Sunday, January 30, 2011
The New York Times has a strange story about deceased Riverdale resident Dr. Raphel Klapper, who appeared on the Conservative line in the 31st Senate District (covering Bronx and Manhattan) in 2010 and received over 800 votes. One small problem is that he died from cancer six months before election day. Even more baffling is that it seems that neither Dr. Klapper nor his family even knew he was on the ballot. The Conservative Party apparently nominated him but did not contact him? Who believes this is the whole story?
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Celeste Katz of the Daily News reports that former State Senator Guy Velella has died at 66. Velella had lung cancer and had recently told friends that he had 3-6 months to live. Velella was a complicated figure since he was immensely popular in his district and powerful in Albany, but he resigned in disgrace after pleading guilty to bribery charges.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
For some reason Glenn Beck decided to single out Co-op City to criticize on his show and calls it part of a failed socialist experiment. At one point he says, "Do you want to live there? This is Co-Op City. Oh man! This is so beautiful," Beck said sarcastically. "That's the Great Society for you, and those are the lush [buildings]." Councilman James Vacca fires back at Beck. Must have been a slow week on Beck's show despite the State of the Union address.
Here is a posting by Liz Benjamin at Capital Tonight about the thing that Bronx Congressman Eliot Engel is most famous for -- copping a seat along the aisle during the State of the Union address so that he can get a picture with the President. Apparently, he has interns staking out the position all day and he arrives hours beforehand to get the seat and an autograph. And you had doubts about whether we have incredible elected officials in the Bronx? Of course, if you want to see the Congressman in action, you can watch him here on the Colbert Show.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Here is some fascinating video posted by Celeste Katz at the Daily News featuring a very young Assemblyman Jose Rivera during his first run for the Assembly. The reporter goes back and forth with the Assemblyman-elect about whether it was appropriate for him to run for office while collecting unemployment benefits. It also shows a very different time in the Bronx.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
As reported by Celeste Katz at the Daily News, BP Ruben Diaz, Jr. is out with a press release criticizing American Idol for its negative depiction of the Bronx when profiling a 16 year old contestant. Diaz says, "Rather than focus on the amazing revitalization the Bronx has seen over the past three decades, the producers of the show chose instead to highlight the negative stereotypes that have plagued our borough for years." No doubt that to some extent Diaz is correct. The Bronx is almost always depicted on TV as a crime-ridden wasteland. But if you watch the video above, they are actually following this contestant's narrative, and it's pretty negative. His family has been in a shelter and he has seen some bad things. It would be hard for them to spin it any other way (although I am sure they are more than happy to play right along with this stereotype of the Bronx). So in this instance, it may be an over-reaction by Diaz, but good to see him sticking up for the borough's image and there are certainly way too many times when the Boogiedowner should get better coverage so we are probably owed this one. UPDATE: After criticizing American Idol for its negative portrayal of the Bronx, we now have Diaz in the Daily News describing gun violence in the Bronx as an "epidemic." Makes it harder to complain about our negative portrayal by Hollywood and the media while we have a gun violence "epidemic" going on. Here is an article in the NY Post by Gerson Borrero that says the BP is missing the point in attacking this contestant. Borrero says, "The truth is that if the producers of "American Idol" really wanted to malign The Bronx they could have mentioned that the county leads New York City in unemployment rates. They could have also reported that out of the 536 murders committed in 2010 in all of New York City, 127 took place in The Bronx."
Monday, January 17, 2011
Here is a story by David Freedlander at Politicker NY about the threat by Governor Cuomo to shut down state government unless lawmakers agree to $10 billion in cuts. In response, Bx. State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. said, among other things, "it seems all too obvious to me that Governor Cuomo is blackmailing New York." This guy is good for a quote a day.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
It's good to see that at least one politician who recently expressed support for the Riverdale Review in the face of a community boycott has come to his senses -- at least partially. In this letter to the Riverdale Press, Councilman Koppell comes out strongly in support of PS 24 -- a school which has been mercilesslly attacked by Andy Wolf, editor of the Review. As we noted in this previous posting, Koppell joined together with four other politicians -- BP Ruben Diaz, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz and Congressman Eliot Engel -- in congratulating the Review for 17 years in business in a full-page ad -- as if 17 years is a special anniversary? Of course in that very same issue, Wolf wrote no less than 4 articles attacking PS 24. So Koppell deserves some credit for representing his constituents and standing up for an outstanding school. Of course, we can't say the same thing about the other politicos mentioned above, who decided to put their own interest ahead of their constituents.
But, Koppell has not completely come to his senses. He continues to defend the Review while failing to answer the question that has been asked of him for years -- what about the secret deal that took place 17 years ago involving him and Congressman Engel helping Wolf purchase the Review? Until he answers this question and clears up whether he has a fatal conflict of interest concerning the Review, he has no standing to comment on this issue. So Koppell, what is your answer? UPDATE: Thought you might enjoy this drawing above of OK.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
The Bronx News Network reports that yet another non-profit pet of an elected official -- this time Assemblyman Peter Rivera -- is involved in a corruption probe. David Griffiths, the Executive Director of Neighborhood Enhancement for Training Services, Inc., is being charged with "making false statements in connection with a grand jury proceeding, obstructing justice, and mail fraud in connection with an application to obtain a state grant." The story also reports that the nonprofit "received almost all of its income from an unnamed "certain member of the Assembly" between 2003 and 2007." Of course, that Assemblyman is Peter Rivera. Haven't we seen this many times before? Ironically, this earlier posting talks about Peter Rivera's service on the Governor's transition team and the possibility that he may be joining the administration. UPDATE: Here is another story on this unfolding scandal from the Village Voice entitled Bronx Corruption Bust: Assemblyman Peter Rivera Ally Charged. And a recent story from the New York Post entitled Rivera's Pork Store.
