Wednesday, March 19, 2014

DEJA VU FOR NYC: NO COHESIVE MESSAGING, ABSENCE OF COMMUNICATIONS LEADERSHIP MEANS BAD NEWS FOR NEW MAYOR

After only two months in office, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has seen his approval rating drop to 39 percent, according to a recent poll, although today's New York Times poll shows his approval rating at 45 percent. Either way, that's a big drop in a very short period of time. So, what happened?

As is typical of a media feeding frenzy, the press smells blood. Since the first poll was publicized, a veritable swarm of journalists have covered the issue, some speculating, some demonstrating actual research skills. But perhaps the most important element missing from the analysis and conjecture is something a little more intangible, not to mention requiring an accurate working knowledge of city history going back more than a decade. (This is a perpetual peeve of mine about journalism today--little to no context.)

For me, this is a case of deja-vu all over again, for two key reasons. The first is the subject of this post; the second will be the subject of my next. As I wrote in my initial entry on ETHICS AIN'T PRETTY, I'm a veteran of both Dinkins' campaigns for mayor, as a volunteer in 1989 and on staff in 1993. I also wrote my Masters thesis examining local press coverage of the 1993 race, and interviewed a myriad of reporters, press secretaries (both campaign and government), and regular PR flacks. This is obviously an issue about which I've given great thought.

Over the course of his administration, contrary to popular belief, David Dinkins actually accomplished quite a lot of positive things. This a partial list:

--Beacon schools;
--Establishing a meaningful Small Business Advisory Councilwhich actually included representatives who owned small businesses; 
--Communicare Clinics; 
--Crosswalks Television, intended to serve as a local form of C-SPAN to supplement the late WNYC-TV;
--And yes--check if for yourself--crime actually began declining during the Dinkins years.

By the time I started on the 1993 campaign job, even I was skeptical about Dinkins, and I had to do a great deal of soul- searching to accept in the first place. At that point, I wasn't aware of his aforementioned achievements or successes. And why didn't I know--after all, I was a natural supporter who had worked on democratic political campaigns for years and was already inclined to be well-informed?


One reason is because the Dinkins administration never had a proper, top-down communications strategy headed by a competent, seasoned communications expert to get their message out. I know this especially to be true because we lacked the same exact kind of leader on the reelection campaign.

This is the story I gleaned from both my many interviews and my personal experience. The original plan was that a certain publicist to the stars was going to create a dynamic, cohesive strategy for the new administration, though whether or not this person was actually going to join the government staff seemed an open question. The press secretaries and the press office were supposed to handle day-to-day press functions, with this overall strategy in mind. But two vital elements didn't go according to that plan.

The first was that this publicist essentially either flaked out on the mayor, or was always just all talk. Neither his leadership nor his communications blueprint ever came to significant fruition. Fast forward to 1993, and some of us on the campaign staff were assigned (in addition to our other jobs) to work with this same individual, ostensibly to plug celebrities and other notables into the campaign. We didn't know about his history, and we did our best under the circumstances. 


We spent many hours cumulatively, on meetings, on travelling to and back from his office in midtown traffic, and on busy work--time that could and should have been spent on any number of other responsibilities. And for what? In the end, just about everything and everyone he promised never materialized. So I know firsthand this guy was a charlatan, at least politically. (I've subsequently seen him on countless red carpets, either whispering into the ears of A-listers, or standing on the sidelines as they are photographed; He clearly takes that job seriously.)


The lack of a comprehensive media strategy really hurt the administration, and was a key reason the mayor's accomplishments were essentially ignored by the local press corps. They were just not effectively conveyed. (I frankly don't doubt for a second there was also a more nefarious explanation.)


The other reason why Mayor Dinkins was perceived so negatively and weakly was the direct result of the poor choice that was made in selecting a press secretary. The choice, a former Times reporter, became so hated by the press corps--and developed such an acrimonious relationship with it--that it became inevitable the blow-back would affect the mayor. Fortunately, he was replaced by an extremely effective and competent person; unfortunately, the replacement came too late and the damage to the mayor's image was already irreparable.


So, by the time of the reelection, Dinkins was at a distinct disadvantage with the press, who glommed onto Crown Heights and the Korean boycotts as if they were the only issues to define a very decent man.


