2009-04-17 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

All Politicians Are Whores, Redux
Commentary By Howard Schwach

The distance that our elected officials will go to prove that all politicians are whores for votes and for contributions never ceases to surprise me. I thought that I had seen it all, or at least most of it, when I read that our City Councilman, James Sanders Jr., was feted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg with a private fundraiser a week ago. Why would the mayor throw a private fundraiser with his high-spending friends at the mayor's Manhattan townhouse? Could it be because Sanders broke Democratic ranks and voted with the mayor on the vital issue of extending term limits so that both the mayor and Sanders could run for four more years?

I was surprised to see that Congressman Anthony Weiner was curtailing his run for mayor. After all, Weiner is supremely confident. When I spoke to him after the mayor's huge win in the battle to extend term limits, he told me that he was in the race for good. The story that he cut down because he has too much to do in the House of Representatives does not strike a kosher chord to my ear. Then, I saw this article about the fact that our newest senator, Kristen Gillibrand, is vulnerable for many reasons, not the least that she was appointed by a man with a rating lower than the reading scores at PS 225. So, I wonder if Weiner is eyeing a move from the House to the Senate. Weiner's minions laugh off the idea, but methinks he protests too much.

The great majority of people agree that our state legislature is the most dysfunctional in the nation. When the Senate Democrats, led by our own Malcolm Smith, took over, he assured everybody that the days of "three men in a locked room," were over. Sure! We still have three men in the locked room, only the men are different. Rather than Spitzer, Bruno and Silver, we now have Paterson, Smith and Silver, and guess which one is ascendant. Paterson, an old line Democratic hack like his father, is in a job about three levels above his competency level and Smith was in above his head when he became a State Senator. Now, as majority leader, he is way out of his league. That leaves Silver as the only savvy pro in the game, and he is not the kind of person you would want in that position. In a recent survey, nearly three of four New Yorkers said that the legislature is dysfunctional, and those numbers go across the board with 80 percent of Republicans, 62 percent of Democrats, 77 percent of Independents, 68 percent of women, 74 percents of whites, 56 percent of blacks, 80 percent of upstate residents and 62 percent of city residents agreeing.

When I became a teacher after being discharged from the Navy in 1965, I made the city a deal. I would work for slave wages for ten or fifteen years until I began earning a real salary, foregoing the higher salaries in the private sector in return for two things - job security and a pension at the end of my 25 years or so of service. My first yearly salary with the public schools was $5,900. In my 33 years with the public schools, my highest annual salary was in the $65,000 range. Now, after that deal was consummated on my retirement in 2001, the mayor wants to take back the deal and cut both my pension and my health benefits. It's a little late for that. Instead, he should take a look at all the no-bid consultant contracts that city agencies have with the mayor's friends and supporters. The city wastes billions of dollars each year and they want those who work or worked for the city to foot the bill.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg really wants this election so bad that he can taste it. When a politician calls a racial arsonist such as Reverend Al "a calming influence" on the city, you have to wonder where his mind has gone. It is all too obvious that Bloomberg is pandering to special interests to get all the votes he can't get by buying them. Eight months before the election, he has already booked more than $3 million in television ads to show what a great mayor he has been. Buying the election? Don't be foolish. Perhaps the mayor is too young to remember Tawana Brawley and her fake charge of rape at the hands of a white man. Perhaps he wants to forget the Harlem fire that killed a man just one day after Sharpton called the white owner of the store an "interloper." Perhaps he never heard of the "Rockaway Five," the five illegal van drivers who accused an Hispanic police officer, in uniform and off duty, of raping them. Each Saturday, Sharpton and his minions would march from the Hammel Houses to the 100 Precinct station house, stopping only at The Wave to complain that we were not properly covering the story. Perhaps he does not remember the boycott of the Korean grocer that almost brought the city to its knees. Or, perhaps, the mayor doesn't care about any or all of those things as long as Sharpton endorses him and he gets reelected.

Speaking of Sharpton and city government, Reverend Al's best new buddy is School Chancellor Joel Klein. Sharpton has joined Klein in attempting to better education for minority children throughout the nation. As if either of them knows anything about education. Isn't it strange, however, that right after their Education Equality Project started, Sharpton's National Action Network got a $500,000 donation from a Connecticut company that just happens to be run by Harold Levy, who was Klein's predecessor at the Department of Education. The money was first sent to a non-profit, so that Levy could claim a tax deduction, and then the money was transferred in small doses to Sharpton.

Bloomberg has hired virtually every political consultant in sight, regardless of their political bent. It seems that he just has all the money in the world and can do whatever he wants to keep other politicians from taking "his" job. In a recent ad, he talked about how important it is to produce jobs and keep the middle class safe in New York City at the same time that he announced he was cutting 7,000 middle-class city jobs. How will that track with the voters? We'll have to wait and see.

Talk about veniality. Bloomberg was a Democrat until he wanted to run for mayor, and then he became a Republican. Then, he became an independent. Now, the Republicans have embraced him as their candidate once again. Is there no depth to which a political party will stoop to win an election? Next, Bloomberg will buy the support of the Family Workers Party. He has already started the campaign to take that third line as well. Will he buy out the Democrats as well?

There is no end to what a venal politician with unlimited funds will do, and Bloomberg is proving that even eight months before the election.

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