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.

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