Rumor Of Council Crimes Against The People
The Trib front page declaring the Councilmembers who tried to overturn term limits were committing crimes against the people.
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
Hold onto your hats!
Rumor has it that the new City Council that I have applauded since term limits dramatically changed its face, may make itself very ugly soon.
The new Council was elected in 2001 – after the people of the City of New York passed a law by referendum limiting each Councilmember to two terms and thus causing 39 vacancies in the Council. The new council would have never seen the light of day because incumbents don’t go away unless they die, go to jail or run for higher office.
The old Council did not go so quietly into the night. First they introduced a duplicitous referendum where a “no” meant a “yes,” trying to confuse people and allow old members to remain in office. The people again reaffirmed their desire to institute term limits for Councilmembers.
Then the Council planned to take action on their own and believed they had the power on their own to void not one but two referenda of the people. Their planning was interrupted when this writer and others, outraged at the arrogance of an elected body attempting to extend their own term by concocting a rationale to throw out a law that was passed by the people, took them to task.
They questioned whether the people knew what they were doing when they voted for term limits twice, and blamed the effort’s funding by wealthy defeated mayoral candidate Ron Lauder as an unfair way to term limit them. They were in fact crying sour grapes when a vote of the people went against them. And so we yelled.
Week after week, this column called them every name under the sun. We even put their faces behind jail bars on our front page with the headline “Wanted for crimes against the people.” We yelled and yelled and yelled some more – in print.
Soon others joined our chorus. And finally Speaker Peter Vallone, a candidate at that time for Mayor, recognizing the damage the effort to throw out term limits was to him, put an end to the ugly effort. And term limits rid the Council of 39 old timers and made way for new blood and energy.
And in spite of the old-timers’ cries, the sky didn’t fall. And the new Council flourished. They were basically unblemished and not beholden to lobbyists and still energized by the concept of serving the people. And they did.
There was one slightly ugly change – they called it a “tweak”— in the law by the Council which extended the term of the Speaker Giff Miller and seven others by two years. Without it, Miller would have been out of the Council and unlikely running for Mayor. Miller engineered the self-serving effort in the name of good government.
Good government? Make changes that affect future classes. A legislative body should never be allowed to make laws that keep its members in office longer. Self serving, yes. Criminal, pretty damn close.
And now the ugly rumor is rearing its head again. The “new class,” facing an end of their limited terms in 2010, is beginning to talk.
Right now, it’s just rumor with one enterprising NY Post reporter calling around on the story. The reporter got her training and a good portion of her zeal at the knee of this writer. After a couple of years with the Trib including rising to the position of managing editor, she went on to do us all proud at the NY Post.
As I write this on Saturday, she is trying to piece together a story about the rumors we have all heard. The new Council members will try to extend their own term sometime soon after the November elections.
We’ve asked one or two Councilmembers about it over the past year and were told that there was no current active effort but it would not surprise them if it happened.
It seemed apparent to them that the Councilmembers who would attempt to orchestrate and support such an effort are those who put their own self interest over the will of the people.
We expect such an effort.
If done by proposing it to the people to again decide by referendum, it would be appropriate and within the Council’s right.
If done by the vile and ugly self serving effort to throw out the term limit law passed by the people, you can be sure where to find us.
We shall take an active effort in labeling such an effort exactly what it is – an attempt to steal office by a bunch of power-hungry people who can’t make it anywhere else. We put the old Council behind bars.
If the new Council tries to disregard the voted will of the people and overturn term limits on their own, we’ll not only put them in jail on our front page, we’ll chase them forever and show them what running really means.
We hope that this is the last time we need to mention the subject.
In reality, we shall be vigilant, and watch for and expect the ugly.
Hold onto your hats and your rights!
Mike Gianaris: Politics & HumorBy MICHAEL SCHENKLER
First, the disclosure: I write this on Sunday (6/5), downstate, about the Legislative Correspondents Association Show that I did not attend last night (6/4), in Albany. The annual political roast-type fun, includes the reporters’ spoof, a Republican response, a Democratic response and the Governor’s commentary.
Well, Mike Gianaris, son of Queens, emerged on the statewide stage. He is truly one of the future political stars of our borough worth watching. In addition to his impressive fundraising for his announced statewide Attorney General race, Mike has been selected to defend his party’s honor with his response. He went head-on with Republican Westchester DA Jeanine Pirro, who will almost certainly be on the GOP ticket, perhaps for the very same office Gianaris is seeking.
We didn’t experience the reported laughs and guffaws but did obtain an advance copy of the Gianaris skit. And not only is Mike a star-quality politician, he is funny – or at least his writers are. The first responder to sing and dance simultaneously is someone worth watching in all that he does.
His skit takes place at an Attorney General campaign strategy meeting with signs poking fun at likely Dem Gubernatorial candidate Elliot Spitzer: “Gianaris is Greek for ‘Spitzer,’” “You’ve Had the Geek, Now Try the Greek.”
