Posted: February 4th, 2016 | Filed under: Things That Make You Go "Oy"
Capping what may be one of the more bewildering political debacles in recent New York memory, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s third State of the City speech was overshadowed — before he so much as delivered a word of it — by the implosion of his widely mocked, ill-supported deal to get horse carriages off New York City streets.
It was a proposal in which the mayor invested a extraordinary amount of political capital. The result has alienated, in no particular order, park advocates, council members, union leaders, community boards, real estate interests, pedicab drivers, political donors, and, ultimately, animal-rights activists.
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The thing that makes this particular debacle so unusual isn’t that the stakes were high, but that they were so very low. All mayors lose big battles, but here was the spectacle of a mayor taking a high-profile stand on a matter of importance primarily to one of his donors, and then refusing, in defiance of his critics, allies and all political common sense, to let it go.
“They’re not humane,” he said in 2013, before he took office. “They’re not appropriate to the year 2014. It’s over. So just watch us do it now.”
And so he tried, with the staunch backing of New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets — an organization bankrolled by a wealthy real estate executive that helped knock his rival Christine Quinn out of the mayoral race.
“It always just bothered me seeing those horses,” said the executive, Steve Nislick, in an interview in 2014 about his motivations and what he wanted from the man he helped elect. “I just knew from my own experience that horses don’t belong in the middle of New York City traffic.”
Ultimately, Nislick and de Blasio settled for a compromise. The horse carriage industry would be drastically reduced and housed inside Central Park. The city would pay some $25 million to repurpose an old building for the cause. Pedicab operators would be banished from the tourist-heavy southern portion of the park. The city announced that a deal had been reached.
Then it began to fall apart. The Central Park Conservancy and surrounding community boards panned it. The editorial boards reacted with horror. The Transport Workers Union organized the pedicab drivers and promised a lawsuit. The Teamsters, who represent the drivers, agreed to support the deal, until they didn’t.
The truth is that the deal was imperiled from the outset, since so few people bought into the premise: that de Blasio was taking a principled stand on how New Yorkers treat animals, rather than forcing an entire city to live through an entirely discretionary drama in the service of settling a political debt.
Posted: January 29th, 2016 | Filed under: Things That Make You Go "Oy"
The bills follow some of the recommendations made by the Quadrennial Advisory Commission, a panel with members chosen by Mayor Bill de Blasio, convened to assess lawmakers’ salaries. They include recommendations that Council seats be reclassified as full-time jobs, and institute limitations on most forms of outside income. The bills also accept the suggestion of eliminating “lulus,” the small bonuses given to committee leaders.
But the amount of the raise is notably higher than what the commission suggested — an increase of about 23 percent, to $138,315, from their current base pay of $112,500 — and some feared that the higher salaries might be a result of a different sort of concession, tied to the mayor’s plan to shrink the horse-carriage industry in Manhattan.
The machinations to sign off on the pay bill were occurring under a deadline of sorts: Because the bills were finalized by the end of the day on Thursday, they could be voted on next Friday, the same day the Council is expected to vote on the horse-carriage plan.
Several Council officials described a full-court press by City Hall, including from Mr. de Blasio’s top political adviser, Emma Wolfe, to secure Council support for the horse-carriage bill, an initiative that has been a top goal of wealthy political supporters of the mayor, a Democrat.
The City Hall officials were said to be focusing on city lawmakers alarmed by a hearing last week, where administration officials could not answer basic questions about some of the bill’s provisions, like the cost of a new stable in Central Park.
The apparent timing of the votes came despite the objections of some Council members, who believed it created an unseemly appearance, and could undermine what they believe is the sound policy of the pay bill, according to several people familiar with the conversations.
Asked about the timing of the two bills being voted on together, Councilman David Greenfield, a Brooklyn Democrat, said, “I don’t think it reflects well on us.”
By Harnessing The Strength Of A National Progressive Coalition, We Will Make Sure That The Voice Of Every American Is Heard — Not just Those At The Very Top
Posted: January 20th, 2016 | Filed under: Things That Make You Go "Oy"
Mr. Ickes, a veteran political counselor best known for advising the Clinton family, had been paid $150,000 by A.E.G. Live, a concert promoter based in California, to lobby the city as it vied for permission to hold a summer festival in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
Last week, the company’s Queens application was rejected, along with those of two rival promoters, after local opposition. Instead, A.E.G. Live was given clearance to hold a festival in July on Randalls Island; its rivals, Madison Square Garden and Founders Entertainment, did not receive similar permission to hold their events.
