Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pirro picks Bloomberg over Pataki

AG candidate Jeanine Pirro has done little to impress anyone this year, but she is playing Bloomberg's gambit and has come out in favor of fully funding New York City schools. It's the position you'd expect her to take - after all, she's basically saying she's going to follow the law - except it puts her on record as joining Mayor Bloomberg in critizing Governor Pataki and the Republican Senate for opposing full funding for New York City schools.

Given Pirro's spotty track record in the run-up to this year's election, this probably isn't an encouraging sign for Bloomberg. I guess Pirro had to do something to get in the news that wasn't forgetting her speech or switching races, but it's hard to see Jeanine Pirro leading her party to do the right thing and it's easier to see Joe Bruno blowing her off or seeking retribution.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Don't forget to cast a health care vote tomorrow

Tomorrow's the day of the special election and coverage of the race is sparse: a smattering of blog posts and this article from WNYC on Rosenthal's race.

Linda Rosenthal in Assembly District 67 (Upper West Side of Manhattan) and Sylvia Friedman in Assembly District 74 (Lower part of the East Side of Manhattan) have both been endorsed by the Working Families Party. A vote on the Working Families Party line - Row E - sends the message that you want better health care in New York.

You can see if you're in one of those two districts here and find your polling place here. It's worth a five minute break in the day to cast a vote on Row E that tells Albany we need health care reform now, so take the time to vote!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Fair Share activists gear up

Working Families Party members across the state began meeting this week to gear up for the Fair Share for Health Care campaign and talk about reforming health care to make sure working families keep their health care if they have it and get it if they don't.

In the photo to the right, WFP member Danny Calabro and Jobs With Justice organizer Jim McAsey reviewed campaign literature at a meeting in Massapequa on Tuesday.
Consider this your online meeting spot - the comments are open for your thoughts and questions.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Bloomberg "lobbies" Albany

One of the most interesting stories (to me) coming out of New York City is Mayor Bloomberg's effort to hold legislators accountable for the money New York City schools are supposed to be getting.

Bloomberg's latest move is to cancel plans to build schools in districts of state legislators who don't support the required funding for New York City schools.

The New York Times has more:

When Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced this week that he was killing plans for dozens of buildings that were to be built under New York City's school construction plan, he blamed leaders in Albany for not sending enough money to the city.

But the schools that the mayor singled out were apparently chosen for a reason: They were in the districts of powerful lawmakers in Albany, including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and several Republican state senators, signaling that the mayor is prepared to use his muscle to penalize lawmakers if they do not support his effort to get more school aid from Albany.

Of 21 schools that were to begin construction this year and are now being scrapped, four are in the district of State Senator Serphin R. Maltese, a Republican. Earlier this month, mayoral aides said that Mr. Bloomberg was so frustrated with Albany that he was considering supporting a Democratic challenger to Mr. Maltese in the November elections, even though the mayor is a Republican.

It's risky gambit with a high chance of backfiring. Bloomberg's trying to seem bipartisan by targeting Senate Republicans and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, even though Silver and the Assembly Democrats have been on the right side of the CFE fight, only to see the Republican Senate refuse to do the same. I don't think anyone's fooled by that - this is all about Bloomberg fighting the Republican Senate for school funding.

So what do you think, smart politics or dumb idea?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Vote Row E on February 28th

If we're going to fix our health care system, we need legislators to know that's what we're electing them to do. That's why the Working Families Party is endorsing Linda Rosenthal in Assembly District 67 (Upper West Side of Manhattan) and Sylvia Friedman in Assembly District 74 (Lower part of the East Side of Manhattan) and urging everyone to vote for them on the Working Families Party ballot line, Row E.

The special election is this coming Tuesday, February 28th, and the polls are open from 6am to 9pm. Take a second to find out which legislative district you're in and to find your polling place.

Both candidates are running on both the Working Families Party line (Row E) and the Democratic Party line. Voting for Rosenthal and Friedman on either line gets them elected, but voting for them on the Working Families Party line sends the message that you want the Assembly to make sure people who work for a living have health care. We've got more here.

Maryland or Washington?

A growing number of states are starting to tackle head-on the problem of big corporations dumping their employees onto public assistance. That pushes health care costs onto taxpayers and is unfair to business competitors that do the right thing and provide health care for their employees.

