Archive for the ‘Blank Slate Media’ category

Hochul blinks on single-family zoning plan – By George J. Marlin

February 25, 2022

The following appeared on Monday, February 21, 2022, in the Blank Slate Media newspaper chain and on its website, theisland360.com:

Last year I warned readers that federal and state progressives were plotting to enact laws that would grant Washington or Albany the power to override local single-family housing zoning laws.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, a one-time centrist who has moved to the far left to secure a long-term lease on the executive mansion, jumped on the “abolish local zoning” bandwagon in January.

In a 237-page manifesto, “A New Era For New York,” released in conjunction with her January State of the State address, Hochul called for eliminating so-called “antiquated zoning laws” to end a housing shortage.

The manifesto stated: “to reduce housing costs, Governor Hochul will propose legislation to require municipalities to allow a minimum of one Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) on owner-occupied residentially zoned lots.”

Such legislation, if signed into law, would effectively kill the historic authority of taxpayers, via their elected local representatives, to determine the kind of housing they want in their neighborhood.

Interestingly, the first elected official out of the shoot to condemn Hochul’s proposal was a Nassau County Democrat. In a press conference in early February, Congressman Tom Suozzi, who is challenging Hochul for the gubernatorial nomination, came out swinging. He said, “I don’t believe in taking away zoning control from our local governments. I don’t believe in eliminating home rule and I don’t believe in the state imposing their will on local governments.”

Hochul’s proposal, Suozzi concluded, “would actually end single-family housing in New York state.”

Suozzi’s comments hit a nerve. Suddenly numerous Democrats began to panic. Supporting the governor’s plan, they feared, could cost them their legislative seats in November.

On Feb. 9, Northport Democratic state Sen. James Gaughran announced his opposition to Hochul’s housing plan. “One of the concerns I have is this law in itself may take away the … power of local community boards to really have discretion on [ADU] applications.”

Even New York City Mayor Eric Adams jumped off Hochul’s housing bandwagon. “There is no one size fits all,” he said. “I’m sure we can deal with the housing crisis we are facing, and local government can make those decisions in a smart way.”

Local elected officials were not the only ones fearing a voter backlash at the polls.

Several Albany insiders I know told me on Feb. 8 that Hochul’s staff realized they had made a mistake and were looking for a way out of the dilemma without stepping on too many progressive toes.

Then, after Hochul secured her party’s nomination for governor, lo and behold, she backtracked.

“Since my days in local government,” the governor opined, “I have believed strongly in the importance of consensus building and listening to communities and my fellow policy makers.”

Hence, she concluded, “I have heard real concerns about the proposed approach” from state senators and submitted a “30-day amendment to my budget legislation that removes requirements on localities…”

So much for Hochul’s newly founded progressive principles. Nevertheless, I will not look a gift horse in the mouth and will savor the victory.

But supporters of home rule must remain vigilant: There is filed in Albany other legislation dedicated to destroying single-family neighborhoods more Draconian than Hochul’s discarded proposal. And with super Democratic majorities in the state Senate and Assembly, a gubernatorial veto of such legislation can be overridden.

Remember, progressive elites have historically despised single-family housing. For example, when the 20th century’s leading New York progressive, Robert Moses, controlled New York City’s Planning Commission, Slum Clearance Committee, and City Construction Board in the 1950s and 1960s, he loved using eminent domain powers to bulldoze single-family row houses and to build huge multi-family housing projects, which today are sadly examples of urban blight.

And 21st Century progressives want to impose on suburban neighborhoods similar projects.

Why have suburban neighborhoods been the targets of the schemes of leftist social engineers?

In my judgment, the noted sociologist Andrew Greeley, explained it best:
“The neighborhood is rejected by our intellectual and cultural elites … precisely because the neighborhood is not modern, and what is not modern is conservative, reactionary, unprogressive, unenlightened, superstitious, and just plain wrong … Neighborhoods are narrow, they are local, they are ‘parochial.’ How can any well-educated, sophisticated, cosmopolitan, ‘modern’ person possibly believe that there is anything good from something as parochial as the neighborhood? How indeed.”

Inner City urban renewal schemes prescribed by elitist government bureaucrats, administrators and planners failed. Let’s make sure those discredited policies are not pursued in Nassau County.

 

Will the MTA ever recover? – By George J. Marlin

January 26, 2022

The following appeared on Monday, January 24, 2022 on The Island Now’s website:

The Metropolitan Transit Authority continues to face a multitude of management, operational and fiscal problems.

The ongoing COVID crisis, as well as the lax criminal justice system, cost overruns, delayed project completions, electrical grid failures, closures due to Hurricane Ida flooding, ransomware hackers breaching the MTA’s time-clock provider and never-ending overtime abuses are just a few of the issues the MTA has had to grapple with.

