Shining bright lights on backroom deals in the NYC body politic.

Friday, December 30, 2005

OK. Who's It Gonna Be?

You Tell Us!

It's 11:40am on Friday, December 30, 2005. The New Year is only a day-and-a-half away. And the selection of the next City Council Speaker could happen at any moment ... or not.

So, since we didn't have the chance to knock-off six candidates, we've now gotta choose the one.

Who's it gonna be - of the five we have left? Will there be a dark horse?

And to make things a bit more interesting, can you name the trifecta? Can you tell us who you think is going to be the next Speaker, Finance Chair and Land Use Chair?

So here's how we're doing it:

For the first question, place your vote in the sidebar.

And for the second question, email us your picks to If you'd like to have your name remain anonymous, please indicate as such. Otherwise, you stand the chance of being presented as the most astute insider out there.

Voting for the first question will remain open until Queens County makes its announcement. How's that for arbitrary?

And we'll accept submissions for the second question until Wednesday, January 4th, the day the shit officially hits the fan.

Barron Explains

Why He's Not Backing Comrie

Not too long after Council Member Charles Barron declared his outright support for Speaker candidate Comrie, came the sudden announcement that Barron's vote for the Speakership had moved to camp de Blasio.

So last week, Barron took the time to explain to Nayaba Arinde of the Amsterdam News his decision-making process, and to defend how it is exactly that he's now supporting a white male - a group he's referred to repeatedly as having too much power in the city.

Here's a snippet:

If he cannot support a Black man for speaker, Barron said that he will try and use the leverage of the Caucus on the victorious speaker to get as many ''people of color'' in committee chair positions ''and use that to bust up the unbalanced white power structure.''

Yet, and still, he said, ''Even with a few days to go, if we all can get behind Leroy I will support him. But he told me himself that it is going to be between DeBlasio and Christine Quinn.''

Click here to read the article in its entirety.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

It's Hammer Time

The Daddy of all Daddies

Here's what we know.

Ass-kissing time is all but over.

Our sassy seven have done just about all that they can do - funneling money, lending bodies, debating the issues (ummm ... well ... not so much), giving advice, consulting rabbis, brokering deals, passing legislation, making promises, and so on and so on.

Now it's time for the daddy of all daddies to step up to the plate and let 'em rip. It's time for Queens County Chair, Thomas J. Manton, to lay down the law and anoint the next City Council Speaker.

That's right, people. It's time for our electeds to bow down before the ONE they really serve...

In case you had any lingering doubts, this is how it's going to get done - with a bit of help from the Bronx County Chair - and this year, maybe even with some help from Brooklyn's as well.

Word on the street is that an announcement could come as early as tomorrow. We'll see...

But in the mean time, in case you've never had the pleasure, click on any of the following links to read a bit more about Thomas J. Manton - your unelected representative.

From the Daily News
From the New York State Democratic Committee
From the Gotham Gazette

Who's Friendly, Who's Not?

Friends of the Environment

For those of you who don't know (or care, for that matter) the New York League of Conservation Voters releases it's Environmental Scorecard every year ... not too unlike the League of Humane Voters' Scorecard.

Here's how each of your Speaker candidates stacked up environmentally over the past two years.

Bill de Blasio -- 93%
Christine Quinn -- 90%
David Weprin -- 90%
Joel Rivera -- 66%
Leroy Comrie -- 72%
Lew Fidler -- 83%
Melinda Katz -- 72%

News That's Fit to Print

Also Fit for Viewing - Apparently...

Michael Scotto of NY1 jumped into the fray yesterday, adding his spin on the "and then there were two" storyline.

Click here to read it!

Click here to watch it!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Post Holiday Blow-out Sale!!

One Week to S-Day

Alrighty kids, we're down to the last week of this thing.

But you can't possibly end the Speakership hootenanny until you stock up on Backroomie goods and accessories (and we'd like to thank the many of you who already have).

This next offer is good until Wednesday, January 4th ... which shall be known hereafter as S-Day - be it resolved!

The deals follow:

$5 off Sweatshirts and Hoodies (enter coupon code Big5)

$4 off Greeting Cards (enter coupon code Big4)


Voters Rob Katz's Kitty

Thanks for Playin'

We thought Katz had nine lives, but we were wrong. She just had seven.

With 100% of precincts reporting, voters have officially deprived Katz of her last two incarnations. She now joins her colleague and financial grantee, Speaker candidate Joel Rivera, on cast-off island.

Two things to note about this particular vote:

1. Public odds, whatever they're worth, seem to be leaning right now towards a Speaker Quinn.

2. We noticed an unusual voting pattern very early this morning coming from Brooklyn (a surprise to all, we're sure!) which went very heavily against Speaker candidate de Blasio.

The Times Noise Maker

Starting to Sound Familiar

There must be an AP style manual out there on how to write a Speaker's race story. Today, it was Winnie Hu of the Times.

We imagine that this is what the manual says:

Headline: Two on Council Seen as Strong

Intro: The battle is increasingly focused between two candidates, de Blasio and Quinn

Body: Both have been lobbying their colleagues and party leader relentlessly, and will continue to do so through the holidays.

Quote Support: It's a two person race and has been for a while.

Quote Oppose: Nuh-uh. No it's not. And anyone who says so is spinning you like a top (very Hannukahish, btw).

Develop Character #1: Quinn, a Miller ally, is nice. Colleagues like her.

Develop Character #2: de Blasio, Hillary's boy, is also nice. Has strong ties to labor.

Develop Intro/Body Further: No one really has any say except Queens and Bronx Country leaders; and maybe the new Brooklyn leader as well.

Quote Support: We'll make the decision in the backrooms at the last minute.

Quote Oppose: I don't think it should be done this way.

Quote Character #1: The pieces are in place for a victory.

Quote Character #2: I'm going to keep pressing my case.

Conclusion: Lots of time left. Anything could happen ... it is politics.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

1 Down, 6 To Go

Who Will Be Next?

