Page 1

In State of the

Unions, Ed Ott (right) looks to the future of the CLC and organized labor

(Page 3),

SUNY reform gets underway (Page 22) and Public Advocate

Betsy Gotbaum (left) talks turkey sandwiches at her Power Lunch August 2007




Former Bloomberg staffers Silvia Alvarez, Jordan Barowitz, Patrick Brennan, Joe Chan, Jennifer Falk, Jonathan Greenspun and Marc Ricks check in from their new positions and reflect on their time in the Bloomberg administration. Page 28



Bruno’s inside track on the big three: he is riding high, Silver is a disappointment, Spitzer should get out of politics

Issue Forum: Organized Labor/ Unions Page 4

SIBRO looks to link Staten Island and Brooklyn Page 12

Race for New York City Clerk takes shape Page 21

Pundit Poll: The Congestion Pricing Fallout Page 24

Worries Over Changes to New York’s no-fault divorce law Page 26

The August Poll: Which Council Member Would Make the Best Lifeguard?

Page 33

(Page 32)



oe Bruno bets the exacta box. That makes for a harder gamble—instead of just putting his money on one horse, he needs to guess which two will come out on top. As long as one places first and the other second, he wins, and collects a bigger payout for the double bet at the window downstairs. He has $4 on the fifth race, hinging on horses 4 and 8. From a distance, the horses seem to be gliding, tearing around the oval track as the baritone announcer narrates their progress. Bruno watches intently. They start down the stretch. He tenses slightly. One of his picks is ahead, the other one back in third. “Come on, baby,” he says. “Come on.” They whip past. Split seconds before they hit the finish line, he can see that 4 has slipped behind. He shrugs slightly, raises his eyebrows. And then he continues the conversation. “You go on to the next,” he explains. “You play hard, CONTINUED ON PAGE 17


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AUG UST 2007


The Ott Agenda

CLC executive director says there is too much work to do for the labor coalition to worry much about past problems. BY ADAM PINCUS YORK CITY CENTRAL Labor Council executive director Ed Ott is looking to labor’s past achievements as a guide for the influential group as it moves forward following the resignation of its former leader. The CLC, the largest labor organization in the city, representing 1.3 million union members, was rocked by federal racketeering and corruption charges filed in October against then-president Brian McLaughlin, who was simultaneously serving as a Democratic Assembly member from Queens. McLaughlin is accused of stealing $2.2 million from the state, the Council and unions. The group officially reorganized in June, reducing the power of the president and setting up checks in the hierarchy intended to prevent the abuses allegedly carried out by McLaughlin. One of the results of the indictment was the appointment last fall of Ott, who had been the public policy director, to the newly created post of executive director. He now manages day-to-day operations and staffing, working closely with new CLC president Gary La









the working people’s end of the economy,” he said. The rise in housing and health care expenses, as well as other fees, such as subway fare increases, chip away at the income of workers the group represents. “We are always concerned about how broader problems can erode gains we have made at the bargaining table,” he said. To bring down, or at the least to slow, the rise of housing expenses in the city, Ott said the CLC would mimic efforts from more than 50 years ago, when unions and civic organizations were building affordable housing for thousands of members in developments like the Electchester cooperatives in Queens. “Right now, we are trying to figure out if there is a way to raise some capital to help—and I mean help, because we cannot do this by ourselves—on some of these developments,” he said. “We are very concerned, and would like to see more housing built with government subsidies.” In addition to constructing more housing, the CLC was looking to preserve apartments using proposals similar to the one that failed in Stuyvesant Town. There they participated in the effort which helped win commitments of $4 billion to

Ed Ott said questions about the former leadership of the CLC were not relevant to the issues currently confronting the group, such as affordable housing and immigration. cern for the CLC as well, and though the organization will study a controversial piece of legislation introduced in July by City Council Member Hiram Monserrate (DQueens) to provide identification cards to undocumented residents, no final determination on a position has been made. The Council has been generally supportive of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s (Unaff.) PlaNYC, insisting that staying on the outside while the comprehensive blueprint was being drafted would have been foolish. But the CLC reorganization remains

To bring down, or at the least to slow, the rise of housing expenses in the city, Ott said the CLC would mimic efforts from more than 50 years ago, when unions and civic organizations were building affordable housing for thousands of members in developments like the Electchester cooperatives in Queens. Barbera, a member of the Teamsters who was tapped for the leadership post in June. Ott declined questions related to McLaughlin or the reorganization. He said those questions about the former leadership were not relevant to the issues currently confronting the CLC. “There are several ways we are trying to come to terms with a growing gap between the top end of the economy and

buy the development. A higher bid was ultimately accepted. To tackle health care, the CLC formed a committee to look at the issues and the proposals as they are developed. “Nothing erodes income faster than health care,” Ott said, later adding, “The problem we have is that there are not any specific legislative proposals we can react to.” Ott said immigration was a major con-

the main topic on the minds of many labor observers when thinking about the union. Bruce McIver, the director of labor relations under Mayor Ed Koch (D), said labor in the state remains a powerful political tool when it is focused, but could not predict the ultimate effects of the restructuring. “Labor could benefit in this town by a more integrated and cooperative approach toward issues that affect working people, and a more political approach than taken in the past,” he said. “But I don’t know if that will evolve from this change or not.” Direct letters to the editor to


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To most Americans, Labor Day has become just another three day weekend which happens to be the unofficial end to summer days and white pants. The day, however, has a much deeper and richer history than that, and with

this year’s Labor Day just weeks away, City Hall asked some of New York’s most important elected leaders on the issue to share their thoughts on the priorities ahead for unions and organized labor.

Health, Safety and Pay Parity All Crucial to the Labor Agenda BY ASSEMBLY MEMBER SUSAN JOHN



chair of the Labor Committee is to working men and women. I work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that workers rights, not corporate profits, are protected. I am proud of my record of fighting for your protection on the job and the passage of legislation that enhances your safety at work. Unfortunately, many interests work to weaken laws that now protect you at your job. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report which showed that 5,734 workers died on the job in 2005. This statistic represented 32 fewer deaths than in 2004, and was hailed by the head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as “good news for all workers.” Although the total workplace deaths were down slightly, a greater number of Hispanic, African American, young and agricultural workers died on the job than in 2004. These shocking statistics demonstrate a lack of concern for the most vulnerable workers, including the alarming increase

in on-the-job deaths among people of color. Additionally, this report only covers on-the-job deaths, and does not include the estimated 50,000 deaths per year from occupational diseases and the millions of workplace injuries. This increased number of deaths of Hispanic, African American, young and agricultural workers is due to neglect by the Bush administration. I sponsored and worked hard to pass the Workplace Safety Act. With help from our brothers and sisters at CSEA and PEF, we were able to help the public see that workplace violence is an epidemic. This law requires employers to recognize and plan for employee protection from violence. With the help of our friends at SEIU 1199, the Assembly passed legislation that will restrict mandatory overtime for nurses in New York. Nurses work in a demanding, stressful environment where proper decision making is a critical function to the job. Unfortunately, hospital administrators use mandatory overtime to make up for personnel shortages. Mandatory overtime is an unfair labor practice, placing and additional burden on nurses, primarily female employees, and erodes health care delivery. I am also proud to have sponsored the

Pay Equity Act that requires equal pay for equal work and does not allow gender or age to decide the value of your labor. To protect the public and employees from employers who engage in illegal activities, I sponsored legislation that will expand protection to the Whistleblower Law and encourage honest employees to report others’ wrongdoing. I will continue to fight for legislation that protects employees performing public functions with the right to organize and do card checks. This year, I authored a resolution calling on Congress to pass national card check legislation to end the practice of employers thwarting employees expressing their right to organized representation. And with the change of leadership in the governor’s office, I am sure we will be able to pass my legislation that requires the prevailing wage to be paid when public money is involved in any project. A recent survey conducted by the AFLCIO, “Ask a Working Woman,” shows that an overwhelming majority of women are concerned with the rising cost of health care. I have helped lead the fight to secure universal health care, and am working side by side with my majority colleagues in the Assembly and Governor Spitzer, to expand Family Health Plus and

Healthy New York to offer state assisted health care coverage. More and more New Yorkers are now insured because of these programs. Despite this news, there are still almost 3 million New Yorkers who don’t have access to affordable health care. I will continue my work with my friends in labor and business to find a comprehensive solution. A healthy workforce means a strong workforce and that is my goal for all New Yorkers.


Susan John is a Democrat representing Monroe County in the Assembly. She is the chair of her chamber’s Labor Committee.

The Biggest Labor Crisis: Caring for Injured Union Workers BY STATE SEN. GEORGE MAZIARZ O DATE, ONLY ONE LEGISLATIVE


action has been taken in either chamber of State Legislature to override one of Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s vetoes. That action was taken on July 16, when the Senate returned to Albany for a special session to address a number of unresolved issues. On that day, my Senate colleagues and I unanimously voted to override the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 3070, legislation I sponsored that would increase workers’ compensation benefits for private hospital workers, emergency medical technicians, or paramedics who were dispatched to Ground Zero in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. As chairman of the Senate Labor Committee, I can say that we owe more than words of thanks and admiration to the brave men and women who responded to Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks. Nearly six years after that terrible tragedy, we owe it to them to put our money where our mouth is. Whether public or private workers, these first respon-

ders deserve to have access to the same specific benefits they all earned in light of their heroic service. That’s what this bill is all about, that’s why not a single “nay” vote was cast when the legislation was originally adopted by the Senate in May and by the Assembly in June. The Legislature approved enhanced compensation benefits years ago to public sector employees who rushed to the disaster at the Twin Towers. Now, it is time that parity is extended to a group of private employees who performed no less important or dangerous work than their

public counterparts. The “9/11-Nine” belong to 1199 SEIU, and they deserve the justice that will allow them to get on with their lives. I hope the Assembly will return to Albany and join the Senate in the override so that may happen. Apart from this specific matter, the workers’ compensation system has been in need of wholesale changes for decades. This year, we were successful in adopting historic reform legislation, which I sponsored in the Senate, which will lower the cost of doing business in New York State and, at the same time, provide increased benefits to injured workers. There is no doubt in my mind that the key to achieving to this legislative victory was the cooperation of the labor and business communities. It is my responsibility, as Chairman of the Labor Committee, to pay special attention to the needs of injured workers. Our legislation, now law, accomplished that worthy goal. The maximum weekly benefit for injured workers will be increased from $400 to $500 in the first year, $550 in the second year, $600 in the third year, and to two-thirds of the average weekly wage in the fourth year. Once

the maximum benefit reaches two-thirds of the average weekly wage, the maximum benefit will be indexed annually. And for businesses, it was just announced that they can expect to see more than a 20.5 percent drop in their workers’ compensation insurance premiums, beginning this summer. Across the state, that will save employers more than $1 billion—money than can be used to stimulate new economic activity in New York. That is particularly critical for Upstate New York, especially the area of Western New York that I am proud to represent in the Senate. As the year goes on, I am ready and willing to return to Albany to make more progress for New Yorkers. In the meantime, the Labor Committee’s hearings on the Paid Family Leave Act will continue, as will our efforts to look out for the working men and women of this great state.


George Maziarz is a Republican representing parts of Niagra, Orleans and Monroe counties in the State Senate. He is the chair of his chamber’s Labor Committee.

UNIONS and the UNIVERSITY By Gregory Mantsios Unions, like public officials, often get a bum rap. Shortcomings and scandals get ink and air time – and rightly so, but achievements are rarely featured. How many New Yorkers know, for example, that unions provide millions of dollars in tuition for workers to attend college? A number of worker education programs – especially designed to meet the higher education needs of working adult students – have sprouted up within The City University of New York over the past 25 years. Two years ago, CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein and the CUNY Board of Trustees established the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies. The Institute, formerly at Queens College and now renamed after a former CUNY Chancellor who was a champion of education for working people, offers a CUNY-wide, five-borough approach to worker education. What is particularly unique about this initiative is that it represents a partnership that includes organized labor, academe, and government. The eighteen unions that participate in the program provide tuition support for their members, mostly through collectively-bargained benefit agreements, but sometimes right out of their union treasuries. Since the establishment of the Institute, these unions have expanded their contributions, while others have created new educational benefit funds for their members where previously none existed. The State Legislature and City Council provide significant supplemental funding. These funds are used to provide pre-admission services, counseling, test preparation, tutoring, career counseling, and an array of other support services to insure academic success. CUNY– through the Murphy Institute and the School of Professional Studies – offers undergraduate and graduate courses at the Institute’s facilities in mid-Manhattan and at satellite locations throughout the City. The Murphy Institute also creates new programs in collaboration with CUNY colleges, to serve either cohorts or individual union members. The result is that thousands of union members earn a college degree and prepare for the changing nature of work in the 21st century. There are special programs at the Institute for city and state employees, garment workers, school paraprofessionals, operating engineers, librarians, hospital workers, and a host of others. As one participant so aptly put it: “I’d be a fool not to take advantage of this opportunity to go back to school; I worked all my life to send my kids to college, now its my turn”. And it’s not just union members who benefit. The Institute is open to anyone who is interested in pursuing a college degree and its work often impacts on other CUNY units as they adjust their policies and practices to accommodate the needs of working adults. Colleges working in tandem with the Murphy Institute, for example, are offering more evening and weekend courses, which helps all workers – union and non-union-- who can not attend classes during the daytime hours.

In the automotive business, logistics is everything. “The mission of NJ CAR is to serve the essential business needs of automotive retailers throughout New Jersey.This state has a large and vibrant network of vehicle dealers and they all rely on the port to get the cars here on time.With nearly 750,000 cars entering or leaving the port every year, logistics is everything.You may not give much thought to the port, but it is truly the engine that keeps our economy revved up. For the automotive industry, the Port of New York and New Jersey means business.”

James B.Appleton President NJ Coalition of Automotive Retailers (NJ CAR)

There is nothing like this anywhere else in the country: this unique unionuniversity-government partnership should be a model for every municipality in the nation. For more information, contact the Murphy Institute at 212-827-0200 or visit Gregory Mantsios is Director, Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies Advertisement

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A Snapshot of the 110th Congress and Labor BY REP. YVETTE CLARKE DEMOCRATICALLY-LED 110TH Congress has responded to the nation’s frustration with the Republican style of business as usual by committing to a new direction for America. That commitment includes making our economy fairer for all, including the working and middle classes of our society. As a recipient of many of the benefits that Labor fought to provide their membership, I can attest to their importance to many families—including my own. There were several pieces of legislation that were introduced by the 110th Congress that directly impact Labor. The tone set by the Democratic leadership, under Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Chairman George Miller of the Education and Labor Committee, is that working and middle class families are valuable component of our nation’s economic stability. The bills listed below provide a snapshot of the issues impacting Labor that bubbled to the top during the first half of the legislative year. Early on in the 110th Congress, one of the first pieces of legislation to address the labor issues was the Employee Free Choice Act of 2007. This bill was aimed at



helping working and middle class families, and making it more difficult for employers to thwart workers’ efforts to form unions with the purpose of bargaining for better wages and benefits. The bipartisan bill would strengthen penalties for employers who violate workers’ freedom (harassment, intimidation, and illegal firings) to make their own choices about unions. It would allow a neutral party to determine a first contract if the company and employees cannot reach an agreement. The bill will also enable people to form unions when a majority of employees indicate, in writing, they do in fact want to unionize. This legislation passed the House by a vote of 241 to 185. The Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2007 would extend to public safety officers (firefighters; law enforcement officers; or emergency medical services personnel) the right to bargain collectively with their employers. In addition to guaranteeing the right of public safety officers to form and join a union, the bill’s provisions: (1) guarantee workers the right to bargain collectively over hours, wages and conditions of employment; (2) provide for enforcement of contracts through state courts; (3) exclude manage-

ment and supervisory employees (chiefs and assistant chiefs) but retain the right of fire lieutenants and captains, as well as police sergeants to join a bargaining unit; (4) protect all existing certification, recognition, elections, collective bargaining agreements and memoranda of understanding; and (5) outlaw strikes and provide for dispute resolution mechanisms, such as mediation, fact finding or arbitration to resolve disputes. It is important to note that most states already meet or exceed the basic collective bargaining rights established under this bill, and would be exempt from its provisions, so long as those rights are guaranteed. States not found to meet the minimum standards would have 18 months after the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) determination to adopt a new law or amend their existing law. The bill passed the House with a vote of 314-97. The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007 serves to rectify the Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter vs. Goodyear Tire. It clarifies that when it comes to discriminatory pay, the protections of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation

Act, extends to every paycheck that results from discriminatory pay decisions and practices. The bill also clarifies that anyone alleging discriminatory pay can recover up to two years of back pay regardless of whether the back pay accrued outside the statute of limitations for filing the charge. On the horizon are the RESPECT (ReEmpowerment of Skilled and Professional Employees and Construction Tradeworkers) Act and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation Pilots Equitable Treatment Act. Although neither bill has reached the House floor, both are anticipated to spearhead robust debates.


Yvette Clarke is a Democrat representing parts of Brooklyn in the House. She is a member of the Education and Labor Committee.

“I believe safe work and fair wages are civil rights. My union is NYSUT.” Margie Brumfield, Rochester Association of Paraprofessionals

NYSUT represents more than 585,000 professionals in education and health care who are committed to the principles of unionism and social justice, and who are leading the way in creating a better educated, healthier New York.