The latest COVID variant, Omicron, is not helping the transit situation. Many private sector employees who had returned to the office are back working remotely at home.

Subway ridership that had recovered somewhat to 50 percent of pre-pandemic numbers dropped to 40 percent in early January.

City COVID regulations requiring COVID vaccination cards to be checked before entering restaurants, I have learned anecdotally, have also kept people from traveling into New York City.

A Park Avenue restaurant I have been frequenting for over 25 years was packed on Thursday nights back in December. But not last Thursday when I dined there. Out of 50 tables, only five had customers.

The MTA’s problem child is the New York City transit system.

Subway crime continues to rise. In November 2021, for example, the daily average robberies increased to 2.9 from 1.3. Major felonies jumped from 3.8 to 7.8.

Total number of robberies in November were 88 compared to 39 in November 2020.

The day after Christmas there was a rash of crimes in the subway system. Four attacks were reported. A subway conductor was attacked, a woman was stabbed, an innocent bystander was pushed onto subway tracks, and gunshots were fired by a man who provoked a verbal dispute with several people waiting for a train.

On Saturday, January 10, a vagrant claiming “I am God and I can do it” shoved a woman to her death in front of an oncoming subway train. The victim was the sixth person thrown onto the tracks in the past 12 months.

Manhattan Institute analyst Nicole Gelinas has reported that “violent crime in the subways is still more than twice as high per rider as it was in 2019. The victims are random, but the perpetrators are not. The same hardcore class of criminals (and untreated mentally ill) just have fewer people underground to prey upon.”

And then there is the issue of fare beaters. Since beat cops were told in 2019 not to pursue them because district attorneys refuse to prosecute, subway fare evasion has more than doubled. In 2020, the MTA reported that 13 percent of riders jumped the turnstile versus 6 percent in 2019. (Some suggest the actual numbers could be as high as 18 percent.)

This phenomenon is costing the MTA annually more than $300 million in lost revenues.

Transit services have been scaled back thanks to the Omicron COVID variant. The New York Times reported on Jan. 7 that “on any given day this week, 21 percent of subway conductors, about 1,300 people—have been absent from work….” In addition, 25 percent of the 12,000 bus operators were out sick.

The work shortage has forced the MTA to reduce subway schedules, to suspend service on three of the system’s 22 lines, and to cut bus schedules by 15 percent.

With subway, bus, LIRR and Metro North ridership expected to be well below pre-pandemic numbers, it is projected that the MTA will lose as much as $500 million in fare-box revenues this year.

And while the authority will fund more than $16 billion in deficits over the next three years with federal grants, those dollars are one-shot revenues that serve as stop-gap measures.

Once the federal funding runs dry, the MTA will face a desperate situation.

This helps explain why a report released by the state comptroller in December, “Capital Needs and the Resilience at the MTA,” noted that “the MTA is the engine that drives New York City’s economy, and it is running on borrowed time.”

Sadly, for the MTA to avoid “going off the rails,” riders starting in 2023 may be forced to pay huge fare and toll increases in return for declining services and maintenance.

Books for political junkies this Christmas – By George J. Marlin

December 15, 2021

The following appeared on Monday, December 13, 2021 on The Island Now’s website:

For people who give books as Christmas presents to political junkie friends, here are my 2021 gift book picks:

James Madison: America’s First Politician by Jay Cost. This is a very readable biography of the father of the U.S. Constitution and the nation’s fourth president, by Dr. Cost, the Gerald R. Ford Visiting Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. Cost skillfully describes Madison’s lifetime mission “to forge a stronger union of the states around the principles of limited government, individual rights, and, above all justice.”

The Dying Citizen by Victor Davis Hanson. Dr. Hanson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, has written an important book that explains how progressives are undermining citizenship, sovereign borders and destroying the middle class. Without a middle class, Hanson persuasively argues, “society becomes bifurcated. It splinters into one of modern masters and peasants.” And he concludes that in this situation, “the function of government is not to ensure liberty but to subsidize the poor to avoid resolution and to exempt the wealthy, who reciprocate by enriching and empowering the governing classes.”

The Compleat Gentleman: The Modern Man’s Guide to Chivalry by Brad Miner. With wit and charm, Miner, a former literary editor at the National Review, invites readers to discover the oldest and best model of manhood—the gentleman. He “lays out the thousand-year history of this forgotten ideal and makes a compelling case for its modern revival.”

American Happiness and Discontents: The Unruly Torrent 2008-2020 by George F. Will. This is the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist’s ninth collection of his commentaries on U.S. culture, institutions, political arenas, and social venues. Will, who turned 80 this year, has been a leading conservative columnist for almost half a century. His reflections on current controversies and the recently departed confirm The Wall Street Journal’s observation that Will is “perhaps the most powerful journalist in America.”

