19 October 2008

Boss Bloomberg Spreads the Wealth

It is regrettable and infuriating that, in a time of political and economic insecurity, times in which anxiety and concern for the future are daily spiking in the average heart, the City at large is forced to channel its energy, resources and attention on the selfish needs of one crybaby billionaire's need for extended personal power.

Boss Bloomberg tells us he's selflessly going for a third term as mayor because the City, in a state of turmoil, needs his sober judgment and the comfort of a familiar face in City Hall. Yet he inflicts untold additional stress on the apparatus of government, not to mention countless civic institutions he's pressured to support him, to achieve this extra term. The time City Council and many private citizens spent last week examining his would-be power grab—the machinations of the New Yorker who has the least reasons to worry what would happen to him if he lost his job in today's climate—could have been spent addressing the City's economic woes.

Further evidence of the widespread corruption underpinning Boss Bloomberg's bid came in the New York Post today. Seems Mike, by some coincidence, decided to use his now-defunct slush fund last year to reward City Council members who will have a great say in whether the term limits extension sails through or goes down. Doesn't it feel like were living in the days of Tammany Hall again? Here's the piece:

Mayor Bloomberg showered cash on key City Council members with the power to kill a term-limits extension bill in the last year.

Members of the council's Government Operations Committee have received millions from Hizzoner's slush fund, a once-secret pot of taxpayer money the mayor doles out to favored lawmakers for their pet causes.

All the members are Democrats who will decide whether the change in term limits - which the mayor needs in order to run for a third term - goes before the council for a full vote.

Five members of the committee secured $3.1 million from the $5.3 million stash in Bloomberg's 2008 budget. Only three other council members received funds from the mayor in the last year. Two are Republicans, and the third, Councilman James Vacca, received a considerably smaller amount, $20,000, than the other beneficiaries.

Government Operations Committee chairman Simcha Felder (Brooklyn) received $1.9 million from the mayor's fund, far more than any of his council colleagues. He has received funds from Bloomberg's fund every year since 2003, in which time the allocations have doubled. It is widely believed Felder supports a term-limits change.

Fellow committee members Domenic Recchia, Helen Sears, Erik Dilan and Peter Vallone Jr. each received between $50,000 and $625,000 from the mayor's fund..

"I think it's obvious that Bloomberg was trying to curry favor here. What else are discretionary funds for?" said one councilman against extending term limits. "Term limits is the most important issue out there, period . . . I think this is one way he laid the groundwork."

Bloomberg's slush fund was discontinued in June, after The Post revealed the existence of a separate City Council slush fund. Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser said the funding handed out a year ago had no connection to today's term limits debate.

Meanwhile, the committee members were favored with some of the most generous handouts from Council Speaker Christine Quinn - Bloomberg's closest ally in the fight to extend term limits - in this year's budget.

Recchia saw his council funding soar 19 percent, Dilan's rose 14 percent, Larry Seabrook's 25 percent, and Inez Dickens' 20 percent. The average council member's funding rose only 9 percent this year.

All but Dickens - whose public stance on term limits is undecided - have said they'll vote yes on allowing incumbents to run for a third four-year term.

Vallone and Sears, who are undecided on term limits, didn't see their allocations spike. But they still collected a combined $1.5 million for their causes. Felder received $432,000, a 5 percent increase.

A Quinn spokesman said that when you take into account the entire $30.7 million funding pool, the allocations to committee members were "insignificant."

But some speculate it was part of a heavy-handed campaign to entice lawmakers to support a term-limits extension, the aggressiveness of which came to light last week as:

* Union brass have personally lobbied council members to support term limits. According to a source, some unions have met with the mayor's office in hopes of getting perks in exchange for their support.

* City-funded arts groups have also pressed city legislators. One member said she received "dozens" of calls from "groups I really respect."

* Committee chairmanships have been promised by Quinn to several council members - at least two of whom have been offered the finance chair in exchange for a yes vote.

* A councilwoman was "offered the world. . ..rec centers, parks, affordable housing and more discretionary money" in a meeting last week urging her to support term limits.

Political shuffling in the spring also raised eyebrows.

Sears, who has backed Bloomberg on hotbed isSues in the past, was appointed to the Government Operations committee in May, replacing term-extension foe Councilman Joe Addabo Jr.

In June, as Bloomberg mulled a third-term run, Felder abandoned his city comptroller aspirations - which, if limits are extended, may have put him in a tough race against incumbent Bill Thompson. The mayor then endorsed Felder for a state Senate run.

"[Felder] respects the mayor but he doesn't vote the way the mayor tells him to vote," Eric Kuo, the councilman's spokesman, said.

Mayor spokesman Loeser said "absolutely no quid pro quos have been offered," but said the mayor's office has met with "all kinds of people who we've worked with" to "make our case and get the votes we need to pass it."

Oh, and the Mayor's push to remain in power? You're paying for it.

1 comment:

potosi said...

Mayor Doomberg is nothing more than a corrupt demagogue. He likes to say that he’s not a politician, but he’s worse than any politician. His effort to overturn term limits by doing a runaround on the people of New York who twice approved term limits by referendum not only smacks of a lack of ethics and arrogance (as well as blatant lies, breaking his own promises that he was in favor of term limits) but it is a raw demonstration of the worst form of patronage politics – the kind of politics that corrupt autocratic governments engagement. Doomberg would feel at home in a Latin American country as a caudillo strongman. In asking the groups he makes “donations” to to testify on his behalf, Doomberg belies his charitable acts, and demonstrates that he’s merely engaged in bribery, not philanthropy. The same is true in his threat to bankroll candidates who ran against opponents to his horrible proposal for congestion pricing. Mayor Doomberg is the prime example of why we should not have billionaire plutocrats running government. They argue they are better because they are insulated from politics – that is exactly why they are worse, they have no accountability and can run roughshod over the political process. Mike Doomberg doesn’t give a shit about anyone but himself, his rich friends, and his own Power. He’s a slimy, untrustworthy person. Think about it. If you had a friend who was a lifelong Democrat, but then he told you he’s going to be a Republican, just so he can get elected – what would you think of him, and his integrity? Very little. And then that person not only runs as a Republican, but he supports major national Republican candidates and policies?! And then, as thanks to the party that elected him, he double crosses them and says he has NO party? C’mon! How can you trust a sleazeball like that? You can’t. Because he wants to make the rules of the game up as he goes along.

Fred Siegel, a professor of history at Cooper Union who has studied New York City politics for decades, said Mr. Bloomberg had cynically “reversed the flow of money” in politics to build the illusion, if not the reality, of widespread support.
“The traditional politicians are bought by special interest groups, but Bloomberg buys special interest groups,” he said.
So here’s how I feel about term limits, independent of how I feel about Doomberg:

Term limits are good for preventing politicians from becoming entrenched because the power of incumbency is has a strong effect on a complacent voting public. However, in a democracy, we should be able to vote for whoever we want. If I think Rosie Mendez has done an excellent job as city councilmember, why shouldn't I be allowed to vote for her to represent me again, and again, and again, as long as I like the job she's doing? What I would like to see is term limits for legislators of 3 terms, with a one term cooling off period, after which they can run again. For executive positions I would want a two term limit, followed by a cooling off period, before being allowed to run again. The executive position has so much power it is dangerous to let someone serve three consecutive terms. I think this scenario would be the healthiest for democracy and representation in the city (and I'd like to see it applied to the state and federal level, as well.)