Ah, those mischievous political gods: This afternoon, New Jersey's Supreme Court issued a ruling that seems to move the state closer to legalizing same-sex marriage or its civil-union equivalent. The court also handed Republicans a badly needed cultural weapon twelve days before Election Day.
Tonight, New York gay leaders have a long-awaited sit-down with Senator Hillary Clinton in the Upper East Side apartment of Democratic donor Sally Minard. As if they needed a conversation starter: Clinton has opposed same-sex marriage while otherwise saying the proper things about equal rights, a stance that's earned her considerable scorn locally. Most recently, she quietly endorsed extending insurance benefits to the domestic partners of federal workers. The activists would like to see some moral courage from Clinton, even if her legislative incrementalism is the only politically realistic option as long as Republicans control Congress.
New Jersey Okays Gay Marriage [Daily Intelligencer]
Gifford Miller has been teaching politics at NYU since the spring, avoiding the practice of politics since losing in last year's Democratic mayoral primary and being term-limited out of his job as City Council speaker. Until tonight.
Miller is launching "Fair Share New York" with a party at Georgette Mosbacher's Upper East Side apartment. "The city starts the game $20 billion behind," Miller says. "That's how much more in taxes we send to Albany and Washington than we get back." Fair Share will ask New York's prolific political donors "six zip codes in the city contributed $61 million to federal candidates last year," Miller points out to close their checkbooks until public officials promise a more equitable split for the city.
By decrying the imbalance, Miller joins an exalted line of advocates. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan started making the point early and eloquently in the seventies, and last April, Mayor Michael Bloomberg invited some of the city's biggest political cash machines to lunch at the Four Seasons and gave each a handy wallet-size card listing the demands they should make on the city's behalf. Not much has changed over the years, however. "Senators, governors, mayors, they have a lot on their plates," Miller says. "I think it will be valuable to have one organization that focuses only on this."
That the Republican doyenne Mosbacher is hosting Fair Share's event is only one indication of the eclectic, well-connected board Miller has assembled. It includes Bloomberg administration vets Marc Shaw and Bill Cunningham as well as Republican eminence John Whitehead and Democratic financier Robert Zimmerman. It's the kind of bipartisan coalition that a smart, 36-year-old former elected official looking to position himself for a new office might put together. Miller laughs. "This is not my political vehicle, and I'm not looking to be its face," he says. "I'm enjoying being out of office. My Microsoft Outlook calendar only runs until 2020. After that, I don't know."
What Up, G? [NYM]
There was no shortage of agendas at work in yesterday's vote to delay the building of Moynihan Station yet again. Dithering by the U.S. Postal Service initially slowed things down, but George Pataki has had twelve years to put shovels to the old Farley Post Office on Eighth Avenue. He shows a newfound sense of urgency in the project, perhaps because he has only ten weeks left in office and could use a legacy greater than setting a record for last-minute patronage appointments.
The Dolans and Cablevision are angling for a new Madison Square Garden on the post-office site, but the Bloomberg administration, still stung by James Dolan's torpedoing of the West Side stadium, is in no hurry to help with that piece of the puzzle. The Ross and Roth real-estate-development empires recently acquired big chunks of property adjacent to the prospective station, giving them a sizable bargaining chip in the negotiations. There may also be legitimate financing problems, as Alan Hevesi has claimed. Eliot Spitzer, governor-in-waiting, says he only wants the best deal for the city and state but he certainly wouldn't mind if that deal doesn't happen until he's officially in office.
Yet all of that stuff is subject to reasonable horse-trading, and it's all secondary to the role of state assembly speaker Sheldon Silver. He controls one of the three votes on the Public Authorities Control Board, which needs to approve the project unanimously. Yesterday Silver said no. He cited almost all of the above as reasons for his veto; what Silver didn't say is that by stalling the project, he puts some credit in the favor bank for his future give-and-take with Governor Spitzer.
But the overriding constant in all this has somehow been overlooked: Silver's demand that rebuilding ground zero and the downtown business district, which Silver represents in the assembly, take priority over any midtown development. To Silver, more midtown office space is a dangerous competitor to the more-deserving, still-recovering financial district. He's also suspicious that the real motivation for the Bloomberg administration's attempt to scatter new business districts throughout the city is an old-fashioned coziness with developers.
