Tags: new york

Election post-mortem

Been meaning to post, but kinda too busy: it seems I was right in my predictions as to who would win the city-wide elections in New York City (not the men I wanted, but those I predicted). The big surprise was that Mayor Bloomberg got only 51% of the vote (compared to Bill Thompson's 46%). Pundits are saying Bloomberg spent about $175-$200 per vote he received with his massive, personally financed campaign. In other words, if he'd paid everyone who voted (whether they voted for him or against him) $100, he would have spent less money, and more directly affected the economy of New York City for the better. Oh well.

Polls had Bloomberg running 15-20% ahead in the weeks and days before the election. For him to win by such a slim margin (after outspending his less-qualified opponent by like 15-to-1) is a very loud signal from the voters. Originally, I'd planned to write this post saying "Now that he's won a third term by such a large margin, it's pretty clear that we the people are probably willing to overturn term limits, and we ought to put the question on the ballot." But now, seeing that he won by such a slim margin, it tells me my fellow citizens really do think term limits are a good idea (I so disagree with them on that point).

In the end, I'm glad Bloomberg won (I really didn't think I'd get enough votes to take it), because he was the best choice of those on the ballot. But now, I'm just a little worried: what's the next law he'll decide he can ignore?

Election suggestions

Tomorrow is Election Day here in New York City (and many other places, as well, but I've been kind of focused on the local stuff). For my NYC readers, here's my attempt to influence your vote.

Earlier in the year, I talked a number of times about Mayor Bloomberg's despicable ignoring of New York City's term limits law (adopted by public referendum, twice). And even though I disagree with the concept of term limits, I'm even more worried by a politician who ignores laws adopted by public referendum. Michael Bloomberg has campaigned on a platform of "re-elect me, because I can help the economy get better." In that, he was mostly right: he's been spending on the order of a million dollars a day on his re-election campaign, and if he's been spending that money in New York City, his campaign really has been good for the economy (heck, I got two phone calls and one in-person visit from his campaign today). And of all the announced candidates, he really is the most qualified for the job, but I just can't trust that he'll decide to step down in four years if we elect to him a third term tomorrow. On the other hand, I don't think any of the other announced candidates would be good mayors (although I have to give comedy points to Party for Socialism and Liberation candidate Francisca Willar, who says the most important issue she'd address as mayor is "The billionaires must pay for the economic costs. A 5 percent tax on all wealth over $100 million would alone raise over $8 billion a year from the city's 55 billionaires alone; if they try to leave the city, their property and wealth should be confiscated."—I read that campaign statement and laughed at her apparently tenuous grasp on reality in favor of "the world is what I want it be"). So I'll be writing in my own name for mayor tomorrow. Feel free to join me: Ian Randal Strock for Mayor of New York City.

For Public Advocate, I'm going to vote for Jim Lesczynski, who says the most important issue he'd address as Public Advocate would be to "eliminate the position of Public Advocate".

For Comptroller, I'm voting for Joe Mendola.

Party? We don't need no steenkin' party.

For the news behind the post, see this New York Times story. I first heard about it on WINS radio, but couldn't find it on the web site.

The news is: two members of the New York State Senate, who are Democrats, decided to declare their allegiance to the Republican Party, at least in terms of Senate leadership. This shifted the majority from the Democrats to the Republicans, and the Republicans immediately replaced the Senate President. Governor David Patterson called the move "an outrage" and said "I will not allow this." Earlier on the radio, I also heard him saying he would fight the shift in court, although he has apparently realized there's no legal recourse to the move. Personally, I think it's great. It is a small chink in the wall to remind us all that political parties are not either a necessary or constitutional part of our government (see part of George Washington's Farewell Address, for example). The Democrats and Republicans remain in power because they combine their efforts to do just that.

But when the grumbling turns to which party has power, rather than which people or which ideology, then there's something wrong with the government. Think about the last few elections in which you voted: how many times did you vote for a party, and how many for a person? Parties were a great idea when there was no real way to know what an individual stood for, but in this age of instant, almost overwhelming, information accessibility, we the citizens have less and less need for the political parties.

