Monday’s bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Patriots’ Day propelled America back to a 9/11 mindset. Tuesday through Thursday were pre-occupied with grief, manhunts and memorial services. Poisonous envelopes mailed to the president and two US senators, along with a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas, only added to the low hum of anxiety.
Then on Friday, the manhunt culminated with the killing of one suspect and the capture of another – two Chechen brothers whose immigrant experience was twisted by radical Islam and turned into a nightmare for the citizens of Boston. The city’s lockdown turned into a spontaneous celebration, with the waving of American flags, applause for the SWAT teams, chants of “U-S-A” interspersed with the Boston Red Sox unofficial anthem “Sweet Caroline.”
It was “a tough week,” as President Obama said in a post-arrest press conference at the White House. But we emerged stronger, if sadder, and more united as a result of all we had experienced.. Read More…
Twelve years ago, New York City taught the nation about resilience in the face of a massive attack.
On Tuesday, New York again taught the nation that character counts.
There is, of course, no comparison between the horror of 9/11 and a mayoral primary in America’s largest city. But while the shadow of the twin towers still hangs over the hearts of many in New York, the persistence of daily life remains a quiet sign of defiance.
This year, city politics seemed determined to hit a new low rather than aspire to new heights. A series of scandal-scarred candidates sucked up the oxygen amid an otherwise forgettable field. And for a while, Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer seemed likely to win their respective races on the strength of name ID and notoriety. Read More…
Will New Yorkers elect a punch line as Mayor? Anthony Weiner’s entry into the New York City race for mayor was one of the issues we discussed with comedian Jim Gaffigan, our guest this week on the CNN weekly podcast “The Big Three,” co-hosted by CNN’s Margaret Hoover, John Avlon and Dean Obeidallah.
Listen to the Podcast here:
Election reform in New York is long overdue.
Most elections for New York City offices are effectively decided in Democratic primaries with very low turnouts. In New York’s vibrant first City Council district, which stretches from Soho to Battery Park and holds roughly 150,000 people, Chinatown community activist Margaret Chin beat incumbent councilman Alan Gerson by receiving 4,541 votes to Gerson’s 3,520—and that was one of the higher turnouts in the city-council primaries three weeks ago. Turnouts are even lower when no candidate in the primary receives 40 percent of the vote and a primary runoff must be held; the runoffs for public advocate and city comptroller two weeks ago were determined by just 7 percent of registered Democratic voters. Read More…
For a generation of Americans, and especially New Yorkers, Ed Koch was simply “Mayor.”
It was the title of his bestselling memoir, followed by a sequel, Politics, and even an off-Broadway tribute to Hizzonor. With typical talent for good timing, Koch departed this world at age 88, just days after the debut of a new documentary on his three terms at city hall. The news was announced by his longtime spokesman, George Arzt.
Here’s the elevator pitch: At a time when New York City seemed on its knees, inevitably on the decline, decadent, and in debt, Ed Koch’s exuberant common sense revived the City that was his one true love. He willed it back into health by helping New Yorkers believe again in themselves. Read More…
Slap a scarlet “S” on these callous conservatives. Sixty-seven members of Congress–all Republicans—voted against even $9 billion of Hurricane Sandy relief yesterday.
Remember their names, and hold them accountable.
Twelve of the scarlet 67 voted for Hurricane Katrina relief—which passed ten days after that devastating Gulf Coast storm—but against Hurricane Sandy relief 69 days after its landfall in the Northeast. Their names: Trent Franks (AZ), Ed Royce (CA), Sam Graves (MO), Steve Pearce (NM), Steve Chabot (OH), Jimmy Duncan (TN), Kenny Marchant (TX), Randy Neugebauer (TX), Mac Thornberry (TX), Bob Goodlatte (VA), Tom Petri (WI), and Paul Ryan (WI).
These congressmen are content to use New York City and the tri-state area as an ATM when they are looking for campaign funds, yet they willfully turn a blind eye when hundreds of thousands of homes and small businesses are damaged or destroyed and more than 100 Americans are dead.
Note the name of last year’s vice presidential nominee and potential 2016 presidential candidate Paul Ryan on this list. Donors would do well to ask him about this vote. The Texas delegation likewise asked for federal funds when hurricanes have devastated their state, yet are ignoring suffering in the Northeast. But then conservatives often become liberal when an issue affects them personally. Just two years ago, Missouri Congressman Sam Graves begged President Obama for an emergency declaration to deal with flooding in his district—now he is afflicted with convenient amnesia.
