Monday, December 27, 2010

NYS - Losing 2 Seats and Gaining Respect

Last week, we learned that New York State is expected to lose two US House seats starting with the 2012 elections. But we also saw New York's junior Senator demonstrate her powerhouse legislative skill.

Losing Seats

New York State will lose two of its 29 US House seats starting with the 2012 elections based on the 2010 Census. Congressional seats are apportioned amongst the 50 states based on the data from the census that occurs every 10 years. Though New York State gained population during the period from 2000 to 2010, its growth of less than 3% was too slow to keep up with the nearly 10% growth in the US Population since 2000. There are 435 seats in the US House of Representatives because of Federal law, and the faster growing states gain seats while slower growing and shrinking states lose seats. As the US population has moved westward and southward, Nevada, Florida, and other beneficiaries of population movement have gained seats while New York and New Jersey have lost seats. New York's slow growth will result in the loss of two seats in the 2012 elections.

Starting in 2012, Florida will have as many seats (and, therefore, electoral votes) as New York State. In fact, New York State has not had as few as 27 seats since 1810, when only 1 million people lived in New York State.

The New York State Legislature will draw new lines for US House districts in 2011. Some other states use commissions, but New York's process is fully political. The apparently-Republican-controlled State Senate, the Democratic-controlled Assembly, and the Democratic Governor will need to agree on the US House lines. It will likely be an ugly and frustrating process as the two parties attempt to gain an advantage versus each other while shrinking our Congressional delegation.

In Manhattan, where our population has grown, we hope to essentially maintain our current map while the two seats are lost in upstate New York, which was the source of the lost population and slow growth in New York that created the need to reduce our number of US House seats. But, by losing two seats, our State Legislature may be tempted to tamper with the district maps in Manhattan and in the other parts of the New York City metro area. Manhattan residents should work together to discourage major changes to our district maps.

Charlie Rangel's Upper Manhattan seat is historic and must be protected. It has only been help by two people, and it is the first "Black" district to emerge on the national stage. Charlie Rangel and his predecessor, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., have been the most productive and successful legislators in the history of our country. Adam Clayton Powell was the first Black member of Congress from New York State. The people of Upper Manhattan should pro-actively come together to push the State Legislature to make as few changes as possible to Charlie Rangel's historic district in the upcoming redistricting. We cannot imagine a higher priority in the next few months, given that the new district lines will likely be in place for the next 10 years.

Gillibrand Takes Control

Our US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand closed out 2010 with a flurry of stunning and gratifying victories.

First, she led the fight to repeal "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and allow Americans of any sexual orientation to serve their country in our military. It was an achievement that has waited for six decades since initially being proposed, and it was the end of a 15 year period of living with the bizarre "lie to me" rule embodied in "Don't Ask Don't Tell".

Without taking a victory lap or getting any rest, Senator Gillibrand then led a successful fight to provide health benefits for the heroic first-responders who put themselves in harm's way to seek survivors and begin the recovery after the tragic terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The New York Times devoted its front page to praising Senator Gillibrand for her leadership, her determination, and her stamina.

For us, none of this was a surprise. In fact, we're tempted to say that we told you so, but we'll leave it for others to point out that Manhattan Viewpoint expressed unequivocal enthusiasm for Senator Gillibrand's appointment to the US Senate.

Happy New Year

This year, 2010, has had its ups and its downs. Senator Gillibrand made sure it ended with some ups. We wish you a healthy and prosperous 2011, where the ups outweigh the downs by a substantial margin.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bad News for Black Men in NYC

Last week was a week of bad news for Black men in New York City. The Village Voice detailed the City's commitment to prevent Black men from obtaining a fair chance to join the Fire Department of New York, and the Community Service Society showed us that only 25% of young Black men in New York City are employed.

FDNY - A Closer Look

The Village Voice showed us last week how the leadership of our city has invested heavily in preventing the 90% white Fire Department of New York from becoming more representative of the racial make-up of our city.

Though the article in the Village Voice focuses initially on the plight of Black would-be firefighters who scored very well on the FDNY entrance exam but who cannot join the FDNY because New York City refuses to accept any of the options for accepting new firefighters put forward by a federal judge, the truth of the intensity of New York City's commitment to racial discrimination in hiring at the FDNY is made clear.

The entrance exam has a history of resulting in higher scores for white applicants than for Black or for Hispanic applicants. The test also has no relationship to being an effective firefighter.

Because the test results have favored white applicants without any relationship to the jobs being filled, the test has been declared by the federal courts to violate the US Constitution.

The federal courts have offered the City multiple options for hiring new firefighters without discriminating based on race, but New York City has refused to accept any of the options provided.

Though 5% of the FDNY was Black in 1971, it is now less than 4% Black, and the 90% figure for white representation in the FDNY compares to approximately 35% white population in our city.

As we have stated in the past, Mayor Bloomberg has demonstrated an obsession with finding ways to discriminate against people of color in New York City and has essentially excluded people of color from his administration.

If we are going to make any progress in moving away from racial discrimination as the primary organizing principal of New York City, we'll need a new Mayor.

Only 25% of Young Black Men in NYC Are Employed

The Community Service Society has issued a new report examining unemployment in NYC, and it has found a troubling trend. During the current economic downturn, Black men have been the hardest hit demographic in terms of lost employment.

Unfortunately, young Black men now have only a 1 in 4 chance in being employed in NYC.

That horrifying statistic nearly matches the horrifying 28% of NYC Black males who graduate from high school.

Our city is failing to educate its young Black men, and those Black men are suffering in the job market.

Perhaps our city will start to show the type of dedication to helping Black males that is has shown to keeping them out of the FDNY, excluding them from the city administration, or stopping and frisking them in record numbers in a humiliating display of the abuse of power permitted by our city when the victims are Black members of our community.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Injustice Grows in NYC

Those accused of misdemeanors in NYC spend 15 days in jail, even if they are innocent, because they often cannot not afford bail. Meanwhile, arrest and summons quotas are angering police officers, and a union head for cab drivers calls for racial profiling against Black and Hispanic riders.

Bail and Jail

The ugly reality of NYC's criminal justice system is that defendants accused of misdemeanors spend an average of more than 15 days in jail despite having been convicted of no crime at all. Moreover, many of those accused will plead guilty in order to end their ordeal in jail despite being innocent.

Prosecutors are able to create tremendous leverage for themselves against defendants through the bail system. The accusations of marijuana possession, shoplifting, jumping turnstiles, and other misdemeanors are turned into automatic jail sentences by the bail system. In nearly 20,000 cases in 2008, defendants suffered time in jail when bail was set at $1,000 or less, but the defendant could not afford to post bail. Eighty-seven percent of those given bail of $1,000 or less failed to post bail, and the average time in jail for such a defendant was nearly 16 days. The sad reality of crime and punishment in NYC is that 15 to 16 days in jail in the built-in sentence for the simple accusation of a misdemeanor for a person with little means. The pressure of 15 to 16 days in jail, even for a completely innocent defendant, gives prosecutors the ability to demand a guilty plea in exchange for no jail time. The power and leverage is entirely in the hands of the prosecutors, and some of them appear to be abusing that power.

Why plead guilty? By pleading guilty, often the defendant's sentence will include no jail time. Even if innocent, pleading guilty gives the defendant 15 to 16 days of liberty that fighting the case would not have provided. It is impossible to know how many defendants plead guilty for this reason alone, but we can guess that the number is significant, because we know that the quotas imposed by the NYPD on its police force cause officers to arrest innocent people.

