Monday, December 28, 2009

Looking Back on 2009 and Moving Forward

Looking back, 2009 was a transition year at the national level. We moved from Bush to Obama in the White House and from an falling economy to a stabilizing one. Here in New York, a great deal of positive change occurred, but not everything was positive.

Troubled Waters Mix with Euphoria

The year began with the selections of Hilliary Clinton for US Secretary of State and our friend Kirsten Gillibrand for the US Senate as well as the joyous inauguration of President Barack Hussein Obama as our nation's 44th President. With the economy still reeling from the Fall 2008 meltdown in the financial markets, we swelled with pride as the progressive Democrats took control of our national government. So many of our friends now had the authority and the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of Americans and even change lives around the world. It was a special beginning to a year at a time when all of knew that our country was looking for reasons to return to optimism.

But, before we could get through March, Washington DC and the national government chose Manhattan as its scapegoat and punching bag. Even the President of the United States went on the attack. While the Congress failed to implement the worst of the anti-Manhattan legislation they considered (even some that passed in the US House), the President and many others continue to look for opportunities to punish Manhattan as Manhattan's financial community attempts to rebuild its strength in order to help rebuild the US economy.

Thankfully, our Governor has refused to stand by quietly as one of his state's leading industries is attacked from all quarters. Let us hope his leadership in this regard begins to change the trend toward undermining our country's advantage in financial services.

Bloomberg's Arrogance Expanded

When Mayor Bloomberg refused to accept the President's offer of food stamp money in early 2009, at the height of the anxiety over the economic challenges facing the United States, many considered it out-of-character. At Manhattan Viewpoint, we saw it as part of a trend of poor decision-making, anti-poor policies, and intense arrogance. We were proven right as the year continued.

In May, Mayor Bloomberg arrogantly chose to impose regressive taxes to reduce his budget deficit - in effect, he decided that poor people's taxes were too low, but those with high incomes couldn't afford any greater tax burden. In that same month, we found out that Bloomberg's NYPD was on a pace to set a record of stop-and-frisk activity - an activity targeted almost exclusively at African-American and Hispanic New Yorkers. In his arrogance, the Mayor has refused to step back from this racist and counterproductive policy. He has even fought law suits aimed at ending it and those aimed at forcing the NYPD to delete the personal data collected on the hundreds of thousands of innocent people who are stopped each year.

In July, Mayor Bloomberg insulted all of us by giving his senior staff retroactive raises in the middle of a horrible economic crisis and just after he had asked poor people to shoulder the burden of his spending.

As the race for Mayor in 2009 became tight, Mayor Bloomberg played the race card and 1) became a strong advocate for Giuliani as the next Governor of New York State, while 2) stating that New York City would become as unlivable as Detroit if Thompson were elected.

Ultimately, Bloomberg was successful in defeating Bill Thompson in the race for Mayor, but he was humbled by the small margin of victory after outspending Thompson by more than 10 to 1 and after spending a record amount - more than $100 million - on his campaign.

Successes and Failures in Albany

Governor Paterson and the New York State Legislature deserve enormous credit from repealing the Rockefeller Drug Laws, but they came up short in the fight for marriage equality. New York State should be leading the way in providing human rights to all of its residents. We have failed to do so.

We did allow incarcerated women during child birth to be unshackled, a worthwhile and difficult fight.

The chaos that gripped Albany in June subsided in July as order was restored. Later, Governor Paterson's choice for Lt. Governor, Richard Ravitch was allowed to take office by the New York State Court of Appeals.

President Obama's Lack of Support

Unfortunately, the President was unsupportive of Bill Thompson's campaign for Mayor and has been downright ugly in his efforts to push Governor David Paterson out of the Governor's Mansion to allow Attorney General Andrew Cuomo a chance to take over that position.

With the year now at its end, we are able to look forward to 2010, a year in which, at the national level, health care reform is likely to face an historic vote early in the year after the House and Senate meet in conference to attempt to reconcile their two bills. The year will also see Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand both face re-election challenges (though neither actually has an opponent yet). Governor Paterson and Attorney General Cuomo will have to decide whether they are both running for Governor in the September Democratic primary or if one will support the other in that effort (Rock Lazio is the only serious Republican contender for the Governor's office at this point).

So much is at stake in 2010 - we can hardly wait.

Percy Sutton

We lost Percy Sutton last week. He was the personification of Manhattan and as clear an example of a Manhattan progressive as there is in the world. We wish his family well, and we are aware that we were blessed to benefit from his presence in our great city for so many years.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bloomberg Loses Morgenthau Fight and Sets School Closing Showdown

Mayor Bloomberg was embarrassed by his decision to engage in a feud with the Manhattan District Attorney, and he correctly decided to move the upcoming high school closing showdown meeting from Staten Island to Brooklyn in order to make it accessible to a larger number of New Yorkers.

Poorly Chosen Fight

Mayor Bloomberg picked a fight with retiring Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau earlier this month. Last week, the fight ended with a humiliating defeat for Bloomberg on several fronts. Manhattan Viewpoint endorsed Morgenthau's successor, Cy Vance, and hopes that the incoming District Attorney will be as determined as his legendary predecessor to refuse to be intimidated by the Mayor.

The Mayor demanded that the Manhattan District Attorney provide all of the proceeds of a large recent legal settlement to New York City. Morgenthau had traditionally split the funds 60/40 between NYC and New York State with the City getting the larger portion.

Angered by the Mayor's arrogance (and undoubtedly frustrated that NYC had refused to take responsibility for the deaths of New York City Firefighters that were clearly caused by the City's criminal negligence), Morgenthau guided the New York State Legislature and Governor Paterson to pass a law that would specifically target the large settlement in question and divide the proceeds 50/50 between New York City and the state.

When the settlement was received, the city received $27 million less than it would have received if the 60/40 approach had remained in place. The Mayor's arrogance cost all of us in New York City $27 million.

Bloomberg threatened Morgenthau with a scandal during the fight for the 50/50 legislation, saying that if he continued to push for the 50/50 split, the Mayor would release information showing that Morgenthau had millions of dollars in "secret" accounts. Morgenthau continued to push for the 50/50 split and was hit with the "scandal" of the "secret" accounts, and the Mayor went on the attack against the legendary District Attorney, whose office brought nearly $200 million to New York City in 2009 without including the settlement generated the controversy. But the attack backfired.

There turned out to be more than 2,200 secret accounts within the New York City government, and Morgenthau had 48 such accounts. It turned out that all of the so-called "secret" accounts had been known to New York City for years and that the Mayor was using the idea of the "secret" accounts as a failed attempt to exact revenge.

The Mayor finished the fight embarrassed that he overlooked the "secret" accounts of Morgenthau for years and failed to notice the other 2,100 "secret" accounts within his government. He also lost $27 million in the process.

Brooklyn Showdown on School Closings

New York City is planning to close 20 high schools. While many parents and observers oppose the closings and even suggest that the wrong schools are on the list to be closed for the wrong reasons, the closings are certain to occur because the Mayor controls the Board that will decide whether to approve the City's plan.

Amazingly, the City originally scheduled the first an only public hearing on the issue for a January date in Staten Island despite the fact that most of the schools scheduled for closing are in the Bronx. None of the schools scheduled for closing are in Staten Island. The location was more than a 2 hour trip from the location where the largest number of school closings are proposed, and the length of the trip and the 6pm start time would create a major impediment to attendance by the parents of the students in the schools scheduled for closing.

Thankfully, the meeting has been moved to Brooklyn, which is a long way from the Bronx. But, Brooklyn is not nearly as remote as Staten Island, and Brooklyn is our City's most populous borough. One struggles to criticize the scheduling of any city-wide hearing for a Brooklyn location, even when Brooklyn seems to have been chosen in a cynical effort to select the borough furthest from the Bronx that would not create the obviously sense of bad faith that a Staten Island location suggests.

Feel free to attend the meeting at Brooklyn Technical High School on January 26 at 6pm.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Praising Paterson's Wall Street Defense

Last week, New York's Governor Peterson became the first elected official to aggressively challenge the notion that punishing Wall Street is good for the economy. We hope that others will follow his lead.

War on Manhattan

As we have stated on many occasions, Manhattan's economy is heavily influenced by the health of the Wall Street economy.

One third of New York City's employee earnings come from the financial sector, and when that sector suffers, New York City suffers. As many in Washington, DC continue to design plans to undermine the ability of Wall Street firms to offer competitive compensation packages and retain their best employees, we are encouraged by our Governor's courageous defense of the unpopular US financial sector.

