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News Archive

October 29, 2009 @ 2:55 pm

Bloomberg Courts the Black Clergy with $1 Million


Rob Bennett for The New York Times

Via Nicholas Confessore and Michael Barabaro in The New York Times:

A few weeks ago, the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, the influential pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, came to a difficult decision, one he had wrestled with all summer.

He would not endorse William C. Thompson Jr., the city comptroller and a longtime friend and ally, for mayor, as he had promised Mr. Thompson last spring. Instead, he would endorse Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Mr. Thompson was furious at the betrayal. But what he did not know was that Mr. Bloomberg gave a $1 million donation to the church’s development corporation — roughly 10 percent of its annual budget — with the implicit promise of more to come.

“What could I say to a man who was mayor, and was supportive of a lot of programs that are important to me?” Mr. Butts said in an interview before he endorsed Mr. Bloomberg.

In his quest for a third term, Mr. Bloomberg has deprived Mr. Thompson of what many once regarded as his political birthright: the blessings of the city’s most powerful black ministers, who together preach to tens of thousands of congregants each week. And to win them over, he has deployed an unusual combination of city money, private philanthropy, political appointments and personal attention, creating a web of ties to black clergy members that is virtually unheard of for a white elected official in New York City.

Some prominent ministers have been appointed by Mr. Bloomberg to influential city boards and committees. Others have enjoyed the administration’s help in buying city property or winning zoning concessions for pet projects. A few of the largest institutions, including Abyssinian and the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in Jamaica, Queens, have taken in millions of dollars in contracts to provide city services during Mr. Bloomberg’s eight years in office.

Looming over it all is Mr. Bloomberg’s dazzling wealth, whether already bestowed — as in the case of Mr. Butts — or hoped for down the line.

“We have to come to his foundation sooner or later,” said the Rev. Timothy Birkett, pastor of the Church Alive Community Church in the Bronx, who is backing the mayor this year. “We hope that he will be receptive.”

Those who support Mr. Bloomberg say that the mayor has earned their endorsements strictly on the merits of his record in office, especially on education and crime. But some critics say the outpouring of support owes more to the dependence of many black churches on a friendly ear at City Hall.

“Some of these endorsements that we see are indicative of a faith statement by some of our religious leaders,” said the Rev. Clinton M. Miller, a protégé of Mr. Butts and the pastor of Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Brooklyn. “The statement is, who do I trust more, in terms of how I am going to get my projects done?” Mr. Miller said. “The choice is between a municipality and God.”

Aides to Mr. Bloomberg say that mutual respect, not financial ties, binds the mayor to the clergymen; they point out that some of the churches also received large contracts before Mr. Bloomberg took office.

Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott said the relationship “really goes beyond contracts,” adding that it is based on “an ongoing line of communication we have with important individuals who have important constituencies, and we’re very proud of that.”

At moments of racial tension that might have swamped a different white mayor, Mr. Bloomberg has rarely faced the kind of personal criticism from prominent black ministers that wounded his predecessors, like Rudolph W. Giuliani, whom Mr. Butts once publicly branded a racist.

That contrast was on display last week when Mr. Bloomberg appeared at a campaign event with Mr. Giuliani, who suggested to a mostly white, Jewish audience in Brooklyn that “the wrong political leadership” could return New Yorkers to the days of “fear of going out at night and walking the streets.”

Several black elected officials immediately denounced the comments as race-baiting. But no prominent black pastors demanded that the mayor disavow the comments.

