Once again this week, one bold man proved he can accomplish great things despite the timeworn bureaucracy of New York. We speak, of course, of Nik Wallenda. But amazing as it was for him to win permission to walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope, we’re not jinxing him by calling him a winner until he makes it to the other side. For the rest of this week’s Winners & Losers, the only death they had to defy was political:
Bill de Blasio – You don’t have to hit a home run to score – you just have to round all the bases. The city public advocate did it this week by getting on the popular side of a range of issues – letting churches worship in public schools, pressuring the Bloomberg administration to release data on NYPD officers diagnosed with cancer after 9/11, and investing city pension dollars in affordable housing and local infrastructure. Slow and patient work from a low-profile office is the kind of diligence that can pay dividends in the 2013 mayoral contest – and after Anthony Weiner and John Liu ran for mayor like hares, being the tortoise may be the ticket for de Blasio.
Tom DiNapoli – The state’s “nice guy” comptroller may not have a bad word to say about anyone, but he rolls deep. Take, for instance, the business community’s coordinated effort to bash DiNapoli after he picked apart Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan for a new, less-generous pension tier for state workers. Faster than you can say “defined contribution,” DiNapoli’s allies in the labor world leapt to his defense, sending out a string of releases criticizing the pro-Cuomo groups for piling on their beloved comptroller. DiNapoli may speak softly, but his union pals carry the big sticks, which should come in handy as Cuomo ramps up his effort to push through pension reform.
Dan Huttenlocher – The new dean of the city’s much-touted tech campus is tall, gangly and unabashedly geeky about all things technical. Huttenlocher will become the public face of the Bloomberg administration’s efforts to cultivate and grow the city’s burgeoning tech sector. And he’s up to the task, he says. His first priority is attracting a top-notch faculty and student body in order to meet the mayor’s expressed goals of spinning out hundreds of companies and billions in new revenue. Huttenlocher’s is the first new job; let’s hope he can pave the way for tens of thousands more.
Dora Irizarry – Finally, someone with some real power tries to cut through the crap on redistricting! The Brooklyn federal judge sided with a group of voters who asked to intervene in the insider-driven process, and called on a special master to start drawing new lines. Her logic is that the Legislature hasn’t done any work on Congressional lines, even though the petition process starts in six weeks. It all sounds reasonable to us, which is what makes Irizarry’s position so unique.
David Paterson – So his memory of meeting future Knick standout Jeremy Lin in 2007 was unsupported by the facts. So what? When the former governor returned to the Capitol this week, he reminded everyone why he was so frustrating while in power – but also why he was able to charm his way to power in the first place. At the unveiling of a Black History Month exhibit, he explained how he became New York’s first black lieutenant governor: “I answered the phone.” And the first black governor? “I answered the phone.” We suspect he’ll be remembered as a successful radio host as well.
Michael Grimm – We didn’t break the story about Michael Grimm’s sketchy fundraising and checkered business past, but we were the first to saddle him with the old journalistic cliche “embattled.” The embattled Staten Island congressman’s questionable business history earned him another unflattering portrayal this week in the New York Times. Grimm has capitalized on his record as a former Marine and FBI agent, but the rest of his resume had stayed under the radar, including business ties with former convict Carlos Luquis and a history of regulatory trouble.
Mark Grisanti – What actually happened at the Seneca Niagara Casino? The world may never know, but it also seems like the Buffalo senator isn’t quite clear on the story himself. That, along with conflicting eyewitness accounts, has cast doubt on the story that Grisanti was merely trying to break up a fight and then defend his wife. It might be too muddy to end up hurting his 2012 re-election effort – but it hardly helps.
Joe Lhota – The MTA’s new chairman is a straight shooter who calls it like he sees it. But that can backfire sometimes, as Lhota found out this week after he said Sen. Bill Perkins “does nothing but talk and talk and talk.” Lhota apologized after the Times quoted him, commending Perkins as an “excellent legislator,” but it was an unusually rookie mistake for a man who was hired as a government veteran.
John Liu – If the Losers list opened a Hall of Fame, Liu would be on the first-ballot short list. Week after week, the news gets worse for the mayoral contender whose prospects of keeping his current job are now being questioned. His planned big comeback speech yesterday was marred by a report that his aides had to round up audience members to fill the room – and by one of his campaign fundraisers, who got indicted the previous day. It all followed the announcement that First Deputy Comptroller Eric Eve was leaving, after sources said he clashed with Liu’s political operative, Chung Seto, who really shouldn’t have much to do with Liu’s government operations. We’re also pretty sure the New York Post wrote a few bad editorials about Liu this week, though they’re starting to blur together.
Nick Spano – In New York state, politicians are always pleading guilty to some crime or another. But the former Westchester senator’s guilty plea on relatively light tax evasion charges for underreporting $50,000 in income is a doozy, because his lobbying firm, Empire Strategic Planning, is watching its clients run away: just as the state gets serious about legalizing gambling, Spano’s $540,000 contract with Genting is going down the tubes. The plea could also weaken the political future of his brother, Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, but nothing hurts as bad as that gambling money. Genting was going to pay the firm $25,000 a month, an amount that could have made up eight years of underreporting in just eight weeks.
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