2009-02-11 / Political Page

Gov., Bloomy Need Stimulus Package To Solve Budget Woes

Two of the biggest fans rooting for a huge stimulus package with billions of dollars earmarked for New York, city and state, would have to be Governor David Paterson and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The benefits that could come this way could help both officials limit the damage they might otherwise have to inflict on their constituents in the budgets both are drawing up at this time.

Paterson appears to be in more trouble than Bloomberg at this juncture. One factor easing the stress on the governor is the fact that his re-election test is still a year off. That could alter his present precarious situation, although long-range prospects for the recession and financial climate improving are not good.

Troubles just seem to be coming at Paterson without letup. He had an ugly stretch of horrid headline-inducing events as he contemplated selecting a replacement for the U.S. Senate for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

He might have lucked out if he had chosen Caroline Kennedy, which he seemed poised to do despite some problems that might have come from such a move. Kennedy's unexpected withdrawal from the competition was damaging enough, but the governor's staff, with or without his complicity, made it into a major catastrophe.

Compounding Paterson's discomfort, his lastminute choice of Congressmember Kirsten Gillibrand to replace Clinton brought him only more grief from the dozen or so prospects he bypassed.

On top of that debacle, the governor found himself in another huge mess—negotiating a budget with a huge deficit confronting him. He is forced to make cuts he wouldn't ordinarily have to make. For instance, his plans to cut funding for Medicaid, which includes hospital aid, has triggered major municipal labor union opposition, leading to huge demonstrations in Albany and scathing television advertising campaigns from the core of his constituency—black voters.

It doesn't help that the municipal unions are being threatened with other benefit cutbacks and demands that he tax the wealthy, which he is resisting because he feels they will only make matters worse.

If the stimulus package fails to pass and Paterson is forced to cut the budget drastically, there'll be no relief next year because the budget forecast is for more of the same.

Bloomberg is in for some of the same grief from municipal labor unions like DC 37, which he is threatening with pension benefit cutbacks, and the United Federation of Teachers, which he is threatening with layoffs.

Possible opponents, such as City Comptroller William Thompson and Congressmember Anthony Weiner, might be able to capitalize on his quandary, although Weiner is also calling for taking away some pension and other municipal union benefits, which he attributes to the mayor's inability to negotiate labor contracts that result in generous worker benefits.

The mayor also faces another problem: so far, no major political party will endorse him. He walked out on the Democratic Party in 2001 to run for mayor as a Republican; but he also abandoned the Republican Party to become an Independent when he was testing the waters for a possible campaign for president.

He was already in the GOP doghouse long before that because he did not repay them with any patronage after he got the Republican line and support when he won his first mayoral election in 2001. In fact, he was threatened with a Republican primary in 2005. Bloomberg also alienated Serph Maltese when he was the Queens County Republican leader by supporting an anti-Maltese insurgent group.

The mayor hasn't done any better with Phil Ragusa, who succeeded Maltese as GOP county leader.

Last Sunday, the mayor, without being invited, crashed a Republican Party affair at Antun's in Queens Village to try to thaw his frosty relations with party members from that borough.

However, despite being warmly welcomed by some rank-and-file members, he got the brush-off from Ragusa, who told reporters: "[The mayor] didn't come over to say hello to me. Maybe he didn't know I was here."

According to one press report, Queens Village Republican Club official Phil Orenstein said flatly, "We didn't invite him—he invited himself."

The mayor would have to be endorsed by three of the five Republican county leaders to run on their line, but Orenstein reportedly said: "Everybody's standing together not to allow him a third term on the Republican line."

There was one bright moment for the mayor last week, according to a New York Post report last Friday.

The story said that in interviews, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and ex-governor George Pataki, both Republicans and still with some clout, said "The mayor is the best option [Republican leaders] have."

Giuliani was reported as saying that if Bloomberg extended himself and had face-to-face talks with the GOP leaders, they could be won over. "There are two big things in running a city— safety and security, and the other is economic stability. And on those two issues, Mike makes them very comfortable," Giuliani said. The tenor of Giuliani's reported remarks makes it sound as though Bloomberg can get their endorsement.

Pataki said the mayor is someone "who's shown his ability to lead the city in tough economic times", which should win the leaders' support.

Nothwithstanding the cold reception from GOP officials at Antun's in Queens, Giuliani's advice to the mayor seems to us to be sound, and we wouldn't foreclose on the mayor's chances of getting the Republicans' line on the ballot in November.

CUOMO WELL RECEIVED: New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo got a good reception this past Sunday from an audience that gave his dad, former Governor Mario Cuomo, many headaches while he was in office—the state Conservative Party.

In a talk at the party's political action conference, Cuomo outlined his plan to give voters the opportunity and the tools to eliminate small units of government in suburban areas, such as fire districts or water districts that are run by appointees and have the power to levy taxes.

Cuomo wants the state legislature to authorize voters to eliminate, combine or privatize districts that are presently run by patronage appointees.

Cuomo was well received, which is a good sign for him as a possible future candidate for higher office.

SEEKS TO BRING BIZ OUTLOOK TO COUNCIL: Some years ago, Michael Ricatto, now a Republican candidate in the February 24 special election for the 32d district seat in South Queens, leased a building he owned to the city.

"When the lease was up, the city wasn't ready to give it back," he explained in an interview. They never explained the reason for it, but they held on to it even after the building was empty. It went on for four years and they paid me $1,000 a year plus taxes, so there was no problem."

But Ricatto always remembered the deal as an example wasting money for no apparent necessary reason. "And I often wondered how many other leases does the city enter into where they extend it without using the building, with no apparent need for it, where maybe they don't even realize they're paying the bill every year?" he said. And how many other instances are there where the city is leasing space they don't necessarily need?

From Ricatto's viewpoint, there are instances of waste that he would make it his business to find out about. "There could be considerable savings," he figures.

Ricatto says he's also been using his business experience and efficiency in his campaign, which is his first. He was the first candidate to submit his nominating petitions to the Board of Elections, so he'll be rewarded with the top line on the ballot. He has also spent the most money—almost $100,000—of any candidate—No need to let it just lay there in such a short campaign," he declared.

The vacancy he's running for was created when Councilmember Joseph Addabbo Jr. defeated Senator Serphin Maltese, a Republican in the general election this past November. Ricatto feels there's some latent Republican strength in the district, which includes Ozone Park, Howard Beach, Richmond Hill and Woodhaven.

Another Republican, Eric Ulrich, a party district leader, is also in the race, as well as five Democrats. They are Frank Gulluscio, Geraldine Chapey and Lew Simon, all Democratic Party district leaders; Glenn DiResto, a former New York Police Department lieutenant, and Sam DiBernardo.

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