How Our Officials
Did in ‘07; Their Prospects for ‘08
For most of us, it was not a bad year, unless we were in subprime mortgages. When we zero in on New York's state and city officials, we find mixed results. For Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the year was a minus. You know why.
For State Comptroller DiNapoli and State Attorney General Cuomo, the year was a plus. They showed themselves to be competent and businesslike, and they avoided embarrassing actions and impolitic statements. DiNapoli, in co-operation with the Spitzer administration, issued reform proposals for the investment of state funds and the identification of intermediaries, while Cuomo appointed reformers, pursued student loan companies, and put state agency files on his Web site. Also, he didn't trample on anyone's rights..
With regard to the state legislature, the year showed a solid plus for Speaker Silver, whose role as ruler of the assembly was enhanced by the governor's missteps, and the Speaker's respect for the views of the Democratic conference on the Comptroller issue. In the bitter public conflict between the governor and the senate leader, Silver appeared to be a force for restraint, or at least the tamping down of personal abuse by the antagonists.
Senate leader Bruno had what must be considered a good year; he was not indicted for any of the offenses linked to his name, and he may never be charged, nor may his commercial activities be deemed crimes. He seriously embarrassed the governor over Troopergate, turning the lemon of his alleged misuse of state planes into lemonade. He will continue this pursuit in 2008, when the courts will decide issues arising from the chase, such as executive privilege, the extent of subpoena powers, and the destruction of records, if that happened.
Bruno did not pass much legislation, but that was never much of a concern. The Senate did approve a stand-alone pay increase for judges, which may have been prescient. Bruno was unwise, however, to call Silver a "wimp". There are a number of issues with Silver, but wimpiness is not one of them.
In city affairs, the year was a big plus for Mayor Bloomberg, who is becoming a national figure. Whether he runs for President or not, he is increasingly better known throughout the country. The city was again governed without scandal, and the mayor's appointments were impressive, particularly for an administration which will end in two years. One can differ with the mayor on particular issues, even important ones, but still recognize the solid work that he has done, particularly in crime and social services. He has been generous to parks, and has repaired relations with the City Council with the invaluable assistance of Speaker Christine Quinn, who is seeking his job because term limits take her out of the Council in 2009. She does not compete with the mayor, because term limits and his own volition will take him out in two years, and possibly sooner if he should be elected to another office.
Comptroller Bill Thompson, a mayoral candidate, spent the year issuing reports, many critical of the city administration. That is what comptrollers do for a living, even if they like the mayor. Thompson has not been antagonistic, and clearly seeks the good will of all. He took initiatives in restricting city investments in companies whose policies are deemed anti-social or anti-environmental, or who deal with regimes of which we disapprove. It is difficult to evaluate these initiatives objectively, but they sound good to most people. He sponsors regular congratulatory events with various ethnic groups. He got a break when Bronx BP Carrion switched to running for Comptroller.
Congressman Anthony Weiner, also an active candidate, is making the rounds of the boroughs in addition to his Congressional duties. He is generally supportive of the mayor but differs with him on congestion pricing, a controversial aspect of PlaNYC 2030. He has adopted the Schumeresque practice of bringing issues to public attention in which the side he takes is clearly the correct one. He ran an unexpectedly strong race in the Democratic mayoral primary in 2005, then not contesting the vote count, thus allowing Bronx BP Ferrer to oppose Mayor Bloomberg unilaterally.
Another mayoral candidate, John Catsimatidis, owner of Gristede's, is seeking to duplicate the Bloomberg victory in 2001. He has enrolled in the Republican Party and will seek their nomination.
Apart from full-page ads in weekly newspapers, expressing his views on public issues, he has not yet embarked on a public campaign.
Under the electoral clock for the city of New York, the three city wide officials, five borough presidents and 51 council members come up every four years, one year after the presidential election. At this point, their terms are half over, with two years to go. State legislators are elected in every even-numbered year, so they too are half way through their two-year terms today. Look for some switching between state and city officials, in part to avoid the effects of municipal term limits.
We look forward to 2008, and more substantive comment on public issues, particularly ethical questions, in the year ahead. New Year's is hardly the time to talk about the ethical deficiencies of our elected officials, but they have not gone away.
Happy New Year.