Maryland has already passed a Fair Share Health Care bill, which would require large employers to make sure their employees have health care by either spending a minimum percentage of their payroll on health care costs or paying a certain amount into a state Medicaid fund. Michigan is among the many states considering a similar solution.

In Washington state a similar bill was defeated last week, but Washington's Governor is already making plans to bring it back.

We'll be taking this on in New York soon - keep an eye on the blog for your chance to weigh in.

NYU's Disgrace: The First 100 Days

The Graduate Student Organizing Committee strike at NYU passed the 100 days mark last week. The GSOC strike began on Wednesday, November 9, 2005. Despite widespread support from NYU faculty, staff and undergrads, as well as the broader community and the national labor movement, the NYU administration continues to refuse to come to the bargaining table.

Washington Square News, the NYU student paper, reports today that the American Association of University Professors marked the 100th day of the strike by sending a solidarity letter to the uversity administration:
The American Association of University Professors rang in the 101st day of the graduate assistant strike on Friday by sending the NYU administration and Board of Trustees a letter criticizing the university’s dealings with its graduate students.

Referencing the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which promotes unionization, the letter is the second to come from the group in as many weeks.

“Everyone has the right to form and to join trade union for the protection of his interests,” article 23 of the declaration says.

The association’s committee on graduate and professional students also sent a letter to the NYU administration on Feb. 6 in support of the Graduate Student Organizing Committee, the bargaining unit for the students’ union, United Auto Workers Local 2110.

“Graduate student assistants, like other campus employees, should have the right to organize to bargain collectively,” said Erika Gubrium, a member of the graduate and professional students committee. “Where state legislation permits, administrations should honor a majority request for union representation.”

The AAUP’s letter recommends that the NYU administration immediately revoke punishments for striking GAs, hold hearings for teaching assistants who have been denied appointments, promise to follow AAUP procedures for the future and negotiate a legal contract with GSOC.

Click here to see how you can show solidarity with NYU's striking grad students.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Fair Share: Common Decency

WFP Executive Director Dan Cantor spoke with the Politicker blog on Friday in an "IM Interview."

Dan highlighted the WFP's Fair Share for Health Care campaign as a top party priority in 2006:

benobserver: First of all, where is the WFP going to be putting its resources this year?
Cantor: We want to make sure that they provide decent health benefits for their employees. Nothing fancy, just common decency.

We all know that soaring health care costs are driving many otherwise responsible employers to push more of those costs onto the shoulders of working families. And low-road employers increase the pressure by tilting the playing field.

But it was still appalling to read about Macy's big Sunday ad this past weekend. For their President's Day sale? No. For "replacement workers."

Macy's workers are resisting an effort by the retail giant to make employees pay a majority of their health care premiums (which, incidentally would have the primary effect of driving more workers into public insurance programs).

And in exchange, Macy's advertises for scabs.

Dan's right. It's time to restore a little common decency.

Help us keep track of employers putting pressure on your family's health and welfare by posting below or sending email to wfp@workingfamiliesparty.org with your story.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Politicker interviews Dan Cantor

If you haven't read it yet, head on over to The Politicker to read their interview with Working Families Party Executive Director Dan Cantor.

Friday, February 17, 2006

AG candidates want to crack down on health care fraud

I think it's good that both Andrew Cuomo and Mark Green are talking about cutting health care costs by cracking down on fraud as they run for Attorney General. And I think more races - including the upcoming special elections on February 28th - will feature health care as a major issue. But it's hard to see how you solve our larger health care problems if corporations like Wal-Mart that are big enough and profitable enough to provide health care are allowed to dump their employees on to public assistance instead.

Special Opportunities

Upcoming special elections offer the first opportunity to send a message to Albany that New Yorkers want HEALTH CARE REFORM NOW.

Voting for Assembly candidates Sylvia Friedman (Lower part of the East Side of Manhattan) and Linda Rosenthal (Upper West Side of Manhattan) on ROW E, the Working Families Party line, is way of saying it's time to hold large corporations accountable for providing health care for their employees.

Read more about Sylvia Friedman in this week's Downtown Express.

And check out Linda Rosenthal's web site.

Both Linda and Sylvia are great candidates -- and voting for them on Row E on Tuesday, February 28, is a way to make your vote count twice: once for the candidate and once for HEALTH CARE REFORM NOW.