The full list of the 67 “nos” is tilted toward the conservative Gulf Coast states and the congressmen—many elected after Katrina—whose constituents often feel the brunt of natural disasters.
Congressman Paul Broun—who when Obama was elected in 2008 called the president-elect a “Marxist” and compared him to Hitler, who denounced evolution as a “lie from the pit of hell” despite serving on the Science Committee—had no trouble asking for FEMA funds when his district was flooded in 2009. And Alabama’s Mo Brooks was equally eager for federal funds when tornados devastated his district in 2011.
The larger point, of course, is that massive disaster relief is a role for the federal government. There are times when we are 50 individual states and times when we need to unite and act as one country. Hurricane relief should be a no-brainer.
But Club for Growth and other conservative activist groups decided to make Hurricane Sandy relief a litmus test for their annual scorecards, and conservative congressmen started running scared.
The presence of pork in the original Senate Hurricane Sandy relief bill was a predictable disgrace. For example, in an essay on CNN, I called out the presence of pork like $150 million for Alaskan Fisheries and $41 million to military bases including Guantanamo Bay. But that pork was rightfully stripped from the ultimate Senate and House bill. Angry conservative activists never bothered to update their talking points and so they argued from ignorance.
Moreover, the bill that Congress passed on Friday was just $9 billion of the total $60 billion Sandy relief bill (an amount far less than the Governors’ estimate of $80 billion in damage). We’ll have to wait until at least January 15th for a vote on the remaining $51 billion.
The 67 congressman who voted against relief would have almost certainly voted for it if the impact was felt in their district. But if those 67 were to visit Staten Island or the Jersey Shore or the Rockaways today and see the citizens and volunteers still struggling to dig their way out of the devastation, they might have a different opinion. These folks need relief. And the region needs to increase its resilience to avoid future costs.
Hypocrisy is the unforgiveable sin in politics—and it abounds among ideologues in congress. But the absence of compassion matters as well. Because if the threat of professional partisan activist groups is enough to make you overlook the struggle and suffering of your fellow American citizens, maybe it’s time to look in the mirror and consider a field of work other than public service.
It’s why the American people hate Congress. Unlike the people in Congress, we have actual responsibilities.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dropped a bomb on Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Congress for refusing to allow a vote on Hurricane Sandy relief in the final hours of the 112th Congress. It was an instant classic of principled political outrage. It provided a strong dose of what Washington has been missing: blunt, independent leadership. Read More…
It was a congressional slap in the face to victims of Hurricane Sandy.
More than two months after hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in the tristate area were destroyed or damaged by Hurricane Sandy, Republicans in the House of Representatives intentionally killed the $60 billion bill passed by the Senate by refusing to bring it to a vote on New Year’s Day.
Right-wing activist groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Club for Growth, and Heritage Action have all pressured congressional Republicans to vote against the bill. Read More…
Almost one month after Hurricane Sandy, some storefronts in the Rockaways—the seven-mile stretch of beachfront below Brooklyn—are alight at night, but many small businesses are still boarded up. Floodlights illuminate intersections, and cop cars and sanitation crews line streets piled with debris. Some 9,700 people here are still without power. Tattered American flags dangle in the wind by Breezy Point, where more than 100 homes were destroyed by fire at the height of the hurricane. Read More…
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, President Obama has been coordinating storm response from the White House—while Mitt Romney has been dodging questions about what critics say was a primary campaign call to cut funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
At a campaign stop in Ohio that hastily was rechristened a Hurricane relief event but nonetheless began with a Romney bio video, the candidate didn’t respond to what the press pool report said were 14 questions about FEMA funding.
The controversy stems from a tortured answer Romney gave at one of the countless Republican primary debates—when he lumped FEMA into a federalist argument about devolving funding and power to the states, specifically with regard to disaster relief. “Absolutely,” he said when asked if he’d support shutting the agency down and having the states handle emergency relief. Read More…
President Obama can be, if anything, overrated as an orator. Some of his heavily hyped speeches—such as his Charlotte convention address—fall flat or fall short.
That was not the case with his U.N. address Tuesday.
Certainly, the stakes were high—two weeks after the murder of the first American ambassador since 1979, his killers still at large, and the hope of the Arab Spring given to shadows and fog. Read More…
This Monday, 10 subway stations throughout New York City will be adorned with this welcoming message: “In any war between civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” It is paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, the funding vehicle for anti-Islamist activist Pamela Geller.