It wasn't so long ago that we asked you guys to fire the first of the seven candidates for Speaker. We asked you who you thought absolutely, positively did NOT stand a chance of achieving the Speakership post.

And you voted Speaker candidate Joel Rivera to be the first to go.

Now it's time to knock-off the second candidate. Who's it gonna be. Who do you think has no chance of making it? (setting aside your personal feelings towards these folks)

Vote now in the sidebar. As always, one blogger, one vote.

The polls will remain open until 2pm tomorrow.

8 Days & Counting

'til We Get the Party Started

Ahhhhh ... the background noise. More and more of it as the sassy seven continue wheeling & dealing their way to a victory next week.

In today's New York Sun, Jill Gardiner quotes bye-bye-to-term-limiteur, Upper West Side Councilwoman Gale Brewer, in a piece that insists the Speaker's race is down to two, Speaker candidates Quinn and de Blasio.

"I really believe it's 50-50," says Brewer. (Note to team de Blasio: must do better job with daily talking points memo.)

Though, not to be outdone, Speaker candidate Weprin insists that he too has got game, calling his colleagues' purported votes of support "very rubbery" and unreliable.

And in the New York Post, former Upper East Side Council Member Charles Millard makes a righteous comeback in an article about how the next Council Speaker will most certainly lean even further left. A true, all around revelation.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Notable Quotable

Michael Reich, Executive Secretary, Queens County Democrats

In case you had any hopes of inserting yourself in any way, shape or form into the people's business (that being the race for the Speakership), Michael Reich of the Queens County Dems, suggests that you think otherwise in this recent piece on the Speaker candidates in the Queens Ledger. Here's a snippet:

"It's [the race for Speaker] more about personality than anything else," said Michael Reich, executive secretary of the Queens County Democrats. "They're pretty much in the same ideological spectrum. Frankly, I don't think [a debate] makes sense, because the public doesn't vote."

Why the Long Nose?

We Couldn't Help Ourselves

This cartoon comes to us by way of Michael Schenkler of the Queens Tribune, which two weeks ago published this scathing review of the Speaker candidates and their plans to lead the next Council in an effort to undo their own term limitations.

Of the candidates' plans, Schenkler has this to say:

Never in my quarter of a century of commenting on government and politics has an elected body ever entertained such a self serving action which so violates the will of the people.

And that, friends, is putting his frustrations mildly!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Mighty Quinn

In the Lead?

In what is a strangely sourced column, David Seifman of the New York Post quotes "one insider" as saying that if the vote were held today, that Speaker candidate Quinn would win.

How's that for news?

But, that one insider does caution that a lot could still happen between now and January 4th. (The other candidates must be relieved.)

That same insider asserts that while de Blasio has amassed the most commitments from his colleagues, that he doesn't have nearly enough to win.

You read it here first, people. Straight to you from the Post on this merry Christmas and Hannukah day.

Friday, December 23, 2005

We Like Being Flip...

... Others Love to Flop

And yet, there are still others who ... well ... seem to like it both ways - if you know what we mean?

In February of 2001, many of your Council Members now gone bye-bye were asked two questions:

1. If they supported Intro 880 which then sought to repeal term limits; and

2. If term limits were repealed, would they seek reelection.

But two of your Council Members did not go bye-bye, and today find themselves as Speaker candidates.

Enter candidates Quinn and Rivera.

Here are the results of how Speaker candidates Quinn and Rivera answered the survey, as well as the record of how they eventually voted (note that an affirmative vote meant keeping term limits in place).

And for kicks, we thought we'd leave you with these recent statements:

Quinn: "I have a long standing opposition to term limits..."

Rivera: "Let's put it this way, when you go to the dentist, do you want someone right out of dental school?"

Uhhhh huhhhh ... ok ... we hear you loud and clear!

To Strike or Not to Strike?

That Was the Question

It just so happened that three of our lovely Speaker candidates piped up back in 2002, the last time a threat of a transit strike rolled around. Here's what Speaker candidates de Blasio, Rivera and Weprin had to say:

On the steps of City Hall yesterday, City Councilman Hiram Monserrate, a Queens Democrat, and eight Democratic Council colleagues called on Gov. George E. Pataki to intervene.

"The reality is a strike would be absolutely devastating," said Councilman Bill de Blasio, of Brooklyn.

But some council members, including Joel Rivera of the Bronx, voiced support for raises. "What they are asking for is a fair pay increase, which is long overdue," he said.

Councilman David I. Weprin, chairman of the Finance Committee, noted that the city was still recovering from last year's terrorist attacks and now facing property tax increases of 18.5 percent. "With a post-Sept. 11 mentality and increased property taxes, there are already people leaving New York," he said. "A strike would be a major disincentive. We could see people leaving the city in large numbers."

- The New York Times,
December 9, 2002

Fido's Choice

Not Throwin' These Dawgs a Bone

This past summer the League of Humane Voters of NYC, the peeps concerned with all things ruff ruff, released their NYC Council Humane Scorecard. As you can see, de Blasio and Katz aced the League's exam, while Quinn and Rivera ... not so much!

Bill de blasio --- 100
Christine Quinn --- 25
David Weprin --- 75
Joel Rivera --- 25
Leroy Comrie --- 50
Lew Fidler --- 75
Melinda Katz --- 100

And of Quinn's positions on various bills (and Speaker Miller's, for that matter), the League did not mince words:

She [Quinn] is not a cosponsor of any of the animal bills in our scorecard and has not worked to have the bill to stop rodeo cruelty scheduled for a hearing in her committee. She has said she does not feel that rodeos are an "“issue" and refuses to meet to discuss it and other humane issues.

He [Speaker Miller] and Council Member Quinn have both been dismissive of the bill to stop rodeo cruelty. Miller has not paid any attention to the pet shop sprinkler bill. In addition, after the pets in housing bill successfully passed the Housing & Buildings committee in December of 2004, he had it sent back, claiming that those who voted yes did so on the condition that it would be changed and sent back.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Comrie in Bloom

Mayor Mikey Likey Comrie

It wasn't so long ago when Mr. Mayor and Speaker candidate Comrie were announcing a predatory lending project in Queens Village.