Richard C. Iannuzzi, President Affiliated with AFT • NEA • AFL-CIO

INFLUENCE — EDUCATE — PERSUADE Reach New York’s Influential Leaders

Issue Forum for September:

EDUCATION As the new school year begins City Hall will ask the experts to discuss the state of New York’s classrooms and how to improve them, considering funding, curriculum and other major concerns for students of all ages across New York City and State, as well as their parents and teachers.

The forum will feature columns by: State Senator Stephen Saland — Chair of the Senate Education Committee Assembly Member Cathy Nolan — Chair of the Assembly Education Committee City Council Member Charles Barron — Chair of the Council’s Higher Education Committee Issue Date is September 10 • Advertising Deadline is September 6

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On Labor Initiatives, New York City Should Lead the Way

JOHN E. GREANEY President and Business Manager

BY COUNCIL MEMBER JOSEPH ADDABBO NEW YORK CITY’S ECONOMY continues to grow, with development cropping up in every corner of our city and unemployment rates steadily decreasing, it would be an easy mistake to ignore the ongoing concerns of our city’s workforce. It is, in fact, incumbent upon the city’s elected officials and community leaders to stop now and think about the future of our workforce, and the types of jobs we are creating. Our city government has laudably determined that a livable wage is both a priority for our workforce and a responsibility we have to New York City workers. It does not end there. Shouldn’t we place that same priority on guaranteeing workers a minimum number of paid sick days; ensuring that the work place is safe and free of hazards; and making sure that our workers are continually and appropriately trained for the jobs of tomorrow? Millions of New Yorkers cannot afford to take time off from work when ill. In fact, more than half of our workers are denied even a single paid sick day. This results in increased acute illnesses for workers who are not able to recuperate from minor illnesses. An unhealthy workforce affects the health of the public with whom they interact, and also is less productive. Federal law does not provide paid sick days, but states and cities have the legal authority to require paid days off. San Francisco is currently the only city to do so. There is a growing movement in New York to pass legislation which would mandate a minimum number of paid sick days for every worker. This is clearly an issue whose time has come, and I believe it would be a worthy discussion. On another point, the last decade has seen an easing of regulations that allow the self-certification by developers in all facets of construction work. In that same time period, the building trades unions’ share of construction work has decreased drastically. The increase in self-certification and the increase in non-union construction have corresponded in the same time period with a general perception of an increase in worker injuries. In fact, in 2005, we had 88 work-related fatalities in our city. To me, that number is astounding. Nearly 100 years after the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, which launched the worker safety movement in this country, we still have preventable deaths in our city. Is there a direct correlation between a

AUG UST 2007





PHONE: (212) 643-1070 FAX: (212) 643-2974

THOMAS J. McKEON Financial Secretary


Union Labor Built Right the First Time United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America Compliments of…. the officers and members of carpenters local union # 608

unionized workforce and the safety of our workers? The answer is undeniably yes. Finally, while job placements in the city have increased at commendable rates, federal funding for workforce development and training has decreased by almost 40 percent in the last seven years. Strong workforce development programs are necessary in order to make sure that our youth and immigrant communities are given the tools they need to become qualified trained workers. Over the last decade, labor organizations throughout our city have invested in community-based training programs which aggressively outreach to neighborhoods throughout our city. Language instruction and remedial education classes have become standard for many of the training and apprenticeship programs that these unions run. Our city’s ability to close the gap between the prior failures in our public education system and the jobs of tomorrow is critical in our ability to meet the needs of our economy, job opportunities and qualified workers in the years ahead. We are witnessing an economic expansion unlike any this city has seen in recent times. This invariably creates jobs at a favorable rate, but it is important that we remain focused on exactly what kinds of jobs we are creating. Our workers need and deserve a healthy and safe work environment, and we have a responsibility to educate and train our workers for the jobs of tomorrow.


Joseph Addabbo is a Democrat representing parts of Queens on the City Council. He is the chair of Council’s Civil Service and Labor Committee.

John E. Greaney . . . . . . . . . . . . . .President/Business Manager Martin Devereaux . . . . . . . . . . . . .Vice President & Business Rep. Maurice R. Leary . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Recording Secy. & D.C. Rep. Thomas J. McKeon . . . . . . . . . . . . .Financial Secy. & Business Rep. Ed Mc Williams . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Treasurer & D.C. Rep. Joseph Firth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Trustee & Business Rep. Brian Hayes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Trustee & Business Rep. Chris Grogan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Trustee Michael K. Harrington . . . . . . . . . .Warden Michael Murphy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Conductor & D.C. Rep. Maurice McGrath . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Business Representative Edward Maudsley . . . . . . . . . . . . .Business Representative Vincent Taddeo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Business Representative John Daly . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Business Representative

Who will be this year's Rising Stars? Who will make the list again? Who will be new this year? Your votes will decide. City Hall is looking for the top 35 under 40 elected officials, staffers, lobbyists, consultants and others in and around government from all over New York. Nominate your choices, with an explanation and brief description of the person by emailing us at Nominations must be received by September 4th.




Trying to Narrow the Narrows Harrison’s and Zink’s SIBRO looks to bridge issues that local electeds say needlessly divide their districts concern of all communities.” Janele Hyer-Spencer (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn) said she felt this tension politically while campaigning in TEPHEN HARRISON FOUND THE ABSENCE OF Bay Ridge during her successful Assembly race last Brooklyn media at his press conference ironic. year. Back in July, Harrison and Mark Zink “They feel like the second-class part of their disgathered in Midland Beach, Staten Island, trict,” she said. “I can identify with that. Staten to announce SIBRO, a new civic association Island always felt like a second-class borough.” geared to bring people from Staten Island (SI) When she spent significant time campaigning in and Brooklyn (BRO) together to find common Brooklyn, her opponent accused her of having an solutions to local issues. anti-Staten Island bias. When the votes were “We’re finally getting together to unite counted, though, she lost in the Staten Island part people,” said Zink, a Staten Island educator. of the district by 335 votes. Her 1,082 vote-margin The boroughs share four politicians—all in the Brooklyn portion of the district made up of whom live in Staten Island—at the city, the difference, sending her to Albany. state and federal level. With SIBRO, Harrison and Zink hope to get Harrison, a Brooklyn resident, was the past all these sorts of divisions. In September, Democratic candidate for the congressionthey will invite input from anyone in Staten al seat which represents Staten Island and Island and Southwest Brooklyn about what parts of southwest Brooklyn in 2006— issue the group will study first. Zink expects and, as of August 9, a candidate again for transportation to be high on the list of priori2008. ties, as it is a pressing issue for both boroughs. Harrison recalled that over the In light of the storm that tore through the city course of the 2006 race, “the split perlast week, Harrison wants to help the Brooklyn sonality of the district became so obviand Staten Island victims. ous.” To remain impartial, the civic association will Such was the case, Harrison said, always be headed by two people, one from with the proposed NASCAR raceStaten Island and the track in Staten Island last year. other from Brooklyn. Despite the added congestion on Harrison has not the Brooklyn side of the Verrazanodecided to become the Narrows Bridge the racetrack was Brooklyn president of expected to cause, Staten Island politithe association. cians and community groups saw the Some of the issue as their own and led the successful projects Harrison charge to block construction. wants to see SIBRO Harrison contends that victory would look at were lefthave come even sooner had the overs from his Congressional district’s 200,000 Congressional camBrooklyn residents joined the effort. paign. This includes “We can add that clout,” Harrison studying the controsaid. versial two-way bridge James Oddo, the Republican toll, which he supportCouncil leader whose district is ed, unlike the majority of mostly comprised of Staten Island Staten Island politicians but includes a piece of southwest from both parties. Brooklyn, agreed that there is a However, he contends that SIBRO problem which needs to be will stay civic-minded and non-partisan, even solved. “It’s the Narrows and Rep. Vito Fossella, City Council Member James Oddo, State as he mounts a rematch against Rep. Fossella (R-Staten the bridge,” he said. “That’s Sen. Diane Savino and Assembly Member Janele Hyer-Spencer Vito Island/Brooklyn). where the communications all have to deal with districts which cross boroughs, but comHarrison acknowledges that his breakdown happens. We cross it everyday, but it mon solutions to problems which do not. involvement in SIBRO will look politiseems to be the great divide.” Recalling a kidnapping prevention seminar he held a workshop last year on the future of southwest cal, but he plans to remain involved. “They’ll criticize you if you do nothing. They’ll critifor parents and children which had a much larger Brooklyn’s Gowanus Expressway, Savino was surprised turnout from Brooklynites than Staten Islanders, he said that she was the only Staten Island resident in the room. cize you if you do something,” he said. “I’d rather do something.” he would welcome the help and involvement from Much of the traffic comes from Staten Island. Harrison received 43 percent of the vote last year, the Savino added that there is a perception that the peoBrooklyn. closest any candidate has come in a race against the 10“Sometimes I wish I could take 15 ounces of the ple in one borough cannot relate to the other. “I think in the past, people have tried to divide the year incumbent. Brooklyn side and inject it into the Staten Island popuFor Fossella’s part, when interviewed, he said he is lation,” he said. “The level of participation on the two boroughs with a suburban/urban agenda,” she said. Seymour Lachman, a Bensonhurst resident who rep- not familiar with SIBRO, but offered words of encourBrooklyn side is amazing.” State Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn) resented the same State Senate district for part of his agement when told of its mission. “Frankly,” he said, “I applaud anyone who wants to urged that the help be reciprocated by Staten Island time in office, agreed. “There is a lack of communication between the parts step up and highlight the good things in the community leaders, who she said are not as involved as they should of Brooklyn and Staten Island,” he said, arguing that res- to make it better.” be in dealing with Brooklyn’s traffic problems. When the Gowanus Project Stakeholders Group held idents do not realize “a concern of one community is a





ATTENTION CITY COUNCIL! Stop The TLC From Trampling On Drivers’ Privacy, Incomes, Health & Safety. Tens of Thousands of Taxi Drivers Are Outraged and Ready to Strike for Dignity on The Job. Stop GPS Tracking of Taxis • Independent contractor taxi drivers tracked 24/7, even when we take our kids to the park we have to “log in” • We would lose 5% on all credit card fares; this is a wage cut • TV Monitors playing ads (drivers pay for the system with higher leases, but get none of the ads revenue) are being brought back; we have to listen to the same ads 12 hours/day • Text Messages are distracting and a nuisance for both drivers and riders • If any one of the technology breaks down for 48 hours straight, we have to park the cab until it passes another inspection

SUPPORT OUR FIGHT FOR FAIRNESS & JUSTICE. 43,000 working families are counting on you!

New York Taxi Workers Alliance Member of New York City Central Labor Council 37 East 28th Street, Suite #302 New York, New York 10016 Phone: 212-627-5248 Fax: 646-638-4446 E-mail:




The Caped Legislator Brian K. Vaughan finds a hero in the real Gotham City with Mayor Mitchell Hundred BY DAN RIVOLI







2001, Michael Bloomberg’s fortune was no match for Mitchell Hundred, the world’s first and only superhero, who stopped the second plane from crashing into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. That is, in the world of Ex Machina, where comic book writer Brian K. Vaughan’s Hundred is not just the independent, pragmatic and socially liberal mayor of New York City, but also the Great Machine, imbued with the power to communicate with and control every type of machine, from toasters to space shuttles. To deflect any fear of election fraud, Vaughan has Hundred quarantined on Election Day, lest he use his powers on the city’s voting machines to do more than just punch a few hanging chads. This was necessary, Vaughan said, not only to establish credibility in the minds of the fictional New York’s citizens, but in his actual readers as well. In all his interviews, Vaughan said, the topic of the Great Machine’s potential sway over voting machines inevitably arises. “Every journalist I talked with,” he said, “it’s the first question they ask.” The debates in the chambers of Mayor Hundred’s City Hall are not about congestion pricing, but legalizing gay marriage and funding controversial art at the Brooklyn Museum. However, like in Bloomberg’s New York City, there is a smoking ban. The planned 50-issue series chronicles the life of Mitchell Hundred through his first mayoral term. Vaughn got the idea for Ex Machina following the Sept. 11 attacks, which he and his girlfriend watched from the rooftop of their Brooklyn apartment. In the aftermath, Vaughan felt people were looking for heroes in their politicians. Vaughan chose a mayor because he sees them as “the beat cops of the political world,” and the providers of basic public services. Additionally, he liked the idea that mayors are less likely partisan ideologues, and finds relevance in former

New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia’s famous maxim, “There is no Democratic or Republican way of cleaning the streets.” Plus, Hundred’s political independence often enables more colorful storytelling. “I like that there’s a degree of unpredictability,” Vaughan said. A 31-year-old native of Cleveland, Ohio, Vaughan chose to set his story in an actual place rather than a Gotham City or Metropolis not just because the Trade Center’s destruction was the spark of the idea, but also because of his love of the city. He first glimpsed the distinctive urban landscape in the panels of his favorite Marvel comics as a child. Eventually, in 1994, he enrolled in New

city, he published the first issue of Ex Machina in 2004. He has since moved to California to write for ABC’s Lost, but while simultaneously finishing the final 21 issues, he keeps up-to-date with city news and politics by reading the major dailies, NY1 and City Hall. He also reads biographies of past mayors. Mitchell Hundred is based more on legendary mayors like the practical LaGuardia, the handsome John Lindsay and the forceful Rudolph Giuliani—three mayors Vaughan considers the most interesting in city history. “Little bits of their DNA were combined in Mitchell,” he said. “Like a vulture, I’m just trying to pick at the bones of history.” While the comic pays homage to the past, there are parallels to Bloomberg, who recently switched his party status to Unaffiliated. Vaughan said he sensed something in the zeitgeist when he created Hundred, an Independent. His first deputy mayor is a former Democratic City Council Member from Brooklyn. His chief of police is introduced at a press conference as a “lifelong Republican.” Hundred sees partisan ideology and party machines as a barrier to reform. Despite Vaughan’s frustration with the two-party system, Hundred is not a mouthpiece for his political beliefs. “I probably wouldn’t have voted for him,” Vaughan said. And sometimes he is not sure of his own views on topics, even as he explores their impact on the Hundred administration and the fictional New York City, as was the case when he dived into the debate about school vouchers. “There are definitely times I write about something, I’m not sure where I stand,” he said.

Brian K. Vaughan says his comic was “a response to 9/11.” vision of DC Comics. A critical success, the comic won the 2005 Will Eisner Comic Industry Award for Best New Series. And it has sold well, too: New Line Cinema is planning a film based on the series. Last month, Vaughan turned in the first draft of the script. Neither a production schedule nor a release date has yet been set. Already the series has caught the eye of one actual politician, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan), who previously worked as an aide in the City Council and for two mayoral administrations. Kavanagh was given the book by a mutual friend of his and Vaughan’s. He emailed Vaughan to tell how much he enjoyed the piece, and joked that there could be a future issue with a cameo appearance of a character loosely based on him. “I don’t generally read comic books,” Kavanagh said, “but I’m a sucker for anything involving civic affairs, especially New York-related.” Kavanagh is not the only one. The series has a lot for superhero fans, but much for politicians and policy wonks, as well, with factoids and references to people like Bernard Goetz or the city’s youngest mayor, John Purroy Mitchel, sprinkled throughout the panels. “It’s the balance between wanting to sound authentic and telling a compelling story,” he said, calling Ex Machina the “brand of science fiction where it’s just one DNA strand removed from our own.”

“People blame me for Bush in his flight suit or Arnold getting elected governor,” Mitchell Hundred says in the first issue of Ex Machina , which takes place in a fictional universe where he is both the world’s only superhero and New York City’s mayor. “But the truth is… those things would have happened with or without me.” York University’s film school. “The story was born out of New York City,” he said. Ten years later and still living in the

The comic’s political content, even with its healthy dose of blood, explosions and nudity, made Ex Machina a tough pitch to Wildstorm Productions, a subdi-



AUG UST 2007


Spitzer Commission Studies Local Government Reform, Faces Opposition Stan Lundine leads commission untangling system some say is a relic of days past BY JOHN R.D. CELOCK GOV. Eliot Spitzer (D) to study local government reform in the state could run into opposition from local officials in its attempt to update a system which has been described as ideal for the horse and buggy age. The commission, chaired by former Lt. Gov. Stan Lundine (D), is the latest in a century-old procession of groups studying local government reform in the state. Spitzer’s office swears this one will be able to get something done. Other than New York City, the state has 61 incorporated cities, from Buffalo, with 292,000 residents, to Sherrill, with 3,147 residents. All the cities are similar in government structure and do not have villages in their limits. The state’s 811 towns encompass rural and suburban areas, and there are 356 villages, all locat-



ed within one, or in some cases two, towns. More than 10,000 special districts exist statewide to handle such services as fire protection, sewers and soil conservation, in addition to school districts, which are organized separately. All of these entities have taxing authority. Many overlap the same residents.

These could include merging villages with towns, establishing shared services and joining services with the county. Lundine noted that whatever the commission recommends would take into account the suburban and rural areas covered by the local governments. “I doubt we can make a sweeping recommendation that all villages be elimi-

The commission, chaired by former Lt. Gov. Stan Lundine (D), is the latest in a century-old procession of groups studying local government reform in the state. Spitzer’s office swears this one will be able to get something done. Lundine said the commission, which is holding several public hearings statewide, is looking at a variety of plans to address the abundance of government in the state.