NYPD Quotas Meet Resistance from Police Themselves

In a sign that the quota system within the NYPD is completely out of control, police officers are rebelling against the system and speaking to reporters about their frustration.

In the 79th Precinct in Brooklyn, officers are openly attacking the quota system. They are planning a day-long summons boycott to make their feelings known.

How did it come to this? Officers despise crime and criminals. Officers want criminals punished. Yet, the NYPD has asked our city's officers to punish non-criminals to such a great extent that the officers are fighting back.

We have addressed many times the horrors of the race-based system of stop-and-frisk activity brought to our city by Mayor Bloomberg. The immoral and ugly practice of stopping Black and Hispanic New Yorkers, harassing them, humiliating them, and abusing them in the name of crime reduction continues despite so many voices in opposition.

Beyond stop-and-frisk, the quota system attacks all races and both genders. It undermines the integrity of our law enforcement officials by forcing them to fabricate criminal activity and lie in summons documents. If we are trying to eliminate "bad apples" in the NYPD, the quota system takes good apples and asks them to behave badly.

We applaud the officers of the 79th Precinct in Brooklyn for attempting to regain their moral authority and oppose the abuse of the people of Brooklyn by the NYPD. We only wish that Mayor Bloomberg's arrogance were mitigated to an extent that would allow him to hear the voices of the good apples in the NYPD.

Racial Profiling By Taxi Drivers

Last week, Fernando Mateo, President of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, reacted to an attack on a livery cab driver by an apparently Hispanic attacker by stating that taxi drivers should use race as a guide for whom they agree to accept as passengers.

Driving a taxi is a dangerous job, and no one should have anything but respect for the challenges represented by that way of life.

But, for a leader of a union to call for racial profiling against Black and Hispanic passengers is as backward as anything that we have heard in recent years. It is already very difficult for a Black or Hispanic would-be passenger to get a taxi in NYC if there are other potential passengers nearby. Taxi drivers have a well-known record of by-passing Black and Hispanic would-be passengers for other passengers. They don't need any encouragement to leave Black and Hispanic people waiting by the side of the road.

One of the hidden costs of being Black or Hispanic in NYC is the additional time it takes to get a taxi.

A union leader should be aware that criminal behavior is not race-based, and he should not encourage his union members to abuse Black and Hispanic New Yorkers because of his own ignorance about crime. Let us hope that Fernando Mateo is replaced by a more suitable leader in short order.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Roosevelt Island Tramway Returns

The Roosevelt Island Tramway, one of the most pleasant modes of travel in our city, has returned.


Roosevelt Island sits between Manhattan and Queens in the East River and was, for many years, only accessible via an elevator inserted on the bridge between Manhattan and Queens. In 1957, an automobile route to Roosevelt Island from Manhattan and Queens was completed, but no convenient public transportation route was available.

As delays mounted for the creation of a subway route to Roosevelt Island, the Roosevelt Island Tramway began in 1976 as a temporary measure to serve commuters until the subway route was completed. For nearly a decade after its construction, the Roosevelt Island Tramway was the only aerial commuter tramway in the United States. There are only two other such aerial commuter routes in service today. The subway was not completed until 1990, and the Roosevelt Island Tramway had become an indispensable part of the transportation fabric of our city by that time.

The Tramway was even featured in Spiderman plot lines.

The Roosevelt Island Tramway transported two million people every year and lasted for 34 years before requiring replacement this year (in 2006, commuters were trapped for hours in a disabled gondola on the Tramway, highlighting the need for an upgraded system).

The Upgrade

The Roosevelt Island Tramway reopened last week after a $25 million upgrade.

The gondolas are now independent of each other, improving safety and flexibility. The windows are larger, and the gondolas now have screens inside displaying weather and news.

The Tramway ride is the best deal in our city. The cost of a ride on the Roosevelt Island Tramway is the same as the cost of a subway ride or a bus ride - $2.25, and the ride is both efficient and entertaining. Whether in the daytime or in the night, the Roosevelt Island Tramway provides breathtaking views of Manhattan in a comfortable cabin - similar to the very expensive experiences one can enjoy at the Empire State Building or the Top of the Rock.

You should be encouraged to enjoy a trip to and from Roosevelt Island on the Tramway, even if only for the views; it is public transportation at its best.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mayor Bloomberg - Not Cathie Black - Should Withdraw

New York City's problem is its Mayor - not its School Chancellor.

Mayoral Control

In 2002, the New York State Legislature agreed to Mayoral control of the New York City school system. Under Mayor Bloomberg's predecessor, there was no chance that the New York State Legislature would have permitted such a change in policy. Where Giuliani was considered a loose cannon, racist, and anti-education, Bloomberg entered the arena with a reputation as a successful, moderate businessman, a life-long Democrat who had run as a Republican out of necessity, and a non-racist leader. Of course, Bloomberg turned out to be a fraud. He ran the New York City economy into the worst condition in many generations; used racial discrimination by the police force in its law enforcement, within the fire department, within his own hiring, within his selection of gifted and talented school locations, and in his "Detroit" messaging during his campaign for a third term as Mayor; and thoroughly supported Republicans - even suggesting that Rudy Giuliani should be our state's Governor.

Bloomberg's fraud brought Mayoral control, but we are now eight years into the experiment without seeing real benefits. In fact, with only 28% of Black males graduating from high school in New York City, we are actually destroying lives, limiting our residents to reduced expectations, and undermining generations. Bloomberg is not just an unsuccessful "education Mayor." He is nearly criminal in the way he has damaged the lives of young New Yorkers by refusing to provide high quality education.

Ironically, Upper Manhattan's Congressional representative, Charlie Rangel, is facing censure in the US House for sloppy bookkeeping that everyone agrees did not enrich him and did not hurt anyone. Bloomberg asked for control of the schools and then provided a system where 72% of Black males do not receive even a high school diploma in a world where a college degree is increasingly the minimum requirement for a middle-class life. It would be far more reasonable for Bloomberg to pay a $1 billion fine and serve a few years in prison for how he is affecting the lives of young New Yorkers than it is for the US House to censure war hero Charlie Rangel for poor bookkeeping.

Bloomberg made the creation of new charter schools the centerpiece of his education agenda in New York City, but the charter schools provided a poorer education (on average) than the failing traditional schools that the Mayor has refused to improve. Charter schools have fewer poor children, fewer English language learners, and fewer special needs students, but those advantages aren't translating into better performance for students.

Mayor Bloomberg's favorite charter school used $1.3 million for marketing over two years, when it had only 900 seats to fill - more than $1,000 per seat on marketing when traditional schools only have that amount to spend each year on actual students. It was a cynical effort to have large numbers of parents apply for seats that were unavailable in order to create excuses for establishing larger numbers of charter schools.

Our problem has not been the Department of Education. The problem has been the Mayor. We have MAYORAL control - not Chancelloral control. If we have any hope of improving our city's schools, we need a new mayor.

The Opposition to Cathie Black

There is intense opposition to the appointment of Cathie Black as the next NYC school Chancellor, and some leaders in our city are suggesting that they will seek court orders to block the appointment of Cathie Black as Chancellor. We do not benefit from such an approach.

