Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rumors & Politics

A recent survey was said to prove that the people we Americans most admire are our politicians and doctors. I don't believe it. They are simply the people we are most afraid of. And with the most reason.
-- Author Unknown

The problem with rumors is that sometimes they’re true. Enron is a good example. Bears Sterns is another. Politically, Spitzer is as good as any you’ll ever hear and for those of you who remember Donald Manes, there’s little to be said.
In this season of danger, euphemistically known as Primary season, few want to be on record for the battles that are occurring. Whispers, anonymous letters and fourth hand accusations that are unattributed are the coin of the realm.
Since, for better or worse, Manhattan is still a one-party town, the Democrats fight it out in September. Whoever survives the Primary usually wins in November.

This year there are a number of real races among the Democrats.

Daniel Squadron, for example, is running again Democratic incumbent Marty Connor, who for 30 years has not had a serious opponent. That has changed this year. Squadron managed to garner the endorsement of Downtown’s major, but embattled, Democratic political club, D.I.D., and is clearly now in the lead for the State Senate seat. While Squadron has raised significant money (reportedly over $425,000 thus far), his real success is in making headway without the overt support of his major political rabbi, Senator Schumer. Squadron actually traveled with Schumer and they wrote a book together.
Having to make one’s own political way in spite of a tremendous political asset in order to connect with the community and inspire a sense of commitment is not an easy task. Squadron seems to have accomplished this by virtue of his energy and persistence.

Bob Morgenthau has been one of the strongest forces for political power and social responsibility in the Manhattan justice system. Legendary stories about Bob as a Federal prosecutor, his advisory meetings with Suffolk County D.A.’s like Thomas Spota and his socially correct politics do not do justice to his power. His prosecutors and assistants, including Dan Castleman and Eben Bronfman, are polite and charming but deadly, if you’re on the wrong side of the conference table.
As a supporter of women’s rights and as a force for social justice he has managed to succeed in breaking new ground with John Doe indictments -- which maintain DNA material and prosecutorial integrity – thereby protecting the ability to prosecute a rapist beyond the usual statute of limitations.
His opponent for D.A. is likely Leslie Crocker Snyder, a former judge and investment banker. She garnered 40% of the vote in the last election and is expected to run again. While a threat, the piggy bank on Wall Street may dry up this time around. She had been in favor of the death penalty but apparently has relinquished that position.
Others who wish to take over once Bob Morgenthau has retired are Catherine Abate, who has been waiting for him to step aside for years – and there is newcomer Cyrus Vance, Jr., who has stated clearly that he will not run if Bob decides to run again. Bob is running again.
Another possible wild card candidate mentioned has been Jim McManus, District Leader and head of the McManus Midtown Democratic Club.
As unusual as that may seem, remember the D.A’s office is about knowing where the bones are buried and digging them up.
Bob knows how to dig them up and Jim likely knows where some of them are buried.

The City Council race for District one will soon become more interesting. While Julie Menin, Chair of Board #1 and her forces have zeroed in on Pete Gleason, her attention may be misplaced.
Gleason is the choice of many and is clearly preferred by registered voters North of Canal Street but money may become the issue. Menin’s war chest is supported by developers and husband Bruce Menin, reportedly with a family fortune in the hundreds of millions -- a daunting reality for opponents.

Margaret Chin, however, is the candidate to watch.
She is an activist who fervently puts her energy where her mouth is. No one works as hard as she does. And, while she represents the huge Chinese voter majority Downtown, she has gained popularity with those who do not like the idea of a political seat that is bought.

Chin’s detractors have tried to find an Achilles Heel and the best they’ve been able to come up with is the fact that as a young girl she was a member of the Communist Party. Move over Hollywood.

Ballotgate is heating up.
Apparently, Community Board #1 may be ripe for an investigation over a missing ballot. A recent election for assistant secretary, an Executive Committee position has created a little monster for all involved.
The rough details apparently are that during the balloting in a race between Community activist Marc Ameruso and his opponent, Board member named Lynn-Rudder -- one vote went missing. While the election was not a close one, the missing ballot is troubling for a few different reasons. First, it was Julie Menin’s vote, the Chair of the Board. Second, it indicates that someone is toying with the election process.
Rumors have circulated indicating that the motivation for the missing ballot is related to the fact that all election results at Community Boards are open and transparent. Ergo, anyone can review the results and figure out who voted for whom. In the past, these election results often indicate to either the winning or losing candidate who your friends really are.
Since Menin verbally promised her vote to Ameruso and since Lynn-Rudder is from the Menin camp (he is not), it is logical to assume that that particular missing ballot might be an embarrassment.
Whatever your politics are, however, there is no indication of where the missing Menin ballot went after being accepted by Pat Moore, one of her supporters and head of the Nominating Committee. Moore was also Menin’s entry for the D.I.D. election, which ended with Sean Sweeney being re-elected.
Ameruso discovered it the next day when he reviewed the results at the Board office and he then reported the fact.
Interestingly, he was then accused of committing the crime that he, himself discovered and reported. A little thin, even for political logic.

If nothing else, it elucidates the depth of political intrigue going on at Board #1 – and whether this needs an investigation by an outside entity (since rumor has it that two attorneys sit on the Executive Committee and are upset over this), remains to be seen.
Stringer is a political ally of Menin and depends upon the fundraising potential but he clearly takes his connection with the Community Boards very seriously. He may have to step aside and let a completely neutral body check this out if it does not quickly get resolved.
Somebody might want to suddenly find that missing ballot before it gets too messy. Perhaps it stuck to the bottom of someone’s coffee cup.
This is being reviewed at an emergency Executive Committee meeting next Monday at 6 pm at the Board office. Stay tuned rangers.

Apparently, D.I.D. is stabilizing after the failed Menin and David Reck orchestrated Putsch – but suddenly Julie Nadel (who had been elected Treasurer) was advised that she could not have a position on the H.R.P.T. and also serve as an officer in a political club. She received the Dear Julie letter from Connie Fishman, President of the Trust, stating that this was not permitted. Nadel, graciously dropped out of the D.I.D. position and District Leader Adam Silvera took over on an interim basis.
While the matter was handled quickly and efficiently, one wonders why this particular responsiveness occurred at this moment in time. Other H.R.P.T. members have enjoyed dual roles.
Nadel, however, has been one of the only critics on the H.R.P.T. Board that covets secrecy and she has been known to speak her mind on a number of controversial issues.

Nadel was also was involved in helping to arrange a Meet & Greet for Councilmember Eric Gioia, an announced candidate for Public Advocate in ‘09 – a position that Scott Stringer has not announced he is seeking – but is known to be considering. Stringer appoints three of the H.R.P.T. Board members.

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