If New York City and New York State have any hope of closing their budget deficits, it is through resurgent Wall Street profits and tax revenues from the compensation received by New Yorkers who work in the firms that drive the world's financial system from headquarters located in Manhattan.

Moreover, if the US federal government makes it more difficult for firms to lead the financial sector from the US, those firms will leave Manhattan and move to other parts of the world. Manhattan's place as the world's financial capital is an economic and national security advantage for the US, and sustaining that advantage requires the type of attitude that Governor Paterson expressed last week.

Paterson's Thorough Defense

In Saturday's Presidential address, President Obama took aim at Wall Street and stated that Wall Street caused the recession through which we are all now suffering. He said that the cause of America's current economic struggles was "the irresponsibility of large financial institutions on Wall Street . . ." The US House passed sweeping financial regulatory reforms recently, and as we await Senate actions on that House bill, the President seems to be gearing up to support attacks Wall Street with these new regulations and perhaps other legislative proposals that may win him political points but will undoubtedly add greater burdens to our troubled economy here in New York City.

Governor Paterson addressed the war on Manhattan last week in a speech.

"Some people think that if you deny the bonuses, that the money’s coming back to the American taxpayers. It’s actually the other way around. If you deny the bonuses, the money stays in the firms. It’s when you pay out the bonuses that you start to get the huge tax collections that New Yorkers see."

He followed up later.

"You don't hear anybody in New England complaining about clam chowder. If you say anything about oil in Texas, they'll string you up from the nearest tree. We need to stand by the engine of our economy in New York State, and that engine is Wall Street."

He also used his Twitter account to reinforce his views.

"Iowa, corn. Michigan, autos. Texas, oil. NY, Wall Street . . . We must stand behind the engine of our state's economy & strengthen it."

"If we support Wall St, and make the tough choices necessary to stabilize our state, Wall St will help NY as we build a New Economy."

Governor Paterson, you said it well.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Increased NYPD Misconduct Proves Costly

We learned last week that the police department in NYC has faced an enormous increase in law suits against it and a similar increase in payouts to their victims as well as an accusation by a federal judge that the NYPD has engaged in a pattern of promoting false accusations and perjury to harm ordinary New Yorkers.

Cost of Police Misconduct

The New York Times reported last week that the payouts in settlements related to police activity in New York City had increased every year of the eight-year Bloomberg reign in City Hall, and that payouts had nearly doubled in the last five years to almost $120mm per year. During that same time frame, the number of lawsuits filed each year against New York City based on police misconduct has increased by more than 20%

The increase should not be a surprise for a number of reasons.

First, in 2008, the payouts related to police misconduct increased by 40% over the previous year.

As we have discussed here on numerous occasions at Manhattan Viewpoint, the NYPD is setting records for stopping and frisking innocent New Yorkers and is stopping and frisking New Yorkers of color at rates that cry out of federal oversight, punitive damages, and attempts at redemption. Instead, the race-based stop-and-frisk policies of the NYPD have continued on and been led by an unapologetic Mayor, who successfully sought a third term as Mayor while setting the record for stopping and frisking innocent New Yorkers.

In 2006, 55 percent of the stops were of Black people – more than double the Black population percentage.
Cops found guns, drugs, or stolen property on whites about twice as often as they did on black suspects.
Stops of whites amounted to only 2.6 percent of the white population. By contrast, stops of Blacks, represented 21.1 percent of the entire black population.
Residents of Brownsville's 73rd Precinct and Harlem's 28th Precinct had a 30 to 36 percent chance of being stopped and questioned by police in 2006. Citywide, the average was about 6 percent.



In 2009, as our city sets a new record for stop-and-frisk activity, this set of ugly statistics grows worse and becomes a clearer example of race-based policing that works against justice while promoting resentment of the NYPD amongst New Yorkers and promoting a culture of "White Privilege Promotion" within the NYPD as being white lowers ones chances of being stopped by 90% despite the fact that being white makes one twice as likely to be carrying guns, drugs, or stolen property.

NYPD Pattern of Falsehoods

A federal judge in Brooklyn has set a precedent by embracing the idea that the NYPD has a practice of falsely accusing innocent New Yorkers of criminal activity as well as promoting other falsehoods to support the false accusations against our fellow residents.

Federal Judge Jack Weinstein said that the NYPD had demonstrated a pattern of "widespread falsification by arresting officers." He also called the lack of truthfulness within the NYPD was an institutional problem. He said, "there is some evidence of an attitude among officers that is sufficiently widespread to constitute a custom or policy by the city approving illegal conduct."

In light of this view from the federal bench, none of us should be surprised that lawsuits and settlement amounts related to police misconduct have been increasing.

Now, Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD have an obligation to make aggressive and sweeping changes in their approach to New York City residents while weeding out the NYPD's growing tendency to use false allegations and other misconduct in carrying out its activities.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Age of Innocence Coming to NYS

New York's judges and our State Senate may be ushering in an age of innocence with groundbreaking efforts to allow defendants to appeal their convictions on the grounds that they were innocent of the charges against them.

Actual Innocence

While being innocent may not seem to be an exotic defense to most people who are not involved with the criminal justice system, our nation's legal history forbids the use of innocence as a defense at the appellate level. There are New York judges and members of the New York State Senate that are starting a new trend of allowing "actual innocence" as a an appellate claim.

Generally, a defendant seeking to reverse a conviction must prove that the proceedings within the judicial system violated the defendant's constitutional rights in order to earn the reversal. Often, the presentation of new evidence of innocence is not permitted unless the defendant proves that the evidence would have been impossible to present at the original trial. The basis for this approach of prohibiting actual innocence as a defense in the theory that our judicial system needs and values finality. If convicted defendants were permitted to re-argue their innocence at every level, prosecutors would essentially be required to convict defendants three or four times in order to be certain that the guilty verdict would prevail. The sentencing could be equally confused by endless appeals on the grounds of actual innocence.

The Supreme Court of the United States took an extreme view of the limits of actual innocence in 1994. In that year, they ruled by a 6-3 vote that a defendant's actual innocence claim, even when endorsed by the statements of the state that sought his conviction, was not a proper basis for an appeal. To add to the drama of that 1994 case, the defendant was executed by the state of Texas in the early days of 1995 after losing the appeal in 1994. In essence, the Supreme Court ruled that being innocent is not an appellate defense even if the prosecutors tell other juries in other cases that you are innocent in order to convict other defendants of the crime for which you are scheduled to be put to death. The state of Texas, in the 1994 case, even argued in another trial that the executed defendant was unaware that the actual murder had a weapon in the moments prior to the crime in question and that the executed defendant was not in the building with the victim at the time of the killing.

One Supreme Court Justice has stated that executing a defendant known to be innocent is very similar to murder by the state. The 1994 case referenced above demonstrates how an innocent defendant can be executed nonetheless.

Jesse DeWayne Jacobs was executed on January 4, 1995, despite the fact that Texas prosecutors knew that he did not shoot Etta Urdiales in 1986. In speaking to the jurors that would sentence Jacobs to death, Montgomery County District Attorney Peter Speers said, "The simple fact is that Jesse Jacobs and Jesse Jacobs alone killed Etta Ann Urdiales." However, another prosecutor said that Jacobs' sister, Bobbie Jean Hogan, actually killed Urdiales. At Hogan's trial, the prosecutor also said that Jacobs "[didn't] know that Bobbie had a gun." Texas convicted Hogan of involuntary manslaughter in the Urdiales killing, and Hogan received a ten year sentence. Nevertheless in Jacobs v. Scott, No. 94-7010, the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 6-3 vote, allowed Texas to execute Jacobs. Jacobs was killed by lethal injection on January 4, 1995.
Even in light of this new evidence, Texas Attorney General Dan Morales refused to acquiesce to a new sentencing hearing, relying on Supreme Court precedents that limit death row inmates to raising constitutional questions on appeal. Since "the prosecution's subsequently stated belief that Hogan was the trigger person is not new evidence, newly discovered or otherwise," Morales asserted that Jacobs' death sentence should stand. Two different persons were convicted for shooting the same person. Upon review, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit refused to overturn Jacobs' death sentence, holding that "it is not for us to say" that the jury had made a mistake. The Supreme Court denied review, with Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, and Breyer dissenting. Stevens wrote, "It would be fundamentally unfair to execute a person on the basis of a factual determination that the state has formally disavowed. I find this course of events deeply troubling." Stevens was particularly moved by the fact that the State itself vouched for the recantation of Jacob's confession.
Texas had full knowledge of the fact that Jacobs was not guilty of the crime that he was sentenced to death for committing. Texas sentenced the person who actually killed Urdiales to ten years in prison, while executing Jacobs.