The Mayor will run the schools the way he chooses, irrespective of the Chancellor. The Mayor was elected in a legitimate election. His performance has been highly disappointing, and voters are expressing "buyers' remorse." But, Bloomberg is the Mayor.

There is value in seeking the resignation of the Mayor, but there is very little value in fighting with the Mayor over his choice for Chancellor. Such a fight will give him an excuse for his failures and undermine the concept of Mayoral control for future Mayors who may have the management talent and values to be effective leaders of our city and of our schools. In the end, the Mayor runs the schools, and the Mayor should select his/her team to run the schools.

Cathie Black's lack of credentials is a symptom of the combination of Mayoral control and the election of a poor leader as Mayor. We need to challenge ourselves to elect better leaders, but we should allow those we elect as Mayor to select an education team without lawsuit delays.

Let us remember Cathie Black as we think about who will lead our city after the 2013 elections. We have made a mistake by permitting Bloomberg to be elected three times. Let us learn from our mistakes.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rangel is Black; NYPD is Blue

Congressman Charlie Rangel will face a vote on censure after Thanksgiving despite the fact that his conduct does not warrant a censure based on any reasonable understanding of history. The NYPD acknowledged last week that it has failed to provide translators to non-English speakers.

Charlie Rangel Is Black

Last week, the US House of Representatives Ethics Committee voted 9 to 1 to seek to censure Charlie Rangel, who has represented Harlem for 40 years with dignity and excellence. Congressman Rangel is a war hero and a role model, yet, the Ethics Committee voted to seek to censure him while admitting that they had no evidence that he had ever done anything to enrich himself.

No one has been censured by the US House since 1983 - 27 years ago. The most recent censures were as a result of sexual contact between members of Congress and teenage high-school students serving as Congressional pages under the care of Congress.

Nonetheless, the Ethics Committee is seeking the censure.

The Ethics Committee's approach is troubling in its unfairness. In recent years, members of Congress have worked to find jobs for the husbands of their mistresses and gone unpunished. Members have solicited sex in airport bathrooms and gone unpunished. There is a Republican member of Congress who made exactly the same financial disclosure mistake that Charlie Rangel made, but he has not even faced an ethics investigation. There are many other examples of conduct that is far more troubling than that of Charlie Rangel, but the members engaging in that conduct face no punishment and rarely face investigation.

Nonetheless, the Ethics Committee is seeking censure.

We have commented that the Ethics Committee treats African American lawmakers very differently from other lawmakers. Charlie Rangel is African American, and those who have engaged in the same conduct without punishment are not African American. We have also commented that Charlie Rangel's conduct - self-reported bookkeeping errors that harmed no one, did not help Charlie Rangel, and which were corrected - should not result in any punishment by the House. The voters in Upper Manhattan have re-elected Charlie Rangel with 80% of the vote, and in doing so, we gave our opinion of the quality of his service as well as our willingness to forgive sloppy bookkeeping.

Charlie Rangel is Black and has been Black for 80 years. He should know by now that the rules of Black people are different than for other people. It is a sad lesson that all Black people must grudgingly accept - we are subject to greater scrutiny and held to higher standards than other people. This reality is not acceptable, but it is the reality. Having a Black-sounding name makes one twice as likely to be rejected for a job opportunity before the first interview. The net worth of the median Black household is one-fifteenth that of the median white household. All Black people should remember that when we demonstrate the same weaknesses and deficiencies as other people, we will be punished where others are not and punished more severely than others.

White members of Congress are censured for having sex with teenagers under the care of Congress, and a Black member of Congress faces censure for bookkeeping errors that other members of Congress have committed during the same time period.

It is not fair, but it is the reality. Charlie Rangel is Exhibit A of this unfairness.

NYPD Language Barrier

An audit discovered that the NYPD has only 12 certified Spanish-speaking interpreters for our vast city of over 1 million Spanish speakers. To make matters worse, because the NYPD has only 12 interpreters, officers routinely ask those accused of domestic violence to interpret the words of the alleged victims. They often use the children of alleged victims as translators as well. Common sense would suggest that we need a better system, but the NYPD's record on stop-and-frisk tells us that common sense is not the governing principal of NYPD policy.

This most recent revelation confirms that the leadership of the NYPD should resign and that we need a new Mayor as well. The current team will not fix these problems because they don't see the abuse of communities of color by the NYPD as a problem.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Ethics Trap

Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General-elect Eric Schneiderman risk creating an unacceptable distraction by focusing on creating new prosecutors for Albany's legislators. Our state's problem is poor policy making rather than criminal behavior.

The Rangel Example

With his ethics trial beginning today, Congressman Charlie Rangel's challenges in the US House give us a great example of the risks of a runaway focus on "ethics" that ignores or even conflicts with common sense efforts to create the best public policy. Congressman Rangel has represented Upper Manhattan for 40 years and, after being accused of ethics violations, received 80% of the vote in the November elections. He did not face a serious challenge in the primaries or in the general election because the people of Upper Manhattan know his record of achievement, loyalty, and integrity.

Charlie Rangel has been accused of what amount to bookkeeping errors and paperwork mistakes. None of the mistakes enriched the Congressman, and the errors were largely sefl-reported and corrected long ago. One of the key attacks on Rangel is that he used his office stationary to seek donations for City College in Upper Manhattan. Irrespective of the ethics rules, anyone who asks for donations to be made to a wonderful organization that serves our city the way that City College does should be praised - the type of letterhead doesn't change the underlying effort, which is to promote increased and improved educational opportunities for young adults in our city.

Because of the ethics attacks, Congressman Rangel stepped down as the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, one of the most powerful posts in Congress. Therefore, the flimsy accusations based on self-reported and already-corrected poor bookkeeping and stationary mistakes resulted in an actual reduction in the quality and the competence of the leadership of one of the most important institutions in our country, the House Ways and Means Committee.

Congressman Rangel's bookkeeping errors did not result in job losses, weakened military strength, or poorer healthcare infrastructure in our country, but the accusations related to the bookkeeping errors actually reduced our ability as a country to attack our biggest challenges.

With the deficit continuing to grow and job growth failing to ignite, we need Charlie Rangel's leadership more than ever, and we should not lose it because his political opponents take advantage of his revelations to them of bookkeeping errors.

Albany Needs Leadership Rather Than Prosecutions

Cuomo and Schneiderman have announced that they plan to push for more prosecutions of New York State legislators. There is a big risk in such an approach.

In Albany, we have the most dysfunctional legislature in the United States. Our problem is ineffective policy-making, concentration of power, and a lack of honest debate regarding how to make our state the best it can be. There is undoubtedly criminal activity and unethical activity in the New York State government, but that criminality and lack of ethics is NOT the priority dysfunction that we must address.

Our state has massive budget deficits and spends more per capita on nearly every service that the average state in the US spends, yet we do not have a realistic opportunity to address our challenges because of the dysfunctional nature of our legislature. There is too little transparency and too much influence from interest groups instead of from the broader public interest.

Prosecuting legislators is NOT going to fix our state. In fact, a focus on finding misbehavior and criminality in Albany could distract our leaders from the monumental compromises them must forge to bring our state into the next decade on solid footing.

The Rangel experience should be a warning to us. We can dig deeply into the lives of public officials and then make mountains out of the mole hills of mistakes and failures we find. But, if we are to succeed, we will need to focus our attention on finding solutions to our problems rather than finding personal faults in those whom we've sent to Albany to lead us to job growth, improved education, and better, longer, happier lives.