On Jan. 11, the day the Randalls concert was announced, Mr. Ickes and his lobbying partner, Janice Enright, contributed $400 to Mr. de Blasio’s campaign account, the limit for a registered lobbyist. Mr. Ickes’s wife, and the wife of his other partner, Kevin McCabe, each gave $4,950, the maximum allowed by law, financial records show.
In all, Mr. Ickes, a longtime contributor to Mr. de Blasio, acted as the intermediary for $19,250 in donations in the four days leading up to the announcement that A.E.G. could bring its festival to Randalls Island.
Equus is a play by Peter Shaffer written in 1973, telling the story of a psychiatrist who attempts to treat a young man who has a pathological religious fascination with horses:
For Mayor Bill de Blasio, it was a bare-knuckle political fight, complete with arm-twisting appeals to lawmakers and labor negotiations lasting late into the night.
By Monday morning, City Hall had a deal — although not for more affordable housing, higher wages or any of this liberal mayor’s top priorities.
This one was about the horses.
Two years after he embraced the polarizing cause of ending the Midtown horse-carriage trade, a request of some of his most generous campaign supporters, Mr. de Blasio is set to reduce the size of the industry and confine its horses to Central Park.
The agreement, which must be approved by the City Council, ensures that Mr. de Blasio’s legacy does not include eliminating a Victorian-era institution still broadly popular with the public. But the easing of one mayoral headache could be the start of many more, as parks advocates, carriage drivers and even some animal-rights supporters expressed concerns.
The deal also underlined the transactional side of a mayor who says he is on a mission to liberalize New York City, even as his efforts are propelled in part by wealthy contributors tied to special interests.
Posted: January 20th, 2016 | Filed under: Things That Make You Go "Oy"
With parks activists and animal-rights groups expressing dissatisfaction as well, Mr. de Blasio’s plan is facing a diverse bloc of opponents. The mayor’s team is eager to secure City Council approval on the plan before it can be picked apart; a hearing before the Council’s Transportation Committee is scheduled for Friday morning.
Legislation for the deal, released on Tuesday, added a few wrinkles, including a rule that horses would be embedded with microchips, for easier tracking, and afforded at least five weeks’ vacation a year.
The issue of the horses has festered for more than two years, since Mr. de Blasio, as a Democratic mayoral candidate, pledged to some wealthy campaign supporters that he would eliminate the industry. Some council members expressed relief on Tuesday that the issue may finally be out of their hair.
“I’ll probably support the agreement,” Councilman Rory Lancman of Queens said, “because my goal is to protect the drivers’ jobs and keep the horse carriages for New Yorkers.”
But Mr. Lancman, a fellow Democrat, made clear that he was not impressed with Mr. de Blasio’s handling of the situation, particularly a plan to use public funds — estimated at $25 million — to convert a park maintenance facility into a new stable. “It really is ridiculous that we have to spend $25 million and upend not one but two industries” because the mayor will not stand up to his donors, Mr. Lancman said.
Which Just Goes To Show That You Should Be Very Wary Of Anyone Who Has Uncomplicated Expectations About Elected Office
Posted: December 22nd, 2015 | Filed under: Things That Make You Go "Oy"
He yearns for privacy in a highly public job, saying that time to “just be with my family” is what he misses most about life before City Hall.
He rues the errors of a bumpy year, conceding that despite an army of political advisers, “the mistakes are mine.”
And he conceded that after a long career as an advocate and strategist, the work of leading 8.5 million New Yorkers has proved more complicated than he expected.
“When you actually have to start with the substance,” Bill de Blasio said on Monday, “the world gets a little more interesting.”
Halfway into his four-year term as the city’s first Democratic mayor in a generation, Mr. de Blasio, 54, is adamant that his policies are changing New Yorkers’ lives for the better, citing historically low crime, fewer traffic deaths, and expanded benefits for immigrants and the working class.
But in a wide-ranging discussion of his tenure, the mayor, whose approval ratings have steadily worsened since he took office two years ago, offered this cleareyed assessment on Monday: “I want to do better.”
“It’s pretty obvious that some things worked as we hoped, and other things didn’t,” Mr. de Blasio told reporters gathered at his invitation in City Hall’s sunlit Governor’s Room. “I’m sober about the fact that, you know, you try a lot of things in leadership and you don’t expect every single one of them to work. You just got to keep learning.”
The mayor declined, repeatedly, to say which episodes from the past year he regretted, although there is a lengthy list from which to choose: a presidential forum in Iowa abandoned because of lack of interest; a mishandled fight with the ride-hailing company Uber; his struggles to contain an increase in street homelessness; and a delayed and awkward endorsement of Hillary Clinton, his former boss, for president.