It has been around forever

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.

Jury Duty in the Bronx -- UPDATED

Did my civic duty today -- reported bright and early to the Bronx Hall of Justice for jury service. I was pleasantly surprised by the many changes since my last service some years ago. First of all the new building is so much nicer -- rooms are light and bright and clean. There are also some welcome amenities such as TV, wifi, and low-cost vending machines. Best of all, the court system is trying its best to make it a bearable experience for jurors. But the wheels of justice grind slowly so there will always be a lot of waiting around. However, there at least is a recognition by staff that we are not a burden but a benefit to the system. Of course, more still needs to be done and there are some staff members who did get the memo but most things have changed for the better. I am still in the potential jury pool so will let you know how I feel after a few more days. Would love to hear about other experiences. UPDATE: So I served for two days and came within an inch of being put on a three-week murder case. I guess they did not need a lawyer mucking things up. I was glad to offer my services as a juror, and overall found it to be a very good experience. The Court system has improved tremendously when dealing with prospective jurors. It has some things to correct but if you served on a jury 5 or more years ago you would notice the huge change. I won't be called for another 5-6 years so will be interesting to see the progress then.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

By Popular Demand -- South and East Bronx Politics

A few of our readers have asked for more focus on the east and south Bronx. More specifically, they want to hear about Assemblyman Jose Rivera and Councilman James Vacca. So many other politicians have stolen the spotlight with their antics during this primary season, so it's a good time to catch up with these politicos. So here you go. In case you have not heard, Jose Rivera blew out his opponent Sergio Villaverde (2100 to about 650 votes). What is shocking is that so few people voted in that district, but the old pol showed that he still has some life despite being dethroned as Bx. Boss. He did, however, side with Espada so that did not help his standing. One question is whether he will join forces with his two kids (both Bx. elected officials) and another guy named Rivera to try to wrestle power back from Bx. County. Otherwise, the future may not look too bright for the kids. Here is an interesting video of Rivera posted by Azi Paybarah on his blog The Empire, where Rivera talks about his race. It's unusal because Rivera is known for videotaping everyone else.

James Vacca did not have a race this year so he was able to keep a low profile. Known as one of the good guys in government, Vacca is chair of the transportation committee in the Council. Not much more to report here, so looking for some input from you guys.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Assemblyman Who Beat Bx. County Heads Back to Albany

Here is a profile by the Bronx News Network on Assemblyman Nelson Castro who beat back a challenge by District Leader Hector Ramirez. No big deal that another incumbent won, but what makes his win significant is that Ramirez was backed by Bx. Boss Carl Heastie, Ruben Diaz, Jr. and the rest of their cabal. In fact, Heastie stayed out of the Espada race and most other races to focus on this one. So it was the premiere race for Heastie & Co. and they flopped -- so is Bronx County a paper tiger?

Why the Heated Battles for Unpaid and Obscure Positions?

Here is a very insightful piece from Chris Bragg at City Hall News talking about why so many people are running fierce and sometimes very expensive battles for unpaid and obscure political positions such as district leader or state committee. In one of these races in Brooklyn, a candidate raised $49,000, which is more than most Assembly races. These positions have virtually no power (except when district leaders get to decide who will be the County Boss every 20 years or so) but are seen as stepping-stones to a real political office. Of course, here in the Bronx, that notion is sometimes turned on its head when you have a sitting Senator, Ruben Diaz Sr., also running for district leader against incumbent Ken Padilla. Diaz won, and I am sure residents of that district will feel the impact.

