As I implied in my last “Vines” column: relative to the five boroughs of New York City, Brooklyn is usually where the political action's at. And sure enough, when the Daily News came with their expose on the many NYC council members (almost 20 -the last time I looked) whose ethics can be put to challenge, Brooklyn had more than just a few of their electeds represented on the “Council of Shame” list. This story broke last Sunday (3-20-2011); and that was fine; but I still have a big problem with the Daily News. And coming to think about it: likewise the New York Times, Newsday, the Post, and many other newspapers (local, regional and national) plying their trade in this state. I will get to that in a lil bit: so hang on like Sloopy.
Let's deal with the Daily News article first. Some of the stuff is bullcrap. Why? Because a lot of the stuff they drug up can be termed minor or insignificant. Some was regurgitated shit long vetted, and some was spun negatively and unfairly against a few members. Sure, there were some things which necessitated a big blow up (as per their series), but after a while I got the feeling that this was more a hit-job on Christine Quinn and the NYC Council, than say an objective investigative piece of quality journalistic endeavor.
It's obvious (to me) that the editorial board of the Daily News isn't going to let Quinn get a smooth ride to the NYC mayoralty in two years time. And that's their prerogative. In fact that's their duty -once they do it fairly and apply it equally to all the other potential candidates in the race (Scot Stringer, Anthony Wiener, Bill Thompson, Eric Adams, Marty Markowitz, John Liu, Bill DiBlasio, Marty Golden, and others). I have long argued for the proper vetting of candidates seeking office. I have often requested that mainstream media play a more forceful and vociferous role in this regard: if that's their true intent then I do welcome it.
Yes, I am suggesting that the Daily News has taken sides in the next mayoral race. I am also suggesting that Christine Quinn has been tagged as”it”. Over the next year or two, my suspicion is that she is the one candidate the News will be hitting harder than George Foreman hit Joe Frazier -when they fought in Jamaica in 1973. I am also suggesting that there were some very specific reasons why some of the other electeds were hit in this article. I will get to that later in other columns. This could have been a thinly disguised hatchet job by the News; over time we will know. I could never vote for/or support Christine Quinn for mayor, after what she did relative to the term limits extension issue; so this is not being written to defend her. Right now, I have no candidate in the next mayoral race. I would probably support Anthony Wiener if the race were held tomorrow.
Now, before some of you go thinking that I am getting soft, let me say this: I still stand by my general position that there are too many electeds -as I have often suggested before- who belong to (and should be dumped into) the garbage pile of local political history. Of that I have no change of heart. Too many are unqualified for office; others are unfit for the job from many angles of analysis. Others still, are totally clueless, and not cerebral enough to comprehend the complexities of their responsibilities, roles and functions. And alas, many others are just flawed in terms of character and are thus totally corrupt.
Furthermore; if this latest series by the Daily News uncovers illegal behavior/activities, then I hope that the attendant District Attorneys do the right thing by investigating and indicting any transgressor. The problem is that some of this stuff has been highlighted before and nothing came of it.We can only hope that whatever new stuff uncovered will be taken to appropriate investigating authority/body.
Here is the rub: after all the hype and sensationalism of these type of stories, the responsibility to follow up is squarely on the shoulders of the newspapers breaking said stories. There is a responsibility to remind voters of the indiscretions, unethical behaviors, violations and abuses of said electeds, and this should be paramount come election time. Instead, that's usually when these newspapers go missing in action.
You see, generally there is a six-month window between March and September (primary-time), where newspapers can help challengers defeat disgraced incumbents: but they usually do not. This is the period wherein the newspapers could edify the voting public in various districts, about the challengers, their credentials, vision and such. It is also the period whereby the rationale can be explicated, for taking out said incumbents who have disappointed their own constituents and the larger overall electorate: but the newspapers usually disappear around this time. And when it comes time to make endorsements against said incumbents, the same newspapers become pusillanimous. Year in year out we see this scenario playing itself out: insurgents needing big time help when challenging lousy incumbents, but newspapers offering very little help in this regard. Then after the election is over, and said incumbents are re-elected, the editorial boards of these same newspapers get on their friggin soap boxes and start to pontificate: enough of the bullshit. Newspapers are as much part of our political problems in New York as the self-serving and self-aggrandizing electeds.
