Monday, May 31, 2010

Super Bowl in NJ? and Bloomberg's Obsession with Racial Discrimination

Mayor Bloomberg's obsession with discriminating on the basis of race took a strange turn last week, and though neither team admits to it, the NY Jets and the NY Giants home is in New Jersey, where the NFL will bring the Super Bowl in 2014.

Bloomberg's Obsession with Racial Discrimination

Mayor Bloomberg has demonstrated an obsession with racial discrimination. He has created a record number of stop-and-frisk incidents in New York City, despite the fact that 90% of those stops are stops of Black or Hispanic members of our community and despite the fact that 90% of those stopped are never charged with any misconduct. He keeps a database of all of those stopped, and he has defended these racist practices in the face of law suits and in direct defiance of common sense and hundreds of years of progress against the promotion of racism in the governance of our city.

Bloomberg made a direct appeal to white voters to stand against Black political empowerment during his 2009 campaign. He also stated that Rudy Giuliani is the right person to be the Governor of New York State, and he moved nearly all educational programs for gifted students out of communities of color and into white communities.

The Mayor fought aggressively to maintain racially discriminatory barriers to the integration of our city's fire department. As we stated in 2009, Errol Lewis of the Daily News made the key point in his column: Bloomberg invested heavily in defending the racial discrimination that made the FDNY a more than 93% white institution. As Errol Lewis wrote: "Many credible institutions tried, with zero success, to convince Bloomberg and Scoppetta that the fire exam needed a reworking. The city's own Equal Employment Practices Commission, an independent watchdog, presented City Hall with a long account of nearly a decade's worth of complaints about the fire test and a plea to re-examine it. They were ignored. The federal Justice Department under the Bush administration sued the city after issuing strong warnings about the need to desegregate the FDNY. Bloomberg fought the feds in court."

After losing in the courts, the Mayor is still fighting to discriminate on the basis of race. The Judge who found that Bloomberg was guilty of discriminating on the basis of race chose a distinguished New Yorker to oversee the New York City's efforts to end its racial discrimination in this area. But, predictably, Bloomberg continues to fight FOR discrimination and is now objecting to the choice of former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau as the person to guide New York City's integration of non-white firefighters into the FDNY. He is clearly fearful that Morgenthau's credibility and competence will make continued racial discrimination impossible, so he is seeking someone that he can intimidate into helping him keep non-white individuals out of the FDNY.

Unfortunately, the Mayor is having great success in discriminating on the basis of race, but he is having far less success in delivering on his stated agenda of improving the economy in our city and providing families in New York City with better lives.

Super Bowl in NJ?

The 2014 Super Bowl is coming to New Jersey. The impact on the NYC metro area economy will be powerful and wonderful. There is tons of work to be done, but it will be well worth the effort when we celebrate and enjoy the Super Bowl festivities in February 2014.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Crowning Cuomo

New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo took center stage last week as he launched his campaign for Governor and became more transparent in his mission to shape the New York State Democratic ticket for the 2010 election.

Cuomo for Governor

Andrew Cuomo announced his intention to seek the office of Governor of the State of New York last week. He hit on fiscal themes in his enveiling: spending restraint and caps on taxes.

In an online manifesto, Mr Cuomo pledged to clean up Albany and to get the state’s fiscal house in order by immediately imposing a cap on state spending and freezing salaries of state public employees as part of a one-year emergency financial plan.
He said there would be no increase in personal or corporate income taxes or sales taxes and local property taxes would be capped.

Cuomo is not expected to face any serious opposition in the Democratic Convention this week in Rye, and his place as the unofficial leader of the Democratic party is becoming more clear. He's now beginning to focus on helping to determine which Democrats are on the ballot with him in November.

Cuomo versus Silver on the Budget

Cuomo's announcement included a declaration of war against the financial plan put forward by Lt. Governor Joe Ravitch and supported by Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver. Cuomo came out swinging against Ravitch's plan to borrow $6 billion to help fix New York State's cash gap and against Ravitch's plan for a review panel to guide our state to a balanced budget. Silver is known to support Ravitch's plans.

Cuomo's plan to cut 20% of state agencies is likely to create anxiety in Albany, especially for the Assembly Speaker.

Cuomo Looks to Shape the 2010 Ticket

As Cuomo leaves the Attorney General's office, he is focused on steering the Democratic Party in New York State to his preferred candidate to succeed him. The New York Times described the recent maneuvering.
In the weeks leading to the state Democratic convention next week, aides and allies of Mr. Cuomo have moved quietly and methodically to bolster Kathleen Rice, the Nassau County district attorney and the candidate widely believed to be Mr. Cuomo’s preferred successor. They have sought to delay or foil endorsements of one of her Democratic rivals, State Senator Eric Schneiderman, by two powerful labor unions, and to persuade another, Sean Coffey, to run instead for state comptroller. When rural Democratic leaders assembled in Niagara Falls this month for a straw poll, Mr. Cuomo’s allies also sought to blunt the momentum of Eric Dinallo the former state insurance superintendent, by asking party officials to consider switching their votes to other candidates.