And just to guarantee the campaign's press team worked under conditions to obstruct its own coordinated strategy--while all along having to play defense--we had a "director" of communications who didn't inspire great confidence, and who was hired as a deputy campaign manager primarily for reasons other than her media prowess. Moreover, this person was set up to directly compete with the campaign's press secretary. Finally, there was also a press team, under the tutelage of a veteran from Bill Clinton's famous rapid response team strategy--which added to the discord.


Now, when I see how Mayor de Blasio keeps losing the narrative on whatever issue--charter schools in particular--it feels exactly the same as 20 years ago. Remember people, Bill de Blasio actually CAMPAIGNED he was going to reverse course on Mayor Bloomberg's giant push to privatize public schools, while pulling back and altering the spread and operation of charters. It's a bit surreal that he's getting his butt kicked on something about which many voters approved.

De Blasio was insightful enough to appoint a special advisor for long-term media planning, but he didn't select someone  who had actually held the role before in this context. And it shows. When I read about his press team's lack of government experience, the resulting vacuum created because no one seasoned is in charge of the greater message causes me flashbacks--and not in a good way. I can also add to the chorus of complaints about experiencing the lack of coordination and slowness to respond to inquiries. It all feels needlessly chaotic.


For the record, I'm not buying into the spin about de Blasio's delay in appointments as an example of him not being ready for prime-time. Nor do I give any credence to the inevitable comparisons to his predecessor because Bloomberg had business acumen.

Creating a coordinated, proactive macro-level media strategy doesn't even have be the exclusive responsibility of one person. It just requires tested people with the right kind of experience, who also understand and are willing to work with your agenda. And this being New York City, and based on de Blasio's definitive win, finding a few candidates who fit these criterion shouldn't be that difficult. I can personally think of several.

Friday, February 28, 2014

NYC Sets Limits on How Much People With HIV/AIDS Have to Pay for Rent, Helps Them to Stay in Their Homes


My latest article: After years of opposition by Mayor Bloomberg, NYC will begin helping low-income people with HIV/AIDS by imposing a cap on what percentage of their income can be spent on rent, giving them piece of mind and housing stability:

http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/4875-city-set-to-offer-rent-relief-to-hivaids-residents

Monday, February 10, 2014

Progressive Ideology vs Real Estate Influence

There's been a great deal of analysis and punditry describing New York City's new progressivism, with the election of Mayor Bill de Blasio. The selection of Melissa Mark-Viverito--spearheaded by de Blasio--as City Council Speaker has only added to this perception.

Yet, to be progressive here can mean something different to what outsiders might assume. Yes, it means supporting issues like universal pre-K or paid sick leave. But to be labeled progressive-- which may be technically accurate--can also be somewhat meaningless, particularly when it comes to the enormous power and influence of the real estate industry.


Probably more than in any other state in the nation, New York State and New York City are tightly controlled by its iron grip. Though state republicans outside the city tend to benefit most from its largess, it's not uncommon for political ideologies to become inconvenient or even irrelevant in the face of such enormous wealth and power. In fact, it's usually the rule, not the exception.


Common Cause/NY released a report last year, "raising serious questions about the potential influence of tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions on public policy relating to real estate and development in New York City." The findings include:


--Since 2005, the Real Estate Board of NY (REBNY) and the 37 companies comprising its leadership have contributed $43.9 million to state and local candidates, committees, and PACs;


--REBNY’s contributions have increased in recent election cycles, with $17.1 million given since 2011 alone;


Common Cause/NY also faults the real estate industry and its ancillary partners for deliberately trying to circumvent rules governing campaign funding so they could exceed legal limits. The report states, "Using loophole to maximize its influence in city races through the “Jobs For New York” PAC by registering it at the state level... to bypass the New York City campaign finance system’s limits on campaign contributions." As evidence, the report cites:


--Just sixteen REBNY member companies... contributed the entire $5.26 million raised by “Jobs For New York” in [the] first half [of[ 2013 for an average of $328,750 each.


Money isn't the only way the industry influences elected officials; it commonly translates into the upper echelons of government by way of who assumes what kind of jobs and where. As a consequence, public policy--generally favoring the real estate lobby--is directly affected. That notorious revolving door between government and industry is alive and well in New York, particularly with real estate firms and developers.