Dan Janison and Graham Rayman of Newsday reported in October that Comrie then pledged that if he became Speaker, he would fund the project. And as for the Mayor...

"Leroy, I can't take sides, but for the record, you would make a wonderful speaker," Bloomberg said.

We say: that's so sweet!

Deafening Silence!

Now That the Strike Seems Headed to an End...

Just a point of interest...

The silence from the Democratic establishment, particularly from the Candidates for the Speakership post, has been rather deafening - don't you think?

What happened? What did we miss?

Update: In case we missed the speaking-up of the Speaker candidates during the strike, we invite them all to submit their statements to for publication.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Deal Maker or Deal Breaker?

Of de Blasio and Quinn

In a tip of the hat to conventional wisdom, The Crain's Insider recently examined the two rumored frontrunners, taking a look specifically at how Speaker candidates de Blasio and Quinn will wheel and deal real estate in the Big Apple.

Of de Blasio, the piece gave us these mixed messages:

There's no consensus as to which leading candidate would be the most pro-development. Mr. de Blasio is considered the biggest deal-maker among the group. ``If it's a de Blasio administration, there would be negotiation, but projects would go forward,'' says Councilwoman Letitia James, who has not committed her vote.

But another uncommitted council member says Mr. de Blasio puts unions' interest ahead of builders', recalling that the councilman pushed a bill to quash a conversion of the Plaza Hotel to apartments because the project would have eliminated union jobs.

And as for Quinn ... she "is somewhat of a wild card. She backed a large West Side rezoning favored by developers, but she opposed plans to build a football stadium there. She also joined Mr. de Blasio in support of the Plaza Hotel bill, which became moot when the hotel's owners reached a compromise with its union."

A Triumvirate No More

Miller, Quinn & Moskowitz

In last week's New York Observer, the edit heads gave a fond farewell to Speaker Miller and his once close confidant, outgoing East Side Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, calling their departure "a genuine loss for all New Yorkers, not just those on Manhattan's East Side whom they represented."

Which reminded us that so much has transpired since the troika (which included Quinn) took over the Speakership in January of 2002. The most memorable, undoubtedly, were the tumultuous hearings Moskowitz held on the UFT's contract rules. We're quite certain those were the hearings that actually broke Miller's back (at least vis-a-vis Moskowitz).

Current Speaker candidate Quinn and Moskowitz were significant players in Council 2001, Miller's revolutionary PAC that helped launch him into the Speakership. Their support of Miller gained them all sorts of goodies, including Committee Chair posts, additional staff, additional funding as well as access to a much despised Thursday afternoon meeting with the Speaker and his senior staff.

That's what we can tell you, but please, feel free to add your own fond (or perhaps, not so fond) memories of the years gone by...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Fidler on Term Limits

Strategy vs. Morality?

In a rather frank interview with his long time buddy and Queens Tribune publisher, Michael Schenkler (MS), Speaker candidate Fidler (LF) enters into an interesting exchange:

MS: Term limits - the Council changing them is a most egregious step against the people who have voted to impose term limits -- the referendum said 2 terms.

LF: It did. [But] if you poll the death penalty, I'’m told the polls will show 70 something percent - and if you add to the question "or life in prison without parole," the number drops from 70 to 40. If the referendum had been term limits, 8 or 12 years, [then I'’d agree].

MS: So shouldn't you then go back to the people by referendum?

LF: I think that may be where it has to go. I may at some point advocate that. This is not as simple as some of my colleagues think it is. If it winds up in front of the voters [after we have acted], we will have already shot ourselves in both feet. If we take it to the voters it has to be on some sort of level playing field. I am troubled by the fact that the people have voted twice and disagreed with my opinion.

[But] for you it's an issue of morality, for me strategy. As I sit and have this conversation now, I don't see any way that this is not going to wind up as a referendum.

The Rivera Strategy


We know ... we know ... you guys just recently voted him off the island - but what the heck, there's a transit strike today. We've got nothing but time on our hands to dig a little bit deeper.

So in case you were wondering, Speaker candidate Rivera's plan to win the Speakership is as follows:

"If I'’m not your first pick, then I want to be your second choice,"”
Rivera explained to Norwood News reporter, Heater Haddon, in November of how he's been selling his candidacy to his colleagues.

And apparently, to differentiate himself from Speakers past (and present), Rivera adds to his pitch that:

"I will not be running for mayor,"” he said, referring to the career trajectories of the last two speakers, Peter Vallone, Sr. and Gifford Miller. "People can find comfort in that."

So there you have it? Perhaps not...

Haddon reminds us that back in the day (3 years prior), Rivera had this to say to Norwood News about his own career plans once term limits kick-in:

"“I don'’t know exactly what I would run for, but maybe it would be mayor of the City of New York," he said at the time.

So there ... now you have it!

Monday, December 19, 2005

James in da House

de Blasio's House, That is...

On Friday, The Crain's Insider reported that Speaker candidate de Blasio can now count among his supporters Brooklyn Councilwoman Letitia James.

The Insider goes on to say that Bill has all of 14 solid votes in his corner ... which, we can't confirm nor deny.

We've heard numbers as high as 17 ... as low as 13 ... as well as just about all other numbers in between.

So for the time being we'll just leave it at that...

Noon Time Round-up

DN, NY Mag, The Politicker & Fifth Estate All Have Stuff

PO Boss reports this morning about the Daily News edit heads going for the jugulars of the Speaker candidates - as well as for those of their colleagues. So beware!

And Greg Sargent of New York Magazine, questions how much Hillary might factor into the making of the next Council Speaker. Here's a snippet:

“Members want a speaker who’s completely focused on filling their potholes, steering money to their district’s groups, and speaking to their constituents,” a member says. “But it’s a safe bet that a Speaker De Blasio would be spending a fair amount of time in Iowa and other states for Hillary. Bill’s not a local pol; he’s a political operative.”

