Sure, it's defensible to lead with the latest news. And James's explanation isn't fully credible.
James, apparently wishing to get the jump on the story emerging Friday in the Courier-Life, Thursday gave this explanation to the Times's blog The Local: “Like most people, I believe in paying my bills, and like most people I wait until I get my tax refund.”
Well, there's no rule that say you get to wait until the refund arrives, which is why those in arrears must pay an interest penalty. And James, who earns $122,500 a year, surely has it better than many people in her district.
It's not a huge transgression, given the lack of a long-term pattern. Still, rather than simply offering an Obama-esque "I screwed up" before changing the subject, James did the latter immediately.
She told the Brooklyn Paper “This is a distraction from the real issues within the district," adding, in a swipe at Hunley Adossa's BEE, "If I started a not-for-profit, I could take money from [Mayor] Bloomberg and Ratner to pay [my property taxes]." She gave a similar quote to the Courier-Life.
I contacted her yesterday, giving her a chance to elaborate, and she said, "No further explanation other than there is a huge difference between not paying taxes at all and paying late. I have paid property taxes for the last seven years and will pay, albeit late, as part of my responsibilty as a property owner. This is frankly nothing more than a distraction away from the more serious issues that I am dealing with in this district. I guess I should start a not for profit and accept funds from Murdoch, Bloomberg and Ratner to keep me afloat. Fortunately, I choose not to."
The bigger picture
James's lapses do not indicate that she owes favors to any major powerbroker. Hunley-Adossa's silence suggests she might owe such favors to Forest City Ratner.
Similarly, the silence (in response to questions from both me and the Times) of Hunley-Adossa's campaign treasurer, Charlene Nimmons, regarding her dubious nonprofit's ties to FCR is also dismaying.
That's the bigger picture.
What's in the CBA
The Courier-Life's Witt touches on Hunley-Adossa's ties to Ratner without getting any numbers:
Ratner gave Hunley-Adossa seed money for her not-for-profit Brooklyn Endeavor Experience.
Hunley-Adossa is chair of the consortium of community organizations that signed a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with Ratner.
The seed money was negotiated as part of the CBA.
No, it wasn't.
The CBA states:
VIII. Environmental Assurances
A. Purpose. The purpose of this Section is to encourage involvement from the Surrounding Community on potential environmental issues caused by development of this Project and to provide a vehicle to address specific concerns.
B. Working Group.
(1) Upon execution of this Agreement, the Developers will work with FATHC to establish a Committee on Environmental Assurances to address short and long term environmental issues that may affect the Surrounding Community as a result of development of the Arena and the Project.
(2) If requested by the Environmental Assurances Committee, the Developers shall work with FATHC to seek and secure public and/or private funding to pay the reasonable expenses of the working group of this committee, in order to provide: an appropriate meeting space within walking distance of the Project, postage and phone communications, webhosting services for a community webpage and message board dedicated to the Project, and the services of an administrative staff to update the community webpage on a regular basis.
Hunley-Adossa's group was once known as the First Atlantic Terminal Housing Committee (FATHC). There's been no expenditure, as far as I can tell, to create a "community webpage and message board." Rather, Hunley-Adossa gets a salary from BEE (via Ratner?), while she runs for office.
Remember, an expert on CBAs said a week ago that CBA signatories shouldn't accept money from the developers signing the deal, because it undercuts the deal's integrity, but if they do, they should be transparent about it.
Witt, on the EIS case appeal
The Brooklyn Paper, which once deemed a Forest City Ratner lie about Frank Gehry's birthplace worth of page 1, ignored this week's news about the plaintiffs seeking an appeal in the case challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review.
The Courier-Life covered it, with Witt drawing significantly from a Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn press release. He then gave the last four paragraph to Forest City Ratner mouthpiece Joe DePlasco, who declared, "There is is nothing new to say about Daniel Goldstein's court cases."
By suggesting that a case involving 26 organizations, including Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (for which Goldstein is a spokesman), is somehow one person's case, "Dark Genius" DePlasco is apparently reverting to Tactic #3: Reality Be Damned.
As I wrote 11/1/05, DePlasco sometimes makes outlandish claims, almost daring reporters to make the effort to find a counterargument. When the Courier-Life's main rival, the Brooklyn Paper, simply punts on the story, readers are ill-served.