Monday, July 13, 2009

Another Bloomberg Blunder - And - Albany Reloaded

Three days ago, Mayor Bloomberg announced retroactive raises for his senior staff members, demonstrating once again his unlimited arrogance.

Separately, New York State Senator Pedro Espada came full circle in his turncoat / traitor odyssey and rejoined the Democratic Party to give the Democrats a 32 to 30 majority in the New York State Senate. As part of his double-cross of the Republicans, Espada will be elevated to the role of Majority Leader in the New York State Senate. So, it seems that crime does pay after all.

Bloomberg's Retroactive Raises

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.

Albany Reloaded

Pedro Espada came roaring back into the Democratic Party late last week. Given his weaknesses and challenges, no one should be pleased that he is now the New York State Senate Majority Leader. While the Democrats have waited about 70 years for the opportunity to set the public agenda for New York State, relying on the loyalty and leadership of Pedro Espada is not at all consistent with the progress we must make in our state. He is more likely to be indicted or declared ineligible to hold the office to which he was elected than to turn out to be a leader that we should admire. For now, Espada's latest move puts the Democrats in charge of the New York State Senate. Given the Democratic control over the State Assembly and the Governor's Mansion, the Democrats are now responsible for making tangible improvements and have no excuses and no one to blame but themselves if they fail.

Lt. Governor Controversy

Governor Paterson appointed a Lt. Governor last week despite guidance of the New York State Attorney General and from decades of precedent that suggested that he did not have that power. While we are not qualified at Manhattan Viewpoint to challenge the Governor or the Attorney General on the proper interpretation of the New York State Constitution, we certainly are qualified to state the obvious: a Lt. Governor chosen under circumstances that many credible people see as unconstitutional will be bogged down in litigation and will not be legitimized until all legal challenges to his appointment have been defeated.

The Governor's choice, Richard Ravitch is an excellent choice in terms of a person whose intellect and integrity are unquestioned. We just may not get the opportunity to benefit from the services of this superb public servant for weeks and months while we wait for the legal process to come to some conclusions about the legality of the appointment.


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