Developing the Trib’s iPad and iPhone Apps
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
It’s been a fun diversion. I’ve met some bizarre techies who enjoy life and are good at developing iPad and smart phone programs. They like and understand community newspapers, and so we agree to try a Queens Tribune iPad app.
Four versions and 20-plus tweaks later, this rather simple application made me respect the thought and work that goes into all of those apps available on your smart phones.
Well, we got the iPad app up and running – just take your iPad and hit the App Store app and search for Queens Tribune or just go to QueensTribune.com/iPad on your iPad.
Now, is that clear?
But we got more than we bargained for in the initial talks. We have an iPhone app also. I think it still needs tweaking. Those X-out buttons are too small or my fingers are too big. There are other tweaks needed, but we’ll get them accomplished with updates.
We haven’t announced the iPhone app yet, it’s just been sitting there in the App Store – like the iPad app, it’s free of course.
|iPhone (above) with Queens Tribune app’s opening page.||iPad with last week’s Not For Publication column.||Our simple instructions to get your own free iPad or iPhone app.|
There’s no charge for either app (BTW – to those who are new to this stuff, that’s “app,” short for “application”).
That’s great for our readers but it’s great for our advertisers and classifieds, too. The boroughwide ads are all on the app as are the legal ads and the entire week’s boroughwide Tribune copy – special sections and my column, too.
As a matter of fact, during this test period, on the home page of the iPad app, you can push the center button and automatically go to my column on the web. We will of course, continue to maintain our comprehensive website and archives.
The app has some cute little gimmicks – try them; play a little. You can search, you can choose from all the pages along the bottom of the screen or click the “grid” button in the upper right hand corner. You’ll figure it all out in a minute or two of use.
Advertisers – other than our regular Trib advertisers – will have very limited opportunity to get their message across to our readers. We have reserved only three boxes on the home page for potential advertisers. That’s pretty limited real estate, so if you want in, ask your account rep or email me now at email@example.com.
The main purpose of this joint undertaking is to make our news (and ads) more accessible to more readers. We believe we will quickly accomplish this.
But as all of you who use smart phones and iPads (or their almost equivalents) know, there will be tweaks and updates. And in order to perfect our apps, we need your input. Please send your reactions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, see you in the cloud (whatever that means).
Follow me on Twitter @MSchenkler
Pension Reform Agreed Upon. Will Promises Be Kept?
By HENRY STERN
The city’s antiquated pension system has long been in need of streamlining and updating. The recent agreement reached by Mayor Bloomberg, Comptroller Liu and leading labor unions provides hope that 2012 will be a year of pension reform, but such hopes have previously arisen and been dashed on the rocks of political reality.
New York City employees have different pension plans, all under the management of the City Comptroller. Each pension fund is financially independent of the others and has its own board of trustees, which include city officials and relevant union leaders. In general, the city and the unions have roughly equal authority over the funds.
Sometimes the city and union leaders work jointly on pension matters, while at others they are in disagreement, a difference largely based on the relationship between the mayor and the comptroller at the time.
Historically, the city’s mayors and comptrollers have been at odds more often than they have been united. The comptrollership has been used as a stepping-stone for mayoral candidates and under those circumstances it is not uncommon for the mayor and the comptroller to disagree on issues.
The last comptroller, Bill Thompson, left office in 2009 after a close but unsuccessful effort to defeat Mayor Bloomberg’s bid for a third term. The subsequently disgraced and convicted Alan Hevesi sought the mayoralty in 2001, but ran a poor fourth in the Democratic primary, losing to Mark Green, Freddy Ferrer and Peter Vallone. Bloomberg won.
Liz Holtzman was defeated for reelection as comptroller in the 1993 Democratic primary by Hevesi, who raised integrity issues against her. She never ran for mayor. Her predecessor as comptroller, Harrison J. Goldin, made a bid for the office in 1989, finishing fourth in the Democratic primary. Goldin had succeeded Abe Beame, the only comptroller in City history to ascend to the mayoralty since Consolidation in 1898.
It is one thing for public officials to disagree on a policy issue, a frequent occurrence, but another to be in chronic dispute on questions of investment and expenditure of public funds, in situations in which the outcomes can result in financial gaps of millions of dollars in return on investments. The hydra-headed current system leads to such results.
The relationship between third-term mayor Mike Bloomberg and first-term comptroller John Liu has been particularly chilly. Although they cannot run against each other in 2013 they clearly have different visions as to what the city should do in the interim.
Liu has been in full-fledged campaign mode for the 2013 Democratic nomination for Mayor from the day he took office 22 months ago. Whatever justification for a particular dispute it seems clear that the mayor and the comptroller are often on opposite tracks in their judgment of the city’s financial crisis and the way for it to dig itself out of the mess. The mayor sees the solution as based on reducing expenses and increasing revenue with an economy that gets better, while the comptroller believes the city can survive the recession by continuing to spend as it has done in the past.
Of course, all this may change in the next few months, since new economic data is constantly arising and influencing the stock market, corporate earnings, and tax receipts. The financial situation may improve or deteriorate.
The tentative agreement just reached will require considerable fine-tuning in addition to approval by the State Legislature in Albany. It is by no means complete and dispositive of the main issues that have arisen. It does indicate a desire to reach common ground and the recognition that the city’s urgent and continuing fiscal troubles require more savings to be made without endangering the pension system.
Some watchers believe that the agreement is not real, but a paper gloss over a more severe situation designed to buy a few months breathing room in which city and state officials will work out a more comprehensive reform.
The working agreement will require the relinquishment of some authority by the comptroller, who now possesses almost plenary authority in making investment decisions for the $120 billion that remains in the city’s pension accounts. It is a rare for public officials to spontaneously limit their authority in any way, unless they are required to by law enforcement or other external authorities.
Liu has been under fire in the press in recent weeks for alleged fundraising irregularities, including taking campaign contributions from certain donors under the name of others in order to increase the amount of matching funds he would receive from the city’s Campaign Finance Board. If he made concessions as the result of current political weakness, it remains to be seen whether he will adhere to them when his own situation improves.
It should always be remembered that every high political office is but a few steps from the grand juries’ chambers in the county court houses. The higher one rises in the system, the more vulnerable one is to accusations of various types of misconduct.
The trouble is, as we say, that some of the charges are likely to be true.