For example, the former chief-of-staff for two former Bloomberg deputy mayors, Angela Sung Pinsky, is now not only the senior vice president at REBNY, she's also married to Bloomberg's president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).


NYCEDC is the opaque entity considered to be the chief engine for certain kinds of economic development, usually involving private developers, large development projects and huge quantities of public resources, whether or not an affected community supports the plan. (Mostly, the needs and interests of the community are ignored.) Sung Pinsky coincidentally worked for former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, probably the most identifiable figure associated with steamrolling such projects largely connected to EDC including the Hudson Yards boondoggle, and NYC's failed 2012 Olympic bid/Westside Stadium proposal.


Jaime McShane, the longtime spokesperson for the most recent Council Speaker, Christine Quinn, joined the staff of REBNY for a newly-created job. Quinn---once a tenant activist--became so close to real estate interests that it became common knowledge she simply did their bidding. She consistently turned a blind eye to abuses by developers, even within her own district and at the expense of her constituents, as was the case with the Trump 'Hotel' in Soho. Quinn will never overcome the stigma that she couldn't or wouldn't prevent the closure of St. Vincent's Hospital, when the Rudin family who owned the site wanted to convert the properties into luxury housing.


Another real estate organization, the Rent Stabilization Association (RSA) is dedicated to weakening or eliminating the state's tenant rent regulations; the RSA president is Joe Strasburg, who was chief-of-staff for former Speaker Peter Vallone, a man inexorably linked to this lobby. Vallone was the force who, in 1993/4, pushed through vacancy decontrol of regulated affordable apartments in NYC. Vallone also famously punished a handful of members who dared vote against a watered-down lead paint bill in 1999, because the industry supported weakening the current regulations. (I was working for one of the members who voted against the Vallone bill at the time, and it became clear to us she was being sent a message when all of her subsequent legislation was routinely killed.)


The vast influence of REBNY and the like can be seen every day, even if we don't realize it. It's reflected in the thousands of commercial rent evictions every year, and the countless empty storefronts across the city. It's in the ever-growing homogenification of the city with the explosion of chain stores, usually at the expense of local mom and pop businesses.


It's reflected in record high homelessness numbers. Its seen in the loss of  rent regulated apartments--conservatively estimated between 300-400,000 by the Metropolitan Council on Housing-- since the mid-1990's and in the sale of countless Mitchell-Lama buildings --a program exclusively designed to create and maintain affordable housing--for private, free market purposes.


It's manifested in the billions of city and state resources lost through abatement programs and incentives given to developers like 421-a or "payments in lieu of taxes" (PILOTS), supposedly to build affordable units--which often don't get built (as is so far the case with Atlantic Yards). And even when the affordable housing is created, they don't necessarily end up justifying the loss of public revenues. For example, sometimes, the definition of "affordable" is allowed to be so flexible that the people who really need them can't qualify. Or, the small number of units required to obtain the tax break remains affordable for a small window of time, not in perpetuity. That's billions the city could use to build its own affordable housing, use for education, or for any number of other purposes.


So, there has been concern about Mayor de Blasio because of his support for some controversial development projects--like Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards/Barclay Center, which decimated a neighborhood, or for N.Y.U.'s voracious expansion plan, despite overwhelming community opposition. While Quinn was the industry's first choice, the de Blasio campaign still managed to receive hundreds of thousands in contributions from some of the largest development firms like Extell and Related Companies--many of whom do business with the city. De Blasio also received more than $70,000 in campaign donations from Forest City Ratner, the developer of Atlantic Yards.


Also worrisome is the fact that though he returned donations from one of the city's most notorious for-profit owner/operators of hotels housing the homeless--about which de Blasio has been critical--he kept thousands raised and donated by some of the firms closely tied to the initial owner.


On the other hand, the mayor wants to create or preserve 200,000 affordable apartments, and has been very frank in his public rhetoric regarding stricter affordability criterion and requirements under his watch. De Blasio has discussed the need for affordable housing, and often, and has called for the first ever rent freeze for regulated apartments. His campaign's "Affordable Housing" policy paper calls to end giveaways for big developers and enact mandatory inclusionary zoning (IZ)--though IZ doesn't necessarily work, enforce affordability standards, and protect renters, among others. It also discusses de Blasio's plan to:


--Target revenue streams to fund information programs and civil legal services that cost-effectively prevent evictions--programs decimated during the tenures of Giuliani and Bloomberg;


--Guarantee access to emergency shelters for the homeless. Most significantly, de Blasio wants to return to the policies before Bloomberg, when a percentage of public housing units were allocated for homeless families, policies homeless advocates say have proven to work.