Election Forecast 2008: Meal Ticket

The staff at Gray’s Papaya, the famous Upper West Side hot dog mecca, has been known for weighing in on politics, and policy, with its perennial two hot dog and drink “Recession Special” and signs lauding former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s courtesy campaign. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg is their choice for the presidential election—and they are willing to put a wager on it: if he wins, they promise “free hot dogs on inauguration day.”

nated,” Lundine said. “As a practical matter, that would not be achieved.” Villages are the only levels of government which can be formed and dissolved by the electorate. In recent years, several villages have sought to dissolve, while several new ones have been created on Long Island and in Rockland County. According to Gerald Benjamin, dean of arts of sciences at SUNY New Paltz and a commission member, in recent years, villages have been created in order to rest land use authority with a smaller group, and not with the larger town. Long Island officials have been trumpeting the need for villages, arguing that towns cannot effectively handle government services. These officials contend that the burden of providing these services is too large for towns to handle, so villages are necessary. The Town of Hempstead, in Nassau County, has 22 villages. With over 755,000 residents, Hempstead is larger than every incorporated city except New York City. Still, defenders of villages remain adamant. “There is no form of government that is more accessible than village government,” said Gary Vegliante, mayor of West Hampton Dunes in Suffolk County. “There is not one service that is not better administered by villages.” Upstate officials, looking at the opposite, are empowering the counties. Erie County Executive Joel Giambra (R) has been advocating for regionalized government for more than a decade, dating to his days as Buffalo comptroller. Giambra has proposed that the county assume all local functions or that it merge with the City of Buffalo. Giambra’s plan has met with strong resistance from local officials. On a statewide level, Giambra is proposing that the state offer disincentives as a way to force local governments to merge, a plan Lundine and Spitzer’s

office said is a possibility, along with financial incentives. He noted that in the American South and in Ireland there remain strong county government models, with no town level governments. Niagara County Legislator Kyle Andrews (D) believes that higher property taxes have hindered upstate economic development efforts, as companies seek to relocate to lower taxing areas. He is proposing merging towns and villages with the county, saying that regional government would work easier for rural areas, like his Lake Ontario-based district. “Look at the models used in many states down south. The model that is most successful is county government,” Andrews said. “So many of our services are structured on a county level, I don’t think going down would be probable.” To address opposition to consolidation from local interests, Andrews proposed that the commission aim for a goal of 10 percent consolidation of villages to start. he suggested using retirement incentives to combine workforces in rder to eliminate union opposition. Local government reform has support in the Legislature. Assembly Member Sam Hoyt (D-Buffalo) and Sen. Elizabeth Little (R-Hamilton/Essex/Franklin/Clinton), the two chairs of the local government committees, serve on the commission. Both have endorsed looking at new ways of governance, with Little favoring shared services and Hoyt looking at a more drastic approach of municipalities. Lloyd Constantine, Spitzer’s point man on local government, said that in addition to the commission, an inter-agency group has been meeting weekly to discuss the issues. Currently, the group is reviewing proposals from local government across the state relating to shared services and possible municipal mergers. He said that within a year, the administration hopes to have solid plans on the table with several proposals already implemented. The current system of overlapping governments has a long and storied history behind it, though. George Clinton may have been the state’s first postcolonial governor and the nation’s fourth vice president, but to Ulster County residents he was better known as the county clerk for 59 years, a period that overlapped his years in statewide and national office. Clinton used the money he made from filing fees as County Clerk to finance his state and national campaigns. Nonetheless, Constantine said, change is in the air. “The ultimate goal,” he said, “is to reduce the number of local governments and taxing districts.” Direct letters to the editor to



AUG UST 2007



and then you go on hard to the next.” he Saratoga Racetrack is the State Senate majority leader’s home away from home, a highlight of his district, a favorite destination for him every chance he gets over the summer. Two days after Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s (D) office released its Troopergate report, Bruno won big at the track. Since then, he said, he is almost even. Outside the track, Bruno is doing a little better. Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) has been buffeted by the repercussions and recriminations since the Cuomo report found that some aides acted inappropriately, though not illegally, in their efforts to discredit Bruno by having troopers document his travel in state aircraft and then

Bruno thinks all Spitzer’s top aides should be put under oath, but before that, fired. “He wants to be the chief executive, and he ought to deliver a message. In fact, he ought to just start over, and everyone that’s around him should be gone,” he said, arguing that Baum and Dopp are just some of the people who should lose their jobs. leak the records to reporters. “I keep hearing that it’s Nixon-esque. And that’s sad, and it’s tragic, but it is,” Bruno said. “In New York State, we’ve never had anything like this in generations, in anyone’s memory.” The hard-charging sheriff of Wall Street has been struggling to recover—the man who compared New York to Rip Van Winkle on inauguration day going to the Chautauqua Institution on August 7, to quote Reinhold Niebuhr. Humility and vigilance, he preached, are the only way to keep righteousness from turning into self-righteousness. The next day, Spitzer came to Manhattan for a press conference on bridge stability and that morning’s subway system failures. He discussed engineering, clearing drainage pipes and bridge safety, keeping himself tightly focused away from the scandal and his mea culpa at Chautauqua.



The questions stayed on topic. Second from the last, he answered a question about MTA communication with riders, then allowed a follow-up. “On the topic of communication, are you going to release the emails of your staff?” asked the reporter. “The lawyers are dealing with that,” Spitzer said quickly, quietly. “I’m trying to stick to my day job.” He called on the next reporter, eager to get past the question. He wanted to move on. Bruno, in a far-ranging discussion between bugle calls at the racetrack that sunny Sunday, August 5, did not. The problem, Bruno said, is deep and important, and has shaken his faith in Spitzer’s capacity to lead the state. He holds up a tightly crossed index and middle finger to show how well he got along with then-Attorney General Spitzer, but slams Spitzer’s record in that office as well. “He buried people in the press. That’s his M.O. That’s what he’s done with me,” Bruno said. That, Bruno believes, is no way for a politician to act. Spitzer and his aides point to their accomplishments passing “an historic agenda” during his seven months in office so far, including the increased education funding,

the reforms of the health care system and worker’s compensation laws, and the property tax relief targeted at middle-income homeowners. Bruno is unimpressed. To him, Spitzer has failed. “He doesn’t appear to have the temperament to govern, to negotiate in good faith, to compromise,” Bruno said. Referring to Spitzer’s now infamous steamroller he added, “most people would be kidding. He meant it.” Bruno has questioned whether Spitzer belongs in politics, and he has come to a conclusion. “No,” he said. “I don’t think he does. He probably would have been great in real estate, where some people handle themselves differently than others. But real estate, you know, you’re a hard driver, you drive a hard bargain for some people. That’s probably where he belongs.” runo was a champion boxer while stationed in Korea in 1954. Prod him gently about his two broken noses, and he will demonstrate how little cartilage he has by pressing the spot where his reading glasses sit. He has not sparred for several years—and only then, to demonstrate that his 43 external radiation treatments for prostate cancer had not slowed him—but he still




works a speed bag five days per week. He still weighs within the light heavyweight 171-176 pound range, and regularly encourages people to punch him in the wall of muscle that is his gut. He says his poor upbringing is extremely central to how he conceives of himself and his politics. “I’ve never, ever forgotten where I come from,” he says, explaining that his views on health, tax and education legislation are still defined by his past. He also carries with him the scars of that background. “We were discriminated against because we were the poorest people in town, immigrants, called every name in the book. Irish were at one end, we were at the other. And it was kid’s stuff then, but it was very hurtful. In Catholic school, they discriminated. If you were from a wealthy family, you got treated differently than from a poor family, and that’s kind of sad.” Bruno built himself up, eventually making millions with the sale of his telecommunications business. Throughout, he modeled his mentality on that of his immigrant father who held three jobs. Very much enamored of his own up-by-the-bootstraps story, Bruno seems to think of and portray himself as a man holding onto values from an age gone by. He basks in the sun and attention from old friends in his box at the Saratoga Racetrack, kicking back in his green jacket and bright tie with a lemonade, musing about the horses in August and the value he puts on a handshake. “I say it out loud ’cause it’s the truth: I was a very average student. I had a lot of problems getting through high school, because I was very unhappy and working a lot.” What he has always had, he believes, is the blessing of “a great intuition, a sixth sense.” He believes he can size a person up, and almost always be right. “Nobody’s perfect. You make mistakes, and I’ve made mistakes with some people,” he said. “I made a mistake with Eliot Spitzer.” After 12 and a half years as majority leader—32 years in office and another decade working in politics before that—Bruno still believes people misunderstand him. He insists he is not a villain or an obstructionist. On the contrary, he says, he does the job out of his own passion for New Yorkers, and believes that things move slowly mostly because the state is so complicated. If he were not so committed, he says, he would leave: He made enough money in business, despite his impoverished childhood playing with crates in the rail yard down the street from his one-toilet Glen Falls house. He simply wanted less taxes and government regulation, and won a primary and general election arguing that he was the best man to get the job done. “Contrary to the press, it has been expensive for me to be in this business,” he insisted. “There are very few people in leadership positions that have a lot less net worth than they had 10, 12 years ago.” He has many critics, including almost every Democrat in the state, and nearly all the newspaper editorial boards and good government groups. Opponents charge that he is a special interest crony out to protect his dwindling Republican majority at all costs—a self-serving friend of big business and irresponsible tax cuts, a calcified embodiment of all that has for so long been so wrong in Albany. Last November, when overwhelming margins put Democrats in control of every statewide office while other races added two seats to the ever-growing Assembly majority and picked off a long time State Senate target in Westchester, the Democrats were gleeful. Spitzer the Savior was riding into Albany. Day one, if not everything changed, then at least everything might start to change. The status quo was going, and the Republican State Senate majority along with it. Add to that the FBI investigation of government contracts awarded to an associate, and Bruno’s days, many believed, were numbered.



in a In the wake of Troopergate, the governor


tries to recalibrate his hard-charging approach

n his speech at the Chautauqua Institution August 7, Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) spoke of the need for humility in government. This was a lesson, he said, that he and his staff have had to quickly learn as the fallout from the alleged misuse of state troopers continues. “We have learned an important lesson,” he said. “And in the end, our fight for change will be stronger for it.” Many Democrats hope he proves to be right. But, they say, he will only be able to move forward if he changes his approach to governing. Albany is a collegial place, they say, and he needs to build and rebuild bridges if he hopes to get past the situation and State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno’s (RRensselaer) attempts to keep him entangled. Assembly Member Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) said that if nothing else, the scandal’s aftermath has revealed the deeply troubled state of Spitzer’s relationship with others in Albany, even within his own party. “It is now clear that he has not been able to call upon any reservoir of good will with respect to his colleagues in government,” Brodsky said. “The administration’s use of intense personal criticism has not worked.” But though Brodsky said he was wary of Spitzer’s attempts to invoke executive privilege, which he called “a legal doctrine that doesn’t much exist in New York law,” he urged restraint as the minor buzz about impeachment proceedings floats around Albany. “There’s no reason to proceed to those legal judgments until these investigations are completed,” he said, “and there’s nothing on the public record to proceed to that place.” If he is to succeed as governor, colleagues and observers agree, Spitzer will have to be sincere and steadfast in his efforts to modify his approach. Former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R), who has developed ties to both Bruno and Spitzer and made an effort to reconcile them, said he believed Spitzer has been bruised, but could recover if he modifies his behavior. “They’ll be looking at him very closely, they’ll be watching to see does he exhibit the kind of humility that he’s talked about, or is he just going to exercise an unrestrained kind of forwardness,” D’Amato said. “They’ll be looking to see ‘has he changed his manner, or is he using the bullying approach?’” Brooke Masters, author of the Spitzer biography Spoiling for a Fight, said she sees a man who seems to be making the effort. “He’s talking in a completely different tone than he was three months ago,” she said. “There’s been a marked change in tone, a sort of acceptance that much as he may like his way of doing business—much as he prefers it—that it’s not going to work.” Whether he will be able to hold to the change long-term is another question, Masters said. “I’m not sure he can do it. There’s been no proof that he can,” she said. “On the other hand, Eliot Spitzer is an extremely smart guy, and he knows that if he wants to get done what he wants to get done, he’s got to change.” Masters pointed to the example of Thomas Dewey, a former Manhattan district attorney and threeterm governor known for intense confrontations at the outset of his first term who eventually reinvented himself as a collegial presence and compromiser. Spitzer, Masters said, could do the same. But James Tierney (D), a former attorney general of Maine and the director of Columbia Law School’s National State Attorneys General Program, said he hoped Spitzer would not go too far. Tierney pointed out that of the nine current governors who had previously served as state attorneys general, Spitzer is the only one without any non-prosecutorial public sector experience. “Eliot’s the über-lawyer,” he said, explaining that rather than being defined by a hard-charging prosecutorial mentality, he has “more finely-honed skill sets.” A Spitzer fan, Tierney said that the governor’s ambition and accomplishment are direct results of his not being tempered by years of fundraising and serving in local office. “When you go through that, you know what you get? George Pataki,” he said. “Sits there for 12 years, and nothing changes.”


—EIRD to the situation. “I was kind of amazed and surprised,” he said, before carefully pivoting into criticism. “But on reflection it makes sense. This is an extremely serious allegation.” pitzer has never been known for tolerating his political enemies, and would probably have gone after the Senate Republicans even had that not been one of David Paterson’s preconditions for becoming his lieutenant governor running mate last year. Bruno and Spitzer were allies in the selection process for the new comptroller, with Bruno leading his conference to back a recommendation of the independ-




restrictions to be a signature achievement, and he clearly was not happy to find Bruno standing in the way. He called Bruno an obstructionist. He called him a functionary of dysfunction. In at least one conversation with a state senator, he called Bruno senile. Bruno fired back, repeatedly deriding Spitzer as a rich kid throwing a tantrum, a man with a history of verbal abuse and threats of physical violence. And then came Troopergate. As soon as the attorney general’s office released its report on Spitzer’s staff, the governor held a press conference to announce he was indefinitely suspending communications director Darren Dopp and reassigning William Howard, who had overseen the state police. A further reshuffling of staff followed. That morning, Spitzer called Bruno to apologize. Bruno accepted, but with some skepticism that he had made the call just to be able to tell reporters that he did.

Bruno has questioned whether Spitzer belongs in politics, and he has come to a conclusion.“No,” he said. “I don’t think he does. He probably would have been great in real estate, where some people handle themselves differently than others. But real estate, you know, you’re a hard driver, you drive a hard bargain for some people. That’s probably where he belongs.”


Spitzer poached State Sen. Michael Balboni (R) to be his homeland security secretary, then helped push Craig Johnson (D-Nassau) to victory in the subsequent special election in February. Though overtures to several other Senate Republicans ultimately fell flat, Spitzer persisted. Six months ago, six weeks ago, stories about Bruno had him on the ropes. He absorbed the hits. Like a boxer, he waited to strike. Now he is in an odd and unlikely place: After years of being tarred and vilified, Bruno is the victim, the sympathetic soul. On August 6, his situation was the subject of a human-interest piece run nationally on the Today show. Bruno said he never expected this level of attention been majority leader, Bruno said he gave Spitzer “a lot of credit” for succeeding. The budget done, Albany leaders began determining which issues would be forced into the familiar game of lastminute compromises. Silver wanted pay raises for legislators. Spitzer refused. Bruno— and later, Spitzer—backed New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s (Unaff.) congestion pricing proposal. Silver refused. Bruno wanted property tax cuts for seniors. Spitzer refused. Spitzer wanted campaign finance reforms. Bruno refused.



ent screening panel over Thomas DiNapoli (D). They finished the budget on time and negotiated deals on budget reform, civil confinement and worker’s compensation. Bruno cheered these deals. After all, as he sees things, they were simply executing his conference’s agenda, which had for years been blocked by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D). “Shelly Silver folded up,” he said. “When he brags about what he got done, what he did was roll Shelly to get done in the Assembly what we prioritized.” Nonetheless, after more than 12 years serving with Silver, who has been speaker for the entire time he has

Bruno looked back fondly on the days when he and the speaker presented a united front from the Legislature in negotiating with Pataki, and attacked Spitzer for trying to break that bond. “What he has done in the past is try and separate us. He goes and meets with Shelly, he meets with me, tries to put us together after the fact,” he said. “It’s almost like divide and conquer, which is a tactic that people try to use. Pataki tried to use it.” Spitzer hosted public leaders meetings, arguing that they could substitute for the closed-door negotiations that have come to define Albany. Bruno attended, but he said he did so only as a measure of good faith. The meetings, he said, were little more than posturing for the cameras. “What was accomplished at all those leaders meetings?” Bruno now wonders. “He was in charge, ‘it’s my room, my rules,’ his table, his gavel. You raise your hand to speak. It’s nonsense.” Not that he is so eager to meet with Spitzer in private, either. In the heat of their sparring, Bruno announced that he would no longer be alone in a room with Spitzer, accusing the governor of consistently misrepresenting their conversations. “He has kind of two sets of rules: one for himself and one for everybody else,” Bruno said. “He has an arrogance about him that’s very unbecoming. He tells you one thing constantly and then does another. Constantly. And it isn’t just with me.” As the clock ticked on the legislative session, Spitzer stepped up the rhetoric. He wanted the new donation

