Monday, September 9, 2013

Candidate News: Tomorrow’s Primary Election - Silly Season? Some Consider It So, But. . .

Here’s some news, a bit of a round-up of stories concerning who you might vote for in tomorrow’s primary election.

When I was in government, for all the months leading up to an election we kept our heads down, referring to the election season as the “silly season” trying to ignore, particularly the hyperbole and shrill rhetoric,  what was going on.  It was axiomatic that much of what was being said wasn’t sincerely meant and that in many respects whatever politicians were elected to office they would wind up doing very similar things.  You know, `politics is the art of promising what is popular to the public and governance is what actually gets done in terms of running things after the election.’

Nevertheless, as a member of the electorate there is no better or more important time than now in terms of having candidates clarify their positions and locking them firmly into promises tat will cause embarrassing damage to their careers if they don’t honor.

With that as background. . .

Candidate Recommendations From Citizens Defending Libraries

Citizens Defending Libraries (of which I am a co-founder), formed in February of this year in response (with a petition) to the breaking headlines about the selling off, shrinking and underfunding of New York City libraries to create real estate deals that benefit real estate developers, not the public, has issued recommendations on candidates running for office in new York City.
Citizens Defending Libraries first issued its recommendation NOT to vote for Christine Quinn.  (See: Citizens Defending Libraries First Election Recommendation: NO to Christine Quinn, Who Favors Selling & Shrinking Libraries.)

Citizens Defending Libraries then issued its recommendations, pro and con, respecting other candidates in the election.  (See: Citizens Defending Libraries Recommendations On Other Candidates: Vote For Liu or de Blasio (Depending), Tish James For Public Advocate, NO to Squadron, and . . . More .)

Citizens Defending Libraries recommends voting for John Liu or Bill de Blasio (depending- detailed explanation at its site) for the Democratic nomination for Mayor and recommends voting for Tish James for Public Advocate.  Citizens Defending Libraries strongly recommends against voting for Daniel Squadron for that position.  In addition, Citizens Defending Libraries has other recommendations on other candidates.  That includes City Council and Borough President races in addition to a recommendation to vote for George McDonald for the Republican nomination for Mayor.

Candidates that Citizens Defending Libraries recommends include the following candidates for City Council seats: Steve Levin, Yetta Kurland, Micah Kellner and Ede Fox.

As for who I will be voting for, for Mayor (and who I think most Noticing New York readers will be voting for). . . .  I will get to that in a minute.

Citizens Defending Libraries recommendations are based on the Mayoral forum on libraries it held for Mayoral candidates on August 30th (link provided below), the Public Advocates and Comptroller Candidates forum on libraries held September 4, (link provided below), responses to its candidates questionnaire and its other interactions with, and information about, the candidates.  The full whys, wherefores and analysis are provided at Citizens Defending Libraries web pages links provided above.

    •    Mayoral Forum on Libraries Held August 30, 2013
    •    Public Advocates and Comptroller Candidates Forum on Libraries Held September 4, 2013 
If you check in with what was said at these forums you'll notice that the politics of the real estate industry and its influence in this city was talked about a lot.

Other Candidate News: WNYC Reports on de Blasio’s Atlantic Yards History

A few days ago WNYC ran one of its best stories to date on the Atlantic Yards mega-project:  De Blasio’s Atlantic Yards Support Helped Old Ally ACORN played pivotal role in 2001 City Council race, Thursday, September 05, 2013, by Matthew Schuerman.

Click to listen to the audio below.

Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report is quoted (using a sound bite) in the WNYC story.  Here is his largely complimentary Atlantic Yards Report take on WNYC’s reporting: Thursday, September 05, 2013, WNYC on de Blasio: "his handling of Atlantic Yards raises questions about whether he has been able to push developers to keep their promises".
Mr. Oder says:
I'd encourage people to listen to the audio, rather than rely on the text version, since there are some key differences and shadings.

Notably, in the audio version, the last word goes to the skeptical Letitia James, rather than the self-serving Bill de Blasio. And she deserves it.
By the way, not by coincidence, Tish James, running and recommended for the Public Advocate office by Citizens Defending Libraries, has been in the forefront of the opposition to the selling off, shrinking and underfunding of libraries for real estate deals.  See the follwoing Tish James OpEd that appeared in both the Brooklyn Eagle and the Huffington Post: OPINION: Shrinking the library system is a loss for New Yorkers, August 29, 2013.

The best financed opponent of Tish James, Daniel Squadron, recommended for office by Noticing New York for his senatorial office in 2008 because of expressed opposition to Atlantic Yards (though never ultimately acted on), has refused to oppose New York City’s library sales, including not representing his constituents to oppose the proposed sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library.  Squadron is also regarded as having sold out the supporters who got him into office when he relinquished, without a fight, substantial leverage he had to oppose a huge amount of development that might have been parts of Brooklyn Bridge Park.

For more on Squadron and libraries Citizens Defending Libraries has a tasty YouTube Video up with moderator Roy Paul asking some hard questions: Squadron Surrogate Mark Green Grilled On Offensend Donation.

Back to WNYC’s story about de Blasio on Atlantic Yards. .

Here is my Noticing New York comment posted at WNYC’s site:

This story is one of the best that WNYC has done on Atlantic Yards giving to it the kind of time the subject deserves.
Nevertheless, here is what is absent from the narrative reported. The story is all about failure to enforce the "public benefit" aspects of Atlantic Yards (de Blasio's failures in particular), not about the fact that those public benefit terms were, in the first instance, written by the developer for the developer's benefit, not the public.

