It has been around forever

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Politicians Praise Riverdale Review But Fail to Disclose Conflicts

In this week's Riverdale Review, five politicians (BP Diaz, Councilman Koppell, Congressman Eliot Engel, Assemblyman Dinowitz and State Senator-elect Espaillat) took a not-too-subtle stance on the community boycott raging against the Riverdale Review. They all took full page ads (although I am sure Andy Wolf did not charge them the full freight) to congratulate the Review on 18 years in business. Of course, what 3 of them did not disclose is that they have major conflicts of interest concerning the paper. As previously reported in the Riverdale Press, it was Congressman Eliot Engel who along with Councilman Koppell who helped Andy Wolf acquire the paper 17 years ago by assisting him with obtaining financial support and legal assistance to complete the transaction. So when Councilman Koppell says in his ad "A free press is the hallmark of a great community" he is being about as hypocritical as a politician can be. Before he goes around pretending that the Review is a unbiased newspaper, he should disclose that he was instrumental in making sure Andy Wolf could purchase the paper and he has benefitted greatly from that assistance. The same goes for Congressman Engel. There should be no mystery why Mr. Wolf supports these politicians given this history. The same also goes for Mr. Diaz. One of his top aides is John DeSio, who wrote for the Review for nearly a decade. Just as telling is that when Diaz first ran for BP, Andy Wolf created a blog called Bronx Press Politics that was written almost entirely by -- guess who -- John DeSio. As you can see by checking out the blog (until they take it down), it reads like a Diaz campaign website. So is it any wonder why the public is so cynical about politicians and their motives? And finally, while all these politicians were patting Andy Wolf on the back for his "18th year fighting for better schools and a stronger community" (as Diaz put it), in the very same issue he was busy once again attacking P.S. 24 in 3 of his articles and an editorial. I guess this is what they are referring to as a great service to our community?

Riverdale Press Takes Andy Wolf to the Woodshed on First Amendment

Here is a great editorial in this week's Riverdale Press that takes Andy Wolf of the Riverdale Review to the woodshed on the First Amendment. Since November, there has been a community boycott of his paper that has already garnered nearly 700 signatures. Last week the group visited Mr. Wolf's office to deliver a birthday card signed by dozens of local residents and a cake on the 219th birthday of the First Amendment (of course, the coward refused to come out of his office and instead called the police even though it was a peaceful visit). All of this has Mr. Wolf crying about his First Amendment rights. However, as the Press editorial accurately points out after referencing the actual language of the First Amendment,"When you do, it becomes clear that this fight has nothing to do with the First Amendment at all. A group of citizens that stages a protest against what it sees as irresponsible journalism doesn’t even come near stepping on the Constitution’s toes. This is not the long arm of the law reaching in to stop the free flow of information. It’s angry citizens saying what they think." The editorial ends with this powerful statement, "So in belated honor of the First Amendment’s birthday we ask Mr. Wolf to stop taking its name in vain..." In other words, after years of savaging our community with his biased stories and blunting the free speech of others, Andy Wolf is now trying to wrap himself in the First Amendment to insulate himself from any real criticism. The First Amendment was designed to protect the exact speech reflected in the boycott. Wolf's hypocrisy is comical. If you really want to honor the First Amendment, sign the petition. Viva La Boycott!

Bronx Beep Takes Credit for Alleged Spike in Bronx Economy

Here is an article by Dan Beekman at the Daily News about the Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. touting his role in the spike in business in the Bronx. The article notes that "the Business Initiative Corp. of New York, sponsored by the BOEDC (Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp), has made 41 loans to Bronx businesses since October 2009, totaling more than $24 million.The BOEDC has also arranged $2.3 million in federal Empowerment Zone loans this year." The BP's office funds the BOEDC. But the article also notes "About 12.5% of Bronx residents are unemployed, the highest rate of any borough." So I am a bit confused as to what spike we are referring to. While BOEDC should be commended for their outstanding efforts to loan money to Bronx businesses, it is not clear that it has borne fruit yet in the form of an uptick in jobs or the local economy -- or at least there was no mention of it by the Daily News or the BP. Would like to hear more about those numbers before people start patting themselves on the back and dancing in the streets.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Jeff Klein Loses (Leaves) Post at State Dem. Senate Campaign Committee

Celeste Katz at the Daily News is out with a follow-up story about the change in leadership at the State Democratic Senate Campaign Committee from Jeff Klein (pictured on the right) of the Bronx and Senator Mike Gianaris of Queens (pictured on the left). It's unclear whether Klein was forced out or he left on his own. He has stated that he voluntarily left after serving for two years as is customary. However, here is an interesting quote from an earlier post by Katz that might shed light on this issue, "Gianaris steered clear of talking about the rumblings that the replacement of Klein, who's still deputy leader of the conference, had to do with any designs he might have had on Sampson's leadership post." Reports are that the Senate Campaign Committee is $7 million in debt after this round of elections, which cost the Dems the Senate.

Monday, December 20, 2010

How Borough Presidents Spend Their (Our) Money

Here is a good article from Chris Bragg at City Hall News about how the City's Borough Presidents shell out their/our dollars. One interesting quote, "Out of the $387,000 that the Bronx borough president's office has spent on discretionary expenses this year, $300,000 went directly to the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, the office's economic development arm." In this economy, support for small businesses is critical, so hopefully our borough is getting a good return on that investment.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Profile of New Councilman: Fernando Cabrera

Here is a profile of Councilman Fernando Cabrera from the Bronx News Network. Cabrera, who was elected in 2009. defeated Maria Baez by less than 100 votes. As some readers may recall, she was regarded as one of the worst members of the Council (and that is hard to do). Here is an interesting quote from the article, "Unlike Baez, who had the worst attendance record in the Council for years, Cabrera shows up to work. He has perfect attendance at “stated” Council meetings (when the whole body convenes) and says he’s made 89 percent of his committee meetings." No where to go but up!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pols Called Out on Double-Dipping Pensions

Here is a New York Post article that identifies 11 state lawmakers (including former Bronx Boss and Assemblyman Jose Rivera--pictured far left with Ruben Diaz Sr. and Vito Lopez to right) who are able to double-dip on their pensions. These lawmakers are able to file their "retirement" papers but continue to be paid their full salary while in office. So for example, Vito Lopez, the embattled Brooklyn Boss, is going to get an $88,000 pension on top of his $92,000 salary in the Assembly. Not a bad gig if you can get it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pedro Espada and Son Indicted -- Finally!