“I hope it was sincere. I accepted it, and I accept it as sincere,” he said, then paused. “You know what? Saying sorry is a nice thing to do, but it doesn’t get you good government, doesn’t get you results.” hen he reflects on his perseverance, Bruno casts himself in stately terms, the reluctant hero called upon to slay the dragon. “I’m hearing from members who won’t go public, who are basically saying ‘it’s about time someone stood up to him.’ And these are Democrats,” he claimed. “It’s about time someone stood up to this guy who thinks truly that he is going to crush anyone in his path. That’s what he believes. Now what kind of mentality is that for a key person in government, that ‘I’ll crush you?’” State Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), an avowed political adversary of Bruno, said the story was less about heroics and more about media portrayal. “I see it more as expectations were so high for the governor, with such a strong expectation created by Eliot Spitzer that he was the guy who was coming in to do all the right things and to take on the problems and clean up Albany,” she said. “Expectations are so low for what the ethical standards of Joe Bruno’s team are that even being caught doing something that wasn’t illegal makes them look good.” That, Krueger believes, explains the reverberations of Troopergate so far. “Eliot wears the white outfit. Joe wears the black outfit. So when Eliot got a little dirt on his outfit, it’s a bigger deal,” she said. Krueger called the recovery classic Bruno. “His charming and gracious skills can allow him to appear to have none of these problems, or none of the serious—from my perspective—policy problems that people should be holding him accountable for,” she said. “And those are skills.” The grey mane, the flashing teeth, the manicured handshakes, the arms around the shoulders—Bruno




uses them all to distract attention from the careful game of Albany chess he has mastered over the years. He speaks of being disheartened, joins Spitzer in calling for the high road of reconciliation. But he deftly wrings the situation for every political point, at every possible moment. With one basic demand, Bruno seems to think, he can bring Spitzer to his knees. “One thing he has to do: testify under oath. ’Cause not many people believe that he didn’t know anything about this. This is a serious allegation. This is really serious. And frankly, I’m sorry that we are where we are,” Bruno said. “He’s got to get it behind us. He can’t stonewall, can’t cover it up. It’s too serious.” Jeffrey Gordon, a Spitzer spokesman, would not address the issue of testifying, explaining that “it is not appropriate to comment” while the inquiries of Albany District Attorney David Soares (D) and the Ethics commission are underway. The State Senate investigations committee held a hearing August 9. Bruno continues to pummel. This is not about him, he insists. He is simply doing the people’s business. “The governor who allegedly would use the state police to spy on a rival in leadership—what will he do to anybody that’s out there?” he asked. “What will he do to get his way?” Bruno leaves those questions unanswered, as well as the question about whether he has won. But he will describe the experience. “It certainly wasn’t by any rules, so I guess you would call that a street fight,” he said. “If you box in a ring, you box with rules.” Bruno demands consequences. Dopp’s suspension counts for something, but not enough, and Spitzer “slapped everybody else on the wrist.” Some staff has been reshuffled. Others, like Spitzer’s top aide Rich Baum, have remained in their jobs. Gordon, speaking for the governor, argued that “the attorney general’s report makes clear that no crimes were committed, but recommended sanctions for two individuals. The governor took that advice and took immediate action. The sanctions administered are appropriate given the nature of the indiscretions.” That is not good enough for the majority


The light heavyweight champion while stationed in Korea in 1954, Joe Bruno, right, still works the speed bag five times per week, and still has an appetite for a fight. “As long as I get results, as long as I feel committed, challenged, useful, I want to continue,” he said. He speaks about being reinvigorated. But, he said, his prime concern is preserving the power of his conference. “One thing I know in my life, that nobody’s indispensable. It’s critically important that we protect the bal-

his new leverage to get passed, since nearly every insider knows how well he can use advantages to extract concessions. “It’s only a good moment if we accomplish the things that the people of the state want us to accomplish,” said Frank Padavan (R), a Queens state senator who was Marino’s assistant majority leader and has tangled with Bruno over the years. “Senator Bruno is a very pragmatic man. He realizes that his leadership on legislation will be the basis of judgment that the people will make.”

It’s about time someone stood up to this guy who thinks truly that he is going to crush anyone in his path. That’s what he believes. Now what kind of mentality is that for a key person in government, that ‘I’ll crush you?’”

leader, who thinks they should all be put under oath, but before that, fired. “He wants to be the chief executive, and he ought to deliver a message. In fact, he ought to just start over, and everyone that’s around him should be gone,” Bruno said, arguing that Baum and Dopp are just some of the people who should lose their jobs. Until then, Spitzer will not be able to govern. “He has no credibility as the governor,” he said. “Not with the leaders. I don’t believe he has.” runo came to power in 1995, in a Pataki-backed leadership coup against Ralph Marino. Never, Bruno insists, did he worry about getting knocked from leadership himself—a consequence, he and supporters claim, of his straightforward, direct, loyal approach. “When you give loyalty, you get loyalty,” said former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R). “That is the key to his personal success.” But Bruno said a coup is even less likely these days. He is 78, long past the age when most of the seniors whose property tax cuts he demanded retired. He has no plans to quit.


ance of the state,” he said. “Whatever happens in my life, in the future, we’ll have a Republican majority in the Senate.” That in mind, Bruno is taking advantage of a moment when many Democrats are avoiding the topic entirely, publicly expressing their confusion and privately expressing their disappointment. Looking to the other Albany leader—Silver—Bruno said the speaker should stop waiting for the governor, and start passing bills out of the Legislature for Spitzer to sign or veto. Bruno expressed hope that Silver will change his mind on this, and on his support for Spitzer. “He’ll have to eventually,” Bruno said. “The pressure’s going to build and build.” Spitzer’s office, meanwhile, declined response to Bruno’s comments on his ability to govern or criticism related to the Troopergate situation. “The governor is more interested in focusing on the needs of New Yorkers and doing the peoples’ business than continuing to focus on matters that have already been thoroughly investigated by two independent entities,” explained Gordon, Spitzer’s spokesman. The question now is what legislation Bruno will use

own in the winner’s circle, Bruno presents the trophy in the featured race, named for the Lemon Drop Kid. Horse number 6, Loose Leaf, came in first. Past the Point was second. Believeinmenow placed third. Bruno put no money on this race. He chats with the jockey, pets the horse. Walking out to his car he is stopped repeatedly. He is the local celebrity, and to some, the local hero. “I like the way you came through it,” says one man. “Joe—you want to buy a slightly-used steamroller?” another jokes. Those who are close enough get a picture or handshake. Those who call out to him from a distance get a wave or thumbs-up. The way Bruno sees things, he is riding high. He plans to call the State Senate into session for September, and has talked with Silver about bringing the Assembly back as well. But when they return, Bruno plans to make sure things will be different than when they left. “I’m not boycotting the governor. The governor wants to meet publicly next week and talk about what’s gone on with me and with Shelly, the others. Let’s talk about critical issues in an open forum, not show and tell, that ‘his room, his gavel, his rules,’” he said. “That stuff’s not going to happen to Joe.”




AUG UST 2007


The City Clerk: Political Springboard or Patronage Pasture? BY JOSEPH MEYERS HE CITY CLERK IS GONE, AND


no one knows how or when he will be replaced, or even when the process will start. But that has not stopped the angling from beginning. Victor Robles left the job on July 31, after six years in the position. His unexpected retirement seems to have left the Council unprepared to search for his successor. “It caught us all by surprise, because he was such a fixture,” said Council Member Lewis Fidler (D-Brooklyn), referring to Robles’ departure. “I don’t think anyone was expecting Victor to leave.” Robles was elected City Clerk in October 2001, just months before term limits would have ended his 16-year

Clerk—an agency which oversees the Marriage License Bureau, maintains most official city papers and documents, registers lobbyists and files oaths of office for city officials, among other administrative responsibilities. His annual salary was $174,399 for 2007, more than $60,000 higher than current Council members and well over double current state legislator salaries. Clerks are elected by the City Council to five-year terms. Robles served for almost six years. He was not officially reappointed after his term ended last year, though he continued in the job. Fidler said the Council had expected to reappoint Robles. Because he left without much warning, the Council had not begun looking for replacements. “Apparently nothing’s in the works at the moment,” Fidler said. “It’s just not on the radar yet.”

Caucus, the Council speaker proposes a candidate to the Committee on Rules, Privileges, and Elections. The committee then holds a public hearing and vote. If the committee recommends that nominee, the entire Council votes on the appointment. First Deputy City Clerk Michael McSweeney will serve as acting city clerk until the Council chooses a replacement. McSweeney may also be among those considered for nomination. “I wouldn’t decline the position if I was offered it,” said McSweeney, who has been in his current post since 2004. He was previously the director of legislative and community affairs at LaGuardia Community College. McSweeney is a Queens resident. To some observers, this may undercut his chances of being appointed. As political consultant Joe Mercurio explained, the position has historically been controlled by county leaders. “It’s an old time patronage position,” he said. “It’s one of those plums they give out that doesn’t have a lot of function.” According to Fidler, some Brooklyn Council members feel that since Robles is from Brooklyn, his successor should be as well. “I think it’s just a matter of pride,” Fidler said, speaking for some in his delegation. One of their own, Bushwick’s Erik Martin Dilan, has been mentioned as a possible candidate. Dilan said Quinn has not yet spoken to him about the position. But he did not dismiss the speculation. “If she were to offer it, I would have to consider it at that time,” he said. Assembly Member Vito Lopez, the Brooklyn Democratic leader, did not return calls for comment. But Bronx Democrats are also angling for the job, including the county leader himself, Assembly member José Rivera. “I just hope that the members appoint the best qualified person,” Rivera said. When asked if he thinks he is the bestqualified person, Rivera said, “Yes.”

When asked if he thinks he is the best-qualified person to become city clerk, Assembly Member José Rivera said, “Yes.” career as a Brooklyn Council Member. Robles’ duties in this post consisted of serving as Clerk of the Council and commissioner of the Office of the City

The source of some confusion among many people involved, the appointment process for a new clerk has several steps. In consultation with the Democratic

I Remember Rudy When... Memories of the GOP presidential front-runner before he went national


uring Rudy Giuliani’s tenure as mayor of New York City, before 9/11, the city government took on an increasingly authoritarian and repressive tone. Its ethos was antithetical to its rich tradition of vigorous and robust expression of controversial and unpopular ideas. It was a time in which yellow cabs were refused a permit for a procession across the 59th Street Bridge to protest changes to rules governing cabbies; child welfare employees and NYPD members who wished to speak to the press about non-confidential matters were required to notify the government and obtain its consent; and HIV/AIDS peer educators in the South Bronx were prevented from promoting safe sex by distributing condoms. New York Magazine was refused a permit to advertise its magazine on city buses with an ad that satirized the Mayor; the Brooklyn Museum’s funding was withheld because of the exhibit “Sensation”; organizers of the Million Youth March were denied permits for their 1998 and 1999 rallies in Harlem; the Latino Officers Association was denied recognition by the NYPD and the right to march in the Puerto Rican Day Parade in uniform. In these controversies and others, the federal and state courts stepped in to protect the rights of these New Yorkers. The case that symbolizes the Giuliani Administration legacy in the area of First Amendment rights was the battle to re-open the steps of City Hall. The steps are the quintessential space for First Amendment activity. Yet the Giuliani Administration consistently denied or limited New Yorkers’ right to hold press conferences on the steps. Again, it took a Federal Court Judge to restore New Yorkers’ First Amendment rights. We should remember who Rudy is and what his record is—especially pre 9/11. We owe it to ourselves and to our country. —Norman Siegel Norman Siegel is a civil rights lawyer and was the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union from 1985–2000.


Robles’ successor expected to effectively be picked by county leaders

City Clerk Victor Robles presided over his last City Council meeting July 25. His unexpected departure has left the Council trying to figure out a search for a successor. The post has been the gateway to higher office in the past: David Dinkins had the job from 1975-1985. He was elected Manhattan borough president in 1985. Then, in 1989, he was elected mayor. “The City Clerk job gave me a continued involvement in government and visibility, and it seems to have worked, as I became mayor,” Dinkins said. Dinkins insisted that though he did not take the job with the intention of running for higher office, he still received plenty of public exposure by being in City Hall daily and also officiating at the marriages of potential voters. But Democratic consultant Jerry Skurnik downplayed the job’s political potential, saying Dinkins’ career path was the exception to the rule. “It’s more like the last job you have in city politics or government, not a stepping stone to something higher up,” Skurnik said, “It’s not really high profile.”

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Clashing Agendas on SUNY Reform Higher education commission, though just formed, is already called into question BY JOHN R.D. CELOCK N MAY, GOV. ELIOT SPITZER (D) launched a commission to study the state’s higher education system. But by already making one major change— not reappointing a controversial SUNY trustee, Candace deRussy—Spitzer could have undercut the commission’s work even before it started. The commission could face conflict internally as it seeks a consensus report. Spitzer has appointed representatives from virtually every camp on higher education policy to the 30-person panel. The latest in a long line of higher education study groups, members include several private and public university heads, labor leaders, students, state legislators and others. Some of these reappointments have themselves drawn criticism, as some fear the representation of powerful union interests and an entrenched SUNY bureaucracy could kill any reform proposal. The commission’s executive director, John Reid, said the body is looking at both public and private schools, along with the role of higher education in economic development upstate. Reid declined to identify any particular commission priorities, noting that Spitzer outlined an array of issues in the May executive order forming this commission. He said the panel is currently meeting in committees, and is beginning to take testimony from several hundred stakeholders in the process. “We are talking to anyone who wants


to talk us,” Reid said. “We are reaching out in every possible direction.” The chairs of the Assembly and Senate higher education committees have outlined different agendas for the commission, and for the future of SUNY. Assembly Member Deborah Glick (DManhattan) has identified public education funding as her top priority, while Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Suffolk) said he would like to see internal processes within SUNY addressed. Glick said former Gov. George Pataki’s (R) cuts to the SUNY budget have forced schools to raise tuition and fees. She said this is causing lower income students to be unable to afford public higher education. “In too many insistences, the schools

change the way the system operates. She hopes it does not change the system’s operation to more of a corporate or private sector structure, which she said will hurt lower income residents looking to go to college. LaValle has pointed to the internal operations of SUNY as his main concern. He said that he believes the SUNY and CUNY systems are working well, but he wants to address several internal operating procedures. While SUNY policy is for students to be able to transfer from a community college to a four-year college and keep all credits, LaValle believes internal procedures on campuses have made it tough for all credits to transfer, forcing students to retake classes at the four-year institution.

“We don’t need to recreate different goals for them,” said Kenneth LaValle, chair of the State Senate Higher Education Committee, of the SUNY colleges. “We need to look internally on how they can be competitive with peer institutions nationally.” feeling constrained in tuition have resorted to adding fees, some of which are quite substantial,” she said. “Those fees are not covered by TAP [the Tuition Assistance Program].” Glick noted that several commission members are from the private sector. She sees this as a desire from Spitzer to

“We don’t need to recreate different goals for them,” LaValle said, noting that the commission should provide Spitzer with operational and capital financing options. “We need to look internally on how they can be competitive with peer institutions nationally.” SUNY has long been considered a

Playing with the Big Boys Student Trustee Don Boyce has equal footing with other SUNY trustees, but steeper learning curve UNY’s board consists some of the most politically connected in the state—the son-in-law of Richard Nixon, the widow of a powerful state senator, a former candidate for governor. And then there is Don Boyce, a public administration graduate student at SUNY Albany. Boyce is serving a one-year term as president of the SUNY Student Assembly, and the student trustee. In his role, Boyce—who has the same voting rights and power as his colleagues—is charged with bringing student interests to the board. As student trustee, he is automatically a member of the board’s executive committee, and he has taken on the roles of co-chairing the student life committee and serving on the aca-


political hot potato. SUNY’s faculty and staff unions wield enormous power within the system. Several student groups stand at the ready to protest changes with which they disagree. The Pataki years were marked with the former governor being vilified on campuses statewide. DeRussy, whom Spitzer recently declined to reappoint as SUNY trustee, said the commission is doomed to fail unless Spitzer is willing to stand up to the special interests on this issue. “The question is how beholden is he to the unions,” she said. “He would have to confront them and take stands they don’t agree with. Does he have that courage, vision and will?” A conservative higher education expert, deRussy’s 12-year tenure put her at odds with the faculty unions and student groups and frequently with board colleagues. She was frequently the dissenting vote on several issues, including tuition hikes, saying that reform had not been adequately discussed. The champion of controversial system-wide general education in the late 1990s, deRussy urged the commission to address performance evaluations of campuses, closure of low performing programs, performance evaluations of tenured faculty, cutting of administrative bureaucracy and discussion of a wide variety of political ideas. She disagreed with the notion that more money needs to be given to the system, arguing for cuts in administration to free more money to address academic concerns. In addition, she said that she hopes that her former board colleagues begin to show more oversight of system administration and campuses. “This is not rocket science,” deRussy said, noting she does not see her agenda advancing with the commission. “What I have said is what I have been saying for years: If this commission was serious, they would take on reforms.” Direct letters to the editor to

demic standards committee. Boyce has also been named to the governor’s higher education commission. The only difference between Boyce and colleagues like Ed Cox and Randy Daniels is that his term is 11 years shorter. That has required a very fast and steep learning curve on budget, policy and personnel issues, among others. “It is very hard,” Boyce said. “But, I have been involved in the student assembly since I was student government president of Orange Community College in 2003. I have been involved in the issues for four years.” The student assembly is the student government for SUNY’s 64 campuses. Each campus sends a delegation, either stand-alone assembly delegates or other student govern-

ment officers, to attend the assembly’s conferences each semester. The delegates and elected officers advocate for SUNY students, along with informational campaigns on campuses. The assembly’s president is automatically the student board member, a post that a student can hold for a maximum of two terms. Like his predecessors, Boyce is focusing much of his attention on tuition and financial aid. In addition, he said, he has made curriculum issues a key part of his tenure. “I recognize my role as representing the best interests of the state university through the eyes of the students,” he said. “I am not going to go along with anything without questioning if it’s right for the students.” —JRDC


