By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
Dear Mayor Mike,
I am impressed.
The school governance,
the teacher’s contract, the budget — although I personally would
have liked to see the Council’s education tax surcharge — highlight
your most recent successes. You have in your first 6 months in office
very effectively functioned as this City’s CEO instilling confidence
in the people and bringing government to a new moral high. While
effectively negotiating, you have apparently not fallen prey to the
obscene political deal-making that has marred our City in the past; nor
have you presented yourself in the autocratic manner that has been so
divisive in the past administration.
Mike, I applaud your
exceptional beginning as Mayor.
Now for the real reason
for writing — the City needs your help.
I have frequently also
praised the new City Council that took office when you did. Giff Miller,
Queens’ Leroy Comrie, Melinda Katz, and most of the Queens delegation,
most of the entire Council have proven to be hard working, committed,
dedicated, creative public servants. The new class of Council members
have brought vitality, drive, and integrity to a body that was mired in
old-school politics and self-serving motives. The new Council has risen
far above the old standard and has restored some integrity to the body
and confidence to the people.
I fear they are about
to blow it all.
I believe you can stop
Let me explain.
The not very well kept
secret going around today is that my friend Speaker Giff Miller, along
with Gov Op Chair Bill Perkins and another six members who are term
limited next year, are about to lead the charge to “tinker” with the
term limit law effectively extending their right to run for another two
year term. There are two variants of this scenario being kicked around
by Council leadership. The real problem is that these guys (and gals)
intend to change the term limit law passed by a referendum of the people
without going back to the people.
Mike, you’ll remember
that the old council tried to go back to the people in ’96 and were
resoundingly told not to mess with the term limit law. Twice the people
Now, Giff and company
have a valid presentation that should be heard. Perhaps there is a more
equitable way for term limits to proceed on a go forward basis. One of
their two proposals — insuring no one is term limited unless they have
had eight years in office — is a proposal that I believe has merit and
should be put to the people in a referendum.
However, instead of
coming to you and the Charter Revision process, these self-serving
council members are actually planning to introduce and pass legislation
to subvert the will of the people. They’ll cal it “tinkering” or
“fixing” an inequity in the law. They’ll say they are making the
process better. In fact they will be extending their own terms in
office. One variant gives extra years to everybody. The law will at a
minimum enable the eight members who are term limited next year to run
again. It will enable Giff Miller to be reelected and remain as Speaker.
It will enable the present Council perks, lulus, and wonders to
continue. The leadership will subtly threaten members who are not with
them. Committee chairmanships, member items and district allocations
will be used to round up the votes to override a Mayoral veto.
Mike, it could get
It all can be
Although I am a novice
in the Charter Revision process, I believe in reality, you are in
control of it. You could simply have two matters put to the people:
First and most
importantly, “any law passed by referendum since the last charter
revision in 1990, can only be modified or repealed by referendum.”
This referendum would
be crafted by your Counsel to make ineffective any Council action prior
or subsequent to the referendum altering the term limit or any law voted
on by the people.
Secondly, allow Giff
and his colleagues to place on the ballot their term limit “tinker”
that they believe improves the law. Take the issue to the people and let
the people decide.
You have the power to
instruct the commission to preserve the will of the people. This, I
believe is a moral imperative and is consistent with your position
attempting to depolitcize the process.
While I feel passionate
that the people’s will must not be subverted, I also feel the Council
has a right to be heard. If indeed an almost lame duck Speaker can
convince the Council to request a referendum item modifying term limits,
I would encourage you to consider it. You need not support it. However,
providing the out of control, self serving process of term limit
subversion, a legitimate outlet, may serve to restore some confidence in
a Council that is on the verge of throwing away all the integrity and
moral high ground they brought to office.
Mike, please enable the
will of the people to rule this city. If given the opportunity, no one
will oppose a referendum saying that once passed by the people via
referendum, a law can only be changed by the people by referendum.
I believe it is a
I know it is the right
I respectfully submit
the idea to you.