Let us step back and acknowledge that we do not condone criminal or unethical behavior, but we also do not condone prosecutions as an alternative to effective governing. We have real work to do. Let us get to work.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Democrats Sweep NY Statewide Races - NY State Senate in Doubt

All of the statewide races in New York were won by Democrats, but the control of the New York State Senate remains in doubt.

Democratic Statewide Sweep

Democrats won all of the statewide electoral contests in New York in 2010. Andrew Cuomo won the race for Governor easily, and with similar ease, Senators Gillibrand and Schumer were sent back to the US Senate.

The tighter races for Attorney General and State Comptroller were also won by Democrats with Eric Schneiderman, a Manhattan State Senator, winning the Attorney General race by more than ten percentage points and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli retaining his role by just two percentage points.

The top of the ticket set the tone. The Republican nominee for Governor, Carl Paladino, started out the post-primary campaign with poll numbers that suggested a tight race despite his low name recognition and lack of experience in elected office. But, as voters became aware of Paladino's love of racist and sexist emails, his unstable behavior on the campaign trail, and his aggressive anti-homosexual rhetoric, his poll numbers dropped, undermining the entire Republican statewide slate and handing a sweep to the Democrats.

State Senator and now Attorney General-elect Eric Schneiderman appeared to be trailing in the polls on the eve of the election but won the election by a wide margin. Schneiderman's victory can be attributed to both the Paladino problem faced by the Republicans and to the intense collaboration between the Schneiderman campaign and the Cuomo campaign.

DiNapoli did not have the support of Cuomo and found himself in the tightest of all of the statewide races, but the Democrat DiNapoli was victorious nonetheless.

State Senate Control In Doubt

The Democrats controlled the New York State Senate by only two seats (32 to 30) in the last session. Thus far in the 2010 election, the Democrats have won 29 seats, and the Republicans have won 30 seats. There are three seats that are still too close to call. In two of the three, Republicans lead by hundreds of votes with thousands of absentee votes yet to be counted. In one of the three, the math is reversed - the Democrat leads by hundreds.

The Democrats need to win two of the three disputed seats in order to have an equal 31 - 31 split of the State Senate seats and retain control through the tie-breaking votes of the state's Lt. Governor (a Democrat elected along with Cuomo).

If the the Republicans win more than one of the three seats in dispute, they become the leaders of the New York State Senate.

Redistricting on the Horizon

All of the Congressional district boundaries, all of the Assembly boundaries, and all of the State Senate boundaries will be redrawn in 2011 based on the 2010 Census by the New York State Legislature. If the Democrats retain the State Senate, their control of the Governor's Mansion and both houses of the State Legislature would provide the Democratic Party an unchecked role in redrawing all of the lines for the elections in our state of the next ten years.

If the Republicans gain control of the State Senate, the Republicans will have the leverage to push for lines that provide them with an advantage in future State Senate elections (and perhaps in some other races as well).

Therefore, the party that wins the three disputed State Senate elections may use those victories to reshape our state's electoral map to reinforce its control of the Senate and improve its ability to win US House and State Assembly seats as well.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Vote Tomorrow and Check Out Football at Yankee Stadium

Do not forget to vote tomorrow for Charlie Rangel, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Eric Schneiderman and all of the other Democrats. Also, consider visiting the Bronx on November 20 to see Notre Dame face Army at Yankee Stadium for the first time since 1969.

Vote Early and Often

As with every election, we encourage you to vote tomorrow. Not voting would be an insult to all of those who died to give us the right to vote.

I visited the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee in October and was reminded of the high price paid by so many good people to allow us to vote. In 1964, three civil rights workers were killed in Philadelphia, Mississippi for trying to encourage Black adults to vote. It was not very long ago. Those deaths helped create the momentum for the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Long before the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th Century, many Americans began to face lynchings and terrorism when they dared to attempt to vote. Lynchings were quite common, and post cards and other souvenirs were routinely created to celebrate lynchings.

We are all in debt to those who suffered to provide us with the freedom to choose our local, state, and national leaders, and we cannot permit ourselves to squander the rights they sacrificed to leave us as their legacy.

Our enthusiasm for the election of Charlie Rangel, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Eric Schneiderman is as strong as ever. We also look forward to victories for Andrew Cuomo and Thomas DiNapoli.

Above all, we look forward to seeing huge turnout in Upper Manhattan.

Football Comes to Yankee Stadium

On Saturday, November 20, Yankee Stadium will host the Notre Dame - Army college football game for the first time since 1969. Army is scheduled to play one game per season at Yankee Stadium for the next several years.

It will be the first football game played at the "new" Yankee Stadium.

In December, Yankee Stadium will host the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl.

Bringing these high-profile college football contests to New York City helps our local economy and could pave the way for even bigger sports opportunities for our city. We'll join in the celebration of the ultimate sporting event, the 2014 Super Bowl in New Jersey, but we also need to host annual sporting events to develop sustainable, long-term business opportunities for our local businesses.

The November 20, 2010 Notre Dame-Army game is a great start.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Democrats Lead in All of the Statewide Races

While pundits predict that the 2010 election cycle will be disastrous for Democrats, here in New York State, every statewide race appears headed to a Democratic victory.

Race for Governor

Republican Carl Paladino was polling competitively with Democrat Andrew Cuomo immediately after the September primaries, but Cuomo now has an enormous lead in the polls, presumably driven by Paladino's bizarre behavior since the primaries and an increased focus on his bizarre behavior in the past. Paladino has attacked same-sex couples and gay pride with unusual venom for a Northeastern candidate in the 21st Century, and he has an ugly history of sending racist and sexist emails.

Paladino is such a bad candidate that he might hurt other Republicans in New York on election day, and he will likely motivate Democrats to vote in larger numbers than would have otherwise done so.

Comptroller Race

Republican Harry Wilson is a hedge fund millionaire who is staying close to New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in the polls. But, his close ties to hedge funds and his own lack of recent business success have made his campaign an uphill battle.

DiNapoli was installed by the New York State Legislature after scandals caused his predecessor to leave the office. Most business interests and many major newspapers have endorsed Wilson, but the polls show DiNapoli well positioned to remain our state's comptroller.

Attorney General Race

The closest race is the Attorney General race. Democratic State Senator Eric Schneiderman leads in the polls and was endorsed by Manhattan Viewpoint during his campaign for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General. Schneiderman has a proven record of working hard for Upper Manhattan and for people of color and would be a breath of fresh air as Attorney General.

Schneiderman's opponent, Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan, while doing well in the polls and benefiting from Bloomberg's endorsement, still trails Schneiderman and has had tremendous trouble telling the truth.

Other Races

US Senator Chuck Schumer and our friend US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand have huge leads in the polls against weak opponents.

Take Nothing For Granted

While the Democrats have leads in all of the Statewide races, the only poll that truly counts is the poll taken on election day. We must come out and vote in large numbers, not only to ensure that the best candidates are elected but also to send a message to all elected officials and other decision-makers that the people of Manhattan will come out aggressively to vote in every election and expect to have our voices heard in between elections.

Monday, October 18, 2010

NYPD Misconduct Remains Costly

In December 2009, we focused on the enormous costs NYC residents face as a result of NYPD misconduct. Last week, we learned that poor leadership is a key component of those high costs.

Misconduct and Rising Costs

As we discussed in December 2009, the NYPD misconduct record is both shameful and expensive.