New York's Age of Innocence

In New York State, two recent court decisions have endorsed the concept of actual innocence as an appellate claim, and the New York State Senate has begun to pursue legislation that would create an actual innocence defense.

One of the decisions, issued on November 9th of this year, states that the appellate judge was persuaded by the defendant's submission that the defendants was innocent, and the judge follows that finding with a dismissal of the conviction with prejudice (meaning that the defendant cannot face a new trial for the crime in question). In July of this year, a similar case resulted in the tossing aside of a conviction in New York State. Both defendants had spent more that a decade imprisoned for crimes that they did not commit (18 years and 12 years, respectively), and both were released based on "actual innocence" rather than constitutional violations.

In October of this year, members of New York State Senate introduced legislation entitled the Actual Innocence Act of 2009. The legislation, if enacted, would establish the appellate claim of actual innocence for convicted defendants in New York State and prevent the abuse of law by permitting judges to ignore evidence of actual innocence if the defendant intentionally withheld evidence of his or her own guilt during the trial. “Prolonged and unnecessary incarceration of the innocent is detrimental to all - the wrongly incarcerated, society, the criminal justice system and the victim. I can only hope that the proposed legislation ensures that others wrongly incarcerated like me, never have to suffer like I did in securing their freedom through the criminal justice system,” said Marty Tankleff, who was wrongfully convicted for the murder of his parents based on a false confession.

The most important "actual innocence" effort now is to promote the passage of this legislation.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Taking Authority Over Authorities

Last week, New York State took a major step forward toward government accountability by establishing oversight over most of the nearly 1,100 authorities that have governed in our state for decades without checks and balances.

Authorities - The Shadow Government

Authorities in New York State operate as if they are self-contained independent governments. They collect fees and issue bonds. They often have layers of their own bureaucracy and have, until now, never been forced to operate in a transparent manner or face the scrutiny of any other part of the government. These authorities are often referred to as a "shadow government" because of their enormous power and lack of oversight by other entities.

There are many estimates of the number of authorities operating in New York State, but the New York State Comptroller's office has suggested that the total number approaches 1,100. Some of the most well-known and most important are the Port Authority (which manages each of the major New York City metro areas airports as well as several bridges and tunnels), the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (which manages New York City's subways and buses), and the Dormitory Authority (which builds all of the public hospitals and higher education buildings across New York State).

In total, these authorities have built up a debt load of $150 billion and are key sources of employment and governance within our state.

Oversight From Albany

In a major development that changes the shadow government into a set of quasi-governments that are accountable to the state government in Albany, Governor Paterson signed legislation last week that brings the authorities out of the shadows.

While some experts have suggested that reform must go farther than simply demanding accountability and must include reducing the number of authorities as well as limiting their power, the first step is a necessary and valuable part of improving the overall quality of government and the level of accountability in our state.

The reform legislation will:

1) Establish the creation of an independent Authorities Budget Office to oversee authority operations
2) Allow for Comptroller review of contracts for more than $1 million that do not result from a competitive bid process
3) Mandate enhanced financial reporting, mission statements and measurement reports by public authorities, so that the State and the public know what authorities are doing, as well as their financial condition
4) Strengthen the rules governing the disposal of property by public authorities to prevent the give-away of public property to private developers
5) Strengthen the rules governing contact between lobbyists and employees of public authorities
6) Regulate the formation of subsidiary corporations and the issuance of debt by subsidiaries in order to place limits on the amount of debt issued by those corporations
7) Require board members of a public authority to perform their duties in good faith, in the best interest of the authority, its mission and the public in order to ensure that public authorities act responsibly
8) Create a Whistleblower Access and Assistance Program to protect those individuals who report wrongdoing.

With improvement in Albany still necessary, we are pleased to see Albany starting to take control of the authorities that play such a major role in our lives.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Terrorists are Coming! and GED's are Not Coming

Last week, we learned that September 11th conspirators captured by the US government will face a criminal trial in lower Manhattan. We've also learned recently that New York State and New York City are the worst performing jurisdictions in the US in terms of GED passing rates and GED preparation.

Manhattan Hosts the Terrorists

The President has been criticized by many Republicans and by some members of the families of the September 11th families for choosing to prosecute the September 11th conspirators in Manhattan. While the tragedy of September 11, 2001 remains a fresh memory and an unhealed wound for so many Americans and for a large number of New Yorkers, the tragedy of George W. Bush's mishandling of the aftermath of the tragedy remains front in center in our memories as well.

President George W. Bush promoted and supported the use of torture against those captured in the post-September efforts to combat Al Qaeda. He created military courts as venues for prosecuting captured conspirators. He had foreign captives taken to secret prisons outside of the US in order to escape the requirements of the US Constitution related to accused criminals.
The Bush Record is a potent ingredient in the Obama decision to bring these terrorists to Manhattan. Instead of running from the US Constitution and violating international law, President Obama is boldly re-asserting America's role in the world as an example to all nations. He is demonstrating that we are a nation that follows its own laws and believes that it can provide its enemies with guarantees of human rights protections while also holding the world's worst terrorists accountable for their actions.

Manhattanites should take pride in being the venue for the re-emergence of the US as a world leader in the rule of law, human rights, and justice. When these terrorists receive their sentences, they should be sentenced in Manhattan. We are ready for justice to flow down on these terrorists like a mighty stream and wash away both the stain of the Bush abuses and any lingering doubt amongst Americans regarding whether our criminal justice system is adequate in the age of Al Qaeda.

GED Disappointment

New York City is failing the GED. With enormous numbers of New Yorkers living without a high school diploma, the failures of New York City are creating hurdles to GED test-taking and resulting in very few successful GED testing performances.

As stated in the New York Daily News:

Although 1.6 million city residents older than 16 are not in school and lack a high school diploma, only 28,000 took the high school equivalency test last year to get a General Equivalency Diploma. Just half of the test-takers passed. Statewide, just 60% test-takers passed - making New York's pass rate dead last.

A recent Community Services Society (CSS) report found that there is no single phone number or Web site to find a program or test site, no citywide data that track which programs work and no link between funding and success. "There are really no standards for the prep courses," said David R. Jones, president of the CSS. "Even somebody who couldn't pass the GED themselves could be an instructor."


New York City needs a coordinated effort to draw New York City residents into GED programs, drive them toward the test, and get them positioned to pass the test. If our NYC schools are going to leave more than 1 million of our residence without a high school diploma, our city must provide its residents with a path to opportunities, and passing the GED is a key place from which our city's residence can launch themselves forward. Thus far, New York City is failing.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Humbled Emperor Stumbles to Victory

After spending $100mm on his campaign, well over $200mm attempting to buy support through contributions to non-profits, and changing to City Charter to serve his personal political interests, Mayor Bloomberg won re-election by less than 5 percentage points.

Twelve Is Enough

Mayor Bloomberg was aggressive and dishonest in his campaign against Bill Thompson. His behavior is likely to lead to difficulties in governing for the Republican Mayor of a Democratic city (Bloomberg is not a registered Republican but paid the Republican Party to allow him to run as a Republican for a 3rd term after winning his first term as a registered Republican and his second term as an independent). His narrow victory will embolden his opponents and reduce the enthusiasm of his supporters, such as City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

In the case of Quinn, her support for the Mayor and her support for the extension of term limits may make her return to the Speaker's chair uncertain. The City Council may need to choose new leadership to reflect the will of the voters as expressed last week.

Oddly, Bloomberg is already behaving as a more humble Emperor than we've seen since his first election in 2001. He requested a meeting with the newly elected Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, despite the fact that he has repeatedly called for the elimination of the position of Public Advocate. Bloomberg has also sought a meeting with newly elected Comptroller of the City of New York, but John Liu chose not to meet with the Mayor and to proclaim the New York City had no monarch.

Regrets and Anger

We find it unfortunate that the President of the United States refused to assist the candidacy of Bill Thompson. The first African American President of the United States worked very hard (but unsuccessfully) in the re-election bid of the Governors of New Jersey and the Virginia Governor's race. Both of those Democrats are white, and Thompson is African American. Yet, the African American candidate, who was unable to get the support of the leader of the Democratic Party, likely would have won the Mayor's race if he had been given that support. One wonders whether the President will be held accountable for his failures as leader of the Democratic Party and his particularly conspicuous anti-African American approach to Bill Thompson and New York Governor David Paterson - before he failed to work to elect Bill Thompson in NYC, the President demanded that David Paterson choose not to seek re-election as Governor of the State of New York.