The Last Days of New York: A Reporter’s True Tale by Seth Barron. In this work, Barron proves he has a keen detective’s eye for uncovering what Mayor Bill de Blasio’s progressive formulas have wrought: debt, decay and government bloat. Barron “brings to life the inner workings of how a corrupted political system hollowed out New York City, leaving it especially vulnerable, all in the name of equity and fairness.”

The Prince: Andrew Cuomo, Coronavirus and the Fall of New York by Ross Barkan. Published several months before Cuomo’s resignation, journalist Ross Barkan explains why Cuomo’s “heroism” during the pandemic was built on lies. Cuomo, he writes, “was too slow to shut down the state. He compared coronavirus to the flu and downplayed the threat. He failed to adequately coordinate hospitals to handle the surge of patients…. The Cuomo myth grew in proportion to the bodies piling up in hospital morgues. It lingered beyond any point of rationality.”

San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities by Michael Shellenberger. The author, himself a man of the left, argues that the Bay Area’s underlying program “is an ideology that decimates some people by identity or experience as victims entitled to destructive behaviors.” As a result, while homelessness has been in decline in many major cities in the past five years, it grew by 32 percent in San Francisco. Seventy-three percent of the homeless live on the streets. A vast majority are drug addicts or mentally ill. California progressives are, in Shellenberger’s judgment, ruining California’s local cities because “they defend the right of people they characterize as victims to camp on sidewalks, in parks and along highways as well as to break other laws, including against public drug use and defecation.” To get a preview of what New York City could turn into, read this book.

Mario Cuomo: The Myth and the Man by George J. Marlin. Pardon me for promoting my latest book. But if you want to understand what makes Andrew Cuomo tick, you must understand his father. My book explains why Mario Cuomo was the most complicated, self-righteous, pugilistic and exasperating governor in New York state’s history.

Happy Reading in 2022!

Will Gov. Hochul survive a Democratic primary in 2022? – By George J. Marlin

November 3, 2021

The following appeared on Monday, November 1, 2021 on The Island Now’s website:

During the past 50 years, four New York lieutenant governors have ascended to the office of governor, three of them via resignations and one through election.

The first was Malcolm Wilson. He was sworn in after Gov. Nelson Rockefeller resigned in 1973. Eminently qualified, the 35-year Albany veteran was highly regarded for his administrative and legislative skills. But as a candidate, he lacked charisma and lost to Hugh Carey in 1974.

Next was Mario Cuomo. As secretary of state in the first Carey administration and as lieutenant governor in the second, the extraordinarily talented Cuomo took on numerous governmental tasks. He was also free to travel the state and built a statewide political organization.

As Cuomo’s public persona grew, he even considered challenging Carey in a primary in 1982. And when Carey chose not to run for a third term, Cuomo went on to beat Mayor Ed Koch in the primary and Lew Lehrman in the general election.

Knowing how he effectively used the office of Lieutenant Governor, Cuomo slashed the staff of Lt. Governor Al DelBello and politically eviscerated him. DelBello resigned out of disgust in December 1984.

Cuomo’s next lieutenant governor, Stan Lundine, spent eight years in obscurity.

After Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned in disgrace in 2008, David Patterson, known for his social charms but not his governing skills, became the state’s chief executive.

The hapless Patterson muddled through the remainder of the term, as Attorney General Andrew Cuomo plotted to replace him.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was like his father—a control freak. And like his father, he treated his lieutenant governors like dirt.

His first lieutenant governor, Robert Duffy, was a former Rochester mayor and top cop. After four years of being under Cuomo’s thumb, Duffy declined to run for a second term.

Cuomo chose Kathleen Hochul as his next lieutenant governor for two reasons: she was an upstater and her resume was pretty thin. Hochul’s claim to fame was winning a special congressional election in a traditionally Republican district and for being booted out a year later.

While in public life in the Buffalo region, Hochul was a center-right Democrat. She ran on the Conservative Party line in her race for Erie County clerk, and opposed Gov. Spitzer’s plan to grant undocumented immigrants’ driver licenses.

In Congress, she was for reducing the federal deficit and Medicaid spending, and was proud to be endorsed by the National Rifle Association.

Since becoming governor, however, Hochul has shifted to the far left in policies and appointments.

Also, she has been the anti-Cuomo, showing the door to the former governor’s toadies.

Oddly, one exception was Cuomo’s top Long Island political loyalist, Kevin Law, who Hochul nominated to become chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation.

Law was appointed by Cuomo to serve as co-chairman of the L.I. Regional Development Council, chairman of LIPA, and chairman of the Stony Brook University Council.

To be named to so many posts meant Law did Cuomo’s bidding.