The ads have been posted at the order of a judge after one year of legal wrangling with the MTA. U.S. District Court Judge Paul A. Englemayer concluded that when “as a reasonable person would, the AFDI ad plainly depicts Muslims… as savages.” Read More…
The bodies of the victims are being buried. The court case will continue, without cameras. The horror in Aurora has faded from the front page in favor of Olympic coverage.
So it is worth asking, 10 days after the largest mass shooting in American history, whether it is still too soon to start a conversation about reasonable gun restrictions. What actions could we take to make such slaughters more difficult to perpetrate?
Because if it is true, as the National Rifle Association says, that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” then it’s equally irrefutable that people with guns kill people.
Here is the toll, beyond the 12 dead and 59 wounded in Aurora. More than 180 people killed in mass shootings in the past five years, including the 32 people who died in the April, 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech. And dwarfing that total are the 10,000 Americans murdered by gunshots every year. Read More…
This is a tale of two cities and murder.
As the sun rose Sunday, New York City hit a remarkable milestone, recording just 193 murders in the first six months of the year. In that same span, more than 250 murders were recorded in Chicago—a city just one third as large.
It is the first full crisis of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s term in office, and the cause of growing national concern. More than 40 people were shot there on Memorial Day weekend alone, and 10 of them died. In June, the victims ranged in age from 75-year-old Donald Ellens to 7-year-old Heaven Sutton. Read More…
The RINO hunters and DINO hunters took a beating Tuesday night.
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch easily defeated a Tea Party challenge. Left-wingnut and Mugabe-aficionado Charles Barron was decimated by New York Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, despite the support of big labor in his Brooklyn congressional district. And in Harlem, Charles Rangel survived the most serious primary challenge of his 42-year congressional career.
So much for the anti-incumbent narrative of 2012. Somewhere in exile, Nicolas Sarkozy must be feeling a bit jealous.
But in the essentially one-party states of Utah and New York, the Republican and Democratic primaries produced results that reflected the strength of the establishment and the power of financial advantage. Read More…
New York City Councilman Charles Barron is the real-life embodiment of the paranoid right-wing fantasy about President Obama: a former Black Panther, a backer of wealth redistribution, and an outspoken admirer of leftist dictators worldwide.
But now Barron has risen from a controversial local curiosity, best known for inflammatory statements like calling Thomas Jefferson a pedophile, to the verge of becoming a national newsmaker. He’s running for Congress and threatening to upset the party favorite, comparatively centrist Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, in next Tuesday’s primary that will effectively decide the next representative of a safely Democratic district snaking through Brooklyn. Read More…
I heard the helicopters in the middle of the night hovering over lower Manhattan as the eviction of Occupy Wall Street occurred.
Only a few hours before, I’d walked past the Zuccotti Park encampment and Occupy Wall Street’s tent city was quiet on an unseasonably warm night. Irritation with the Occupy movements has been building across the nation. Even initially sympathetic liberal mayors have begun to declare that enough is enough, so I wondered when New York’s patience would wear out. Read More…
A little after 6:30 a.m., a cheer went up from the protesters gathered in Zuccotti Park. A press release by New York City Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway announced that Brookfield Properties—the owner of the park—had decided to call off their cleaning, which would have required the park to be vacated, with police help if necessary. Read More…
Jack Alvo drives the streets of the New York City six days a week — the 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift. He never imagined he’d be a cabdriver at his age.
After all, a decade ago, he was pulling down $250,000 a year on Wall Street. He survived the 9/11 attacks while working in wealth management for Morgan Stanley on the 73rd floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower. He was a lucky man.
But Jack lost his last finance job in 2009, not so long after the markets crashed during the Great Recession. He is still in its grasp, trying to raise two kids, his hair now gray, driving a yellow taxi through the steel and concrete caverns of Manhattan. Read More…
New York City spends more money on lawsuits than the next five largest American cities—Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, and Philadelphia—combined. The city’s $568 million outlay in fiscal year 2008 was more than double what it spent 15 years ago and 20 times what it paid in 1977. New York now allocates more taxpayer dollars to settling personal-injury lawsuits than it does to parks, transportation, homeless services, or the City University system. As the city seeks ways to save money during the financial crisis, it should focus on reforming the warped system that makes such unreasonable and unproductive expenditures possible. Read More…
“Every now and then, seeking to rid my mind of thoughts of death and doom, I get up early and go down to Fulton Fish Market,” wrote Joseph Mitchell at the opening of his story “Up in the Old Hotel.” “The smoky riverbank dawn, the racket the fishmongers make, the sea-weedy smell, the sight of this plentifulness always gives me a feeling of well being and sometimes they elate me.”