Celeste Katz at the Daily News is all over the story about the long-awaited indictment of Pedro Espada for embezzlement and theft charges. The feds also charged his son, Pedro G. Espada, a chip off the old block. It is thought that the Espadas stole millions from the health care clinics they ran. But one of my favorite lines of the day came from the Senate Dems, "In light of Senator Pedro Espada's indictment, he has been removed as Majority Leader and Chair of the Senate Housing Committee effective immediately." Hey Senate Dems, why the rush? Is there anyone who wonders why they lost the majority after only two years?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Riverdale Review Boycott Highlights Attacks By Andy Wolf on Schools

Here is a link to the Boycott the Review facebook page, which posts a newsletter detailing the vicious attacks that Andy Wolf has made against no less than 6 local schools. So while Wolf likes to pretend to be an expert on education he has no educational background and his only real credential is his attacks on schools and their leaders. Time to stop the hate -- Boycott the Review and sign the petition.

An Unhappy Anniversary for the Kingsbridge Armory: UPDATE

Here is an article from the New York Post about the sad 1st anniversary of the day that the Kingsbridge Armory was killed as a consumer mall. The article is appropriately entitled "In the Bronx, an empty sore instead of jobs". Here is another little interesting thing to note -- it was written by Candice Giove. For years, Candice was Andy Wolf's chief cheap-shot artist over at the Riverdale Review. I guess it is a good idea that Wolf keeps most of his most vile attack pieces off the web so her new employers probably never saw it. UPDATE: Here is an editorial in today's Daily News, entitled "Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. Let Down the Bronx When He Killed the Kingsbridge Armory Mall." This editorial states that a recent study "found unemployment among young black men at 24.2%. Worse, joblessness is a staggering 52% for young black men without a high school diploma." In addition, an editorial in today's New York Post refers to the Armory anniversary in an article about Wal Mart. This editorial states "In The Bronx, sadly, the concept of any job all too often doesn't apply. The borough has the city's highest unemployment rate -- and it ranks among the nation's poorest communities." It also cites to a recent survey that found that New Yorkers approve of having a Wal Mart by an overwhelming margin of 71 to 24 percent. Just as significant for the Armory issue, Bronxites supported a Wal Mart by an unbelievable margin of 80-18 percent. So who are the ones opposing Wal Mart? We need an honest an open debate about this issue and it looks like that is finally going to happen.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Espada Still Pulling Down Big Bucks

Here is a story from the NY Post about the fact that Pedro Espada is still drawing a salary of $287,000 a year from his health care centers. He has already been charged with using one of his centers as his personal piggy bank by AG Cuomo. Nothing new here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Diaz, Sr. Calls Out the Senate on Parker

This story from Capital Tonight goes to the heart of the hypocrisy in the State Senate -- State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. came out swinging against his colleagues for their lack of action against Senator Kevin Parker after he was convicted on two misdemeanor charges. Of course, not too long ago the Senate moved to expel Hiram Monserrate for one misdemeanor. Diaz rightly says, "Will Senator Schneiderman be consistent and show us what a true hero he thinks he is by starting the same kind of Senate action he organized to kick Hiram Monserrate out for his one misdemeanor?”

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Assemblyman Peter Rivera Fires Staffer Over Press Conference: UPDATE

Here is an article from Capitol Confidential about Assemblyman Peter Rivera firing longtime aide Guillermo Martinez hours after he put on a press conference dubbed “Latino Agenda: Recommendations to Governor Elect Andrew Cuomo & and Lt. Governor-Elect Robert Duffy. The article recounts, "The press release that was issued at the conference included what could be described as a series of demands tucked into the recommendations. It is imperative to have Hispanics named to agencies as Commissioners, Deputy Executive Commissioners, Deputy Commissioners, Counsels, Government affairs liaisons and department heads,” reads one of the suggested initiatives." Just thought you might find this interesting. UPDATE: here is an interview with Peter Rivera with Liz Benjamin.

New Amigos in the State Senate?

Here is a posting by Gerson Borrero of El Diaro about six Latino members of the State Senate who may be the new amigos. He notes that for the first time in history, there will be six Latino State Senators serving at the same time. Four of the six represent portions of the Bronx, including Ruben Diaz, Sr., Jose Serrano, Gustavo Rivera (pictured), and Adriano Espaillat. Borrero states, "The Republicans may have the control once again, but could the six Latinos join together to make themselves relevant even while their party is in the minority? Or will they?"

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bx. Boss Heastie Complains about Anti-NYC Sentiment

Liz Benjamin over at Captial Tonight blogs about Bx. Boss (there is our Boss to the left) Carl Heastie's sense that there is an anti-NYC sentiment among opponents of the plan to restructure the downstate OTB operation.

Liz writes:"Heastie, who is also chairman of the Bronx Democratic Party, called this development “sickening,” adding (via text message, his preferred mode of communication): “(It) can lead to regional problems down the road for those who need city legislators’ votes for their regional issues. That sounded vaguely threatening to me, but Heastie insisted he’s not suggesting he’ll vote “no” on anything in particular. He did, however, confirm that he’s “pissed” at lawmakers who are now proposing a “compromise” bill that would include the regional and suburban OTBs."

