Thursday, June 22, 2006

Elemental Democracy

It's never been said that politics is easy or always particularly honest. The long history of sub rosa deals, chicanery, dirty tricks and even murder in some cases, is the stuff of novels as well as election lore. From the Borgias to the Kennedys, from Julius Caesar to George Bush, it is a trail of misdeeds and subterfuge that is enjoyable to read about.

It's a tough business and the stakes are big. Big money, big egos and most often big power.

But, aside from the fact that almost any kind words or actions are covered under a cloak of immunity, the rules covering Community Board conduct are fairly transparent. Or, at least, they are supposed to be. As an advisory body, there is not much real power in and of its role as the representation of the will of the community. And, it is the body that represents the community - which means the residents, institutions and businesses in its area or territory.

The power on Community Board #2, which is about to have its second election in two years, is not currently vested with the community. It is centered upon a few people who are connected to the Chamber of Commerce and have ties with the Nightlife Association.

While these organizations provide valuable representation to their members, they do not represent the residents of the community in which they operate. They exist to further their own interests.

As a result, neighborhoods experience pressures from organized entities and their paid representatives who lobby for bar proliferation, expansion of institutions and development pressures that can and do overwhelm residents and activists alike. It takes a lot of hard work to thwart the investment of big money.

That is why the Community Board is so important. The will of the community can stand in the way of high pressure efforts to push aside the will of the people.

In the recent past, the groundswell of support for a more community-oriented Community Board #2 has unleashed some serious players who don't give a damn about what residents want. They are paid consultants to push a business and sometimes self-serving agenda (which is not interested in the wishes of the residents first). Members on the Board who have allied themselves with this anti-community/pro-business agenda, like Rick Panson, Bob Rinaolo, Phil Mouquinho, Roscia Sanz, John Maggio, John Diaz and until recently Mark Rosenwasser - have coordinated efforts to control the Board sometimes for self-interest. Using whatever means necessary.

While this is not surprising, the methods used certainly have been. After all, this is not supposed to be the Spanish Inquisition.

But an "anonymous" letter was circulated to smear those who opposed the wishes of community-unfriendly members. It was partially crafted to punish those who used methods of "managing" an election win - and discussed it openly. The letter was unsigned and shortly after discredited - in part due to the balanced reporting which appeared in The Villager and written by Lincoln Anderson.

Then more recently, a series of letters were circulated by Arthur Schwartz and Rick Panson - ostensibly to support the waning credibility of Maria Derr, the current Chair.

The Panson letters attacked Larry Goldberg for seeking the Board financial statement and, foolishly, attacking Councilmember Alan Gerson.

However, it turns out, that it was not just a letter by Rick Panson. At the very least, it was a combined effort by Maria Derr and Rick Panson - possibly with the help of others in that ruling clique.

Derr has admitted to this and it is now public knowledge after having been exposed previously in this blog.

Shades of the "Anonymous" letter? Don't you think?

The involvement of a close personal friend of Maria Derr's, Alan Roskoff, who has been linked to the release of the "anonymous" letter, and who is a PR character seeking to gain Nightlife Association accounts for his PR firm, the Durham Group - presents all of us with a serious issue to ponder.

Having admitted to the fact that she was involved in creating the letter attacking Alan Gerson, having been personally closely connected to Alan Roskoff, and having been closely aligned with and supported by the Nightlife contingent on the Board - is there any doubt as to how and why all of these attacks were coordinated?

This is NOT just business as usual. This rises to the level of serious unprofessional conduct, at the very least. We are all, then, subject to the wrath of outside groups controlling the Board. That cannot be permitted to continue.

Between Bob Rinaolo with his inside deals and Machiavelli fetish, Phil Mouquinho with his Conflict of Interest as Chair of Sidewalks, Derr and her complicit involvement with various letters, Panson's phony high dudgeon over Gerson's criticism of Derr, and the obsequious behavior of "Dr." Maggio - we have a cast of characters who do not have the community first in mind.

The question becomes this: do residents want a Community Board that is ruled by power-seeking group that caters to business forces - to the exclusion of the residents. And, do representatives appointed to the Board want a Community Board that silences opposition with the threat of retaliation and character assassination - by any means necessary?

It should be clear to all that these personal attacks have been orchestrated to silence opposition and that they are originated by or sanctioned by the current group of bar owners, Chamber of Commerce groupies and their PR operatives.

Borough President Scott Stringer, Speaker Christine Quinn, Councilmember Alan Gerson, Assembly member Deborah Glick are all watching this election - and have all counseled fair play and perspective. They want Community Board #2 to move forward - to an era of cooperation and fairness AND Democracy.

Let's give them what they want.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Some things you did not mention in your blog:

Allen Roskoff and Maria Derr, community board chair, are certainly close. He spent the Labor Day Weekend at her vacation home at the Jersey Shore! Poliitics make strange bedfellows.

Reporters have verified that Roskoff was pitching them the anonymous letter that was sent to Spitzer, Bloomberg, the Department of Investigation, Quinn, Stringer, et. al., calling for community board members who opposed oversaturation of bars to be indicted under RICO for extortion and racketeering.
The Daily New did a story that vindicated the community activists as being victims of smears by the nightlife industry.

Furthermore, Derr and her CB Treasurer, Rocio Sanz, have failed to provide a budget for FY 2005-06. Board member, Larry Goldberg, demanded in May to see a budget for FY 2005-06, since none had been approved during the past 11 months.

After weeks passed without receiving it, he had to FOIL.

Derr wrote him saying that she wil provide it after July 1, when a new budget is due and the current budget would be moot, because the current budget is 'in flux'.

Derr did tell Goldberg that there is a line item of $27,000 to the estate of the late Arty Strickler, past District Manager. Included in this is 'overtime' pay. However, Strickler was salaried. He was not to receive overtime pay, period.

Guess what? Strickler lobbied heavily from the board office to get Derr elected last year, a clear violation of City ethics code for a city employee .

Was the 'overtime' pay, from NYC funds, a reward for his service from Derr?

Is it true that the current budget for CB2 is being audited by the City?