One of the pleasures of living in New York City is the sense that you are never alone. It is not just the presence of people, or opportunities of all kinds at all hours, but the palpable presence of history around us. These are the streets where characters from novels and reality walked, and you can connect with their perspective by visiting the locations they once inhabited: Holden Caulfield in Central Park, Dylan Thomas drinking his last at the White Horse Tavern, Abraham Lincoln speaking at the Cooper Union. The absence of missing monuments leaves a lasting gap as well: the scenes that took place beneath the columns of the majestic original Pennsylvania Station, the first executive mansion where President Washington lived on Cherry Street, near where the base of the Brooklyn Bridge now stands. In a city where change has been the only constant, one feature of daily life in old New York has unexpectedly endured: the Fulton Fish Market.
It is not glamorous, but the ritual of bringing fish to market on the banks of the East River in Lower Manhattan has been a comforting constant for more than 175 years. Now, in the name of progress and increasing land values, the Fulton Fish Market is on death row. It has been granted reprieve years beyond what many expected, but next month appears to be its termination date – at which point the market will move uptown to the Bronx, and into a state-of-the-art air-conditioned terminal at Hunts Point. While rumors among fishmongers flow that the move could be delayed until November, this is certainly the last summer of its existence, and then it will fade into well-documented memory.
The impending end of the Fulton Fish Market has brought me and others down there with increasing regularity over the past months. One early April morning, I walked down there in the dark; the streets around it were empty, and then with a turn of the corner onto South Street, under the FDR Drive overpass, a new world exploded around me, the area lit up like a movie studio, the sound of forklifts, men gathering to stay warm around trash cans that glowed from fires within, large metal hooks in their belt. And then walking through the crowded stalls, the blood and guts of market commerce, buckets of fish, wide-eyed on ice with some smaller creatures still wriggling, thick steaks of sushi-grade meat, multi-foot monsters with their heads cut off, spines exposed, orders shouted, cash exchanging hands with the easy jokes between friends and clients who live a parallel life. With gradations of progress, wheelbarrows to forklifts, it has been going on like this since a young Al Smith – the future governor of New York and 1928 presidential candidate – lived and worked along Front Street to support his family after his father’s death, later bragging to his overeducated colleagues that the only degree he possessed was an FFM – from the school of life that was the Fulton Fish Market.
There have been marked changes to the area over time – the open air where great ships used to dock bringing their haul directly to market now is enclosed under the giant underpass, amplifying all sounds. The legendary seafarers’ restaurant Sloppy Louie’s, where Joseph Mitchell would retreat to “eat a big inexpensive and invigorating breakfast of tempered herring and scrambled eggs or a shad roe omelet” was closed more than a decade ago. The presence of the South Street Seaport amid the general revival of Lower Manhattan has driven up prices, and housing previously dismissed as undesirable because of the nightly chaos has been reimagined as luxury housing. Most of those residents will not miss the noise and funk of Fulton Fish Market, but the loss to future generations is incalculable – they will be cut off from part of their birthright as New Yorkers.
In an effort to preserve the Fulton Fish Market beyond its lifetime, several artists and filmmakers have been establishing a presence. Naima Rauam is a watercolor artist who pioneered the effort by setting up residence at the Fish Market for the past 20 years. Evita Mendiola is a recently graduated Columbia University student and photographer, who came down to the Market for a photo project and has become a part of the community. A documentary, titled “Up at Lou’s Fish,” directed by Corinna Mantlo and A.R. Brook Lynn, has been filming down at the Market since April and will chronicle the move to the new home at Hunts Point. Ms. Brook Lynn explained “We’re not interested in making a purely political history of the fish market, we want to focus much more on the men and women who work there, who have perpetuated the market, and what it means to the city.”
The impending loss of living history is drawing out sentiment for an unsentimental place. But there is reason for this: the Fulton Fish Market is our closest undisturbed link to the seafaring city that created the capital of commerce. Take a trip down there while you can, to experience firsthand what we have had the luxury of taking for granted for almost two centuries. And the wonder of the moment might make you recall the words of Joseph Mitchell’s friend, the proprietor of Sloppy Louie’s, who took pleasure in finding out the full history of the old building that housed his restaurant: “It connected me with the past. It connected me with old New York,” Louie explained. “It made the building look much better to me instead of just an old rundown building in the fish market, the way it looked to me before. It had a history to it, connections going back, and I liked that. It stirred up my curiosity to know more.”