[See the rest of the story at The New York Times]

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Filed under In the Trenches, News, Reading List, ritztastic · No Comments »

October 29, 2009 @ 12:17 pm

Sam Leff: Top 10 Reasons Not to Vote for Bloomberg

Via the Huffington Post:

1. Giving the nation four more years of George W. Bush.

Michael Bloomberg rolled out the red carpet and gave the keys to the city to the Republicans to nominate Bush for a second term in the summer of 2004. Exercising a staunchly [and stealth] pro-Republican strategy, he denied a protest venue for the millions of Americans angered and disturbed by the illegitimate Bush administration and its trumped up war in Iraq, forcing angry U.S citizens to march up and down the City’s avenues rather than assembling in the traditional public space of large gatherings, Central Park’s Great Lawn. More than that, Bloomberg’s secret police followed potential demonstrators for two years prior to the convention and illegally arrested and detained 2,000 people at a greasy bus depot on the Hudson for two days during the Bush coronation. The city has already paid out $10 million in lawsuits for its assault on the rights of Americans to demonstrate their just grievances at a national political convention. In response to the denial of constitutional rights perpetrated by his NYPD, Bloomberg pats his police commissioner Raymond Kelly on the back. “Heckuvajob Kelly.” Showing his true face, Bloomberg is ending his campaign by cuddling up to Rudolph Giuliani and their orthodox Jewish constituency at a Brooklyn rally supporting Giuliani’s latest aspirations to be governor of New York.

2. Bloomberg is a liar.

Twice the citizens of New York City voted to impose term limits on elected officials. Bloomberg twisted arms on the City Council to have them pass a new law overturning term limits, promoting their own self interest, and flying in the face of the public will he broke his promise to respect term limits and not run again and is using his extraordinary fortune in an advertising blitz to twist the truth, create myths, and squeeze out votes that any sane democratic society would reject out of hand.

3. Speaking of rats, Bloomberg’s New York is overrun with rats.

They’ve been observed leaving restaurants on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and going into apartment buildings. So dense is their population they have become road kill crossing Broadway or Amsterdam Avenue. They became national television news stars playing at night in a Greenwich Village Taco Bell restaurant. Many city residents who park on the streets have found that the rats take up residence in their engines, often eating away wires and leaving their droppings and chicken bones behind. Riverside Park is a favorite hangout where they dine at the Boat Basin restaurant and scurry around the feet of tourists on park benches by the river.

4. Helicopter tourism vs. peace and quiet in our local environment.

Bloomberg is the only New York politician who supports the 17 private New York companies providing extremely noisy low-flying helicopter tours over the densely populated residential East and West side communities. Expensive helicopter tours [$120 per person for 20 minutes] constantly fly from the Hudson to Central Park and back, creating a deafening atmosphere that often approximates a military siege and destroys the tranquility of Central Park. Even after a helicopter and small plane crashed over the unregulated Wild West air space over the Hudson River, killing nine tourists, Bloomberg was the only local politician who failed to speak out against the helicopter problem. The reason behind this enigma is simple. Billionaire Bloomberg takes full advantage of helicopter transportation and, being a helicopter pilot himself, won’t do anything that might restrict his own comings and goings. All other Manhattan politicians say that helicopter tourism is insignificant to the city economy and that those few tourists who spend hundreds of dollars for a few minutes in the air over the city would all find other ways to spend their tourism money.

5. Bloomberg doesn’t make the trains run on time.

Bloomberg’s city streets are a joke. He has drawn bike lanes, but just try to ride the bike lanes on the Upper West Side. They are, like the treacherous crosswalks at the major streets and avenues, pockmarked with potholes and patchwork repairs from companies who dug up the streets to put in internet and video cables. (Bloomberg has a large investment in Verizon, and though he is supposed to have a hands-off policy concerning his investments, his billions have tripled during the time of his mayoralty). Bike lanes on the Upper West Side are (typically) useless window dressing.

6. Parking tickets as a revenue source.

Bloomberg’s traffic agents are so aggressive they give alternate side street cleaning tickets out at exactly 11 a.m. at the very second when the regulations go into effect. If your watch is two minutes slow, or if you leave your car at 12:28 two minutes before 12:30 when the regulations go off, you can get ticketed. Bloomberg has installed television cameras to take pictures of cars going through lights which change in the blink of an eyelash. He, like his predecessor Giuliani, thinks squeezing the public for money from tickets is a great source of revenue for the city. He has done nothing to provide low-cost public parking for city drivers, as is available in all major civilized European cities. Oh, you can park in New York if you’re wealthy and don’t mind paying a small fortune for the privilege.