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AUG UST 2007



Broadway Danny Ross Nadler staffer finds the music in politics—and vice versa BY CHARLOTTE EICHNA



the two Danny Rosses is easy. There is the Danny Ross in slacks, oxford shirt and a tie, denoting his work as a staffer for Rep. Jerrold Nadler (DManhattan/Brooklyn). But hidden underneath is the other Danny Ross, with the tousled hairdo and a pair of thick-framed glasses, which add some indie street cred, as well as a smidgen of studiousness. Ross speaks deliberately, sometimes slowly drumming his fingertips on the table as if he is subconsciously working out piano scales to help him channel the right words. “My whole life,” he said, “I’ve really had these dual passions: government and music.” At night, as a musician, he often does work out piano scales during practice— alone, or with his band. But during the day, as scheduler and operations coordinator for Nadler’s two district offices in New York City, he deals with things like wrangling new copiers, coordinating interns and sending out a daily round-up of political news. The Long Island-raised singer, songwriter and pianist likens himself to a more rock-and-roll version of the pianoheavy band Ben Folds Five. His first album, “Introducing Danny Ross!”, was celebrated with a June 30 record release show and a second gig at the Lower East Side venue Pianos on July 18. The only way Ross has managed to

pull off a full-time job, band recruitment and the execution of a debut album is by applying the same disciplined scheduling that dominates his workday to his music. In an interview before his June 30 debut, he said he was not nervous about his first live performance since college. “I’m incredibly well prepared,” he said. Type A? “Yeah,” he says, stretching the word out. Ross has been interested in music for years. At 13, he discovered the Beatles and a piano in his basement and taught himself to play. He had a band in high school. But it was not until he got to college, at Cornell, that he began to take music seriously. “Having a great musical mind is only half the battle,” he says. “The other half is pure workmanship, pure practicing.” About a year ago he graduated and began a job hunt, setting his sights on the music business. “Getting a job in the music industry is really tough, even for very educated people,” he said. “It’s really about who you know.” Then the opportunity with Nadler arose. This led to an unusual double life, which could conceivably create some conflicts. The lyrics for one song, for example, refer to getting caught making out, listening to Dylan “feeling high,” and getting banned from a Dairy Queen. Could these documented indiscretions of

youth come back to haunt him should he ever run for office? “No,” he said. “My songs are about peace, love and understanding. There’s no real profanity in my music. It’s all about those positive things. They’re rockand-roll lyrics.” Plus, though he will not rule out running for office at some point in the future, he is currently more focused on a music career. Should he decide to step into politics later in life, he said, “people would know me as a musician anyway, so I don’t think it would be distracting.” Sonny Bono, he agreed, might be an apt analogy. At the office, coworkers are “incredibly supportive” of his music. Nadler chief of staff Amy Rutkin introduces Ross as a “rock star” to everyone who comes in, and when staffers from the D.C. office call and Ross picks up, they’ll ask, “Is this the Danny Ross?”

Three Nadler staffers with friends in tow came to the show, according Ross— which is about half of the entire Manhattan office. “It was great,” he said. “Tons of energy, lots of family, friends—a lot of people I didn’t know. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start my musical career in New York City.” Nadler himself could not make it (due to a conflict, Ross said), but the show was apparently on the Congressman’s mind. The following Monday morning, “the first thing he did was come to my desk and ask me how it went,” Ross said. Twenty years from now, Ross said he would like to have many platinum albums behind him and be on his way to joining the “best of the best” of rock-and-roll. His political career, he admitted, might not be quite as advanced. “What’s 20 years from now—I’ll be 43? It might still be a little young,” he said, explaining that some Congressional hopefuls are often in their 50s or 60s with full careers behind them. Planning weeks, let alone years, ahead is hard when you are a musician. “In the immediate future,” he said, “I know I’ll be at Congressman Nadler’s office every day from 10 to 6.”


Klein Loses a Report Writer, Cardozo Gains a Student Matthew Schneid will leave government work for now, but, he says, not for long BY JOSEPH MEYERS SCHNEID, BETTER known as the prolific author of many of State Sen. Jeffrey Klein’s (D-Bronx) policy reports, is leaving to attend Cardozo Law School, where he was awarded a full scholarship for the 2007 academic year. He sees the move not as an ending, but a continuation. “I really love working in government, and working with Senator Klein has been amazing,” Schneid said. “Clearly the next step is going to law school.” When he graduated college, Schneid initially took a position as an analyst for Steven Hall & Partners, an executive compensation consulting firm. He said the job was “lucrative, but not the most fulfilling.” While still working there, Schneid joined midtown Manhattan’s Community Board 5. Schneid said he discovered his



As policy coordinator for State Sen. Jeffrey Klein (left), Matthew Schneid researched and helped write many of Klein’s reports. passion for community service through his various responsibilities with the board. At 24, Schneid is the youngest member of Community Board 5. He believes that he provides a youthful perspective

on a full range of issues, such as noise complaints from local bars. “When people are complaining about bars, I’m actually attending bars,” Schneid said. Working for Klein allowed Schneid to pursue his newfound passion by using the research skills he had honed in college. While studying labor relations at Cornell, Schneid spent a summer in Geneva as an intern, where he contributed research to a recently published book about labor economics. He also spent a summer doing a research internship with the Local 3 chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, where he worked on a book

about influential labor leader Harry Van Arsdale, Jr. He said that though each report he wrote for Klein presented different challenges, experience helped him be able to produce them much more quickly. “I’ve really been pumping them out,” he said. His work with Klein has inched him even closer to pursuing a career in government, Schneid said, but he doesn’t want his career path to stop in New York. “My real dream,” he said, “is to work in the White House.”

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The Future and Fallout of Congestion Pricing fter much debate and a missed federal funding deadline, Albany leaders agreed to a deal which gave a provisional green light to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s controversial congestion pricing plan. The Legislature approved the deal at the end of July, requiring a 17-member commission be created to consider specific proposals. Does this count as victory for Bloomberg? Or is it one for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who held up approval for months? Did Bloomberg and his aides work out a way for congestion pricing to survive, or is the plan simply dying a long, hard death? City Hall asked the experts.


HANK SHEINKOPF DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL CONSULTANT What are the chances of congestion pricing actually happening? It could happen, but there are so many players involved that it has become much more complicated than before. I would say the chances are 6 to 4. As far as the timing, a lot of this depends on the mayor’s ability to lobby. Who are the winners and losers? I think the mayor is clearly a winner. He snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. I don’t see any losers here. The counter-argument that has been made by, look what they didn’t do. The fact that they got something done is what is most extraordinary to me. What does the situation mean for Bloomberg’s political future? What it tells you is never count out a billionaire that can bring any kind of resources that he wants to the table. SUSAN DEL PERCIO REPUBLICAN POLITICAL CONSULTANT What are the chances of congestion pricing actually happening? Very good. I would say 95 percent. It may not be the proposal that was originally drafted, but I think there will be some form adopted by the state legislature. I think it will happen by spring of 2008. Who are the winners and losers? New Yorkers are the winners. Michael Bloomberg is clearly a winner for getting something that everyone thought was impossible. Richard Brodsky is probably a loser. What does the situation mean for Bloomberg’s political future? Mayor Bloomberg has shown that he is anything but a lame duck mayor and that he is willing to take on the toughest fights. When you are doing good things in government, that’s always good for politics. A lot of the issues that Mayor Bloomberg has taken up do resonate nationally.

ED KOCH FORMER MAYOR What are the chances of congestion pricing actually happening? It will happen in some form. Whether it will be adequate is another problem. The fact that they didn’t pass it originally and put if off for a later day makes it seem to me that it will emerge ultimately in some form, but not how the mayor originally intended it. I would say 60-40 negative. I think we can expect something by the end of the year. Who are the winners and losers? It depends on how you look at it. I think the mayor, even though he’s lost, is a winner. He stood up for the right thing. I think Shelly [Silver], who basically stopped it, is a winner, but I think he is just dead wrong. And I’m appreciative that Joe Bruno stood with the mayor. What does the situation mean for Bloomberg’s political future? It has no bearing on it at all. Whether or not he runs for president will have no bearing on the outcome. THOMAS OGNIBENE FORMER CITY COUNCIL REPUBLICAN LEADER What are the chances of congestion pricing actually happening? Michael Bloomberg has a strong bill and he thinks it’s going to work. They have this committee. I think it’s all smoke and mirrors. I think it will die a natural death after it’s investigated ad nauseam. I would say 5 to 1 against. I think it’s a dead issue now, but that they will drag it out until everyone loses interest in it, once the mayor runs for president wholeheartedly. That’s why they are saying March 31 [2008], because all of the primaries are over by then. I think it will be dead by end of year. Who are the winners and losers? I don’t know if there are any winners here, because all you’re doing is preserving the status quo. If there is a

loser, it will be Mike Bloomberg, because he put a lot of effort in it and put his reputation at stake. What does the situation mean for Bloomberg’s political future? Probably not much. I don’t think it will have an affect otherwise. People in the city seem to like him a lot. MICKEY CARROLL DIRECTOR OF THE POLLING INSTITUTE AT QUINNIPIAC UNIVERSITY What are the chances of congestion pricing actually happening? The legislators will not necessarily do what people think or want. The Bloomberg administration is pushing hard for this. The odds are a matter of what the legislators are up to, and lord only knows. The poll is a factor but it isn’t. You have to read the mood of the Legislature to do that, so it’s almost impossible. You know that at the moment the mood is hostile. I can’t put a number on it. Who are the winners and losers? So far Bloomberg is ahead on points. Losers politically, I don’t think it’s that kind of an issue. What does the situation mean for Bloomberg’s political future? Is this talk just to keep things alive? Who knows? I think he wants to keep it alive. It does keep him on the front pages. BILL LYNCH DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL CONSULTANT What are the chances of congestion pricing actually happening? The odds are 60-40. I think it will happen before the end of the year. Who are the winners and losers? I think the winners in this have been the communities involved, those above 86th Street. I think the loser right now is Mayor Bloomberg—only if he loses the $500 million from the federal government. What does the situation mean for Bloomberg’s political future? I don’t think it means anything. I don’t think he has any real loss on this issue.


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AUG UST 2007


How Much They Really Have for 2009 Parsing the July city campaign finance filings, despite vagaries in laws and surpluses BY JOSEPH MEYERS NEW YORK CITY Campaign Finance Board released updated campaign finance numbers July 16, how these numbers will translate into campaign cash by 2009 is unclear. The campaign finance reform bill that the City Council passed this June was hailed as a landmark, but no one seems to know exactly how it will work. Under the new bill, the city will match donations up to $175 at a rate of 6-to-1. Formerly, the city matched all campaign contributions up to $250 at a rate of 4-to-1. Whether the bill will apply to campaign donations made prior to its passage



is still unknown. “It’s a very long and confusing bill,” said Mike Casercano, press secretary for City Council Member Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn), the chair of the Government Operations committee and a main author of the bill. Casercano said that city lawyers are currently combing through the bill to clarify its mistakes and start working towards fixing them. “It’s not uncommon for bills to be written and then a clean-up bill to come through sometime late to address issues such as this,” Casercano said. City Hall calculations found that if the new matching system were applied to 2009 campaign donations that have

already been made, candidates would receive on average 23 percent more in matching funds, though some would receive as low as a 5-percent increase and some as high as a 50-percent increase. No candidate would receive less money if the plan were applied retroactively. The New York City Campaign Finance Board’s reports also differed significantly from the New York State Board of Elections’ reports. In 2005, the State Legislature passed a bill mandating that those who spend or raise more than $1,000 during their campaigns file finance reports with the New York State Board of Elections in addition to the City Campaign Finance Board.

Untangling the Campaign Finance Disclosures SOURCE: Campaign Finance Board as of 8/3/07


CITY COUNCIL* *Non-incumbents identified by district number and current occupant of the seat


Candidate Avella, Tony Weiner, Anthony Siegel, Norman Brennan, James Katz, Melinda Weprin, David Behar, Steven Anthony (19)-Avella, Tony Ceder, David (50)-Oddo, James Chin, Margaret (01)-Gerson, Alan Crowley, Elizabeth (30)-Gallagher, Dennis Dickens, Inez (09)-incumbent Dobrin, Todd (47)-Recchia, Domenic Gentile, Vincent (43)-incumbent Gotlieb, Brian (47)-Recchia, Domenic Lappin, Jessica (05)-incumbent Lewis, Frederick (31)-Sanders, Jr., James Matteo, Steven (50)-Oddo, James Moya, Francisco (21)-Monseratte, Hiram Rodriguez, Ydanis (10)-Martinez, Miguel Simon, Jo Anne (33)-Yassky, David Ulrich, Eric (32)-Addabbo, Jr., Joseph Adams, Kenneth* Carrion, Jr., Adolfo Comrie, Leroy de Blasio, Bill Dromm, Daniel Felder, Simcha Foster, Helen Diane Garodnick, Daniel Gioia, Eric Gotbaum, Betsy Hornak, Robert Jackson, Robert Koppell, G. Oliver Letellier, Yonel Liu, John Markowitz, Marty McMahon, Michael Quinn, Christine Quiroz, Alfonso Recchia, Domenic Rivera, Joel Sears, Helen Simon, Brian Stringer, Scott Thompson, Jr., William Vacca, James Vallone, Jr., Peter

Campaign donations ($) 103,465 2,008,360 26,959 245,836 1,325,421 1,281,919 1,815 13 13,640 24,550 17,150 20,586 31,545 15,928 11,861 690 7,145 1,650 13,168 16,458 18,515 47,986 1,364,876 33,200 307,745 150 1,059,761 24,458 74,160 979,780 163,915 3,325 1,000 37,645 1,270 1,607,606 748,548 195,911 1,383,935 13,538 147,784 154,056 36,185 75 772,524 3,169,394 93,630 279,795

Estimate of money Expenditures expected to be matched($) to date ($) 17,967 127,769 9,526 105,158 288,647 171,314 18 0 424 501 3,986 1,813 15,766 5,866 3,632 0 0 0 300 3,877 12,274 14,069 420,753 25,199 99,057 150 63,002 850 4,003 148,558 88,528 1,682 722 31,974 300 243,004 286,855 73,963 102,637 2,316 17,764 82,704 831 0 122,311 543,380 17,909 123,558

26,450 92,500 9,765 97,839 59,544 65,601 1,380 0 11,320 4,840 7,325 8,690 11,125 10,788 1,110 440 1,145 625 5,883 6,194 12,970 25,505 58,665 5,225 55,110 150 42,966 0 7,611 132,020 14,900 675 525 17,820 1,095 116,826 21,625 60,287 123,834 2,476 34,303 12,370 5,924 75 71,366 68,875 17,955 19,120

The board has been swamped with around 10 times as many reports, according to Robert Brehm, deputy information director of the state board. Unlike the New York City Campaign Finance Board, the State Board of Elections simply publishes reports filed by local candidates. There are no audits on the state level, and therefore no way to resolve discrepancies unless the candidates report changes themselves. Brehm said the State Board of Elections does not verify filings with local election boards. “All we know is what they file with us,” Brehm said. “I don’t know what the incorrect number or the correct number is.”


† Most recent contributions less expenses + approximate funds available to transfer from other accounts. This figure does not include matching funds, which have yet to be calculated.

