Monday, February 25, 2008

Not So Fast on Roosevelt Island Democracy - What Will Governor Spitzer Do?

Image of Governor Spitzer from Wikipedia

Question Mark Image from

It's nice to see some reporting on Roosevelt Island by the NY Times. The Sunday's NY Times had an article on the Roosevelt Island election for nominees to the RIOC Board.
...Roosevelt Islanders have grumbled for a decade about the way the island is governed.
Although the island is city property, it is leased to the state until 2068. The governor appoints all nine members of the operating corporation’s board, which manages an annual budget of $32.5 million. Legislative efforts to amend the system so that members are directly elected have repeatedly failed in the State Senate.

... On Feb. 12, the island’s city and state legislators, along with Representative Carolyn Maloney, whose Congressional district includes the island, wrote to the governor urging him to appoint the candidates. They would then require approval by the State Senate.

“The ball is now in the governor’s court,” said Assemblyman Micah Kellner, one of those lawmakers. “He can do the right thing by appointing these six people if they pass the vetting process, or he can ignore the wishes of the people on Roosevelt Island.”

This statement by Governor Spitzer's spokesperson, Erin Duggan does not seem very encouraging. She said Governor Spitzer's office would:
“give consideration to all the potential appointments in the way that we consider any recommendations from local leaders and community organizations.”
This statement seems to suggest that the ballots of over 1718 Roosevelt Island residents, more ballots than were cast on Roosevelt Island for any elected official including Governor Spitzer, is of no greater importance to the Governor, than the recommendation of any local politico or community organization such as the Residents Association. If this is truly the position of the Governor, and I am basing this on nothing other than the statement above, then the whole election for RIOC Board was a mockery and waste of time. I hope it is not the case!

Also, for the record. The Governor does not appoint all 9 members of the RIOC Board as reported by the NY Times. The New York City Mayor has 2 of the 9 appointments and the Commissioner of DHCR as well as the NYS Director of the Budget have 1 each. You would think the Times could easily do a fact check on this small point. One wonders when the NY Times gets an important fact wrong on a small story like the Roosevelt Island election, what facts are wrong or incomplete on big stories like the Presidential elections and war in Iraq?


Anonymous said...

The Governor's office and RIOC both made clear before the election that this was an advisory by the residents. Legally the residents are not empowered to choose RIOC Board members. Of course the issue is whether the Governor will find a way to interpret the law in a way that allows him to honor the wishes of the residents. The supporters of the election didn't try very hard to explain this because they wanted a heavy turnout (which they got) and probably were afraid that a lot of people wouldn't bother to vote if they thought it was just a suggestion to the Governor.

Anonymous said...

What anonymous said. Spitzer can't just snap his fingers and get our choices into the boardroom. It either needs a loophole somewhere or new laws. That needs a lot of momentum and I am doubting that RI is on anybody's top ten list of things to get done up in Albany.

Did any of the candidates or the other people involved ever explain what the next step is supposed to be? Is anybody lobbying for us? What's the plan? We have our six candidates (which I must say are six random people with different levels of qualifications). What now?

Anonymous said...

The New York Times also did not report the source of the RIRA funds. The September 8, 2007 issue of the WIRE reports that RIOC funded the RIRA elections:

"RIRA President Matthew Katz
talked it all through with Shane,
and the formula was found:
• RIRA will ask RIOC for an allocation
of funds.
• Shane, acting within his authority
as RIOC President, will give
RIRA some money to carry on its
activities in the Roosevelt Island

Anonymous said...

The NYT needs to read the WIRE. RIOC funding of the election was also on the front page of the February 29, 2008 WIRE. Reasoning for cutting off post-election funding seems made up. Thanks to the WIRE, the residents are kept informed of who is paying and not paying up!!!

"Shane suggested a process that, although not direct election, would put
forward nominees from the community. RIRA and MTG moved immediately
to set up an election, with some financial support from RIOC.
Shane told MTG that RIOC’s financial support cannot extend to a
$2,000 fee it incurred for the services of Patricia Lynch Associates (PLA),
an Albany lobbying firm that agreed to take up the democratization cause
at far below its usual rates. He told The WIRE, “RIOC would be inappropriate
as a part of the State government to fund a lobbyist to itself. The process
of the election is one thing. Politicking for it is another.”