In some ways Silver's dogged focus is admirable. But for the thousands of commuters who'll trudge through the outmoded Penn Station even longer thanks to yesterday's maneuvering and for the rest of the city, which is missing out on a new architectural showpiece Silver's intransigence is only the latest example of why people hate Albany.
Not that there's any doubt about Hillary Clinton's focus these days, but two moments from her appearance at this afternoon's Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Committee luncheon at the Grand Hyatt neatly illustrated her campaign priorities.
At the end of a brief press "avail" before the event, New York's junior senator was asked how she's preparing for this Friday's debate, her first opposite hopeless Republican challenger John Spencer. "Well," Clinton said languidly, "I'm talking to you … and hanging around." She paused for a couple of seconds and seemed to let her thoughts drift. Then she started to walk away. "I'll get organized on that soon," she finally concluded.
A half-hour later, Clinton turned on the passion. After accepting the committee's annual "Champion of Democracy Award" (which was kind of a nifty trick accepting honors from a group she helped launch six years ago), Clinton ripped into the national Republican leadership as "extremists" that are driving disheartened, moderate GOP types to her side. "They didn't sign up for a radical Republican party," Clinton said, introducing a new, rousing refrain, and bringing the crowd to its feet. "They didn't sign up for budget deficits …They didn't sign up for science being pushed out of the way by ideology … They didn't sign up for the denial of climate change … They didn't sign up for North Korea getting nuclear weapons … "
Also not signing up, in this case to Clinton's cause, were two protestors from Code Pink. Dressed in gray corporate attire to blend in with the businesswomen in the audience, the activists unfurled pink banners with "Stop Supporting the War" in black letters and briefly yelled the phrase at Clinton from the back of the room until they were hustled out by security guards. Clinton didn't give them the slightest attention, plowing ahead with her praise of upstate congressional candidate Kirsten Gillibrand.
Wednesday night, not long after Yankees' pitcher Cory Lidle and another person died when their plane crashed into an Upper East Side building, Governor George Pataki issued a statement praising emergency responders for a job well done.
If only Pataki responded so quickly and thoroughly. It took today's tragedy, more than five years after planes destroyed the World Trade Center, to prompt the governor to request that the FAA keep private aircraft from flying uncharted over the city. "New York's airspace should enjoy the same kind of protections, as our Nation's Capital [sic]," he declared in a statement issued Wednesday night.
Uh, yeah. Mayor Bloomberg, a licensed pilot himself, presumably knew the shaky rules. The city can never be perfectly protected from airborne attack, of course: Terrorists are unlikely to file honest flight plans, and the nation's air-traffic-control system is dangerously overloaded. But Lidle, who in life was primarily a starting pitcher but also earned two saves out of the bullpen, may end up making his biggest save with his sad ending.
Read Gov. Pataki's statement.
One of the odder scenes, among many, at today's Columbus Day parade on Fifth Avenue: the dozen or so Jeanine Pirro campaign workers wearing "Vote for Pirro" T-shirts in the exact style of Napoleon Dynamite's "Vote for Pedro" T-shirts. Give her points for a sense of humor, but does the embattled Republican state attorney general really want to be identifying herself with a monosyllabic Mexican teen, even one who scores an unlikely win in the election for student-council president? Pirro grinned when asked if she's a fan of the movie. "Well, I don't know if I'm part of the cult," she said, standing on the corner of 44th Street and clutching a cup of deli coffee. "But the movie appeals to a lot of people!" Maybe that's the way she can make the scandals go away: Some sweet dance moves.
So this is how Rudy's loyalty is to be rewarded.
Two years ago, when Bernie Kerik's nomination to be chief of Homeland Security collapsed from a barrage of allegations about mistresses, misappropriations, mob ties, and missing nannies, Rudy Giuliani at first stood by his friend. Two weeks passed before the former mayor accepted Kerik's resignation from Giuliani Partners, which made some sense, given that Giuliani essentially created Kerik as a public figure, promoting him from driver to corrections chief to police commissioner.