More on Long Island candidates next week.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Bush and Pataki announce health care cuts

The Bush and Pataki administrations are both cutting money for health care at the same time big corporations like Wal-Mart are dumping their employees on to public assistance instead of giving them health care.

So can someone explain how exactly that will turn out well for working families?

Defending Rent Control

The triennial fight to preserve rent control in New York CIty is gearing up, the NY Sun reported today (subscription required):
Citing an ongoing "housing emergency," the City Council intends to renew for another three years the city's soon-to-expire rent control and rent stabilization laws.

A bill extending the laws until 2009 was introduced by several sponsors yesterday and is likely to win approval before the existing statutes expire on April 1. In passing the measure, the council would be exerting its limited power over the city's rent laws. The limitations are a source of increasing frustration for many members, including the new speaker, Christine Quinn.

"We do not have full power over our housing laws, but we do play a very important and central role as it relates to renewing rent protection laws," Ms. Quinn said yesterday on the steps of City Hall. Surrounding the speaker were several council colleagues and hundreds of tenants pushing for continued rent control.

The introduction of the bill comes less than a week after an official survey found that the city's rental housing stock was crowded enough to qualify as a "housing emergency," allowing the city to extend rent laws determined by the state. Ms. Quinn said that despite the council's limited authority, she wanted to "send a clear message" that rent laws would not be weakened under her watch.

Earlier this month, Ms. Quinn signaled that the council would try to step up pressure on Albany to give the city "home rule" by repealing the 1971 law handing the state jurisdiction over the city's rent laws. The council will likely send an official legislative request to Albany after passing resolutions on the issue in recent years. A bill repealing the "home rule" law has passed the state Assembly, where Democrats have the majority, each year since 1997 before stalling in the GOP-controlled Senate.

"It's a scandal, and it's high time it changed," the treasurer of the Tenants Political Action Committee, Michael McKee, said.

Michael McKee is absolutely right. And it's time for a plan to win Urstadt repeal once and for all.

Do folks have thoughts on a real game plan?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Wal-Mart in Staten Island?

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance blog noticed an article in Sunday's Staten Island Advance that those dimwits at Bacon and Eggs carelessly missed. While the NRAB often voices views that the WFP strongly disagrees with, their post was insightful:
The [Advance] article actually focuses on the potential building of a Stop & Shop supermarket at a location on a Page Avenue next door to the Wal-Mart site. What is clear, however, is that the Tottenville community is extremely concerned with the overdevelopment and concomitant traffic in their neighborhood.

In fact, even the pro-development Staten Island Borough President, James Molinaro, has predicted a "traffic nightmare" if $100 million of road improvements are not forthcoming in the impacted area. The supermarket is seen as part of the overall development challenge and, even though community people have told us that they would welcome an upscale market, there are major concerns about traffic.

This concern is best expressed by Tottenville president June Delaney who has not committed to support of the supermarket until "the city comes up with a plan-one addressing both traffic aesthetic concerns-for future development along Page Avenue." As she cogently remarks, "You can't just keep putting things there and say, 'OK, we will figure it out later."

All of which puts the plans for Wal-Mart on extremely tenuous footing. If a welcome addition like Stop & Shop is viewed with some skepticism you can imagine how the Tottenville folks feel about a regional market that will draw its customers from all over the Island.

This trepidation, however, isn't deterring the Wal-Mart people. We've just been informed that the Walmonster has hired respected NYC lobbyist Claudia Wagner to represent them before the City Council. In addition, as the Advance is reporting, the clean-up of the Lucent site on Richmond Valley Road is continuing.

The Lucent $10 million remediation is expected to last nine months and Cedarwood Development, which has the lease on the property and hopes to bring in Wal-Mart, "is expected to follow this spring with its own request for a zone change for the property." If true, than it will take a few months to review the application before it is certified for ULURP. We'd anticipate a fall certification at the earliest.

What's missing is the various requests for traffic studies and road improvements before any zoning review is conducted. The Alliance will be arguing for an independent analysis to precede any city certification of Wal-Mart.
Having lost their bid to open a store in Rego Park, Wal-Mart has made very clear that they want to open one or more stores in Staten Island.

If Wal-Mart does dare to open to actually try to open a store in NYC, working families will join arms with the good people of Tottenville in their fight.

Whither the Conservative Party?

