Opinion: Spitzer on fire

By Former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

The 49 percent of the electorate who voted for Eliot Spitzer to be New York City Comptroller in 2013 should send a thank you note to the 51 percent who did not. Spitzer in 2008 lost his position as governor through resignation following a prostitution scandal; lost his wife; and lost the respect of the citizens of New York. He should have learned his lesson… he did not. Last week, Spitzer was back on the front pages of the New York City newspapers responding to allegations that he spent a (very expensive) night at the Plaza Hotel with a prostitute and was accused of assaulting her. She has since left this country and returned to her homeland, Russia.

But this is not a story about prostitution. Personally I think that what goes on between consenting adults is their business and their business only, even if it is “business.” I have always thought it was odd that prostitution is only illegal if money changes hands. If it is not a commercial transaction, with no currency involved, then there is no crime. It is all very curious; the law I mean.

Nor is this a story about morality or fidelity.  Mr. Spitzer has professed his love for another woman, his girlfriend since the divorce from his wife.

Whether what Mr. Spitzer is alleged to have done (again) is moral or not, or whether he has broken his vows and promises to yet another woman is beside the point. Far be it for me to condemn or condone. Rather this is a story about judgment and temperament.

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Stringer’s Wall Street opponent — Burnett says he’d reform city’s pension plans

John Burnett

John Burnett

By Sabina Mollot

On Primary Day, Scott Stringer bested his opponent, former Governor Eliot Spitzer, following a contentious race for comptroller, but Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, isn’t completely out of the water just yet.

In November, he’ll face off against John Burnett, a Harlem-based Republican with a background in finance. Though Burnett has none of the name recognition Stringer’s been building up, via celebrity endorsements as well as a contentious primary race against a man who had his political career derailed over a hooker scandal, he insisted he’s up for the challenge.

During an interview following a recent morning campaign stop in Stuyvesant Town, Burnett told Town & Village he’s running because he wants to make sure “bureaucracy doesn’t stranglehold things.”

He added, “In corporate America, if a corporation doesn’t change in a way to shift and adapt, then they go out of business. So I’m used to change.”

Burnett doesn’t feel Stringer’s qualified for the job of comptroller, saying, “I don’t think Scott Stringer is going to change anything when he’s been inside for 25 years.” He also blasted Stringer’s past attempt at running two bars. He asked why voters should trust him to manage the city’s books when “he couldn’t sell wings and beer in a city of millions?”

The corporate candidate had even harsher words for former opponent Spitzer, blasting him more than once on his website for the former governor’s dalliances with prostitutes and use of taxpayer dollars to fund his travel expenses during those times.

Burnett said if elected to the position of comptroller, which oversees the city’s pensions, he would reform the pension plans by combining them. This, he said, would save its earners millions in administrative fees and costs.

“We have to get to pensions to where they’re self-sustaining” for retirees, he said.

Burnett’s other goal is job creation through economic incentives to help small businesses grow and tax abatements for developers.

“Tax abatements spur real estate growth in New York City,” he said. To help small businesses, he said he would fight the city’s “harassment” of its owners aimed at collecting fines and taxes.

While politicking at Stuy Town early in the morning, he said most of the questions he got were about jobs or housing. He noted that even with the unemployment rate dipping slightly, it’s still “double digit with blacks and Hispanics.”

As for housing, he knows the city needs more of it and is in favor of more “combination housing,” a mix of affordable and market rate development. “We have to do it in a way that is timely and doesn’t cost a lot of money.” In this case, he wasn’t sure that reducing real estate taxes was the answer, since a reduction in landlords’ own costs wouldn’t necessarily lead to them feeling the need to pass the discount on to tenants.

Burnett last worked at McGraw-Hill Financial in risk and compliance before leaving in March to focus on his campaign, and he’s worked Wall Street money management jobs throughout a 20-year career. Previous places of employment include Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Smith Barney. In his official bio online, the candidate describes himself as a “natural entrepreneur” who started selling candy to classmates at age six. (He would later recruit his family to help him shill homemade cookies.) After graduating from high school, he got a job as a cashier at Pathmark, which was also his introduction to the world of unions. By the age of 20, he was working as a margin analyst for Dean Witter Reynolds, which later became Morgan Stanley. He later, while working, finished college at New York University and got an MBA at Cornell.

Now a father of two daughters, Burnett was born in a public housing development in East New York and his family later moved to Queens Village, where he grew up. He’s lived in Harlem for the past nine years.

As a former NYCHA resident, Burnett weighed in the agency’s current plan to lease existing, open space on eight public housing projects to outside developers, to say he thought it was a good idea.

“I think we need to explore all options,” he said, in contrast to local elected officials who want to make sure current residents are okay with it and that the plan includes affordable housing.

