& Special Interests
Allison and I returned last weekend from a vacation in Boca Raton,
Florida. Yup, we were there in sunny, high 70 degree beautiful weather
while you experienced the blizzard of ’03 (or whatever they were calling
it). We missed a week’s worth of New York’s worst wintry weather –
and I’m not sorry a bit. Allison, poolside, expressed some very brief
misgivings about being denied some winter fun.
back home in last Saturday’s torrential downpour, which had washed away
some of the snow accumulation, didn’t prevent us from renewing our
annual winter vacation question: Why did colonists originally settle up
north? Certainly the Fort Lauderdale harbor could have handled anything
that New York harbor could have way back then. However, as we sigh and
dismiss the fantasy of New York being on the east coast of Florida, we get
back to reality and share the slush with you. Thank you very much!
Schenkler aboard “Seven,
Mike, Charlie” at
in case you didn’t answer my rhetorical question as to the nation’s
settlers finding a home down south, I assume it was a combination of the
climate they were used to and the fact that air conditioning was not yet
invented. When Mr. Carrier invented AC in 1902, he redrew the American map
paving the way for the sun belt to eventually lead the nation — air
conditioned summers and pleasant winters.
we’re still here?
in Boca visiting mom along with my sister Carole and brother-in-law Gil, I
had the pleasure of flying with Gil in his 4 seat Cessna 182, from Fort
Lauderdale Executive Airport to Boca Raton Airport — just a 15 minute
flight but it turned out to be interesting nonetheless. I’ve been aloft
with Gil previously in Florida and was somewhat familiar with the Boca
Aviation facilities where Gil tied down.
landing, as we taxied towards the building, it was apparent things had
changed. Gil, who was there just the day before – expressed the same
shock to see many dozens of private jets lined up in the spaces usually
shared by Gil’s plane, similar small prop(peller) planes and an
occasional small jet.
so last Wednesday.
we walked through the Boca Aviation building, discovering spreads
considerably more lavish than the norm, we learned that some 100 current
and former CEOs of the nation’s major corporations had their jets
sharing the tarmac with Gil’s “Seven, Mike, Charlie” – the
abbreviated tail number by which traffic control referred to his Cessna.
(There’s a whole alphabet of air traffic words which Allison and I
learned for no reason at all: A: Alpha; B: Bravo; C: Charlie; D: Delta; E:
Echo; F: Foxtrot.
“Business Council” – or “[Alan] Greenspan’s meeting” as the
ground crew referred to the Boca business gathering – was being held at
the nearby Boca Raton Resort & Club. The airplane parking (tie-down)
area showcased some of the most impressive private jets you’ll ever see,
belonging to the nation’s business elite. Senate Majority Leader Bill
Frist keynoted the meeting and they never did reach out for my input.
as the business of the nation was quietly conducted in beautiful
surroundings, it occurred to me, that the expensive, expansive network of
air traffic controllers located at all the private airports like Boca and
Ft. Lauderdale’s Executive are paid for by you and me.
asked Gil the cost of registering a plane or the fees involved with filing
flight plans or using the nation’s airports. He shrugged his shoulders
and explained plane registration fees were nominal, the cost of the air
traffic control system was borne entirely by the government (our taxes)
and the modest airport tie down fees went to private service providers not
I pondered, Gil and Carole, Alan Greenspan, the nation’s CEOs, and all
airplane owners, land and take off, pass over airspace and are monitored
by the network of many hundreds of air traffic controllers all at
government expense. Hmmm!
plane registration fees should include the cost of all government expenses
to cover private corporate jets and wealthy hobbyists. Is it really the
responsibility of our tax dollar to keep them aloft?
is this just another case of a powerful special interest group able to
influence the government to pay their way?
pass the suggestion on to the Queens Congressional delegation and see how
and Gil however, should get a free pass.
