3rd Term Is Do Or Die For Mayor Mike
Mayor Michael Bloomberg was subjected to a withering barrage of charges from the major municipal labor unions last week as he engaged them in issues related to his efforts to try to enact a budget while dealing with a huge deficit.
To make matters worse, the mayor was, at the same time, forced to deal with another attack, this of his own making, when he stumbled badly while trying to make some off-the-cuff remarks to the American Irish Historical Society and wound up grievously insulting every Irishman from here to Tipperary.
Earlier in the week, a surprise bombshell arose during a routine court hearing involving a payment of $1.1 million the mayor made during his 2008 re-election campaign to a trusted political operative, John Haggerty of Forest Hills, who now stands accused of stealing the money.
The mayor never made any complaint about whether the funds were used by Haggerty for the intended purpose and it appeared the mayor would steer clear of any trial.
But during the hearing it was revealed that the mayor had secretly appeared and testified before the grand jury which returned the indictment against Haggerty. And the prosecuting attorney at the hearing made the statement (according to news reports) that the mayor’s testimony supported the charges against Haggerty, the mayor’s erstwhile friend and colleague.
Where this will lead we will only know if Haggerty’s case ever comes to trial and the mayor’s called to testify. That would be an historical happening. In our memory of following politics in New York City and then covering them (a combined 60 years), we cannot recall a sitting mayor testifying in any criminal case let alone one evolving out of the exchange of money during that mayor’s campaign.
But getting back to the mayor’s differences with, first the police and fire line organizations; and secondly the United Federation of Teachers—this will surely define the mayor’s three terms in office. If he wins, it will certainly define his legacy as a reform mayor because it involves what he feels is a glaring example of pension abuse. On the other side of the issue, the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) and the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) make the case that the root of the $12,500 bonus, which every cop and firefighter has received annually, traces back to a 1988 negotiation with then Mayor Ed Koch.
“This is a lie campaign, a media campaign to get everybody thinking that we’re getting something we don’t deserve,” PBA President Pat Lynch fumed as he blasted the mayor as a liar.
The mayor wants to end what he describes as a “Christmas bonus”, which infuriates every cop and firefighter in the city. If Bloomberg is successful (and it’s a real long shot), the city would realize about $1 billion this year, and it would go toward foregoing any teacher firings.
Meanwhile, the mayor has also engaged the UFT in a furious battle over the teacher firings.
The unions want the existing rule covering firings, the last in are the first to go. Teachers with seniority would stay and those hired more recently would go.
But the mayor sees this as an opportunity to get bad teachers off the city’s payroll while retaining younger, more recently hired teachers that are more motivated.
Over last weekend, the UFT announced plans for a $1 million televised advertising campaign to make its case for teachers with seniority. In it, they claim that the layoffs would be unnecessary if the “millionaire” mayor would tax millionaires. The mayor defended his position, saying he wanted to keep younger teachers because it would be better for school kids.
Also, the mayor got support for his demands from a rival group of teachers’ TV ad campaign. An education reform group called Education Reform Now made the case for getting rid of teachers with poor ratings, too many absences and tenured teachers who find it difficult getting rehired.
Thus the furious battle between the mayor and the two powerful municipal union groups was engaged and we’ll be hearing plenty more of it over an indefinite period.
As for the mayor’s Irish problem, we expect that will die down after awhile, but it’s sure to be resurrected as the St. Patrick’s Day Parade approachs on March 17. The mayor will be in the front of the marchers going up Fifth Avenue. He’ll be easily recognized. He’ll be the one wearing the helmet.
CUOMO FAVORED BY 77 PERCENT IN POLL: Despite proposing a budget that would cut school aid and lay off teachers and other state workers, Governor Andrew Cuomo received a 77 percent favorable rating in a Siena College poll released on February 14. Receiving sharply contrasting results, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver got a 19 percent favorable rating and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was favored even less than Silver at 11 percent. Cuomo’s skyhigh rating was surpassed only once in recent years, by President Barack Obama, who scored an 81 percent rating in January 2009, according to poll officials. Cuomo’s popularity was spread wide along the political spectrum as Republicans at 70 percent and Conservatives at 68 percent came close to the poll’s overall rating. The only negative marks for the governor were reflected by unfavorable ratings on his proposed school cuts and his refusal to tax those earning more than $200,000 a year. But these same voters clearly backed his budget proposal, and for the first time since October 2007 a high percentage of voters said a governor has put the state on the right track.