You would think our Boss would find something more important to get excised about than OTB--a bookie operation that should have been put out of business long ago.

Mayor Proposes Ways to Make Voting Easier

Celeste Katz at the Daily News posted this link to a press conference by Mayor Bloomberg where he and various good government groups propose a series of reforms to make it easier to vote. Voting rates in NY are among the lowest in the country. So to address the problem, the Mayor proposed the following ideas to the state legislature:
Creating an early voting period;
Allowing New Yorkers to fill out their ballots at home and bring to a polling site;
Modernizing registration process and extending registration deadline from 25 days to 10 days before Election Day; and
Simplifying the ballot design with plain language instructions.
At this point anything will help!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Republicans to Control State Senate

Liz Benjamin over at Capital Tonight reports on a ruling by a Nassau judge on a close State Senate race that will now hand control of the Senate over to the Republicans as many expected. This seat gives the Republicans 32 votes, a small majority but enough to control the patronage and budget issues. The Democrats may challenge this ruling, but it is being reported that they are $2.4 million in debt. So it looks like the Dems may lose the Senate after just two years -- and they did such a fine job!

Andy Wolf Responds to Boycott of Review: UPDATE

So here is Andy Wolf's answer to a community boycott against his rag the Riverdale Review --[UPDATE: As only a true coward would, Wolf made his site password protected once we linked to it] true to form he spews plenty of hate and lies and tries to hide behind the First Amendment. Wolf calls me "corrupt" and a "two-bit politician" -- last I checked I have been elected to no office and enjoy a stellar reputation as a volunteer for the past 15 years. Wolf then goes on to jumble up the idea of freedom of the press and the First Amendment -- of course, he fails to acknowledge or comprehend that those principles only apply to governmental action to limit the press or speech. Boycotts of newspapers and speech by non-governmental entities and communities are as old as our country. There have been boycotts of the Daily News by one of its unions, boycotts of Hearst Newspapers, and there is a major boycott going on right now involving Fox News. More locally, in 2006 right here in Riverdale there were two protests by some prominent religious leaders of speeches to be given by controversial speaker Tony Judt. Mr. Judt cancelled one of those appearances under the threat of further protests. Those religious leaders had every right to express their displeasure with his appearance and speech--that is what is protected by the First Amendment. Andy Wolf supported their efforts in his paper. Why was he not screaming about free speech then? Because he is either a hypocrite or completely ignorant of the basic tenants of the Constitution. If you want to stop the hate Sign this Petition or visit this Facebook Page for more information.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Councilman Koppell Worried that Bronxites Can't Spell

Bob Kappstatter over at the Daily News wrote the story below about the effort by Councilman Oliver Koppell to change the name of Kazimiroff Blvd. outside the Botanical Garden back to Southern Blvd. That change has got some locals livid over the feeling that the name of Dr. Theodore Kazimiroff will be lost to history. Koppell says the change is needed after 30 years because some people can't spell Kazimiroff into their GPS. Curiously, he wants to leave it for certain stretches of the road? Good to see the Council is spending it's time on these weighty issues during the worst economy in our history.

A street by any other name

Bronx Borough Historian Lloyd Ultan, usually the easiest going of men, is hoppin' mad over the City Council skedded vote today to turn Kazimiroff Blvd. outside the Botanical Garden and Fordham U. back to its original name of Southern Blvd.

It wasn't named for some obscure general from the Revolutionary War, but in 1981, a year after the death of Dr. Theodore Kazimiroff, a dentist who served as official Bronx historian and co-founded the Bronx County Historical Society.

"We don't want to destroy the good memory of Dr. Kazimiroff," said bill sponsor Councilman Ollie Koppell, explaining that emergency service and postal vehicles have trouble finding addresses there, as do GPS users who can't spell Kazimiroff.

Kazimiroff Blvd. WILL remain the secondary signage from Fordham Road to Allerton Ave.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Term Limits for Incumbents Too!

An editorial in the Daily News this past Sunday supports the effort to roll back the two-term exemption for incumbents. Most New Yorkers may not be aware that the two-term limit on the ballot that passed this past November by such a wide margin (74-26) contained an exemption for incumbents so that they get to serve three terms. I strongly opposed that provision during my service on the 2010 Charter Revision Commission. That is why I have joined a broad coalition of civic leaders, including Henry Stern of NY Civic, to launch a public petition drive to give voters the chance to decide whether or not they want to exempt incumbents from this law. We need 30,000 signatures to put it on the ballot in 2011 -- I suspect that New Yorkers will have a lot to say about this issue. If you want to get involved or want to sign the petition please visit NY Civic's website.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Councilman Vacca Comes out for Black for Schools Chancellor: UPDATE

Here is a link to an article by Andre Hawkins at City Hall News reporting that Councilman Jimmy Vacca has come out in support of Cathie Black for schools chancellor. UPDATE: Bronx News Network has this article showing that Bronx pols are split on the appointment.

Senator Elect Espaillat Defends Rangel

Here is a link to an article reporting that a number of elected officials, including State Senator Elect Adriano Espaillat, are calling for Congressman Charles Rangel not to be censured. The Congressman was recently found guilty of 11 counts of ethics violations by Congress but these guys say he has been punished enough? I am not sure what punishment they are referring to? You can already see the type of bold leadership our new State Senator from Riverdale will be providing us in Albany.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Boycott of Riverdale Review Takes Off

