Mayor Facing Heat From Arrests In CityTime Scandal
Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s quiet assurance and explanation failed him last week as he tried to explain away what looks like the biggest scandal in his nine years as mayor—an $80 million embezzlement pulled off over a five-year period by several contractors and consultants working on the multi-million dollar boondoggle of creating the CityTime computerized payroll and timekeeping system to cover almost 200,000 city workers, which began in 1996 and is still not complete. Its original estimated cost of $63 million has swelled to over $700 million.
Regarding the $80 million embezzlement, for which six individuals have been charged by the Manhattan federal prosecutor, the mayor explained on his radio show last week:
“You can’t look everyplace. I’m not trying to excuse it. It is something we certainly should focus on. On the [one] hand, if you want to know how big projects have big things that slip through the cracks, this is as good an example as you need.”
City Comptroller John Liu, often a critic of the mayor, who in the past has called for greater scrutiny of the CityTime project, reacted to the mayor’s comment saying, “The Grand Canyon is technically a crack.”
Earlier, when the announcement of the six indictments was made, Liu had commented, “These charges will be another stain on the checkered history of the CityTime project.” The comptroller also called for an emergency session of the Office of Payroll Administration in the Bloomberg administration. Its executive director had hired the person who emerged as the chief suspect among the six indicted in the $80 million fraud case.
Besides Liu, several City Councilmembers have taken swipes at the mayor, saying that he should reclaim the $80 million and use it to cover proposed layoffs necessitated by the city budget shortfall. Also the Daily News and N.Y. Post ran editorials sharply critical of the mayor. The Post in fact, said the mayor is going to be wearing this albatross for a very long time.
The scandal also leaves the mayor open to criticism that he should be spending more time on what’s going on in the city instead of inviting speculation that he’s looking to run for president in 2012.
As for Liu, his sharp-eyed watchdog activities can’t but win him more friends and admirers and increase his credentials as a mayoral possibility.
REID PLEDGES TO GET RE-VOTE ON 9/11 BILL: Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–Arizona) was reported as saying he hopes to bring the 9/11 health bill back for another vote before the end of the year.
Reid’s promise made New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, “optimistic that we will see a Christmas miracle and fulfill our obligation to these heroes before the end of the year”.
The bill was killed by a Republican filibuster from coming to the Senate floor for a vote, at a time when GOP leaders were saying they wouldn’t bother with most other legislation until the Bush tax cuts were extended. Now that that was taken care of last week, as President Obama signed the tax cuts into law after the House passed them, the Republicans might give the Zadroga bill a chance.
Reid said last week, he wasn’t sure whether he would bring the bill back before Christmas.
MALONEY RESPONDS TO ENZI: Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) and Zadroga bill coauthor Congressmember Jerrold Nadler (D–Manhattan) responded to Senator Mike Enzi, Wyoming Republican, for what they called smears about 9/11 workers in a recent op-ed piece in the Daily News.
Maloney stated: “9/11 rescuers deserve an honest debate, not a smear campaign. The Zadroga Act has been before Senator Enzi’s committee for years, but only now, when the bill has a chance of becoming law, is he saying that he has concerns and needs more information. This is just an attempt to kill the bill by stalling it. It’s been nine years since 9/11, and those who are suffering because of the attacks don’t have any more time to wait. The time to pass the Zadroga bill is now.”
DREAM ACT DIES IN SENATE: The DREAM Act, which would have given hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth a chance to gain U.S. citizenship if they enrolled in college or the military, was killed last week in the Senate. The bill had strong support among local representatives in Washington, all of them Democrats.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand blamed the Republicans, but five Democrats also broke ranks to vote against the bill.
DROMM BILL CREATES STREET PARKING SPACES: Councilmember Daniel Dromm (D–Jackson Heights) has introduced a bill to create more parking spaces on city streets by reducing the distance a car must be parked from a fire hydrant from 15 feet to 10 feet. Dromm said if adopted it would create thousands of new parking spaces.
However, Dromm said that another bill introduced by Councilmember David Greenfield (D–Brooklyn) must be passed first before his bill should be considered. Greenfield’s bill calls for painting the curbs near the city’s 109,800 fire hydrants red. This would make it easier for a motorist to determine where to park and not be subject to a parking violation, Greenfield said. Both bills should be considered jointly, they said, to ensure that the city would not have to repaint curbs if Dromm’s bill was passed subsequent to Greenfield’s.
ADDABBO OBJECTS TO HYDROFRACKING: State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach) has strongly objected to Gov. David Paterson’s veto of a bill passed by both houses in Albany that would impose a moratorium on a controversial method of drilling for natural gas in New York state.
Addabbo expressed deep concern that the controversial drilling method, known as hydrofracking, could do severe damage to the city and state water supply, especially in the Adirondack area where the city water reservoirs are located.