New York City's Term Limits: yeah, like the Department of Justice cares

Word came down today (Reuters has it here) that the US Department of Justice has ruled Mayor Bloomberg's attempt to circumvent the term limits law̵s;by changing the number of terms allowed from two to three—is permissible because it is "not intended to and would not discriminate against racial and language minority groups."

Attorney Norman Siegel, who brought the suit to the DoJ because he couldn't come up with a better way to say "Hey! No! You can't change the will of the people just because you want to," was disappointed, and talking about appealing. He has to: it's the suit he filed, but even he has to know that racial or language discrimination is not the crime here. The crime is an elected mayor saying "I know better than the people, who clearly and vehemently expressed their will in referenda not once, but twice." It's looking more and more like he gets to run for a third term just because he wants to, and managed to convince or browbeat a majority of the City Council into agreeing with him. "If you disagree, vote against me," is disingenuous at best, and downright insulting in fact.

And in all this, he still hasn't explained what it is he can do to rescue New York City from its current financial crisis by sitting in the mayor's office from 2010 to 2014 that he couldn't do as a billionaire sitting in his office at Bloomberg. The hell of it is, I disagree with the concept of term limits, and don't really have any problem with Michael Bloomberg as mayor. But he got himself elected mayor, and he really ought to do the mayor's job, upholding the law as adopted by the City Council or expressed by the people through referenda. Grrrr.

[I'm moving this discussion from uspresidents, because it really doesn't belong there. For previous commentary, see this entry.]

Caught up, ha!

I think I'm caught up. Been reading my friends page everyday this week, posting news on SFScope regularly, keeping my e-mail in-boxes properly pruned (they're still THIS high, but they haven't really grown this week), I've only spent scant minutes looking around my new Facebook account (another damn time-sink), and all the freelance editing projects are off my desk, so what am I about to do? Right! I'm going away for a long weekend, just so I can once again fall behind on absolutely everything. Oh well.

I'm off, bright and early (and cold) Friday morning for Arisia. I posted my schedule a little ways back, if you're going to be there and want to see me. Of course, when I'm not at my panels, I'll be wandering around the hotel, wondering what one does at a convention when one isn't standing behind a dealer's table all day. Have pity on me. Come talk with me, or something.

And, yeah, I was delayed today watching the television, too. After about three minutes, I had to tune out the talking heads (who were, admittedly, doing the hard job of keeping the audio track filled, but man, there were times I thought silence would have been much more eloquent). But looking at that airplane floating in the river, I knew it was a picture-perfect touch-down. Damn good flying (well, crashing, but any landing you can walk [or swim] away from…).

New York City's Term Limits: ha!

Because I started the conversation on my other blog, I just posted this entry over there. The topic is the term limits law in New York City, which Mayor Bloomberg decided was fine, except that he wanted to change the "2" to a "3" so he could run for a third term this year. Rather than referring it to a public referendum (and remember, the law was adopted by public referendum twice in the 1990s), he convinced the City Council to simply "change" the law. Now a federal judge has agreed with them, ruling against those who sued to say the law is, well, the law. For more of the discussion, read that other post.

Still face out!

Just so you don't think yesterday was all grumpiness, after getting off the subway in Manhattan, Kit and I walked around, looking at Christmas decorations (which are still loudly in evidence), and had a good time together in the City. We also stopped in the Barnes & Noble on Fifth Avenue at 46th Street, and I was very excited to see that my book is still on the end-cap with several other general-interest trivia/history books. It may not be a best-seller, but in my limited book-publishing experience, this is a remarkable run for a book in such a prominent position in a bookstore (admittedly, it's facing away from the escalator, at the shelf-lined wall, but still, it's displayed face out on its own little shelf on an end-cap with about a dozen other books). So, happiness!

A good day in New York City

There are times when I go home, or am at home, when I feel that I'm missing out on all the wonderful things New York City has to offer; when I feel I'm not doing enough, just puttering my way through life. This week is not one of them.

After recovering from the illness that was last weekend, I kind of missed Monday. Tuesday was my book launch party (see elsewhere for reports on that). Wednesday was recovery from the party, but also opportunities to talk about it, and I actually saw my book on a shelf in a bookstore.

