Tag Archives: politics aside

Politics Aside: Koo jumps to Democrat Party

| RHornak@queenscourier.com

Republican City Councilmember Peter Koo rang in the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dragon, by becoming Democrat City Councilmember Peter Koo. This might seem very appropriate as Dragons are said to be highly ambitious, driven and unafraid to take risks.

That is good, because this just may be the biggest gamble of Koo’s short political career. Koo was said to be worried about re-election in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans five to one. Afraid that very popular Assemblymember Grace Meng might run against him, Koo seems to have wowed Democratic leaders and now the word is that Meng will look to run for Borough President with party support.

But all might not be secure, for now Koo has to worry about Democratic Primary challengers, who might be able to exploit Koo’s party switch with hardcore, primary-voting Democrats. Party switchers are rarely successful if their switch comes while in office.

Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter is a perfect example. Complaining that the Republican Party was too conservative for him, and afraid of a challenge from his right, Specter finally switched and became a Democrat. Seen as untrustworthy by both sides, Specter was easily defeated in a Democratic primary.

Koo cited differences with national Republicans, and the slate of presidential contenders specifically, especially as it pertains to immigration, as a major deciding factor in his switch. At Koo’s registration change press conference, Assemblymember Rory Lancman arrogantly remarked, “he’s a nice guy, he likes people, he likes the immigrant community.” This was meant to be a slap at Republicans playing on Koo’s immigration excuse.

Meanwhile, only Republicans have actually offered solutions to the problems surrounding illegal immigration. With discussions of guest worker programs, amnesty and making the byzantine immigration process easier and less costly, Republicans are proving to be more immigrant-friendly than Democrats, who seem fine with the status quo of millions of immigrants living in the shadows and being exploited in sweatshops or as slave labor.

Koo also complained about Republican Party outreach in the Asian community. Meanwhile, it was Republican outreach that led to Koo being sought out and asked to run for office. It was expected that Republicans could work with Koo to register Republicans and build a strong Asian following in Flushing. That never quite materialized, and unfortunately never will.

However, the Koo experience was a valuable one for Queens Republicans. It set the blueprint for Republicans on how to reach out in immigrant and minority communities. It showed that by working with respected members of the community who share the majority of conservative, pro-family, pro-business beliefs held by most Republicans and also by most immigrants, Republicans can be successful in immigrant communities.

*On Saturday, January 28, the Queens GOP is holding a Candidates School at the Adria Hotel in Bayside from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Anyone interested in running for office anywhere in Queens should attend. Details are on their web site at www.QGOP.org.

Robert Hornak is a Queens-based political consultant, blogger, and an active member of the Queens Republican Party. The views expressed here are his own.

Politics Aside: The city that doesn’t work

| RHornak@queenscourier.com

No sooner was it announced than we were told it was dead on arrival. Well, announced isn’t really the way to describe it; leaked would be better. Last week it came out that the official Office of the All-Intrusive Nanny State, otherwise known as the Department of Health’s Partnership for a Healthier New York City, had developed a proposal to significantly reduce the number of establishments selling and serving alcoholic beverages in the city.

The goal stated was to reduce excessive and underage drinking. As if longer lines at the local bar would deter teens and alcoholics. The Bloomberg administration immediately announced this proposal was not going to become official policy, causing thousands of small business owners around the city to breathe a sigh of relief that they weren’t about to be targeted by “Big Brother.”

Ultimately, this proves that there are far too many people working in government who have nothing better to do than think up ways to mess with our lives. Whether it’s smoking, trans-fats, salt or anything else, no matter how good the justification may seem is this really what we want government for?

Meanwhile, there are far too many people working in government who just have nothing better to do. Just look at the recent MTA debacle. For the entire week from Christmas to New Year’s, the MTA cut bus service, with the goal of saving money for the cash-mismanaged agency. Unfortunately, thanks to an uncooperative union, the drivers who should have been home with their families, instead were on the job. But with few buses to drive, they spent the week at depots playing cards and watching daytime TV.

If that’s not enough, the NYC economy is not looking good for the coming year. Job growth almost ground to a stop in the second half of 2011, and the city unemployment rate rose to 8.9 percent. The financial services industry lost $3 billion in the third quarter and is expected to fall another 14 percent in 2012.