Mayor Bloomberg was successful in preventing many traditional pieces of the Democratic Party (unions, African American clergy, etc.) from supporting Thompson. But, the voters were more supportive. Thompson won Brooklyn and the Bronx. Here at Manhattan Viewpoint, we are embarrassed to say that Manhattan's failure to hold the Mayor accountable for his failures as a leader led to his re-election.

Yankees Win Their 27th Title

The Yankees had spent one year outside of the post-season, six years out of the World Series, and nine years without a World Championship, but they captured their 27th title last week. For a franchise that has more championships than any professional sports team, the latest title seems long overdue and more appreciated than the late-1990's titles that seemed to arrive on schedule each October. The first Yankees title won in November left many of us wiping tears of joy and dreaming about how wonderful it would be to enjoy this same feeling again in 2010.

Monday, November 2, 2009

After Yesterday's Marathon, the Marathon Mayoral Race Ends Tomorrow

Voter turnout will determine who will lead our city for the next four years. It is imperative that you and everyone you know casts votes tomorrow.

Surprisingly Dishonest Campaign by Mayor Bloomberg

Mayor Bloomberg did not surprise us by spending more than $100 million in his efforts to secure a 3rd term for himself. He did surprise use by focusing nearly all of the $100 million attempting to tarnish the reputation of Bill Thompson, a man Mayor Bloomberg said was the best Comptroller in the history of New York City.

As the New York Times pointed out days ago, "Both the mayor and the comptroller have misrepresented each other’s records, but Mr. Bloomberg has taken the biggest liberties."

Bloomberg's one hundred million dollars of campaign spending focused on spreading false information about his opponent is consistent with the cynical manner in which he fought to reverse two referenda creating term limits; the racially discriminatory manner that he has promoted the abuse of stop-and-frisk tactics in minority communities; his refusal to accept food stamp assistance from the federal government; his regressive taxation obsession; and his invocation of Detroit when asked if he was comfortable with Rudy Giuliani's race-baiting campaign rhetoric of Bloomberg's behalf.

Voting Imperative

As we say at every election:

It has long been a cliché to many, but it is a truth that one cannot ignore. For many of us, our ancestors died to give us the right to vote. To squander that vote or to relinquish it because of inconvenience would be obscene, whether we have faith that our individual votes will shape the outcomes of elections or not. Because the 15th Amendment (1870) and the Voting Rights Act (1965) were victories secured by the blood of our ancestors, every election day is a sacred day, and we show our respect for those who made our votes possible by going to the polls and by encouraging everyone we know to join us in that sacred activity - tomorrow and every election day of any sort.

NYPD DUI Cases

Two recent incidents involve NYPD officers allegedly driving while intoxicated at the time that they killed New Yorkers with their vehicles. In both cases, the officer in question refused to take a breathalyzer test. In both cases it was at least 5 hours before a warrant could be obtained and blood drawn for a blood-alcohol test.

It seems that reform is needed in this area. Killers with familiarity with the rules may be able to escape successful prosecution through the use of the refusal to take a breathalyzer test and allowing the passage of many hours to allow the body to eliminate the evidence of the alcohol from the bloodstream. NYPD officers should not be able to kill our fellow New Yorkers without being held accountable, and the system for testing the blood-alcohol level of a killer should be streamlined to hold killers accountable.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bloomberg Plays the Race Card as Rangel's Chief Tormentor Exemplifies Hypocrisy

Last week, Mayor Bloomberg played the race card in his fight to remain Mayor of our nation's largest and most wonderful city, and the Republicans' chief attack dog against Charlie Rangel was found to have failed to disclose $300,000 of profits from sales of oil industry stock before his last re-election bid.

Bloomberg Plays the Race Card

The New York City Mayoral race hit a new low last week when Mayor Bloomberg chose to play the race card.

After tacitly supporting Rudy Giuliani's racially divisive approach to the campaign and after spending far too many hours in the presence of Giuliani, Bloomberg seemed to attempt to one-up Giuliani and demonstrate even greater racial divisiveness than Giuliani.

When Giuliani spoke last week in an white community that had supported him heavily in his mayoral campaigns, Giuliani stated that electing Bill Thompson would bring back the "wrong" leadership that led the city in the early 1990's - an obvious reference to the only Black mayor in the history of New York City. With Bill Thompson seeking to be the second Black Mayor in New York City History, Giuliani stated that his white audience will likely be too afraid of crime to walk outside if Thompson is elected. Giuliani's racially divisive remarks were criticized by many prominent New Yorkers, but Bloomberg failed to distance himself from Giuliani's remarks. Instead, he tried to prove his own racial solidarity with those who oppose the Black community in New York City.

Bloomberg, when asked why he had not distanced himself from Giuliani's comments, launched into an attack on Detroit. Detroit??????? Why is Bloomberg campaigning against Detroit? "When Bill Thompson ran Detroit . . . " Bob Herbert of the New York Times wrote about the Detroit reference:

Mr. Bloomberg has had many opportunities to disavow Mr. Giuliani’s remarks, to say that as a city we’re better than that, to repudiate (as he has before) the very idea that exploiting fear and division for political gain is acceptable in this great city. But he has chosen not to. He chose instead, later that same day, to raise the specter of one of the worst big-city tragedies in American history: Detroit, which was laid low by every ill you can imagine, including a catastrophic race riot in 1967. Detroit, said Mr. Bloomberg, “went from a great city with lots of good-paying jobs to a city that’s basically holding on for dear life.” Well, that’s true. But what’s that got to do with New York City, or this year’s mayoral election? New York is not an incipient Detroit. New York will not become Detroit if Mike Bloomberg is not re-elected.

The mayor disingenuously said that Detroit’s decline was more about economics than “some other things.” But anyone who knows the sad history of Detroit knows about those “other things.”

This had all the appearance of Mayor Bloomberg piggybacking on Giuliani’s fear-mongering. He picked the worst-case urban scenario available, a crime-ridden, destitute city from which most whites have long since fled, and offered it as a suggestion of what might be in store for New York, a thriving metropolis filled with people from virtually every ethnic group on the planet. Open a window, please. Some fresh air is in order.


Rangel's Chief Tormentor Exemplifies Hypocrisy

Last week, we learned that Texas Representative John Carter, the primary Republican attacker of Charlie Rangel, had failed to disclose $300,000 of profits from the sale of oil stocks. The hypocrisy problem is clear, but the story gets worse. The Lone Star Project website provides a great summary:

Unbridled Hypocrisy

What John Carter Said:
Carter’s complaint against Rangel centered on his failure to disclose profits on his personal financial disclosure. Carter has spent most of October bragging about his experience as a Judge and respect for the law and justice.
“I spent 20 years of my life in a courtroom making sure people followed the rules." (Fort Worth Star Telegram, October 9, 2009)
"Either this House repairs this damage, or the American people will have to replace this House." (Christian Science Monitor, October 8, 2009)
When asked about the looks he was getting from Rangel while he read his resolution, "I used to sentence people to death, and they’d glare at me” (Fort Worth Star Telegram, October 9, 2009)

What John Carter Did:
In 2006, Carter sold Exxon Mobile stock for just under $200,000 profit. He hid this profit from the public on his personal financial disclosure
In 2007, Carter sold Exxon Mobile stock for a profit just under $97,000. He hid this profit from the public on his personal financial disclosure.
On the bottom of his personal financial disclosure, Carter signed under the statement, “Any individual who knowingly and willfully falsifies…this report may be subject to civil penalties and criminal sanctions.”

What John Carter Needs to Do Now:
Given Carter’s background as a Judge and his clear understanding of House rules based on his relentless attack on Mr. Rangel, John Carter should:
Ask the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (Ethics Committee) to open an investigation of his actions.
Immediately make public ALL financial holdings and transactions with Exxon and all other financial relationships.
Issue an apology to Mr. Rangel and to both Republican and Democratic Members of the Ethics Committee for questioning their competency and their integrity.
Refrain from making any floor statements or other public statements that do not directly involve legislation affecting his district or the State of Texas.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Crunch Time In NYC Mayoral Race

With only two weeks remaining until election day, Thompson continues to surge while Mayor Bloomberg continues to throw mud in a cynical, hypocritical, and demagogic fashion. Bloomberg and Giuliani have been campaigning together in recent days despite Giuliani's record of racism, divisiveness, and his staunch support for George W. Bush in the most recent Presidential election.

