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.