia Harrison and John Rosario.
MASPETH GOP MEETS: The Maspeth Republican Club will meet next Wednesday, March 10, at the Kowalinski, 61-57 Maspeth Ave., Maspeth at 7:30 p.m.