Giuliani had no such bonds with Jeanine Pirro, and he ditched the histrionic AG candidate with blinding speed, pulling out of a fund-raiser moments after Pirro's bizarre I-didn't-bug-the-bastard press conference ended. But even though Pirro would seem to be the biggest loser at the moment, the pol who could ultimately suffer the most damage from Typhoid Bernie is Giuliani. The Daily News reports today that Kerik enlisted at least one spook who worked for Giuliani Partners to trail Al Pirro. The investigator was "moonlighting," says a Giuliani source.
Fine. The current mess is still a reminder that the former mayor's lucrative consulting firm could be a serious liability if he runs for president. Wayne Barrett's book Grand Illusion has done the best job of detailing the far-flung operations of Giuliani Partners, but the firm remains an underexplored story.
When Kerik quit in December 2004, Giuliani Partners renamed one division Giuliani-Kerik LLC became Giuliani Safety & Security. When Kerik needed a gumshoe to track Al Pirro, he apparently turned to a guy who worked for Giuliani Safety & Security. The tabloids may be occupied with "stunning" "gal pals" at the moment. But from his years as a prosecutor, Giuliani surely knows one iron law about tapes and leaks: There are always more.
Mayor Bloomberg will make one of those rare appearances tonight that remind people he's a registered Republican. Bloomberg will speak at the retirement celebration for Staten Island State Senator John Marchi, according to his public schedule. No doubt Bloomberg would appear at a retirement celebration for an elder statesman of either party. But his attendance at Marchi's farewell is another example of how artfully Bloomberg has finessed his nominal party affiliation: Marchi is staunchly conservative, an old-school Republican so stalwart that back in 1969, he challenged incumbent mayor John Lindsay in the Republican primary because he thought Lindsay was too liberal and beat him.
Marchi and Bloomberg maintain a cordial relationship, even though the mayor chose not to support Marchi's designated successor. Instead, Bloomberg made peace with city councilman Andrew Lanza, who four years ago stormed out of a meeting at Gracie Mansion when Bloomberg praised council Democrats for passing his property-tax increase. Lanza squeaked out a primary win three weeks ago, and his race is key to retaining Republican control of the State Senate in November.
State comptroller Alan Hevesi the guy whose job it is to audit other state agencies and ensure fiscal responsibility announced Monday that he'll pay New York State $82,688.82 to cover the three-year period in which a state employee was assigned to chauffeur his wife, Carol. Some perspective:
• $82,688.82 could buy Mrs. Hevesi 41,344 subway rides, with 82 cents left over for a cup of coffee at the bodega.
• $82,688.82 could buy Mrs. Hevesi 45,474 MetroCard swipes, when you include the free swipe that comes with every $10 added to a card, with $8.82 left over for a fancy Starbucks coffee and a muffin or two.
• $82,688.82 could buy Mrs. Hevesi 1,640 hours of deluxe-sedan car service from Carmel, including 20 percent tip, with $32.82 left over for dinner.
• $82,688.82 could buy Mrs. Hevesi a 34,451-mile cab ride, including a 20 percent tip, assuming she didn't hail it during the rush-hour or evening surcharge periods and she didn't get stuck in traffic.
• $82,688.82 could buy Mrs. Hevesi 6,890 hours, 31 minutes in a stopped or barely moving cab, assuming she puttered along in off-peak, daytime hours. She probably wouldn't tip, though.
Hillary Clinton listed nearly a dozen reasons why she was happy to be in Binghamton, New York, Monday afternoon, from the chance to talk nanotechnology to the gorgeous fall foliage. About the only thing she didn't mention, but surely welcomed, was that not a single reporter or civilian asked whether she's running for president.
The senator spoke at a forum on venture capital organized by her office, the twelfth in a series of meetings that are part of her "New Jobs NY" initiative. Her visit to SUNY Binghamton lasted only an hour, but it was a vivid reminder of the upstate-downstate political divide. Not the one following conventional wisdom, that the city is more liberal and the rest of the state more conservative. This split is about priorities: Upstate wants to know what Clinton can do now, not what she's going to do in '08, which is the endless fixation back in the city.