Not only had the level of payouts in lawsuits related to NYPD misconduct risen every year of the Bloomberg mayoralty, but the level of payout had more than doubled from Bloomberg's first mayoral term to his second term, reaching a high of $120 million .

Back in November 2009, we learned that a Federal Judge in Brooklyn had confirmed what had long been speculated: The NYPD has a practice and a culture of falsely accusing innocent people of crimes and of testifying falsely under oath in court.

These two pieces of information were combined with Mayor Bloomberg's stubborn determination to set records for stop and frisking innocent people of color in our city to paint a picture of out of control and ugly leadership in law enforcement in our city.

Nearly a year later, the story doesn't seem to have improved.

NYC the Worst Major City In Terms of Costly Police Misconduct

Last week's information about the costs of NYPD misconduct are consistent with the disappointing statistics we discussed in December 2009 and reinforce the identifiable cause of the high costs as poor leadership.

Our city has paid out nearly $1 billion to victims of NYPD misconduct over the last ten years.

Adjusted for population, NYC paid out as much as any large city in the US over the last 10 years for its police, and yet NYC refuses to adopt an approach that will minimize the abuse of its residents by law enforcement.

That refusal makes NYC unique and demonstrates the cost of having a leader like Mayor Bloomberg who arrogantly promotes abuse of the residents of color in our city by his employees. Philadelphia is one-fifth of New York City's size but has only one-tenth as much of its cash paid out each year as a result of police misconduct. In Philadelphia, law enforcement personnel are tracked based on their performance and misconduct so that abusers are identified before they create enormous costs (in terms of settlement payments and lost judgments, pain and suffering, and lost credibility and trust for law enforcement). In NYC, not only do we refuse to take a pro-active approach and weed out abusive law enforcement personnel, we even refuse to take action after enormous settlement payments and judgments have been paid as a result of the abuse of the misconducts of particular law enforcement personnel.

In our city over just the last three years, one officer has resulted in more than $170,000 of payouts after four lawsuits, and a new lawsuit is pending. A detective has been sued six times, resulting in payouts of over $100,000, and one precinct in Brooklyn has been sued seven times and cost our city nearly $200,000 in payouts. New York City gets burned repeatedly by the same bad apples while Philadelphia weeds out its abusers. In New York City, our Mayor prefers to pay the cost of misconduct rather than working to minimize the abuse.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Manhattan-to-NJ Tunnel Should Proceed

Though New Jersey's Governor Christie appears to be reconsidering is decision to cancel the planned $8.7 billion tunnel between Manhattan and NJ, his initial opposition to the tunnel reminds us how important elections are.

Tunnel to NJ from Manhattan

The tunnel project is a classic example of how the public sector can improve the environment, improve our quality of life, and boost the economy all at the same time. Only the public sector can make these types of investments, and cancelling such an investment after it has begun wastes resources, undermines the firms that have ramped up their operations to work on the tunnel, and leads to uncertainty about other key public works projects with a New Jersey connection.

Governor Christie has admitted that his planned cancellation would be costly, but he has stated that the $8.7 billion price tag might prove to be as much as $2 billion more than planned. Christie is on solid ground in suggesting that cost overruns and delays might be ahead for the tunnel project. The 2nd Avenue Subway project in Manhattan has experienced maddening levels of delays in the midst of rising costs and economically damaging disruptions of business activities along 2nd Avenue. But, Christie's cancellation creates major costs and produces no benefits.


As Governor Christie reconsiders his decision, I hope that he rethinks the benefits of the tunnel project. For NYC and for NJ, the tunnel will allow for more effective mass transit options, thereby reducing environmental pollution in our region and improving the lives of commuters. The environmental and quality of life improvements will come after the economic benefits of the thousands of jobs that will be created at a time in the economy when job creation is the missing ingredient we seek to right our proverbial ship.

Manhattan's economic, quality of life, and evironmental benefits would be cancelled by the Christie cancellation, and such a move would be shameful and unacceptable..

Let us hope that Governor Christie comes to a better decision with the benefit of time.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Bloomberg's Charter Schools Underperform Traditional Schools

Last week, we learned that New York City's charter schools received lower grades on their "report cards" than traditional public schools received.

Poor Quality

We have highlighted the fact that only 28% of black male students in New York City graduate from high school. We have also criticized the Mayor for attempting to fix the public school system through charter schools.

Our city's public school system is not meeting the needs of our city's children, and, ironically, the Mayor's solution, charter schools, is thus far more a part of problem than a part of the solution.

While there are many high performing charter schools, the average charter school in New York City is doing a poorer job educating our city's children than the average traditional public school. This reality is particularly shocking when combined with the fact that charter school students are from higher income families, are less likely to have a first language other than English, and are less likely to require special education.

"Success" Academy

Mayor Bloomberg's favorite charter schools are Eva Moskowitz's Success Academy schools, but journalists have revealed the low priority that Success Academy places on educating our city's children.

Success Academy spent $1.3 million in two years on marketing to families to increase the number of applicants to its schools. But, there were only 900 spots available. In a disgusting misuse of funds, Mayor Bloomberg's favorite charter effort looked to have the largest possible number of disappointed families in its "lottery" events in which the Success Academy's students were selected. The large number of disappointed families was then used to justify the creation of more charter schools for Success Academy.

The $1.3mm that was used to promote the Success Academy charter school brand rather than to educate children reflects the priorities that are causing charter schools to fall behind traditional charter schools in terms of educating children.

Bad Grades for Charters

On average, charter schools received a grade of C+, primarily based on test scores. But, traditional schools did far better on average, receiving a B (not a B-, which would have only been one step better than charter schools).

We are long overdue for a re-examination of our city's charter schools and our Mayor's approach to them. If charter schools are going to educate children even more poorly than traditional public schools and are going to waste resources promoting themselves instead of educating children, we need to demand that the Mayor shift away from counting on charter schools to mask his failures in the educational arena and toward real accountability - not just teacher accountability but rather accountability at every level right up to and including the Mayor himself.

Monday, September 27, 2010

NYC Subway Frustration

Last weekend provided us with an opportunity to experience the frustrations of the investments being made in our city's subway system.

2nd Avenue Subway Delays Continue

Though the 2nd Avenue Subway project is already years behind schedule and $1 billion over budget, new disappoints have emerged.

Early this month, we learned that new cost overruns and delays were being blamed on the need to move the plumbing and utilities under the private buildings along 2nd Avenue. One wonders how this moving of utilities could have been unanticipated.

The project is now expected to be completed in 2018, a full two years later than the original plan from just three years ago.

A year ago, at the urging of Manhattan Borough President, Scott Stringer, the MTA's Inspector General launched a probe into the problems we've seen in the 2nd Avenue Subway project. The Inspector General has written to the Manhattan Borough President and outlined the challenges that have resulted in the delays and additional costs. The MTA's mismanagement of the project has played a large role in the project's problems.

We hope that the MTA will both improve its performance and hold its leadership accountable for their poor performance with regard to the 2nd Avenue Subway project. Every day of delay causes the real economic pain of the construction project to be extended, and the residents living along 2nd Avenue and the businesses located there deserve better performance.

Straphanger Delays

Our subway system is benefiting from investment, but we must suffer through the investment by enduring delays.

Last weekend, nearly every line of our city's subway system was facing delays as a result of "planned work" on the subway system.