The day of reckoning has finally come for the Riverdale Review. For those of you who do not know the Review, it is a free weekly rag put out by Andy Wolf (yup, that's his beautiful mug to the left), who also runs the Bronx Press Review. Over the years, the big, bad Wolf has set a new standard in yellow journalism by personally attacking anyone who disagrees with him. I am proud to say that I am one of his favorite targets -- which means I must be doing something right. After 15 years of trashing schools, community leaders and politicians, a large and diverse contingent of people in and around the Riverdale area have decided that enough is enough. They formed a new organization called "Recycle the Review" that is leading a boycott of the paper. This article from the Riverdale Press (not to be confused with the Review) sets forth the tremendous success this group has had in just one week. Their facebook page provides details about the boycott and includes some of Wolf's finest work. There is an online petition you can sign here. I support their efforts, and ask everyone to pass it along to your friends and lets score a victory for responsible journalism (not to be confused with blogging, which allows the public to spout our personal opinions!).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NY Voter Turnout Lowest in the Nation

This article from Sam Roberts at the NY Times shows that New York ranked lower than every state in the nation in voter turnout. Despite contests for every statewide race, New York's turnout was lower than any mid-term election for at least 3 decades. Only about 32 percent of eligible New York voters went to the polls on November 2nd. This is a trend that continues to grow. The real question is what does it mean for the future?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Engel Comments on Rangel Ethics Verdict

Bronx News Network has Congressman Eliot Engel (yes, he is a Bronx Congressman--just some portions of it, and some would say he also represents parts of Maryland but that is the subject of another story), commenting on Congressman Charlie Rangel being found guilty of ethics violations by a Congressional panel.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Diaz Senior Comes Out Strong For Reform on Legislative Salaries

While his stances often cause many Bronxites agita, State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. deserves some credit for a bold stance he has taken against outside income and Lulu's for state elected officials. Capitol Confidential reports that the Senator has introduced legislation that would eliminate outside income for state elected officials, and he also wants to see Lulu's (stipends they get just for doing their jobs) eliminated as well. These reforms would go a long way towards changing the culture in Albany and Senator Diaz deserves kudos for taking a strong stand on it. Now, will any of his colleagues join him?

NY Post Criticizes Cuomo on Diaz Appointment: UPDATE

Today's New York Post Editorial takes issue with Governor Elect Mario Cuomo's choice of Bx. Beep Ruben Diaz, Jr. to sit on his economic advisory team. They basically relate that his appointment is ironic given,"That would be the same Ruben Diaz Jr. who a) presides over a borough with a 13 percent-plus jobless unemployment rate, and b) torched 2,200 jobs at the proposed Kingsbridge Armory shopping plaza in 2009, just because retail-union bosses told him to." You can just put that Armory on Diaz's political tombstone now. UPDATE: here is an article by Adam Brodsky at the Post discussing the living wage study controversy and more details on the Kingsbridge Armory. Cat Fight: As reported by Celeste Katz in the Daily News, Diaz fired back at his critics (namely the Post) today.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Espada Has Not Changed a Bit

Celeste Katz at the Daily News has a posting that says that Pedro Espada continues to ignore the Board of Elections, and has failed to file his post-election financial statement. Espada owes thousands of dollars in fees -- now that's a lot of sushi.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Charter Commissioner Wants to Close Incumbent Loophole

Yea that's me calling for a new movement to close the loophole on the new two-term limits for city incumbents. You can find some of the details from this article by Chris Bragg at City Hall News, but the main point is that although the Charter Commission I served on gave the public the option of going back to two-terms for city elected officials, we exempted incumbents from this change if they are not already in their third term. I strongly objected to this provision, and wrote a minority report stating that position. That is why I believe that in order to finish the job we started we should give the voters the chance to decide whether they want to have the two-term law apply to incumbents as well. This can be done either by another charter commission or by public referendum. Right now the most likely route is a public referendum that would require thousands of signatures. Would you sign it?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Politicians Say Bloomberg Study Will Be Biased Against Living Wage

Adam Lisberg at the Daily News reports that three politicians have charged that a living wage study commissioned by Mayor Bloomberg will be biased against the idea of the living wage. Three members of the Industrial Agency Board -- Comptroller John Liu, Bronx BP Ruben Diaz, and Manhattan BP Scott Stringer -- will ask the board to rescind their June decision to commission a $1 million study on the living wage. They charge that "the study will be subject to the biases of a study team that is being chosen by the mayor's office."

Could WalMart Be Ready to Take on NY? UPDATE

Crains is reporting that Walmart is poised to make a big push again to try to get a store open in NYC. Walmart recently hired Mayor Bloomberg's former campaign manager Bradley Tusk to help its efforts, and they are looking at smaller store sizes which would negate the most powerful tool used to keep them out -- City Council zoning regulations. The Crains article mentions the Kingbridge Armory as an interesting backdrop, "Meanwhile, leaders of the city's building trades are still irritated that the retail union engineered the defeat of a proposed mall at the Kingsbridge Armory last year, killing 1,000 construction jobs. With its members facing 30%-plus unemployment rates, the trades have little incentive to join the retail unions in fighting Walmart, which said it will build with union labor. The Building and Construction Trades Council declined comment." Meanwhile. other big box stores such as Costco and Target are thriving here and employing a lot of people. What do you think about the possibility of Walmart coming to NY?
UPDATE: The New York Post reports today that New York City residents spent $165 million at Walmart even though there is not a store in the 5 boroughs. This would seem to contradict a quote by this union official, "Walmart is still not welcome," said Stuart Appelbaum, of the national Retail and Wholesale Workers union." Who is this dude to speak for 8 million New Yorkers?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

State Senate Leadership Still in Doubt, And So is Diaz

Politicians around the state are holding their collective breath as they anxiously await the news about whether Democrats or Republicans will control the State Senate. As reported in the NY Times, there could be a 31-31 tie, but there are still 3 seats too close to call (it appears that 2 of those are leaning Republican). One fascinating wrinkle involves our very own State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. As you may recall, he joined with Pedro Espada and Hiram Mosserate in the past to cross party lines and shut down state government last year. Even though he lost his two amigos, he is still hinting that he might cross party lines and join the Republicans if he does not get his way -- and in a closely deadlocked Senate that could make all the difference. Capitol Confidential is reporting that Diaz is already threatening he may jump ship if he does not get his way on certain issues. I wonder why there isn't a similar movement to remove the Senator from the Democratic party that we saw with Espada? Sounds like a job for our crack team at Bronx County!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Back to Two Terms But Still Need to Fix Incumbent Loophole