Meanwhile, Cuomo’s vow to reform Albany with new tough ethics laws got a boost from an analysis issued by the good government organization, Citizens Union. Released by its Executive Director Dick Dadey, it shows 13 state legislators were forced out of office in the past six years because of ethical or criminal misconduct.
The list includes these former Queens lawmakers: the late Assemblymember Anthony Seminerio, Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin and state Senator Hiram Monserrate.
ROCKAWAY GAS TERMINAL DEAD? According to Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D–Queens/Brooklyn), Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey has announced his opposition to a proposed liquid natural gas terminal off the coasts of Rockaway and New Jersey.
“I’m glad this proposal seems to be dead before arrival,” Weiner said. Both Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have veto power over the project, Weiner explained.
Speaking of the proposed facility which was planned to be built 23 miles off the Rockaway coast, Weiner stated, “The Rockaway community has an intimate relationship with our surrounding natural environment. It’s part of the reason we live in and love Rockaway. We take proposals that threaten our coastal habitat very, very seriously.”
Liberty Natural Gas has proposed building a liquefied natural gas terminal and 44 miles of pipeline 23 miles east of the Rockaway shoreline. Weiner called on the U.S. Coast Guard to hold hearings in New York City on the proposal to ensure that area residents are able to discuss it after hearing the details firsthand. A hearing scheduled for last Wednesday, February 9 was cancelled.
Weiner told the Coast Guard, “To better understand the potential ramifications, we need hearings in the affected communities, including the Rockaways.
“If we are going to make an informed decision, my constituents need to hear the proposed details directly from the responsible federal agencies and the company placing the pipeline.”
WEINER WARNS OF GOP CUTS: Last week, Weiner warned that if a package of $100 billion Republican spending cuts are approved, it would hurt New York City drastically.
Among the areas that would feel the cutbacks mostly, Weiner said would be police hirings, subway projects and federal low income housing programs.
ULRICH SAYS NO TO SMOKING BAN: The City Council recently approved a smoking ban that includes all properties under the jurisdiction of the Parks Department, including public parks, beaches, pools, boardwalks, playgrounds and recreation centers, but Councilmember Eric Ulrich (R–Ozone Park), voted against it.
Ulrich stated: “While I understand the health concerns that prompted the introduction of this bill, it is nothing more than another example of government intruding into the private lives of New Yorkers. The city should be less concerned about correcting people’s bad habits and more focused on solving real problems facing the city. Whether we like it or not, smokers pay taxes and they have rights, too. We need to be mindful of the fact that we’re infringing on the rights and freedoms of everyday residents who are not breaking the law.”
RUDY PICKED TO OFFICIATE AT WEDDINGS: Along with the flood of Valentine’s Day hype, a NY1/Marist poll asking New Yorkers which recent mayor they would want to marry them, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani came out on top. Incumbent Mayor Michael Bloomberg came in second, ex-Mayor David Dinkens third and ex-Mayor Ed Koch was fourth.
STAVISKY CHILD ABUSE BILL PASSES: Concerned that present law covering charges of sexual abuse in the first degree only covers children up to 11 years of age, state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D–Whitestone) filed a bill increasing the age to cover 12- and 13-year olds was approved by her colleagues. The measure now goes to the Assembly for consideration.
Stavisky explained, “Current law is inconsistent and dangerous, especially in a world where 12 and 13-year-olds are using the same modes of communication as the most tech-savvy pedophiles. Those who would sexually abuse young teens must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law, which our bill will guarantee.”
Stavisky noted that a person guilty of a Class D felony for kids up to 11 years of age are subject to seven years in prison; but where 12 and 13-year-olds are the victims, the charge is a misdemeanor, punishable by 15 days to a year in jail.
CONSERVATIVES SUPPORT FULL OPEN DISCLOSURE: The state Conservative Party has called on the state legislature to support full disclosure and not public financing of election campaigns.
“In a time when New York is facing deficits and may be unable to meet its necessary obligations without laying off employees, why would legislators even consider adding an additional bill on taxpayers?,” the party asked in a news release.
It said that full disclosure was the only viable campaign finance reform, and criticized spending for meals, tires, books and even $10,000 for a car.