Cup Replaces Tin Box
10 months, I have been warning about New York City’s fiscal condition,
and the slowness of the city’s reaction to it. The prior columns
are available at: www.nycivic.org.
The first one, “The Gathering Storm”, was published on April 29, 2002.
It seems it has taken even more time for the city to attack the fiscal
problem than the President has taken to go to war.
course, there are justifications for all these delays, rounding up allies
or partners, giving others a chance to mend their ways, seeking
alternatives, etc. And one must resist the writer’s temptation to
blame decent people for not doing things they may not have been ready,
willing or able to do at an earlier time.
there are certain externally imposed deadlines. The Mayor’s
executive (proposed) budget is due in April. It must, by law, be
balanced. Even with the massive property tax increase, and the
general belt-tightening that has been going on in city agencies, the
budget is still over three billion dollars out of balance. Something
will have to happen relatively soon to narrow, and then close, this gap.
begin with the four horsemen of budget reduction:
1. Higher taxes, although they have already been raised.
2. Lower labor costs, which requires union cooperation on schedule
and rules changes.
state aid, which was not offered in the governor’s budget, except by
passalongs of federal money and one shots (a quick fix for one year,
the workforce by layoffs, pursuant to Civil Service rules.
are other choices, possibly even less satisfactory than the four listed
money, which is letting our children pay, with interest, for our excesses.
2. Sale of city assets, like the airports and the
waterfront, maybe a few parks.
3. Taking an advance against tobacco receipts, or other
future revenue streams.
4. The usual fiscal juggling, at which the city is
necessarily expert, where certain revenues are collected before their due
dates, and expenses deferred to the next fiscal year.
longer it takes to decide what to do, the more severe the inevitable cuts
must be. Time does not favor procrastination. But, to be fair, no
one official can solve this problem, and we will have to wait until
agreement is reached. That conflict resolution may be induced by a sense
of great urgency and impending disaster. “Nothing concentrates (or
clears) the mind like the whisper of the axe.” (We couldn’t find the
citation tonight; if someone gives us the source we will let you know.)
Our governmental parent is located in Albany, where this year
the ruling triumvirs are said to hold each other in unusually low regard.
The State is unlikely to adopt its own budget for many months, long after
the city’s deadline, which is June 30. Our mayor tried to
encourage quick action by issuing a budget message on January 28, one day
before the release of the governor’s proposed budget. That appeal
has so far been ignored, which is a tad better than being rejected.
Albany’s apparent attitude evokes the T-shirt message, “What part of
no don’t you understand?”
Mayor’s good manners did not, however, injure the city’s cause.
He could have wailed like a banshee, denounced Albany, promised revenge,
threatened litigation, or engaged in traditional New York street theater.
That would have attracted attention, for which the city would ultimately
have had to pay. He was smart to be polite, especially considering
that the state holds all the face cards.
core problem: How can a city survive and prosper in a federal union of
there any old or new ideas in cyberspace on how to deal with this issue?
Secession is not the answer. The South tried it in 1861, at enormous
cost. West Virginia seceded from Virginia in 1863, and made it stick
with the help of the Grand Army of the Republic. Staten Island tried
it under Mayor Dinkins, but Shelly Silver, to his credit, frustrated their
will, and the Island provided the votes to elect two Republican mayors,
Giuliani and Bloomberg.
we could secede, what would the remains of the state be called: Albania,
Buffalonia, Ontario, Mohawk, Ronkonkoma? It could be named for its
largest casino. Remember, New York City is the straw that stirs the
drink, the cash cow and the golden goose, all in one. “Once you have
found her, never let her go.”
If there is anything in this article you do not fully understand, please
do not hesitate to call or e-mail Ginger Nut. He will cheerfully explain
Henry Stern was NYC Parks Commissioner for
fifteen years and a Councilmember for nine. He is founder and director of
NYCivic, a good government group. He can be reached at: email@example.com
by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com
Click Here For The Not 4 Publication Archives