I like big budgets and I cannot lie! The perfect budget is a lot like the perfect posterior: it is well-rounded and isn’t growing at an unsustainable rate. Mayor Michael Bloomberg should know. His ample $70 billion budget proposal sheds some pounds in the form of teaching jobs and early education programs. A proposal in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s considerably larger budget lets municipalities borrow against projected savings, but some mayors and the comptroller want him to back that baby up. Of course, how the budget shakes out isn’t the only issue, and plenty of other winners and losers were in the mix this week.
Eric Adams – The front-runner for Brooklyn borough president and increasingly likely successor to the throne of Marty Markowitz nabbed a plum leadership post in what could be his final year in Albany. Republicans and the IDC tapped Adams to lead the Senate Aging Committee, a post which includes a $12,500 lulu, in an effort to include Democrats in the leadership of their majority conference. Grumbling Democrats say that the position gives Republicans cover to promote their bipartisanship, and that may be true, but Adams can campaign with an eye to Brooklyn’s seniors – who happen to vote in heavy numbers. And he may not even have to do much work. His presumptive rival, Domenic Recchia, has been telling friends this week that he may explore a run for Congress instead of a bid against Adams. King Eric has a nice ring to it.
Antonio Alfonso – Who says the private sector is where the money’s at? For Alfonso, a professor at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and chair of the Surgery Department, the $1.06 million he raked in last year is probably not so bad. The professor’s income level also gave him the distinction of being the highest-paid state employee, an improvement from his second-place ranking in 2011, when he earned just $775,985. We won’t pretend to know whose job is harder, but to put Alfonso’s 2012 income into perspective, it’s nearly six times as much as the governor makes.
Stephanie Miner – A week after we made Mayor Miner a loser for her inability to get her city of Syracuse the mandate relief she says it so desperately needs from Governor Cuomo, despite her being his hand-picked co-chair of the state Democratic Party, Miner’s public questioning of the governor’s plan to borrow against future pension savings has steadily been gaining support. Mayor Bloomberg, while refraining from directly criticizing Cuomo’s plan, chipped away at the approach as generally a “bad policy.” Dick Ravitch was less than enthusiastic too. Then State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli went farther, expressing “serious concerns.” DiNapoli’s take was especially significant, as he has to sign off on the proposed borrowing before it can proceed, which means that Miner may have lost the battle for mandate relief, but, by standing up to the governor, she might have helped herself ultimately win the war.
Catherine Nolan – The feisty Queens lawmaker and public school parent rapped the knuckles of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and UFT President Mike Mulgrew like a vengeful parochial school teacher in this week’s state budget hearings. Budget hearings are usually staid affairs, but Nolan made the hearing a lively one, blaming both the city and the union for failing to come to an agreement on teacher evaluations and threatening to lock them in a room until they worked it out. She even included a few digs at former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, saying that his tenure should be put in a “sad little box” and buried. It may have been over the top, but Nolan was one of the few legislators who tapped into the anxiety that many parents feel about the future of the city’s public school system.
Christine Quinn – The Christine Quinn publicity tour was at full throttle this week, as the mayoral candidate was the subject of a glowing cover story in New York Magazine that showcased her dynamic personality and largely glossed over some of her vague political positions. A forthcoming memoir, with a title better suited for a British soap opera, With Patience & Fortitude, will score her points with the book club voting bloc. And the endorsement of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union makes her the only mayoral candidate to receive labor backing so far, after also getting the nod from the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500 in December. Not even Mayor Bloomberg questioning her fashion taste (“He likes me in high heels”) could take away from Quinn’s solid week.
Michael Bloomberg – It was a rough week for Bloomy, mostly centered on his ongoing battle with the United Federation of Teachers over teacher evaluations. First he got grilled in Albany, with legislators questioning his education accomplishments and scolding him for a lack of progress in negotiations with the UFT. Then he got testy with reporters during his preliminary budget announcement, mostly over questions about the loss of state education aid—again due to a lack of movement on teacher evaluations—as well as one shots like the questionable taxi medallion revenue, which is subject to a pending court decision. And of course, Bloomberg was quoted expressing his admiration for an unknown female’s derriere in a magazine profile of Christine Quinn, revealing a side of the mayor that he probably would rather keep from constituents.
Andrew Cuomo – After more than two years of steadily sky-high job approval ratings, the governor finally took a serious hit following the speedy passage of his gun control legislation. The drop – from a record 74 percent all the way down to 59 percent – was something the governor expected, but it reflects serious dissatisfaction with the new gun law and maybe even the way it was “ramrodded” through the Legislature. Now the governor faces a lawsuit from the gun lobby, calls to change parts of the law and even criticism from mental health advocates concerned about privacy. Then again, what good is political capital if you don’t use it?
Shirley Huntley - The former state senator from Queens is the latest New York pol to go down in ignominy, pleading guilty this week to felony charges that she embezzled more than $80,000 from a nonprofit that she ran, and this could only be the tip of the iceberg for Huntley. She still faces state corruption charges for steering taxpayer money to another family nonprofit and then tampering with evidence by falsifying business records. Huntley’s guilty plea will not only cost her $87,000—the amount that she stole from the nonprofit that she now has to pay back—but also potentially two years in the clink, an unfortunate place for any senior citizen to spend her time. But hey, if Alan “Hevi D” Hevesi made friends in prison, maybe Huntley (S-Hunt?) will have similar success.
Domenic Recchia – In December, the Council Finance Chair abruptly abandoned his longtime goal of running for City Comptroller, following Scott Stringer’s decision to drop down from pursuing the mayoralty. While the cynical attributed Recchia’s decision to ruthless arm-twisting aimed at clearing the field for Stringer, ostensibly Recchia’s rationale was his desire to instead pursue the Brooklyn borough presidency. Then came Monday, when Recchia again shifted course, making way for state Sen. Eric Adams to cruise into Borough Hall. This time Recchia reportedly plans to run for Congress against Republican Rep. Michael Grimm in two years. Will he stick to it? That remains to be seen, but unless something damaging is finally pinned on Grimm, Recchia will have an uphill battle in the largely Staten Island-based district.
Matthew Ryan – Don’t be surprised if the mayor is feeling moody — or not so Moody. Moody’s downgraded Binghamton’s credit rating this week, and while Mayor Ryan disagreed with the credit agency’s rationale, there’s not much he can do about it now. Moody’s, which cited the city’s high debt and delayed financial reporting, cut its rating from A1 to A2, which a spokesperson described as an uncommon move. Ryan cited a state audit as a reason for the delay, and an external audit is expected later this spring. Worse still, the city of about 47,000 may not have hit rock bottom – Moody’s indicated it would continue to review the city’s finances and could downgrade the city further or even withdraw its rating.
Tags: Andrew Cuomo, Antonio Alfonso, catherine-nolan, Christine Quinn, Domenic Recchia, eric adams, Matthew Ryan, Michael Bloomberg, Michael Grimm, Moody's, Richard Ravitch, shirley huntley, Stephanie Miner