Public funding, the release said, is a bad idea because it takes a citizen’s money and gives it to candidates they may not support. The party said public funding could cost $40 million a year.
GILLIBRAND URGES R.E. TAX DEDUCTION: U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D–N.Y.) has proposed that homeowners who don’t itemize deductions on their federal tax return should be allowed to deduct their property tax. The upstate lawmaker says New Yorkers pay the highest property taxes in the nation and for families it’s become a crisis. She said her proposal, if adopted, would save the state’s homeowners a total of $210 million a year.
BEDBUG INFO SESSION: State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach) and Assemblymember Mike Miller (D–Woodhaven) have arranged a meeting for their constituents on dealing with the bedbug problem. It will feature speakers from the Department of Health and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and also William Puricelli, owner of Advanced Pest Management Services. The meeting is scheduled for February 17, at 7 p.m. at Emanuel United Church of Christ, 93-12 91st Ave., Woodhaven.
As part of his neighborhood outreach, Addabbo has assigned one of his staff members to be at the Middle Village Adult Center the last Tuesday of each month to hear community concerns. That means the staff member will be there next Tuesday, February 22 from 11:15 a.m. to Noon.
That same day, Addabbo will be at the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, 85-15 101st Ave., Ozone Park at 1 p.m. to report on the current legislative session and to meet with constituents.
SMITH TO CONSTITUENTS: BECOME ORGAN DONOR: In a drive which coincides with Black History Month, state Senator Malcolm Smith (D–St. Albans) has joined the campaign to sign up multi-cultural people to become organ donors. The lawmaker has joined with the New York Organ Donor Network in its I Am Proud to Be an Organ Donor campaign. To join the organization check off the box on your drivers license form, visit www.DonateLifeNY.org.
MENG, STAVISKY SEEK TOUGHER PROTECTION NOTICE: Following last week’s brutal murder of a young mother in Long Island City allegedly by her ex-boyfriend against whom she had secured an Order of Protection, state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D–Whitestone) and Assemblymember Grace Meng (D–Flushing) are once against co-sponsoring two bills to enhance the penalties and to further protect against violations of such orders. The legislation does this by creating a new crime category of persistent criminal contempt, the penalty for which would be a Class A misdemeanor carrying a jail sentence of up to one year.
$41 M HIKE IN CITY’S ANTITERROR FUNDS: Without arm twisting or wailing from New York lawmakers, President Barack Obama came across with a $41 million increase in anti-terror funds in his proposed $3.73 trillion budget for next year.
The state’s senior Senator Charles Schumer gushed: “After two years of fighting to increase these funding levels, I am pleased the administration is acknowledging that these programs work.”
Congressmember Peter King (R–L.I.), the House Homeland Security Committee chairman, also praised the president for including $24.9 million for a system of detectors encircling the city to try to defect dirty bombs and nuclear weapons. Obama had tried to kill the program previously, but now he has realized how important the system is to the city’s security, King said.
Also included in the city package are $165.6 million for police surveillance cameras in Lower Manhattan. This makes an almost $15 million increase from last year. Also, $117 million for transit security making an $18 million increase and $24.6 million for Port Security Grants resulting in a $2.2 million increase.
ACKERMAN, MALONEY PRAISE EGYPTIANS: The firmness and tenacity of the Egyptian people in forcing Hosni Mubarak out of office in a bloodless overthrow was acknowledged by Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney and Gary Ackerman last week.
Commenting after Mubarak relinquished power after three decades, Maloney stated: “Today, the bravery of the Egyptian people made history. Those who gathered in Tahrir Square deserve the credit for changing their nation and making this huge step forward.”
Maloney, whose district includes the Little Egypt section in Astoria, added: “Egyptians hopefully will now be able to decide their own future and create a true democracy in their country.
I hope that the principles of equality, peace and democracy will guide the future Egyptian state. Egypt’s future begins now.”
Ackerman stated: “I congratulate the people of Egypt for their victory in the struggle to take back their government and restore their freedom.
The Egyptian people have stood up, and by their steady determination and remarkable courage, reclaimed their nation’s future for themselves. The Egyptian revolution was accomplished by Egyptians, for Egyptians. The victory is theirs and the whole world stands in awe of their achievement.”