Justin Krebs explains Scott Stringer's speech yesterday :
Mayor Bloomberg didn’t need to be called out by name for everyone to understand at whom this salvo was aimed. After a decade of decision-making that rarely welcomed and often ignored public comment, it’s not just a narrow sliver of jilted parents, ideological progressives and good government groups who are tired of the mayor’s style. The controversy following Cathie Black’s appointment was as much about the secretive process as about the ill-prepared appointee. Following the questions about the mayor’s whereabouts during the December blizzard, City Council is considering legislation that require him to “sign out” when he leaves the city. Even the mayor sensed the public’s restlessness, which is why he dedicated real estate in his own annual address to the concept of “crowdsourcing,” suggesting he was more willing to listen to the public.
Stringer doesn’t need to run against Mayor Bloomberg, which is fortunate for him. Even the pugnacious Anthony Weiner was finally intimidated by Bloomberg’s moneyed and massive campaign machine last time around. But New Yorkers are ready for more elected officials to challenge the mayor. The Progressive Caucus of the City Council has been finding its voice. The Public Advocate had been vocal in calling out the mayor over the past two months of controversies. And Borough President Stringer — while being careful not to paint the mayor as an adversary, and while being respectful of what Bloomberg has achieved — has laid out a different approach to governing that New Yorkers need to remember can exist.
Police and firemen's unions are rallying in order to stop what they say is Bloomberg's "misinformation" campaign about their pension payments.
The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and the Uniformed Firefighter's Association announced they were rallying later this morning on the City Hall steps "to fight the mayor's orchestrated misinformation campaign to reduce police and fire pension benefits."
Bloomberg has referred to the $12,000 payments given to retired uniformed workers as a "bonus" the city can no longer afford - and stopping it could spare the city from laying off "thousands" of public school teachers (see how he connects those two issues).
The unions say the payments are part of their pension - not an addition to it - and is the result of a decade's old deal struck when the unions gave hundreds of millions of dollars to help the city when it was in a financial crunch.
It's unclear if the alterations to the payments - called the Variable Supplement Fund - require a vote in the City Council prior to action from the state (which has final say on the matter). Requiring the Democratically-controlled City Council to vote on it - in a procedure called a "home rule message - could be problematic, since many have close ties to the unions.
But Bloomberg told reporters in Albany earlier this week he's confident it would pass.
"I think the City Council is going to have to sit there and say, '10,000 teachers or a home rule message.' That seems to me something that'll carry pretty quickly, but i don't even think it's needed," Bloomberg said.
Senior Advisor Howard Wolfson offers this comment when asked about Mayor Bloomberg testifying before a grand jury about campaign operative John Haggerty illegally obtaining nearly $1 million of the mayor's money during the 2009 campaign.
"The Mayor was asked to testify regarding the DA’s allegations that money was stolen from him and he did."
More on that from Liz Benjamin and Grace Rauh.
City Record - now available online - has long been a must-read for any dogged reporter looking (the old fashion way) for granular-level information about city government.
Now that it's online, you can do fun things like read it on an iPad (anybody, please, send me a picture of that!) and, more importantly, you can search the entire document for key words, like "salary" and "resigned."
Page Six sent tremors through New York Democratic circles this morning with a blind item saying the head of the party, Jay Jacobs, was getting replaced by one of Governor Cuomo confidents, Charlie King.
The item included a terse-sounding comment from an unnamed Cuomo's spokesperson who said "Not true."
Of course it's unclear what exactly the "not true" means: "Not true at the moment" or "Not true; Jacobs has the full support of the governor and we have no plans to install King in his place."
Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto did not respond to an emailed request for elaboration. An email to Simon Brandler, who handled press for the state party during the campaign, bounced back. A telephone message left for King at the state party's office was not immediately returned. Jacobs said he did not want to comment publicly.
Jacobs went from Nassau County Chairman to State Party Chairman, thanks to support he got from Governor Cuomo's predecessor, David Paterson. Jacobs was re-elected to a 2-year term this past September.
As NYC is seeking many millions from Albany, it's ignoring some millions from its tax base.
The money is "sorely needed in the fact of looming budget cuts," says Liu. He also noted the Department of Finance wasn't entirely helpful during this audit.They "handed over limited information" and spent $575,000 "to hire an outside consultant" to do a "similar" review as Liu was conducted of the agency.
An additional $785,730 went uncollected because the city did not return to the tax rolls 19 businesses that participated in the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program.
While it's true the city is looking in every corner for money - the $3.3 million Liu found palls in comparison to the more than $2 billion Mayor Bloomberg says the city needs to make up for cuts heading their way from Albany.