At Least Someone is Missing Pedro Espada

Here is this week's Bronx political round-up by Bob Kappstatter of the Daily News where he talks of feeling a little blue about the loss of Pedro Espada. As a writer, where will he go to get such rich stories of self-dealing, corruption, and all-around chutzpa by a politician? But don't despair Bob, it won't be long before another member of our great Bronx delegation picks up where Pedro left off, and you will be happy again!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Primary Day -- Who Really Won? UPDATED

Now that we have all had a day or two to digest the results of Tuesday's Primary, two things are abundantly clear -- we did not throw the bums out and the electorate continues to protest the rotten state of affairs by staying away from the polls. If you take a look at the results of the races posted at the Gotham Gazette you will notice that every incumbent in this city won except Pedro Espada (the poster child for government corruption). In fact, no other incumbent in the state of New York lost other than one State Senator from Buffalo. That includes races for Congress, the Assembly and the State Senate. This list does not include a large number of incumbents who did not even have a primary, including the races for Governor, both U.S. Senate seats (except a nominal candidate against Gillibrand), and many seats in the state legislature. Could it be that all of the incumbents who ran other than Espada have been doing such a great job that we could not possibly live without them? Public sentiment suggests otherwise.

So if the voters are really as angry as we have heard over and over again, why didn't we throw the bums out? I believe the answer can be found in this list of voter turnout for all City races from NY 1. It shows that voter turnout continues to be shockingly low. For example, Assemblyman Jose Rivera of the Bronx retained his seat by garnering just 2100 votes, to his opponent's 650 votes in a district that has 130,000 people. Also, in the Bronx, Assemblyman Nelson Castro only needed 1,765 votes to keep his seat. Even in the most hotly contested contest in all of New York, the Espada race, where we saw more campaigning and press coverage than a U.S. Senate race, less than 11,000 people voted. It wasn't just the Bronx. In the silk-stocking district on the Upper East Side, only about 33,000 people voted in the heated primary involving Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. Indeed, the percentage of voters who voted throughout New York State probably varied between 10 and 14 percent.

There are two reasons for this appalling low voter turnout. The first is that voters are disgusted and have little faith in government and most politicians. They feel that most elected officials are serving themselves more than their constituents. While to some extent this has always been the case, recent polls have shown that our trust in government is at an all time low. The second reason is that voters don't believe that their vote will make any difference because incumbents virtually always win. With those two sentiments as a back-drop, it is understandable, though misguided, that voters will tune out the whole process. As a form of protest, they decide to not come to the polls -- which virtually guarantees no change.

And of course, by not voting in large numbers they are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Low voter turnout almost guarantees that incumbents will be re-elected. All you have to do is take a closer look at the Espada race to see why incumbents win more than 95 percent of the time. Even though he was universally acknowledged to be the most corrupt figure in Albany (no small feat), it still took a unique set of factors to beat him. As the Majority Leader of the Senate, he had the ability to pass laws, dispense hundreds of thousands of dollars to local groups to try to buy loyalty, and send multiple mailings to his district using taxpayer dollars. His title also gave him the ability to hire an extra-large staff, who then "volunteered" for his campaign, providing him with a strong base of operations. Finally, despite his horrible reputation, he still garnered endorsements from some Bronx elected officials, community groups and clergy. To top that off, most other key Bronx elected officials either stayed out of the race (Bronx Boss Carl Heastie) or got into the race with only two weeks left (Bronx BP Diaz and Jeff Dinowitz). In fact, Councilman Oliver Koppell was one of the few Bronx elected officials who endorsed Espada's opponent fairly early (which was still after petitioning in June).

All of these benefits were bestowed on Espada because he was an incumbent. These are just a fraction of the benefits enjoyed by all incumbents that make it virtually impossible, as shown by Tuesday's primary results, to defeat an incumbent. The main difference in the Espada race is that he was so terrible and embarrassing that virtually the entire state-wide political establishment and major press rose up to get rid of him. But as further proof of the power of incumbency, that movement did not originate from the local political establishment. It came from strong backing by unions, the Working Families Party, the Roosevelt Initiative and community leaders. It was only after they led the charge that some local politicians were embarrassed into action. Without such a unique set of circumstances, we would have never seen Espada defeated.