Matching funds expected($) 158,700 555,000 58,590 587,034 357,264 393,606 8,280 0 67,920 29,040 43,950 52,140 66,750 64,728 6,660 2,640 6,870 3,750 35,298 37,164 77,820 153,030 351,990 31,350 330,660 900 257,796 0 45,666 792,120 89,400 4,050 3,150 106,920 6,570 700,956 129,750 361,722 743,004 14,856 205,818 74,220 35,544 450 428,196 413,250 107,730 114,720

# of donors 434 876 133 1,059 824 783 36 1 413 100 17,150 155 185 167 8 9 14 4 80 102 154 260 966 74 495 2 384 0 191 2,156 138 8 3 209 13 1,304 186 662 1,264 79 327 250 71 1 789 955 276 0

Approxmate total money on hand($) 245,402 2,389,743 75,106 808,826 1,709,877 1,992,320 10,077 3 81,136 53,089 55,420 70,913 93,605 74,790 18,161 3,330 14,015 5,400 48,166 64,179 84,061 220,178 1,340,021 54,596 537,524 900 1,361,639 55,694 132,919 1,883,432 163,718 5,693 1,568 112,684 7,540 2,185,522 1,143,548 482,777 2,140,076 26,078 375,099 151,919 72,258 525 1,080,856 4,499,728 199,854 297,226




Advocates on All Sides See Faults in No-Fault Divorce Debate 49 states have loosened divorce requirements, but New York unlikely to follow soon BY JOHN R.D. CELOCK A bill to bring New York’s divorce laws in line with those of the other 49 states remains stalled in the Legislature, as powerful religious and women’s groups block a proposal championed by the state judiciary. State judges have been championing no-fault divorce in the state. No-fault divorce would allow judges to grant divorce without grounds—such as abandonment, adultery and cruelty. The process is the same as divorces allowed on the grounds of irreconcilable differences in other states. State Supreme Court Justice Jacqueline Silverman, who chaired a judicial commission studying matrimonial law, said the system of finding fault for granting a divorce in New York has clogged the courts and has put low-

when they file for divorce from an abusive spouse. The National Organization of Women has said that women who stay at home to raise children are often at an economic disadvantage when filing for divorce, as

object. “There are very few honest cases of abandonment,” Silverman said, referring to the most frequent cause cited by agreeing couples. “If they agree to grounds, few judges will put their own objections to grounds. They will even allow a divorce on cruelty.” A bill to allow nofault divorce is currently pending in the Legislature, as part of a larger divorce reform package. Assembly Member Helene Weinstein (D-Queens), the chair of the Judiciary Committee, said the package remains in her committee because of on-going negotiations with divorce

“We don’t buy the argument that everyone else is doing it, why not us.”—New York State NOW President Marcia Pappas income individuals at a disadvantage, noting increased court costs. She said couples have the option of relocating to a neighboring state to seek a divorce, but many cannot afford this option. Currently, couples who agree on a divorce are forced to either wait a year after a formal separation agreement is entered with the court or agree upon grounds. While lawyers and judges cannot tell couples to agree to grounds which are not true, they normally do not


advocates regarding certain issues. She hopes the package, developed after a series of committee hearings, would address concerns by no-fault opponents. She said these issues include economic concerns such as attorney fees for wives who stay at home with children, health insurance and property distribution. Domestic violence advocates object to no-fault divorce, saying that victims who need insurance often lose benefits

Who will win the 2008 presidential election? Who will lose? Who will drop out by the end of the month?


4.9 15.7 25.0 38.0 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.3 23.3 0.8 6.0 3.0 0.5 2.0 2.9 0.1 1.4 0.4 0.1 0.6

27TO TO11 TO22 97TO N/A N/A 66 TO 1 66 10 TO TO 11 33 TO 1 10 40 TO TO 11 33 33 TO 1 50 TO 1 N/A 33 TO 1 N/A N/A N/A

they cannot pay attorneys and their husbands could try to take property away from them. Weinstein said that while she hopes the Assembly will be able to pass a bill soon, she does not see it passing the State Senate in the near future. She said she has been told in negotiations with Sen. John DeFrancesco (R-Syracuse)

6.4 4.9 38.0 34.4 0.3 0.2 0.3 0.1 16.0 0.5 19.5 2.9 0.4 1.4 3.4 0.1 1.1 0.6 0.1 0.9

1225 TOto 11 9 TO 21 4 to N/A N/A 66 TO 1 66 10 TOto 1 1 3310 TOto 1 1 5066 TOto 1 1 33 TO 1 40 to 1 N/A 50 to 1 N/A N/A N/A

**DATA AS OF AUGUST 10, 2007**


43.6 52.0 27.8 39.4 7.3 5.3 2.6 1.9 0.3 0.5 0.6 0.1 0.6 0.1 0.1

55TO TO44 TO11 44TO 7 TO 10 TO 11 28 TO 1 28 TO N/A1 N/A`` 33 TO 1 N/A1 33 TO N/A N/A



54.2 43.6 5 5TOto4 4 39.4 4 4TOto1 1 31.7 TOto 11 7.25.3 1010 1.9 28 TO 1 3 0.5 28 to 1 N/A 0.20.6 33 TO N/A 1 N/A 1.30.1 33 to 1 N/A 0.10.2 N/A 0.1 N/A


5.9 0.4 35.5 3.3 0.4

6 TO 1 50 TO 1 7 TO 2 N/A 18 TO 1

5.7 0.1 32.1 3.2 0.3

6 to 1 N/A 7 to 2 N/A 18 to 1

that the objections from the Roman Catholic Church weigh heavily on the Senate decision to decline to take up the issue. DeFrancesco was unavailable for comment and a spokesman for the Edward Cardinal Egan, who is leader of statewide Catholics, did not return several calls for comment. New York State NOW President Marcia Pappas said no-fault divorce has not worked in other states. She added that the laws in question only address a small percentage of the population, citing statistics that show that only five percent of divorces cases are not settled easily. She also said that the poorer spouse is usually at a disadvantage in court, citing an Office of Court Administration report which found a bias against women in New York State courts. “We don’t buy the argument that everyone else is doing it, why not us,” Pappas said. California, which has long had no-fault, has been seeing problems with these issues, according to the NOW chapter in that state. Helen Grieco, executive director of California NOW, said the group originally supported the law, but has seen law misused in highly contested cases where one spouse uses the law to gain a quick divorce and then impact property and custody issues. She noted there has been discussion about trying to repeal her state’s law. Not all women’s groups in New York are opposed to no-fault divorce. The Women’s Bar Association of New York is in favor of the law. The group had been opposed to the bill, but changed its opinion with the adoption of new child-support formulas and equitable distribution of property laws in the Empire State. “I can’t believe public policy is forcing two people to be together who agree not to be together,” said Elaine Avery, immediate past-president of the group. While bills are pending and lobbying continues in Albany on the issue and Chief Judge Judith Kaye brings it up in her annual State of the Judiciary address advocates do not foresee no-fault divorces coming to New York anytime soon Silverman, the chair of the judicial commission on matrimonial law, among them. “I don’t think there will be no-fault divorce in my lifetime,” she said. Direct letters to the editor to


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When he was in business, Michael Bloomberg was known for having a simple policy: employees who quit for anything other than family reasons would not be rehired. * “We’re dependent on one another—and when someone departs, those of us who stay are hurt,” the mayor wrote in his 1997 book, Bloomberg by Bloomberg. “We needed that person, or he or she wouldn’t have been here to begin with.” * Few quit Bloomberg LP and few, especially among the senior staff, have quit the Bloomberg mayoral administration, either. * Still, those who did leave—including the seven former senior staffers profiled here—say that they left on very good terms. More than that, they say they hope the mayor will understand their decision to leave the public sector, and might take another look at their résumés if ever he is staffing another, larger government office, like the one on Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue in which he has been rumored to be interested. * They are hoping that Bloomberg will not stick to the policy he described in his book about refusing to consider rehires. * “What choice in the matter do we have? Two people work side by side; one leaves for greener pastures, and the other hunkers down and does the work of both,” he wrote. “Later the one who left us in the lurch realizes the grass wasn’t greener after all and wants all forgiven.”

K DS * I

Jordan Barowitz Director of External Affairs, the Durst Organization Position in the Bloomberg administration: Deputy Press Secretary to the Mayor (January 2002 – June 2006) The lights went out. Back-up generators immediately kicked in at City Hall allowing business-asusual to continue. But the rest of Manhattan was still dark. Jordan Barowitz remembers the afternoon of the 2002 blackout well. “Immediately my phone rang. It was my mother. She was in Midtown where she told me the lights went out. I was the first to know we were in big trouble when that happened,” he said. Responding to this sort of crisis was what brought

Patrick Brennan President, Strategic Communications Division of The Parkside Group Position in the Bloomberg administration: Deputy Campaign Manager, Bloomberg 2005 (December 2004 – December 2005); Special Assistant to the Mayor & Chief of Staff for Government Affairs (January 2006 – June 2006); Commissioner of the Community Assistance Unit (June 2006 – June 2007) Patrick Brennan’s résumé lists experience with some of the most influential names in the Democratic Party, from George Soros to 1199 SEIU, the healthcare workers union. Nonetheless, he joined the 2005 reelection campaign

Joe Chan President, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership Position in the Bloomberg administration: Senior Policy Advisor to Dan Doctoroff (February 2002 – September 2006) The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership advances public and private development in the downtown Brooklyn area, facilitating around $9 billion in private investment. As its president, Chan manages a budget of around $8 million and a staff of 25. Chan said he learned what he needed for the job from his time as an advisor to Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff. “It was the greatest professional development experience I will ever have,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything that could have prepared me better.” Under Doctoroff, Chan was in charge of small busi-

Barowitz into the Bloomberg administration in the first place. After the World Trade Center attacks, the lifelong Democrat said he felt his allegiance to the city trumped party loyalty. “I’m a fourth generation New Yorker,” he said. “I couldn’t turn down the offer to help rebuild New York, even in the small way that I did after 9/11.” Barowitz fondly remembers Bloomberg’s ability to make difficult decisions, including those which dealt with rebuilding Lower Manhattan, managing a ballooning budget crisis and the “awesome task” of restoring the city’s confidence. He got his start at City Hall working as communications director for then-Council Speaker Peter Vallone, Sr. (D-Queens). Barowitz was then the communications director for Vallone’s 1998 gubernatorial and 2001 may-

oral campaigns. He also worked in the New York office of Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign. Barowitz said he parlayed his experience in matters related to city development into his current role, working with government agencies for the Durst Organization, a real estate development company focused on eco-friendly construction.

for Bloomberg, then a Republican, as the deputy campaign manager, working directly under Kevin Sheekey. His previous political experience includes a stint as chief of staff for then-State Sen. Vincent Gentile (DBrooklyn), contributing to Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Massachusetts) 2004 presidential campaign through the Soros group America Coming Together, and being part of the political team at 1199. He had no qualms, though, about backing a man with an “R” after his name. “Bloomberg is not an ideologue,” he said. “Democrats, Republicans and Independents can all work with him.” Following the 2005 election, Bloomberg hired him as a special assistant to the mayor, and later, as chief of

staff for government affairs, a position which had him developing the mayor’s legislative agenda. He called securing money for city schools his biggest legislative victory. He was later named the commissioner of the community assistance unit. “I think you’d be hard pressed,” he said, “to find a place or a business or a section of the political world that being associated with a successful mayor would be a negative.”

ness development in Brooklyn. In both roles, Chan has worked as an intermediary between public and private interests. Now, though, Chan’s efforts are much more focused—instead of dealing with borough-wide issues, he focuses on stewarding the economic growth of a 40-square block area. He took Bloomberg’s management style along with him. Since he was appointed to his current job, Chan has tried to recreate there the atmosphere of intensity and dedication he experienced in the Bloomberg administration. “Being in City Hall for almost five years during this administration,” Chan said, “taught me how to operate with a sense of urgency, taught me how to step up the quality of my work, and exposed me to a level of people and expertise that I just would not have got any-

where else.” But not everything is the same. “There’s a big lifestyle difference. City Hall is a 12- to 13-hour a day commitment, and you really have to be on and accessible at nights and the weekend. It really is an intense experience,” Chan said.

Did Bloomberg give you any parting words of advice? He’s given me a lot of advice over the years on stuff, and of those couple of things he used in my presence, one was: “If you can’t sell something raise the price.” And also, “It’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.” Would you want to be part of a Bloomberg White House? In which role? I take the mayor for his word when he said he wasn’t running for president. I’m very happy in my new digs. —Elizabeth Kraushar

What do you miss most from your days working in the administration?Working with a large number of very, very talented people. Working with people with one common interest in mind is an exciting place to be. Did Bloomberg give you any parting words of advice? He did. He gave me… It was a private conversation and it will stay that way. —Dan Rivoli

What do you miss most from your days working in the administration? The people. Working with so many incredibly motivated and talented people, spending 13 hours a day with incredibly motivated peers is a great thing. Would you want to be part of a Bloomberg White House? In which role? I am one of the scores of City Hall staffers that would probably follow the mayor anywhere. I don’t know what position. I really love this city and love this borough, so it’s not anything I’ve given any thought to. —Joseph Meyers


Jonathan Greenspun Managing Director, Mercury Public Affairs Position in the Bloomberg administration: Commissioner of the Community Assistance Unit (January 2002 – June 2006) As the youngest commissioner in the Bloomberg administration, the then-30 year-old Jonathan Greenspun got a thrill from trumpeting the mayor’s message across the five boroughs. Leading the community assistance unit, Greenspun also fielded neighborhood complaints about some of Bloomberg’s less popular choices, like when he raised property taxes.

Marc Ricks Associate, Infrastructure Group of Goldman Sachs Position in the Bloomberg administration: Chief of Staff to Dan Doctoroff (December 2005 – May 2007) When Marc Ricks left his unpaid City Hall job at the end of the summer of 2003, he had every intention of going back to the private sector for good. Ricks had previously spent five years at McKenzie and Company. He took the summer of 2003 to gain experience in government. He was not gone long. Four months after he left, Ricks was back at City Hall, as Dan Doctoroff’s senior policy advisor. A year after that, he was Doctoroff’s chief of staff. Ricks oversaw all of the projects and agencies under Doctoroff’s aegis. In addition to hiring new employees and writing reviews, Ricks said his primary responsibility was maintaining a steady information flow—both between

Silvia Alverez Director of Multicultural and Charitable Communications, Major League Baseball Position in Bloomberg administration: Deputy Press Secretary (December 2003 – September 2006) These days, Silvia Alverez is dealing with a different kind of bullpen. Once Bloomberg’s deputy press secretary, Alverez now oversees promotion of Major League Baseball’s sponsored charities and ethnic outreach programs. She spends much of her time putting together media plans for charity events hosted by the league and organizations like the Boys and Girls Club of America which the

Jennifer Falk Executive Director, Union Square Partnership Position in the Bloomberg administration: First Deputy Press Secretary Spokesperson for Dan Doctoroff (January 2002 – December 2006) Fresh off a stint as a teacher and various temp jobs, the then-24-year-old Jennifer Falk joined the Administration of Children’s Services as its deputy communications director in the early 1990s. She was the agency’s press secretary when Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler, then Bloomberg’s press secretary, asked Falk to join City Hall as the first deputy press secretary.

AUG UST 2007


“Listening to the feedback was difficult, but watching the mayor make decisions that were right in the longrun was a good lesson for me to learn,” he said. Before going to City Hall, Greenspun served six years in various positions in former Gov. George Pataki’s (R) administration. He also worked for then-Rep. Rick Lazio (RSuffolk) during his 2000 Senate campaign against Hillary Clinton. But after 10-and-a-half years in government and politics, Greenspun decided the time had come to try a new career path. Now doing communications and government relations at Mercury Public Affairs, Greenspun guides his clients—

many of them Fortune 500 companies—through often complex government regulations, in everything from environmental protection to economic development. He said he continues to call upon the skills he gained from working with city agencies while commissioner. “You learn about how decisions get made and how to reach consensus,” he said, “How to talk to the right people.”

Doctoroff’s staff and between Doctoroff and the other deputy mayors. “Everybody had an extraordinary sense of impatience best exemplified by the countdown clock,” Ricks said. “The mayor was the first person to get there, and we burned the candle at both ends.” After two years, Ricks decided to once more try getting back to the private sector. After two years in a very intense environment, he felt he was no longer bringing the freshness of perspective he began with. But, he said, the switch to Goldman Sachs did not mean shorter days, at a company where 120-hour work weeks rarely raise an eyebrow. “You do the math and it works out to be pretty painful,” he said. Ricks said he chose Goldman Sachs because it is known for a collegial environment of teamwork and camaraderie,

something he had grown accustomed to while working with Bloomberg. As a junior staffer at Goldman Sachs, he works in a bullpen environment similar to Bloomberg’s. Senior staffers, though, have their own offices—unlike Bloomberg, who sits in the middle of his own bullpen. This can make Ricks nostalgic for his time in City Hall. “It’s not quite the same as when the most senior person is sitting in the same cubicle,” he said.

league supports. Much of her time is spent preparing for the annual All Star Game, which she called one of the league’s jewel events. Her job is to publicize the positive effects that the All Star Game has on its host city, particularly through all the charity events planned in conjunction with the game. More than anything else, Alverez said, she misses the fast paced environment she formerly worked in. “It’s like a rush,” she said. “When I was at City Hall, if I was talking to a reporter, it was about a story that was coming out tomorrow.” Alverez said her work for the baseball league is less hec-

tic, partly because sports reporters are less intense than political reporters. “I don’t feel so much on the spot with a sports writer as I did with a City Hall writer,” she said. Another difference: While in City Hall, everyone knew she was on the Bloomberg team. Working for Major League Baseball, she is not allowed to publicize her allegiances. “I do have a secret favorite,” she said, “but I can’t tell you.”

With five years experience in social services, Falk used the opportunity to change fields. She put in a special request to work with Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff as the chief spokesperson for Bloomberg’s five-borough economic development plan. “One of the most amazing things about the types of jobs you can have in government, especially when it comes to communications, is the skills translate from topic to topic.” After a decade of being a spokesperson for the city, she made the tough decision to leave City Hall and become the executive director of the Union Square Partnership. Using her skills in communications and business, Falk

meets with politicians, businesses and the community to keep the redevelopment of Union Square Park’s north end, a $20 million project, on schedule. The plans include an expanded playground, additional bathrooms, office space and a rehabilitated pavilion. She still maintains close relationships with the community and continues to serve the public.