Gianaris describes his super-successful “Greek Diner Fundraising Tour,” complains about the hundreds of candidates entering the AG race and knocks his opponents.
Andrew Cuomo: “Don’t worry about him. He’s not going to run. . . I’m convinced he’ll lose interest once he realizes A.G. doesn’t stand for Almighty God.”
And in reference to Mark Green and Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, he explains: “Look, with this group, the best thing I could do is spend all my money telling the public that they are running. . . In fact, our opposition researchers uncovered an amazing coincidence. When they were in high school, Brodsky, Cuomo and Green were all voted by their classmates to be ‘Most Likely to Lose a Statewide Election Due to Being an Abrasive Jerk.’”
With an echo of, “Yeah … and Green’s already done it twice.”
He continues to poke fun at Greek politicos.
Dismissing Spiro Agnew as a role model, he states, “I think Jeanine Pirro has already cornered the shady tax filing constituency.”
He takes shots at the press, the governor and everyone else. But downstaters would especially enjoy his big close:
“If only I didn’t have to spend all my time running around the country raising money, I could tell New Yorkers why I’m best for the job. If only I were independently wealthy …”
[Music begins] “If I were a rich man, Ya ha deedle …”
In a rendition of the song from “Fiddler On The Roof,” Gianaris, who we have never heard sing, dreams of having the money of another very successful politician.
“If I were a rich man,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
All day long I’d watch New York One,
If I were a wealthy man.
I’d run my ads in Spanish,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
I’d announce I’m running for Senate and for Governor just for fun.
Oh, if I were a rich man,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
I could build the Jets a stadium,
If I were a wealthy man,
I wouldn’t have to fundraise,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
If I were a biddy biddy rich,
I could have any office that I wish,
If I were a biddy biddy rich,
It’s apparent that Mike doesn’t want to keep his day job. He’s looking at the one presently held by Elliot Spitzer and in the long and uphill quest, our friend from Astoria seems to be having a good time.
Opinion Page - Problems For Both: Councilman Sanders & Board Of Elections
Since 2002, City Councilman James Sanders has not filed campaign reports with the Board of Elections, but the Board has been unable or unwilling either to secure his compliance or to punish him for his omission. The Councilman, however, is in good standing with the Campaign Finance Board, to which he has submitted regular reports.
Sanders’ failure was first raised by David Hooks, his opponent in the Democratic primary.
Hooks is the candidate of the Democratic organization, which is trying to unseat Sanders on the ground that he has not shown district leaders sufficient respect. Sanders says he is the candidate of the people, not the leaders, which is what people say when they can’t get the support of the leaders.
What is unusual about this story is not so much that Sanders, or his campaign committee, failed to file for three years, but that the Board of Elections failed to deal effectively with this significant omission by the Councilman. The Board wrote seven form letters to his campaign committee. None of them mentioned the other letters; all of them were ignored. The Board says it won three judgments against Patrick White, Sanders’ treasurer, but they did not collect a nickel on any of the pieces of paper the judge is said to have signed.
One thing the Board of Elections apparently did not do either was to inform the City Council or its Speaker, Gifford Miller. Nor did the Board make any public announcement of the failure to file.
The Board consists of 10 commissioners, two from each of the five boroughs, one Democrat and one Republican. The position has been regarded as a political sinecure, a reward for services rendered to the party. The Board has a staff of people of varying ability; some are quite good and some are pathetic. Many of them are related by blood, marriage or political kinship to the organization which recommended them, and protects them from excessive scrutiny of their industry or intelligence.
Most non-filers are people who lose their races for nomination or election, and are not necessarily easy to reach. But if they run for public office again, it would not be unreasonable for the Board to require them to comply with the law with regard to their prior candidacy, before it accepts their petitions for the new race.
We are informed by the Campaign Finance Board that Sanders made his first filing of 2005 this week. He simply gave the name of his new campaign treasurer, and has not yet reported any receipts or expenditures.
The Campaign Finance Board is good on enforcement, and has fined candidates hundreds of thousands of dollars for late, erroneous or questionable filings. The Board of Elections must wake up, and impose serious sanctions on those candidates who flout the law.
For those non-filers whom it may not be worthwhile to pursue in court, the least the Board could do is post their names on a list of delinquents for public display at Board offices and on their website. The Board could also use such modalities as the telephone and the Internet to remind candidates of their legal obligations.
What is the point of having a law on the books if it is not enforced effectively?
When we raised this issue with John Ravitz, executive director of the Board of Elections, he said it appeared to him that there would be merit in referring the matter to the Speaker, or someone else who could take action, but that such a decision (changing existing procedure) would have to be made by the Board itself. The Board did, however, seek to obtain judgments against Parker White, the treasurer of the Sanders campaign. Mr. White says that, some time ago, he resigned, in writing, to the Board of Elections. The Board said that, to be effective, the resignation must be sent in on a prescribed form, which Mr. White did not use. Although the Board’s first complaint against White for failure to file was dismissed for improper service, three other judgments, for $545 each, were granted. No money, however, was collected on any of these judgments.
