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November 2, 2009 @ 6:04 pm

The Million Dollar Question

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November 2, 2009 @ 12:26 pm

Reading List: Thompson Trailing by 12 Points, One Final Push

Illustration by Roberto Parada

* A Quinnipiac Poll released this morning has Thompson trailing Bloomberg 38 to 50 — 12 percentage points. Last week, Thompson was trailing by 18 percentage points.

* The City Room has Thompson and Bloomberg gearing up for election day. The Daily News says they’re both pulling out all stops.

* New York magazine, which thinks that Bloomberg’s third term is all-but-official, says that Bloomberg will have a hard time working with the UFT.

* Michael Barbaro writes about the usual truth-stretching that seeps into campaign ads every election.

* City Hall News reports that the Bloomberg campaign believes it has neutralized the Working Families Party as a factor in the mayor’s race.

* The Daily News reports that there are still a significant amount of New Yorkers who don’t know who Bill Thompson is.

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November 1, 2009 @ 4:37 pm

Rupert Murdoch in Drag: The Old Gray Lady Covers the Mayoral Election and Bloomberg the Bloodless Gets Ready to Take the Throne

With the leaves turning and the mayoral race down to its final paces, William C. Thompson Jr., the Democratic candidate, sketched out a liberal policy agenda Friday, saying he would fight to repeal laws that allow landlords to charge market rents for regulated apartments.

He promised to appoint pro-tenant members to the Rent Guidelines Board to oppose higher rents and pro-rider members to the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to oppose raising fares. He said he would keep subway station agents on the job, and try to place all rent-regulated middle-class apartments that are part of the Mitchell-Lama program since 1973 under rent stabilization laws.

He also said he would give the homeless priority for Section 8 rental vouchers and allow homeless families who now are required to pay for shelter to instead put that money into escrow to be used for a permanent apartment.

Michael Powell, New York Times, October 30.

Powell continues:

These are some of the positions that would place Mr. Thompson to the liberal side of the political mainstream in New York City, and open up some — although perhaps not a lot — of ideological space between him and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

We haven’t seen the polls that suggest a candidate who opposes higher rents, who wants to keep subway fares down and subway agents on the job, who doesn’t want to charge rent to homeless families living in shelters, but instead would give them a Sec. 8 priority, is on the “liberal side of the mainstream.” (We’ll discuss Mitchell-Lama in our next post where we will describe how the Mayor and The New York Times combined to perpetrate the conventional bait and switch fraud on tenants and voters.)

Then again, maybe the mainstream media’s coverage of Michael Bloomberg’s eight years and the support of so many civic leaders for another term has rotted the brains and hardened the hearts of average folks. I can’t say Powell is wrong. I’d just like to see the evidence. What I do know is that he’s wrong that there isn’t a lot of ideological space between Thompson and Bloomberg. And “wrong” is as charitable as we can be.

The facts have been buried beneath Bloomberg’s billion dollar legalized bribery and political propaganda operation in which newspaper owners and editors have turned their papers into megaphones for Bloomberg’s message, which, although occasionally delivered in the more modest language appropriate to a candidate is I’ve been a great manager for all New Yorkers – New York needs me—I don’t quit when the going gets tough. Term limits? I legally overturned a bad idea—get over it.

Thompson’s campaign operation has been less effective than we had hoped. Voters were never going to learn the truth through messages mediated by a pro-Bloomberg press or 30-second spots. They certainly weren’t going to read campaign literature. We and others have tried to put the information into voters’ hands in digestible form (See the Spin v. the Facts pamphlet), but we didn’t have the troops. Thus, unless voters have directly experienced the consequences of Bloomberg’s policies, and here we just don’t know how many there are, it appears that many, if not most don’t understand the iron fist wrapped in the velvet glove rhetoric. Truth be told, many don’t want to know.

There isn’t much that small bloggers can do about it, except tell our story, call out the New York Times when we can, and hope that others will do the same. Here’s Michael Powell again

Mr. Thompson declined to attach a dollar figure to his proposals Friday, saying that his staff had often done that in the past. He promised to lobby the Obama administration for money and predicted that his other proposals, including converting Mitchell-Lama apartments, would come at little or no cost.

Many of Thompson’s proposals would cost the taxpayers nothing. Instead, the firing of the notorious Marvin “Markup” Marcus, the Goldman, Sachs partner whom Bloomberg appointed to chair the Rent Guidelines Board, would cost rent-gouging landlords their greatest ally and would slow the rapid rise in rents that are driving out the middle class. True, less revenue for landlords means less property tax revenue, but the tax breaks and tax avoidance schemes of New York’s real estate barons rather than the ratcheting up of rents should be the focus of the next four years. Bloomberg, who charges rent to homeless working people forced into shelters and vetoes lead paint bills, doesn’t agree.

Other Thompson proposals require action in Albany. Bloomberg finances the New York State and City Republican operations, and has put a considerable amount of money into Washington as well. His standard explanation for pouring so many millions into the Bush-Pataki-Bruno-Tom DeLay cesspool has been that it buys him influence, and indeed it does. Never mind what he does with it.

The parallels between the arch of Bloomberg’s career and that of Nelson Rockefeller have been fascinating to watch. The massive debt, the megalomania, the dominance of the New York Republican Party, and much else would make a good doctoral thesis. This is where it ends though.