Even the skeptics skipped the harangues about Bill and the scandals and went straight to practical problems. "We were devastated by the floods; we lost $300,000 in new equipment," said Anthony Skojec, a partner in an Internet startup. "FEMA has given us $465! I never much liked Hillary, but if she can do something about the red tape, we don't care what party she is."
"Given her baggage, I've been very pleasantly surprised at the energy and creativity she's brought to the job. And I'm a registered Republican," said Chris Forbes, the CEO of Knovel, a science-and-technology information company* with offices on Fifth Avenue and in downtown Binghamton. "Chuck Schumer has done many of the same things, and he's very accessible. But she brings that celebrity, and the spotlight helps get things done."
Even the two local TV reporters omitted the presidential question, replacing it with softballs about the venture-capital program. "Why bother?" said a glimmering blonde from the Fox affiliate. "She just says 'no' anyway. Or maybe we really are just nicer up here."
* Correction, September 26, 2006: We originally referred to Knovel as a venture-capital firm instead of a science-and-technology information company.
There's been a sudden shakeup in Eliot Spitzer's debate prep. Jef Pollock, his campaign pollster, had been playing John Faso in informal mock-debate sessions until 6 a.m. today when Pollock's wife went into labor. Stepping into the Republican role for the final session is Justin Lapatine, also of Global Strategy Group, who happens to be a little more Faso-esque in height and girth. Congratulations to the Pollocks on the creation of another Democratic voter.
The debate, at 7 p.m., will be broadcast by NY1, whose political director, Bob Hardt, is nearly as big a player in state politics as the candidates. He spoke to New York's Chris Smith.
Spitzer has a huge lead in the polls over Faso. What do you think the debate goal is for each candidate?
The debate that we had between Spitzer and Tom Suozzi in the Democratic primary race shows that it isn't in Spitzer's DNA to just sit there when he's attacked or respond only by citing his achievements as state attorney general. Spitzer will bring the fight to Faso and question many of his votes and positions he took while minority leader of the state assembly. Faso, in turn, will continue his attacks on Spitzer, how be believes Spitzer has been less sheriff and more bully when it comes to Wall Street.
For you as NY1's political producer, what makes a "successful" debate?
Anytime you can combine great style with actual substance, you have a winner on your hands. The Spitzer-Suozzi debate was great not only because it was fascinating to see these guys mix it up, but also because you left the debate knowing that they had actual differences when it comes to policy. A lot of people loved the McFarland-Spencer Senate debate because it was so muddy but their ideological differences were starkly highlighted as well.
Any subject on which you're particularly interested in their answers?
Yes, but then I'd be revealing some of our questions to them.
NY1's "Lightning Round" has become famous and is surprisingly revealing. I'm disappointed to hear it won't be used in this debate. But what are some rejected "Lightning Round" questions from previous debates?
There was one where we were thinking of amping up the marijuana question and asking, "Have you ever tried cocaine?" But our political anchor, Dominic Carter, pointed out that no matter what else happened in the debate, that's all that people would be talking about the next day. He was 100 percent right, and we shelved it. As much fun as the lightning round is, we've decided forego it this fall. Some of our panelists were getting to ask just one question per debate, and we wanted to have a chance for each panelist to ask two questions. We'll bring back the lightning round, but it needs a little vacation.
What's the oddest request or demand a candidate has made pre-debate?
One candidate wanted a big bowl of green M&Ms in his dressing room that I had to taste in front of him before he'd eat any. Seriously, nothing too weird on that front.
Are briefing books allowed?
As Tom Suozzi knows all too well, no.
The candidates stage mock debates to prepare. Does NY1 do that with your moderator and/or the other panelists?
We really don't. We will meet and try to think of a lame way a candidate could answer each question and then either try to fine-tune the question or think of a really good follow-up. There is no way to keep candidates from deciding to duck a question, but we'll try to make it look bad for them if they're not addressing the question's substance.
What do you think was creating those mysterious bulges under Bush's suit coat in that debate with Kerry?
A lot of political pride.
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