7. Bloomberg’s Heckuvajob Kelly hires thugs for his police department.

Look at the YouTube favorite
(over 2 million views) of the New York City cop throwing a body block on a Critical Mass bike rider riding through Times Square, or the Channel 11 report.

Like the 2,000 arrested by Heckuvajob Kelly, this cyclist was charged with”attempted assault” “resisting arrest” and “disorderly conduct.” Now imagine what would have happened if that tourist with a video camera hadn’t been there to record the “attempted assault.” That young man would have found himself tied up in court trying to defend himself against, as it turns out, the son of retired New York City police detective who had been a former high school football lineman.

8. Bloomberg runs the local police like the CIA

He hired a former high-level CIA official, David Cohen, to conduct secret surveillance of “potential troublemakers” like environmentalists, church groups, street theater groups, and every other type of creative or not so creative traditional protest group that might come to the city to oppose Bloomberg’s favored political candidates and causes. We don’t know exactly how many millions of dollars were spent investigating peace groups before RNC 2004, but it may have been nearly as much as the $10 million paid out in court settlements to the victims of the NYPD assault on anti-Bush demonstrators and witnesses. What we do know is that none of that money was spent for housing for the homeless or on education of our children, or for fixing potholes.

9. Michael Bloomberg is openly buying power with his fortune.

This is particularly ironic in a world where billions of dollars of the tax money of ordinary people are being shelled out to shore up the fortunes and lifestyles of millionaires and billionaires like Bloomberg who made their obscene fortunes manipulating financial devices on Wall Street while Main Street was being bled dry by those same institutions. In these times, why in the world should the decisions of New York City government be made by a person whose finances are so far removed from the average citizen that he couldn’t possibly empathize with the hardships of normal New Yorkers? This country was born of a revolution that overthrew the rule of royalty. Why should it be ruled by pseudo royals like Bloomberg who have no respect for truth or justice?

10. As Holden Caulfield might say, Bloomberg is the biggest phony in town.

Sam Leff is an anthropologist specializing in American culture.

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Filed under A Good Manager?, News, Reading List · 2 Comments »

October 29, 2009 @ 10:55 am

Spin v. Facts Leaflet

The leaflet below can be downloaded and printed on a single double-sided page, and handed out before the election. Please do, if you are so inclined.

Bloomberg Leaflet

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Filed under In the Trenches, News · 3 Comments »

October 29, 2009 @ 9:38 am

Watching: FOX News Isn’t News. It’s a Political Operation.

Bertha Lewis, the head of Acorn, together with Bill Lipton and Dan Cantor of the Working Families Party joined the battle to help us save our homes at Independence Plaza, a 3,000-person Mitchell-Lama development. Michael Bloomberg and his housing administration were on the other side of course. To watch the Republican attacks on Acorn while the financial industry’s rip-off artists and war-profiteers go unpunished is hard to stomach. And to see the Democrats caving to the propaganda machine is doubly hard. This video is worth watching.

- Neil Fabricant

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October 28, 2009 @ 6:46 pm

Reading List: Bloomberg’s Development Delays, The Press Gives the Mayor a Pass


Eirini Vourloumis for The New York Times

* Russ Buettner and Ray Rivera have a story in The New York Times about how all of Bloomberg’s development plans have stalled during the recession: Ron Shiffman, a former city planning commissioner, said a flaw in the mayor’s approach was its failure to do enough to reap public benefits from a real estate industry he had so readily fostered. “He didn’t steer the boom,” Mr. Shiffman said. “He did not direct it in such a way that it benefited a more diverse set of populations in the city of New York, and more diverse income groups. It was basically developer-driven.”