Whatever one thinks of Attorney General Cuomo's fiscal positions and his dedication to Kathleen Rice's campaign (we should point out that Attorney General candidate and State Senator Eric Schneiderman represents Manhattan, including parts of Upper Manhattan), one cannot be opposed to Cuomo's eagerness to behave as a leader in the Democratic Party. The Democrats tend to be an unruly bunch, and anyone who works with sincerety to guide the Democrats to electoral success should be respected for the ambition and fearlessness reflected in the effort.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Stop and Frisk Outrage Part III

New Yorkers of color are stopped nine times as often as white New Yorkers by the NYPD, and the number of total stops has reached a new record. Revealingly, the NYPD's excuse for these stops is that people of color are behaving suspiciously.

Stops and Frisks

We have twice focused on the outrage of New York City's increasing numbers of race-based stops and frisks of innocent New York City's residents.

In January of 2009, we alerted our readers to the horrifying reality of the racially discriminatory stop and frisk activity, and we highlighted the fact that NYPD officers whose misconduct is substantiated by the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCR) are very rarely subject to discipline.
The statistics will not be surprising to people of color who live in New York City, but all of us should be alarmed to see that our suspicions about law enforcement behavior and our extrapolations from personal experiences are in fact supported by the evidence. After analyzing over 1.6 million stops in New York City from 2005 to 2008, the CCR shows us that 80% of those stops are people of color, despite the fact that people of color represent only 53% of the New York City population. In addition, only 10% of stops are of white New Yorkers, though white New Yorkers are 44% of the New York City population. The disparity speaks for itself and helps explain why views of law enforcement personnel are very different in communities of color than they are in other communities.

In May of 2009, we returned to the stop and frisk topic when reports emerged that stop and frisk activity was increasing. We found that police find guns, drugs, or stolen property on whites about twice as often as they did on Black suspects. We found that stops of whites amounted to only 2.6 percent of the white population. By contrast, stops of Blacks, represented 21.1 percent of the entire black population. We learned that residents of Brownsville's 73rd Precinct and Harlem's 28th Precinct had a 30 to 36 percent chance of being stopped and questioned by police in 2006, while citywide, the average was about 6 percent. We also learned that though no summons is issued and no arrest is made, personal information is collected and retained regarding the person who was stopped. Since the stops occur only in non-white communities, this process amounts to a catalogue of personal details on the non-white population of our city with the target group skewing younger than the city as a whole. The outrage of the stops has been amplified and exacerbated by the scandal of the information collection.

New Outrage

The latest outrage is the primary reason cited by the NYPD for their stops of persons of color in our city. With persons of color nine times more likely to be stopped by the NYPD than white New Yorkers, the latest information reveals that nearly all of the stops of persons of color in New York City have been explained by the NYPD as resulting from the victim of the stop behaving in a stealthy manner.
Of the reasons listed by the police for conducting the stops, one of those least commonly cited was the claim that the person fit the description of a suspect. The most common reason listed by the police was a category known as “furtive movements.”

The "fit the description" excuse had been tossed around for years to excuse the racism of the NYPD, but the truth is now available to us.

With the truth available, we must hold the NYPD and the Mayor accountable. In 2010, the level of racism that he has supported within his own law enforcement entities is beyond unacceptable. If the Mayor will not denounce the racist policies of his police department and install new leadership at the NYPD, the Mayor must be forced to resign.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Budget Blame Game in NYC

Mayor Bloomberg is cynically suggesting that the New York City budget cuts he is proposing are being forced upon him by decision-making regarding the New York State budget in Albany. In reality, the Mayor is proposing enormous cuts in education to confuse taxpayers into thinking that Albany is setting the Mayor's budget priorities.

Albany Budget Turmoil

There is no question that Albany has not generated confidence in its budget efforts this year. The budget in Albany must be completed by April 1 under New York State Law. But, we are well into May this year, and there is no sign of a state budget.

That unsettling performance has added to an already dire budgetary picture at the local level. With the state facing a huge budget deficit in 2011, and with no clarity on what the 2011 state budget will be, municipalities across New York State are bracing for significant reductions on state funding.

Amongst the problems facing Albany is reduced federal funding. The federal stimulus dollars that President Obama fought to bring to state governments across our country immediately after his inauguration are now running out. In 2011, New York State (like so many states) will have exhausted nearly all of the support provided by the stimulus package passed by Congress in 2009, thereby creating increasing pressure on state budgets that are already strained beyond the breaking point. In 2012, essentially all of the stimulus money will be gone.
Until now, stimulus money spared governors and state lawmakers from making some of the most brutal budget cuts. But with this lifeline running out, officials are looking at making significant cutbacks to public services, particularly schools and health programs. "The stimulus funds have staved off what could have been even deeper cuts," said Todd Haggerty, policy associate at the National Conference of State Legislatures. "You're seeing states now are coming to that point where they will have to make additional cuts or find new sources of revenue for fiscal 2011 and that will continue in fiscal 2012."

