It has been around forever

Monday, February 28, 2011

Peter Rivera Proposes Using Voter Registration to Get Race Info.

Here is an article by our old friend Candice Giove at the NY Post about Assemblyman Peter Rivera's proposal to include race and ethnicity information on voter registration forms. Based on the story this idea appears to be DOA given that even the NAACP seems cool to it. Although, given that Giove spent 10 years in the Riverdale Review school of dirty journalism, I am not sure I would trust anything from that pen. Btw, last we heard from Rivera he was having some troubles with a not-for-profit he helped to fund.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Sound of Music in The Bronx

Here is a music video produced by Bronxnet promoting the Bronx and Bronx BP Ruben Diaz. This was put out to burnish the image of the Bronx, especially after some recent negative depictions by Hollywood and the media. The scenery is beautiful and it does a great job of showcasing the best of the Bronx. While it will take a long time to change the imagine stuck in the minds of the world from the 1970's, we have to keep trying so this is a laudable effort. My one criticism is that considering we are the birthplace of rap, I don't see this song being in high demand on iTunes.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Albany's New Power Couple?

An article on Page Six of today's New York Post combines my two favorite topics, politics and gossip, when they speculate that Bronx State Senator Jeff Klein and Brooklyn State Senator Diane Savino are an item (both pictured left). They refer to them as Albany's version of "Brangelina", but in this case they are dubbed them "Klavino". Not quite as catchy. As you may recall, the two Senators formed the new Senate Independent Democratic Conference together with two other members. Senator Savino is quoted in the article as saying, "I have good taste in both men and politics."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bronx Council Members Koppell and Palma Push Living Wage Bill

In the aftermath of the battle over the re-development of the Kingsbridge Armory, two Bronx Councilmembers, Anabel Palma and Oliver Koppell, introduced a bill that would require a living wage on all projects that get city subsidies. This in-depth piece by Neil deMause at City Limits details the battle lines. Not surpringly, it is backed by a large group of unions and liberal politicians and opposed by major business groups. It was this very issue that doomed the Kingsbridge Armory along with an investment of more than $300 million, so it makes sense to settle this issue for the future. As to the Armory, it still sits as an empty shell while a study is being conducted by a University group at the urging of the Bronx Borough President.

Mayor Proposes Cuts in Borough Presidents' Budgets

Here is a pop quiz, can you guess how much the budget is for the Bronx Borough President's office -- $1 million, $3 million or $5 million? If you guessed $5 million you would still be short a few hundred thousand! That is right, we spend over $5 million to fund the Borough Presidents offices in the Bronx and Brooklyn (this is one of the few occassions Manhattan does not get more than the outer boroughs -- their budget is only $4.4 million). As Michael Saul of the Wall Street Journal reports, if the Mayor has his way, there will be little to dance about as those budgets will be cut dramatically. In the Bronx, it could amount to a cut of 24 percent. Traditionally, the City Council has restored threatened cuts to these offices, but in a year where there are few dollars to go around it may be difficult this time around. But the real question is whether these offices should have $5 million budgets? Do you think they are worth that kind of investment, and are we getting a good return on our precious tax dollars?

Diaz Sr. Continues to Go After AG Schneiderman

State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. (center left with two of his Amigos) is continuing his feud with his former colleague and newly elected AG Eric Schneiderman. Here is a posting by Liz Benjamin at Capital Tonight where Diaz criticizes Schneiderman for the amount of money spent on the Senate legal proceedings brought against his fellow Amigo Hiram Monserrate. Schneiderman led the inquiry that led to the expulsion of Monserrate. The Senate was billed about $375,000 by the law firm Kaye Scholer. Diaz set forth numerous questions about the relationship between the law firm and Scheiderman he wanted answered such as "Did members of the firm of Kaye Scholer provide any assistance to help Eric Schneiderman in his campaign for Attorney General or provide assistance to the re-election of any other New York State Senators?” No response yet from State Senate officials.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Espada Had a Million Dollar Payroll!

Looks like disgraced former State Senator Pedro Espada did his part to keep the employment numbers up in the Bronx. As Glenn Blain over at the Daily News reports, Espada had a 50 person staff that accrued a payroll of nearly $1 million in just his final 6 months in office. Blain reports that "Espada's 50-person staff included more than 20 "community outreach" and constituent liaison workers who made as much as $60,000 a year, new disclosure forms show." Of course Espada was not alone, Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson's six-month payroll topped $725,000 and Brooklyn Democratic Sen. Carl Kruger spent $657,353 during the period. No wonder the Democrats overspent their $28 million budget by as much $14 million. All of this raises two important questions that someone needs to answer: who allowed a thug like Espada to get a hold of so much money, and why do these Senators need so many staff members anyway?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Senator Gustavo Rivera Urges Colleagues to "Pass the Pledge" They Made

Here is a posting by Celeste Katz at the Daily News about a video featuring newly minted Bronx State Senator Gustavo Rivera urging his colleagues to keep their word about reforming Albany. More than half the Senators, including virtually all Republicans, signed Ed Koch's pledge to reform the State Legislature. In this video, Rivera tells them to keep their word and "Pass the Pledge."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Report Out on "Crime Wave" in State Government

Citizens Union is out with a very provocative report on the turnover in the NY State Legislature. The report states "that a crime wave is accelerating as the number of legislators who left in the past six years because of ethical and criminal misconduct has tripled over that of the previous six years." Before calling for ethics reform, the report goes on to say that "since 1999 one of every eleven legislators who left office did so under a cloud of ethical or criminal misconduct." I don't think many of us are surprised by these statistics, but you have to give Citizens Union credit for not mincing words.