* Steve Kornacki: “The mayor’s strategy this fall has been as formulaic as it has been well funded—light on bold, provocative ideas and heavy on focus-group-approved drivel and hard-edged attack ads aimed at Mr. Thompson. (Perhaps you’ve seen one or 12 of them.)”

* Tom Robbins writes that the press has been much too easy on Bloomberg, who has courted newspaper barons like Murdoch, Zuckerman and Sulzberger: “As Purnick’s book also tells us, even his weekend disappearing act to go to his mansion in Bermuda has gone unchallenged. “He does his radio show Friday morning,” a former aide told her. “At 11:05, the latest, he’s in his car. At 11:30 he is at the airport. His plane is in the air at 11:40, he’s in Bermuda at 2:10. He’s on the golf course by 2:30. . . . Almost every weekend, spring and fall.”

* As if refusing to leave while a sports reporter interviewed pitcher CC Sabathia about the Yankees winning the pennant wasn’t enough — Bloomberg is continuing to use the Yankees to boost his campaign.

* WNYC reports about Bloomberg defending his staff’s monetary contribution to Newark Mayor Cory Booker after receiving Booker’s endorsement.

* The Village Voice reports that ex-Bloomberg City TV exec Trevor Scotland will be pleading guilty to stealing ad revenue that was due to the city.

* And finally, we’ll leave you off with some satire about conservative media from Bob Salzman.

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Filed under News, Reading List · 1 Comment »

October 28, 2009 @ 2:42 pm

Gotham Gazette: Fact Checking the Campaign

Gotham Gazette’s Courtney Gross takes a look at the mud-slinging and exaggerations in this year’s mayoral election and hunts around for the facts:

AN EDUCATION RECORD

Claim: The Bloomberg campaign says, as school board president, Thompson presided over low performance and waste. Meanwhile under the mayor’s tenure, test scores are up, school violence is down and $350 million has been cut from bureaucracy and put in the classroom.

FACTS: The mayor is definitely right about one thing: Test scores are climbing, according to the Department of Education, and fast. Between 2002 and 2009, the number of fourth grade students who met or exceeded state standards in math went from about 52 percent to 84.9 percent, according to statistics provided by the city’s education department. In 2002, less than 30 percent of eighth graders met state standards in reading. In 2009, 57 percent made the grade. Whether the rise is because of easier tests, the mayor’s changes to the school system or something else entirely remains unclear.

The statistics also improved under Thompson’s tenure as president of the Board of Education — granted far more slowly. From 1999 to 2001, the years the city used the state exam while Thompson was president of the Board of Education, the percentage of fourth graders who met state math standards went from 49.6 to 51.8 percent. For reading, fourth graders who met state standards increased from 32.7 percent to 43.9 percent. According to the city’s Department of Education, the percentage of eighth graders who met reading standards dropped from 1999 to 2001 — from 35.2 percent to 33 percent.

Keep in mind: Thompson did not control the schools as school board chief — he shared that with the mayor, the chancellor and the other board members — making it difficult to attribute student success or failure to his actions. From 1996 to 2001, the years Thompson was president, high school graduation rates went from 48 percent to 51 percent.

During Bloomberg’s tenure, graduation rates have climbed from 51 percent to 66 percent, according to the Department of Education.

MAYORAL CONTROL

Claim: Thompson says his record as president of the Board of Education led to mayoral control.

FACTS: According to at least one colleague at the Board of Education under Thompson’s reign, his actions did help move the city’s school system toward mayoral control. “His efforts were precursors to mayoral control. He played a leading role in governance changes,” Sandra Lerner, a former board member from the Bronx, told Gotham Gazette earlier this year. While in the post, Thompson advocated for mandatory school uniforms and a chancellor’s district for low performing schools. He was thought of as a conciliator. At the same time, in 1996, just before he took over the board presidency, Thompson told the New York Times he opposed giving then Mayor Rudolph Giuliani control over the school system. He has since said he supports mayoral control.