Let us hope that the frustrations we endure because of "planned work" are worthwhile. Given the MTA's performance on the 2nd Avenue Subway, we should feel welcome to be suspicious of their simultaneous "planned work" on nearly every subway line.

With a gubernatorial election coming in New York State in November of this year, let us hope that the next Governor in our state will take a close look at the MTA and work to obtain improved performance and better leadership.

Yesterday, the New York Daily News gave us a look at the reviews of the MTA Chairman by respected New Yorkers. His grades are adequate, but the next Governor must demand better than adequate.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bloomberg Promotes Racial Discrimination

Last week, in a move that is infuriating, frightening, and sad, Mayor Bloomberg has chosen to hire no new firefighters this year in order to ensure that Black and Hispanic firefighters remain nearly non-existent within the Fire Department of New York.

Bloomberg Remains Obsessed with Racial Discrimination

In May of this year, we addressed the Mayor's obsession with racial discrimination.

We discussed the Mayor's refusal to end race-based policing. Though more than 90% of those stopped and frisked by New York City police are people of color, though 90% of those stopped are never accused of any crime, and though the small number of white individuals who are stopped are twice as likely as the people of color to be in possession of illegal guns or drugs, the Mayor continues unremorsefully with his record-setting stop-and-frisk pace.

He used obnoxious racial imagery in his re-election bid in 2009; he endorsed the concept of making Rudy Giuliani the Governor of the state of New York, and he pushed our city's gifted educational programs out of communities of color into white communities.

The Mayor also was shown to have the most white-dominated administration in a generation. Eighty percent of the senior staffers in the Bloomberg Administration are white, while other major cities have persons of color represented in percentages that are twice (or more than twice) as large as what we experience in New York City.

FDNY Racial Discrimination Continues

Despite extensive and persistent efforts, the FDNY remains a racially discriminatory institution. Our city's fire department is more than 90% white, but Mayor Bloomberg has fought the addition of people of color to our fire department. After a decade of very credible complaints about the racially discriminatory hiring practices at the FDNY, Mayor Bloomberg remained committed to the racially discriminatory approach he led from City Hall. Finally, the Bush Administration's US Justice Department sued New York City in order to combat the racial discrimination that Mayor Bloomberg stubbornly promoted. The Bush Administration won the law suit, but the Bloomberg Administration refused to end its discrimination.

The courts have attempted to guide the Bloomberg administration away from racial discrimination, but they have failed. A federal judge gave Mayor Bloomberg five options for hiring a class of FDNY rookies this year and ending the pattern of racial discrimination. Mayor Bloomberg rejected all five options and decided to hire no FDNY rookies this year.

We are not surprised, but we are saddened to see Mayor Bloomberg put our lives in jeopardy in order to keep the FDNY more than 90% white. We need the additional firefighters, and we need an end to the racial discrimination at the FDNY.

When residents of New York City are facing the terror of a fire, they never demand that only white fire fighters participate in the life saving work that is needed from the FDNY. In fact, our city's residents have not demonstrated Mayor Bloomberg's commitment to racial discrimination. Perhaps the people of our city will raise their voices and demand that our city bring on board the additional fire fighters that our city had planned to hire - and demand that the new hires not be selected in a manner designed to prevent persons of color from joining the FDNY.

Monday, September 13, 2010

NYPD Quota Outrage

Our primaries are tomorrow, and it is imperative that everyone eligible to vote in Manhattan casts a vote. As we prepare to vote, we are outraged by fresh evidence of NYPD enforcement of quotas for its officers.

Stop and Frisk Record Driven By Quotas

We have examined the grotesque record of Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly with regard to stop-and-frisk activity in our city. These recent years have resulted in record numbers of stop-and-frisks despite the ugly racial realities of those stop and frisks. Approximately 90% of those stop-and-frisks involve stopping people of color, and approximately 90% of those stopped are found to be entirely innocent. When White New Yorkers are stopped, they are twice as likley to be carrying illegal weapons or illegal drugs as the people of color that are stopped, yet the NYPD continues to concentrate its stops amongst people of color. Further, the NYPD's excuse for the stops is nearly always that the subject of the stop was acting in a suspicious manner.

When Governor Paterson was poised to outlaw the use of a database of the innocent victims of the Mayor's stop-and-frisk abuse, Commissioner Kelly stated that he needed to have a record of the movements of innocent people of color in NYC in order to solve the crimes that those people of color commit. Any decent Mayor would have fired the police commissioner for such a statement, but Mayor Bloomberg has continued to support Ray Kelly. Governor Paterson chose to use his common sense rather than follow the lead of Ray Kelly. The use of the database is now outlawed.

More recently, we have ample evidence that the NYPD is threatening its own police officers with punishment if they don't abuse enough people of color by stoping them and frisking them for "reasonable suspicion" of criminal activity.

Smoking Gun - Secret Recording

Secret recordings from a precinct in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn reveal that the NYPD does indeed use quotas to drive officer behavior. Quotas for police results are illegal under New York State law, the NYPD utilizes them nonetheless.

In a disgusting response that reminds us of the Ray Kelly response to Governor Paterson, the NYPD spokesman has stated that the recordings of the threats against officers who don't abuse people of color in NYC enough to satisfy their superiors are evidence of "good management" at the NYPD.

The racism and abuse of power represented on the tapes should outrage all of us, and the NYPD defense of their illegal quota practices reminds us that we need new leadership at the NYPD.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Artifical Turf on Trial in NYC

The City Limits September 2010 issue focuses on New York City's shift away from grass athletic fields in its parks to artificial turf. NYC spent $300 million over 12 years building artificial turf fields in its parks, and that investment may have been a mistake. We encourage you to purchase the September issue of City Limits and absorb the detailed investigation and analysis it contains.

Dangerous Conditions

City Limits begins with a look at the decaying conditions of the turf fields that NYC has installed in recent years. The $300 million was invested in approximately 200 fields, and approximately half of the fields analyzed by City Limits were found to be unacceptably dangerous because of a lack of maintenance. City Limits found "gaps, tears, and holes forming obvious trip hazards."

In Upper Manhattan, City Limits discovered that the artificial turf fields within Riverside Park were in good condition but that Eugene McCabe Field on the east side had a large sinkhole. On the Lower East Side of Manhattan, City Limits determined that Baruch Playground was in poor condition and was dangerous for those making use of it.

Purchaser of City Limits will benefit from an in-depth look at the impact of the lack of maintenance of NYC's artificial turf fields.

Lack of Resources

After reaching a high of nearly eight-tenths of one percent of the New York City budget in 1988, the spending on our parks has fallen now to its lowest point at approximately four-tenths of one percent. Our city spends less per capita on its parks than nearly all of the other largest cities in the United States, but our city actually has a larger percentage of its land devoted to parks than nearly all of those cities.

Also, while the headcount of the Parks Department is growing, it is still far below the levels it achieved in the 1980's, when the overall New York City budget was far smaller.

For our fields, both artificial and natural grass, we need a strong Parks Department with adequate resources and personnel. To the extent that the massive investment in artificial fields was driven by a desire to reduce annual maintenance costs, the calculations have proven to be flawed. Artificial fields needs greater maintenance and attention than natural grass, and we need to support an increase in the resources of the Parks Department in order to create safe and enjoyable public spaces for athletic activities, irrespective of whether the fields are made of grass or synthetic materials.

