Monday, March 8, 2010

Accountability In Vogue

After a second horrible political week in a row for Upper Manhattan, we look forward to the future.

Paterson Faces More Questions

The lesson seems to be re-learned again and again. The cover-up is more of a problem than the initial act. Governor Paterson has been accused of encouraging an accuser of one of his aides to avoid cooperating with the investigation into the investigation. That misstep has combined with his low poll numbers and his unwise attacks on the Kennedy family to cause him to announce that he will not seek re-election. Last week brought new allegations and new calls for the Governor to resign.

Those calls for resignation preceded the release of new ethics findings suggesting that Governor Paterson lied under oath with regard to a handful of World Series tickets he received from the Yankees (We are skeptical of any Yankee-related accusations, because Governor Paterson is a Mets fan). The situation may remind many of former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy's legal troubles during the Clinton Administration. In Espy's case, there was no cover-up, and Espy was found not guilty of each of the mountain of charges he faced. The key is to avoid the cover-up.

Speaker Silver has expressed a desire to see Paterson remain in office, for now. We can all imagine that absorbing yet another NY governor resignation may cause more chaos than cleansing. Lt. Governor Richard Ravitch is enormously respected and has demonstrated the skills one seeks in a Governor. But, elevating the Lt. Governor will create new problems as he would seek to replace the Paterson staff and advisers with individuals he trusts personally. The budget negotiations may need to be re-started, and Governor Ravitch may choose to seek the appointment of a new Lt. Governor.

All of those challenges may be less problematic than the challenge of a lame duck Governor facing multiple investigations for misconduct.

Let us hope that Paterson proves to be an effective lame duck in spite of the allegations and investigations he faces.

Rangel's Gavel

Upper Manhattan's Congressman, Charlie Rangel relinquished his chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Though all of the allegations against him relate to sloppiness rather than greed or corruption, he found that he was creating more political problems for his Democratic colleagues than he was willing to endure. He stepped aside.

We hope that after the 2010 election, Congressman Rangel will return to his role as Chairman of Ways and Means or be placed in another high-impact chairmanship in the House. His 40 years of service may make him as effective leading another committee as he would be leading Ways and Means.

Bloomberg Must Be Scrutinized

The Paterson and Rangel troubles have reminded us that politics is a tough business. Warm-hearted people who would never harm another person can be hit with mud and attacks that don't end until they force a resignation (or that even go beyond the resignation, as in the Espy case). Both men will continue to face attacks from political opponents and journalists, and both men will face intense additional scrutiny in the coming months.

But, Mayor Bloomberg has escaped scrutiny for far worse deeds than the allegations of misconduct facing either of Paterson or Rangel.

Bloomberg has set a new record for stop-and-frisk activity in NYC, and he has permitted that activity to focus only on Black and Latino residents of New York City. Despite many protests, Bloomberg has continued to collect and retain data about the hundreds of thousands of NYC residents that are stopped each year. If Paterson had ordered the state police to stop hundreds of thousands of white residents (but to avoid stopping non-whites) and retain their personal details, does anyone think that he wouldn't be held accountable for that act of racial discrimination, poor policing policy, poor judgment, and violation of the rights of the people of New York? Bloomberg gets away with it every day. A New York Times columnist sought the resignation of the Police Chief because of the "gruesome and racist" practices of the NYPD in a column last week. But, the Police Chief takes direction from the Mayor. The fish rots from the head. Bloomberg should resign.

Bloomberg aggressively fought to continue the racial discrimination against African Americans in the Fire Department of New York. Even after the courts ordered him to cease the racial discrimination, Bloomberg expressed his wish to continue the discrimination.

Regarding the governor's actions in the possible intervention between his aide and a woman, the media and politicians are all stating that any allegation of improper influence must be investigated thoroughly and completely.

Where was this same concern when the mayor's office admittedly intervened into a criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney of the Deutsche Bank fire, which killed my son Joey Graffagnino and fellow Firefighter Robert Beddia? The mayor's office even brokered a deal that there would be no criminal charges against any government agency or general contractor Bovis.

Where was the outcry from the media and politicians? Where were the cries to have an in-depth and thorough investigation into the mayor's office's actions? I guess the rules are different for a powerful mayor than they are for a besieged governor. How come no one has asked the attorney general to investigate this hypocrisy of justice? After all, the Deutsche Bank building is state-owned and state funds were spent.

Justice and unbiased investigations are more than just words. They are the foundations that all Americans are to believe and adhere to. Equality should be the same no matter if you're the governor, the mayor or a common citizen. Would the attorney general investigate the city's actions and the DA's actions into the Deutsche Bank fire and subsequent actions since then, or must it be during an election year? - Joseph Graffagnino

Now that we have found ourselves fixated by the desire to hold our elected officials accountable for their behavior, we should apply the accountability standard to Bloomberg.

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