The fracture among State Republicans may result in New York's Conservative Party losing its place on the ballot, suggests its former chair, George Marlin in an op-ed in today's Post:

This past weekend, New York Conservative Party activists from around the state gathered in Albany to meet and question Republicans seeking the gubernatorial nomination. When making their choice, the party faithful need to ask themselves: Quo Vadis? Where are you going?

Their reply will determine if the party drops to Row E on the voting ballot (it's now on Row D, having lost its 32-year hold on Row C to the Independence Party in 1998) or worse — fails to receive 50,000 gubernatorial votes and be swept away into the dustbin of history, like the New York Liberal Party four years ago.

Not much for WFP members and supporters to do but watch this potential train wreck in slow motion. But a train wreck for the Conservatives, combined with the WFP push for 250,000 votes for Eliot Spitzer means Row D (or C?) for the WFP.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

More Cheney Jokes

Letterman's top ten is here.

And, this nice round-up is from the AP:

"Late Show with David Letterman," CBS:

  • "Good news, ladies and gentlemen, we have finally located weapons of mass destruction: It's Dick Cheney."

  • "But here is the sad part -- before the trip Donald Rumsfeld had denied the guy's request for body armor."

  • "We can't get Bin Laden, but we nailed a 78-year-old attorney."

  • "The guy who got gunned down, he is a Republican lawyer and a big Republican donor and fortunately the buck shot was deflected by wads of laundered cash. So he's fine. He took a little in the wallet."
  • "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," NBC:

  • "Although it is beautiful here in California, the weather back East has been atrocious. There was so much snow in Washington, D.C., Dick Cheney accidentally shot a fat guy thinking it was a polar bear."

  • "That's the big story over the weekend. ... Dick Cheney accidentally shot a fellow hunter, a 78-year-old lawyer. In fact, when people found out he shot a lawyer, his popularity is now at 92 percent."

  • "I think Cheney is starting to lose it. After he shot the guy he screamed, 'Anyone else want to call domestic wire tapping illegal?"'

  • "Dick Cheney is capitalizing on this for Valentine's Day. It's the new Dick Cheney cologne. It's called Duck!"

  • "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," Comedy Central:

  • "Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot a man during a quail hunt ... making 78-year-old Harry Whittington the first person shot by a sitting veep since Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton, of course, (was) shot in a duel with Aaron Burr over issues of honor, integrity and political maneuvering. Whittington? Mistaken for a bird."

  • "Now, this story certainly has its humorous aspects. ... But it also raises a serious issue, one which I feel very strongly about. ... moms, dads, if you're watching right now, I can't emphasize this enough: Do not let your kids go on hunting trips with the vice president. I don't care what kind of lucrative contracts they're trying to land, or energy regulations they're trying to get lifted -- it's just not worth it."

    "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson," CBS:

  • "He is a lawyer and he got shot in the face. But he's a lawyer, he can use his other face. He'll be all right."

    "You can understand why this lawyer fellow let his guard down, because if you're out hunting with a politician, you think, 'If I'm going to get it, it's going to be in the back.'"

    "The big scandal apparently is that they didn't release the news for 18 hours. I don't think that's a scandal at all. I'm quite pleased about that. Finally there's a secret the vice president's office can keep."

    "Apparently the reason they didn't release the information right away is they said we had to get the facts right. That's never stopped them in the past."

    Monday, February 13, 2006

    Dick Cheney’s Top 10 Excuses For Shooting Fellow Hunter

    10. Sick and tired of Whittington’s “Hey, I’m having a heart attack” jokes
    9. Pushed over edge by Dixie Chicks and Streisand blasting on pick-up truck stereo
    8. Ongoing dispute over whether it’s acceptable to torture quail before shooting them
    7. Thought he saw Michael Moore on other side of tree line
    6. Bombed out of his gourd on Wild Turkey and Lone Star Beer
    5. Companion’s ill-advised decision to wear Moveon.org sweatshirt
    4. Was trying to impress Jodie Foster
    3. Whittington’s repeated ribbing that Bush is actually the “real president”
    2. Targeting scope on rifle made by Halliburton

    And the number one excuse given by Dick Cheney for almost blowing away hunting companion Harry Whittington . . .

    1. Because he’s a wartime vice president, damn it
    Kudos to BobGeiger.com

    Get the rest of Monday's news.