Hizzoner made it here. He didn’t need to make it anywhere else. New York City said its final goodbye this week to former mayor Ed Koch, a man who was king of the hill, top of the heap, even after he left office. Koch’s friends, colleagues and former rivals mourned his passing while sharing their favorite Koch stories with all of us. And for a few days this week, we thought again about one of New York’s biggest winners and how he changed the place – with all of its winners and losers – that he left behind.
Neil Barsky – As Mayor Bloomberg quipped at Mayor Koch’s funeral this week, “Just as Moses died right before he reached the Promised Land, Ed died hours before the documentary about him opened in theaters. Leave it to Ed to find the best way to maximize publicity for a film about his life.” Bloomberg may have been kidding, but his joke was funny because it was true. And who was the main beneficiary of this publicity bonanza? None other than “Koch” director Neil Barsky, who watched his documentary premiere to sold-out crowds and get worldwide attention from practically every news source imaginable. Not too shabby for a little indie movie.
Charles Hynes – This election cycle, some have speculated that Hynes’ 23-year reign as Brooklyn’s District Attorney might be coming to an unceremonious end. He has been heavily criticized for his prosecution record, and is up against two worthy challengers who have outpaced him in fundraising. But Hynes proved this week he’s not going to go gently into that good night, picking up key endorsements from the United Federation of Teachers and former Mayor David Dinkins before even officially announcing his campaign. Dinkins’ endorsement could be particularly valuable considering one of Hynes’ opponents, Ken Thompson, is black. Thompson also hit a bump in the road this week, receiving some negative publicity for returning the donation of an illicit campaign donor. At the very least, Hynes is showing his name still carries weight in this city, and that may be enough for him to win another term.
Jeff Klein - Last year, trying to raise the minimum wage was a fool’s errand. But this year, Klein and his band of merry Independent Democrats have swung into action and just might be able to force the rich to give to the poor – or something like that. Dean Skelos, Klein’s co-leader in the state Senate and a one-time foe of a minimum wage hike, said this week that he’d be open to discussing it. If Klein can get Skelos to keep playing along on the issue – and also on college aid for immigrants – he’ll have further evidence that he’s the dashing hero of this tale, not a traitor to his party.
Rory Lancman - Lancman was undermined by the Queens Democratic establishment last year in his failed attempt at a Congressional seat against Grace Meng, but the former Assemblyman is off to a much better start this year in his bid for City Council. Lancman welcomed the news that District Leader Martha Taylor would be dropping out of the race, eliminating one of his main opponents for the seat. Adding to that good news, Lancman was endorsed by the Hotel Trades Council and was close to lining up the support of the United Federation of Teachers, bolstering his labor support. While he still faces a financially formidable opponent in millionaire lottery winner Isaac Sasson, the safe bet in the race appears to be on Lancman.
James Sheehan - Maybe Cuomo should have kept him on. Sheehan ruffled some feathers when he served as New York’s Medicaid inspector general, but with millions of dollars saved during his tenure, he at least had plenty to show for it. His successor, James Cox, advocated a less “adversarial” approach when he took over in 2011, and it’s a good question who it has helped more: taxpayers or the powerful health care industry. In fact, Cox was singled out for a lack of effectiveness in a new congressional report exploring the problems with Medicaid in the state. Its title? “Billions of Federal Tax Dollars Wasted Annually by New York’s Medicaid Program.”
Bill de Blasio - For a politician whose public star rose in part because of his strong stance against Citizens United and for campaign finance reform, it definitely looked bad this week when it came out that de Blasio has been “double dipping” in raising money for his mayoral campaign, by collecting donations from contributors who had maxed out to his 2013 run to help pay off debt from his 2009 public advocate campaign. While technically not illegal, the practice drew criticism from good government and watchdog groups, and muddied de Blasio’s image as the progressive reformer in the race at a time when he can little afford to lose ground on Christine Quinn.
John Haggerty – When Haggerty was convicted in December of 2011 of stealing $1.1 million from Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign, a host of his supporters cried foul, maintaining that Haggerty had been given the money as payment for legitimate work. This week, a panel of seven appellate court judges made it clear they didn’t buy Haggerty’s alibi, ruling unanimously to uphold his conviction. Now Haggerty doesn’t just have to pay $750K in restitution—the amount he used to purchase a home in Queens—he is also staring down between one and a third and four years in prison.
Steve McLaughlin - Albany was having trouble and needed a new leader to restore its former glory. So far this year, the governor has proposed a budget to accolades and signed the strictest gun control in the country. Most legislators couldn’t say no to his demands, but Cuomo caused a furor among some upstate Republicans, who started freaking out over the use of “messages of necessity.” And one lawmaker, McLaughlin, even compared the governor to the Führer himself! He’s since apologized, further evidence that Cuomo has the whole world in his hands. And now it’s … Springtime for Cuomo and Albany! Winter for McLaughlin and France!
New York City Republican county chairs - New York City’s GOP chairs learned a hard lesson this week in the importance of being detail-oriented, when Councilman Eric Ulrich—who is in a longstanding feud with Queens GOP chair Phil Ragusa—realized that the Queens Republican Party had failed to submit the letter required to re-nominate its representative to the Board of Elections. Well, upon closer scrutiny, it wasn’t just Ragusa who had goofed, but all five of the county chairs. As a result, the reappointment fell by law to the four-man GOP conference of the City Council (of which Ulrich is a member), which promptly replaced two of the commissioners, and sparked the resignation of two others. Though legal challenges are likely to ensue, for the time being the result is devastating for the chairs, whose hold on the Board is one of the principal sources of their patronage.
Bill Owens - What is it about politicians and ethics? It’s still up in the air whether Owens, the Democratic congressman from upstate New York, did anything wrong when he took a trip to Taiwan with his wife that was paid for by the lobbying firm Park Strategies. The House Ethics Committee has not launched a formal investigation, but it announced this week it’s not done with its review of the matter. And whether he is found to have done the right thing or not, Owens, who has reimbursed the $22,000 cost, will have to wait even longer to put the matter behind him.
Tags: Bill De Blasio, Bill Owens, Charles Hynes, Christine Quinn, Citizens United, David Dinkins, Dean Skelos, Ed Koch, Eric Ulrich, Grace Meng, Hitler, Hotel Trades Council, isaac sasson, James Cox, James Sheehan, Jeff Klein, John Haggerty, Ken Thompson, Martha Taylor, Medicaid, Michael Bloomberg, Neil Barsky, New York City Board of Elections, Phil Ragusa, Rory Lancman, Steve McLaughlin, United Federation of Teachers