The lawmaker charged that Paterson, instead of signing this hydrofracking moratorium bill approved by both the Assembly and state senate, chose to veto the bill.
“He issued an executive order instead, which does not fully protect the millions of New Yorkers whose access to a safe and healthy water supply could be jeopardized,” Addabbo charged.
The lawmaker said he was convinced that unrestricted hydrofracking activity will create a clear, present, and potentially permanent danger to the health and safety of millions of New Yorkers.
Addabbo pointed out that much of the Southern Tier, Central New York, the Hudson Valley and New York City draw their water from areas that will not be fully protected by the governor’s executive order.
“Allowing the special interest influence of the few to outweigh the public safety interest of so many is disappointing,” Addabbo stated. He said he was not against drilling for gas and he supported the idea of holding off on all hydrofracking until the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) completes its report regarding the safety of this process.
Addabbo explained that the bipartisan moratorium bill passed by the state legislature included input from environmental advocates, university experts and community members.
“We are deeply troubled the governor failed to heed their advice and address their concerns,” he said, “and instead caved to pressure from a small but vocal group of oil and gas industry executives who care more for their bottom line than the safety of New Yorkers.”
Addabbo recounted that hydrofracking done in other areas of the country contaminated the local water supply, turning it brown and cloudy with particles and chemicals. He said that at a press conference he held last August at City Hall, a Pennsylvania couple showed reporters a jar of brown, smelly water that comes out of their household water tap, contaminated by hydrofracking.
CROWLEY DENOUNCES HEALTHCARE RULING: Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Jackson Heights) denounced the ruling by a Virginia judge that the provision in the new healthcare law that requires Americans to purchase coverage is unconstitutional. Crowley stated:
“Today’s ruling in Virginia demonstrates that partisan politics doesn’t stop at the bench. However, just as the other 14 similar lawsuits have either been dismissed or ruled in favor of the law by both Democratic and Republican judges, I am confident that this lawsuit will also be rejected and all Americans will soon be able to access quality health care with the Affordable Care Act. The individual mandate provision is a critical part of improving our nation’s healthcare system, since we all are affected by the system in some way. This provision not only ensures that every American can get health care, but also helps keep costs down and makes possible the law’s consumer protections, such as the ban on denying coverage to those with preexisting conditions.”
The ruling is expected to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court for a final adjudication.
MARKEY WOULD SAVE OTB: In a statement released by Assemblymember Marge Markey (D–Maspeth), the lawmaker expressed terrible disappointment that no solution was found to save the city Off Track Betting Corporation (OTB). Markey said the Assembly had passed legislation to keep the OTB operating but the state senate did not follow suit.
“There are many losers first and foremost the 800 workers who are now out of a job,” Markey said. Other losers, according to Markey are New York state, which received revenue from the operation, and the racing and breeding industry. Markey also held out hope that the betting corporation might reemerge in the near future.
STATE CONSERVATIVES CAPTUREROW C: New York state Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long announced that official vote totals from the Board of Elections have confirmed that his organization had recaptured Row C in future elections. Conservatives had recorded 232,264 votes in the November 2 elections, which was more than 69 percent of the party’s statewide enrollment. The organization had backed Carl Paladino in the election.
The statement from Long, touching on the importance of the ballot line position, said, regaining Row C is not just about a ballot position… it is a statement by voters that they are paying attention to what really matters. America became the greatest country in the world because its citizens were not dependent on government and the limited government of days gone by encouraged the entrepreneurial spirit in all its citizens instead of dependence on entitlements.
Long added that the Conservative line was the margin of victory in four congressional races, four state senate races and six state Assembly contests. He congratulated everyone who voted on the Conservative line who sent a strong message to reduce taxes and cut spending.
ULRICH ON PARKING RATE HIKE: Speaking out against the recent proposal to raise parking meter rates, Councilmember Eric Ulrich (R–Ozone Park), a member of the Transportation Committee stated:
“Talk about a lousy Christmas gift! People won’t even be able to go shopping without the city nickel-and-diming them at every turn.”
FERRERAS TRIES CURBING BAR SERVICE TO DRUNKS: Councilmember Julissa Ferreras (D–Corona) says her area has the highest rate of DWI arrests in the city and local hospitals have the highest rate of admissions for alcohol poisoning.
To help curtail both problems, she recently brought state Liquor Authority Chairman Dennis Rosen together with a group of local bar owners for a chat session, with Rosen doing the talking.
Rosen said afterwards, “Restaurant and bar owners should understand that while the SLA is eager to work with them on compliance issues, we simply will not tolerate serious violations like sales to intoxicated patrons.”
Ferreras added, “Liquor license holders must be careful not to sell alcohol to people who have already had one too many. This is the law and it must be obeyed as a matter of public health and safety.”