What do you miss least from your days working in the administration? I probably miss the least a call at 2 a.m. telling me there is a water-main break. Would you want to be part of a Bloomberg White House? In which role? My bags are packed already like an expectant mother. As far as a position, that’s being too presumptuous. Let’s solve one problem at a time. I would have no hesitation about helping him get to the White House. —Elizabeth Kraushar

What do you miss least from your days working in the administration? I don’t miss the press angle, by which I mean everything from a small measure of fear that something you do and say will end up, to the immediacy of the press cycle, opinion pieces masquerading as news articles, and one third of the facts in article about your project wrong but you can’t do anything about it. Did Bloomberg give you any parting words of advice? He said if I need anything I should call his friend [Goldman Sachs CEO] Lloyd Blanfine. —Joseph Meyers

Did Bloomberg give you any parting words of advice? It was the same one he gave me when I started at City Hall: “Don’t screw it up!” Would you want to be part of a Bloomberg White House? In which role? I would want to be his liaison to different ethnic communities. —Joseph Meyers

Did Bloomberg give you any parting words of advice? Yeah. He gave me the same advice he gives most people: “Don’t screw it up.” Would you want to be part of a Bloomberg White House? In which role? That’s the one question that will get me in trouble with my board. —Dan Rivoli





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hy does anyone care about Viola Plummer? Her comments and employment status certainly have provided ample grist for blogs and television segments, press conferences and newspaper articles, as people struggle to figure out whether and where to limit speech, who is empowered to fire staff and how much to engage in a picked fight. A lot of the credit or blame for this situation, also the concern of a pending lawsuit, rests with City Council Member Charles Barron, a deft rabble rouser who has mastered the art of intensifying battle. Some—perhaps as much—has to do with Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who seems to have been initially caught unprepared for the carefully stoked firestorm, what with her lawyers demanding Plummer sign a code of behavior which seems to violate the spirit, if not the letter of the First Amendment. Some, clearly, goes to Plummer herself, with her shifting rationale for what she meant by saying of Quinn ally and Queens Council Member Leroy Comrie, “If it takes an assassination of his ass, he will not be borough president in the borough where I live,” and her refusal to admit that she could, perhaps, have chosen a more productive way to discuss her outrage at Comrie over his role in the Sonny Carson streetnaming debate. Barron and Plummer brushed off the crux of the threat, made only a few feet from a chamber which not so long ago witnessed the actual assassination of Council Member James Davis. Overlooking the political undercur-



rent would be foolish. Barron, a former Black Panther, has built his entire political persona on exactly these sorts of fights, and officially announced his candidacy for Brooklyn borough president in the midst of the arguments. Quinn, who is looking to build her appeal beyond being a liberal, openly gay Manhattan Democrat as she prepares to run for mayor, surely scored points in the minds of many more conservative voters for taking on Barron. All of them are using Plummer—and none more so than Plummer herself.

LETTERS “Open Revolt” at CSA an Exaggeration of the Negative According to David Freedlander’s article about the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, there was an “open revolt” against my leadership by 31 members of a union that represents approximately 5,000 members. Only eight of the signers of that negative letter showed up at a meeting designed to answer their concerns. To my way of thinking, over 4,500 CSA members and more than 1,400 Principals were not part of this “open revolt.” In addition, the current CSA President, Ernest Logan, was my longtime associate and Executive Vice President. Along with Peter McNally and

Randi Herman, two of my cabinet members, there was no opposition to their election when I stepped down to devote myself full time to my new position. I am extremely proud of my leadership of CSA and that the current contract is a reflection of many of my positions including the Executive Principal contract provision. I was honored to serve CSA membership in a variety of capacities since 1989, having been the founding director of the Leadership Institute for Educators, CSA’s first extensive professional development program and the current Executive Leadership Institute which you laud in the article. JILL S. LEVY PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS

They provide such easy and perfect foils for each other as they look toward 2009 that one could be forgiven for thinking that this whole situation had been hatched by their political consultants. But however we got here, we are here. Are we to believe that Plummer and Barron would be so blasé about a threat to one of their political allies? Would they be so eager to brush past an assassination suggestion directed at Barron himself? Would they really have joined the rallies to reinstate the job of the person who said it? Of course not. Nor will Quinn now make every Council employee sign a conduct code, nor will she continue to enforce the Council floor access restrictions she and her staff remembered just in time to kick Plummer out of the July 25 stated meeting. The many police officers contracted for that task did not even pretend to check anyone else’s credentials—the most visible, but far from the only, demonstration of the conveniently inconsistent standards to which Quinn gave lip service in her response. For that meeting at least, she could have had the police check everyone else in the chamber and toss those who did not have the right credentials. This matters. By revealing how easily interested parties were able to cherrypick the supposedly universal rules to suit their own ends, the situation lays bare the need to create a proactive, signed, stricter, enforceable code of conduct so that everyone knows what counts as appropriate behavior and what can be done for those who do not practice it. The issue of speech restrictions is a thorny one, and must be treated seriously by all those involved, with very careful review by lawyers. Everyone should be clear on the procedures for hiring and firing and suspending, and establish clear, enforceable conduct standards for all those on the government payroll. This started with race, but has revealed a much deeper problem. Getting distracted by what sparked the debate would be a huge mistake. After all, imagining what happens when clear codes of conduct remain lacking is not hard: they call it Albany.


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AUG UST 2007



Bush’s Long-Awaited 9/11 Health Care Plan is a Good Start—But Needs Work BY REP. CAROLYN MALONEY he collapse of the World Trade Center towers took nearly 3,000 lives in an instant and released a massive cloud of asbestos, pulverized concrete, and other poisons. These toxins have sickened thousands and killed at least eight—but perhaps dozens more— Americans in the years since 9/11. The gray dust that billowed through Lower Manhattan that day is said to have been as caustic as drain cleaner. It settled in the homes of Lower Manhattan residents; in downtown schools, playgrounds and parks; and in the lungs of tens of thousands of Americans. These forgotten victims of 9/11 either lived or worked downtown, courageously volunteered for rescue and recovery operations at Ground Zero, or merely happened to be in Lower Manhattan on one of the worst mornings


our country has ever known. In all, more than 70,000 Americans have reported to the World Trade Center Health Registry that they were near Ground Zero in the days following 9/11 and now have many serious concerns about their health. The 9/11 attacks set in motion a gathering health crisis. I and my colleagues in the New York-area delegation, including Sens. Clinton, Schumer and Menendez, and Reps. Fossella, Nadler and Shays, have long maintained that this national emergency requires a strong federal response. Last month, we received word that the Bush Administration has finally begun work on a comprehensive 9/11 health care plan. The Administration’s draft plan (a copy of which can be found on my website, is real progress and it deserves support. Federally-funded treatment and moni-

toring programs are currently in operation through a consortium of six careproviders in New York and New Jersey. The administration’s plan would use these New York-area 9/11 health care programs as a model and expand them nationwide, with the goal of providing uniform, high-quality medical care to first responders throughout our country. This is a credible plan—and one that the New York-area delegation has been asking the administration to produce for nearly two years. However, like many plans in their draft stage, this one clearly needs work. To start, the plan must be expanded to include Lower Manhattan residents, area workers, students at downtown schools, and the tens of thousands of federal employees who worked at Ground Zero following the attacks. Simply put, we need to monitor every-

Congestion Pricing: Still an Accident Waiting to Happen BY CITY COUNCIL MEMBER DAVID WEPRIN f a congestion pricing plan is implemented, thousands of New Yorkers will be forced to suffer a head-on collision with a tax that could cost them as much as $2,000 a year. The damage would be even worse for small businesses that employ trucks to ship their products into Manhattan, as the suggested fee for them would be set at over $5,000 a year. Regardless of what argument you hear out of the Bloomberg administration about the necessity of implementing congestion pricing, it is a tax; and it is a tax being levied on those who can least afford it during a time when the city is enjoying a $5 billion surplus. Traffic congestion is a problem that needs to be addressed, but other alternatives should be studied before we punish commuters who live in the outer-boroughs. Now the state has formed a commission to study the impacts of congestion on the citizens and businesses in our city. I applaud this effort as now a careful and considerate dialogue can take place to address this growing concern. Further, the MTA is now proposing raising fares on New York’s buses and subways which is further convoluting the issue. It is my hope that this commission will take advantage of this opportunity and consider reasonable alternatives to the administration’s current plan. Let me be very clear: Traffic congestion is a problem that is not going away by itself, but there are alternatives to


the imposition of a regressive tax. Commuters, small businesses and working class families, as well as other outer-borough neighborhoods who have very limited access to public transportation and have to rely on their cars to get into Manhattan, would unfairly suffer from a congestion tax. Many neighborhoods outside of Manhattan will be devastated by a congestion tax because it will leave people with the unenviable choice of either paying more money to get to work or traveling long distances to reach

of asthma, yet would see no relief from the proposed congestion pricing plan. No one can ignore the fact that we do have a congestion problem but the idea of taxing the working class as the only means of reducing traffic is short-sighted. Traffic mitigation alternatives include more vigorous enforcement of existing traffic and parking rules, like cracking down on double and triple parked cars, preventing trucks from parking in loading zones once they have completed their deliveries, reducing non-emergency deliveries during the day and stopping taxis from middle of the street pick-ups and drop-offs. Improving traffic management, offering incentives to motorists and businesses to use mass transit, and improving the public transportation system—especially in the boroughs outside of Manhattan—will also reduce traffic without having to impose another tax. Initiating a congestion traffic tax now is tantamount to putting the cart before the horse. Improvements to our mass transit system and exploring other avenues of relief are necessary first steps. The fact remains that no one disputes the need to reduce congestion in both Manhattan and the rest of the city, but there is nothing innovative about a congestion pricing plan because it is just another unfair tax with which we are all too familiar.

Let me be very clear: Traffic congestion is a problem that is not going away by itself, but there are alternatives to the imposition of a regressive tax. the few crowded forms of mass transit that are available to them. Working class people who cannot afford the excessive fee will be bumped off the streets and crowded onto ill-equipped buses and subways to free up the streets for the privileged few who can afford to pay the tax. What I find equally disingenuous about the proposal is the argument that congestion pricing would be good for the environment. In fact, it does nothing to address the prevalence of background pollutants found with greater frequency in areas such as Long Island City, East Harlem, Bed Stuy, the South Bronx and Jamaica. Residents of these areas, particularly younger children, endure high rates


David Weprin is a Democrat representing parts of Queens on the City Council. He is chair of the Council Finance Committee.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney one exposed to Ground Zero toxins and treat anyone who is sick as a result. Who you were on 9/11 shouldn’t matter—if you were exposed to Trade Center toxins, you should get the care you need, period. The stakes could hardly be higher: According to the draft plan, every month, another 500 to 1,000 World Trade Center responders sign up for health monitoring at the six 9/11 health care centers, and a significant number of those new registrants need treatment. All told, more than 6,500 responders are currently being treated for physical illnesses and more than 4,500 have been referred for mental health care. There is a strong precedent for caring for civilians who respond to an act of war: Following the Pearl Harbor attacks, Congress passed legislation to provide health care and compensation to civilians who rescued the injured and helped salvage our Pacific Fleet. We should do the same for those whose health was compromised by the 9/11 attacks. It’s simply the right thing to do. The bottom line is that this draft plan is incomplete and nearly six years late. But it is a good start toward meeting our country’s moral obligation to care for those who were injured or made sick by an act of war. Six thousand Americans and counting have 9/11-related illnesses. For their sake and for the good of our country, there is no better time than now for the administration to finally put its plan into action.


Carolyn Maloney is a Democrat representing parts of Manhattan and Queens in the House of Representatives. She coauthored the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which would extend medical monitoring and treatment to everyone whose health was compromised by 9/11 and reopen the federal Victim Compensation Fund for those sickened or injured as a result of the attacks. welcomes submissions to the op-ed page. A piece should be maximum 650 words long, accompanied by the name and address of the author, and submitted via email to to be considered.




Turkey Sandwiches and Iced Tea with Betsy Gotbaum P

City Hall: Have you gotten any particularly interesting calls lately? Betsy Gotbaum: About five years ago, I got on this kick about food stamps. And the reason I got on a kick about food stamps is I got a call from one guy—his name is Eric Wilson—and Eric was in a homeless shelter with his children and he had been denied food stamps. Which is illegal. So that started a whole huge program where, in addition to getting more information out to New Yorkers to know about how you get food stamps, we were able to persuade the powers that be that they should reduce the application to two pages. And then I was able to raise about $1 million through private money to give to the United Way to do a food stamp outreach project—all from one call.

While perusing the menu at Everest Diner, Betsy Gotbaum discussed the options ahead of her for 2009—and perhaps earlier—in the mayor’s race. [Gotbaum orders white meat turkey sandwich on whole wheat toast with extra mustard on the side and an iced tea.] CH: How do you respond to people who either don’t know what the public advocate is, or worse, are familiar with the office and want to get rid of it? BG: I totally disagree with people who say they want to get rid of the office. Because I think this is a very important office for one huge reason: the mayor of New York City has an enormous amount of power and control. You need checks and balances. For example, when the school bus fiasco occurred, that was wrong. It was just the wrong thing to do. And somebody had to call them on it.

CH: But a lot of people were calling them on it. BG: Well I think I was the first one. CH: Since you’re a citywide official, does that make your criticism more powerful? BG: Sure, I think it does. It makes it more powerful. When I was Parks Commissioner, one of the things that was the most helpful for me was when a Council person or a civic leader would call me and say, “Such-and-such a park is a mess.” And I’d say, “Wait a minute. My supervisor told me that it’s fine.” They’d say, “No, no, no—it’s a mess, it’s horrible. Come out and see.” And I’d go out and see and they were right. Your supervisors want you to look good, they want to look good, but you can’t be in every park at all times. CH: Your husband says you’d be a great mayor. Do you agree with him? BG: Oh, I agree with him, sure. CH: Are you interested in running for mayor? BG: Leaving my options open. CH: You could actually be mayor since Bloomberg has been making moves to possibly run for president. Which means you could be mayor, briefly. BG: If he were to step down, I would be mayor for 60 days. Or if he won, I would be mayor for 60 days. And then I’d be mayor for 60 days and of course I’d run then—if you hand it to me. Of course I’d run then. CH: Do you have any pets? BG: No. I love dogs. My last dog we got at the pound— the dog from hell. I loved him but I couldn’t train him to do anything. He bit me a couple of times. Eight months, trying to make this dog like me. The only funny story with this dog—which isn’t that funny, actually—he bit me, and one day I was having a meeting with [Health] Commissioner Frieden. And he had bitten me here [motions to face]. And I came in and he sees blood and—as you know, he’s a doctor—he says, “What’s that? Are you okay?” I said, “Yes. My feelings are hurt. It’s a dog bite.” He says, “Maybe you should go and have that looked at.” He was wonderful—he took care of it. The dog had all his shots and everything. So a few days later, I got a notice from the Department of Health—this had nothing to do with Tom Frieden—it was a coincidence because my husband had been sitting in the park holding the dog on a leash and the dog had bitten somebody. And I got this notice because the dog was registered in my name: “If your dog bites one more person we’re going to have to destroy it.” And then we found a Catholic priest who was going to train him, and the priest couldn’t train him, so the priest found a home [for him] in Maine. CH: Do you like to cook? BG: I love to cook. CH: What are your specialties? Do you like baking... BG: I hate baking. I’m terrible at baking. I’m good at fish, vegetables, salads, chicken. I’m not a good baker because I don’t measure well. CH: Does your husband ever cook you dinner? BG: Oh, please!


ADVOCATE BETSY GOTBAUM (D) is one of several names often discussed for the 2009 mayoral election. One of her biggest cheerleaders: husband and labor leader Victor Gotbaum, who told City Hall in this past February’s “Political Power Couples” issue that she would be “the best god-damned mayor the city’s ever had.” Gotbaum recently sat down at Everest Diner on Chatham Square to talk about her mayoral hopes, why the city needs an ombudsman and the only dog she could never train. What follows is an edited transcript. UBLIC

The public advocate likes her turkey sandwiches with extra mustard and her mayors with checks and balances. CH: Does he microwave you dinner? Order out dinner for you? BG: He can’t even use the microwave. He can order dinner. You sort of give up after a while. CH: What’s the last movie you saw? BG: “Sicko.” I thought it was terrific. I don’t think everything is perfect in Canada, and I certainly know it’s not perfect in England or France, but the exaggeration is very funny and the stories about what goes on in this country were horrific. It just brought home what I really believe—we really have to do something about the healthcare system. CH: What’s the biggest mistake you made in office so far? BG: Using the car when I shouldn’t have—but I didn’t know, I didn’t do it on purpose. Because it became a big deal and it’s so distracting from me and the office. It was a mistake, I made a mistake and I was wrong, but it was a huge mistake. And nobody told us. Why don’t they tell us? Give us the policy. We all want to know. I’m not unusual. That’s the one that I feel was the most—it caused a lot of anxiety in our office and it caused me a lot of personal anxiety.


