My book review of All Things Possible by Governor Andrew Cuomo, appears on the web site October 23, 2014.
Categories: Articles/Essays/Op-Ed, Newsmax
The following appears in the October 10-16, 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:
It’s very unusual for proponents of an important statewide ballot referendum to be silent during an election campaign season, but that’s precisely the case this year concerning the so-called “Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014 Proposal No. 3.”
Not familiar with it? I’m not surprised. In his January State of the State address, to entice New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his extreme leftist allies to ditch their plan to increase NYC’s income tax to pay for universal pre-K, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed the bond act, but little has been said about it since.
To bring you up to speed, here’s the official ballot text that will appear in your voting booth on Nov. 4:
The Smart Schools Act of 2014, as set forth in Section One of Part B of Chapter 56 of the laws of 2014, authorizes the sale of state bonds of up to two billion ($2,000,000,000) to provide access to classroom technology and high-speed internet connectivity to equalize opportunities for children to learn, to add classroom space, to expand high-quality pre-kindergarten programs, to replace classroom trailers with permanent instructional space and to install high-tech smart security features in schools. Shall the Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014 be approved? Yes or No.
Why has there been so little talk about this bond referendum? Because supporters are afraid if voters focus on it, a majority will realize it’s a $2 billion dollar boondoggle and vote it down.
This proposal doesn’t make much sense. Taxpayers are being asked to pay principal and interest on debt well beyond the life of iPads, laptops and other computer and technology equipment. E.J. McMahon, president of the fiscal-watchdog Empire Center, agrees: “Cuomo seems to rely on an arbitrary number and would pay for technology that will be outdated and useless before the state’s indebtedness is even paid off.”
Comparing the issuance of such long-term debt to borrowing for a vacation, Citizen’s Budget Commission Vice President Elizabeth Lynam said, “It’s OK to borrow money to purchase a house, and you pay that over 30 years because the house is going to last 30 years. It’s not OK to borrow typically in your personal life for a vacation, because that’s a short-term benefit and you’re going to pay it back for many years to come.”
The technology and construction programs included in the Smart School Act are generally funded by the state’s operating budget via annual school aid. By not using this normal process, the Empire Center has observed “the state will have to grow its debt and incur interest payments that make the expenditures more costly.”
Also, the funding of projects with bond proceeds frees up dollars in the state budget to fund more goodies on the never-ending wish lists of the state-wide teachers unions.
While the national cost of education averages about $10,000 per student annually, spending in New York averages $20,000 per student. On Long Island, it’s projected to hit $26,000 per student this academic year. For all that spending, the results are not impressive; New York student proficiency levels are below the national average, and it’s unlikely spending another $2 billion on dubious projects will improve student performance.
Back in the early 1800s, New York State went on a spending spree. But the 1837 depression brought it to a halt, as the state found itself on the brink of insolvency when canals and railroads built with bonded debt defaulted. To address this crisis, a constitutional convention was convened in 1846, and new measures were adopted permitting debt to be incurred only if approval was obtained in a voter referendum.
In modern times, New Yorkers have used this constitutional power wisely, rejecting most bond acts. This year, state voters have another opportunity to do just that – and to show Cuomo they’re too smart to fall for the Smart Act.
The following appears in the September 26-October 2, 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:
After writing this biweekly LIBN column for more than five years, I presume readers know that fiscally, economically and culturally, I’m a small “c” conservative. But I’m also a member of the New York Conservative Party, which I suppose makes me a large “C” as well.
Back in 1965, when I was 13, I handed out fliers on Brooklyn street corners for William F. Buckley Jr., founder of the modern conservative movement. At the time, he was the Conservative Party’s NYC mayoral candidate, running against the very liberal John Vliet Lindsay.
In 1993, I followed in Buckley’s footsteps and ran for mayor on the Conservative line against Mayor David Dinkins and the candidate of the Republican and Liberal parties, Rudy Giuliani. To help celebrate the party’s 40th anniversary in 2002, I even wrote a book: “Fighting the Good Fight: A History of the New York Conservative Party” (St. Augustine’s Press).
