Fran Reiter sparkles before CFB "doing business" hearing
Several people (including me) spoke before the Campaign Finance Board's "doing business with the city" hearing today. There were three people from the Mayor's office, Suzanne Novak from the Brennan Center, and Doug Israel from the Citizen's Union.
But it was Fran Reiter (Reiter/Begun, former Deputy Mayor under Giuliani) who shined.
Her main point (which I disagree) is that developer money doesn't really buy that much in a NIMBY city. You can't give enough to bring a Wal-Mart here. The developer money in the system just says "Don't hate me as much as you already do." But no politician in the city wants to be revealed as on-the-take against the community. "Politicians are wary of carrying anyone's water," she said. The process already has plenty of sunshine.
For there to be a remedy, there must be an illness. "I'm not sure there's an illness here," Reiter said. [As an aside, Reiter said that men dominate the industry: "I don't know any women real estate developers."]
Reiter also said that lobbyists serve a useful function in two ways. They help educate legislators, but they also help educate clients on what the process is.
She that that "lobbyists who act as fundraisers are a problem" and a "clear conflict of interest."
The point I agree with Reiter on the most is on public employee unions. "You don't have the UAW give money to the head of GM when they're negotiating a contract," she said. This is "the most blatant conflict of interest in the city."
"I'm a union member," Reiter said. "I'm not anti-union. This is something that affects every single New Yorker in a very material way."
Someone on the CFB panel spoke out: "The city council is not going to take on these groups. It's not going to happen."
From Wal-Mart to the TWU to the teachers, this is the great problem we face today. Public employee unions should not buy the public legislature that writes their contracts.
We'll see what the CFB does.
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