By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
am a big fan of the new City Council.
“new,” I mean that because of term limits about three quarters of
the members were elected this past November. Although, I’ve been
referring to the number as 36 new members of the total 51, in a phone
conversation last week Speaker Giff Miller corrected me and said 38.
I’m not sure if my number was wrong or Giff added two members elected
in Specials Elections prior to November. It doesn’t matter. This is a
brand new Council.
naysayers who opposed term limits because they wanted to preserve their
own jobs cried the City sky would fall if the Mayor, Comptroller, Public
Advocate and three quarters of the Council members were all newly
elected. Well the naysayers were wrong . . . dead wrong.
this writer could spend considerable ink applauding the first three
months of the Bloomberg rule, that is not the purpose of this column.
This column is about the new Council
– it is alive, well and vibrant.
know all the Queens guys and gals . . . some better than others. Some
— maybe most — I consider friends. I chat online with Pete Vallone,
Jr. regularly. I lunch with David Weprin; have a good relationship with
Melinda Katz, speak with Leroy Comrie. Tony Avella has stopped by the
office to chat. I’m in touch with Eric Gioia. I’ve known Helen Sears
forever and Joe Addabbo, Jr. for more years than I can remember; and
likewise, John Liu since he’s been on the scene. I’ve got a
relationship with Dennis Gallagher, spent some time with Hiram
Monserrate at the Trib holiday party and have chatted with
him since. They’re friends — all of them.
I’ve known Jim Gennaro for the past couple of years and
although we’ve had our differences, I’d like to consider him a
friend, too. Likewise, James Sanders — who I’ve met only once but
our staff, have been in touch – and through them, we’ve exchanged
messages that lead me to believe he, too, is a friend. Councilman Alan
Jennings doesn’t want me as a friend. That’s okay, too.
I use the word “friend” not in the social sense but in the business,
political sense. We have common concerns about our borough, our
children, and the process of government. We are there to help each other
help the borough and its people. We are friends.
chat occasionally with Giff Miller. We too, share common concerns and
Fidler, one of the new council members from Brooklyn, has been a friend
for 20-plus years.
or no friend, I write a column of political commentary judging people on
performance, not friendship.
far, the new council members
are doing one hell of a job. Bravo!
I had friends in the previous Council whose performance could never
measure up to the new council. Many of the old members were tired, jaded
and fat. In spite of the new Council’s learning curve, their work
ethic, concern, commitment, vision and unwillingness to accept business
as usual, elevates their potential to a level rarely seen in public
appear, for the most part, to be unblemished and unjaded by the usual
political celebrity status. Folks like John Liu will have to be careful
not to allow his newfound stardom to go to his head. I have lots of
individual advice, but not now.
their Council received it’s first real blemish when, last week, one of
the senior members — Angel Rodriguez — was indicted on charges that
he extorted a bribe from a developer, in exchange for his vote and
support. The Feds say they have Angel on tape. I’d expect him to be
out of the Council shortly.
lure of money — big money — along with the intoxication of power is
the biggest obstacle in the way of the new class of Council members
achieving their full potential. Elected
officials are offered perks, gifts, freebies and honors that are
unavailable to us mere mortals. And although the group of people is top
notch, I’ve seen top-notch people elected to office be so taken with
the power and celebrity that they forget their roots and the little
people. They’ve been blinded by the limelight.
bad; the money is worse. They start to live big and spend big. They
fundraise big. They become beholden to the big contributors, the big
spenders and the big lobbyists who buy the big tickets, big gifts and
provide lavish dinners. You get the idea.
hope, I believe — at least I want to believe — that this group, my
friends, will for the most part withstand the lure of money and
celebrity. They will keep their eyes on the prize — public service.
Serving our City and its people is their goal. Advancement and future
elective office comes when they work hard, remember the task and do
their job well.
expect them — hopefully all of them — to survive the lure of the fat
cats and the fast life. When they do, they will succeed as elective
officials. However, to achieve as an elective body, they must do so as a
group. That is even more difficult.
special interests, political, ethnic or special agendas seem to divide
legislative bodies causing them to lose focus. This Council already
seems to be distracted by issues unimportant to the task at hand.
the Bibles on which they were sworn in were back on the shelves,
Brooklyn’s Charles Barron called for the portrait of slave owner
Thomas Jefferson hanging in City Hall to be replaced by one of Malcolm X
— an interesting intellectual debate upon which I choose not to
comment at this time, since the overwhelming task of the Council is not
really dependent upon the Barron stunt.
came the resolutions that furthered the interest of one ethnic or
special interest group but had no real relevance on governing our City.
This list is by no means all-inclusive, but our Council members spend
time, staff time and money on considering the following (My brief
comments are italicized.):
No. 6 Condemn Giuliani
condemning former Mayor Giuliani for his surreptitious negotiation with
the City’s baseball teams, granting them huge financial concessions
and the promise of $1.6 billion in new ballparks, leaving our City’s
taxpayers with crushing obligations to wealthy enterprises.
this will go far and accomplish a lot. I’m no Rudy fan but he is no
longer an issue. Grow up!
