Ratner Finally Bags Himself a Yassky
I have for some time now tried balancing my support for Chris Owens, running for Congress in the NY-11 district, with respect and fairness for his opponent, David Yassky, who is also my City Councilman. Yassky almost lost me completely in 2005 when he endorsed Sampson, the corrupt pawn of the corrupt Brooklyn Democratic Machine who was promising to "review" the indictments against Clarence Norman, for Brooklyn DA. This endorsement is one that Ben Smith, of the Daily News, recently referred to as confusing many people at the time. Had Sampson won, we can be sure that Clarence Norman would not be in jail for corruption, where he belongs, right now.
But overall, though my support for Chirs Owens was always higher, I regained my respect for David Yassky again over time, figuring the Sampson endorsement was isolated. Some have been surprised that I defend him against attacks, but some of those attacks are not warranted, such as the infamous "Yassky's hands are all over this" comment regarding the Greenpoint fires based only on a contribution the sleazy developer who owned those warehouses made to Yassky, which Yassky returned after the fires.
But gradually, Yassky has been losing my respect again. First there has been his refusal to follow the example of aother rival in the CD-11 race, Yvette Clarke, to get informed and involved in protecting the vote of New Yorkers when there are two bills before the City Council trying to prevent NYC from making the disastrous decision of buying overpriced, unreliable DRE voting machines rather than the more tried and true, cheaper, more reliable PB/OS machines. This is a critical issue! In the controversy over voting machines and to what degree elections since 2000 have been manipulated because of the fact that the programming for the DRE machines is proprietary, and hence we don't really know how they count the vote, it is insane not to at least be informed and involved when two bills are in front of you! Yvette Clarke has co-sponsored these bills. David Yassky has not and, in fact, when asked about them by a zealous advocate of PB/OS machines he said, publicly in front of an audience concerned about this issue, that he doesn't care.
David Yassky told us he doesn't care about our vote. That really turned people off. I told myself that it was said at the tail end of his talk and he was in a hurry to leave. Maybe it was said in haste and not meant. But, checking this very morning, Yassky has still not co-sponsored these bills. He doesn't care. When that same zealous advocate for PB/OS machines contacted Yassky's office, his staff said that he wasn't informed on the issue. NOT INFORMED! On VOTING INTEGRITY?? After 2000, 2002 in Georgia, and 2004? For Councilman Yassky to not be informed about two bills in front of the city council dealing with an issue that may be at the heart of voting rights this decade is terrible and it really makes Yassky's claim to be a superb legislator seem hollow. I know he has written some good bills. But a good legislator ALSO has to be informed about critical issues and get on board when OTHERS write good bills.
I still am willing to give Yassky the benefit of the doubt when it comes to statements he has made in front of progressive groups that echo Bush's pro-war rhetoric regarding Iran and Iraq. I said at the time and I still maintain that he came off more hawkish than he probably is, though I think letting Bush dictate the rhetoric used is a mistake.
But now, I think Yassky reaches strike three with me. Strike one was the Sampson endorsement. Second was his willful ignorance regarding voting rights. And now, third, he seems to finally be living up to something I considered unfair. He has been portrayed as pro-development and pro-Atlantic Yards. I felt he did not deserve these labels and, at worst, was a fence-straddler. Which is not ALWAYS bad.
Now I have to reconsider my position. Bruce Ratner seems to have finally bagged himself a Yassky.
While ignoring existing legislation on voting machines, David Yassky, the great legislator, has proposed helping Bruce Ratner fulfill his promises to the community to the tune of $3 million of our tax money.
According to the Brooklyn Papers:
Yassky bill would push $3M to Ratner crony
By Ariella Cohen
The Brooklyn Papers
City Councilman David Yassky is under fire for asking city taxpayers to underwrite a promise that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner made to a handful of community organizations.
Under the provisions of a "community benefits agreement" negotiated by Ratner and the groups, the developer and his supporters pledged to create a job-training program.
Thus far, Ratner has given $285,000 towards that worker-training program, which is being administered by Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD).
Yassky (D-Brooklyn Heights) now proposes a city contribution of $3 million â€” more than 10 times what Ratner's given.
Remember that one thing we are constantly told about the Atlantic Yards project is that Ratner has promised jobs. Part of his promise was a job training program, something that sounds great and helped get Ratner his union support. Well, that was a promise RATNER made to the city. Now Yassky is asking you and me to foot most of the bill for Ratner's promise. Job training is great! It is a program that deserves support. BUT...Ratner made a promise and Yassky is offering to use taxpayer money to fulfill that promise on Ratner's behalf. Shouldn't Ratner pay? Isn't that the whole point of making him promise? What does this mean regarding his other promises regarding jobs and affordable housing? And I am not alone thinking this:
"Yassky is [helping] Ratner get public money without going through the public process," said Bill Batson, a Community Board 8 member who is running to succeed Assemblyman Roger Green (D-Prospect Heights). Green, a longtime Atlantic Yards supporter, is running for Congress.
Experts on CBAs thought the Yassky bill was misguided.
"[Public funding] usually doesn't happen after the CBA is signed," said Roxanna Tynan, a spokeswoman for the LA Alliance for a New Economy, which was involved in a landmark CBA in that city.
"The developer is still on the hook for the benefits that he owes. If the money is coming from the public that should be clear from the beginning,"
But wait! There's more. From the same article:
Critics were quick to point out that Yassky submitted the budget request after BUILD President James Caldwell and other CBA signatories endorsed his bid to succeed retiring Rep. Major Owens (D-Crown Heights) in the mostly black 11th congressional district in central Brooklyn.
So, they endorse him and he turns around and proposes giving them money. Money that Ratner should be paying. I'm sorry. Yes I support job training. But this stinks! There is something not right about this just like there was something not right about Yassky's endorsement of Sampson. Both have aromas of corruption, something that I used to think Yassky free of and still WANT to think him free of. The Sampson endorsement could have been isolated. But here is another action taken by Yassky that has a whiff of underhanded, backroom deals, something the Atlantic Yards project seems full of.
Coucilman Yassky: what are you thinking? You know you won your City Council seat thanks to the enthusiasm and support of people like me. I wholeheartedly supported you in the past. How can I possibly support you in the future, after all the debris from the CD-11 race of 2006 clears? I no longer feel I can trust you. I have always liked you and respected you and trusted you, with the exception of a blip in my confidence when you endorsed Sampson. Even that in some ways re-enforced my respect for you since when I somewhat aggressively accosted you for it in front of Key Food, you maintained your cool and your friendliness. I liked that even though I disagreed with what you said.
But now, Mr. Yassky, I am finding it harder and harder to maintain confidence in you.