So if you add all of these same benefits to a low-turnout election where the incumbent doesn't have an entire state opposing them, it almost guarantees victory. This is even the case in races where the incumbent is facing serious ethical charges such as with Congressman Rangel or Councilman Larry Seabrook of the Bronx (who although under federal indictment retained his district leader seat). Low voter turnout means that only the most ardent voter comes to the polls (known as prime voters). They tend to be older and closer to the established candidate, or a special-interest voter. They generally are not the voters who are as fed up or interested in change, and their interests have usually been well taken care of by the incumbents. For example, in the race for Assemblyman Rivera's seat, less than 3,000 people voted. Assemblyman Rivera has been an elected official for decades. So with all of the benefits of incumbency at his disposal, he was never in jeopardy of not at least targeting the paltry 1,600 votes needed to win regardless of whether he is doing a good job in Albany or not.

This is not to malign the people who took the time to come out and vote. In this climate, they deserve a medal just for doing their civic duty. But it means that too many of our politicians are being elected by only a small minority of voters, and it skews the results and opportunities for change. For their part, voters need to recognize that it is counterproductive to disengage and protest by staying away from the polls. In fact, that is exactly what most incumbents want them to do.

But we also need to give people reasons for hope that the system can change before we can expect to see them back at the polls and engaged in the political process. The state needs to join the city in passing real campaign finance reform so elections have some balance. We also need to make sure that all state legislators join Ed Koch's movement (New York Uprising) to ensure ethics reform in Albany and non-partisan, independent redistricting. Finally, there is no getting around the fact that we need term limits at every level of government. Pedro Espada's loss was an aberration as Tuesday's Primary results clearly show. The Pollyanna notion that there are already term limits at the polls is repudiated at every election when the numbers show that more than 95 percent of incumbents are re-elected and only a tiny fraction of the electorate even bothers to vote. The power of incumbency is too strong to ignore any longer, and it will always strangle real reform.

So who won this past Primary Day? It was the status quo and incumbency. So before we go patting ourselves on the back for getting rid of Espada, we need strong political leaders who are brave enough to institute real reform. Only then can we hope to regain the public's trust in government, before all the dysfunction and distrust completely strangle what is left.

Here is a link to Liz Benjamin's Daily Politics with a report by NYPIRG that shows that the 2010 results are very similiar to the results of 2006 and 2008 confirming we already know -- the bums are safe for another term.

Bronx Political Machine?

Here is a great posting by Jordan Moss at the Bronx News Network about whether the "Bronx political machine" is relevant anymore. Bronx County boss Carl Heastie stayed out of the Espada race and focused on defeating Assemblyman Nelson Castro (who won) so Jordan asks "what, if anything, they accomplished last night" and "what happened to their mojo and focus"

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Espada is Toast -- UPDATE

Pedro Espada has been defeated by Gustavo Rivera in the race for his Senate seat. The margin of victory was large (65 to 29 percent), showing that crime does not always pay! Plenty more to report on this race in the next few weeks so stay tuned. UPDATE -- here is probably the best post-mortem I have seen on the Espada race -- and it was penned by a blogger on the Boogiedowner blog.

Primary Day -- but where are all the voters?

Primary day is finally here but no one seems to care. I voted this morning at about 7am and was number 4 to vote in my election district (by the way, new machines were a piece of cake). Then went out campaigning in Riverdale and there were more people handing out palm cards than actual voters. My prediction is that the turnout will be lower than '09, and that was a record low at 11 percent. Here is a great article by Clyde Haberman of the NY Times discussing why people seem to be too fed up to vote. Regardless of the turnout, we will have winners and losers tonight in the AG race, and key Senate races in the Bronx involving Espada, Diaz, the Senate seat formerly held by Schneiderman and some Assembly races so stay tuned for the wrapup.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Padilla Files IRS Claim Against Ruben Diaz, Sr.