Meanwhile, The Politicker refutes the notion that the Times' nod to Quinn this past weekend - on which Backroomie reported yesterday - was some kind of first; and reprints a piece the Times ran in January of 1986 about then Speaker Peter Vallone.

And the Fifth Estate reminds us that one Speaker candidate was left off the Times' radar screen entirely. Porque?


Before the Holidays

Midnight tonight is the absolute deadline by which you can take advantage of the following Speakerware and apparel holiday offers:

1. Get 2-day shipping for the price of ground (so gift will arrive in time for Christmas)

2. Get $5 off on orders of $25 or more, enter promo code HL25

3. Get $10 off on orders of $50 or more, enter promo code HL50

4. $5 per item purchased (no matter how large or small) will be divvied among the following organizations (your decision):

Open Secrets (Center for Responsive Politics)

Gotham Gazette

Coalition of Journalists for Open Government


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Times Spin a Quinn Win

Single Source Bill Costs de Blasio

For whatever it's worth in the backrooms, the edit heads at the New York Times today published their preference for the Speakership post.

Of Quinn and de Blasio, who the Times decreed the rumored front runners, the editorial says "Quinn seems the better choice".

The Times raps de Blasio for his energetic lead and support of the union contributions bill that recently passed the Council, concluding that:

If Mr. de Blasio becomes speaker, he will need to demonstrate that he does not favor special interests over good government.

But also of Quinn, the Times warns:

...she would also have to make the leap to a broader civic vision and make certain that she is inclusive even to those who oppose her.

Our personal favorite, though, was the conclusion:

The speaker will also have to be someone who commands the respect of not only the mayor and his administration but New Yorkers who expect more from their council than politics as usual.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

100% of Precincts Reporting

Rivera Voted Off Speaker Island

So, the question we posed for yesterday's vote was as follows:

Who do you think absolutely, positively does NOT stand a chance of achieving the Speakership post?

We've gotta say, the results were a bit surprising, and seem to go strongly against the grain of conventional wisdom.

Seventy-five people voted in this very unscientific election. As for the interpretation of the outcome, that's all you (click on the image to enlarge):

Friday, December 16, 2005

Know Thy Daddy

You Make the Call

We made the calculations of who's dangling the Speaker candidates' purse strings, and published this scorecard (click on the image to enlarge); now the rest is up to you.

We await your commentary.


'Political' refers to contributions made by political & campaign committees.

'Bundled' refers to contributions made through intermediaries.

'<$100' is our measure of grassrootsiness. Show's the percentage of contributions that are $100 or less.

'Average' refers to the average contribution. Also a measure of grassrootsiness.

All calculations are based on CFB data for the 2005 election cycle.

You're Fired!

It's Time to Say Good-Bye

In commemoration of last night's odd Apprentice finale, it's now time to say good-bye to one of our sassy seven Speaker candidates.

Who's it gonna be? Who do you think absolutely, positively does NOT stand a chance of achieving the Speakership post?

Vote in the sidebar now. And as usual, one blogger, one vote.

Voting will end at midnight tonight.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Score for de Blasio?

Barron's On Board

Council Member Charles Barron's gravy train used to be the Leroy Comrie express; except that train apparently never quite left the station. And neither did Rivera's Bronx tail.

So now Barron is hopping on the de Blasio express - so reports el Politicker.

And word to the word to the word to the word on the street ... is that as we were then, we still are now ... down to just two.

(Though we still leave room for a dark horse.)

And It Just Keeps Pourin'

More and More Ducket$

The ducket$ - they're everywhere you turn.

This time, we turn to Speaker candidate David Weprin, whose moolah trail we had yet to follow - until today!

To the point: much like his Queens cohort, Leroy Comrie, Weprin takes oodles of ducket$ from lobbyists, PACs and organized labor. A full 25% of his contributions during the 2005 election cycle came from those sources.

While David's long on organized ducket$, he's short on grassroot$. A measly 19% of his contributing base gave $100 or less, while his average take was a staggering $570 per contribution.

And to round it all off, Weprin took in over $45,000 from real estate interests, which comprised approximately 9% of his total pie.


It's Rainin' Ducket$

Real Estate Ducket$, That Is

In August of this year, Lincoln Anderson of the The Villager ran a story that all but indicted Speaker candidate Christine Quinn for being on the take of the city's real estate interests.

In the piece, Anderson took Quinn on a journey through various contributions made to her by real estate developers, and attempted to connect those contributions to her hurried stance on Far West Village rezoning efforts. The story concluded with Quinn defending herself this way:

“A developer by definition is not a bad thing, is not the devil or a disreputable profession,” Quinn said. “The reason not to take money from people is if you feel beholden to that, and my record speaks for itself — I’m not beholden to the people that give me money.”

Subsequent letters to the editor expressed a good bit of rage, and continued to raise doubts of Quinn's defense.

Rachel Chanoff, a community activist, had this response:

Of course a politician isn’t necessarily in the pocket of her campaign benefactors. But Quinn needs to do more than point out that she has disagreed in the past with some of her financial supporters. The fact is that a long list of people who have given Quinn money are integrally involved in efforts to undermine, outflank and bulldoze the campaign to downzone and landmark the West Village.

And then a group of 11 other West Side activists, had this to say:

Quinn effectively bulldozed half of the Clinton and Chelsea neighborhoods for her ambition to be Council speaker. To create an illusion of concern, she created a developer-driven fake grassroots (a.k.a. Astroturf) organization, financed and run by developers, not the community. While they were against the stadium, they were pushing for all the office towers. The public wasn't told of her lie.

But, in all fairness, to Quinn's aid did come one George Comiskie, President of the Westbeth Artists Residents Council. Here's what he had to say:

For the record, I contributed $100 to her campaign. Does this suggest I am trying to buy influence? No. I am trying to help keep an excellent councilmember in office.