The bottom line here is that our government doesn’t work. Not well anyway. In good economic times we can find excuses to overlook the overspending and mismanagement. But times aren’t good and look to get worse.  Our taxpayers are strapped. With increases in local taxes, doubling of common civil fines and fees and enforcement on steroids, we are teetering on the brink. There is no more blood to get from this stone.

We can no longer afford an Office of the Nanny State working overtime on how to run our lives or workers on the clock not working at all. It may take some radical ideas to make our government work, but we can’t be afraid of change.

Robert Hornak is a Queens-based political consultant, blogger, and an active member of the Queens Republican Party. 

Let’s set the record straight

| letters@queenscourier.com

Robert Hornak demonstrates, in his “Politics Aside” column of December 29, 2011, his lack of knowledge of both history and of the consequences of “fracking,” all the while making a blatant and undeserved attack on those opposed to the practice of the latter.

While misusing a quote, i.e.: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”, he attributes it, wrongly, to Theodore Roosevelt. The actual statement was, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” and it was made by Franklin D. Roosevelt in his first inaugural address.

Hornak should, if he wishes to try to pass himself off as a responsible journalist, do several things. They are, in no particular order:

A) Not use the awful term “Nazis” in connection with anyone except the terrible perpetrators of the Holocaust that caused suffering and cost so many people their lives;

B) Get his Roosevelts straight and not try to quote from history without making at least some small effort to get it right;

C) Learn a bit more about the process of Hydraulic Fracturing and the terrible effects it has, not only on drinking water, but upon the Earth itself.

When he has done those three things, and only then, should he have the temerity to even think about putting his words into print and to consider himself as being worth the ink that is wasted on him.

Stuart Hersh


Politics Aside: The lie of the temporary tax increase

| RHornak@queenscourier.com

When is a temporary measure, even with a set expiration date, not temporary? When it’s initiated by government, of course. How many times have we been confronted with the supposed risk of major calamity due to state and local government budget shortfalls? How many times were these supposed impending disasters staved off by “temporary” tax increases? And how many times were those temporary tax increases rescinded?

We saw this in 2002, when local politicians told us that a temporary 18.5 percent increase in the property tax was required to keep New York City functioning after the September 11 attacks. And most people believed those politicians that this was a desperate time and this might be necessary in the short term. But it didn’t take the city long to rebound, especially in the financial services industry, which has always been the economic engine for the city.

But that temporary tax increase turned into a permanent increase. Our leaders had become too comfortable with the new rates and new revenue.

The same thing just happened in Albany. Even though Governor Andrew Cuomo pledged not to raise taxes and to allow the income tax surcharge to expire (that was enacted to close a supposed disastrous shortfall in state revenue), that temporary tax increase has just been made permanent.

To justify his reversal, Cuomo claimed that if he didn’t increase taxes, he would be forced to implement “reckless” cuts health care, education and infrastructure. Does anyone believe that was really the other option? He also marginally cut the rate for people earning under $300,000. For earners between $40,000 and $150,000 the rate will be 6.45 percent, up to $300,000 it is 6.65 percent. Previously it was 6.85 percent. So a worker earning $50,000 per year will save $200 annually, or less than $4 a week.

Meanwhile, politicians have wrecked one of the most acclaimed features of the N.Y.S. tax system, its relative flatness and simplicity. Instead, we now have multiple rates that will only serve to confuse. In fact, the latest Quinnipiac University poll shows that 40 percent of New Yorkers think they are getting a tax increase, and only 28 percent think they will get a cut. And the 28 percent will be even more confused when the cut turns out to be more like a nick.

Ultimately, this highlights Cuomo’s failure to control the municipal unions that really run New York government and have a stranglehold over its spending. In spite of promises to tame the union beast that keeps New York state on the edge of bankruptcy and taxpayers on the verge of relocation, Cuomo has made no progress at all. In spite of his current popularity, he just may have fashioned the noose that will hang his administration.

Robert Hornak is a Queens-based political consultant, blogger, and an active member of the Queens Republican Party.

Politics Aside: Watch the falling dominos

| RHornak@queenscourier.com

Watching one of those world-record setting domino falls, where the pieces go off in all different directions and patterns, is like watching politically connected indictments in Queens these days. As the dominos fall, they get closer and closer to knocking down more elected officials.