Atlantic Yards as originally conceived was not right and de Blasio should have opposed it (He once feinted at doing so) from the beginning demanding a different project divided up and competitively bid amongst multiple developers, one that did not involve tearing down much of the neighborhood with eminent domain. The project should only be building over the rail yards, not on the rubble of what Ratner was allowed to tear down.

Instead, one of the main features of Atlantic Yards that is bad is also now central to the problems of negotiating with the developer and enforcing public benefit: That Forest City Ratner has been granted a government-supported mega-monopoly. You can't negotiate with a monopoly. You can't negotiate with a mega-monopoly. Mr. de Blasio and others should insist that the Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly be taken away from Forest City Ratner, Mr. de Blasio's campaign donor.
Here is more Noticing New York analysis on that subject: Tuesday, April 30, 2013, Relevance of Mayoral Debate Discussion About Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Misconduct To The Sale and Underfunding of NYC Libraries.

Relevant Background Report: The Vicious Cycle Of Subsidies And Elections

In early August Atlantic Yards Report ran a story extremely relevant to elections, echoing a concern repeatedly raised here in Noticing New York: How government subsidies pick and flow money to economic winners, including the very politically connected Forest City Ratner, and then companies like the Ratner firm, awash in such benefit, flow that money back to get their favorite politicians elected.  (That’s why de Blasio taking money and campaign support from Ratner is such a concern.)  The story was about a new Cause of Action report specifically about Forest City Ratner.  According to the New York Post:
Forest City Enterprises, the real-estate behemoth whose subsidiary built the Barclays Center, has taken pay-to-play to new levels, an explosive new report charges.  The company has gotten indirect government subsidies totaling $2.6 billion over the last decade — or 23 percent of its $11.4 billion in revenues over the period, according to the report.
See: Wednesday, August 07, 2013, A national spotlight: libertarian watchdog group targets Forest City Enterprises for "political profiteering"; while report goes over the top, Forest City's defense is too pat.

More from the Post:
“For far too long, Forest City Enterprises has operated on the model of political profiteering, essentially rigging the marketplace by paying off government officials with lavish campaign contributions and gambling with taxpayer funds for its private profit,” Cause of Action's Epstein told the Post.
Responds Forest City Ratner (Oder says “a wee bit” defensive and self-righteously):
Forest City spokesman Jeff Linton said, “It should come as no surprise that we support candidates whose policies promote economic development and job creation. However, to suggest or imply a direct connection between this support and our opportunities as a company is baseless and defamatory.”

He said without government development incentives, most of the company’s development projects “would not be economically viable.”
To me that sounds nearly like, `yes, you’re right.

Apparently the report doesn’t get all its subsidy calculations correct (I think it may underestimate them), a hard thing to do, which is one reason firms like the Ratner firm walk away pocketing so much more taxpayer money than the electorate is likely to actually know.

I’ll leave the quibbles about the report and its calculations to Mr. Oder, who says: 
It's also simplistic to suggest that Forest City's considerable spending on campaign contributions and lobbying directly delivers subsidies and government assistance.
Instead, I will pose the following as a standing question which I think that any reporter interviewing Forest City Ratner and its executives should always be primed and ready to ask:
What was the last project, if any, that Forest City Ratner did that did not receive significant public subsidy from some level of government and was subject to a true competitive bid?   
The question has never been asked.  The answer is that there aren’t any.

The New York Times Weighs In On What Developers Think Of The Silly Season

With all that money flowing in, developers likely believe that, in the end, they have the upper hand, according to a New York Times article that describes what developers think of the silly season:
In the Democratic primary for New York City mayor, a new set of political dirty words has surpassed the usual favorites, like “lobbyist” and “flip-flop,” that are traditionally used to spritz opponents and adversaries with a film of slime.
These new dirty words are “real estate,” “developers” and “condos” — printable, and yet filthy with disdain. But, conveniently, they have not stopped any of the major campaigns from accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the real estate industry. 
    * * * *
Some members of the real estate industry may grumble to find themselves on the raw end of a stump speech, said Kathryn S. Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, a business group, but most just shrug it off.

 “It’s political pandering to a public sentiment that the middle class and low-income people have been left out of the prosperity of the past decade,” Ms. Wylde said. “I think, for the most part, they would govern with very different interests than their political rhetoric suggests.”

And so the money rolls in.
(See: The Appraisal: In Mayoral Race, Attacking Real Estate Industry but Taking Its Cash, by Elisabeth A. Harris and Jo Craven McGinty, September 2, 2013.)

That “shrug” above comes from the same Kathryn S. Wylde with whom I used to do a considerable amount of work and who favors the use of eminent domain to take property away from individuals and hand it over to politically-connected developers.  (I don’t yet know her position on handing over public libraries, but I fear to guess.)
Kathy Wylde
 And The Winner Is. . . . ?

Who will I personally vote for, for Mayor?: I will vote for John Liu!

That's because in this season of rhetoric I think it is most important to go back and look at the record of what a candidate has actually done and John Liu has a record of standing up to the real estate industry.  He also one of the candidates not funded by that industry.  I suspect that most regular Noticing New York readers, remembering the record of the candidates, will be voting for Liu.

Voting for Liu may get us into a run-off in which Liu will participate.  Whether or not it does, I think that voting for Liu sends the best message, one that desperately needs to be sent.

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