Please let me know what
Publisher, Queens Tribune
Politics: The Numbers Game
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
Part of the science of
campaigns refined in recent decades, has been the computerized
identification of block voters. Ethnic sorting programs allow the pros
to develop mailing lists targeted to such groups.
#1 Census Data
Professional firms have
long existed to provide campaigns with targeted mailing labels generated
by computer. The leading firm in our City offering this service to
candidates is Prime New York. Jerry Skurnik and Stu Osnow have been
providing reliable voter information since they left the Koch
administration a lifetime ago.
Skurnik was good enough
to provide us with a brief analysis of the voting patterns in the three
new Queens legislative districts. This information is helpful in
planning a campaign and predicting the out come.
Sadly, with 7
Congressional, 14 Assembly and 8 Senate seats up in Queens, incumbents
will easily walk away with all but three. Queens population growth has
resulted in redistricting creating one new Senate and two new Assembly
seats – three districts without “shoo-in” incumbents.
direction and published reports have indicated that the new Senate (13th) and one of the new Assembly Districts (39th) are drawn for Hispanics and the other Assembly District (22nd) is Asian, Skurnik’s numbers indicate things are not that clear.
Chart #1 shows the
census data, with ethnic information on all residents
Since residents include
children and non-citizens, Skurnik has matched the names of registered
voters to an ethnic dictionary to determine the percentage of voters in
In Queens, to complicate analysis, these elections will be decided in the
Democratic Primary by registered Dems. Prime New York estimates the
Democratic enrollment in Chart #3.
Play with the numbers
yourself. Things are not always as clear as they seem. We must take the
analysis one step further and try to predict which registered Democrats
will actually come out and vote.
In the weeks between
now and the Primary, we’ll provide you with more to analyze.
Thomson: My Friend, A Queens Hero
The New York City Board
of Education, in the form we have known it, has faded into history.
Last Thursday, Tamara
and I had the pleasure of saluting Terri Thomson on her final day of
service as a member of the Board of Education. At a small reception
given by Queens Beep Helen Marshall, speaker after speaker praised
Terri. Kids, parents and principals joined the chorus of Queens
superintendents in telling of Terri’s personal involvement and
commitment to the kids.
Chancellor Harold Levy
stopped in to light-heartedly, salute the person who he blamed for his
Helen Marshall was nice
enough to offer mean opportunity to speak. Surprised, without notes or
script, this is the gist of what I said:
“Thank you Borough
The two people in this
room that I’ve known the longest are Helen Marshall and Terri
Thompson. I’ve known Terri for almost thirty years (she looked at me
incredulously — yes Terri, at least 28). Terri has been my educator,
my banker, my Congressional Office Chief of Staff, but above all, my
friend. It’s been a wonderful relationship for the past almost thirty
I’ve known the
Borough President for some 40 years.
In the early 60’s, my
father became principal of P.S. 143 in Corona. Helen Marshall was the
President of the Parent’s Association.
In the late 60’s,
decentralization and the New York City Board of Education – empowered
much like the Board we have known – were created after a study by
McGeorge Bundy and the Ford Foundation. My uncle, Murray Bergtraum was
the first member from Queens to serve on that Board. In the early 70s I
became a teacher in and later served as Assistant Principal in P.S. 219
Queens, District 25. I later became a principal. My mother and many
other family members taught in the City school system I am a product of
As you can see my roots
in education in New York run deep.
I have been privileged
to know many of the Board of Ed members. None has been more committed to
the children of our City or more heroic than Terri Thomson.
Terri has also been the
subject of my weekly column on several occasions. I felt the need to
speak out when Terri was treated unfairly because she voted her
conscience on behalf the kids.
Terri, you have served
wisely and proudly. You have made your mark on our school system and
city. You have always stood tall and have done what you believed was in
best interest of the kids.
I congratulate you for
a job well done.
The city will miss you.
I know the kids love
I love you.
by Dom Nunziato