Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kicking Clinton Upstairs

Bizarrely, just when Senator Clinton actually appears to have started giving a shit about transit after almost seven years of completely ignoring it, we may actually have a chance to get rid of her. It looks like she'll be our next Secretary of State, where her lack of principles may turn out to be an asset.

Apparently I wasn't the only one whose first reaction to the possibility of Secretary Clinton was "you mean she won't be Senator anymore?" The problem is that nobody that Jeremy Peters talked to thought "So who would be a really good advocate for New York in the Senate," but instead, "So who would the Democratic establishment in New York like to see in the Senate?"

Attorney General Cuomo? Seriously, what has he done in the past two years, except keep Jeanine Pirro out of office? What did he accomplish as HUD Secretary - except get the ball rolling on the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac mess? Congressman Higgins? Who is he, and what has he done for New York State? Lowey? Meeks? Israel? Do we really want someone who's played it safe for god knows how long? Velazquez at least has taken some initiative on something, although I'll be damned if I can remember what it is.

RFK Junior? Caroline Kennedy? Do we really want another political dynast who'll camp out here for just long enough to springboard into the Administration? No. Plus, I think RFK Jr. has done some good things, but I haven't heard much from CBK. If one of them wants a senate seat, I think their uncle should retire and give them his.

Who would be the transit candidate for Senate, somebody who has actually made rail a priority in Washington? Jerry Nadler, that's who. He's the only one that makes sense; the rest of the city's delegation has been completely useless. The only other possibility would be Chuck Rangel, but he's under a cloud right now.

But, Peters warns us, the natives are restless upstate: the governor, State Senate majority and (current) minority leaders, assembly speaker and senior senator are all from the NYC area. Hence floating the name of Brian Higgins. Well, you know we do have liberals from upstate. What about Maurice Hinchey or John Hall?

You know what Senate appointment might do the most for transit and livable streets in New York State? Anthony Weiner. Think about it: he's running for Mayor next year and he's been consistently against congestion pricing and bridge tolls, and pretty lukewarm about everything else. Appointing him to the Senate would probably discourage him from running for Mayor. He couldn't do worse in DC than he would in City Hall, and it's hard to imagine a him being a less enthusiastic transit supporter than Clinton.

In fact, there's a few politicians I'd like to see kicked upstairs like that; too bad we don't have more senate seats. Would Sheldon Silver say no to a Senate appointment? He'd finally have an excuse for all those plane trips to D.C. But maybe we'd just get Speaker Brodsky instead. At least somebody already found a way to get rid of Iris Weinshall.


Gary said...

Senator Weiner? Dear God.

I like Nydia Velazquez as a potential candidate. I think she'd be particularly good given the infrastructure spending package I anticipate. You can bet Brooklyn would see some projects.

Her district guy Dan Wylie is pretty terrific as well. Cyclist, environmentalist, smart, and a good guy.

Unknown said...

Nydia brings a nice ethnic and sexual balance to the equation. However, my favorite in both policy and political terms is Tom Suozzi. Chiefly he helps Patterson more than Nydia would. Patterson will hold most of the Latin vote regardless and Nydia wouldn't add much to his count. Suozzi is from the burbs where Paterson needs to build support for his run for election. Suozzi opposed Spitzer. He also headed Spitzer's Property Tax Relief Commission, very important in the burbsAnd, his father employs Patterson's father in his law firm.

But on the policy stuff Suozzi has long supported tolling the bridges and congestion pricing, asking only that Nassau get a piece and never asking that they get as big a piece as the burbs presently take out of the bridge and tunnel formula. I thought pretty progressive in the whole.

Unknown said...

New York’s Next Senator
Eric Trager - 12.19.2008 - 3:09 PM

In politics, “rumors” regarding candidates’ supposedly modest “interest” in pursuing higher office typically mask full-fledged strategies for victory. In this vein, Caroline Kennedy has quickly moved beyond mere “interest” in Hillary Clinton’s soon-to-be-vacated Senate seat - she is now pursuing it aggressively on multiple fronts.

On Wednesday, Kennedy’s bizarre non-campaign of sorts brought her to Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse, where she listed her sterling qualifications: “I’ve written books on the Constitution and the importance of individual participation. And I’ve raised my family.” (Naturally, Kennedy declined to mention her one actual bit of political experience: chairing the vice-presidential search committee that produced the embarrassing Joe Biden.)

Meanwhile, New York City Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey - Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s Karl Rove - was hard at work phoning labor leaders on Kennedy’s behalf. Indeed, despite Governor David Paterson’s promise that he won’t appoint anyone until late January, New York’s political establishment seems ready to converge around Kennedy and move on.

Of course, much of Kennedy’s appeal is the result of New York’s incredibly unappealing Democratic congressional delegation, which would normally be the talent pool for filling Senate seats. Few of New York’s House representatives have any name recognition beyond their districts, and those that do - the erratic Anthony Weiner, the tax-evading Charlie Rangel, and the carnation-wearing Gary Ackerman - hardly seem senatorial. (As for Nita Lowey - who should have run in 2000 - she recently turned 71.)

But therein lies the problem: New York’s political establishment is looking for its next senator in all the wrong places. Rather than thumbing through the resumes of stale congressmen or searching the phonebook’s Park Avenue listings, Governor Paterson should turn his attention toward the New York City Council, which is home to a handful of New York’s more compelling leaders.

Remember: thanks to term limit laws, each New York councilman has been elected within the past ten years and - even with the recent revision to the law - can only serve a maximum of twelve years. Unlike congressmen who lose their luster after decades of running from neatly gerrymandered districts, councilmen must remain fresh in preparation for their next political promotions. Despite the Council’s limited purview, one councilman in particular has demonstrated leadership worthy of a Senate appointment: John C. Liu.

Having represented parts of northeast Queens since 2002, Liu would be an intriguing choice for a number of reasons. First, as chair of the City Council’s Committee on Transportation, Liu would bring appropriate experience for working with the incoming Obama administration on improving domestic infrastructure. Second, Liu has demonstrated laudable political independence. In October, he was among the minority of councilmen who voted against extending term limits for city offices, including his own. Finally, having emigrated from Taiwan when he was five years old, Liu would be the first Asian-American to serve in a statewide office. His appointment would therefore widen political opportunities for one of New York’s largest - and often overlooked - minority groups.

Most importantly, putting Liu on the “short list” of possible Senate replacements would delay plans for the next Kennedy coronation. It would force Governor Paterson to choose between a respected councilman who has been hard at work serving his constituents for the past six years, and a presidential daughter who has conspicuously dropped “Schlossberg” from her last name.

Between Liu and Kennedy, the more deserving choice seems clear enough. But if New Yorkers sit back and allow the political establishment to converge towards Kennedy, Paterson will be left with no choice at all.



Cap'n Transit said...

Very interesting, Terence, but can you please just post a link and a summary instead of the whole article?

Cap'n Transit said...

By the way, Terence, Liu has been a big disappointment on transit issues: just about any time there's a conflict between cars and transit, he sides with the cars. Congestion pricing was a notable exception, but Liu was no help in getting assemblymembers to support it.