The term limits question on the ballot passed with flying colors this past Tuesday by a 74-26 margin. So city elected officials are again limited to two terms and are forbidden from changing the law for themselves. But, we are still stuck with a provision that exempts incumbents who are not in their third term from this law and allows them to serve three terms. As a member of the 2010 Charter Commission, I strongly opposed this loophole for incumbents but was unable to garner the needed 8 votes. Celeste Katz at the Daily News has an excellent article today on how two city councilmen will be treated differently because of this provision, and how one of them will be able to stay in office until 2025! The incumbent loophole exempts 60 percent of the city council, two borough presidents, the comptroller and the public advocate. Stay tuned because we really need to fix this loophole and finish the job we started.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Don't Forget: Term Limits Are On The Back of The Ballot

So you will need to turn your ballot over to see two questions put there by the Charter Revision Commission when you vote tomorrow. In full disclosure, I served on the 15 person commission, so of course I strongly advocate that you vote YES on both questions. Question 1 on the ballot gives us the option of going back to two terms for city elected officials (which, as you will recall was changed by city elected officials in 2008 after we already voted twice for it). It also includes a prohibition on these guys changing this again for themselves (which was the best we could do to stop this practice). But what I did not approve of was the exemption of incumbents who are not in their third terms already. I opposed that in the Commission and have written articles for the Daily News and Gotham Gazette expressing my opposition. But despite that one provision we should vote YES now and figure out a way to close the incumbent loophole in 2011. Question 2 is a list of good government reforms that will put you to sleep if you read them all, but suffice to say that they will help make city government more efficient so I hope you vote YES there as well.

Election Day Tomorrow: Any Predictions on What Will Happen?

Although I have given up on trying to predict elections, all the polls are indicating that there could be tremendous upheaval in our state and federal elections tomorrow. We know there is a lot of voter discontent out there, but how that plays out at the ballot box is unclear. We did not see a throw the bums out mentality prevail in the primaries this past September, but general elections are different. Here, the involvement of multiple parties can cause havoc (unless you live in a one-trick town like the Bronx). So one day before we vote in NY State, we see a tie in the polls in the race for AG between Schneiderman and Donovan and in the race for Comptroller between DiNapoli and Wilson. The NY Times is reporting that the Democrats facing losing State Senate they won just two years ago. All polls are showing that the Gov's race is over with Cuomo holding a huge lead over Palladino. On the federal front, both US Senators also hold huge leads in the polls, but polls are showing many close house races that could upset the Democratic control of the House. It should be a fascinating night for any political junkie. What are your predictions?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Scheiderman Returns $55,000

Celeste Katz at the Daily News reports that AG candidate Eric Schneiderman of the Bx. and Manhattan, has returned over $55,000 donated to him by State Senate Leader John Sampson. The return of the donation comes about as a result of scandal surrounding the Senate leadership over the Aqueduct racing track bidding investigation. Schneiderman's campaign has also promised to return returned $10,500 to state Sen. Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn) and $10,000 to Senate President Malcolm Smith (D-Queens). This is just another reason why we need to elect outsiders who don't have cozy relationships with the very people they might have to investigate or audit. Anyone wonder why it will be a bloodbath for incumbents everywhere on Tuesday?

This Time Diaz Gets It Right on an "Armory"

While we have been critical of Bronx Beep Diaz over his role in killing the $310 million Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment, we have to give the Beep props for his position on another armory project over in Wakefield. As reported in the Daily News today, Diaz is opposing the City on a proposal to put a 200 bed homeless facility in a vacated army reserve center in Wakefield. Diaz is hoping to hold up the project by not attending a meeting that seems to require his presence to have a quorum. Whether this ploy will work remains to be seen, but the position is correct. There are so many other good uses for this facility, and this neighborhood is already home to almost 900 special needs housing units that includes 200 for the homeless.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NYC Elections Head Dumped

Celeste Katz of the Daily News is out early with the story that the Executive Director of the NYC Board of Elections, George Gonzalez, has been dumped by his board after just a few months on the job. And what a few months it has been -- primary day chaos, accusations of improper placement of a Council candidate on the ballot in Queens, incorrect instructions for the November ballot, and most recently the acquisition of 200k in new furniture after protesting to the city council that the agency does not have enough money to operate. Why is this story of even greater interest to Bronxites? It was Bronx County boss Carl Heastie (and his pal Jeff Dinowitz) who put George there. Out of 1.4 million people in our borough, we could not come up with someone more competent?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Daily News Criticizes Loss of Manufacturing Jobs and Slams Diaz on Armory

In an editorial this past Saturday, the Daily News says that New York is driving away high-paying blue collar manufacturing jobs. The editorial has this to say about Diaz's involvement in the Armory fiasco, "And they scorn those jobs that the city has been able to generate. Egregious case in point: Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz scuttled the $310 million Kingsbridge Armory mall project.The development, financed overwhelmingly by a private concern, was projected to produce 2,200 jobs. Diaz thought salaries would be too low and declared he could do better. He hasn't.First, he named a panel to conjure ways of finding someone to invest in renovating the white elephant and provide "more skilled workers and higher paying jobs." Six months later, the group has invited NYU to send graduate students to come up with ideas. What they won't come up with is money to put any of the ideas into effect." I know I am not worried, now that we have these graduate students on the job.

We Need to Finish the Job on Term Limits

Here is an opinion piece I authored for the New York Daily News on the term limits question on this year's ballot. After spending six months as a member of the 2010 Charter Revision Commission, I remain convinced that we did not go far enough on the issue of term limits. We need to eliminate the exemption for incumbent city elected officials. Despite that reservation, I hope voters will vote yes on Question 1 of the ballot -- its a good start.