[For the rest of the fact checking, see Courtney Gross's story at the Gotham Gazette.]

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October 28, 2009 @ 11:11 am

Mayoral Debate Roundup

* The Post leads with a question by a Bronx resident who asked about the city-subsidized $1.5 billion Yankee Stadium, which Bloomberg defended as a solid investment. Thompson countered that Bloomberg handed big tax breaks to his “developer friends” and is behind schedule in razing the old stadium to create space for the residents there.

* Times reporter Michael Powell thought Thompson was able to raise his debating game while Bloomberg sidestepped difficult questions with relative ease — except for contracting his face in distaste when asked about being out of touch with New Yorkers.

* Adam Lisberg leads with the candidates debating taxes and the budget deficit.

* Celeste Katz and Erin Einhorn are surprised Thompson didn’t ask voters to show party loyalty by voting against Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg. They were also surprised by the mayor’s aggression. “We don’t know what Bradley Tusk and Howard Wolfson were feeding him before air time,” they mused.

* David Chen thinks Bloomberg won the debate.

* Lisberg has some post-debate spin:

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October 27, 2009 @ 7:00 pm

Times: Newark Mayor Backed Bloomberg, Then Got Funds

Via The New York Times:

Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark has been one of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s most vocal supporters this campaign season, stumping with him on at least four occasions, including a whirlwind tour of African-American churches in Queens on Sunday.

Perhaps Mr. Booker was trying to show some gratitude.

On April 17, Mr. Booker, a Democrat, crossed party and state lines by endorsing Mr. Bloomberg, an independent running as a Republican, in Harlem. About a month later, Mr. Bloomberg’s longtime accountant contributed $26,000 — the maximum allowable — to Mr. Booker’s re-election committee next year, according to campaign finance records.

Technically, the contribution to Mr. Booker’s 10-member slate, which includes 9 Municipal Council candidates, was made by Martin J. Geller, Mr. Bloomberg’s accountant. But Mr. Geller has long had a habit of contributing money to candidates or committees that the mayor supports, with $100,000 in 2007 to Senate Republicans in Albany being one notable example.

The contribution is only the second one that Mr. Geller has made anyone in New Jersey politics. In 2005, he gave $2,000 to the campaign efforts of the Assembly Republicans in Trenton. At that time, Mr. Bloomberg was still registered as a Republican.

When asked about whether there was a quid pro quo, Howard Wolfson, the Bloomberg campaign’s chief media strategist, said: “As Mayor Booker made clear this past Sunday, he and Mayor Bloomberg formed a friendship three years ago when he was first elected to office, and have worked together on a number of issues since, including gun violence and education reform. They form a mutual admiration society, and so it’s not surprising that the two mayors would be supporting one another.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Booker, Desiree Peterkin Bell, added that several members of Mr. Booker’s staff have worked in the Bloomberg administration.

“Since 2006, both men have publicly praised and respected each other’s leadership — they have and both will continue to be supportive of each other in the future,” she said in a statement.

Mr. Booker is hardly the only Democratic elected official who has not supported William C. Thompson Jr., Mr. Bloomberg’s Democratic opponent. But he has been one of Mr. Bloomberg’s most avid supporters, regardless of party affiliation, and has campaigned almost as much in New York recently for Mr. Bloomberg as he has in New Jersey on behalf of Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a Democrat.

Never was Mr. Booker more effusive, perhaps, than on Sunday when he traveled with Mr. Bloomberg to African-American churches in Queens, presumably to put some distance between some controversial remarks that former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani had made the week before about crime when he was campaigning with Mr. Bloomberg.

“My big-brother mayor,” Mr. Booker said in describing Mr. Bloomberg, during a rousing address at Rev. Floyd H. Flake’s Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in Jamaica, Queens.

