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21st June
2005

First Published in The New York Sun, June 21, 2005

By Andrew Wolf

My colleague Jill Gardiner is onto something and is digging a bit deeper into the mailings sent by the City Council recently that are, at least to most voters, indistinguishable from campaign mailings.This is no small expenditure, as Council Speaker Gifford Miller suggests. If the slick “17-Seat” piece about school class size went out to only 75,000 voters, then the $37,000 figure may hold water. But my suspicion is that many more pieces than that were mailed out.

I am told on good authority that when the City Council does these mailings, they are mailed to all households from the voter list, regardless of party affiliation. That’s one of the reasons why it is possible that this mailing — which everyone seemed to receive, — could have cost 10 or more times the stated amount. But that mailing is just the tip of the iceberg.

I received three mailings in total, the aforementioned “17-seat”offering plus two others, somewhat less slick, that feature my local council member as well as Mr. Miller. Senior citizens (of which I am not yet a member, despite what the AARP thinks), received another piece that covered changes in the Meals on Wheels program in the Bronx. If this were replicated citywide, a $1 million price tag would be in the realm of possibility.

Is this all legal? That’s not for me to say. My suspicion is that these mailings have probably been scrutinized by Mr. Miller’s legal team, who tailored them to conform to what are very weak regulations. But it certainly doesn’t pass the smell test, and the mailings certainly cost more than $37,000.

The use of public funds to give incumbents an advantage is nothing new. But does this aggressive program knock Mr. Miller off the moral high ground when he criticizes the huge amount of money that Mayor Bloomberg is investing in his own campaign from his personal fortune?

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You have to hand it to Mayor Bloomberg. In his quest to bring the Olympics to New York, he leaves no stone unturned. Last week he flew to Accra, Ghana (with Mayor Dinkins in tow, more about that later) to make a 15-minute presentation before African Olympic committees, the last meeting
of its kind before the decisive vote on the site of the 2012 Games, which will be held July 6.

With the stadium issue now behind us, it was clearly a strategic mistake (as far as the Olympic bid was concerned) to put so much stock in the West Side stadium proposal. The bid could have simply allowed for an either/or situation. “We want to build it here, but if that proves not feasible, we will build it there.” With seven years to get the thing built in one place or the other, it wasn’t a situation like Athens, where construction of the stadium continued almost to the moment of the opening ceremonies.

Meanwhile, the stadium controversy has kept the political beast well fed. At the Bronx County Democratic Party dinner last week, both Cablevision and the Jets were honored. Well deserved, since those two firms have greatly fattened the campaign coffers of Bronx officials, many of whom really didn’t care about the stadium issue one way or the other.
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That Mr. Dinkins accompanied Mayor Bloomberg to Ghana was smart politics, part of the mayor’s charm offensive directed at the black leadership that was shunned during the Giuliani years. Unless the Manhattan borough president, C. Virginia Fields, wins the Democratic primary, look for an exodus of black leaders to the Bloomberg side. Last week, the elder statesman of that leadership, Percy Sutton — a former Manhattan borough president and once-upon-a-time a mayoral hopeful himself — gushed over the mayor, suggesting that it is not out of the question for Mr. Bloomberg to win key black endorsements, such as that of Mr. Sutton.

This has been part of the job of Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott since Day 1, a task he has handled adroitly. That is how Mr. Bloomberg, and other administration officials such as the schools chancellor, Joel Klein, have become frequent Sunday guests at black churches throughout the city.

Meanwhile, the Reverend Alford Sharpton may be renewing his ties with Fernando Ferrer, according to a report in the New York Post. Mr. Ferrer would love to have a Sharpton endorsement before the primary, a move that could draw just enough support from Ms. Fields to put Mr. Ferrer above the 40% threshold needed to win the primary outright. But if the gambit fails, or if Ms. Fields loses narrowly, Rev. Sharpton runs the risk of being blamed for the thwarting of a legitimate black candidate or — worse yet — being irrelevant.
After the primary, it is not so clear that Rev. Sharpton will be of much help to Mr. Ferrer. While the former Bronx borough president may pick up some of the black support that Mr. Bloomberg covets with Rev. Sharpton’s help, there may be white votes lost as well.

In fact,the specter of a Ferrer administration with Rev. Sharpton by his side could drive some voters who might be tempted to support former Council Member Thomas Ognibene on the Conservative party line back into the Bloomberg camp.

© 2005 The New York Sun, One, SL, LLC. All rights reserved.

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