City Hall News: This Week’s Winners and Losers
If ever anyone deserved to be a posthumous winner, it would of course be Gov. Hugh Carey, whose funeral yesterday was a reunion of sorts for the generation of pols that rose to the challenge of New York’s fiscal crisis in the 1970s. Judge for yourself whether any of this week’s Winners & Losers can meet that standard.
Steve Israel — The Long Island congressman presided over the richest month in Democratic House fundraising history, whittling down Dem debt from $20 million to $5 million with an aggressive approach and, as the Daily News noted, the skillful deployment of bagels. For Israel, the silver lining of the debt ceiling storm cloud may be a voter backlash against his nemeses in the Tea Party, potentially helping Israel’s efforts to knock off last year’s freshman class and install his own picks in the 2012 cycle.
John Bonacic — The Republican state senator from Orange County got a boost when Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged he was exploring legalizing casinos all across New York. Bonacic, who chairs the Senate’s Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee, was already planning hearings on the issue, and now they’ll be in the spotlight. The required constitutional amendment would take years to approve, but Bonacic is positioned to be a leader of the push to expand casinos, which he sees as a way to bring more jobs to upstate New York.
Bob Master — Whether or not the striking Communications Workers of America get what they want from Verizon, they’re already getting plenty of love from fellow unions and politicians. State Sen. Jeff Klein brought them pizzas, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio joined a picket line, and the Working Families Party has accused Verizon of being a “Tea Party corporation.” Behind the masterful public relations campaign is Master, the CWA’s legislative director, who has made the strike a referendum on the telecommunications company’s vast profits, including over $6 billion already this year.
Charlie Rangel — After weathering the storm over his tax problems – and being censured by his beloved House of Representatives – the legendary Harlem congressman still has plenty of friends. Aretha Franklin performed at a party for his 81st birthday Wednesday night at Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel with New York Reps. Ed Towns, Gregory Meeks and Joe Crowley, former Gov. David Paterson and Sen. Chuck Schumer in attendance. The $200 entry fee for his campaign fund shows he’s not planning on leaving the job anytime soon, either.
Bob Turner — A Siena poll this week showed the Republican congressional candidate within six points of Democrat David Weprin, despite a 3-to-1 Democratic registration advantage in the district. Turner’s constant pounding on Israel seems to have helped him gain inroads with the district’s sizable Jewish population, and the poll forced Weprin to abandon his Rose Garden strategy go on the offensive. At least Democrats across the city and country got a wake-up call a month before the election.
Michael Bloomberg — No wonder he only took questions from reporters one day this week. While student test scores rose slightly – except for eighth-grade reading – his attempts to play the national sage fell flat, perhaps because in trying to excoriate Washington’s budget failures he ended up supporting everyone’s new favorite whipping boy, Standard & Poor’s. Then another worthy idea, focusing city resources on young black and Latino men, turned out to have been slipped into the city budget with no input from the City Council. Paging Cas Holloway!
Pedro Espada — The Medicaid Inspector General drove another nail into the coffin for Espada’s Soundview HealthCare Network this week when he declared it ineligible for federal Medicaid reimbursements. Espada pinned his woes on Cuomo, though with the former Bronx (via Mamaroneck) senator’s trial date fast approaching, he may want to work on a more nuanced defense strategy. We hear they don’t serve sushi in federal prison.
Carl Kruger — His trial date on corruption charges is still months away, but the Brooklyn state senator can’t seem to keep his name and face out of the press, while the once-formidable fundraiser writes four- and five-figure checks to his high-priced defense attorney. Sending out constituent mail that makes no mention of his legal problems seems obvious, but jumping into the probe of a 15-year-old’s death in his district isn’t the best move. Kruger is no Columbo, despite any physical similarities.
Rob Walsh — The commissioner of the city’s Department Small Business Services has already been criticized for focusing more on the agency softball team than on helping minority businesses get contracts, but the New York Times found evidence that a potential scandal there was simply swept under the rug on his watch. A job placement agency called Seedco claimed credit for up to 400 possibly fraudulent placements; instead of investigating, Walsh’s department apparently tried to smear the accuser. Nobody would run a small business that way.
Chris Ward — If New York needed any more evidence that Cuomo wants him out, just watch how the Port Authority boss was left to dangle in the wind after proposing toll hikes that had been secretly cleared by Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The two governors blasted him so they could later approve a smaller increase and call themselves fiscal hawks; Ward is boxed in because he can’t fight back against the two men who really run the agency. When the world sees all he’s accomplished at the World Trade Center during next month’s 9/11 anniversary, perhaps they’ll also notice the knife in his back.