Michael Bloomberg has learned a lesson from his congestion pricing battle: don't force NYC Council members to take a controversial vote on legislation that ultimately is decided in Albany, if the legislators in Albany aren't promising to vote on the same bill.
This issue may come up as Bloomberg asks state lawmakers to allow him to cancel $12,000 supplemental payments to uniformed retirees. When Bloomberg mentioned it during his testimony in Albany yesterday, one state senator asked if a "home rule" message from the NYC Council was needed.
“I don’t know if it’s necessary” Bloomberg told the committee. “I can tell you this. Unless you tell us you’ll do it, I’m not going to fight that battle. I was asked by the legislature, with congestion pricing, to come up with a home rule message. We did,” and, Bloomberg said those City Council members who took a vote on the controversial bill were left “twisting in the wind” because state lawmakers never followed up with a vote on the same legislation.
“I’m not going to let that happen again,” said Bloomberg.
Andrew Cuomo's budget will lead to the loss of 150,000 jobs, with about half of them coming from New York City, according to Assemblyman Jim Brennan, a Democrat from Brooklyn.
Brennan described the budget as "a complete disaster" for New York City and the state.
He made the comments while the joint budget committee he sits on was receiving testimony from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
Quinn said, "I would not describe the governor's budget as a complete disaster"
"Partial disaster?" Brennan asked.
Quinn, trying to settle the matter, said, "I would not describe - lest I be misquoted - I would not associate the word 'disaster' with Governor Cuomo's budget."
"I have no idea if that's an accurate number or not. I just don't know," he said.
The report was announced by a group that included Archbishop Timothy Dolan. Bloomberg aides took a more nuanced view of the figure, according to this New York Times story.
[C]ity health officials and groups that support access to abortion say that behind the 41 percent statistic — nearly twice the national rate — are complex social and legal factors: fewer obstacles to abortion in state law; the absence of mandatory sex education in New York City public schools; the ignorance of people, especially young ones, about where to get affordable birth control; and the ambivalence of young women living in poverty and in unstable relationships about when and whether to have children.
UPDATE: About that methodology. The study says their findings hold up, even when calculated by the method used by the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights organization. A spokesperson for the Guttmacher Institute told me they too come up with a 41% abortion rate for NYC.
The New York Press Club will host the two iconic journalists next week. What would you ask them?
Mayor Bloomberg has made eliminating a $12,000 payment to uniformed firefighters and police officers a key push in his 2011 Albany legislative agenda.
He's gone as far to say that eliminating that payment could save thousands of teachers from being laid off. But when in Albany, the mayor was asked if a home rule message - a formal request from a local legislative body to state lawmakers - would be forthcoming on this.
Bloomberg said it probably wasn't needed. Bloomberg also said it's a controversial move and he would not be inclined to encourage City Council members to vote on a controversial piece of legislation if there was no guarantee that state lawmakers would also vote on it (which happened with congestion pricing).
In a Q&A with reporters after his testimony, Bloomberg reiterated a home rule message on eliminating the $12,000 payment - something he's dubbed a "bonus" - would not be needed. The mayor said he didn't know "why" the home rule message would be needed, he told reporters. But if it was needed, the mayor said it would likely pass, once legislators (and the public) understood it was needed to save thousands of teacher jobs.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who testified about the budget here in Albany after Bloomberg, said a home rule message on the $12,000 payments probably was needed.
"It would most likely, yes, need a home rule message," said Quinn. "My sense is we would need one."
Mayor Bloomberg told state lawmakers it's up to them to push for congestion pricing, or whatever alternative they can come up with. Because he won't.
During the mayor's testimony in Albany about the governor's budget, Bloomberg was asked what he thought about congestion pricing this year. The bill, which he heavily lobbied for in 2007, was narrowly passed in the New York City Council, and was sent up to Albany.
It died in the Assembly when the Democratic conference decided not to let the bill out of committee. (It's unclear if there were enough votes for it to pass the Republican-controlled State Senate).
"I'm not going to come back and fight that battle," said Bloomberg, citing the political risk City Council members took in supporting it, only to see it die in Albany without a vote.
Later, when asked if congestion pricing as a "dead" issue, Bloomberg told reporters it's up to state lawmakers to come up with a way to fund the state's mass transit's needs, saying, he is "not going to stand up and campaign for it."
"The answer lies not in the market, or in the stars, but in ourselves. We need to right-size pension benefits to save City taxpayers and City workers. The answer lies not in the market, or in the stars, but in ourselves. We need to right-size pension benefits to save City taxpayers and City workers."
