Money talks


| vmimoni@queenscourier.com |



It looks like Mayor Bill de Blasio may have seen the light at the end of the rainbow, as he seems to be accepting a less-than-total victory on universal pre-K and after school programs.  While visiting a pre-K sign-up center in our sister borough (Brooklyn), Hizzoner actually said “the wind’s in our sails” on the program.

Parents, please note: the new deadline to sign up your child for pre-K is April 23.

Of course, the mayor is still miffed about not getting his semi-millionaire tax pot o’ gold, although he is off the hook if universal pre-K doesn’t begin with a big bang. Expect to hear, “if we get the funding from Albany” in the answer to every question even distantly related to the subject.

Oddly enough, a compromise funding plan floated in the State Senate of all places – currently under the control of Republicans and Democrats – has drawn skepticism from Governor Andrew Cuomo and praise from de Blasio.

They say that money talks, so maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that the debate on the other big education issue, namely charter schools, continues in a rather odd place – a radio show hosted by John Catsimatidis, the richest man to ever run for mayor and lose.

The new radio show, “The Cats Roundtable,” debuted at 970 on the AM radio dial last Sunday from 9 to 10 a.m. and featured two governors of New York – current Democrat Andrew Cuomo and former governor George Pataki, a Republican.

In another display of bipartisanship, the two slammed de Blasio’s lack of enthusiasm for charters, with Cuomo continuing his praise for the “little laboratories” that are being threatened by “a big bureaucracy” with “their little public relations teams … their front groups and their advocates.”

Clearly, the gov was raising the expectation bar on de Blasio’s negotiation with the unions when he offered that “[P]utting more money into the bureaucracy is not necessarily the answer. In fact, we know it’s not the answer, because we’ve done that for 20 years, and it’s not working, so maybe we should try something else.”

With all the aplomb of a snake handler, Cuomo isolated the “the bureaucracy” by turning to the back of the political textbook. “The answer is fixing the public education system and making it better at large,” he announced. “But I do believe [charter schools] provoke the conversation. I don’t want to see them end.”

Pataki, the former three-term governor who was never known for rousing oratory, managed to turn de Blasio’s favorite word against him when it came to the popular charter schools. “It’s just terrible to see the new mayor looking to roll back all of this progress we’ve made for over a decade now,” he said with a sigh.

Catsimatidis, who lost the GOP mayoral primary to Joe Lhota last year, may be using the show to hone his communication skills.

About his program, the supermarket/real estate/aircraft/refinery mogul said, “People are anxious to hear more about some of the issues we raised during the campaign.”

Whether they’re interested enough to turn on the radio at that hour on Sunday morning is another question.

**

As we discussed recently, volunteers are out collecting petition signatures for congressional races, which naturally demonstrates another reason why politics is so entertaining, in the form of the Independence Party.

Unbeknownst to thousands who registered as “Independents,” which normal people would think meant “independent of any political party,” they are actually members of this splintered, splinter party.

With a conflicted upstate/downstate leadership and lack of discernable platform, some pols are calling for a boycott of the group as a bunch of virtual racketeers selling their endorsement to the highest bidder. Others view the party line as a relief for those who like a candidate but can’t bring themselves to vote for them under their actual party affiliation.

In the race for the third Congressional District, which spans the north shore from western Suffolk into Queens, incumbent Steve Israel, a Democrat, is petitioning for the Independence line. In Nassau County, Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs (former state party chair) is calling for a boycott of the Independence party.

Nassau County executive, Republican Ed Mangano, tore into Jacobs at a recent property tax pres conference with Governor Cuomo, calling the boycott “bullying.” Meanwhile, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the presumptive GOP candidate to run against Cuomo, is siding with Jacobs on the boycott.

Cuomo coyly dodged the question by saying he wasn’t familiar with Nassau County politics.

Oh, yes. You can check your party registration at the Board of Elections website. But even if you change now it won’t take effect until the next general election (in November).

**

The ground may be rumbling in LA and in the 11th State Senate district thanks to an earthquake and the abandonment of the Senate Democratic Caucus by Tony Avella, respectively, but thus far, only one person has expressed real interest in running against him – a Republican.

I ran into this gentleman at the annual St. Patrick Society of Queens Dinner last week, where I was an olive-oil Irishman for a day (hello, I’m Victor O’Moni.) He’s a businessman and civic activist but hasn’t conferred with GOP County leadership.

Considering how Avella used to whine that the district was gerrymandered to favor then-incumbent Republican Frank Padavan (by being merely 3.5 to 1 Democrat), we hope Senator Avella won’t lose any sleep over this.