It has been around forever

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.