When told of the contribution, Anne Fenton, a spokeswoman for Mr. Thompson, said, “Today’s revelation that Mike Bloomberg has paid for the endorsement of Newark Mayor Cory Booker is scandalous. It proves Bloomberg is willing to do anything to win this election and calls into question many of the supporters who have stood beside him.”

There are no other records, at least so far, showing that other politicians who have endorsed Mr. Bloomberg have also received contributions in recent months. But campaign finance experts caution that a full accounting won’t be available until after the election.

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October 27, 2009 @ 6:00 pm

The Promise of New York on YouTube

Last month, we reviewed filmmaker Raul Barcelona’s funny and provocative documentary, “The Promise of New York.” Barcelona assembled four unlikely mayoral candidates to give some insight into what it was like to run against billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2005, and the challenges they came across when they begin participating in the complicated political process of running for mayor. With one week to go before Election Day, Barcelona is allowing everyone to see the entire film for free on YouTube. The film is also available on DVD. Here’s the first part of the film:

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October 27, 2009 @ 5:32 pm

On Public Option, MSM Gets It Wrong

From time to time we’ve been reporting on the New York Times’ shameless promotion of Bloomberg’s candidacy. Robert Parry is an astute observer of mainstream media’s increasingly right wing-tilt. On the surface, this account has nothing to do with Bloomberg, but we are mindful that the money against the people war that Bloomberg’s candidacy represents is being played out in Washington across every policy issue.

New Yorkers, who overwhelmingly support real health care reform and Obama, should understand that Bloomberg’s defeat in the face of such a crushing media and money advantage would send a powerful message that The People are still out there. The only reason that many, if not most politicians here or in Washington sometimes do the right thing is because they worry about the people.

Via Robert Parry and Consortium News:

The American mainstream media is in another snit, having misjudged the prospects for the public option on health care almost as completely as big-time journalists bungled the reporting on the Iraq War and a host of other important stories during George W. Bush’s presidency.

Indeed, if you had listened to all the supposedly knowledgeable journalists covering the health-care debate on Capitol Hill, you might have been shocked to learn Monday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was putting a version of the public option in the bill that he is bringing to the Senate floor.

For instance, CNN’s Dana Bash has told listeners to her “no bias” news network that the only piece of legislation that mattered was the one emerging from the Senate Finance Committee, a position shared by nearly all the other “smart” journalists and pundits. That’s why, they said, they were devoting so much time to covering every twist and turn of the committee’s negotiations.

That devotion wasn’t shaken even by the strange legislative concoction that emerged from the Finance Committee. Since it didn’t include the public option, the insider thinking was that the idea was effectively dead, though a public option was included in the four other committee-approved bills, all three on the House side and one from the Senate Health and Labor Committee.

Still, Bash and her MSM colleagues told us that the Finance Committee bill would be the framework for final congressional action and the other four bills would be mostly cast aside. After all, the Finance Committee bill had the support of one Republican, Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine.

That conventional wisdom remained set in concrete despite many Democratic members of Congress indicating that the public option was alive and well – and despite opinion polls showing that the American people favored a public option by about a 2-to-1 margin.

So, when the MSM’s smug certainty went up in smoke on Monday, as Reid announced that he would include a version of the public option with an opt-out provision for states when he takes the legislation to the full Senate, the journalists were in a foul mood.

A new consensus quickly formed that it wasn’t that their reporting had been lousy, or that the public option made a lot of sense. or that the people’s will was finally being respected. It was that Reid had betrayed them by caving in to the left-wing base of the Democratic Party.

Reid’s announcement, declared the Washington Post’s snide columnist Dana Milbank, “was an admission of the formidable power of liberal interest groups. He had been the target of a petition drive and other forms of pressure to bring the public option to the floor.”

A petition drive, no less. Citizens signing a petition urging their elected representatives to take a position favored by a large majority of the American people. How nefarious!

[See the rest of the story at Consortium News]

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