State Senator Tony Avella, a freshman Democrat from northeast Queens, was an outspoken defender of term limits when he was in the City Council.
He wants state lawmakers to serve for 4-year terms, and in total, to only serve fro 16 years. Staying longer makes elected officials "stagnant, arrogant and reluctant to adopt new ideas."
Which should gin up lots of support colleagues. Also, announcing the legislation on a Friday afternoon says something about how much political capital he's putting behind the effort.
They came in for particularly harsh treatment in Andrew Cuomo's budget presentation, with the governor joking he'd tried unsuccessfully to apply for one job making $386,000.
I'm told that particular six-figure-job is based out of Syosset Central School District, which, according to this web site, is now paying their top administrator, Carole Hankin, $485,246.42. In fact, 512 employees in that district make six figures, in salaries and benefits, according to SeeThroughNY.
The district offers something of a unique experience for it's 6,700 students according to this interview with Hankin:
There’s the elementary foreign language program, which offers students a virtual, whirlwind trip around the globe before they’re in their teens: Russian in kindergarten; Chinese in first grade; Spanish, French, and Italian in grades two, three, and four; and Latin in grade five. For those who may struggle with the rigors of A.P. Physics, there’s a high school course in forensics...
There’s also a middle school etiquette course, a yoga strand to help young children focus their minds and bodies, and teaching relationships with some of Manhattan’s finest institutions, including the Metropolitan Opera, the Philharmonic, Rockefeller and Columbia Universities.
And this one, "Hankin is known to pick up the phone frequently to call upon her local legislators for funding above and beyond her annual budget allotments, often with successful results."
A person who answered the phone at the Syosset school district said someone would be available to comment, later. Hankin's colleagues on Long Island are also well-paid.
[H/t Michelle Breidenbach]
After just over a year, New York Observer editor Kyle Pope is being replaced, by Elizabeth Spiers, who will oversee the paper and their web site.
Pope arrived at the Observer in 2009 from Conde Nast, following the resignation of Tom McGeveran, who ran the paper after Peter Kaplan left. During Pope's time there, almost the entire editorial staff (full disclosure: including me) left.
The paper had a mandate of chronicling the oversize characters in New York politics, media, real estate and culture. I’ve always thought of it as a weekly installment of Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, but with better art and more four-letter words.
The ranks of top media outlets in New York and Washington are studded with Observer alumni, some of whom went on to create new outlets for there work. It was, for example, the first place to give a blog to Ben Smith, who later went on to launch sites at the Daily News, and the independent Room 8, before moving to a brand-new Politico. Former editor Choire Sicha, who is also a former editor at Gawker, went on to found The Awl. McGeveran founded Capital New York. (McGeveran's take on the change is worth a read.)
Kushner is known to have looked at Gawker as a competitor and tormentor, but also as model. Low overhead, high traffic, intense readability: What wasn't to like?
It’s also a place the new Observer editor is intimately familiar with: Spiers is a founding editor of the site.
$2 billion, is the figure Bloomberg is using. Cuomo aides say it's far lower.
This morning, Bloomberg explained his figure is based on money he said was promised to him by the previous governor, plus the loss of "revenue sharing" on social programs that Albany will no longer fund.
"They're not going to do their fair share. Now, the city can't afford to pick up the balance," said the mayor.
Also, Bloomberg complained about a state law driving up education costs in the city
"One of the biggest drivers in the reason our education budget keeps going up is, there's something like a 19 percent increase built in for special ed, mandated by the state," said Bloomberg.
More from Bloomberg's radio show this morning:
Michael Bloomberg says he neither supports, or opposes, Wal-Mart's efforts to open their first store in New York City, but simply doesn't like the idea of a legislative body tinkering with the free market in an effort to block one store in particular.
During an interview with Joyce Purnick for her book, the mayor was more outspoken about the City Council's successful efforts at blocking the giant retailer.
"Everybody leaves to go to Nassau County or Westchester. Shirley Franklin, the mayor of Atlanta, she laughed at me in the face. They just got the biggest Wal-Mart in Atlanta -- she was thrilled. Only we can turn victory into shit.''
That's Michael Bloomberg's take on the volatile behavior attendees have demonstrated at the recent meetings for the Panel for Educational Policy.
"The decorum - this is embarrassing for New York City, New York State, for America," Bloomberg said on WOR this morning. "This is not democracy, letting people yell and scream. That's not freedom of expression. That's just taking away someone else's rights."
The latest PEP meeting, where outrage was loudly expressed, was last night. The panel voted to close 12 failing schools - which comes on top of a similar meeting Tuesday to close 10 other schools.