Monday, October 23, 2006

Mayor blasts “three men in a room” as undemocratic; does that apply to AY?

After the Atlantic Yards project receives an (almost inevitable) approval from the board of the Empire State Development Corporation, it still must receive a unanimous vote from the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB)—which is controlled by Gov. George Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

Silver killed the West Side Stadium, he’s being pressured to modify or kill the Atlantic Yards plan, and just this week stymied the city’s plan to renovate the Farley Post Office into Moynihan Station.

That ticked off Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who said Friday on his weekly WABC-AM radio appearance:
Why is there a structure at the state level where three individuals basically have a veto over everything? This PC, PSA, whatever the board is that approves it. And I'm not sure why that's constitutional. Maybe somebody wants to look at that. I don’t happen to think that it’s good democracy to give the governor, the speaker of the assembly, and the majority leader in the senate—no matter who they are, whether they agree with me or not—that’s not representative democracy, that’s not letting everybody have a say, because in fact, it isn’t everybody.

Host John Gambling suggested that a two out of three vote might be an improvement. Bloomberg responded:
I suppose that would be better… You can argue the governor is elected by the whole state, but then the majority leader and the speaker are representing really only their own districts, and that’s not what I think we should have.

But if the PACB passes the Atlantic Yards plan, would Bloomberg appreciate it if project critics question the process? And if he's so concerned about process, how can he countenance any project that is supervised by a state authority and bypasses the City Council, which means local elected officials don’t get a voice?

Maybe someone will ask Bloomberg when he reappears on Gambling’s show next Friday.

Three men in a room

Silver's spokeswoman Eileen Larrabee told the Daily News, in an article Saturday headlined Mike rips tiny, obscure panel, "The speaker gets input from all of his colleagues... He was acting in the interest of his conference.”

Well, Silver does listen to fellow Assemblymembers, but that doesn’t make it democratic.

Indeed, a new book by former State Senator Seymour Lachman, Three Men in a Room: The Inside Story of Power and Betrayal in an American Statehouse, points out how the trio operates undemocratically. According to the publisher’s description:
Three Men in a Room is an insider’s exposé of how one of the country’s largest and most powerful governments—with the fourth-largest budget, behind only the federal government’s, California’s, and Texas’s—has become a model of inefficient and undemocratic governance. Seymour Lachman ran the New York City Board of Education, taught political science, and was then elected to New York’s legislature. What he found when he arrived in the halls of the state senate was a Potemkin village of government where legislators vote on bills they haven’t read during legislative sessions they haven’t attended.

Bloomberg on the press

Host Gambling was talking to Bloomberg about the possibility of getting the City Charter passed to enable nonpartisan elections, and also the recent charges against labor leader and Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin. “So we’re sort of stuck with what we have?” Gambling asked.

Bloomberg: Well, we are unless we say “We’re not going to take it anymore,” and maybe somebody else will take on the mantra of nonpartisan elections. Maybe the press will do a better job of investigating. Well, when you read about these elected officials that abuse the public trust and break the law--a lot of this stuff if you really had been a good investigative reporter you might have come up with yourself. You don’t see that kind of journalism as much as I think you should.

Bloomberg on development

Talk turned to the new plan to build 5000 units of subsidized middle-income housing on 24 acres at the Queens West site—formerly planned for the Olympics. Bloomberg observed:
As [Deputy Mayor] Dan [Doctoroff] pointed out yesterday, with the exception of the [West Side] Stadium, which I always thought was a horrendous loss for the city… with the exception of that, almost every single project that was part of the Olympic bid we’ve gotten going. This was one of the last big ones.

Add to that Atlantic Yards and the Brooklyn arena.

Bloomberg on campaign contributions

Rich candidates, the mayor said, often lose:
The real advantage goes to incumbents, it doesn’t go to rich people… Incumbents find it much easier to raise money, because everybody says ‘They’re likely to win, therefore I’m going to buy some influence.’ Most people, when they give money, at least the larger donors, probably do think they’re getting influence. It’s not an accident that when you go and look at who gives money to a campaign, it’s people who are doing business that comes before that legislative body. It’s called “pay to pay” and I’ve always thought it was an outrage.

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