Lauder Fights for Two-Term Limit

Here is a posting by Celeste Katz at the Daily News about a press conference held by Ronald Lauder encouraging voters to vote Yes on the ballot item No. 1 on November 2nd to go back to two terms for city elected officials.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Diaz Sr. Comes Out Against Rangel

Celeste Katz at the Daily News reports that State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. has come out against Congressman Rangel's re-election and is supporting his opponent, Republican Michael Faulkner. This is a tough one because on the one hand it once again shows the kid gloves treatment that exists within the Bronx delegation for Diaz, Sr. Can you imagine if another elected official in the borough did this? No doubt Heastie and Dinowitz would have immediately called for them to leave the party. But on the other hand, at least Diaz, Sr. is saying what most people are thinking -- that after 40 years in office and with all the corruption charges coming up, that Rangel should step aside. If Diaz really wanted to help he could have spoken up during the primary when it counted.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ex Senator Surrends in Another Case of Abuse of A Non-Profit

As I wrote recently, the new powerful political machines are not made up of do-gooder reform types, but not-for-profits funded by our tax dollars and controlled by politicians. In another textbook example of this type of corrupting relationship, Celeste Katz at the Daily News reports that Ex State Senator Hiriam Monserrate has surrendered to the U.S. Attorney's office today to face charges that he used a charity he controlled to run for office. The investigation is looking into charges that while he was an elected official, Monserrate provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to a Queens not-for-profit organization in exchange for workers at the organization helping out his campaigns. In another sign of a too close relationship, his former chief of staff, Julissa Ferreras, served as chair of the not for profit (of course, she went on to become a Councilwoman herself). All of this provides more evidence of what we reported in a post a week ago regarding Vito Lopez in Brooklyn, that the new powerful political machines are government funded not-for-profit organizations. With little oversight and public disclosure, it's an arrangement that will continue to be ripe with corruption.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Klein Destroys Opponent in Fundraising

Here is a posting by Celeste Katz over at the Daily News about how State Senator Jeff Klein has a war chest of $1.3 million, while his opponent, Frank Vernuccio, has about $3000 to spend. Not sure what 3k can do for you in politics so Mr. Vernuccio better buy a good pair of sneakers for about 100 bucks and start knocking on doors. Klein is about to release a commercial, which you can preview at the posting above. Wise of Klein to take nothing for granted since there is little love out there for state Senators these days.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cleaning Up City Island

From this posting in Your Nabe it looks like locals really turnout for community cleanups over in City Island. I noticed that it also brought out some politicians and former politicians. Councilman Jimmy Vacca was there as well as former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, who lives on City Island and most recently worked at the White House. I hope someone handed these guys a broom and they weren't just mugging for cameras. So who knows, maybe the next time you head over to Sammi's Fish Box you may see some politicos pushing a broom.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Diaz, Jr. Announces Another Study of Kingsbridge Armory

Less than a year ago, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. announced, to great fanfare, the formation of a new task force to study uses for the Kingsbridge Armory. Well, today he announced the result of their hard work -- another study (of course, the text of this press release is incorrect on their site, but I am sure eventually someone will point it out to them). Through the Capstone Program at NYU's Wagner School, faculty and students will spend the next year trying to identify alternative uses for the Armory. In a press release, Diaz says "At this point, the task force has concluded that efforts to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory will focus on strategic reuse of the property for a combination of community revitalization, education, and economic development purposes. Our objectives will be to attract more skilled workers and higher paying jobs to the Bronx, to provide community space that will improve the quality of life of those in the surrounding area, to build on the strengths of the borough's universities, cultural and medical institutions, and, hopefully, to include programs that will prepare neighborhood residents for jobs in the technology and professional service sectors."

What? Can anyone tell me what this politician-speak means? Are they talking about one big not-for-profit? Just who is going to put up the $100 million needed to transform this place? And do any of them realize that we are in the worst recession in a hundred years and people need jobs more than "community space." As everyone knows, the irony here is that Diaz played a huge part in killing a project at the Armory that would have brought an investment of over $300 million and thousands of jobs to the area. So now what's his solution: another study with no prospect for how this massive investment will ever be funded. Without a doubt, that empty Kingsbridge Armory will be Ruben's legacy to our borough.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Diaz Family's Schizophrenia on Homosexuality

While Carl Palladino has recently made headlines for denouncing homosexuals just days after three gay men were viciously attacked in the Bronx, believe it or not, he is not the biggest homophobe in our state. No, that title actually belongs to our very own Bronx State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., who has been fermenting hatred for homosexuals for a long time. In a posting by former El Diario Editor Gerson Borrero entitled, Loud Mouthed Homophobes Have Made Gay Violence Acceptable for Too Many, Borrero makes the case that Diaz's strident opposition to same sex marriage and homosexual lifestyle have contributed to a hostile environment in some parts of the Bronx for homosexuals. Borrero quotes Ephriam Cruz, a Bronx activist as saying “[Díaz] has made incendiary remarks and hostile statements against gays. While he may not have physically abused people, his statements often fall on the ears of a vulnerable group like these young people, and they do have an impact.

The irony is that following the attacks, Senator Díaz’ son, who just happens to be Borough President of the Bronx issued a statement that said, "Bronxites will not tolerate any form of bigotry in our borough, and we stand together as 1.4 million residents to condemn these actions and to oppose hatred in all its forms.” Cruz took exception with that and said, “The Reverend/Senator verbally bashes gays and the son says nothing to him, but when gays are physically bashed, [Ruben Diaz, Jr.] acts like no one has been paying attention and calls the physical perpetrators names,” Cruz said. Cruz, who is Co-Founder of Bronx for Change, goes on to tell Borough President Díaz, “The biggest bigot in the Bronx is your father.”