Burnett however, again stressed he liked the idea of a mix of lower-income and market rate housing. “We have to be a city for all demographics,” he said.

He wasn’t initially interested in getting into politics, he said, but was encouraged by the Republican County leadership. He added that he feels that due to the recent sex and bribery scandals involving politicians and candidates such as Spitzer and Anthony Weiner, “it’s really given New York a black eye” and that it’s time for someone with “a higher level of integrity” to step up.

Like any other Republican running for office in New York City, Burnett knows he’s facing a steep, uphill battle in trying to convince democrats to vote for him ― or even not dismiss him on sight. However, he said he hopes to appeal to voters who are “getting sick of the same old thing. The definition of insanity is to do the same old thing over and over again and expect a different result.”

Editorial: Stringer clear choice for comptroller

Borough President Scott Stringer, pictured with Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and Council Member Dan Garodnick, marching in the Peter Stuyvesant Little League Parade in April  Photo by Sabina Mollot

Borough President Scott Stringer, pictured with Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and Council Member Dan Garodnick, marching in the Peter Stuyvesant Little League Parade in April
Photo by Sabina Mollot

Since his late entry into the race for city comptroller, former Governor Eliot Spitzer has garnered the lion’s share of the press out of the two candidates, though his rival, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, has also proven to be no slouch in that department.
Naturally, much of the headlines have focused on the hooker scandal that ended Spitzer’s career as governor rather than debates over whether Stringer or Spitzer is better equipped for the job of keeping an eye on the city’s books. It is worth noting though, that the media’s (and readers’ and viewers’) fascination with Spitzer’s past is hardly unfair, given it involved illegal activities. His attempt to re-enter the world of politics constantly brings to mind the debate of whether or not lawmakers who break the law should be forgiven and given a second chance. Ultimately, on Primary Day, September 10, the people will decide if they do.
However, we hope that New Yorkers make it clear that they don’t want to hire a hypocrite. Especially since there is another candidate, who (so far at least) has proven himself to be a law abiding citizen and, in his function as borough president, has become very much in the know about what New Yorkers’ needs are, and therefore where their tax dollars need to be spent and where they don’t.
On the one hand, Stringer, like, Spitzer, is no CPA, so their respective goals of becoming comptroller don’t seem like obvious job choices for either of them, but in politics, sometimes it’s just about entering the race in which the odds of winning seem higher. And this particular race at one point appeared to be a shoo-in for Stringer. The current standoff, however, with Spitzer’s name recognition and real estate money and Stringer’s own impressive war chest and celebrity endorsements, show that both of these guys mean business.
Still, we believe that of the two, Stringer is simply the better man for the job and he has our endorsement.
While normally, no one from this newspaper would even be focusing on the race for comptroller, the fact is that due to Spitzer’s salacious past, this race, like the one for mayor (in part due to the campaign of former Congressman and serial sexter Anthony Weiner), has attracted citywide interest.
But there may some distinct local interest as well. Residents of the Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village community may recall that Stringer, long before he ran for comptroller (ending that particular dream for Dan Garodnick) has been a supporter of residents here. He wrote an amicus brief for the tenants in the “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” lawsuit and has seldom missing a meeting held by the Tenants Association.
He also, along with Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, has dreamt up the East River Blueway plan, which will revitalize the riverfront from the Brooklyn Bridge to East 38th Street, making the East Side of Manhattan more prepared for the next natural disaster while also giving area residents something they’ve never had before ― access to the water, complete with kayaks and beaches.
Stringer’s other projects in the past year alone have included unveiling the “Veggie Van,” a mobile greenmarket for underserved communities, releasing a report detailing the concerns of NYCHA residents about safety in their homes and releasing another report revealing deplorable conditions at local animal shelters.

Residents weigh in on Spitzer and Weiner

Many think candidates’ sex scandals don’t matter

Eliot Spitzer

Eliot Spitzer

Anthony Weiner

Anthony Weiner

By Sabina Mollot

In the 11 days since former Governor Eliot Spitzer announced his candidacy for comptroller, both he and fellow disgraced former politician, former Congress Member Anthony Weiner, have easily stolen the media thunder from their opponents, whose lack of sex scandals makes them and their campaigns, yesterday’s news.

Interestingly, while neither candidate has been able to score a single news story that doesn’t in some way mention their respective falls from grace, they still have, according to the polls, become the race’s frontrunners.

On Monday, Town & Village interviewed several residents of Stuyvesant Town to ask what they thought about Spitzer and Weiner’s attempts at comebacks and their promising poll numbers. Though opinions varied, most implied they didn’t care much about the sex scandals, and Spitzer was generally thought of as being a well-equipped leader.