Artificial Turf's Health Risks

Even when an artificial field is properly maintained, it brings dangers that natural grass fields do not.

New York City uses a type of artificial turf that utilizes ground tires to simulate dirt and create a softer cushion in and around the artificial grass. But, those tires can contain dangerous chemicals and high levels of lead. Tires are not designed for children to lie on them or play with them for hours each week.

The artificial field in Upper Manhattan at Thomas Jefferson Park had to be removed because it had lead levels that exceeded the acceptable limits set by the EPA. In some parts of the field, the lead levels were four times higher than the EPA limit.

While New York City has declared that all of its artificial fields are safe (now that the Thomas Jefferson Park Field has been replaced), City Limits found that 23 fields had levels that exceed the limits set by California for its fields. There are also critics who claim that New York City's testing approach is flawed in that it averages the results of multiple samples from a given artificial field instead of accepting that "hot spots" of lead contamination that exceed the EPA limit need to be addressed even if the average lead level from multiple samples is within EPA guidelines.

Buy City Limits and Advocate for More Resources for the NYC Parks Department

We encourage you to purchase the September issue of City Limits and use the information to advocate for greater investment in our city's parks as well as a renewed appreciation for the superiority of natural green grass over synthetic field surfaces.

Monday, August 30, 2010

New York's Massive Sexual Abuse in Prisons and Low Graduation Rates in High Schools

Last week, the Justice Department released its report on sexual in our nation's prisons and jails. New York State emerged as the state with the most sexual abuse in its prisons and jails. Also, we learned this week that New York is the worst state in graduating its Black males from high school. Shockingly, in NYC, only 28% of Black males graduate from high school. NYC is amongst the worst performing major cities in terms of graduating Black males from high school.

New York State Fails High School

new report by the Schott Foundation teaches us that less than half of all Black males in the US graduate from high school and that New York State and New York City are amongst the worst performers in the country in terms of Black male graduation rates. In New York State, only 25% of Black males graduate, and New York City is only slightly better than the state-wide average with 28%. Our state's 25% graduation rate for black males is the worst of all of the 50 states.

We can predict a lack of success for the Black community in New York State when we see that New York State's Black males are entering adulthood without a high school diploma.

Our failure to graduate Black males from high school in New York State should make us think very seriously about our prisons. A lack of education often leads to criminal behavior, and those without formal educations are most easily incarcerated when they've committed no crime at all.

Unfortunately, our state's poor performance in high school graduation rates is matched by poor quality prisons.

Justice Department Report

The US Department of Justice released a report by its Bureau of Justice Statistics with extensive analysis of sexual abuse in prisons and jails in our country.

The study is based on an anonymous survey of those incarcerated in our country. The findings leave us disappointed and concerned.

More than four percent of those in prison and more than three percent of those in jail have suffered sexual abuse. The rate on inmate-on-inmate abuse was more than twice as high amongst women inmates than amongst men in prisons and jails. Guard-on-inmate sexual abuse is far more common than inmate-on-inmate sexual abuse, and female guards abusing male prisoners is the most common type of sexual abuse in our prisons and jails.

The study suggests that sexual abuse of prisoners tends to begin very early in an inmate's time in prison or in jail and that individuals who have been sexually abused before their incarceration are more likely to abused during the incarceration.

Unfortunately, New York State's prisoners are abused more than any other state's prisoners.

New York Prisons and Sexual Abuse

Unfortunately, the sexual abuse problems we see across the country are at their worst in New York State's prisons. The Justice Department report found that three of New York State's prisons and one county jail have high rates of guard-on-prisoner sexual abuse. Having four of the worst facilities in New York State makes New York State the worst in the country for sexual abuse of its incarcerated population.

Nearly seven percent of those incarcerated at Bayview Correctional Facility and Attica Correctional Facility reported being physically forced or threatened into engaging in sexual activity by prison guards. Ten percent of female inmates at Bayview and seven percent of male inmates at the Elmira Correctional facility were forced into performing sex acts by those running the facilities.

New York State's Black Males

This week presented an unflattering snapshot of the state of our state. We live in the worst state in the country for graduating Black males from high school, and we also live in the state that permits the largest amount of widespread abuse of its incarcerated population by those empowered to control our prisons. Both results are unacceptable, and both results show how our public policy approach in New York State leaves Black males at a disadvantage.

We will not be able to be reach our potential as a state until we cease to treat Black males as a disease to be eradicated. Right now, we refuse to offer educational opportunities to Black males in New York State, but we are very effective at sending Black males to prison to be sexual abused by employees of New York State.

Our next Governor must make improving the prospects for our state's Black males our state's top priority.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Schneiderman for Attorney General

With the Democratic Primary three weeks away, we endorse State Senator Eric Schneiderman for New York State Attorney General.

New York Times Concurs

Senator Schneiderman is the only Manhattan candidate seeking the Democratic nomination, and he is also the candidate with the best record of taking courageous and correct positions on the key issues facing our state. Not only has he taken the correct positions, he's been a leading advocate for the biggest achievements of the State Legislature, including the historic repeal of the Rockefeller Drug Laws.

The New York Times endorsed Senator Schneiderman for Attorney General late last week, and they did so for the right reasons.

"We endorse Senator Schneiderman in the Democratic primary because of his sound judgment, legal expertise, political independence, and long history of fighting for government reform."

Amsterdam News Adds Its Support

In a lengthy and detailed endorsement of Senator Schniederman, the Amsterdam News focused directly on how Schneiderman has consistently proven his ability to lead on the criminal justice issues that have been the focus of those of us who live in Upper Manhattan.

"While in the State Senate, Schneiderman has been instrumental in passing legislation that directly affects the lives of our community. From a Clinic Access Bill to the legislation to increase the minimum wage, to his most recent legislation focusing on how inmates in upstate penitentiaries are counted by the United States Census, he has been there fighting for us."

No candidate can claim to have a record of achievement as Attorney General; Schneiderman's competition has no one it who has held statewide office or been Attorney General. But, evidence of the independence, judgment, leadership, and sense of justice needed to become a successful Attorney General is abundant in Senator Schneiderman's record as an elected official. As the Amsterdam News observed, Senator Schneiderman has proven that he has the right skills and the right values to be successful as Attorney General. We look forward to seeing him in that role.

Rice is Wrong

Andrew Cuomo is supporting Kathleen Rice in the Democratic Primary, but she is not an acceptable candidate. She opposed the repeal of the Rockefeller drug laws; she refused to register as a Democrat, and she refused to vote in elections until recently. Her lack of leadership, her unwillingness to be a Democrat and her unwillingness to vote in elections demonstrate that she is not the best choice for the Democratic Party in 2010. Senator Eric Schneiderman is the best choice.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Islamic Center Remains At Center Stage

We discussed the planned Islamic Center for Lower Manhattan previously, and we return to it as President Obama and the Republican Party have unwittingly collaborated to legitimize the Islamic Center controversy as a national discussion topic. Also, we noticed (but were not surprised) that the New York Post is confused about Black entrepreneurs - perhaps the New York Post would say that all Black entrepreneurs look alike.

Obama Weighs In

President Obama decided to discuss his views with regard to the Islamic Center planned for Lower Manhattan, and his remarks left us more confused than enthused.

On Friday of last week, President Obama said that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. Mayor Bloomberg and other New York leaders cheered the support from the President for religious tolerance and interpreted his remarks as a bold declaration of support for the Islamic Center planned for Lower Manhattan.

