2004-08-26 / Political Page

Mayor May Emerge From War Protests, Labor Strife As A Winner on politics

By John Toscano


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Several months ago, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg nailed down the Republican National Convention for Madison Square Garden, he had every expectation that the four-day event would be an economic bonanza for the city which would of course add to his record in office.

However, over the past month or so, a credible, though not specific, Al Queda terrorist threat was revealed and an anti-war protest by 250,000 demonstrators started to materialize. In addition, labor negotiations with the police and fire departments deteriorated into ugly name calling and brought threats of a strike or work stoppage.

All these events threatened to create what could easily become a city under siege, where normal movement in Manhattan becomes imprudent and the nearly 50,000 visitors attracted by the political event who could have been expected to enrich the city by their burst of spending would instead keep their wallets in their pockets.

Admittedly, this is a worst-case scenario and by Monday, when the four-day convention starts, the war protesters could win their demand to demonstrate in Central Park and the cop and firefighter unions might get scared off by the Taylor Law banning public employee strikes.

What would it all mean to the mayor’s political fortunes? If the war protest turns into ugly riots, and/or the cops and firemen walk off the job at a time when they’re most needed, the mayor will get a boost in popularity, even if his dreams of a big payday for the city are scuttled.

Most people dislike mass protests that lead to near- or full-scale riots such as those at the 1968 Democratic presidential convention in Chicago. That mayhem assured the election of the Republican candidate, Richard Nixon, according to some historians.

Law-abiding citizens will also wind up on the mayor’s side if cops and firefighters stage a slowdown or strike at such a vital time, which we don’t expect they will.

So it appears that the protesters may wind up in Central Park and labor strife will be kept in abeyance and a serious crisis will be averted and the mayor’s re-election plans will be undisturbed.

So, too, will President George W. Bush’s hopes for re-election. While whatever is going on outside Madison Square Garden from Monday to Thursday, inside will be a love fest as faithful Republicans give the president and his running mate, Vice President Dick Cheney, a rousing endorsement for four more years and a boost in the polls as they resume their campaign at the convention’s end.

Basically, though, we see the Bush–Kerry race going down to the wire on November 2, a repeat of the nail-biter that Bush took from Al Gore four years ago.

BLOOMBERG–LIU EXCHANGE: City Councilmember John Liu (D–Flushing); backed by 500 school children and their parents, made a pitch for funding more universal pre-kindergarten seats in the city, as well as for the Red Apple Child Development Center. The non-profit center’s funds were cut off three years ago because its operator was allegedly “a convicted felon” in Bloomberg’s words.

The mayor added later that the Red Apple Center also conducted business in “an unsafe environment.”

Liu refused to discuss arrests or alleged crimes, saying that the person had nothing to do with the Red Apple operation now so the school should not be denied funding.

Meanwhile, stats released last week showing thousands of third-graders made it to fourth grade in summer school demonstrated that the mayor’s policy to no longer rubber stamp social promotions and to work harder with the young students was workable.

DEMS BEAT UP ON BUSH: Expecting that Bush and the Republicans will try to paint a rosy picture of his treatment of New York state during the convention, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) put out a report last week enumerating what she and the New York delegation see as the Bush Administration’s failure on 11 issues critical to New Yorkers: homeland security, jobs, health care, children, crime, consumers, transportation, the environment, housing, taxes and the needy.

Maloney said that Bush’s first term in office had “given New Yorkers four years of angst.” She said “a lot of upbeat talk” has been heard on these issues, but the results have been a far different story.

Maloney concluded, “New York is already on the front lines of the war against terrorism, but it shouldn’t also have to fight with our own federal government for adequate assistance.”

NYC vs. WESTCHESTER: The fight to protect New York City against terrorist attack was directed at Westchester County, our neighbor to the north, last week by City Councilmembers Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria) and James Gennaro (D–Fresh Meadows).

In a letter to Westchester County Executive Anthony J. Spano, they strongly opposed any reopening of Westlake Road, a half-mile roadway that runs on top of Kensico Dam. After September 11, 2001 they said, Westlake Road was closed to protect the dam and the Kensico Reservoir from terrorist attack. The reservoir, they explained, supplies a substantial portion of both New York City’s and Westchester’s drinking water. Reopening Westlake Road, according to some Westchester officials, would eliminate traffic congestion.

But, said Vallone and Gennaro, “Security needs to be the number one priority. Guarding this road from terrorist attack will not only protect the water supply of 9 million New Yorkers, but it will also protect the quarter-million people living below the dam from a devastating flood.”

A CLEANER FLUSHING: A new street sweeping and deodorant pressure washing program in Downtown Flushing was announced last week by the area’s lawmakers, Councilmember John Liu, Assemblymember Barry Grodenchik, and state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, all Democrats.

The new service was funded by Liu, who said it was “part of our continuing effort to clean up Downtown Flushing and make it a destination of choice for all people.” He added, “The stench we have on some of these streets has been a problem for over 10 years.”

IMPROVE HIV/INFECTIOUS DISEASE CLINIC: Councilmember Hiram Monserrate last week presented a $1 million check to Elmhurst Hospital Center officials for improvements to the hospital’s HIV/Infectious Disease Clinic that will help bring the heavily used facility up to the level of the hospital’s other service areas.

Monserrate (D–Corona) said that the hospital serves one of the most diverse communities in the country, with some of the highest levels of health disparities. He said that despite many medical advances and improved education, HIV/AIDS continues to affect minority communities at a disproportionately high rate and added that it is estimated that the Latino AIDS case rate is almost four times that of white non-Hispanics.

SABINI, ROSERO RACE: Luis Rosero, who’s challenging incumbent state Senator John Sabini in the September 14 primary for the 13th Senate District seat, mixed voter registration with his campaigning effort last week. Addressing passersby in both Spanish and English, he urged them to not miss voting in the elections.

Sabini, meanwhile, opened his campaign office at 83-11 37th Ave. in Jackson Heights. Judging from the crowd of regular Democrats who attended the opening, Sabini seems assured of strong support.

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