Retired teacher Sam Bishop said he didn’t think Weiner and Spitzer’s post-scandal ambitions were surprising, “and,” he added, “they’re going to win.” The reason, said Bishop, is name recognition. “What’s sad is that the other people who are running for those respective offices are not known outside of their districts. They can’t break through the ceiling above that local level. Weiner is now a statewide celebrity for his improprieties. Somebody like Quinn is only known in her district. Stringer — no one knows who he is outside Manhattan and he needs to pull votes outside of Manhattan.”

Another factor, said Bishop, is that “baggage” aside, he believes “Spitzer is very well-qualified. Do I like him personally? That’s another question. Both of them are quite capable of a big comeback and they’re very shrewd because they sized up the competition. The public wants to elect leaders that are able to bring results.”

Another resident, Guadalupe Canton, seemed to agree, saying he believes in second chances. “Everyone should have a second act,” he said.

Canton was mixed on Spitzer and Weiner though saying he was more impressed with Spitzer’s record as attorney general and governor for investigating Wall Street than he was with Weiner.

“I don’t think he did much as a Congress member. He was loud and bombastic, but didn’t do much,” said Canton. He had even less love for opponent Christine Quinn though, blasting the mayoral hopeful as “Miss Lackey” for the man who still holds the job. As for Spitzer, “I had wished that someone would look into Wall Street when this nonsense happened,” said Canton, referring to the then-governor’s career-derailing hooker scandal. “If you investigate (Wall Street) you will find something and we’re still in a mess. I think he could keep an eye on the books of the city.”

David Burstein, a recently published author (Fast Future, Beacon Press) and founder of Generation18, a campaign aimed at getting young people to vote, said he also didn’t think the men’s scandals would make them untouchable in the eyes of voters.

“People’s memories have been getting shorter and shorter and the fact that they’re willing to give these people a second chance is a symptom of that,” he said. He added, “People have forgotten that Bill Clinton was reelected at the height of his scandal and that he was impeached. People have erased that from the portrait of who he is.”

Burstein, who said he thought there was no doubt about Spitzer’s competence as a legislator, still thinks that people are more likely to be forgiving of Weiner’s infamous crotch tweet than Spitzer’s hiring of prostitutes.

“What Spitzer did in a lot of ways was worse; there was a level of hypocrisy,” he said. As for Weinergate, “People have experience with (Twitter), maybe not on that lewd level, but people realize it as an action that could have happened to them. People have experiences sending the wrong text message to someone. So they sympathize. It’s better than misappropriating $5 million in campaign funds.”

Less sympathetic though was documentary maker Doug Block who now finds that he can’t think of Weiner “without laughing.” It doesn’t help of course that “he has a very unfortunate last name. We’ll never stop associating him with his little picadillo.”

Block added that he thought the accidentally-made public tweet that brought Weiner down was “about the stupidest thing you could possibly do.” While in his opinion, most pols likely solicit prostitutes behind closed doors, most people also understand that there’s no such thing as privacy on the internet.

“That was pretty naïve,” said Block, although he added that he wasn’t necessarily opposed to either candidate for their actions. “Right now I’m just a bemused observer,” he said. “This is a democratic city and they’re name brands.”

Additionally, he said he believes New Yorkers would probably dismiss the scandals as long as they think the candidates support issues they care about.

“They just want people to be on their side who are fighters,” said Block. “These guys are fighters because they don’t care what people think of them except what’s enough to get people to vote for them.”

Jerry Alperstein, a former teacher who keeps politically active by serving on Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s advisory board, indicated he wasn’t too disturbed by the scandalous past of Weiner or Spitzer and didn’t think others were either.

“Had Bill Clinton been able to run for reelection in 2000, he would have been easily reelected,” he said, “whether or not he had the support of Monica Lewinsky.”

However, Alperstein added that the current lead in the polls for Spitzer and Weiner shouldn’t be read into too much.

 “You have to remember that the primary is in September and it won’t be until around August 15 that people start to focus on this thing. Polls are neither here nor there.”

Meanwhile, retiree Shirley Ehrlickman said she wouldn’t be voting for Weiner or Spitzer, dismissing them as men with “poor character.” She declined to discuss her reason for disliking Weiner, but said she already intends to support Spitzer’s rival, Borough President Stringer, for comptroller.

“I don’t have anything against Spitzer, but as far as voting is concerned, there’s another candidate and I’m a friend of his.”

Ehrickman added that she has served as a volunteer on a senior citizen board for Stringer. “He’s a straight arrow, very sincere and cares about the people,” she said.

Another retiree, who’s also a former longtime poll worker, said she’s also supporting Stringer, and Bill de Blasio for mayor. As for Spitzer and Weiner, “I call them the odd couple,” said Dolores Dolan. “I’m definitely not supporting either of them. It’s not because of their sexual exploits, but I support Stringer for comptroller because he’s more competent. I’m also supporting de Blasio because he’s a capable person. I don’t think Weiner has the temperament to be mayor.”