However, the President clarified his remarks to indicate that he was not commenting on the wisdom of the project but simply endorsing freedom of religion.

The Republican Party has seized on the President's remarks about the Islamic Center to suggest that he is out-of-touch with America.

Let us hope that the President supports more than simple freedom of religion. He needs to support Manhattan as it leads our country to a better relationship with people of faith and people whose faith is Islam.

Manhattan Welcomes the Islamic Center

As we have stated:

"Manhattan NEEDS a mosque at Ground Zero. Manhattan needs to rededicate itself to embracing all faiths, finding ways to love each other's differences, and building bridges of understanding between different groups of people and among people from different parts of the world.

We need to learn to embrace (rather than simply tolerate) our brothers and sisters whose life experiences, beliefs, and values differ from ours. Anyone who comes to Manhattan to establish a peaceful community center is trying to make Manhattan better."

The New York Post Confuses Its Black Entrepreneurs

Yesterday, the New York Post attacked Desiree Rogers, the former White House social secretary for joining forces with Obama critic and BET founder Bob Johnson. But, Ms. Rogers accepted a position as CEO of Johnson Publishing, which has no connection to Bob Johnson.

Johnson Publishing, the publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines, was founded in 1942 by John H. Johnson and his wife Eunice W. Johnson. Their daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, will move from the CEO role to the Chairman role as Ms. Rogers takes the CEO position.

Bob Johnson is not John H. Johnson (who passed away in 2005). Bob Johnson was born four years after Johnson Publishing was founded. By the time Bob Johnson got to high school, Ebony magazine was a must-read in nearly every Black household in the United States. The New York Post was correct that Bob Johnson is alive and leads several businesses; Ebony and Jet happen not to be within the Bob Johnson empire.

The New York Post should apologize to Ms. Rogers, the family of John H. Johnson, Bob Johnson, and all of the rest of us for its wrong-headed and silly attack on Ms. Rogers and for its disgusting ignorance of the difference between two of the most respected Black entrepreneurs in history.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Attacking Prison Gerrymandering in NY State

Prison Gerrymandering, a the process of drawing electoral districts that consider incarcerated people to be residents of the prison towns, has worked against New York City for many years, and the New York State Legislature has finally taken action to reduce its impact in our state.

Prison Gerrymandering

As we have stated in the past, the Census Bureau counts prisoners as residents of the town where the prison is located rather than as residents of the town where they lived prior to becoming incarcerated. That approach causes large numbers of problems, including the predictable shifting of electoral power to prison towns. Prison towns are able to count non-voting incarcerated individuals as part of their voting districts, thereby giving the voters in those districts more electoral power than people living in areas that do not include a prison.

As we stated almost exactly two years ago:

"While, as of 2002, only 24% of those incarcerated in New York State are residents of Upstate New York, 91% of the prisoners are in that part of the state. Manhattan loses the votes of those incarcerated and must subsidize the education and lifestyle of upstate communities. Manhattan subsidizes the parks in upstate communities, and Manhattan's ability to fight back is limited by the increased voting power of upstate communities. In fact, many Federal program dollars are allocated based on the number of low-income residents in a given community, and the Census results in those dollars being provided to upstate communities who don't use the funds to aid those incarcerated individuals whose presence in their communities creates the windfall from the Federal Government.

It is worth noting that 80% of New York State's prisoners are Black or Latino, while the state's prison locations are nearly all in areas with very few Black or Latino residents. Though illegal drug use is equally common outside of communities of color as it is within communities of color, ninety percent of those incarcerated based on drug offenses are Black or Latino. Therefore, this theft from Manhattan is also part of a broader crime against ethnic minorities and people of color who reside in New York State. The impact of the diluted voting power and reduced resources that result from this theft is concentrated in neighborhoods where Black and Latino residents live in the largest numbers."

New York State Legislature Attacks Prison Gerrymandering

Last week, the New York State Legislature sent to Governor Paterson a new law that would count prisoners in their home communities rather than in prison communities for the drawing of local and state legislative districts going forward. All of those local and state legislative districts will be redrawn in 2011.

This new law is a wonderful achievement and a testament to the benefit of having the Democratic Party control the State Legislature and the Governor's Mansion; the commitment to true representative democracy is reflected in legislation.

Broader Problems Persist

The sad reality of this achievement is that it is narrow. Federal dollars will still be distributed based on prison Gerrymandering. Congressional districts will continue to be drawn using prison Gerrymandering. But, New York is improving the situation by correcting the problems it can correct. The full solution must come from Washington, DC.

Monday, August 2, 2010

ADL Attacks Manhattan

Last week, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) broke our hearts. In opposing the planned mosque for lower Manhattan, the ADL likely did more damage to itself than to the effort to bring the mosque to the area near Ground Zero.

Embracing Rather Than Tolerating

In the end, how we treat the mosque proposal will define us. Anyone opposing the mosque project will lose the ability to oppose bigotry in the future. When the mosque is built, it will be a shining symbol of the religious freedom available in the United States as well as a vibrant example for non-Muslims of how valuable the Muslims community is in Manhattan as well as all over the our country.

Manhattan NEEDS a mosque at Ground Zero. Manhattan needs to rededicate itself to embracing all faiths, finding ways to love each other's differences, and building bridges of understanding between different groups of people and among people from different parts of the world.

We need to learn to embrace (rather than simply tolerate) our brothers and sisters whose life experiences, beliefs, and values differ from ours. Anyone who comes to Manhattan to establish a peaceful community center is trying to help make Manhattan better. We should have a strong bias in favor of supporting such efforts.

Disappointing Support For Bigotry

The ADL has stood against bigotry consistently throughout its history. Its stated mission is to fight all forms of bigotry, but, in this instance, admitted that is was supporting a position that it would typically consider bigoted. In opposing the building of a mosque near Ground Zero, the ADL stated that the pain of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks justified the bigotry embedded in the ADL's position. That position is shameful, illogical, and disgusting.

The ADL and many other groups have proclaimed themselves to be defenders of minority groups. There is no more obvious minority group needing support in our country than believers in Islam. Islam remains a beautiful and peaceful religion, and Muslims remain under attack all over our country. The ADL's attack on the mosque project is backwards. The ADL should be leading the non-Muslim support for the mosque as part of their fierce opposition to bigotry. Instead they have sided against Manhattan and with the bigots.

In opposing the mosque project, the ADL has severely damaged its own credibility, but it has likely not harmed the mosque project's chances of success. New York City is better than the ADL. We believe in our own principals, and we truly love our fellow New Yorkers. Our opposition to bigotry is not a slogan. New Yorkers oppose bigotry every day as we offer subway directions, a helping hand crossing the street, aid in getting a stroller up or down subway stairs, and a word of encouragement to people we don't know and whose skin color, attire, and/or language suggest they are different from us in some way. We do not views these daily activities as political statements because we live in New York City. We practice what we preach.

NYC's Leaders Rise to the Occasion

Our Mayor, our Borough President, the local community Board (by a vote of 29 to 1), and all of the key elected officials have all expressed their support for the mosque project. In that regard, our elected officials and community leaders have shown more consistency, better morality, and superior common sense when compared to the ADL. Perhaps New York will lead the way, as it has so often, toward freedom and away from hatred and bigotry, even as it is opposed by the ADL.