The Conservative Party was founded in 1962 to serve ideals first. Throughout its history, the party has been the guardian of working-class New Yorkers – men and women who subscribe to the belief that to be a good citizen, it’s essential to love family, country, neighborhood and God, and just as important to respect an ethic of hard work.
Thanks to the dedication of the party’s founders and many of its leaders, who eschewed personal gain, Ronald Reagan said, “The Conservative Party has established itself as a pre-eminent force in New York politics and an important part of our political history.”
This brings me to the present state of the Conservative Party on Long Island. Right now, Suffolk County Chairman Ed Walsh is being investigated by the FBI over allegations that he collected his salary as a county Corrections Department lieutenant for hours he did not work; the county sheriff is attempting to fire him. According to records disclosed in Newsday, Walsh collected more than $250,000 in salary and overtime from the sheriff’s office in 2013 and another $60,000 from the Suffolk Conservative Party.
Longtime local party activist Michael O’Donohoe said the allegations have “tainted” the Conservative line and he fears that members dedicated to its principles will “abandon the county party if it’s known for bloated salaries and political connections.”
For the good of the party, Mr. Walsh should have stepped down as chairman, at least until the investigation is over. But no, that was asking too much – and sadly, his rubber-stamp county committee elected him to another two-year term Sept. 17.
As for the Nassau County Conservative Party, its leader, Danny Donovan, claims he champions traditional cultural beliefs, and says candidates seeking the party’s nomination must be pro-life and pro-traditional marriage. That standard, however, didn’t apply in the 4th Congressional District this year.
Instead of choosing Republican Frank Scaturro, a true conservative intellect and dedicated activist, the party nominated pro-abortion Bruce Blakeman to oppose Democrat Kathleen Rice.
Blakeman, one of GOP boss Joe Mondello’s favorite political hacks, not only lacks intellectual depth but has proven to be an inept candidate. In 1998, he was creamed by Carl McCall in the race for state comptroller. One year later, voters booted him out of the county legislature for supporting a 9-percent property-tax increase. And in 2010, he never got to the starting gate to run against U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, soundly rejected by both the Republican and Conservative parties.
Unlike Nassau County Conservative Party leaders, I won’t abandon my principles – and therefore, I won’t vote for Bruce Blakeman. Instead, I’ll write in Frank Scaturro for Congress in the 4th C.D. on Election Day. I urge all right-minded Conservatives to do the same.
If the Conservative Party is to endure, its time for the rank-and-file to send a strong message to Long Island leaders: Principles matter more than patronage, financial gain and political cronyism.
The following appears in the August 29-September 4, 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:
Back in January, Governor Andrew Cuomo thought everything was going his way. His approval ratings were sky high and he looked forward to a huge second term victory that would enhance his national image.
But a federal investigation of his office and his “in your face” governing style has energized opposition on both the left and right sides of the political spectrum—and that could wreck his hopes for a big win in November.
On the right, pro-fracking, pro-gun and pro-traditional marriage voters are expected to come out in droves and could deliver a disproportionate ballot box impact in what is expected to be a low turnout election. Cuomo’s Moreland Commission scandal has given new life to Republican-Conservative candidate for governor, Rob Astorino, who’s proven to be an adept candidate despite his limited financial resources.
On the left, Cuomo has learned that it’s hard to keep the masses happy. No matter how high Cuomo raises taxes or how much he spends on education, housing, welfare or Medicaid—it’s never enough for liberals.
Members of the extremist Working Families Party made Cuomo grovel for their nomination—and his pledge to support their high-tax, high-spend agenda still wasn’t good enough for 42 percent of convention delegates who supported challenger Zephyr Teachout.
Undaunted, Teachout and her running mate, Tim Wu, entered the Democratic primary and have survived Cuomo court challenges.
In her first TV ad, Teachout described her ideologically driven perception of New York’s populace. She said “the people of this state believe in public libraries and believe in public education and believe in public transportation…. There are two futures. One future is a state with CVS or Duane Reade and Bank of America—really, really centralized power where people don’t have a voice. The other future is really responsive government—family farms, small businesses….”