With roughly 500 races in 50 states, there’s no shortage of indicators to keep an eye on this Election Day. But there’s an unlikely state that could help measure the extent of Republican gains Tuesday — New York.
While GOP Senate and gubernatorial candidates have been making gains in states across the nation, the controversial Carl Paladino is at the top of New York’s ticket. His serial scandals and stumbles have put him far behind Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in the polls. Likewise, the two Senate races show incumbents Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand far ahead of their obscure GOP challengers.
Despite the drag from the top of the ticket, polls show that Republicans might make gains in the congressional delegation for the first time in a decade. In 1998, Republicans controlled a dozen congressional seats in the Empire State — 10 years later that number was down to two. Read More…
NEW York, New Jersey and Connecticut: We have a problem. And it’s not just the fiscal crisis. It’s the bipartisan culture of corruption that has swamped tri-state politics.
Longtime NY state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno’s indictment last Friday on eight counts of federal corruption charges – allegedly pocketing $3 million over 13 years – is just the latest insult in a decade of local political sleaze.
In the last five years, all three states have seen governors resign in disgrace. Jim McGreevey and Eliot Spitzer infamously resigned in sex scandals involving gay patronage and inter-state hookers, respectively. John Rowland – Connecticut’s first three-term governor since 1783 – is the only one to get sent to the pokey (so far), and his crimes seem comparatively quaint, including a hot tub installed for free in his summer cottage.
Two years ago, New York state Comptroller Alan Hevesi pleaded guilty to defrauding the government and resigned from office. Last spring, the New York City Council was caught misappropriating millions of taxpayer dollars to phony organizations. Read More…
‘Enough already,” Jus tice Anthony Giacobbe sternly said yesterday at the Richmond County Supreme Court on Staten Island. He was admonishing attorneys representing the Working Families Party and its for-profit corporate arm, Data Field Services, for suddenly disclosing hundreds of pages of documents that they should have supplied long ago.
The trial is attracting standing-room-only audiences because it centers on allegations of collusion and possible corruption that have long dogged New York’s fastest growing political organization, the WFP.
At issue in the courtroom are alleged WFP efforts to end-run campaign-finance laws to boost City Councilwoman Debi Rose. Outside the court, everyone’s wondering about the WFP’s efforts in scores of other races.
“This is not about right and left,” says Randy Mastro, the petitioners’ attorney. “This is about right and wrong.” Read More…
Frustrated with steep budget deficits, unprecedented spending, and chronic government dysfunction, citizens in a growing number of states are calling for constitutional conventions. In recent weeks, both former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and former New York governor Mario Cuomo have authored op-eds in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, respectively, arguing that the political circus in Albany compels a constitutional convention. Such efforts are already well underway in California, alongside burgeoning drives in Alabama, Arizona, and Michigan. Altogether, 25 percent of the U.S. population lives in these five states. These growing grassroots movements are a sign of the times.
In New York, a five-week summer standoff in the state senate, characterized by party switches and backroom power-broker deals, ended up costing the state upwards of $125 million amid a legislative stalemate. In California, chronic budget shortfalls have become national news. With the third emergency budget deal in ten months temporarily closing a $26 billion budget gap, the Golden State suffers from an 11.6 percent unemployment rate, which reaches 15 percent in agricultural areas like Fresno. The state is caught in a vicious cycle of declining tax revenues from high tax rates, making each budget deal both painful and temporary. Read More…
UPDATE: Looks like the tsunami has arrived in California, with state legislators one vote short of a spending cut and tax-hike compromise to close a $42 billion budget deficit. (By comparison, that’s twice the national debt during the Great Depression.)
California has been sending out IOUs instead of tax refunds, bills aren’t being paid, workers have been furloughed two days a month without pay, and now Arnold is preparing to send out 20,000 pink slips—10 percent of the governor-controlled state headcount—in an attempt to save an additional $750 billion a year. Read More…
The permanent government in New York is unelected. Deals are made and votes are traded, not on the floor of the City Council but far away in the club houses of Brooklyn and Queens.
This week, one of New York City government’s most powerful officials – the speaker of the City Council – was elected in a council vote without opposition. Initially, there was a crowded and competitive field, but just days before the final vote was scheduled, all the other candidates miraculously dropped out to leave only Manhattan’s Christine Quinn standing.