No. 7 PLO Terrorist
urging George W. Bush and the U.S. government to declare the Palestinian
Authority and the Palestinian Liberation Organization to be terrorist
organizations and close the offices of the Palestinian Authority in the
City of New York
Bush will say to Powell, “Oh, let’s get the PLO, the NY City Council
thinks we should.” Maybe he’ll give us more money for recovery
because of this.
No. 12 Death Penalty
calling upon the Congress to pass bills that call for a temporary
moratorium on the imposition of the death penalty while the Federal
government and the State consider the various issues affecting its fair
certainly jump because the Council, which has a hell of a job rebuilding
New York, is spending its time telling Congress what to do.
No. 41 Reparations
urging the establishment of a Commission on Queen Mother Moore
Reparations for Descendants of Africans in New York City.
see if we can find as many divisive issues as possible to debate instead
of focusing on keeping the libraries open longer.
No. 42 Giuliani Great
praising Rudolph Giuliani, “America’s Mayor,” as one of the
greatest mayors in the history of the City of New York.
that side wanted to condemn him. We want to praise him. We’re all
grown up here, determined to fix what is broken in New York.
No. 72 Daniel Pearl
in support of President George W. Bush’s pledge to utilize the full
resources of the United States government to apprehend and bring to
justice those responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Wall
Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Pearl’s kidnapping and murder in Pakistan will go unpunished unless
the Council acts. And what about the City budget?
No. 73 Fight Terrorism
calling upon the U.S. Congress to halt the flow of all consumer products
in the United States from nations deemed by the State Department as
goodness for this one. Congress needs the Council to direct the war on
terrorism. What does the Elks Lodge think?
No. 92 Reparations Day
March 21, 2002 as “Reparation Awareness Day” and to recognize the
Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery as crimes against humanity.
one white member sponsoring, you can be sure no one was looking to stir
No. 100 Airbus Safety
calling upon the U.S. House of Representatives to hold hearings on the
safety of the Airbus A-300-600, other aircraft and the adequacy of pilot
can’t fix the schools, but they can run the airlines.
I’m not against many of the above concepts. And I’m an old
grandstander from way back. However, this new, wonderful Council class
must work together to rebuild and unify our city.
beseech them, please, don’t waste your time on irrelevant items.
avoid non-important issues that divide.
you fix the City and our kids are all reading on or above level, we will
look to you to fix our country and lead the intellectual debates of the
your eyes on the prize. Hold on.
Boomer Quiz Answers
“Kookie; Kookie; lend me your comb.”
The hippies 60’s battle cry was “Turn on; tune in; drop out.”
The Lone Ranger left behind a silver bullet.
“You’re the reason I’m traveling on; Don’t think twice, it’s
The group of protesters arrested at the 1968 Chicago Dem convention was
known as the Chicago Seven.
When the Beatles first came to the U.S. in early 1964, we all watched
them on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Some who protested the Vietnam war did so by burning their draft cards.
8. Dick and Jane’s dog was Spot. “See Spot run.” Rumor has it
they’ve been replaced in some school systems by Heather and her two
It was the VW Beetle, or more affectiona
West Side Story gave us the gang names the Sharks and the Jets.
11. In the early ‘60s, the drop-out, non-conformists were known as
At the end of “The Life of Riley,” Chester would exclaim, “What a
revolting development this is.”
“Get your kicks on Route 66.”
14 “The names have been changed to protect the innocent.” (Dragnet).
The real James Bond liked his martinis shaken, not stirred.
“In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight.”
That “adult” book by Henry Miller was called Tropic of Cancer.
Today, it would get a PG-13 rating.
Back in the sixties, members of the math club used a slide rule.
“The Day the Music Died” (American Pie) was a tribute to Buddy
The matching slogan was “Let Hertz put you in the driver’s seat.”
After the twist, the mashed potato, and the watusi, the dance under a
stick was called the Limbo.
“N-E-S-T-L-E-S; Nestles makes the very best....chooo-c’late.”
In the late sixties, the “full figure” style gave way to the
“trim” look first exemplified by British model Twiggy.
The great jazz trumpet player was Queens’ Louis Armstrong.
Joe’s regular visitor at the bar was Crazy Googenhiem.
The Russians put the first satellite into orbit; it was called Sputnik.
A Timex watch takes a licking and keeps on ticking.
The large plastic ring that we twirled around our waist was called the
The “Age of Aquarius” was brought into the mainstream in the
Broadway musical “Hair.”
Red Skelton’s hobo character was Freddie the Freeloader. (Clem
Kaddiddlehopper was the “hay seed.”) Red ended his television show
by saying, “Good night, and may God bless.”
by Dom Nunziato