Hypocrisy and Mud

Mayor Bloomberg has based his campaign on one major fabrication: that Bill Thompson "ran the school system" in New York City many years ago. He has supplemented that cynical attack with criticism of Thompson's record as New York City Comptroller. In the first instance, he knows that he is lying, yet he continues with the attacks. In the second instance, he is contradicting himself after recently proclaiming Thompson the best Comptroller in the history of New York City.

Bloomberg's Education Lies

Certainly I can’t recall a more negative effort here than the Bloomberg campaign. Even if one doesn’t feel that Mr. Thompson is the best man to run the city, he is hardly the incompetent corrupt machine pol that he is being portrayed as. Just the opposite.

He is a smart, decent fellow who has made significant civic contributions to his city. His service as Board of Education president, a thankless task, was admirable. It can be argued that Mr. Thompson’s tenure marked a high point in educational progress for our children.

Test scores were legitimately rising in those innocent days before “No Child Left Behind” mandates were driving the State Education Department to begin the disgraceful “dumbing down” of tests to gin up scores that we’ve seen in the last few years.

Mayor Bloomberg’s contention that under the old decentralized system of school boards, there was corruption and confusion is true, but up to a point. He neglects to mention the role of Mr. Thompson and the chancellor at the time, Rudy Crew, in winning a major overhaul of the system by the legislature that, in effect, ended the powers of the local boards over hiring and put the local boards under that Chancellor, far more of an educator than Mr. Bloomberg’s chancellor, Joel Klein.

Bloomberg's Praise of Thompson's Record

In 2007, Bloomberg stated that he believed that Thompson would be considered the best Comptroller in New York City.

The video of the statement is compelling. The words are transcribed below.
"Bill, you should know, has been Comptroller of the City of New York for the same length of time I have been Mayor, and I think he will go down in history as maybe the best Comptroller the City has ever had."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bloomberg Endorses Giuliani For Governor

Mayor Bloomberg used the first Mayoral Debate tonight to endorse Rudy Giuliani for Governor of New York State.

Giuliani for Governor????

Mayor Bloomberg seems to be working overtime to prove that he should not be allowed to continue as Mayor. Tonight, he endorsed Giuliani for Governor.

Rudy Giuliani was extra careful to antagonize and disrespect communities of color when he was Mayor of NYC. Bloomberg wanted to make sure that New Yorkers who are opposed to progress for people of color know that Bloomberg is operating in solidarity with them. Giuliani is symbolic of ugly leadership.

If one was looking for an excuse to fight with all of one's might to defeat Mike Bloomberg, Bloomberg now has provided a clear motivational target - Bloomberg's billions of dollars are going to be combined with his political power as Mayor of NYC to elect Rudy Giuliani Governor of the State of New York.

It is time for us all to unite behind the only person in a position to defeat Mayor Bloomberg. Bill Thompson is that person.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Obama to New York: Drop Bloomberg

Despite intense lobbying by Mayor Bloomberg, President Obama endorsed Mayor Bloomberg's opponent, Bill Thompson, in the up coming Mayoral election in NYC.

Obama Backs Thompson

After being very publicly opposed to the campaign of David Paterson, New York's first ever African American Governor, and Paterson's efforts to remain Governor after the 2010 elections, President Obama embraced an African American candidate in New York last week. The President announced last week that he was supporting Bill Thompson for Mayor of New York City, though Bloomberg had invested heavily in efforts to convince the President to remain neutral (or to endorse Bloomberg) in the race for Mayor of New York City.

Plot Thickens

For months, the Press has tried to convince us that the race for Mayor of New York City is over. They have attempted to force us to believe that a billionaire Mayor (irrespective of the failure of his economic policies, irrespective of the brazen nature his violations of the civil rights of the residents of color in his city, and irrespective of the fact that he cynically engineered a re-writing of the city charter in order to allow his latest candidacy) is undefeatable by a tradition public servant candidate.

But, the Mayor has faltered. His poll numbers have not been capable of rising above the magical 50% level. Traditionally, an incumbent who cannot get above 50% is considered to be in tremendous trouble when facing only one major opponent. The Press seems to have re-written the rules for Bloomberg the way that Bloomberg re-wrote the city charter to suit his personal political goals.

The Mayor also failed to wrap up the union endorsements. Union support was the key determinant of the outcomes of the most recent run-off races for NYC Comptroller and NYC Public Advocate. In the Mayoral race, the union support behind Thompson is solidifying and becoming more aggressive, more vocal, more creative, and more impactful every day.

Bloomberg's Ambition Assumes NYC Voters Are Not Smart

Those of us who vote in this city are smart. We are not falling for Bloomberg's distortions and fabrications. We are not comfortable with the blatant racism of the stop-and-frisk record that Bloomberg has established (more stops than under any previous Mayor and people of color representing 90% of the stops; a database of all stopped individuals is maintained by the NYPD, and even though the NYPD generally avoids stopping white New Yorkers, the white New Yorkers who are stopped are far more likely to possess illegal guns or drugs than the people of color who are stopped). We are not in favor of Mayor Bloomberg's decision to refuse federal help in the form of food stamps for New Yorkers in need (Bloomberg's ideological opposition to "welfare" caused him to refuse the support offered by the White House). We are not satisfied with the Mayor's regressive taxation approach and the resulting record unemployment in our city.

Those of us who vote cast our votes for Obama in 2008 are eager to vote the way Obama wants us to vote in 2009. The President supports Bill Thompson, and so do we.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Liu and de Blasio Win Run-Offs; 2nd Ave Subway Frustration

This week, John Liu and Bill de Blasio were victorious in their run-off races for Comptroller and Public Advocate, respectively. Separately, frustration builds regarding the slow pace of the construction of the 2nd Avenue Subway.

Liu Defeats Yassky in Comptroller Race

John Liu defeated David Yassky in the run-off from Comptroller by a significant 12% margin, making Liu the first Asian-American elected to city-wide office in New York City and making Liu one of the highest ranking Asian-American elected officials in the United States. Yassky's support from the New York Times, the New York Daily News, and US Senator Chuck Schumer was not enough to mount a major challenge to the solid union support enjoyed by John Liu.

There is a lesson in this election contest. The editorial boards have less impact on results than organized support on the ground. Yassky and Liu were excellent candidates who went toe to toe in the race and saw the organized support of organized labor carry Liu to a clear victory.

de Blasio Trounces Green in the Public Advocate Run-Off

Bill de Blasio defeated Mark Green by an eye-popping 26%. Unlike the Comptroller race that demonstrated the influence of organized labor in a low-turnout race, the Public Advocate race was a demonstration of the groundswell of support for the idea of anointing a new leader in New York City and a consensus against bringing back a leader from the past.

Mark Green had served as Public Advocate during the Giuliani years and never overcame the image of a politician who does not realize that he should have left the stage and not returned. Green ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in 1998. He sought the state Attorney General's office unsuccessfully in 2006, and he had been unsuccessful as a candidate for other offices.

de Blasio is also one of the few members of the New York City Council who vigorously opposed Mayor Bloomberg's successful efforts to change the City Charter to allow himself to seek a third consecutive term as the Mayor of New York City. Several City Council members who supported the Mayor's term limits change were defeated, and de Blasio's opposition of the Mayor undoubtedly helped him. Green had offered to allow Giuliani to serve longer than allowed by the City Charter after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, and that contrasted with de Blasio's opposition to Bloomberg in a manner than benefited de Blasio in the primary.

We look forward to seeing how de Blasio and Liu perform in the years ahead.

Second Avenue Subway

With delays and budget over-runs continuing to mount on the 2nd Avenue Subway project, the MTA's Inspector General has initiated an investigation of the project.

Manhattan will benefit from the 2nd Avenue Subway project. It has received significant financial support from the federal government, and our local efforts must be carefully managed to ensure that further delays and and excess costs are avoided.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ravitch to the Rescue After Obama Falters

Last week, we learned that President Obama has pressured Governor Paterson to step aside in the 2010 gubernatorial race. We also learned that Richard Ravitch is now the Lieutenant Governor of New York State. If we had heard the good news on Ravitch earlier, perhaps we never would have heard the bad news on Obama.

Ravitch to the Rescue

In July, Governor Paterson appointed Ravitch as Lieutenant Governor to fill the seat that Paterson himself vacated to become Governor when Elliot Spitzer resigned in disgrace. At the time, the New York State legislature was in turmoil because the State Senate was evenly split between supporters of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. A Lieutenant Governor would have provided a tie-breaking vote.