When elections results are determined before the election itself is held,it is bad sign.Unanimity is antithetical to democracy. For all the proud talk of diversity, the City Council functions as a one-party state,with 47 out of 51 members representing the Democrats. It is perhaps no surprise then that in the past four years not one bill has been defeated on the floor of the council. Because of redistricting, few of the elected officials in that body faced the discomfort of general election opposition. The local power brokers and party bosses determine the line of succession. All this might give the appearance of order and consensus. But it is the absence of real competitive democracy.
The selection – rather than election – of Christine Quinn to serve as the Speaker of the City Council is not without hope. She is, by most accounts, an energetic and capable woman known for her warmth to friends and toughness to critics.While she has been a leader of the liberal coalition that reflexively opposed commercial developments that would have benefited her district such as the West Side stadium and collateral Hudson Yards neighborhood, nonetheless in her opening remarks to the Council she pledged to work with the mayor, saying “I am committed to putting progress ahead of partisanship.” Still, few people would enter office promising the opposite.
Our city can take some justified pride in the series of “firsts” that accompany the move: Ms. Quinn is the first woman and the first openly gay council person to hold the post. It is tempting to call this a milestone for civil rights, but it is more a measure of the fact that being a woman or gay in this town is no longer a disqualifying factor for succeeding in high public office. Influential party bosses like Tom Manton in Queens and Vito Lopez in Brooklyn care far more about exerting control over their selected leaders, rather than what demographic box their candidate might check off in a civic census.
If this is progress, it deserves to be taken with a side shot of skepticism. It marks less a change than a continuation of influence by the unelected. The fact that Ms. Quinn has retained outgoing City Council Speaker Gifford Miller’s chief of staff indicates what is occurring.
The issue of the permanent government will be pushed to the foreground in the coming months, with the Council’s expected attempt to overturn term limits. This would be an act of civic betrayal and monumental bad faith, but it will no doubt make Speaker Quinn popular with her most immediate constituents, the other 50 members of the City Council.
There are several ironies at work: This comparatively fresh-faced City Council directly benefited from New Yorkers’ vote to impose term limits on their local elected officials on two separate occasions in the 1990s. Now that this crew has gotten a seat at the table of power, not surprisingly they want to stick around a bit longer. Self-interest is always at the root of resistance to reform.
The issue is not whether a limit of two or three terms would be beneficial to the institution of City Council – that can be democratically decided through a public Charter revision vote. The real issue is that City Council feels so safe in their seats that they feel free to enact a legislative coup d’etat against the people’s will.
Another ironic effect of term limits has been the increased influence of party bosses who even more than in the past have the ability to block careers as folks attempt to move up the political ladder.The machine is alive and well, and that is an important reason why local elections still get decided in a way that smacks more of Tammany Hall than Fiorello La Guardia’s vision of New York.
Speaker Quinn can increase public respect for the City Council by using her newfound power to pursue an agenda of local political reform in partnership with the mayor. Certainly, this may infuriate the power brokers she made promises to in the process of reaching office, but the larger and more binding promise is to the people of New York, who have a right to expect open, honest, and good government.
In the long run, questions about the compromised selection process for Council Speaker might be resolved by combining the office of speaker and public advocate, creating a new updated version of the City Council president, who, until the Charter revision in 1989, was freely elected by the people of New York to serve as a balance of power to the mayor.
In the meantime, let’s hope that the uncharacteristically sensible words of Councilman Charles Barron – the lone abstention in the coronation of Ms. Quinn this week – continue to ring in the City Council: “I want to challenge you to be independent. Be free from giving your vote to a county leader, a union, a business leader or corporation – or any other outside force trying to control you.The people voted for you, not your county leader. You owe it to the people to be strong, independent and principled in making decisions that affect their lives.”
At the height of summer, as New Yorkers try to find the nearest faraway place to beat the heat and relax on the beach, it’s startling to realize that the largely forgotten Rockaways were once the nation’s premier seaside resort.
Blessed with an extension of the same strip of beachfront that makes the Hamptons the favorite destination of hot and bothered New Yorkers, the Rockaways should be the crown jewel of New York City’s 578 miles of waterfront, which is more than the entire state of Rhode Island. But decades of lousy local government planning and general neglect have wasted the potential of this oceanfront asset. What Herman Melville once used as a prime example of the beauty and lure of the sea has more recently become a symbol of urban decay. Read More…