On the last day of campaiging before the Primary it looks like everyone will come out swinging. The Daily Politics is reporting that Ken Padilla, who is running against Ruben Diaz, Sr. for District Leader (Diaz is running for two offices at once--but hey this is the Bronx!), has filed an IRS claim against him for the use of his church to house campaign vans. It should be a long day.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dinowitz Defends Dinkins Racially Polarizing Endorsement of Espaillat

Here is Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz in the Daily News defending the comments of former Mayor David Dinkins, who endorsed Adriano Espaillat by saying "most people in the City are going to look more like us than others and that's just a fact. It is not a bad thing. It is frankly a good thing." Instead of taking the opportunity to preach harmony, Dinowitz takes a cheap shot at Mark Levine, who is running against Espaillat, and was rightly offended by the statement.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Dinkins Endorses Espaillat Because he "looks more like us than others" -- UPDATE

Politicker New York has a story about the endorsement of Adriano Espaillat by our former Mayor David Dinkins where he says "most people in the city are going to look more like us than others and that's just a fact. It is not a bad thing. It is frankly a good thing." High praise indeed. Whatever happened to the ideal of a society in which people would not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character? UPDATE: here is some fallout in the NY Post on the Dinkins endorsement. What is also interesting is that is it written by Candice Giove -- who has been a character assassin for Andy Wolf and his Riverdale Review for years -- new gig Candice or just moonlighting?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Planned Parenthood Endorses Challengers to Espada and Diaz, Sr.

The New York Observer Politicker NY blog reports that Planned Parenthood is endorsing the Challengers to Pedro Espada and Ruben Diaz, Sr. -- two of the "Four Amigos" of the State Senate. They are joining almost the rest of the world (see note below) in throwing their support behind Gustavo Rivera against Espada, and backing Charlie Ramos against Ruben Diaz, Sr. While it's good to see any endorsements against Senate incumbents, who knew Planned Parenthood could endorse in political races?? Also, notice from this Daily News article that there are at least two other elected officials in the Bronx besides Ruben Diaz, Sr. who are willing to stand with Pedro Espada -- former Bronx Boss and Assemblyman Jose Rivera and Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Assemblyman O'Donnell Endorses Levine -- UPDATE - Daily News Also Endorses Levine

City Hall News is reporting that upper west side Assemblyman Danny O'Donnell has endorsed Mark Levine for the State Senate seat being vacated by Eric Schneiderman. This is on the same day that Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat, another candidate in the race, rolled out an endorsement by Mayor Bloomberg. UPDATE -- the Daily News today endorsed Mark Levine for the State Senate calling him "a sharp reform-minded former public school teacher -- is the class of the field."

Bloomberg Endorses Espaillat

The Capital Tonight Blog has a post on the Bloomberg endorsement of Adriano Espaillat for the State Senate. It seems that this is the second time he has endorsed Espaillat for office so there is a strong relationship there.

Monday, September 6, 2010

NY Post Editorial Slams Diaz Jr. on Armory

While today's NY Post Labor Day Editorial attacks the labor movement, it reserves some of its harshest criticism for Bronx BP Ruben Diaz, Jr. for his role in death of the mall at the Kingsbridge Armory. They bring up his well-known quote that no jobs are better than low paying jobs.

Dinowitz Whines About Levine Robo-Calls -- UPDATE

Here is Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz on the Capital Tonight Blog whining about a robo-call put out by the Mark Levine campaign for State Senate. The call includes a reference to some positive comments about Levine by the Times, even though they endorsed his opponent Adriano Espaillat. Strange but Dinowitz, who is supporting Espaillat, did not seem concerned about truth in advertising when the Daily News raised the possibly that his candidate broke the law with an TV advertisement paid for by a non-US political party. UPDATE -- Dinowitz could not contain himself with the injustice of it all so he put out his own robo-call for Espaillat -- check out the Capital Tonight Blog for the script -- and keep your answering machines on!

Assemblyman Peter Rivera Endorses Candidate Against Diaz, Sr.