But, many disputed the constitutionality of the appointment of Ravitch, a public servant with a spotless reputation and a history of achievement. The lowest courts rejected the appointment as unconstitutional. No Lieutenant Governor had ever been appointed despite the fact that the position had been unoccupied at times.

Last week, the highest court in New York State sided with Paterson and declared that Ravitch's appointment was constitutional. We are confident that Ravitch will serve with distinction.

Perhaps if the support of the courts for the Ravitch appointment had come earlier, the President would have saved himself and Governor Paterson a great deal of embarrassment.

Obama Falters

President Obama has pressured Governor Paterson to drop out of the 2010 race to retain his post at the helm of the executive branch of the government in New York State.

If the timing had been different, President Obama could have appointed Governor Paterson to a high post at the national level and allowed the new Lt. Governor to become the new Governor in New York State. Instead, such an appointment was unrealistic until last week because there was no Lt. Governor. The succession plan for New York State was unclear, and Governor Paterson would have been viewed as irresponsible if he had vacated the Governor's post without clarity regarding who would lead New York State thereafter.

The clumsy and public manner of President Obama's efforts to undermine Governor Paterson seem so unlike President Obama. Obama is a master poker player who keeps his cards close to his vest. One wonders whether President Obama is already losing his touch or if there is something (or someone) outside of team Obama driving the White House attacks on Paterson.

The most recent editorial in the Amsterdam News expressed the views of many. Paterson should refuse to follow the guidance of the President. He should run in 2010. His best revenge will be victory.
And what an unfortunate spectacle for our community to see: its first African-American president asking only the third Black governor since Reconstruction and the first African-American governor in the State of New York's history to quit without a fight.

A governor who, in a short and difficult time, has been able to end the dreaded Rockefeller Laws, get our famously unruly Legislature to settle on a budget on time, and lead the MTA out of its most serious financial crisis in recent memory. And on Tuesday the Court of Appeals ruled that Paterson pick Richard Ravitch could indeed serve as lieutenant governor. The former MTA chief had been handpicked by Governor Paterson, leading to some Republicans to file a legal challenge.

They begin to throw out “If Giuliani runs,” trying to scare folks into saying that Paterson cannot take him on. But does Giuliani want to run? Does he want to be governor? Does he want to deal with the headache of a crazy Legislature? Does he want to do the work? Does Giuliani want to do the fundraising and campaigning so soon after his crushing and humiliating defeat in last year’s presidential race? And is his donor base ready to invest in him after his poor showing when he was presumed to be the front-runner in that race as well? And has he even paid off his debts that he ran up for his presidential bid?We don’t know what the mercurial Giuliani has on his mind. And we do not expect to know until after the November elections. So why ask Paterson to bow out now? Why not wait until November, or longer, to make any kind of decision? Giuliani does pose a clear challenge to the governor. He plays to the worst instincts of white New Yorkers. From his days of inciting a police riot against David Dinkins before he became mayor, to ignoring Black and Hispanic New York City residents and criticizing Black male victims of police brutality, it was an ugly reign of terror for people of color during his eight years here in New York City. But there is a catch-22 or a “chicken before the egg” scenario here. If Paterson stays in the race, does Giuliani get in? If Giuliani gets into the race, does Paterson get out? If Paterson gets out and Giuliani stays out, Andrew Cuomo sweeps Rick Lazio—but anyone could mop the floor with Lazio—so, in that case, why doesn’t Paterson stay in? The whole house of cards is built upon the assumption that Giuliani will run. That is not a foregone conclusion, far from it. And maybe this time New Yorkers will rise above the demagogue tactics of the visceral former mayor. Getting Paterson out would create a free ride for Cuomo to the governor’s mansion, unopposed by a person of color in a primary. And the Cuomo family has not earned that. Make Andrew Cuomo earn our votes. Don’t let him be anointed. And Gov. Paterson, stay in the race. You can still win.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Republican Bloomberg Steers NYC to Record Unemployment

We learned days ago that New York City's unemployment rate leaped last month to 10.3%, the highest level since 1993. Mayor Bloomberg, who is running as a Republican for a third term as Mayor, has had a year to begin a turn-around of the NYC economy, but he has instead dug a deeper hole.

False Claims of Success

Mayor Bloomberg called a press conference in May to announce how successful his leadership had been in revitalizing the NYC economy that Bloomberg's leadership had plunged into a deep recession. But, a reporter asked if the fact that the economy was in excellent shape suggested that Mayor Bloomberg's re-writing of the City Charter in order to extend his own tenure as Mayor was now unnecessary. Mayor Bloomberg responded by ending the press conference and calling the reporter "a disgrace." Perhaps the Mayor should be a harsher critic of himself.

The economy is not improving; it is getting worse because of poor leadership. Bloomberg rejected federal help in the form of food stamps, because he wants to continue to push work requirements on those receiving aid. The federal government recognized that New York City's job opportunities had diminished and offered additional food stamp dollars to those unable to find work. Bloomberg chose to send the aid back to Washington, DC and express his solidarity with those who do not wish to see low income New Yorkers without jobs benefit from federal support. Bloomberg raised taxes on low income New Yorkers through the regressive sales tax increases that he preferred over income tax increases that would have been progressive. Now, we are all suffering because of his failures.

Record Unemployment

In one year, New York City's unemployment rose from 5.9% to 10.3%, a stunning rise in a statistic that is often a good barometer of the state of the local economy. New York City's level of unemployment is higher than the national level and higher than the level of unemployment across the state of New York. While these stats stunned many observers, one could expect bad news to result of Mayor Bloomberg's poor policy-making.

Yet, Bloomberg Claims We Need Him

Mayor Bloomberg claims that we need him to dig us out of the crisis that he has intensified. He says that we need to re-write the election rules, ignore his race-based hiring practices at the Fire Department of New York and his race-based policing practices (and record pace of stop-and-frisk activity in communities of color), and ignore the raises he provided for his own senior staff members in the middle of this recession. We need to do all of this in order to have a stronger economy, according to the Mayor. But, the Mayor's policies have brought us a horrible economy.

Bill Thompson is running for Mayor with a progressive agenda, and a progressive agenda is what is needed in NYC at this time.

It seems that the best way to improve the local New York City economy is to remember Bloomberg's blunders and replace him with another leader when we all vote in November.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Primary Voting Tomorrow in NYC

Please ensure that everyone you know votes tomorrow in the NYC primary elections. We made the same statement in November 2008, and we repeat it now.

Our Endorsements

We endorsed Cy Vance for Manhattan District Attorney last month, and we are eager to see Bill Thompson win tomorrow's primary election and take on Mayor Bloomberg in November.
With Thompson's likely victory tomorrow, we can only hope that the media will be ready to end its infatuation with Mayor Bloomberg and start to hold him accountable for his administration's policies and failures.

Voting Is A Sacred Activity

As we pointed out previously, voting is a sacred activity:

It has long been a cliché to many, but it is a truth that one cannot ignore. For many of us, our ancestors died to give us the right to vote. To squander that vote or to relinquish it because of inconvenience would be obscene, whether we have faith that our individual votes will shape the outcomes of elections or not. Because the 15th Amendment (1870) and the Voting Rights Act (1965) were victories secured by the blood of our ancestors, every election day is a sacred day, and we show our respect for those who made our votes possible by going to the polls and by encouraging everyone we know to join us in that sacred activity - tomorrow and every election day of any sort.


Remember the Importance of the NYC Mayor

As we have also stated previously, Bloomberg should not be seeking a third term. He should be apologizing for his failed leadership in his second term. In NYC's system, the Mayor has far more power than all other institutions of city government combined. The NYC Mayor's power is far greater than that of all other big city mayors. So, when someone uses that power to abuse NYC's residents, that person must not be permitted to continue that abuse. As we stated in July of this year:

Mayor Bloomberg has surpassed his previous demonstrations of arrogance with his granting of retroactive raises to nearly 7,000 members of his staff. In essence, the Mayor's team will receive bonuses representing the additional earnings they would have received if the raises had begun 16 months ago. They get a 4% raise for all of last year and a 4.16% raise for all of this year. As absurd as the bonuses and raises appear on their face, a broader context illuminates how unacceptable this latest mayoral maneuver really is.

1) The Mayor demanded that City Council change the City Charter to allow him to seek a third consecutive term, despite two referenda in which the people of New York City voted overwhelmingly to disallow Mayors to serve for three consecutive terms. In arguing for the third term, Bloomberg has suggested that the intense economic and fiscal crisis facing New York City requires keeping Bloomberg in power (ignoring the fact that Bloomberg got us into this mess). Bloomberg's answer to the economic and fiscal crisis is to give huge bonuses and raises to his staff. Now, at least one of the Deputy Mayors will have a higher salary than the salary provided to the Mayor's office by law. The third term seems unwise.