(To review Backroomie's pursuit of the candidates' money trails, click here ... Bill de Blasio, Christine Quinn, Leroy Comrie, David Weprin, Joel Rivera, Lew Fidler, Melinda Katz)

The Trick of the Trade

A la Former Council Speaker Peter Vallone

''In this business, you try not to burn bridges. Your enemy today could be your best friend tomorrow -- and vice versa.''

- New York Times,
June 21, 2005

Transit Strike Holiday Special!

Thinking Inside the Box

Forget the outside, it's what's on the inside of that gift box that really matters this holiday season.

And what better way to celebrate the holidays (especially if the transit strike strikes) than with your seven, lovingly caricatured Speaker candidates purchased right here, right now, online?

The beauty of this purchase?

First, someone you care about (or not) will end up with a treasured piece of the Backroom. Second, proceeds from your purchase will go to any one or all of these three lovely organizations (your decision).

Open Secrets (Center for Responsive Politics)

Gotham Gazette

Coalition of Journalists for Open Government

Lastly, if you make your purchase before December 19th, you can receive two-day shipping for the price of ground, and for you big spenders, a substantial 20% off your entire purchase if it exceeds $50. (Simply enter promo code: HOL20).

How do you like them apples?

Good wares. Good cause. Good price! Just all around goodness.


And yes ... we know ... we're shameless self-promoters!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Ta Ta 2 Term Limits

The Evening Curtain Call

In her 1 minute 41 seconds interview with WNYC's Bob Hennelly, Speaker candidate Christine Quinn managed to hit this point home:


At the top of the Speaker Quinn to-do agenda ... the repeal of term limits.

Quinn says the current limit only shifts power to lobbyists and permanent council staff, away from Council Members.

Meanwhile, Speaker candidate David Weprin had this to say to Hennelly about the Council's efforts:

I'm philosophically opposed to term limits. Having said that, the voters did vote twice and we should be careful before we deliberate and make any definitive decisions. There are a lot of pros and cons to term limits...

Ummm ... OK!

And from today's New York Observer:

“You can get a lot done in four years,” said Brooklyn Councilman Bill de Blasio, a candidate for Speaker, who nevertheless argued that the position could be vastly fortified by extra seasoning. “In the end, the ability to work over a longer time frame increases effectiveness. Your ability as a broker, an honest broker and a leader, is greatly enhanced if you are around for a longer amount of time.”

For more on the term limits brouhaha, click here!

Get Your Hands Off My Term Limits

Independence Party Gets into the Act

The next Council Speaker will undoubtedly have their hands full!

On Monday, PO Boss reported on the newly formed People to Stop a Self Serving Council.

And now, we are told that the next Speaker should add this latest project of The New York City Independence Party to their list of concerns,

Though, strangely, the Hands Off Term Limits online petition is addressed to lame duckster, Speaker Miller (who, btw, has already committed to keeping his hands off term limits for the duration of his Speakership).

Weprin's Mystery Man

Heeeeeeere's Larry...

We can't help ourselves. Once you get us goin', we're gone.

So next up in our debut vox populi series is a gentleman who has built up quite a rep for his 'letter to the editor' writing skills ... Larry Penner.

Do you know Larry? Gawker knows Larry; their scribes call him the International Man of Mystery.

We here at Backroomie just call Larry the Man from Great Neck Who's Not So Impressed with Speaker Candidate David Weprin. Shorter titles escape us this morning.

Anyway, here's an excerpt of the ending. While we can't exactly endorse everything Larry has to say, we do strongly suggest a full read, if only for entertainment's sake, of the beginning and middle of Larry's latest rant in the Legislative Gazette (which, btw, is the Weekly Newspaper of the New York State Government):

Sorry, but inheritance of a famous family name (the late Democratic state Assembly Speaker Saul Weprin), previous local and county Democratic clubhouse support in handing you a local City Council seat in 2001 along with chairmanship of the very powerful and influential City Council finance committee doesn't necessarily make one a competent candidate for council speaker. Perhaps Councilman Weprin and some other Democratic elected officials from Kings County have forgotten that in America most people climb the ladder of success the old fashion way, on your own merits and work ethic rather than cash and carry.

And the rest can be found here!

The Vox

de Blasio's Pimps & Johns

The PO Boss has already started to scan far and wide for voices outside of City Hall's inner circle. And such must be the case for Backroomie as well. Cuz you never know what you're gonna find out there.

Take Steven H. from Amherst, MA, wandering soul and author of the now defunct The Vastness of Pavement blog.

Turns out that on June 10, 2005, Steven had an interview with one Peter [Hatch] of de Blasio fame. Unfortunately, Steven's blog died soon after his encounter in the City, but not before leaving us with some entertaining tidbits. An excerpt of Steve's observations follows:

Another good way to line up votes is to help colleagues--and potential colleagues--win their races. That's where Peter came in. His main function was to broker volunteers out to friendly campaigns as a gesture of thanks for their future speaker vote. The way I saw it, I was just one of the pimp's many bitches being passed around to various johns.

On the one hand, it was cool he planned to send me all around the city, meeting new people and... well, pretty much giving me something to do besides wander. But in another sense...

Click here to continue!

Constituent Lip Service

Pucker Up

Hi. Publique Advo Kate here. Remember moi?

So, just a friendly reminder that Mission 1 here at the Deal Breaker is to close the ever widening gap between the people and their pols (all sorts of puns intended).

But to do this effectively, you've gotta spoon me ... oops ... I mean scoop me!

Here's what I'm trying to figure out right now, and I'm sure many of you could be of help. I'd like to know if any of our sassy seven Speaker candidatos have .... ummmmm ... let themselves go a little bit, especially when it comes to constituent services in their own backyards.

Have one too many calls gone unanswered? Has a constituent gotten ... oh I don't know ... how do I say this .... EVICTED ... because of a bit of inaction?

Basically, I'd like to know if our peeps are still serving the people?