Capital Tonight announced that Assemblyman Peter Rivera has formally endorsed Charlie Ramos, who is running against State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. This is a big development given that Assemblyman Rivera is one of the highest ranking Bronx elected officials and Diaz and his son Rubencito will be looking for revenge so look for this to have reprecussions for some time beyond these elections.

Espaillat Adds Illegal?

The Daily News is reporting that a TV add put out by Adriano Espaillat, who is an Assemblyman running to replace Eric Schneiderman in the State Senate, may be illegal because it was paid for by the Dominican Party -- federal law prohibits such expenditures.

And Then There Were Two

The New York Times is reporting that Dan Padernacht has thrown in the towel on his race against Pedro Espada. Mr. Padernacht had seen most of the political and union support go to challenger Gustavo Rivera and he decided to join that chorus as well. But it is too late to remove his name from the ballot. Now with less than 9 days to go almost everyone is unified in the effort to oust Pedro Espada, but he is the wiliest of all politicians so it will take every effort to beat him.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Espada's True Face

I just had to share this email from a good friend of mine, Brad Trebach, who just returned from Portugal. It is hard to believe but it looks like in any language, Espada is a bottom feeder. "I just returned from a visit to Madeira, a wonderful Portuguese island in the Atlantic some 320 miles off the northwest coast of Africa. The Madeirans specialize in catching and cooking a horrifically ugly fish known in English as the black scabbard. It has enormous eyes, sharp needle-like teeth and a body shaped like a scabbard, or a sword sheath. But the reason this hideous-looking fish is of special interest to Bronx political junkies is because its name in Portuguese is the ESPADA. And it just so happens that the Espada is a bottom-feeder that eats other bottom-feeders. By the way, it can be deliciously prepared with bananas, with passion fruit, poached in champagne or simply fried. And here's a photo taken last week by my son of some fresh espada heads in the fish market in Funchal, Madeira's capital city."

Espaillat or Espada?

Bronx News Network puts out a great scoop on a bizarre flyer distributed in Riverdale by the campaign for Adriano Espaillat. It seems that Espaillat, who is running to replace Eric Schneiderman in the 31st Senate District, is worried people might mix him up with Pedro Espada, that scoundrel of the Senate (that might be redundant). Why is he so worried about being confused for a thug and almost indicted elected official? Anyway, here is the flyer so you decide whether this is one of the more nuttier campaign pieces you have seen.

Gerson Borrero Slams Diaz, Jr. on Endorsement

Former Editor and now writer for El Diario, Gerson Borrero, takes great exception to the endorsement made by Bronx BP Ruben Diaz, Jr. of Gustavo Rivera. Not that he supports Pedro Espada, but in his blog called The Borrero Report, he points out that Diaz, Jr. is being a hypocrite when he criticizes Pedro Espada for many of the same deficiencies found in his own father, State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. Diaz, Jr. calls Mr. Rivera "a true Democrat who -- unlike the unfortunate incumbent Pedro Espada -- will not abandon the shared principles of both his party and the voters who sent him to Albany." It is interesting to note that Diaz Senior has endorsed Espada and was a key leader with Espada of the Gang of Four that threw Albany into chaos by threatening to side with the Republicans. Borrero states "it would be irresponsible for us to let Rubencito continue with this hypocrisy and dishonesty." He suggests that to if he judged his own father by the same standard as Espada he should endorse his father's opponent. Only in the Bronx my friends.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Padernacht and Rivera Debate for Espada's Seat

Dan Padernacht and Gustavo Rivera squared off on BronxTalk, Gary Axelbank's show, this past Monday in their quest to unseat Pedro Espada in the 33rd Senate District. It comes as little surprise to most political observers that Pedro Espada skipped the affair. We can only hope that in the next 14 days one of these two candidates can reach enough voters to throw this bum out.

Rating the City Council

According to a posting on the Bronx News Network that reviews a ranking of City Council members done by City Hall News, only Annabel Palma and James Vacca have any real juice. Arroyo and Koppell are in the middle of the pack with Cabrera and Seabrook almost dead last.