2) At Manhattan Viewpoint, we have been highly critical of the Mayor's decision to use sales taxes to balance the city's budget. The Mayor's obsession with protecting high earners from taxation has resulted in a painfully regressive budgetary approach that relies on poor people to pay more taxes to fill in the budget gaps created by the
economic downturn and by the Mayor's unfortunate reliance on Wall Street
revenues during his first 1.5 terms. It is ultra-shameful that a mayor who so
thoroughly believes in regressive taxation would be so generous to his own
senior staff during a fiscal crisis. He is demanding that poor people pay more
so that he can pay his top advisers more.

3) Bloomberg is setting a record pace for stopping and frisking people of color. He has given the crime of "walking while black" the official City Hall stamp of approval, and his administration is retaining all of the personal information of those that are stopped. 90% of those stopped are non-white even though whites who are stopped are 2.5 times more likely to have illegal substances or weapons in their possession. Yet, Bloomberg will stop and frisk more people of color this year than any mayor has ever stopped in New York City.

4) The Mayor chose to reject federal aid from the Obama administration because it would have expanded the availability of food stamps to more poor people.Bloomberg
is demonstrating the type of leadership that suggests he should have had only
one term and should certainly not attempt to impose a third term on our great
city.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Unshackling Child Birth for Incarcerated Women

New York State decided late last month to end the practice or chaining pregnant incarcerated women to their hospital beds during childbirth. The practice, called "shackling", has been outlawed by the New York State Legislature and Governor Paterson. New York is the sixth state in the US to outlaw shackling.

Health and Safety During Childbirth

New Yorkers should be proud that New York is one of the first states in the United States to outlaw the shackling of pregnant women during childbirth.

Until now, pregnant women were routinely shackled during childbirth. Advocates for incarcerated women, such as the Correctional Association of New York, have led the fight for the safety of these women and the elimination of the shackling activity throughout the state. The Correctional Association interviewed women who were shackled during childbirth and has allowed all of us to read there stories. The American Public Health Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Medical Women’s Association, and American College of Nurse Midwives all supported the imposition of restrictions on shackling pregnant women in prison.

While some may object to the ability of incarcerated women to give birth without being chained to their beds, we should all remember that 83% of women in New York State prisons are non-violent offenders, that 84% of women in New York State prisons are first-time offenders, and that 75% of women in prison were victims of domestic violence. These women are, with few exceptions, not a threat to themselves, their babies, or to the hospital personnel. The new law allows for precautions to be taken in special circumstances and recognizes that exceptions are necessary.

Childbirth is traumatic and stressful without shackles; it is not a realistic opportunity for escape or to attack others physically. In the states that have eliminated the practice of shackling women during childbirth, there have been no escape attempts.

Paterson's Support

Governor Paterson attended a rally in mid-August in support of the legislation that outlawed the shackling of women during childbirth. His willingness to lead and his eagerness to address the needs of a somewhat unpopular constituency (incarcerated women and their unborn children) deserve special praise. Whatever his faults, Governor Paterson has proven to be a consistent and valuable force for addressing longstanding problems in our state's criminal justice system. He signed the legislation repealing the Rockefeller Drug Laws, and he rallied for and signed the legislation that enhances the likelihood of successful childbirth for incarcerated women and their children. The achievements should not go unnoticed.

Monday, August 31, 2009

New York's Abuse of Incarcerated Youth Exposed

The US Justice Department issued a report this month stating that "[s]taff at [New York's Juvenile Detention Facilities] routinely used uncontrolled, unsafe applications of force, departing from generally accepted standards" when dealing with incarcerated youth. Now, the attention turns to Governor Paterson and whether his efforts to fix these problems will be bold enough and quick enough to prevent the abuse from harming more of our children.

Horrifying Abuses

The level of abuse suffered by our children in the four juvenile detention facilities of New York State is beyond anything that we should accept in a modern society, and the abuse reflects the lack of oversight in the system as well as the lack of respect for the rights of those who are incarcerated.

There was one year in one facility (a facility that housed only 50 youth) in which 698 individual "takedowns" (throwing children to the ground and holding them down in a face-down position) of youth occurred, and 123 injuries were sustained by those youth. These facilities house children ages 16 and under and are the wrong places for staff who enjoy inflicting pain on others.

One 15 year old boy from the Bronx was killed in a takedown in 2006, and while his death was ruled a homicide, a grand jury chose not to indict those that killed the boy.

Reasons given by the staff for the takedowns were as flimsy as the taking of an extra cookie during a meal, glaring at a detention facility guard, laughing, and placing sugar in one's own orange juice. The takedown that resulted from the glaring incident caused a broken collar bone.

Suggested Response from the New York Daily News

The New York Daily News offered very specific suggestions with regard to how our State should respond to the new awareness of just how poorly our juvenile detention center. At Manhattan Viewpoint, we hope that Governor Paterson and the State Legislature in Albany will follow the sentiments of the New York Daily News and begin to address the shocking abuses occurring regularly in our juvenile facilities. As the New York Daily News stated on August 28:

The abuses administered routinely in the state's youth lockups are beyond shocking. They are shamefully entrenched and demand an immediate fix. Before one more inmate has his or her teeth knocked out, before one more mentally ill teen is left in his or her own wastes:

Family Court judges must refuse to send additional teenagers into these snakepits.
Governor Paterson must transfer the facilities' 250 residents into secure, therapeutic custody elsewhere.
Gladys Carrion, the well-meaning commissioner of the Office of Children and Family Services, must make sweeping reforms - or get out.
The Legislature must empower Carrion or her successor to upgrade and train personnel and to fire those who use excessive force on residents.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Derek Jeter on MVP Pace in 2009


After last night's superb performance, it is clear that part-time Manhattan resident, Derek Jeter, deserves serious consideration for the 2009 Most Valuable Player Award in the American League.

In suggesting that the Yankee captain be the 2009 MVP, we mean no disrespect to the tremendous performance of Mark Teixeira in 2009 or to any other 2009 performance. But, we do believe that Derek Jeter is on a pace that should be recognized as the 2009 MVP performance by the Baseball Writers Association of America when they cast their votes in October of this year.

2006 Award

In 2006, Derek Jeter lost the MVP vote in one of the closest votes in history. His numbers were astronomical. He batted .343 and had a .417 on-base percentage. He had 14 home runs and 97 RBIs. Minnesota Twins slugger Justin Morneau won the 2006 award with a .321 batting average, 34 home runs and 130 RBIs. Both the Yankees and the Twins made the playoffs, and the fact that the Twins came from far behind in their division at the end of the season while Morneau rasied his batting average by nearly 100 points seemed to influence some of the voters. Both performances were worthy of an MVP award, but Morneau was chosen.

2008 Award

In 2008, Dustin Pedroia won the AL MVP award. He batted .326 and had a .376 on-base percentage. He had 17 home runs and 83 RBIs. While Pedroia's 2008 performance was quite clearly inferior to Derek Jeter's 2006 performance, Pedroia was a deserving MVP. He was a leader on a team that made the playoffs, and he was the offensive spark of that team. Interestingly, Pedroia was a middle-infielder when he won the award in 2008, and his offensive numbers reflected his position at the top of the batting order where RBIs don't come as easily as they do to those who hit in the middle of the line up.

2009 - Yankee Captain Deserving of Consideration

This year, after leading off last night's game with a home run off of Boston Red Sox ace Josh Beckett and collecting a second key hit later in the game, Derek Jeter is hitting .332 with an on-base percentage of .394. He already has 16 home runs with just slightly less than a quarter of the season to play, and he has 57 RBIs as a leadoff hitter. At this pace, the home runs could end up being greater than 20 and the RBIs could surpass Pedroia's 2008 mark of 83. In essence, Derek Jeter is surpassing Pedroia's 2008 performance, even if he is failing to equal his nearly unimaginable 2006 performance.

The most likely competition for the award comes, ironically, from Derek Jeter's own teammate Mark Teixiera, the 2006 MVP award winner Justin Morneau, and Morneau's teammate, catcher Joe Mauer. Two Yankees and two Twins. In politics, one might often be able to pick a running mate or run as a slate. Such arrangements are not available to these players, and often two players from the same team cost each other votes in the process. Mauer was the only player who had a better batting average than Derek Jeter in 2006, and Morneau was the only player with more MVP votes. However, there is reason to believe that the 2009 voting with disfavor Mauer and Morneau.