One could, therefore, take away a decidedly mixed record for de Blasio when it comes to real estate. Crain's New York even called him a part-time populist.


Now that he's in an actual position in which he can represent the majority of New Yorkers against the most powerful lobby in the state, de Blasio has the opportunity to put his money where his mouth is in the wide array of agencies and boards dealing with land use, zoning, housing and real estate, all of which will be comprised of de Blasio appointments. That includes:


--Commissioners to head agencies like Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and Small Business Services;



--Chair of the NYC Housing Authority, and all seven members of its board;

--Chair of City Planning, and six of thirteen commissioners;


--Chair of the Landmarks and Preservation Commission, and all 11 commissioners;


--All five appointees at the Board of Standards and Appeals, which grants developers zoning variances;


--All nine members of the Rent Guidelines Board, including five to represent the general public and the chair;


--President of the Housing Development Corporation.


At this point in time, some of his appointments like EDC's president (a Bloomberg holdover), the new chair of City Planning or his deputy mayor for 'Housing and Economic Development' certainly don't represent the kind of break with the policies of Giuliani and Bloomberg for which many were hoping. In fact, the new City Planning chair is a quintessential example of the 'permanent government'. There is already grousing about his H.P.D. appointment because of her association with N.Y.U.'s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, an organization some equate with REBNY, perhaps unfairly.


To his credit, de Blasio did include 'Housing' in the title of deputy mayor Alicia Glen's jurisdiction, which is a first. However, many progressive see her corporate world background and work as an H.P.D. official for Giuliani as not fully supporting de Blasio's break with previous philosophies of governing.


Many have hoped the new administration would mean a dilution or even break from the real estate industry's stranglehold. Since Bill de Blasio is the mayor, his appointments are supposed to follow his philosophies and policies, so change is still possible. Ultimately, it's his responsibility if New York City really becomes a progressive bastion, and how that looks.


This article was updated on February 11, 2014.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Change of Pace, Part 2

While I am not in the habit of writing 'light' pieces as a journalist, I believe it's important to acknowledge credit where credit is due.  As if to underscore my previous entry about Rudy Giuliani, Bill de Blasio (the new NYC Mayor), deserves praise for his handling of last week's snowstorm. Specifically:
a) The patience he demonstrated while reacting to local reporters as they began circling the waters for blood, like sharks--as they seem predetermined to do whenever there's an event of almost any potential controversy, even in the absence of any;

b) The thoughtful and deliberative way the Mayor explained why schools were kept open, in the face of outright hostility from some reporters;


c) de Blasio's ability to genuinely acknowledge making a mistake with aplomb and humility. 

Humility? Graciously accepting a mistake had been made? This was indeed a stark contrast to our two previous mayors.


Here's what happened: After the storm initially hit, reports from residents of the uber-entitled Upper East Side of Manhattan started making their way to the media saying they didn't receive the "appropriate" level of sanitation services to clear the snow. 


For the record, my parents moved into this area in 1964, where I was raised. I watched it change first gradually, from being a melting pot of mostly working class immigrants--Germans, Hungarians, Irish--until the 1980's when then-Mayor Koch ushered in the first real wave of mega-development. Many of the neighborhood's rent-stabilized buildings were spared for a time, so while the population changed, there was still a mix of the old and new. By the mid-1990s, the singular power of the real estate industry, vacancy decontrol, and Giuliani's philosophy of 'business and development' at all costs, served as a lethal cocktail to any vestiges of the past, obliterating a good chunk of Manhattan's history. It currently contains some of the the nation's wealthiest zip codes.

In response to inquiries about the complaints at his press conference, de Blasio said, "They’re just mistaken. No one was treated differently. We believe in a five-borough approach. That’s in everything we do.... I think people need to be mindful when they hurl those charges. That is not real respectful of the men and women who work so hard for us at Sanitation.... But every neighborhood is being serviced very devotedly by the men and women of Sanitation."

