From the Editor's Desk
All politicians are whores. Not in the usual sense, of course, of providing sex for money, although sex often plays an integral part in the whoredom of our elected officials.
Instead, all of them are whores for votes - they will do virtually anything to insure their reelection. A great majority of them are whores for power - the one with the most toys wins. Some even are whores for money, using their position and their power to gain great personal wealth, some of it even done legally.
I am reminded of that every day simply be reading the daily newspapers. I have a habit of clipping articles of interest, and my "Politicians" folder seems to be much thicker this year than it has been in the past.
Some actions that prove my thesis are small, and merit only a couple of inches of ink. Some are played out on a grander scale.
Governor Eliot Spitzer, of course, comes quickly to mind because he was undone by whores. Had he been able to keep his sexual member in his pants, he might well have been a contender. Instead, he is a footnote to history that proved my thesis and left us with David Paterson, one of the quintessential Democratic hacks that plague our city and state periodically. Of course, when you mention political hacks, the one name that comes quickly to mind is Congressman Gregory Meeks.
Meeks was put into open seats in both of his first two elected political positions - Assemblyman and Representative, by other political hacks such as Geraldine Chapey and Lew Simon. In fact, Chapey traded a spot on the Board of Regents for her mother for seating Meeks in Congress, but that's a story for another column.
Meeks missed the critical Congressional hearings on an auto industry buy-out because he reportedly was in Las Vegas raising money for his political lobbying organization, Build America. The News reported earlier this week that Meeks uses his political action committee to fund thousands of dollars of cross-country trips and jaunts to places where the temperature is warm and the action is hot.
For example, the News says, Meeks spent $20 thousand on a fund raiser that included tickets to last February's Super Bowl in Phoenix, including hotel rooms and access to NFL parties.
A Meeks' aide told the News that the Congressman was not at the hearings because he was in his district taking care of local business. He was not. News reporters found him at the tables in Las Vegas.
Speaking of other political hacks, we might well now have to suffer four more years of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the spin-master for the ages. You would think that the billionaire mayor has enough money and power from his business dealings that he would leave the stage gracefully after virtually destroying the school system and draining dollars from the pockets of middle class resident in the city through taxes, fines, fares and tolls.
Talk about a power trip. At a time when the mayor is cutting budgets all across the board, cutting a class of 1,100 police officers and a fire academy class as well, he has hired more than 700 new traffic enforcement agents - the men and women who provide him a revenue stream by giving out tickets - lots and lots of tickets.
Just last week, a UPS truck doubleparked in front of The Wave office was ticketed by a scooter cop, whose only job is to ride up and down Rockaway Beach Boulevard and give out as many tickets as he can.
Does he have a quota to keep the cushy job? Of course not, he has a productivity goal, and I'd bet that his goal has risen sharply under the mayor's orders in the past two years.
At the same time, Bloomberg's personal staff - one measure of power in city government - has risen by 10 percent since June of 2007. He now has nearly 500 people in his office, double the number utilized by any mayor in our long history.
The political power grab even extended to the local sports scene.
Bloomberg's top aides coerced the management of the Yankees to provide a free luxury suite at the new stadium for their personal use.
They even demanded free food. They got just about everything they wanted when they promised in exchange to provide the team with 750 more parking spots that they could rent out at each game. Turns out that the Parks Department had the same deal with the Mets at Shea Stadium.
While the luxury box at Shea was to be used by all city workers, big and small, it was used by parks officials 80 percent of the time, leaving the dregs for everybody else.
When Cipriani, a high-scale restaurant was in danger of losing its state liquor license, Governor David Paterson, a friend of the owners, reportedly stepped in, ordering the two members of the Liquor Authority to use their votes to let the eatery keeps its license. They did, and shortly thereafter, Paterson's office called the agency and ordered that the two be provided with state vehicles for their own personal use, 24-hours-a-day. They then joined two other board members who voted for Cipriani to retain it's license. Then, the four joineed to strip the power and perks of the one member who dared to vote to take the license away from the famous eatery.
There was a demonstration outside the Howard Beach office of Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, a Rockaway resident, last week to decry the actions of Rent-A-Center, a company that rents appliances to people who can't afford to buy them outright. The problem is, critics claim, a person who rents a television set or refrigerator from the company winds up paying two or three times what it would have cost to buy.
Errol Louis, writing in the Daily News last week, claims that what appear to be low weekly or monthly payments can easily amount to markups of more than 250 percent and that the company preys on poor people.
While many states have set new laws to keep the company from charging usurious rates, New York City has not, and Louis lays the blame at Pheffer's doorstep. As the chair of the Assembly's Consumer Affairs Committee, she would be the one to bring out a bill to stop the company's actions, but she had not. Louis claims that Pheffer has held hearings for four years on updating a 20-year-old law that would address the problem, but has not done anything to actually update the law. He claims that Pheffer regularly takes campaign donations from the company that have amounted to more than $4,000 in the past few years - not a fortune, but enough, activists think, to keep her from pushing a bill to limit the company's interest charges. Pheffer told Louis that there is no law against her taking money from a company that does business before her committee.
Then we have Democratic District Leader Geraldine Chapey, who used her political clout to get more than million dollars in taxpayer money over the past dozen years from city agencies in the form of contracts and from local politicians in the form of earmarks to run a single senior citizen van that she often charges people ride. I have to question whether she would have received that money had she not been involved in Democratic politics and had not the power choose judges and vet those who get the party nod to run for local offices. Next week: The sorry story Malcolm Smith.