Team Success a Factor?

With rare exceptions, MVPs are chosen from teams that make the playoffs. There is a theory that is not shared by all but which is quite powerful and suggests that a player cannot be ultra valuable if his efforts fail to put his team in the playoffs. The old Ralph Kiner story about being told by the owner of his team that though Kiner's season had been spectacular, as a last place team, they could not have finished in a worse position if Kiner had played for another team. "We'll finish last without you." If the regular season is actually a competition for the right to play in the post-season, teams that don't make the post-season can be viewed as failures and their best performers ineligible to be the most valuable players in the entire league, given their apparent lack of value to their own teams.

Individual performances have, on occasion, been so much better than all other performances in the league for a given year that even a player on a last place team has won the MVP award. Alex Rodriguez did it in 2003, and Andre Dawson accomplished the same feat in 1987. These two last-place MVPs had performances that were so outstanding that the lack of success of their teams was overlooked by the Baseball Writers Association of America. But, most writers and most followers of Major League baseball believe that the most outstanding performance of a player on a team that earns a spot in the playoffs is the best definition of the MVP in the absence of a truly unimaginably outstanding performance by a non-playoff bound player, such as the 2003 and 1987 experiences. We should note that ever since 1995, four teams have made the playoffs in each league, and MVPs have almost uniformly come from those four teams. In previous eras, as few as one team from each league would enter the post season, and often, writers would pick the MVP from that one team. In 1934, Yankee Lou Gehrig won the Triple Crown and lost the MVP vote to a player from the team that won the pennant. In 1942 and 1947, the same thing happened to Ted Williams. In 1985, Don Mattingly won the American League MVP when the Yankees missed winning their division by just 2 games.

So, a more refined theory of MVP eligibility might be that 1) any player who far surpasses the performance of all other players is appropriate to consider for MVP; 2) in the absence of one dominant candidate, players whose teams either made the playoffs or came very close to making the playoffs should have an advantage in the MVP balloting.

In 2009, Morneau and Mauer are playing for a team that seems highly unlikely to make the playoffs. The Minnesota Twins have a losing record, and they are in third place in the weakest division in the league. While the Twins may experience a resurgence that changes their status, their current trajectory would leave them out of the playoffs and likely leave both Morneau and Mauer out of the MVP race.

Jeter for MVP

Of the teams that are likely to make the playoffs, the Yankees have the only legitimate MVP candidates. Teixiera and Jeter. Jeter has 21 stolen bases and plays the most difficult defensive position on the baseball field. We know that Derek himself would say that he cares little for individual awards and is focused only on winning a 27th championship for the New York Yankees. He is correct to have that attitude, but the Baseball Writers Association of America should take note: If the season ended today - just one day after Yankee captain Derek Jeter hit the first pitch of the game over the right field fence at Fenway Park in a huge game for the New York Yankees - the sometimes Manhattan resident Derek Jeter would have to be the most deserving. That is the easiest endorsement decision we've ever had at Manhattan Viewpoint.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bill Thompson's Momentum in NYC Mayor's Race

After cutting Mayor Bloomberg's lead in half in late July polls versus late June polls, Bill Thompson got more good news last week when our city's most prominent and largest municipal union, DC 37, endorsed him for Mayor.

Thompson's July Surge

In June, polls showed Bloomberg with a 22 point lead over New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson in the Mayor's race. The gap of 54% to 32% was thought by many to be more likely to widen than to shrink as Mayor Bloomberg's limitless financial resources would drown out any efforts by Thompson to cut into the Bloomberg lead.

But, in July, the polls showed a shift. Suddenly, the Bloomberg lead was only 10 points, and the support for the two candidates stood at 47 to 37 - a race worth watching. Separately, another poll showed that while nearly three quarters of New York City residents believe that Mayor Bloomberg will win re-election to a third term, a majority of New York City residents would like to see a new mayor in City Hall in 2010.

There is some evidence that Bloomberg's enormous campaign spending is hurting his campaign rather than helping it. While Bloomberg has spent approximately $40 million running for re-election, Thompson has spent less than $2 million challenging him. That is a 20 to 1 advantage. In fact, Bloomberg is spending at a pace that is nearly double the record-setting pace he established when he was elected in 2005. Yet, the polls show that Bloomberg's spending is driving down his own popularity and boosting the support of his opponent, Bill Thompson.

At Manhattan Viewpoint, we called on Mayor Bloomberg to limit his own spending. We have also criticized Mayor Bloomberg's racialized policing and his record setting pace of stop and frisks of people of color in New York City, his shifting of gifted and talented public school locations from communities of color to white communities, as well as his underhanded and dishonest (though successful) effort to change the City Charter to allow him to run for a third term, and his love affair with regressive taxation. Perhaps, New York City voters are starting to see what we at Manhattan Viewpoint have been seeing from our headquarters in Upper Manhattan.

DC 37 Endorsement of Thompson Suggests Thompson Can Win in November

DC 37, New York City's largest municipal union, endorsed Bill Thompson for Mayor last week. We then witnessed Bloomberg launch into attacks on the union as irresponsible, while he also accused Bill Thompson of making irresponsible promises to the union. One of the union presidents had an explanation for why Bloomberg failed to get the support of DC 37.
"He's arrogant, too arrogant."

Arrogant, regressive, racially discriminatory, and declining in the polls - a naked emperor who is hoping that his beautiful robes can carry him through the November election.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cy Vance for Manhattan DA and Gillibrand Unrivaled

We support the sentiments expressed in the New York Daily News in its endorsement of Cy Vance in the race for the Democratic Party nomintion for Manhattan District Attorney, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand benefitted from the departure from the Senate race of the last remaining potential challenger for the Democratic nomination in the special election in 2010 for the seat Senator Gillibrand now holds.

Cy Vance for Manhattan DA

The New York Daily News endorsed Cy Vance for Manhattan DA yesterday, and Manhattan Viewpoint takes this opportunity to echo that endorsement.

In addition to the views and praise expressed with regard to Cy Vance in the New York Daily News, Manhattan Viewpoint acknowledges Cy Vance's expressed interest in developing a stronger and more impactful presence for the Manhattan District Attorney's office in Upper Manhattan. Cy Vance's views on the death penalty, his commitment to extending the District Attorney's office to help improve lives in Upper Manhattan, his support from the retiring Manhattan District Attorney, Robert Morgenthau, and his record as a prosecutor make him the candidate that Manhattan Viewpoint hopes that you will support in the September 15 primary.
Vance stands well above his rivals in fitness to extend the excellence the city has come to take for granted during Morgenthau's 35 years at the helm. . . Vance built a distinguished career, both as a Morgenthau assistant and as a nationally known big-case defense lawyer. His experience ranges from homicide to white-collar crime to complex corporate litigation. Thanks to the depth of his background, Vance shows a greater understanding than do his two challengers of the missions of the Manhattan district attorney, as they have been elevated by Morgenthau. Those start with prosecution of violent crime and extend to policing Wall Street, busting corrupt politicians, even to stopping the illicit flow of money and weapons technology to regimes like Iran. Vance would build on strengths and address weaknesses. Among them, he would beef up quality-of-life enforcement by fixing a dysfunctional Criminal Court, maintain the DA's gold-standard rackets bureau and create a program to head off recidivism by newly released inmates.

Rivals . . . can't match Vance.

Gillibrand Unrivaled

US Representative Carolyn Maloney, who represents Manhattan's Upper East Side in the US House of Representatives, decided last week not to challenge Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat that Gillibrand now holds.

At Manhattan Viewpoint, we are relieved. A race between these two great women would have drained them both and left Manhattan less well represented on Capitol Hill, whichever woman had emerged victorious. Maloney's decision to drop out of the race gives us the possibility of having both of these superb public servants representing us for many years to come. Because Carolyn Maloney was the last potential Democratic challenger to Senator Gillibrand, we are now able to use all of our resources on 2010 to defeat Republicans rather than for Democrats to battle against each other.

Our association with Kirsten Gillibrand goes back more than a decade, and we are pleased to see her pathway cleared of potential Democratic challengers. We also acknowledge that Carolyn Maloney is more than qualified to be a US Senator and that we are fortunate to have her in the Manhattan delegation to the US House. Representative Maloney's decision last week to exit the Senate race strengthens the Democratic Party, strengthens Manhattan, and makes us even more proud of the high quality of Manhattan's elected representatives in Washington, DC.