Adding to the irony, Rubencito recently launched a "Peace in Our Streets" initiative. So this is a strange scenario indeed. We all know that words matter, and that change begins at the home. So maybe Rubencito should begin his campaign for "Peace in Our Streets" by sitting down and having a heart to heart with his own father. Can you imagine if it were any other Bronx elected official who uttered these types of sentiments? Do you think that the entire Bronx delegation and the Bronx Borough President would remain silent?

Borrero ends his posting with the right words when he says, "Most people know that violence usually progresses from verbal abuse to physical abuse. We have no evidence of a direct connection between those accused of the crime and the biggest loudmouth homophobe in the state. However, it's probably more than a coincidence that Rubén Díaz’ hateful diatribes found a fertile place in the mushy brains of these cowards in the Bronx."

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Government Funded Political Machines: UPDATE

It used to be that political clubs were the most powerful weapons of incumbency for politicians, but that looks like child's play compared to today's political machines. These new political machines are large, highly motivated and powered by our tax dollars. ChangeNY does a nice job of piecing together the Vito Lopez fiasco in Brooklyn to show how this scheme works. Here is some text from an article they link to that was written in 1993 by the New York Times entitled, Growth of a New Age Political Machine: "The organization, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, employs 1,400 people through more than 50 grants budgeted at more than $33 million annually. Yet at the same time many of those taxpayer dollars -- allocated for pressing human needs -- have been put to work for private, political purposes as well. They have paid for an agglomeration of power that has stunted the neighborhood's political diversity, rewarded a handful of Mr. Lopez's proteges with well-paying jobs, enriched politically connected contractors and produced programs that in several instances have been criticized for accounting and performance."
Now fast forward to 2010 scandal involving this same center as Greg Smith from the Daily News writes an article entitled, Brooklyn Democratic Boss Vito Lopez has Secret Army -- Uses Senior Center Staff for Political Machine. "A former employee of Lopez's nonprofit, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Center, described a coercive atmosphere where bosses "suggest" that employees perform numerous political tasks. A worker who doesn't comply is ostracized, and could even be fired. Supervisors would ask you to petition for candidates. If you said nothing, they'd say, 'Well you really should go out and petition tonight,'" the former employee said. "People would say, 'It's purely voluntary, here at Ridgewood Bushwick, it's purely voluntary.' But it's understood, you wanted to do it. " And it goes on to say,"Another way Ridgewood employees help out is with money. Records show they routinely make campaign donations to Lopez's candidates - 87 totaling $8,730 between 2000 and 2009."

The only reason Vito Lopez's operation is being exposed is because of its size and audacity. In fact, almost every politician has some form of this operation. They all give tens of thousands of our dollars (usually in the form of member items or just plain pork) to numerous community organizations with little oversight or even less public scrutiny. In its worst form, those programs employ relatives or close associates of the politician, who then pay them back by blatantly using the operation for political purposes. These are the cases where we have seen so many politicians indicted for getting too greedy.
But the more common example is where a politician funds a community program (could be a senior citizen program or community group) and they are now beholden to that elected official. The way that loyalty is repaid is through the board and staff helping the politician with fundraising or campaigning. In addition, those politicians are given unusual access to the center to campaign among its clients (although it is often described as a non-political visit). This incestuous relationship with a community organization can sometimes determine the outcome of an election if that organization has a few hundred employees and services hundreds of seniors or other local residents.

The sad part is that many of the programs that are funded by politicians are doing great work for the community. However, they are often put in a terrible positions by those politicians who want a lot in return for giving them our tax dollars. Until this practice is radically reformed or even stopped if it can't be reformed, then we will continue to have slush fund scandals and these new government funded political clubs will continue to grow and represent the real power of incumbency.
UPDATE:check out this recent posting on the same topic by Dominic Carter.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Dinowitz Shrugs Off Republican Opponent

Ok I lied, one last post before the weekend: Alex Kratz at the Norwood News has a story about Joe McLaughlin who is running as a Republican against Jeffrey Dinowitz for the State Assembly. Given the dearth of Republicans in the Bronx, this race is a long-shot but that has not stopped McLaughlin from campaigning hard and hitting hard. He is hoping to combine the strong anti-Albany sentiment along with Dinowitz's legendary arrogance to pull off an upset. No matter what happens, it is good to see someone willing to toss their hat in the ring who has some ideas and is willing to take on the system.

Go Yanks!

Camping with the cub scouts this weekend, but will have a radio with me to listen to the Yankees sweep the twins! Enjoy the holiday weekend, the Yankee game and the great weather -- and forget politics for few days!

As Hevesi Cops a Plea, Henry Stern Asks -- Who Can You Trust?

Here is a posting from Henry Stern at New York Civic, where he ponders the difficulty of having faith in elected officials anymore after someone like Alan Hevesi, who was once thought of as a pillar of virtue, disgraces his office and lets us down once again. Mr. Stern goes on to cite a star-studded perp walk of recent elected officials from Joe Bruno to Eliot Spitzer to Efrian Gonzalez who have all betrayed their office and our trust. But given Hevesi's personal background and long and distinguished public service career, this one really stings. Where does it end?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Schneiderman Hopes to be Next AG from Riverdale

Here is an article by Kate Pastor over at the Riverdale Press about Eric Schneiderman's race to become the next state Attorney General. She notes that Riverdale has been home at one point or another to the last three Democratic Attorneys General (Robert Abrams, Oliver Koppell and Eliot Spitzer) -- and Schneiderman hopes to be the fourth. Of course, given that Koppell was appointed for a year and then lost badly in the primary, and Spitzer went on to become Client 9, I am sure that Schneiderman hopes the similarities end there.

Btw, also want to note that Kate Pastor just took over as Editor at the Riverdale Press -- Good Luck Kate!