Any investigative assistance you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

And if you're not so secure in your emailhood, feel free to click here for a list of free anonymous emailing services. Again, email us at

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Masterminding the Possibilities

Joel's Sugar Daddy

A cursory glance at Speaker candidate Joel Rivera's financial filings seems to reveal a fairly run-of-the-mill Council spread. You've got your unions comprising 15% of JR's contributions; you've got your lobbyists and PACs at 11%; and real estate at 10%.

Joel's grassrootsiness seems pretty good as well. A respectable 48% of Rivera's contributors gave $100 or less, while the average contribution fell at a very reasonable $280.

Lookin' good! Lookin' good!

Enter Radame Perez II.

Radame is the Executive Vice President of Mastermind Real Estate Development Corp.

Radame is also Rivera's largest financial intermediary (aka "bundler"). Radame brought in over $21,000 to Rivera's campaign coffers ... meaning that Radame - and Radame alone - now owns 21% of Rivera Corp.

Coincidentally, Radame also serves on Community Board 6 in the Bronx, where he co-chairs both the Land Use and the Economic Development committees.

We say: very synergistic!

Think Radame's got game?

Honestly, we haven't a clue ... but if access to Rivera ever becomes a problem for you, we suggest simply emailing your outrage to Radame at

Weprin & de Blasio

On the Move

Speaker candidate David Weprin will join the NYPD and community activists to announce a major arrest of a graffiti vandal who has been spray painting "DEMO'' throughout Eastern Queens and burglarizing homes.

Location: 211-19 Jamaica Ave., Queens @ 3pm today

And simultaneously, at 3pm, Speaker candidate Bill de Blasio will be testifying at the Campaign Finance Board's post-election hearings.

Location: 40 Rector Street, 7th Floor

Katz's 9 Lives


Ever seen mealymouthed Katz? Neither had we. But apparently Errol had. He herds Katz for a living. Which made us want to feed on Katz's financial privileges.

Not to be outdone, Charles Millard thought it better to slap Katz in a NY Post op-ed. So, we decided to reign in Katz and the other dawgs for no-showing a debate. And in a total non-sequitur, Bob Hennelly of WNYC started waxing & waning about the caring of Katz.

Which brings us to the present, where Frank Lombardi of the Daily News stacks Katz among the City's top political contributors in the 2005 election cycle. He notes that most of Katz's $80K in contributions ended up in her colleagues' pockets. Which, as far as we're concerned, buys a whole lotta Katz food!

For those keeping track - 7 lives down, 2 to go!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Next Speaker Must Settle the Score

17-9 ... Neys Lead It!

Thanks to some very generous reader input - as well as Citizen Union's latest web patch - the PO Boss was able to generate a Monday afternoon update as to where each of our Council Members (and Council Members-elect) stand on undoing the will of the voters come term limits time.

So far, we've counted 17 members who are on the side of "not gonna do it". And as far as we can tell, 9 members are ready to roll, ready to undo the world as we know it.

For kicks, we thought we'd give the next Speaker a preview of what they will have to face. Again, we turn to the CU candidate questionnaires:

Council Member Alan Gerson (1st, Manhattan): The current Council should be limited to 2, 4-year terms. Future Councils should be permitted to serve longer if approved by voter referendum but not by a City Council vote alone.

Council Member-elect Dan Garodnick (4th, Manhattan): While I do not favor term limits, I will not vote to change them as a member of the City Council. These term limits were decided through the referendum process, and I do not support reversing that through a Council vote.

Council Member-elect Melissa Mark-Viverito (8th, Manhattan): I believe that the people have spoken on this issue and that decision should be respected. Any changes should be proposed in a referendum and should not be decided in the halls of the City Council. What I do encourage is the staggering of terms to ensure that we do not lose any institutional memory and to have a more effective Council.

Council Member Oliver Koppell (11th, Bronx): I support a change to at least 16 years if not an outright repeal of term limits.

Council Member James Sanders (31st, Queens): I have always supported three terms (of 4 years each).

Council Member-elect Darlene Mealy (41st, Brooklyn): I favor extending or eliminating term limits, but the question should be decided by the voters.

Council Member Vincent Gentile (43rd, Brooklyn): While the benefits of term limits can be meritorious, I would support modifying the number of terms served by councilmembers.

Good Goo-goo

Citizens Union Responds

We'd like to commend the folks at Citizens Union for taking the time to engage. We posted this criticism earlier today, and by 3:00pm they sent us this response:



We write in response to, "Goo-goo Gone Bad,"” 12 December 2005.

When we recently moved the Citizens Union Voters Directory from our homepage to archive it, we unintentionally omitted a link to the questionnaires. Now that this oversight has been discovered, the link will be posted on this page: For your information, the present iteration of is only an interim site as we are in the process of building a more accessible, searchable and extensive website in the coming months.

We are glad to know that you value this information. This is the first year that Citizens Union has made its candidate questionnaires available online to the public. We are happy to be transparent in providing this resource to the public.


Doug Israel
Director of Policy and Advocacy

Sara Stuart
Director of Development and Communication

Got Caption?

More to come...

Goo-goo Gone Bad?

Our Regrets

We may have gone against our better judgment in making the Gotham Gazette one of the beneficiaries from the sales of our holiday Speaker-ware and apparel. We believe the
Gazette to be a fine publication, but thoughtlessly separated it from Citizens Union, its parent organization.

Soon after we posted, readers started piping-up about their distaste for CU - with whom, admittedly, we also have had reservations. So we decided to let purchasers dictate to us how they want proceeds from their purchases allocated among the three organizations.

But nevermind that. What we discovered this weekend, in the process of researching this latest piece on the Council's efforts to repeal term limits, was even more disturbing.

CU seems to have pulled a slight-of-hand. Since we last reported using answers from the 2005 candidate questionnaires that were posted on the CU website (see this piece on term limits and this piece on lulus), the questionnaires ... well ... THEY'VE DISAPPEARED!

All that remains are a bleary-eyed matrix summarizing candidates' responses as well as the official CU Voter Directory (with only CU's analysis of the candidates' answers). No
longer available are copies of the candidates' answers, in the candidates' own words.