Phony Blame for Albany

Despite the national impact of the end of the stimulus money, the Mayor has insisted on blaming Albany for the cuts that NYC will have to make to its own spending. In reality, NYC has choices it must make in the face of reduced revenues, and the Mayor has decided that primary and secondary education should be singled out to suffer in these lean times. Ironically, the Mayor focused his campaign for re-election to a third term, in part, on the assertion that he had been and would be successful in improving the NYC public schools.

Having overturned the New York City Charter in order to allow himself to run for a third term, and having been re-elected by a slim margin despite outspending his opponent by an order of magnitude, the Mayor is now using the prospect of undermining the public education system to shift blame away from himself and to Albany for the budget cuts he chooses to implement. If indeed Albany had the final say in how NYC's budget was designed, changing the New York City Charter in order for the Mayor to seek a third term would seem silly, or worse. But, we went through the trouble of accommodating the Mayor's need to be the Mayor, and, now that he has four more year to rule over his subjects, he should not be permitted to suggest that his budget priorities are set by politicians in Albany.

The budget cuts proposed by the Mayor are the Mayor's choices and reflect his priorities. He has decided that he will not cut any police jobs and that he will concentrate nearly all his cuts in the educational system.

We hope to see the Mayor adopt a more responsible set of budget priorities and a more responsible approach to communicating with the public about the budget choices he is making.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bring the All Star Game to Queens and Times Square Scare

We faced an apparent act of domestic terrorism this past weekend. Let us hope that the terrorists will be brought to justice.

Also, as we think about the racist and misguided efforts of the Arizona Legislature and Arizona's Governor, we must demand that the leadership of Major League Baseball should immediately move the 2011 All Star Game from Phoenix, Arizona to Citi Field in Queens.

Times Square Scare

The past weekend's attempted car bombing in Times Square was amateurish but nonetheless frightening. The fertilizer chosen by the terrorist(s) in this case was not combustible and would not have been able to be used in the manner that a different type of fertilizer was used in the 1995 attack Oklahoma City. Authorities are suggesting that they are seeking a white male in his 40's in connection with the case, but they are also pointing out that the white male they are seeking might be completely innocent. Let us hope that the attempted car bombing doesn't create copy-cats, and let us hope that the terrorist(s) in this case is quickly captured and faces severe punishment.

Arizona vs. America

Arizona has enacted legislation allowing local law enforcement to take on the role traditionally undertaken by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Local law enforcement in Arizona has been authorized, starting 90 days from the date of the signing of the legislation, to demand proof of immigration status from anyone they encounter whom they suspect might be in the United States illegally. Anyone who cannot show proof of citizenship or legal immigration status will be arrested.

The new Arizona law is a bold-face anti-immigrant effort, and it has a decidedly anti-Latino tone. All Latinos in Arizona will be treated as suspects, and all Americans should be outraged by the new Arizona law.

Anyone who has lived in the United States knows that it is highly unnatural for a US citizen to carry proof of his or her citizenship or to be prepared to defend himself or herself against accusations of illegal immigration.

Anyone who has lived in the United States knows that a meaningful number of illegal immigrants in the US are non-Hispanic white people. But, it is only illegal immigration from Latin America that is the focus of the elected officials in Arizona and across the US.

With Arizona's declaration of war against Latinos, the rest of us must take action to oppose Arizona's attacks.

Major League Baseball

Major League Baseball has an opportunity to stand against the anti-Latino stance of Arizona.

The 2011 Major League Baseball All-Star game is scheduled to be played in Phoenix. The Mets have been seeking an opportunity to show off their new baseball stadium by hosting an All Star Game. The perfect solution is for the 2011 All Star Game to be moved to Citi Field in Queens, the home of the New York Mets.

By taking this action, Major League Baseball would show that it refuses to promote discrimination based on race or ethnicity. Major League Baseball would embrace the progressive image it promotes each April when it celebrates the first Major League game played by Jackie Robinson.

The change of venue for the 2011 All Star Game would only allow Major League Baseball to match what has already occurred in the National Football League. The NFL moved the Super Bowl out of Arizona to California when Arizona stubbornly refused to adopt the Martin Luther King holiday that had been embraced all over the United States. Surely, Major League Baseball is not less progressive or less committed to opposing discrimination than the NFL.

The decision to move the 2011 All Star Game should be made immediately. Fans and news outlets reserve hotel rooms and airline tickets well in advance, and New York City and the New York Mets need time to prepare. Arizona had plenty of opportunities to choose to walk away from the disgusting route they've chosen. Now, the loss of the Mid-Summer Classic should be one of the first consequences of Arizona's move toward a Jim Crow society.