Last night, however, feels like an entire week's worth of experience: we went to a book launch party in an animation studio downtown. Kit has been to Curious Pictures before, but it was new to me, and it was a wonderful, "only in New York" location: enter a narrow hall in a narrow, nondescript building down near the East Village, ride the elevator to the sixth floor, and enter a huge converted loft space with multiple rooms of multiple sizes and functions, lots of people (none of whom I knew before we got there) celebrating the launch of a book (Ghost Radio by Leopoldo Gout) and hanging out having a good time. One room had the video game Rock Band going on a big screen, with four stations set up for a continually rotating group of players; another room had a trailer for the book running; and still another had the studio's annual Halloween pumpkin carving contest entrants (there were some wonderful pumpkins in there: trust animators to come up with the truly bizarre). We weren't able to stay all the way to the end, but minutes before we walked out, Julia Stiles (the actress) walked in, mostly unnoticed by the partying throngs (though I recognized her).

We had to leave early to hop the subway back uptown, to Times Square, because we'd been invited to watch the dress rehearsal of David Mamet's American Buffalo (a revival opening next month). I told the producer who invited us that I wouldn't write about the show (like I said, it was dress rehearsal), but the experience was great, in a theatre I haven't been to before. It felt very intimate, much more than simply sitting in a theatre watching a performance.

After the show, walking back through Times Square, I realized we could, like Calvin, declare this day well and truly seized… except that it wasn't over yet.

Arriving home, I glanced at the mail, and found a disappointing rejection from Analog (hey, these things happen). And then I ignored the rest of the paper mail in favor of turning on the computer to read the electronic mail and do some work on SFScope. In my electronic in-box, I found galleys for a piece that is now scheduled to run on Monday in the Philadelphia Inquirer, so that sort of made up for the Analog rejection. And then there was confirmation of three more speaking engagements in Ohio in early December. Finally, back to the paper mail, I discovered a check for the last Los Angeles Times piece I did.

Other than only sleeping about two hours last night, I'd say that day really was seized and properly used. I've just gotta figure out how to keep experiencing so much without sleeping; it's a struggle.

If only a few can handle something, is it elitist, or specific?

The New York Times has this piece in today's edition: "Fewer Children Entering Gifted Programs" by Elissa Gootman and Robert Gebeloff. It makes me wonder if New York City's gifted programs are supposed to be an engine for social engineering, a way to make school enrollment "fair" or "equal", or if they exist to give additional educational opportunities to those students who can handle and benefit from them? The tone of this article strongly implies the former, but I think that's wrong. Looking at it as a "gift" for today is being incredibly short-sighted; the concept of gifted programs is that the leaders of tomorrow will have had the educational opportunities to enable them to be as much as they can be, so they can come back to the community to help it into the future. The article talks about the varying numbers of black, Hispanic, and Asian children in the programs since the city instituted a standard cut-off score on the admission tests, but that's not the fault of the tests or the education department. It may be the fault of the parents for not giving their children sufficient experience or impetus, but to blame an educational system because it isn't performing social engineering is to damn a hammer for not being a screwdriver: both are useful, but if you need one, don't use the other. We need social engineering to perform social engineering, but we need gifted education programs to educate those who can most benefit from them.

After writing that, I thought it sounded familiar, and indeed, found that the Times had made the same lament in June, and I'd responded with this post. So now I'm wondering if I'm disagreeing with the Times for what it's writing, or if I'm disagreeing with the newspaper for not so much reporting the news as turning itself into a club demanding social change.

Interesting sights

Yesterday's trip home provided a couple of out-of-the-ordinary sights that made me smile.

First, in Manhattan, there was a girl walking toward me wearing red canvas Converse high top… boots. They looked just like the sneakers, except they stretched up to just below her knees (something like this). They were bright red, with bright white laces done up neatly. As she passed, I looked back, and saw they had subtle zippers. I like!

Then, riding the subway, there was a man on the Manhattan Bridge walkway with a painting on an easel, looking back at Manhattan. I had the briefest glimpse of the painting (the train was moving), but got an impression of buildings in oranges and reds. I hadn't really thought about the fact that the bricks in those colors used for many of the buildings really does make parts of Manhattan look like it's always autumn. That, and it's rare to see someone set up with the full painting gear on the bridge like that.