So, here's our resolve. We're going to give CU 24-hours to explain to us why the questionnaires have been pulled off-line, who was behind that decision and while we're at it, why there are no archives of responses from elections past.

The statement can either be emailed to us at or posted in the comments section. We'll then post their explanation, and wait to read what you - the readers - have to say about it.

And if they don't respond, we'll simply yank the Gotham Gazette off the beneficiary list. Financially, probably not a big loss for CU, but silence will speak volumes ... we guarantee it!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Weprin Protests Fed Tax Reform Commission

On the Move

Monday, December 12th, 11 a.m.

Speaker candidate David Weprin, chairman of the Council Finance Committee, and other lawmakers, will protest the recommendations of the Federal Tax Reform Commission

@ City Hall

Friday, December 09, 2005

Holiday Gifts Perfected!

Backroom Speaker-ware & Apparel

Hey. You voted on it. So, we created it!

We've slapped our debut design on every gift option known to mankind - long sleeve t's, hoodies, caps, magnets, mugs, baby clothing, greeting cards, and even a t-shirt for your dog.

Not only do these items make for perfect holiday gifts, but once we cover our expenses, the proceeds from the sales of these items ($5/item) will go towards the following three organizations that promote transparency in government:

Open Secrets (Center for Responsive Politics)

Gotham Gazette

Coalition of Journalists for Open Government

Let's just say, we like to put our money where our loud mouths are...


Please Note: Some concerns have been raised about the allocation of proceeds. We certainly appreciate these concerns, and would like to offer folks making purchases the opportunity to tell us how they want their monies allocated among the three organizations.

Once you've made a purchase, simply email us your allocation to

Thank you!

It's Like 10,000 Spoons...

...When All You Need is a Knife

In his farewell speech at City Hall yesterday, outgoing Council Speaker Gifford Miller urged his colleagues NOT to dump term limits on their own - as Frank Lombardi reports in today's Daily News.

But mind you, Speaker Miller was the person who made undoing the legislature's terms legislatively a real possibility. As the Gotham Gazette recently reminded us:

In 2002, term limits again became an issue when City Council Speaker Gifford Miller proposed an amendment, arguing that a quirk in the law would force him and five other members out of office after serving less than eight years. Michael Bloomberg opposed the measure, but the council overrode his veto. A court upheld the new law, allowing Miller, who is now running for mayor, to stay in office until the end of 2005.

Click here to read the article in its entirety.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

As We Speak

Speaker Miller Says Sayonara

Our first posting asked if you knew this dude.

Now this posting bids this dude a fond farewell.

Speaker Miller's farewell reception is just now kicking-off in the Rotunda of City Hall. It'll go on until 5pm this evening.

Gotham Gazette recently took an in-depth look at Miller's tenure. It's a worthwhile read.

The rest ... friends ... is history!

Labor Kudos to Billy-D

And an FU to the CFB

Having reported on all the negative pieces on Speaker candidate de Blasio's recently passed, single-source union contributions bill, we thought it only fair to spread the more honorable mentions.

This, from Brian McLaughlin, President of the New York City Central Labor Council:

After a long and intense fight by the leadership of the New York City Central Labor Council, we have won a very important victory with the City Council’s overwhelming passage of Intro. 564A, an outstanding piece of legislation -- spearheaded by Council Member Bill DeBlasio -- designed to reverse the unfairly restrictive rule imposed earlier this year by the Campaign Finance Board limiting campaign contributions by local affiliated labor unions to a “single source.”

Click here to read further.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Council Bathrooms Are This Way

No More Excuses, Please!

Ok. Here's the scoop.

The Council bathroom situation follows: there is one men's bathroom & one women's bathroom in the basement of City Hall, one unisex bathroom in the Speaker's office corridor, one unisex bathroom in the Speaker's office itself, and then there's one men's bathroom in the Council Chamber (back right, if you're staring front to back) and one women's bathroom right outside the Council Chamber, literally, on your right as you exit.

We didn't know whether this item should go on our term limits blog, or on this one. But Speaker candidate Lew Fidler made the decision easy.

This past summer he was quoted in The New York Times, justifying an end to term limits as we know them:

Councilman Lewis A. Fidler, a Brooklyn Democrat who has opposed term limits, said he would probably support permitting council members a third consecutive term.

''We spend two years finding out where the bathroom is, and the next two years raising enough money to get re-elected,'' Mr. Fidler said.

And once incumbents win a second and last term, he added, ''everyone is going to spend the next four years figuring out what they want to be when they grow up.''

Are You Lost in Translation?

If So, We Apologize!

It recently dawned on us that too often we throw around words that have more meaning to NYC political insiders than they do to people on the outside.

So we'd like to provide you a handy guide to our lingo, political and otherwise. We've linked this guide to the sidebar, so it's always there for you if you need it. It'll be continuously updated.


Bitch-slap: same as in the non-political world; settin' someone straight

Campaign Finance Board: aka the CFB; administers the political campaign financing program for the City of New York; administers public funds to eligible campaigns, and also requires that these campaigns periodically report their spending. The CFB makes it easier to follow the money trail.

Candidate questionnaire: many organizations require that candidates running for office provide their stances on various issues in order to be considered for endorsement.

Charter Revision Commission: an appointed group of people charged with reviewing the entire Charter of the City of New York, holding hearings in all five boroughs to solicit public input, and issuing a report outlining findings and recommendations to amend or revise the Charter.

Chief of Staff: the top managerial official of any elected representative.

Clusterfuck: the tangled web of relationships that is politics

Commuter Tax: a tax imposed on people who live outside of New York City, but work within it; the theory is that these people utilize city services and should pay their share.

County organizations:
the umbrella Democratic organization for each of the city's five boroughs

as in, who's your daddy?; when we use the word daddy we're usually referring to a person or group of people that have or are likely to have influence over an elected official

District Leader:
unpaid and the lowest-ranking elected officials in NYC, though they can play an important part in helping shape a district’s agenda

slang for money

Franchise: a privilege or right officially granted a person or a group by the government

as in, front-woman or -man; somebody who performs actions on behalf of someone else.