The Board says it lacks the staff to enforce judgments, and that, once granted, they are referred to the city’s Finance Department for collection.
For those of you who have had the patience to remain with us so far, we tell the story, in its frustrating detail, because we believe that it provides some insight into the city bureaucracy, and informs us as to how many obstacles lie in the way of conducting what one would assume to be ordinary business.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Watergate Story With Another HeroBy MICHAEL SCHENKLER
The late Bernard “Bud” Fensterwald
It’s pretty hard for a political columnist – even one who covers the local stuff – to sit by and watch the final chapter being written in the most far-reaching political story of his lifetime without any involvement. So we quickly looked for a local angle to justify a bit of space in the paper.
Carl Bernstein, of Woodward and Bernstein, the guys who broke the Watergate scandal and rode the story to international stardom, was on the Board of Directors of News Communications, the publicly traded media company I ran for a decade. We sat together on the Board for a number of years.
And longtime Tribune friend Bob Keefe, who is now Chairman of TKC International Inc., a global public affairs consulting firm based in Washington, DC and sends out periodic emails updating us on politics in the world, informed us of his small role and his hero in the Watergate affair.
With permission, we print Bob Keefe’s email “Watergate Redux”:
“The outing of Deep Throat (by himself) has grabbed the public attention in an explosive way. The perfidy of President Richard Nixon is still a huge, riveting story and it is still entwined by controversy.
“Reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein are back in the sun and are clearly the good guys. Ben Bradley has returned to bless his own stewardship over the Washington Post of the Watergate era. But Deep Throat, himself, W. Mark Felt, is getting a mix of reaction. He’s a hero to most Americans who see him as the patriot who helped peel off the cloak of secrecy from the illegal machinations of a corrupted White House. But to the conspiracy theorists and the Nixon apologists, he was a warped public servant who shunned his duty as a top law enforcement officer to make news.
“The ability of the Post writers and editors to keep this treasured secret for so long was quite amazing – particularly in this town where secrets usually move faster than lightning. But now it is out and the analysis of Felt’s role and value in the demise of our 37th president is the sport of the city.
“I have my own hero of the unmaking of that President… someone you have never heard of, Bernard ‘Bud’ Fensterwald. Bud was a super bright, wealthy Hill staffer from Tennessee. He was a protégé of Senator Estes Kefauver.
“At a party during the Inaugural of President Nixon in January of 1973, Bud pinned me down on the Watergate situation. Who did I think was behind it? What would the outcome be? It was tough cocktail talk. Eventually, he gave me his take on the matter. The burglary was just a small part of a large criminal conspiracy operating out of the White House. But it will be disclosed and “it will bring down the President,” Bud insisted. I was stunned, but Bud was as serious as he could be and he invited me to lunch the following week to discuss what we needed to do about it.
“I was working at the time in the very Watergate office that was the scene of the burglary… as the Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee. Bud picked me up in his vintage Thunderbird convertible – top down on a sunny January day-and we drove out to a secluded restaurant in far suburbia where we could meet privately.
“Over lunch, Bud explained that he had become the attorney for James McCord, one of the burglars, and that he knew that McCord was not at all happy being stuck in the DC Jail… (It was not a pleasant place, and McCord was a relatively sophisticated gentleman.) Judge John Sirica had pinned the burglars with extremely tough bail… a large amount and cash only – no bonds, no collateral. Bud wanted me to get my boss, DNC Chairman Bob Strauss, to raise the bail to spring McCord and loosen his tongue. I told Bud that I would carry the message to Strauss, but that I knew the answer… That was not the kind of thing a DNC chairman would ever do… certainly not Strauss.
“‘All right, Keefe,’ Fensterwald told me. ‘If he won’t do it, I will have to do it myself.’ And he did. And McCord sang like a canary and started the trail of incriminating evidence through Howard Hunt and Charles Colson to Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman… and to the President himself. Bud Fensterwald is my hero of that episode of American history. He knew what he was doing and he got the ball rolling. It worked and he was as responsible for the removal of the President and the sanitizing of the White House as was Felt, Bernstein and Woodward, et al, combined.”
The late Bernard “Bud” Fensterwald Jr. was born August 2, 1921, in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1942 he graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard. He served in the Navy in World War II, and received a degree from Harvard Law School in 1949.
Fensterwald entered Georgetown University School of Advanced International Studies and received an M.A. in 1950.
In February 1950, when Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed that the State Department was harboring members of the Communist Party and demanded that they be fired, he worked at the State Department as an Assistant Legal Advisor and defended several of the accused employees. The McCarthy charges were ultimately shown to be largely unfounded.
Fensterwald was cofounder and the President of the AARC (Assassination Archives and Research Center) a permanent organization which would acquire, preserve and disseminate information on political assassinations. His book, “Coincidence or Conspiracy,” remains one of the best reference books on the JFK assassination.
Not4Publication.com by Dom Nunziato