While I’m sure most people have nothing against their public library, my guess is their main concern is jobs. And CVS pharmacies and Bank of America branches create more jobs throughout the state than public libraries.
As for owning family farms, that’s not the goal of 99 percent of New Yorkers. It’s the pipe dream of wealthy leftists—the liberal one percenter—who want to own large pieces of land in the Hudson Valley. They want to be perceived as environmentally sensitive farmers to avoid being labeled as decadent owners of great estates as the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts of a century ago.
Teachout’s platform is designed to appeal to Manhattan’s West Side lefties and the East Side’s radical chic crowd. She could do well on Primary Day, because the bulk of the turnout will be in New York City where motivated voters will be mostly disgruntled liberals. Cuomo should still win, but a strong showing by Teachout will make him look ridiculous and wreck his national ambitions.
Another Cuomo nightmare: Teachout’s Lieutenant Governor candidate, Tim Wu, beating Cuomo’s running mate Kathy Hochul.
Cuomo chose Hochul not because she was qualified but because she was from Western New York and had a center-right voting record during her 19 months in Congress. Hochul may help Cuomo in November but she is lethal in September. A Wu victory will muck-up Cuomo’s total vote count in November. While the Democratic ticket will be Cuomo-Wu, the tickets of the Working Families Party and the Independence Party will be Cuomo-Hochul. And because the names on the tickets differ, all the votes cast for Cuomo on the minor party lines will not be added to the votes cast for him on the Democratic line.
If this comes to pass, it’s possible Cuomo loses or wins only with a plurality, or a very slim majority of votes. Whatever the outcome, expect Cuomo to fall far short of the 65.6 percent his father Mario received in his second term election.
Cuomo’s “thug” approach to governing and lack of core principles may be finally catching up with him. And that’s a good thing.
Categories: The Catholic Thing
This article I wrote appears on the Newsmax.com web site on August 29, 2014.
The following appears in the August 15-21, 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:
In mid-July, one of New York’s top lobbyists, Al D’Amato, chastised Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino for daring to attack Gov. Andrew Cuomo. D’Amato demanded that Astorino apologize for calling Cuomo “corrupt” and criticized him for “doing gimmicky press conferences.”
That is awfully nervy considering D’Amato was known for savaging his political opponents and for employing all sorts of gimmicks to generate headlines. I remember when he sang a revised version of “Old McDonald Had a Farm” on the floor of the U.S. Senate and donned undercover clothes to buy illegal drugs in Washington Heights.
D’Amato, who was booted out of the Senate by voters in November 1998, forfeited the right to be a GOP sage years ago. Since leaving public office he has been a lobbyist, paid handsomely to represent the interests of the people that hire him. To further client causes and to enrich himself, D’Amato has endorsed and raised money for liberal Democrats, including Cuomo and last year’s unsuccessful candidate for New York City mayor, Bill Thomson.
Like Cuomo, D’Amato has no core principles and no interest in promoting the common good. He only promotes what’s best for him.
Sadly, I learned earlier this year the self-interest rule also applied when D’Amato was in the Senate. In Richard Ravitch’s memoir, “So Much To Do,” he revealed that D’Amato – the man I and many others supported because of his stark opposition to abortion – was a mountebank on that issue.
Ravitch revealed that at a breakfast, D’Amato had “asked whether I had voted for him. I said that in all my voting history I never pulled a lever for a Right-to-Life candidate. It was okay, [D’Amato] said; he didn’t really believe all that stuff.”
D’Amato is nothing more than a snake oil salesman and his political pronouncements should be dismissed by the public and the media.
It was reported in Newsday this summer that financially strapped Nassau County “paid $26.6 million last year to more than 2,000 part-time seasonal workers, some of whom have political or community ties or hold other governmental jobs.”
Several beneficiaries of County Executive Ed Mangano’s largesse earned more working part-time than their full-time counterparts. One part-timer earned $66,499 as a golf course attendant, while holding a full-time job with the Town of Hempstead that pays $126,000 annually. And the attendant’s part-time income was greater than the combined salaries of three full-time golf course managers.