Goo-goo: slang for "good government" groups; government watchdogs

Grassrootsiness: describes how closely tied an elected official is to their base of constituents.

Gray Lady:
aka The New York Times

Herding cats: commonly used reference describing the job of the Speaker of the City Council (as in 51 different Council Members to herd)

Legislative Fiat: authorized or sanctioned by the legislature

Lobbyists: a group of people engaged in trying to influence legislators or other public officials in favor of a specific cause.

Lulus: stipends paid above and beyond the mandated salary to City Council Members; the amount is usually determined by the Speaker of the City Council, and traditionally has been based on loyalty.

Matching funds: public monies that the Campaign Finance Board doles out to participating political campaigns based on how much they have raised.

Pay to play: quid pro quo; you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.

Praise/Wrath Scorecard: a scorecard we keep to monitor our own reporting.

Public Advocate: 2nd in line to the Mayoralty, this person acts as the City's watchdog and as New Yorkers' ombudsperson.

Rabbi: this one's of the non-Jewish variety; it's a person who has influence over another.

the submission of a proposed public measure or actual statute to a direct popular vote.

the leader of the 51-member body of the New York City Council

Unelected staff: the staff that supports our elected officials and comprises the bureaucracy that is our government.

Quick Study Speaker Candidates?

Demographics 101

Over on PO Boss, CUNY Professor John Mollenkopf weighs in today on where one might find the base of support that was the 1993 term limits referendum. We imagine some of our readership will find the quick analysis particularly interesting.

Have fun!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Late-Aft Blog Stroll

We're Lookin' Out for You

The Boss, as in PO Boss, puts Speaker candidate Quinn & some of her Council colleagues on the record on term limits and here; and also previews what cosmetics magnate Ron Lauder might have in store for the next Speaker.

Meanwhile, The Fifth Estate gives what is perhaps the best reason to keep term limits in place. Speaker Miller goes on the record with the obvious.

Katz Money. The Politicker gives a nod to Speaker candidate Katz for her tremendously inefficient campaign; and also gives a shout-out to Speaker Miller for being most inefficient in the race for the Mayoralty.

And Gothamist got into the act this weekend, reporting on the Times' coverage of the term limits saga - and like our own Publique Advo-Kate, encouraging readers to weigh-in.

Stay tuned! More to come...

Meet Publique Advo-Kate

She'll Do You Good

Buckle your seat belts. Sweet Ms. Advo-Kate is here to tell you how it is, and how it isn't; and to help you express yourself to the establishment - if you know what we mean.

If you have a Speaker fave, you gotta holla! But to do so, you first gotta know who represents you; click here to find out.

Then, Publique says, you gotta call them, write them, email them and fax them. And if you want a gold star, show up at their offices. Do all the above - over and over again. Just make sure that your choice for Speaker has been heard.

And be relentless. Tell your elected officials that you'd like to know in advance who it is they plan to vote for. And better yet, tell them that your support rides on their vote.

And don't just call your Council Member. Call your State Assemblymember, State Senator, and Congressional Representative. The clusterfuck is all-encompassing; everyone's a rabbi to someone. Amen!

Stay tuned. More to come from Ms. Advo-Kate! But in the meantime, if you have any questions, or would simply like to report your successes, you can email Publique at Ms. Advo-Kate's on call 24/7.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Pay to Play?

City Council Loses 44-43

This past weekend, the Speaker candidates - along with some of their colleagues - hooped it up against their New York State Assembly counterparts.

All we can tell ya is that it wasn't perty!

During last year's game, elected officials from the New York State Assembly and the City Council announced a $50,000 allocation to help upgrade the Hostos Community College gym so that it could become an NCAA-recognized venue.

But here's our question: why is Speaker candidate Comrie standing in the back row?

(David Greene contributed to this piece. For more on David,

Katz's Caring Contributions

Defending the Doling of Ducket$

Katz also spoke with WNYC's Bob Hennelly, and here's how she defended the practice of contributing over $30,000 to the campaigns of 20 of her colleagues.

"I think it's ethical. Because I think that I'm in the council - I want to work with colleagues that I care for, and I want to work with colleagues that I believe are good for the body."

Fidler Stomping on the Roof

Of the House of Miller

In a recent interview with WNYC's Bob Hennelly, Speaker candidate Fidler had this to say of Speaker Miller's handling of the Jennings Sexual Harassment affair:

"Oh, we should have done everything differently. And when it should have been private, it became public; and when it should have been public, it became private. The entire matter was an embarrasment to the Council, and made me sometimes a little bit ashamed."

Fair Factor

Staring Fairness in the Eye

So this marks the 2nd release of the much ballyhooed Praise/Wrath Scorecard.

This is our attempt to keep ourselves honest - or at least as transparent as possible - as we continue to call it like we see it.

We've obviously got some work to do.

This is simply a snapshot of our coverage to date. The numbers represent mentions - positive, negative and neutral.

Again, our goal in the end is to be balanced and evenhanded. We're working on it!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Disinfecting the Speaker's Race

A Breath of Fresh Air?

Who knows? But we're happy to read that others see the value of sunlight...

Here are some recent headlines and quotes:

Speaker Race Comes Out of The Smoke Filled Room - Wonkster, December 2, 200

Prying open backroom door in Speaker's race - Metro, November 30, 2005

All this fresh air around the race for City Council Speaker seems to be causing a bit of discomfort around -- gasp! -- policy issues. - The Politicker, November 30, 2005

"It'’s amazing that this is becoming a public process. It's a good idea because it raises the visibility of the office. If the City Council is to check and balance the mayor, it may have to go public, or at least claim there's citywide support for them."” - Hunter College Political Scientist, Kenneth Sherrill

This closed affair, with January's voting limited to the 51 members, is an unseemly orgy of back room dealmaking and pay-to-play cash outlays. - Daily News, November 4, 2005