Rockefeller, it will be recalled, got out of town as Gerald Ford’s Vice-President just before the stuff hit the fan in 1975. Bloomberg’s money was unable to leverage him onto the McCain ticket. It is a measure of how far the country has gone off track since Ronald Reagan’s presidency that Republican politicians have painted themselves into such a narrow ideological corner that to the Republican base Bloomberg and Giuliani both look like liberals.

Bloomberg’s failure was perhaps a blessing for him. Better to be a king in your own realm than to help a Republican win and have to stand by while a befuddled president McCain adds to the mess that Bush left behind.

I am reminded of what a well-known black political figure once said to me—“Neil, they’ll never let a black man run New York unless it isn’t worth having.” He might have been wrong about that, although it was long ago, and at the time I thought he was probably right. I wonder though whether that principle might not apply to the presidency.

I digress. As for what comes next in New York, no matter who wins, poor, working and middle-class New Yorkers are going to suffer the most, but under Bloomberg, they will suffer more. The Bloomberg business model, New York, the Luxury City, doesn’t work. It’s a variation on the theme of the trickle down economy. Had it succeeded it would have sharpened the class divide even more. In this environment, it won’t work for anyone. We see no evidence that Bloomberg is prepared to rethink it. And there is nothing that we know of his character that gives us hope. Far from it, if he wins, he will attempt to suck up whatever modest resistance remains in Albany.

Here is one, not so fanciful scenario for a Bloomberg third-term.

Bloomberg will finance the Republican gubernatorial and senate candidates. It appears that Giuliani is getting ready to run. With complete ownership of New York City, the mayor-who-would-be-king will have a very large piece of everything and everyone in the state.

If they hold onto their majority, he would have to throw a few more dollars in the pot to acquire the remaining senate Democrats. It would be a simple negotiation: The real estate industry is already pushing substantial political money in that direction. Democrats want more of it. The Albany Democrats have been passing one-house tenant bills for years; confident they would die in the Republican-controlled, Bloomberg-financed state senate. Now that they control all three branches of state government, they are dithering and slithering their way out of doing anything meaningful for tenants.

It wouldn’t even be a rounding error on Bloomberg’s personal balance sheet to contribute whatever the Democrats ask to ensure that they continue screwing their constituents. The model is well-established and only recently reinforced in Bloomberg’s purchase of the Republican ballot line.

The acquisition of Albany is the direction we’re headed in a post-election world in which Bloomberg The Bloodless sits firmly on his throne in New York and sends out his tax and toll collectors to take the last few assets that his subjects have managed to hold on to. Financing a class war is easy when so many of the victims are too defeated to resist and many who could offer some resistance don’t even know they’re in one. As for the politicians, who can doubt they would take the money?

Good government groups have called for reforming Albany by dispersing the power of legislative leaders in various ways. Not that we think it will happen any time soon, but ironically, the only person in a position to resist Bloomberg is Sheldon Silver, and from time to time, he has. The rape of the Soviet Union by the oligarchs had me rootin’ for Putin for a time. Now I fear the law of unintended consequences might kick in should Silver’s power be diminished. So, while I’m not quite ready to go that far, who knows? If Bloomberg wins some of us might be shillin’ for Shelly.

– Neil Fabricant

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November 1, 2009 @ 3:49 pm

Jon Stewart on Bloomberg and Term Limits

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October 30, 2009 @ 10:37 am

UFT Splinter Group Says Vote Anyone But Bloomberg

Via Andrew J. Hawkins and City Hall News:

This year, the powerful United Federation of Teachers skipped endorsing in the mayor’s race.

But a small, dissident faction within the union has decided to break ranks, calling the UFT’s silence a sell-out.

So who did the group of rabble-rousers lift up their voices for?

None-of-the above.

“The decision to sit out the contest between Michael Bloomberg and his opponents speeds us to the brink of more disasters,” the dissident group, Independent Community of Educators (ICE), said in a statement, adding however, “It is difficult to offer [Democrat Bill] Thompson unqualified support when he has thrown support to mayoral control and supports much of the underlying corporate agenda for education.”

Their advice? Vote for anyone on the ballot. Anyone not named Michael Bloomberg, that is.
Read rest of story…

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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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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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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:


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.


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 @ 12:07 pm

Reading List: Pushing Past the Quinnipiac Poll, Bloomberg and the Press

* A Quinnipiac Poll showed Thompson trailing Bloomberg by 18 percentage points, but The Daily News says that by looking at what has happened historically, the race will likely be much tighter. In 2001, Mark Green had double digit leads over Bloomberg, but ended up losing the race by a slim margin.

* Christine Quinn has finally endorsed Thompson for mayor, though she didn’t make a big deal about it and said she thinks Bloomberg has done a good job as well.

* Bloomberg is worried about low voter turnout, reports the Times.

* New York magazine asks what does Rudy Giuliani want? “His appearance with Mayor Bloomberg reminded many New Yorkers of what they didn’t like about him.”

* Frances Villar is pretty angry about not being able to debate Bloomberg and Thompson tonight, reports City Hall News.

* Gotham Gazette has a series that evaluates Bloomberg record on several issues. Here’s one on the Economic Crisis. [Thanks Queens Crap]

* Jarrett Murphy takes a look at Bloomberg and the press. “While much data is online and press officers can be quick to answer questions, it is difficult even for reporters at major newspapers to get agency officials on the phone. “I rarely get policy makers, almost always flacks,” says New York Times columnist Jim Dwyer, using the slang for “spokespersons.”

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