We will soon learn if Law will now do Hochul’s bidding at ESDC, particularly when it comes to doling out hundreds of millions of dollars in ESDC political swag to state legislators.

Placating the radical leftists in her party will probably cost Hochul the governor’s chair next year.

Why?

Because no matter how much she gives in to progressive demands, it will never be enough.

In the end, the AOC crowd and the Working Families Party radicals will support one of their own–be it Attorney General Letitia James or Jumaane Williams, who came close to beating Hochul in the 2018 Democratic Primary for lieutenant governor.

By embracing the left, she also risks alienating those who should be her natural constituency, working-class folks in upstate New York and suburbia.

And if Congressman Tom Suozzi enters the gubernatorial primary in 2022, he will peel away from Hochul moderate Democrats on Long Island, Staten Island and upstate.

If Hochul continues down the leftist primrose path, I predict she will be moving out of the governor’s mansion on Dec. 31, 2022, and like Wilson and Patterson, will fade into political oblivion.

Will Laura Curran’s luck hold out? – George J. Marlin

October 19, 2021

The following appeared on Monday, October 18, 2021 on The Island Now’s website:

Before appointing a senior officer to command troops, Napoleon Bonaparte would ask his confreres, “I know he’s a good general, but is he lucky?” The lucky officers, he believed, seized unexpected opportunities in battles that would lead to victory.

 

In a similar vein, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran has been pretty lucky on the political battlefield these past four years.

 

When Curran sought the county executive post in 2017, she was lucky that Republican incumbent Ed Mangano, was under federal indictment for 13 counts of fraud and bribery. Mangano’s top deputy, Rob Walker, was also under investigation. (Later, both were convicted of various crimes.)

 

In the September 2017 Democratic primary, Curran had the good fortune to run against the hapless County Comptroller, George Maragos. The wealthy Maragos had switched from the Republican Party believing he could buy the Democratic nomination. Maragos proved the adage that one cannot “make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”

 

In a hotly contested fall election, voters, weary of GOP corruption, narrowly elected Curran with 51 percent of the vote.

 

Curran inherited a government that was under the thumb of the state control board, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, due to Mangano’s fiscal incompetence.

 

NIFA declared a control period in 2011 because Mangano’s fiscal policies—that included borrowing to balance operating budgets—were leading the county to financial insolvency.

 

Unlike Mangano, Curran seized the opportunity to work with NIFA to solve the county’s fiscal woes.

 

Curran’s luck held. Thanks to Republican federal tax cuts and the subsequent roaring economy, Nassau’s operating deficits, based on Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, began to decline.

 

In fact, Curran’s 2019 budget incurred for the first time in years a GAAP operating surplus of $76.8 million.

 

Curran weathered the COVID pandemic in 2020 by effectively controlling expenses, particularly the payroll. And she was lucky; federal COVID relief money—albeit one-shot revenues of $102.9 million—helped the county incur a GAAP surplus for the second year in a row.

 

So far this year, the county’s finances are in pretty good shape. Sales tax revenue is way ahead of projections and the County, NIFA reported, has received “$397.7 million in new federal aid from the American Rescue Plan Act, which will be split equally between fiscal year 2021 and fiscal year 2022.”

 

NIFA is projecting a budget surplus for the third year in a row. And it is possible NIFA will be able to lift the control period.

 

Curran is also lucky because the Republicans have put up against her an awful candidate, Bruce Blakeman—the Harold Stassen of the Nassau GOP.

 

Who was Stassen you ask?

 

Stassen (1907-2001), a Republican, was elected to one term as Minnesota’s governor and went on to lose a record-breaking number of elections.

 

He unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination for president eight times, lost elections for governor three times, U.S. Senate two times, and Congress once.

 

Like Stassen, Blakeman has lost a slew of elections. In 1999, voters booted Blakeman out of the county Legislature after voting to raise taxes 16 percent and for supporting budgets that were funded with hundreds of millions of borrowed dollars.

 

Blakeman also lost a race for state comptroller in 1998, receiving only 32 percent of the vote.

 

In 2010, he never got to the starting gate to run against U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. He was soundly rejected by both the Republican and Conservative parties.

 

And in the 2014 election, Kathleen Rice easily beat Blakeman in the 4th Congressional district.

 

The lucky Curran should easily beat the ill-fated Blakeman.

 

But will Laura Curran’s luck hold out?

 

During a second Curran term, the economy will eventually slow down, consumer spending will decline and inflated residential real estate values will spiral downward.

 

To prepare for the economic turndown, Curran should have abandoned the election year $375 homeowner rebate gimmick. She should have dedicated those one-shot dollars to pay off tax certiorari claims and to flood rainy-day funds.

 

By failing to seize the opportunity to effectively utilize the county’s financial windfall, my guess is Curran’s luck will run out during the next four years.