By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
(Keene, N.H., Saturday,
May 11) I’m in New
Hampshire for my son Lee’s graduation from Keene State. It’s been a
long hard journey. Five hours for me driving up with Lil, Allison and my
mother-in-law. And, as many years for Lee, dancing through the maze of
required courses. But the day has arrived and we celebrated at dinner
tonight and tomorrow at the formal ceremony. Then it’s five plus hours
back to New York tomorrow night in Mother’s Day traffic . . . and it’s
We’re proud of you.
The only problem is
that I’m not at home at my desk at all this weekend to write my column.
I have a pad of notes scribbled at the office last Wednesday morning when
Bill Thompson and I revisited the good time we had chatting during the
campaign and a batch of thoughts I’d like to share.
So while Allison, Lil
and Phyllis call it a night, I sit here with laptop and notes I can barely
decipher, piecing together the column you are reading.
Before I get to coffee
with Bill, some recent developments on the political front.
Earlier in the week, I
reviewed some of the Congressional redistricting maps prepared by the
State Assembly and Senate. Now that they have agreed on their own State
legislative districts, and the court has threatened to do the
Congressional job if they don’t act immediately, the two houses,
controlled by different parties, have each presented their own version.
The only way these guys (and gals) will ever get together is by threat of
court action. Their ability to accomplish something together as a
legislature – in a timely fashion – is best illustrated by the record
eighteenth consecutive year without an on-time budget. These jokers,
responsible for drawing new Congressional lines for the New York
delegation, were supposed to have an approved budget by April 1. A month
plus later, they don’t — and they don’t even think it’s bad. A
month late, by the way, is good by their standards. And we keep reelecting
them and sending them back to office. Perhaps the people get, and have
gotten, exactly what they deserve.
When the true picture
of the New York State’s finances and their deficit spending comes to
light in a year or two, remember who told you that they all are fooling
you. Their leadership is insincere, and mortgaging our children’s future
— but that’s not what this column is about.
On to more politics . .
The Jackson Heights
Assembly face off between forces of Latino District Leader Councilman
Hiram Monserrate and labor powerhouse Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin has
been averted. As of my trip north to New Hampshire, insiders had informed
me . . . but I’ve yet to confirm . . . that Monserrate candidate and
former campaign manger 20-something Jullissa Ferrars will step aside for
labor’s choice Jose Peralta. In a deal brokered with the help of Dem
County Leader Tom Manton, expect Monserrate to join McLaughlin and the
Democratic County Organization in backing Peralta, which will insure his
frontrunner status. Although we’d expect a primary challenge from one of
a number of Latinos, it seems Mighty Mac (Brian McLaughlin) has
orchestrated a relatively easy one far before petitions have been printed.
Although names like
Luis Selgado, Luis Rosario and Francisco Moya will be tossed about for
this and/ or the new Senate seat, one would be hard-pressed to convince
this political prognosticator that Peralta with Big Mac’s labor money
and support, Monserrate’s network and County’s punch will have too
tough a summer campaign.
In exchange for
Ferrara’s stepping aside, word has it that Monserrate’s chief of
staff, Charles Castro, will be the candidate for that newly drawn
Elmhurst, Jackson Heights Senate District. Expect labor and McLaughlin to
be there for Monserrate’s candidate. However, with longtime District
Leader, former Councilman John Sabini previously viewed as the clear
frontrunner, it’s premature to call this one. Sabini no longer has a
cakewalk, but we’d be surprised if he can’t get enough District Leader
votes to be County’s candidate. However, the organization would be
content with either candidate winning so we doubt that there will be a
showdown between labor and County.
It will likely be
Sabini and friends against Monserrate, labor and whatever Latino coalition
can be put together . . . worth watching.
A quick recap of other
races has Julia Harrison challenging incumbent Toby Stavisky in the 16th
Senate District; Ethel Chen, Jimmy Meng splitting the Asian vote against
Paul Bellivieu with labor support in the new 22nd Assembly District; and
Jeff Gottlieb threatening to challenge indestructible Nettie Mayersonn in
the 27th Assembly District.
Rumor has former
Council and District Leader wannabe Helen Cooper Gregory challenging
incumbent State Senator Ada Smith from Brooklyn in an all-Queens district.
Cooper Gregory’s only comment was, “all I can say is that it’s a
To date, those look
like the contests to watch.
Stay tuned, the summer’s gonna be fun
for political hoohahs.
Thompson: Charm, Smarts & A Future
Bill Thompson suggested we get together
and arrived promptly for our morning meeting at the Trib.
I asked his agenda as we sat down to
Michael Schenkler and Comptroller Bill Thompson.
photo: Dee Richard
“I have none,” Bill replied. “I
just enjoyed myself last time we got together. I thought we’d do it
A politician without an agenda?