Liz Benjamin over at Capital Tonight Blog reports that State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. (seated second from right with his amigos -- with Espada, Monserrate and Kruger) is running around the Capital complaining that the new Senate group formed by Jeff Klein is no different from his "Amigos". Liz reports that Diaz stated, "When the four amigos, the Hispanic friends, were negotiating…they called us thugs, they called us crooks,” the Bronx Democrat griped."
Friday, January 7, 2011
Here is a New York Post article that shows that proves that elected officials must know better than we do. A poll of residents in the districts of Councilmembers who are opposed to Walmart shows that there is overwhelming popular support for the store to open. For example, a poll of 300 people who live in the district of Charles Barron in Brooklyn found that 87 percent of them support having a Walmart in the City. Included on this list is our very own Diane Foster of the Bronx, whose district also supported having a Walmart in the City. (Ironcially, if you look at the posting below on Councilwoman Foster, you will see that her work attendance in the Council is the worst in New York.) These results mirror the results of a survey last month of 1000 New Yorkers, where the support for Walmart was at about 71 percent. So why do we still have to drive to New Jersey or upstate to go to a Walmart?
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Celeste Katz over at the Daily News reports that Bronx State Senator Jeff Klein has formed a breakaway State Senate Democratic Conference with three other Senators. Katz reminds us that "Klein abruptly quit his job as Sampson's deputy a few days ago. Prior to that, he was removed as chairman of the DSCC, the conference's all-important political arm, and replaced by new Sen. Mike Gianaris of Queens." Although Sampson will easily hold onto his position, this group, which includes David Carlucci, Diane Savino and David Valesky, could make things interesting. Stay tuned! UPDATE: Here is Klein talking about his new breakaway group.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
James Fergusson over at Bronx News Network does a nice job in this article profiling Bronx Councilwoman Helen Foster who holds the fine distinction of having the worst attendance record in the City Council. She showed up for work just 61.7 percent of the time in 2010. What makes this especially galling is that the Council actually meets so infrequently -- just a handful of times per month. Not bad for a job that is part-time and pays $112,000. Almost makes you long for the days of Maria Baez.
Here is a link to a posting by David Freedlander over at Politics NY about Congressman Eliot Engel being cleared by a House ethics committee over the use of his per diem travel payments. The article states that "A Wall Street Journal report last year uncovered how some members of Congress used daily cash stipends even though many of their costs were picked up by foreign governments and U.S. embassies, leaving lawmakers with leftover funds. Leftover per-diem money was often used for shopping or to cover spouses' travel expenses and there are no rules about members of Congress returning leftover travel funds." The ethics panel concluded that "there is insufficient evidence to determine with any degree of certainty that any one of the Members were provided an amount of per diem that was not necessary for their respective trips." UPDATE: Daily News reports that Congressman Engel spent $70,000 to defend a charge of improperly spending $700.
In his weekly Bronx column for the Daily News, Bob Kappstatter reports that Bronx Assemblyman Peter Rivera may be in line for a high position in the Cuomo administration. For political junkies that raises the specter of a hotly contested special election to replace Rivera that could divide the loyalties of Bronx politicos. So 2011 may not be that boring after all.
Monday, January 3, 2011
Here is a story out of the Daily News about the back and forth in the State Senate over who will lead the Democrats. State Senator Jeff Klein recently resigned (or was forced out of his post) as the No. 2 Democrat after seriously questioning the leadership provided by John Sampson (pictured). Today, two Bronx Dems, Ruben Diaz Sr. and Jose Serrano, Jr. came out in support of Sampson. He only needs 16 of the 30 Dem. votes to keep his post so change at this point does not look likely, even though these are the same guys who allowed Pedro Espada to make a mockery of the whole system and keep him in his top leadership post until he was formally indicted just a month ago. Just another day in the NY State Legislature!
Here is a great article from the NY Times entitled "Council Grants Often Shortchange Needy Districts". It details how the City Council (i.e. Speaker Quinn) spends nearly $20 million of our money in the form of member items. Not surprisingly, the money that is doled out to members has very little to do with the needs of a district and everything to do with a Councilmembers loyalty to the speaker. So if you are on the outs with Quinn (that would be Charles Barron) you might only get $137,000 to spend in your district, but if you are doing the Speaker's bidding (like Lewis Felder) you might get near $1 million to spread around. This despite the fact that Barron's district in Brooklyn, which includes East New York and Brownsville, is one of the poorest in the City. Regardless of what you think of someone like Barron, his constituents in a senior home, little league or soup kitchen or no less needy than elsewhere. It would make a whole lot more sense for our money to be divided equally among the 51 Council districts or at worst to do it according to need. But to do it according to loyalty to the Speaker Quinn is a travesty that robs us all. When I served on the NYC Charter Commission last year I proposed such a change, and not one elected official spoke up in favor, so I find it comical that Manhattan BP Scott Stringer raises his voice on the issue in this article. He put out a thick report to the Charter Commission that did not include any Council reforms. It's about time we stood up and demanded some integrity in how millions of our dollars are spent.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Here is a link to a posting by Celeste Katz at the Daily News about State Senator Jeff Klein taking the gloves off and not only quitting his post as the No. 2 Democrat in the State Senate but calling into question the leadership of John Sampson. Klein said the "final nail in the coffin" was the recent Daily News revelation that the Senate Democrats under Sampson had overspent their $29 million legislative budget by $7 million. For two years, I stood by and defended the misguided action of others and I cannot personally bear that burden any longer," Klein said. It's time to move forward and be independent." This is either a an act of political courage or someone just jumping off a sinking ship?