Volume 21, Number 43 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | March 6 - 12, 2009
City Council, show us the money
By Pete Gleason
As a candidate for City Council, it is my strong belief that elected officials should welcome scrutiny and invite dialogue. My public service to Lower Manhattan, in a variety of capacities, dates back to 1981. This experience has bought with it the privilege of having direct contact with virtually every city agency. I can say with certainty that I have never witnessed any governmental entity more mired in incompetence and in need of oversight than the current City Council.
For example, in 2004, after a drawn out process, the council announced with pride that it would override the mayor’s veto on the progressive Anti -ullying legislation. Why then only four years later did the same council, at warp speed, allow themselves to be pushed around, or perhaps more succinctly put, bullied by the mayor with regards to this unconscionable term limit extension?
In a jovial way it is a childhood reminder of sitting on the lap of my grandfather, who as both a fisherman from the west coast of Ireland and a dockworker at what is now known as Chelsea Piers, would likely comment, “Lad, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”
To the casual observer the City Council may seem like a collegial lot — more akin to Delta House than Madoff Industries. However, the similarities between our local legislators and the Ponzi pirate’s now defunct empire are striking.
In our present system of government some of our tax revenue is hidden in plain sight — earmarked as discretionary funds. These discretionary funds are the excess taxes that were collected to be later used to give the public the false perception that somehow the party doling them out or falsely reporting them was a fiscal genius.
Shockingly, the manner in which both Bernie and the council circumvented standard accounting practices is now legendary. While Bernie is a prisoner of his home, the taxpayers are shackled with having no redress on where their tax dollars end up.
Our mayor has used these tax dollars to entice council members, eager to slip into their Daddy Warbucks persona, to not only sell their souls, but damage our democracy in the process by supporting the change to term limits. Simply put, there are 51 council districts made up primarily on the basis of population. Discretionary funds for the likes of new parks and libraries should be split evenly. That is not progressive politics but rather acknowledging that each and every New Yorker is a stakeholder in our future.
There is strong public support for the fine Democratic candidates for mayor, yet there is a sinking private notion that Bloomberg will once again buy the election. He was able to buy the affection of the City Council at a rock bottom price using our tax dollars. It’s no secret that these funds should instead be used for a citywide initiative such as keeping firehouses open and Police Academy classes turning out newly minted recruits.
However, with his self-financed three-peat, we should force him to spend — not the $100 million stimulus he has earmarked for his campaign spending — but let’s shoot for $1 billion. At least that will help our local economy.
My message to fellow Democrats — if Bloomberg is truly going to buy the election, then let’s make him pay for it.
Pete Gleason, an attorney and Tribeca resident, is running for City Council in the First District.