Monday, February 09, 2009

Notes from Downtown

In politics, absurdity is not a handicap.
-- Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 - 1821)

The District 3 City Council seat has been a source of intense scrutiny. From the pre-Term Limits speculation about candidates, which had Brad Hoylman running against Andrew Berman and Maria Derr tagging along, we now have Christine Quinn back in the mix with Derr still tagging along. Various stragglers are in tow but its mainly Quinn.

Quinn brings the Speakership, tough attitudes and experience – as well as animosity from voters over issues like Trump SoHo, the DSNY garage in Hudson Square and the Term-Limits deal.

What strikes many as difficult to understand, is why Bloomberg thought it necessary to push another term on us at all costs when he was riding a wave of popularity that seemed to make it unnecessary. The operative word, here, of course, is “seemed.” Maybe Staten Island is wavering.

Quinn supported Bloomberg and, of course, was backed up by enough Council members with their hands out to make term-limits work.

It STILL does not mean that we are not better off with Bloomberg. It only means that it was done in a “Big Brother” fashion. There’s never a good taste in your mouth after having a rusty pipe rammed down your throat. But, despite all of the Harvard boys around, it’s possible that he did not think that holding another referendum was a chance he wanted to take. But, why doesn’t he now just hold the referendum since he’s holding all of the cards? We all know how to drink the Kool-aide with grace.

But, the damage to Quinn was temporary, just as the damage over the Slushgate imbroglio seems to have passed. Or, not.

Even an indictment doesn’t make you a bad person. It only means that you matter and that you have political enemies. Welcome to the real world.

The difference between having a controversial Speaker/Council Member as opposed to one who is incompetent, of course, matters greatly.

Quinn’s main opponent is Maria Derr, former Board #2 Chair and heir-apparent to the Passannate name (Bill Passanante of Greenwich Village), who preceded Deborah Glick in the Assembly.

Derr, a candidate who has bounced from club to club in search of a political position to run for, settled upon Quinn’s seat after the idea of running against Deborah Glick seemed like folly. Glick is well-respected and, while sometimes paranoid about being challenged, has little to worry about. Few candidates can hold a candle to Deborah’s genuine community bona fides.
Derr has traded on the Passanante name, close related to Carmine DeSapio, only recently. Prior to that, her uncle was rarely mentioned.

But, Derr’s affiliations were what has always been suspect – in a low-level sort of way. Her connections with a group of minor power brokers on Board #2 kept her in questionable company with people whose dirty tricks were not particularly elegant. The level of mean-spirited games played by such luminaries as Alan Roskoff and Bob Rinaolo, or dearly departed Arty Strickler – while she was Board #2 Chair – were mildly shocking at the time but were, in reality, simply comical in import. Her level of sophistication apart from a heavy commitment to retaliation leaves something to be desired, even in a politician.

In fact, after insinuating herself on the McManus Midtown Democratic Club (after pulling the same stunt at VRDC), she sent out a press release with photos of herself and Jim McManus, seemingly portraying support for her candidacy for Quinn’s seat.

According to Jim McManus, who was reached for this piece, he did not even know about the flyer until after it had been mailed out.

He stated flatly that he supports Christine Quinn for City Council. He helped Quinn garner her Speakership and he firmly supports her for re-election. This City Council seat is in McManus territory and he knows politics. Period. End of story.
As a side note, for those of you who are wondering, Bob Morgenthau IS running for another term. Yes, -- and Leslie Crocker Snyder is also running. Rumors have abounded for years about Catherine Abate and more currently about Cyrus Vance, Jr. – should Bob decide not to run. Well, he’s running.

If it is worth anything, the mistake is making his age THE issue. In a personal interview, this writer found him to be completely and fully engaged, in charge of the issues, and in charge of the situation – as well as a tough politician. His prosecutors, like right-hand man, Dan Castleman, are also the kind of 1000-pound gorillas you don’t want to screw around with. Snyder has dropped her death penalty requirement as a gesture to liberals but Morgenthau is still running the show.

1 comment:

Chronicler said...

The question of Bloomberg's inherent competence isn't as open and shut as you might suggest. His bona fides as a star financial manager arise from the fact that he was the mayor during economic boom times. But look at it another way: as the tax revenue flowed in from Wall Street, his budgets grew and grew. He didn't save -- nor did he doubt the reliability of the revenue stream, although one could fairly argue as the owner of Bloomberg News, he had the advantage of more knowledge than anyone as to just how real these profits (and the dependent tax revenues) were. Since the early 1990s the city's budget has nearly doubled -- nearly doubled! While the population has grown by about a million (or less than 15%). He's effectively DEfunded arts and culture through public sources and managed to keep down the hue and cry from the affected groups by funding them personally -- without thinking what would happen when the next mayor, who couldn't fund them personally, had no established baseline for arts funding. He's bought off or scared the other politicians in town, and he's ensured that the only politician who can reasonably be expected to oppose him -- Christine Quinn -- hasn't, largely through his money. As Koch used to say, a Mayor has to feel the City's pain, but Mr. Bloomberg hasn't felt any pain in so long that he has seemed to forget that pain exists.

I could go on about what he's done wrong: the useless bike lanes, the illogical traffic patterns, the over-development of Soho (and the attempts to over-develop then entire West Side), the cronyism (legal because the money is always flowing FROM the Mayor instead of the more traditional direction)...the general insulation from what it's actually like to LIVE in New York -- and not simply his own insulation, but the insulation he has wrapped around his aides, staff and campaign workers. Does government "of the people" mean anything at all? (Shouldn't it?)