Dolan added that she thought the ST/PCV population’s vote would make a dent in the citywide results for the primary, which overall tends to have a dismal turnout. But ST/PCV residents, she’s learned, tend to be more committed voters. As for who’d come out on top after that, she could only guess.

“Spitzer’s got so much money from his family, so he might surprise, but I do think Stringer is more capable,” she said.

Letters to the Editor, July 18

You gotta have a scandal

To the Editor:
Well, now that Eliot Spitzer has joined Anthony Weiner in running, or rather dancing with the stars, in the elections this November, the other candidates for office will have to do something to make the Mad Men who create the virtual reality that is our world sit up and take notes. After all, name and face recognition is more important than qualifications when running for office.
Bill de Blasio might make a great mayor but he doesn’t have the Kardashian kitsch so essential for success, much more important than competence.  But if Mr. de Blasio wore hot pink short shorts and high heels to the next photo op, admittedly no match for the orange pants worn by the internet star Weiner at a recent gay event, he might give the former Congressman a tussle for the gay vote. But what about the straight vote?
Candidate Quinn could enlist her buddy Bloomberg to take her on a bicycle-built-for-two to the beach at Coney Island where they could perform the steamy Burt Lancaster/ Deborah Kerr scene in “From Here to Eternity.” Since all publicity is good, this would make great headlines, not to mention hot photos: The Mayor and Speaker Quinn, both wearing a bikini, though not necessarily the same one, making out on a bright red blanket! Wow! And how about Bill Thompson, smelling smoke and a photo op, showing up in a fireman’s uniform with a long hose to put out the fire. Why, the paparazzi would be so overjoyed they’d all have heart attacks. But, not to worry, the firemen’s union would be on hand to administer CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Double wow! This scene would be so hot that maybe even Sarah Palin would show up for a photo op and pitch in, her pitch, that is, for the presidential nomination with the headline: For Whom the Belle Toils!
For the office of comptroller, the very capable Scott Stringer will have to run against former Governor Eliot Spitzer. He will need the best shoes Nike makes because Spitzer is a tough campaigner with remarkable name and face recognition. (Weiner has the name recognition, but it’s not his face that people think of when they think of Weiner.)
Spitzer dodged criminal charges when he hired working girls, but these “employees” became damsels in distress when they were found guilty of working for Spitzer and dragged off to prison. It not only created buzz for the former governor but an opportunity for him to repent and beg forgiveness from voters who are ready to believe anything, including a talking snake named Satan and an ambitious boat builder named Noah.
Perhaps Stringer should create a scandal, preferably of a sexual nature so he’s in the same ballpark with Spitzer, which could bring him to his knees as well as the TV cameras where he could apologize and beg forgiveness for his alleged sin. And by simply omitting the word “not,” he could put a unique spin on that famous line “I did have sex with that woman.”  That’s sure to get him elected.
We just love born-again politicians, but not boring-again ones. So, come on, candidates, make your campaign sexy with a little scandal and then sit down to a healthy serving of humble pie. You have nothing to lose and much to gain, especially if you’re from New Jersey. But let’s not go there. Why would anyone want to go to New Jersey? We New Yorkers have our own fat cats here at home. And they can buy elections.
John Cappelletti, ST

Security keeps residents safe without guns

I live in Manhattan’s Stuyesant Town, a middle class project. We have uniformed security guards who carry handcuffs, clubs, and walkie-talkies – but no guns.
I’ve called them about loud college kids’ parties and they respond promptly.
A few times, the same security guards told me to dismount my bicycle in pedestrian areas, and I was the one who had to comply.
They’ve warned dog owners to clean up after their pets. They’ve been called to local stores renting from Stuyvesant Town to handle unruly shoppers and sometimes deal with shoplifters.
But what about real crime? These unarmed security guards have apprehended burglars and rapists in my 110-building community. They’ve received awards from the local NYPD precinct commander for doing so.
Are these guards “wannabe cops?” Maybe some of them are. But they’ve proven their effectiveness in keeping my community safe – all without guns!
The NRA is wrong! Guns DO kill people. Had Zimmerman not been armed, Trayvon Martin would still be alive today.
Had Zimmerman not been armed, he probably wouldn’t have ever left the safety of his car. He would have merely phoned in a report to the real cops, as he was advised to do.
Knowing he was armed emboldened Zimmerman to leave his car, even after being told by the police “You don’t need to do that.”
It was the gun that gave Zimmerman the “courage” to physically confront Trayvon Martin. When Mr. Martin defended himself, Zimmerman killed him.
Apparently, Florida law only gives armed people the right to self-defense. Unarmed people, such as Mr. Martin, do not have the right to defend themselves against armed attackers.
Elliot Markson, ST