Let me be clear, everyone should read the informative series the Daily News is now running: everyone. In fact, they should do something similar on the state and federal legislative bodies -relative to our electeds from NYC. I could go so far as to say that re-cycled news about official misconduct, can be woven into whatever new stuff uncovered. I would also say that there is a responsibility to follow up periodically. Too many electeds in NYC are corrupt. We all know this. Newspapers could help shine the light on them (so to speak). This series that will probably run all week should dominate local political news stories. I hope the electeds under attack will be afforded the opportunity to respond in proper forums. After all (and as they say on the Caribbean-American streets of East-Flatbush): fair is fair. And after all, for the most part, the presumption of innocence must be given to the accused -unless the infraction is as obvious as the nose on their face (some times you can tell).
Look, I know that academics and students of public communication will tell you that media in general go for sensationalism over substance, and that this is understandable since sensationalism sells papers: and the bottom line is the profit motive/factor. Fine. But the founding fathers did set out a specific role for newspapers in our unfinished democracy, and all I am really saying is that lately newspapers have been somewhat derelict in their duty. Sometimes they should specifically and aggressively target -for removal from office- the many incompetent, unproductive, lazy, inept, irresponsible and corrupt elected officials. It's as simple as that.
It would be great if at election time, the Daily News (and all the others) re-run some of these “sensationalist” stories. It would be great if at election time, the Daily News (and all the others) make some rock-solid endorsements against some of the same electeds they target in the off season. It would be great if these said newspapers pay more attention to political things that are happening in small (local) pockets of the city, on a more regular basis. The day to days news of this naked city should not only be about billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg and the rich socialites of Manhattan. It shouldn't be dominated by accounts of celebrities and starlets of Hollywood, partying like no tomorrow in Soho. This city isn't only about the Yankees and Knicks: and their star players like A-Rod and Melo. It should also deal with the hardships and challenges facing city folks (especially black people) in the trenches of Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Harlem and Staten Island.
Unemployment rates aside, things are real tough for many many people here in NYC. Why do you think so many people are relocating to other cities in other states? Why do you think so many blacks are running back to the south? The black population of this city continues to decrease year in year out. When the official census count is finally released in the next month or so, we will see that the black share of the city's population is probably down to 23 or 24 per cent. It was as high as twenty-nine or thirty per cent, a few decades aback.
Look, all these newspapers embarrassed the everyday people of this city a couple years ago, when they refused to oppose Bloomberg's hijacking of democracy: during the term-limits-extension imbroglio. They were bought and sold like slaves when they let the mayor get away with his selfish grab for more power. It was disgusting. It was obscene. It was the most disgraceful period in the history of New York City newspapers. It was the most shameful of actions ever taken by 27 city council members in this city's political history.
Now some of these same members of these same editorial boards are wondering why the sales of their newspapers have dropped precipitously since that period. Many disgusted readers have decided to boycott some of them. That's obvious to me; although I must admit that there are other factors to the decline in readership.
In a little over two years time, we will have to elect a new Speaker for the city council. Some Blacks, Hispanics and Asians are intent on making history by electing one of that ilk. Numerically speaking, they are now in the majority -relative to the 51 members of the council. Sometimes, there is a hardly discernible subtlety to the racism that permeates this city's institutions, so some of us who observe these things are expecting attacks on minorities who are in position to seek the title of speaker. Many voters read newspapers looking for guidance in political things. Many seek guidance in terms of their vote; others just want to be more politically informed before they vote. Most people who sit on editorial boards know exactly what their clandestine objectives are. Often enough, most of us who don't sit on editorial boards have to figure out what they are trying to do therein.
Time will tell if I am correct about all this, so do stay tuned-in folks. Keep your eyes on some of these newspapers over the next few years: we shall see if they change their stripes.