To read more about which side of town Betsy Gotbaum prefers, her thoughts on her grandchildren’s behavior and the celebrity with whom she shares a work-out schedule, visit


AUG UST 2007


The Room 9 Veteran in Southeast Iowa Political reporters on the record City Hall: How has the transition from covering City Hall to the presidential race been? Michael Saul: It’s a whole new world. For the past six years I’ve focused all of my professional energy and attention on Mayor Bloomberg, his administration and the major issues facing the city. In my new job, I’m now concentrating on the candidates who aspire to be president and the major issues facing our nation. In the past, on a busy day, I’d travel to a few boroughs on the press van; these days, I’m flying around the country. The southeast Bronx is very different from southeast Iowa—trust me. CH: What has been the toughest part? MS: Getting up to speed on all the new players and the new issues. With Bloomberg, I know (almost) everything he’s said and done publicly since June 2001. With my new beat (and any new beat), I need to learn quickly the history of the candidates and their specific policy positions. It takes time to learn the ropes.



CH: How have you managed your new travel schedule? MS: I love to travel. During my time with Bloomberg, I’ve traveled to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Athens, Singapore, Israel and a slew of cities around the United States. But that was spread out over six years. With the new gig, I’m traveling much more frequently. In July alone, I’ve been to Iowa, Detroit, Miami Beach and St. Louis. Sure, air travel can be frustrating. On my way to Detroit, I was stuck on the runway at La Guardia for three hours, diverted to Louisville and Chicago and didn’t arrive at my hotel in the Motor City until close to 1 a.m. But, hey, that’s all part of the glamour of being on the presidential campaign trail, right? CH: Do you think Mayor Bloomberg will run for president? MS: There is no question Mayor Bloomberg and his aides are contemplating the possibility of his running for president. I suspect sometime next year, after the Democrats and Republicans choose

a nominee, the mayor will assess the political landscape and make a decision. If he thinks he could win—and that’s a big, big, big if—my guess is he’ll go for it. Mayor Bloomberg’s entire professional life has been about taking risks. What’s riskier than running for president? And if he runs, it will—without question—have an enormous impact on the race. CH: What have you found that reporters tend to overlook in the presidential race? MS: Well, I’m too new to presidential politics to be offering criticism of the media’s coverage. But, much like any political contest, whether it’s for the White House or Gracie Mansion, members of the media often devote more ink and airtime to the horse race and inconsequential political flaps and not enough ink and airtime to important policy issues and substantive investigative reporting. CH: Looking back, what story that you have written is most memorable to you?

Which City Council Member Would Make the Best Lifeguard?

ith the heat of summer hanging heavy over New York, City Hall asked Council members which of their colleagues they would want in the big chair—the lifeguard chair, that is, to help watch over them at the pool or beach. When asked the question, Hiram Monserrate (D-Queens) picked himself immediately, explaining, “Hiram Monserrate, the guy who’s in the best shape.” But though fitness was one of the factors which helped get Monserrate tied for first place in the October 2006 poll about which Council member would make the best survivor on a desert island, Council members were less willing to pick him for lifeguard. The only vote for Monserrate was his own. Leroy Comrie (D-Queens) gave the nod to Erik Martin Dilan, whom Comrie called “wiry and fast.” Michael Nelson (D-Brooklyn), though, said that Health Committee Chair Joel Rivera was the obvious winner of the fitness contest. “I’ve seen him play basketball, and he’s in great shape,” Nelson said. And Thomas White (D-Queens) said they were all wrong, as he tried to imagine his colleagues dressed for the part of


Michael Saul used to have the proud distinction of having covered Michael Bloomberg longer than any other reporter—beginning in the 2001 campaign, and continuing for the next six years as City Hall Bureau Chief for The Daily News. In July, he brought that streak to an end, switching beats to cover the presidential race. Saul recently checked in with City Hall from the campaign trail to discuss making the move, how his fellow presidential campaign reporters compare with his old colleagues in Room 9 and a certain familiar face he expects to cover as part of his new beat very soon.

lifeguard. “I don’t know who can swim,” he said. “Who can wear a swimsuit? I have to think of somebody physically fit. Lappin—she seems physically fit.” James Vacca (D-Bronx), however, said that if that were the standard being used, the vote should go to David Yassky (DBrooklyn). “I think he’s the skinniest on the Council,” Vacca said. This seemed to explain the poor showing of one usually popular Council member who received just a single vote. “I wouldn’t want to see Simcha Felder in a bathing suit,” said Peter Vallone, Jr. (D-Queens) But Felder insisted that the reason for his loss was more substantive than that: he lacks one very necessary skill that would qualify him for the job. Other than that, he believed himself perfect for the role. “If I knew how to swim, I would make the best lifeguard,” Felder said. Instead of voting for himself, then, Felder was one of the eight people to vote for Vallone, the winner of this month’s poll. (Rivera joined them, though he noted that the choice between Vallone and Manhattan Democrat Robert Jackson was

a “toss-up.”) And taking an entirely different tack, Vincent Ignizio (R-Staten Island), based his choice on simple environmental exposure. “I’ll go with the Coney Island guy,” Ignizio said, joining three others in voting for Domenic Recchia, the Democrat who represents the famous waterfront in Brooklyn. “I think he’s got the experience.” The reason for all the divided opinions, at least according to Dilan, was the lack of good options. Dilan eventually picked Alan Gerson (D-Manhattan). But that was only when pressed. His first answer was somewhat more definitive. “Shit, nobody,” he said. “If my life is in their hands, I don’t trust any of them.”

Michael Saul, the former City Hall bureau chief for The Daily News, is now covering the presidential race. MS: I’m proud of a great many stories. But rather than choose one, I’d say I’m most proud of consistently and doggedly asking the mayor the tough questions and doing my best to do what he says journalists should be doing—holding elected officials and government accountable. —Elizabeth Kraushar


Council members who received more than one vote Peter Vallone, Jr. Letitia James Domenic Recchia Joel Rivera Erik Martin Dilan Lewis Fidler Jessica Lappin James Oddo G. Oliver Koppell Diana Reyna All 51 Council Members and Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum were asked, though seven did not vote.

8 4 4 4 3 3 3 3 2 2





very tough to win that battle when it gets to City Hall. The natural energy and momentum on all of these projects is to go forward and to do something, so it is more difficult to be in opposition. CH: Do you have any personal issues that you support aside from those you are paid to lobby for? RL: I do really have a personal attachment to smaller business. Initially coming out of the university, I came out with the usual mindset of big business and the capitalist system and stuff like that…kind of an anti-capitalist perspective. Getting involved in working with supermarkets and beer distributors and a lot of family-run businesses gave me a real appreciation for what goes into business development and job creation and how creative that is. It really is the secret to the success of the American political system. From a personal standpoint, it has probably made me more conservative. I tend to see government in a more negative light—that its regulations and taxes are variables that detract from business growing. I’m not a big fan of the government as a solver of problems. That’s come out of the work I’ve done over the last 25 years.

Dr. No, PhD ichard Lipsky, founder of Lipsky & Associates, says his business is run just like the momand-pop shops he works to protect. His son, “The Great Matthew Lipsky” launched the elder Lipsky’s various blogs—including—and his wife, Dorothy Lipsky, have been “intimately involved in the business for years.” Best known for his work keeping Wal-Mart out of the city, Lipsky has been involved with some of the city’s hottest topics, including congestion pricing and Columbia University’s West Harlem expansion. Lipsky talked with City Hall about his work and what he believes sets him apart from other lobbyists.


City Hall: Do you support every issue you get behind? Richard Lipsky: Generally speaking, yes. In order for me to be effective, I need to have some empathy with the situation. It just gives me a sense of my own credibility and enhances my ability to fight for the issue.

CH: What were your thoughts on congestion pricing? RL: It was something that I was instinctively critical of even before I was hired. The thing that put my eye initially there was the $21 tax on trucks. I immediately did not see any way in which this was a traffic congestion reliever. I saw it exclusively as a tax, which is what it is. That gave me pause. The other thing that gave me pause and got my skeptical hackles up about the mayor’s proposal was his newfound affinity for environmental activism. I actually had a discussion with one of my environmental consultants who remarked, “I guess the new mayor is trying to undo everything that the old mayor did in his first five years.” CH: How did you get involved with the businesses threatened by Columbia’s proposed expansion and Wal-Mart? RL: The similarity in all of these land-use fights is the ability to develop coalitions either in support or opposition— the ability to deconstruct the nature of the developer’s claims here. You’re never going to be successful just arguing the business interests of the folks who are negatively impacted. The community needs to be involved. CH: Why did you get involved with Atlantic Yards? RL: The question usually is, “Why are you for Atlantic Yards when you are usually Dr. No in most case?” The answer to that is that I really believed strongly and continue to believe strongly in the potential good that the Atlantic Yards project can bring. My initial attraction came from a long time academic interest of mine, which was the role of sports and its impact on politics and community. My dissertation in graduate school was on the political and social impact of American sports. The Nets coming to Brooklyn can have a positive impact on the extensive network of youth sports activities in the


CH: Do people come to you, or do you go to them? RL: On congestion pricing I was approached by the Coalition [Anti-Congestion Pricing Coalition]. But, there are other times when I will reach out when I see an issue developing, I look to see who is involved in the issue and I will approach them about doing work on their behalf.

CH: Were you a supporter of Mayor Bloomberg when he first ran? RL: The mayor had no supporters, at least not to my understanding. As a lobbyist he certainly wasn’t reaching out to any of us, one way or the other. But, no. Who knew what his politics were? He didn’t run saying that the first thing he’d do was prohibit smoking anywhere and everywhere. He didn’t say that. It was also hard to imagine that he was going to win that race. So, I wasn’t that pressured, let’s put it that way.

Richard Lipsky says some of the issues he supports as a lobbyist are natural outgrowths of views he developed while pursuing his PhD in political science at the CUNY graduate center. borough. There can be linkages between the two of them to the benefit of both. CH: How long do you usually work with an organization or on an issue? Does it become a lifelong relationship? RL: Sometimes. But sometimes it’s, “Thanks very much and see you down the road.” Especially with business interests, there are people who hire you based on an immediate need and then once that need is either exceptionally addressed or not, the issue goes away. But with other folks, like the United Food and Commercial Food and Workers Union who I did work on about all the box stores and other issues that the union has from a lobbying standpoint, that’s been in place for a long time. CH: How do you charge for your services? RL: It’s usually a standard lobbying contract, which is a monthly retainer. CH: There’s a lot of overlap between your clients. Do you have allies that transfer from one cause to another? RL: The projects tend to be localized, though, in that you might have a general bodega association, a business congress or another small group that might have an interest. But usually the fight is won or lost at the local level initially. If you don’t have the support at the local level, even when you are in opposition to something, it’s

CH: So what does that mean for your party affiliation? RL: I’m more of a Libertarian, but I’m a registered Democrat. It’s my instinctive opposition to a lot of the mayor’s efforts to control behavior and guide behavior. People should have the right to make their own decisions, and are capable of making their own decisions. I think: educate, rather than regulate. CH: What’s the one thing that people get wrong about the life and work of a lobbyist? RL: I don’t see myself as a typical lobbyist, even though in many ways I am. The typical view of the lobbyist is the guy or the gal who’s close to certain elected officials and who uses the intimacy and the relationship and perhaps the campaign contributions to generate influence. That’s never really been the backbone of my lobbying practice. CH: So, as the proclaimed defender of the mom-andpop stores, do you ever shop at any big box stores? RL: I have been in big stores. I have been in a couple of Wal-Marts, primarily to get a gauge on just what is being offered and to get a better understanding of them. For groceries, I tend to stay with smaller union-run stores. We shop at Target on occasion and we kind of like it. But the major box stores, I stay away from: B.J.’s, Costco and Wal-Mart, because of a) their labor practices, and b) I just don’t like them. Even Home Depot, which I shop in occasionally, I tend to get lost. I can’t go to the owner or the manager and say that I need help with something. I just like that kind of shopping better. Interview conducted by Carla Zanoni



Woo-ful Press Release Pun City Council Member John Liu’s (DQueens) outreach director, Andy Woo, tried a different tactic to make his press release about public toilets in the Council district stand out from the nearly constant stream of releases Liu and his staff pour into inboxes each day. For the subject line, “New Toilets a Flushing Success,” Woo co-opted the headline from the July 24 Daily News article about the installation of the first public toilet, now self-flushing and cleaning itself on the streets of Queens. But one potty pun was not apparently not enough for Woo, who wanted to call attention to “efforts to install an automatic public toilet as has been advocated for by Council Member Loo—I mean Liu.” No word yet on when Woo will be headlining at Caroline’s.

Bay State Proposal: Vote for Do-Overs In a state where 70 percent of candidates ran unopposed last year, a new proposal in the Massachusetts legislature would allow voters to pull the lever for “None of the Above; For a New Election.”

If this option received a plurality of votes, a new election will be held two months later. The bill’s sponsors said the option will foster competition.

Banking on Government Business The corner of Broadway and Warren Street looked more like a carnival than a bank opening. Across the street from the newly reopened north end of City Hall Park, Commerce Bank opened for business August 2. Commerce is hoping this new branch will increase its presence and appeal in the government community in and around Lower Manhattan. To entice new customers, the bank gave away free hot dogs and pretzels. In addition, there was a raffle for a $500 cash prize, a stilt walker and a band playing Caribbean music. Former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, Sr. (D-Queens), whose consulting firm lobbies for Commerce Bank, was the centerpiece of the ceremonial cutting of a ribbon made from a string of mock

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$100 and $50 bills. Robert Walsh, commissioner of the city’s Department of Small Business Services, commended the bank on its contribution to nonprofits and the small business community. He also complimented the spacious, decorated interior. “They’re great neighbors,” he said. “They connect back to the community.”

The Young and the Leftists Queens Council Member Eric Gioia, an expected candidate for the Democratic nomination for public advocate in 2009, got national attention for his food stamp challenge earlier this year, trying to live on $28 worth of food for a week. Now he has a national award in recognition of that and his other work at the races. Gioia was presented with the John F. Kennedy Young Democrat Award at the national convention of Young Democrats held in Dallas, Texas, in late July. The award recognizes ongoing commitment and achievement within the Young Democrats of America and overall. Gioia was nominated for the award by the Queens chapter of the Young Democrats. Meanwhile, the Manhattan Young Democrats won an award for outstanding local chapter, given to the best local chapter in the country. The local group also won the outstanding local one-time event award. The chapter was recognized for their efforts in helping Democrats win two tight races in the state, fundraising, and assisting in the campaign of a chapter member, Assembly Member Micah Kellner (D-Manhattan). Kellner won the seat in a June 5 special election to succeed Alexander “Pete” Grannis (D). Six members of the New York Young Democrats were elected to the national board of the organization, to serve as national secretary, labor caucus secretary, disabilities issues caucus secretary, caucus secretary and Jewish caucus parliamentarian.

Nonna Hoping to Make Next Election Swanson’s Swansong A Manhattan attorney is trying to wrest control of the most Republican seat in the Westchester county legislature. Democrat John Nonna, a partner at Leboeuf, Lamb, Greene and MacRae and a former mayor of Pleasantville, is challenging Conservative incumbent Suzanne Swanson in the central Westchester district. There are 17 seats in the county legislature. Swanson’s is one of five in the Republican caucus. Nonna has made environmental issues and affordable housing for senior citizens and young professionals two key parts of his campaign. He pointed to programs such as mass transit, open space preservation and funding for

The long saga of the Second Avenue Subway has caught the eye of Absolut Vodka’s marketers. In its new campaign to present snapshots of an ideal world, Absolut placed an open T station on the southeast corner of 86th Street and Second Avenue. Trains are not expected to be running through a station there or anywhere else on Second Avenue until 2013. But would having trains on the tracks actually make for an Absolut world? An old proposal for the thenabandoned stretch of tunnel dug in the 1970s—where the April 12, 2007, ceremonial groundbreaking was held—would have transformed the space into a communal wine cellar. The Absolut marketers seem to have picked their poison. affordable housing construction as key platform items. Nonna, chairman of the New York Democratic Lawyers Council, said the campaign has been progressing well and he is not worried about the Republican enrollment advantage, noting that he won Republican votes in Pleasantville elections. “If you can get out the vote, you can win,” Nonna said, looking ahead to the November election. “In a local office election, the key is getting out the base.”

From the Inbox: Bloomberg’s Billionaire Appeal Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s (Unaff.) reported flirtation with a White House run has enthralled commentators and consultants across the country. But the rumors that he might drop up to a billion dollars in a self-funded run have caught the attention of more than just the professional political class—at least according to this email, reprinted as it

appeared in the City Hall inbox: Subject: Open letter to Mayor Bloomberg Dear Mayor Bloomberg, News reports say that you may be running for President in 2008. i would hate for you to spend all that money and NOT winning. i’m a single mother raising a child who has cerebral palsy. all we ever needed is a home of our own. i work hard but, i don’t make enough to purchase our own home. Could you provide us with the monies to purchase a home for us? the monies will go to a good cause. and with your kindness and generousity you will be a winner!. thank you, very much pat and terrence graus detroit, michigan —John R.D. Celock, Edward-Isaac Dovere, Dan Rivoli

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City Hall - August 1, 2007  

The August 1, 2007 issue of City Hall. Targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and issues which shape New York City and State...

City Hall - August 1, 2007  

The August 1, 2007 issue of City Hall. Targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and issues which shape New York City and State...