Bronx Pols Support Paid Sick Leave: UPDATE

The Bronx News Network is reporting that a large number of Bronx elected officials, including Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., will attend a rally today on the steps of City Hall to support a bill that would require all businesses to provide a certain number of paid sick days. The proposed bill is the subject of a great deal of debate, and small businesses have expressed concerns that it will hurt their ailing businesses. It's in the hands of City Council Speaker Quinn since the Council has enough votes to pass it. The New York Post ran an editorial today urging Quinn to reject it. Regardless of this issue, it would have been helpful to see this same Bronx delegation work as hard to try to stop the loss of thousands of jobs at the Kingsbridge Armory. UPDATE: The Bronx News Network reports that the rally has been cancelled because the Speaker is in negotiations on the issue. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Congressman Serrano Prefers That Party Bosses Draw Lines: UPDATE -- So Does Assemblyman Benjamin

Here is a posting by David Friedlander over at PolitickerNY who writes that Congressman Serrano prefers that party bosses decide the district lines over the type of independent commission being advocated by Ed Kock and his NY Uprising Group. I have posted some of the text below because it is worth reading. Does this seem backwards to anyone?

"It always sounds good to say an independent commission. But to those of us who were there at the beginning of the struggle, for instance, for the Puerto Rican community to gain political recognition, it was much better we thought to go to the political leaders who are not Puerto Rican and say, 'Look we have grown in numbers. We have registered so many people, we want a piece of the American dream, the political dream.' And so many of the gains Puerto Ricans and Latinos made in those days were not based on any independent commission saying, 'Gee you guys deserve this.' It was the so-called political bosses realizing what they had to deal with. Now I know that sounds terrible to some people but I am both a modern man who learned a lot in the old school, and at times when it comes to issues like redistricting I'd rather deal with somebody who knows the district they are drawing than somebody who thinks that you can just draw a box."

UPDATE: Outgoing Bx. Assemblyman Michael Benjamin agrees with this position but has some other ideas on this topic as well. You can see his letter here at PolitickerNY.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Diaz Sr. Open to Endorsing Crazy Carl

Elizabeth Benjamin's blog Capitol Tonight is reporting that State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. and his clergy group is open to endorsing Carl Paladino over Cuomo in the Governor's race. It seems that Papa Diaz feels slighted because Cuomo has not visited his group in the Bronx yet. I wonder if there will be a movement to expel him from the Democratic party like his former fellow amigo Pedro Espada? Maybe Jeff Dinowitz will take action this time? Don't place any bets on this one. It's looking more and more like we have our own version of Crazy Carl -- Crazy Diaz!

Friday, October 1, 2010

It's Five O'Clock: Do You Know Where Our Tax Dollars Are Going?

If you have ever wondered how much government employees earn or where our state elected officials are putting their pork then this is the site for you. Go to SeeThroughNY where you can get all of that information and more. For example, did you know that the Bronx Borough President's chief of staff earns $145,000 a year or that State Senator Pedro Espada was able to give away more than $2 million to community groups? Finally we have some idea about how our tax dollars are being spent, so take some time to figure out if you are getting real value for your hard earned tax dollars.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rosie Perez Hits Diaz, Sr. on Gay Marriage

Here is a posting from Celeste Katz over at the Daily Politics showing a video of Rosie Perez telling State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. that he does not speak for NY Latinos on the issue of gay marriage. She is doing the message for Fightback NY.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Could Republicans Take Back State Senate?

Here are two articles that focus on the strong prospect that the Republicans could retake the State Senate. The first is by David King of the Gotham Gazette and the second is by Kenneth Lovett of the Daily News. Is anyone surprised that the Democrats are scrambling to hold onto the majority after screwing things up so badly in Albany?

Bx. Democratic Convention a Yawner

Bob Kappstatter reports in his Bronx political column this week that last week's Democratic County Committee Convention (did you not get an invite?) was a snore-fest. This is where all of those District Leaders earn their money by choosing our county's political "leadership." No surprises here as Carl Heastie was re-elected as Bronx Boss, and Jeff Dinowitz was brought back as his top Capo. I am sure we are in for another great year of politics in the Bronx -- at least for the bloggers!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Boogiedowner Chides BP Diaz about Empty Kingsbridge Armory

Here is a posting by the Boogiedowner taking Bronx BP Ruben Diaz to task over his role in stopping the Kingsbridge Armory project. The Boogiedowner mocks the BP's often-quoted statement that "the notion that any job is better than no job no longer applies." It then goes on to taunt him by saying "Hey Ruben, how's that Kingsbridge Armory task force coming along? Any luck moving that unicorn factory along?" My only criticism of this blog posting is that it refers to Candice Giove of the Riverdale Review as a credible writer. In fact she is a below average writer who sold her soul and whatever journalistic ethics she may have had to Andy Wolf, the owner of the Review.

Peace in the Streets -- UPDATED

Alex Kratz over at the Bronx News Network reports on an initiative by some Bronx politicans and community groups intent on reducing violence in the borough, especially the gun violence. Created by Bronx BP Ruben Diaz, it is without a doubt a worthy goal. But the devil is in the details. As the Bronx District Attorney said, "it’s going to take all all-out effort by every segment of our community to educate about the dangers in order to bring about a change in the culture”. It will not only take a change in culture (which is no small feat), but aggressive policing and prosecution. That is where rubber hits the road, so Bronx politicians and community leaders have to be prepared for some difficult measures if we are going to see any change. The proof will be in whether the Bronx is a safer place a year from now. Let's hope the answer is yes, and our politicians really have the resolve to do more than just issue press releases and show up for photo-ops. UPDATED: Here is a terrific article by one of the best writers in the country, Clyde Haberman of the NY Times about this Bronx initiative. His article makes that point strongly that we can't keep blaming the system for the problem but have to deal with the issue of personal responsibility if we are going to get crime under control in the Bronx.