Think about it. At $50 an hour the attendant would have to clock in 1,328 hours to earn $66,449. Considering golf is seasonal – April through October – about 30 weeks, the part-timer would have to work 44 hours a week. Remember, those hours are on top of a full-time job – what a remarkable feat. Obviously this person requires very little sleep.
That CSEA leader Jerry Laricchiuta was unaware of or unconcerned with these shenanigans is a disgrace. His membership – the lowest-paid county workers who were under a three-year wage freeze that Mangano asked the Nassau Interim Finance Authority to impose – should be outraged.
Taxpayers should also be outraged that Mangano has permitted cronyism to the tune of $26 million to continue when his budget’s structural deficit continues to grow due to smoke-and-mirror revenue and expenditure estimates.
One knows the dog days of August have arrived when former Gov. George Pataki – who left the state in worse financial shape than his predecessor, Mario Cuomo – turns up on television. In a Newsmax TV interview, he refused to rule himself out as a presidential candidate in 2016. That’s as ludicrous as me not ruling out running for pope in the next papal election.
You just can’t make this stuff up.
In spite of these silly season revelations, try to enjoy the rest of the summer.
The following appears in the August 1-7, 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:
It’s that time of year again – British journalist G.K. Chesterton’s “silly season,” when politicians hope that taxpayers are preoccupied with their summer outings and not paying attention to their underhanded antics.
Certainly, there’s no shortage of such follies on Long Island this year. Here are two of my favorites:
The LIRR Soap Opera. There was never going to be a strike. In an election year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was not going to permit it. He had a front-row seat during the LIRR strike of 1994 when his father, Mario, also up for re-election, folded the second day of the walkout, gave away the store and was portrayed as the big loser in the showdown. Cuomo was not about to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Despite the name-calling and headlines announcing collective bargaining stalemates, labor and management were never far apart. The unions wanted 17 percent raises over six years while the MTA wanted it spread over seven years.
But there had to be nail-biting theatrics, so shortly before the threatened walkout, Cuomo could appear to come to the rescue. He called the parties to his office, and mirabile dictum – agreement was reached. The end result? Seventeen percent raises over six-and-a-half years! In academic circles, that’s known as game theory. In Brooklyn, where I grew up, it’s known as splitting the difference.
Cuomo’s involvement was only theater – albeit bad theater. At the press conference announcing he had saved the day, Cuomo revealed how little he knew about the tentative deal when he was unable to answer a media question about contract specifics. Cuomo also admitted the unions got just about everything they wanted.
What LIRR commuters did learn at the press conference is that this deal is retroactive to 2010 and expires on December 16, 2016. That means the management-labor kabuki dance starts all over only two years from now.
Moreland Commission Shenanigans. In a 6,000-word investigative report dated July 23, 2014, The New York Times exposed how the governor’s office “hobbled” the corruption investigation Cuomo empowered to look into “anything it wants to look at,” including himself.
The Times revealed that the governor’s chief-of-staff, Larry Schwartz, blocked the commission from probing parties related to Cuomo’s campaign apparatus. He badgered commission staffers to quash certain subpoenas.
While it’s unlikely the governor or his staff members broke laws, the exposé does give the public an inside view of how the office of the state’s chief executive operates. The staff acts like a bunch of micro-managing thugs. Ranting and threatening is their modus operandi.
Staffers emulate their master, who during his father’s time in office served as the administration’s thug and was called the “prince of darkness” by Albany wags.
What’s more distressing is that when Schwartz tried to block specific probes, none of the district attorneys serving on the commission told him to buzz off. Not one of them had the guts to quit and publicly denounce the unwarranted inference.
The commission’s co-chairs, Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice and Onondaga County DA William Fitzpatrick, were not “Profiles in Courage.” And let’s not let state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman off the hook; he recommended nine commission members and deputized them so their subpoena powers extended beyond the executive branch.
The AG who sat beside Cuomo when he announced the creation of the Moreland Commission on July 2, 2013, has been MIA since the Times story broke. If he has chutzpah, he will investigate the commission the way then-AG Cuomo investigated Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s “Troopergate” fiasco. But don’t hold your breath waiting.
Yes, dear readers, the silly season is in full bloom.