A few weeks back this column wrote about the Kool-aid many Queens Democrats must be drinking that makes them think what is obviously unethical is somehow permissible for them. Featured were the scandals surrounding Congressmember Gregory Meeks. Now, the man who gave Meeks $40,000, in what was allegedly a loan, but with no repayment terms, interest, or any signed agreement, is reported to be negotiating a plea deal with prosecutors.

Developer Ehul Ahma’s deal, however, seems to be taking an unusually long time to work out, fueling speculation that he has something to offer regarding the Meeks issue, and possibly other Queens electeds. How far this will reach is not known, but would seem to be a bad omen for Meeks.

Meanwhile, the dominos are also falling around State Senator Shirley Huntley, who saw four of her close associates indicted this past week for allegedly stealing $30,000 in taxpayer “member items” Huntley secured for a local non-profit, Parent Workshop, Inc, that she founded before being elected.

The indictments included Lynn Smith, Huntley’s niece and Parent Workshop’s treasurer, and Patricia Savage, Parent Workshop’s President and Huntley’s Chief of Staff. The probe was conducted jointly by the Attorney General and State Comptroller’s offices, and is said to be ongoing, indicating more indictments could follow.

And the dominos are falling fast and furiously around City Comptroller John Liu, who is seeing scandals arising involving almost everyone in his fundraising operation, and has yet to reveal the names of the bundlers from his 2009 campaign, whose names he was supposed to reveal in order to receive matching funds.

One of Liu’s known bundlers, Oliver Pan, was arrested a few weeks back for breaking campaign finance laws, including creating “straw donors” to funnel money above legal limits to candidates. This is an allegation recently made against Liu’s fundraising operation, with many of his donors having no idea they made a contribution, or some seeming not to exist at all.

Keep watching the dominos fall. It’s always entertaining to see the patterns they create, and to see if they will go all the way to the end, taking all the dominos down in one motion.

Politics Aside: Can New York City’s Titanic pension system be saved?

| RHornak@queenscourier.com

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Comptroller John Liu are claiming to have made a deal of “historic” proportions for taxpayers by striking a deal to merge investment authority of the city’s five pension funds under the control of a single independent central management board, with full-time staff led by a newly-created Chief Investment Officer, who would reportedly be paid at a similar level to private investment managers.

The five funds, the Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS), the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS), the Police Pension Fund, the Fire Department Pension Fund, and the Board of Education Retirement System (BERS), will retain their current boards for internal management issues, but will defer to the new board for investment management.

This deal is supposed to save the city over $1 billion a year by boosting investment performance by 1 to 2 percent annually. Meanwhile, the cost of the entire pension system has ballooned over the last 10 years from $1.5 billion to over $7 billion, and are projected to devour fully 20 percent of all New York City revenue in 2012.

Liu and all the major labor leaders are hailing the deal as the solution to the problem of rising pension costs. It may marginally improve the situation, but if Liu and all the power players in Big Labor are calling this a solution, you can be sure it’s at best a stop-gap measure that doesn’t come close to addressing the real problems in our retirement system.

For one thing, there are no guarantees that the funds will perform any better under the new managers than it does under the current investment managers. There have been no major complaints about the performance of the fund, and Liu testified back in February that the funds had a combined 16 percent return for the six month period that ended on December 31, 2010. That was up from 14 percent for the first half of 2010, and during a time of lackluster overall market performance.

Meanwhile, to his credit, Bloomberg has repeatedly proposed real reforms to the pension system, such as raising the retirement age, requiring increased contributions from new municipal employees, and eliminating the $12,000 pension bonus paid out to all uniformed workers upon retirement. Not to undervalue the contribution of these vital employees, but an additional $12,000 bonus hardly seems warranted when it costs the city $1 billion every year.

The fact is that the current system has exposed city taxpayers to a dangerous and unsustainable level of risk, and real, systemic reforms with tangible benefits, such as creating a 401k style system for new workers. Otherwise, we have only consolidated the deck chairs from five Titanics onto one massive sinking ship.

Robert Hornak is a Queens-based political consultant, blogger, and an active member of the Queens Republican Party.