One bright spot was that more legislators (13) lost their seats outright (not counting those for whom ethical and criminal issues played a factor in their defeat) than at any time in the past twelve years of tracking. The previous high was 7 in 2004. However, in spite of 13 legislators being defeated, the incumbency re-election rate for state legislators remains high. The twelve year incumbent re-election rate still averaged 96% from 1999 to 2010.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Espada Still Running Clinic?

Pedro Espada may have been indicted for fraud and lost his seat in the State Senate, but it seems he is still in charge of the very health care center he is accused of looting. The New York Post reports that at a rally yesterday, Espada "boasted that government funds continue to pour into Soundview -- though he complained that a $3 million grant for a new building has been held up."..."Let me give you some breaking news. With all of the turmoil that has surrounded our institution . . . the fact is we have been approved in the last couple of weeks for $1.7 million in federal funds," he went on to say. Can you imagine, he is still in charge and this place is still getting funded? Wouldn't you think that part of getting any government funds that Espada would be required to resign given the indictment? Only in the Bronx.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Diaz to Rally with Espada

These two amigos -- State Senator Ruben Diaz, Jr. and former State Senator and currently indicted Pedro Espada -- are definitely amigos for life or BFF. As Celeste Katz at the Daily News reports, Diaz will attend a rally with Espada tomorrow in support of the Soundview Health Care Center that coincidentally Espada is accused of looting.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Senate Democrats Face Stiff Staff Layoffs: But Klein Keeps Rolling

Chris Bragg at City Hall News reports on the upheaval in jobs facing Senate Democrats after losing the Senate. For example,State Sen. Shirley Huntley, of Queens lost 14 of her 23 staffers. That's correct, she had 23 staffers -- remember this is not a U.S. Senator but a NY State Senator! This is the same Shirley Huntley who steered $33,000 in pork to a not-for-profit run by her former chief of staff. Anyway, at least one Democrat has escaped the staff ax -- Jeff Klein of the Bronx -- his bi-weekly payroll has jumped by $1000 per month. Of course, it probably did not hurt that he formed a breakaway independent conference that has good relations with the Republicans.

Tracking the Pork

Celeste Katz at the Daily News puts a spotlight on the great work being done by the Empire Center for New York Policy to inform the public about how our elected officials spend our money. If you go to Empire Center's site -- -- you can find details on how your state or city elected officials spent our tax dollars. You can also find out details about their payroll, expenditures and other financial information. All of the information found here and on other sites such as Councilpedia, have opened the doors to the kind of information that had been kept secret or hard to find for years. Now it's up to us to use it to evaluate whether our elected officials are doing a good job with our tax dollars.

Cash and Carry Larry Still Getting Paid

David Seifman of The New York Post reports today that indicted Bronx Councilman Larry Seabrook, aka "Cash and Carry Larry", is still collecting his $112,500 Council salary and is doing little to deserve it. Since being indicted last year for fraud and extortion (including requesting $177 reimbursement for a bagel), the out to lunch Councilman has not introduced one piece of legislation. Sadly, he continues to draw a good salary so the real question is why is it taking so long to bring this guy to trial?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bronx Republican Boss is Well Fed

Believe it or not, there is a Republican Party boss in the Bronx, and it appears that he likes to eat. The New York Post reports that Jay Savino, the Republican Party Boss, spent $8300 on lunches and dinners last year. Given that there isn't a single Republican elected in the Bronx, I guess like the Maytag Man there is plenty of time to eat out.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Keep Track of Your Councilperson With New Service: Councilpedia

Citizens Union has come out with a very useful tool for tracking your Councilperson -- it's called Councilpedia. It's chock full of information about each Councilmember, including things like bills sponsored, campaign expenditures, member items, voting record, and contributions. This is the kind of information that used to be hidden in the basement of the board of elections, so it's great to have it all at your fingertips in one place. Now there is virtually no excuse for not knowing what your Councilperson is up to!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Getting Paid After Betraying the Public Trust

In the wake of the death of former State Senator Guy Velella, here is a very good editorial by Clyde Haberman of the NY Times about scores of elected officials who have been convicted of a crime but are still receiving huge pensions -- some while sitting in a jail cell. Even worse, most of these former elected officials were convicted of crimes relating to their office. There are some efforts to now close that loophole, but any change would not impact those already receiving their pensions -- so Alan Hevesi will continue to get $105,000 a year while Joe Bruno pulls down $96,000. In this era of "government reform" lets see how far this potential bill gets in Albany.