Well, Bill did enjoy the column I wrote about him and as a guy on
the political fast track in the City, positive press sure couldn’t hurt.
I remember my last sit-down with Bill
during his successful campaign for Comptroller. It was a heck of a
campaign and he ran against a really quality guy, Herb Berman, with whom
he still maintains a good relationship.
My memory of our last get together is
vivid because both Bill and I enjoyed ourselves.
Back on June 21, 2001, I wrote:
“Bill Thompson is charming and
engaging. He is glib and quick and bright. He, unlike most of the other
citywide candidates, answers all the questions, although occasionally he
went off the record.
“Give me a couple of hours in my
office, and I know if I like you. I know what you’re all about. Allow me
to ask the questions and I’ll find out who you are.
“I had that time with Bill.
“Bill Thompson is good people. He is
open and honest and cares.
“He is not afraid to speak out.
“Bill was precise and analytical, he
was warm and compassionate.
“Bill Thompson is my kind of
“Bill Thompson, may just have what it
takes to be Mayor eight years from now.”
Week with Bill
Nothing has changed. I still like Bill.
Only this time, I found out a little more about him as well as his views
on his job.
Bill Thompson watches VH1.
Bill Thompson thinks the Mayor’s
budget is $1 billion short.
Bill Thompson listens to suggestions.
He believes the not-for-profit community
will be hurt funding-wise, this year.
The City’s financial
situation, according to Comptroller Thompson, is difficult, not
This year, the City has the authority to
borrow $2.5 billion. “Next year, we can’t borrow,” he said with
emphasis clearly suggesting that the City will have a bill to pay sometime
by the middle of 2003. Without advocating new taxes, the Comptroller made
it clear that some time before then, additional revenue streams (read
taxes) must be developed. He made no secret that 2003 had to be a tax
This year, an election year for the Guv
and State legislature, no new taxes would be approved. After the election,
Thompson suggests it will be a different story — there will be no
choice. Count on a new commuter tax and then another $2.5 billion in
Bill Thompson thinks the New York State
budget is a fantasy. The State he says, is 49th out of 50 as far as bond
ratings go. Only Louisiana is worse. Deficit financing, according to
Thompson, will create a crisis, not this year, but in subsequent years.
Bill thinks the Mayor is doing a good
job — I said Republican Mayor — Bill responded as if the Mayor had no
party. His budget, Bill believes, is sensible . . . although they disagree
Bill likes Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum.
He applauds her scrutiny of the School Construction Authority.
He likes the new City Council. They are
aggressive and represent the constituencies of the City. They are better
than the previous Council. He cited their enthusiasm and unwillingness to
accept the staus quo.
(Right on, Bill!)
Term limits, according to Bill, have
worked. They have brought into office the next generation of City
leadership. Thompson supports them with a slight modification to make them
Although the President is coming through
with, at a minimum, his promised $20 billion for New York City’s
recovery, Thompson is critical that the Feds are letting the City down
since they will only reimburse for capital costs and not assist the City
with it’s operating budget shortfall. New York City stood up during the
9-11 crisis, but has lost 100,000 jobs and has had its operating budget
seriously impacted, Bill explained. The Feds, he says, are afraid of
setting a precedent by assisting with operating funds. Bill believes the
Mayor has made the case to the President for such funding but is sending a
letter to the White House seeking the President’s support in this area.
Bill Thompson has, in four months,
gotten his arms around a tough job and staff of 900 plus. Perhaps it is
the depth acquired from his Wall Street investment banking days,
his experience as Brooklyn Deputy Beep or Board of Education
President, but he maintains a calm demeanor, quietly and authoritatively
responding to questions on the City budget.
He projects confidence. He is charming.
He is engaging.
He smiled slightly and acknowledges,
“We’re in for tough times but we’ll get through it well.”
When asked if he’s running for Mayor,
he responded with a smile, “I’ve been a Comptroller for four
However, this writer heard something
different. If Mayor Mike doesn’t run again, it’ll be Bill. If Mike
does, Bill can wait eight years. He’ll do his job, build his network and
raise money for a Comptroller reelection. All the while, this bright,
articulate son of the City will be working for you, me and a new home —
If Bill Thompson can track votes as well
as he seems to be able to track money, put him on your very short list as
the next likely resident of the house in Carl Schurz Park.
Congrats to Speaker Giff Miller &
his wife Pamela on the birth of Marshall.
another personal note: to our dear old Tribune friend who is recovering
from a recent stroke: your spirit, imagination and creative drive can
overcome all. We expect you writing and causing trouble, real soon.
by Dom Nunziato