Of course, there's some irony here as outer borough residents have been making these claims for years; even Giuliani--the 'champion' of all things Staten Island--was not exempt from such criticism. Unless it's something akin to a 'snowpocalypse,' usually only some local community paper pays attention. But because this was the Upper East Side--even though it wasn't a giant blizzard and we're really talking about some temporary inconvenience--the media feeding frenzy commenced with its usual abandon.

Here's de Blasio's complete statement later that day: “After hearing concerns about street conditions on the Upper East Side, I headed to the area to survey the streets for myself, and to hear from residents directly. While the overall storm response across the city was well-executed, after inspecting the area and listening to concerns from residents earlier today, I determined more could have been done to serve the Upper East Side. I have instructed the Commissioner of the Department of Sanitation to double-down on cleanup efforts on the Upper East Side, and as a result, 30 vehicles and nearly 40 sanitation workers have been deployed to the area to finish the cleanup. Our crews will remain on the streets around the clock until the roadways are clear in every neighborhood, in every borough, across New York City.”


I also feel Mayor de Blasio deserves credit for describing in detail the criterion that goes into whether or not to keep open the City's public schools. "There are a lot of factors that go into the decision. First and foremost is safety. So I had to be convinced that the situation would be safe. But it’s also really important to remember - it’s our obligation - if we can make the school day work, by law, that’s our obligation," he explained. "If we didn't know if kids could get where they would need to go, they might be at a bus stop for a prolonged period of time and have that kind of exposure–that was a real concern. But when we heard at 10pm last night from the National Weather Service that this snow was tapering off rapidly, we knew what Commissioner Doherty had that he could deploy overnight, we talked to the MTA, we talked to the Department of Education about the school buses' path, et cetera. There was a real consensus on the call that we could get the system to work effectively– meaning kids would not be left in a situation of being outside for prolonged periods of time, and that's what was crucial in making the decision."

It cannot be understated--though it appears to be somewhat ignored within the mainstream narrative--that this is our first mayor with children enrolled in the public school system in decades. You have to go back to Mayor Abe Beam in the mid-1970s, though his children were out of school by the time he was elected.

So when this Mayor discussed the issue, you know it's one with which he is all too familiar. "I, for fourteen years as a public school parent, I thought about these exact issues for my own children," de Blasio said. Prompted by a journalist's question, the Mayor added, "Dante (his son) went to school today. I personally escorted him to school. He was grouching the whole way, but he had three exams today, so I just want to say for the record: Dante would have really liked to stay off for his three exams, but he is doing his three exams as we speak."

The de Blasio team clearly grasped the enormity of the issue, one in which it seems there is not necessarily a 'correct' answer. "By the way, a lot of parents in this town will tell you, that when kids aren't in school it's incredibly disruptive for their lives and they don't necessarily have a safe alternative place to send their child," explained de Blasio. "Let's be clear, I respect that you talked to some parents.... But when we think we can actually get the school day off effectively, and have transportation achieved in a way that will give us good attendance, and that kids will be safe– it's our obligation to keep school open, and that's why we did it."

So, it's refreshing to have a mayor who is open to criticism without automatically becoming combative or defensive. Also, how nice--at least on the surface--to have an executive who appears contemplative when making important decisions, one who seems to take into account varying factors and input before rushing to judgment. And de Blasio is a decent guy--as I know from experience, when we worked together on the Dinkins' reelection campaign in 1993. 

Coming soon: Analysis of certain de Blasio's political and agency appointments.... stay tuned!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Preview
Actual 1993 non-campaign issued sticker:

Rudy defends Christie, or was he defending himself?

It’s interesting that former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani has been the most vociferous supporter of embattled NJ Governor Chris Christie so far. The picture evolving about Christie and his team—the pettiness, the bullying, even the general culture of fear created by his administration’s vindictiveness—mirrors the tenure of our ex-mayor. Perhaps Rudy is feeling a little defensive?


If the Christie Administration’s behavior and tone seems familiar to Giuliani (and to those of us in NYC), there’s good reason. There are many well-documented accounts of Giuliani’s meanness and spitefulness, such as the way he cut funding to social service organizations like Housing Works, who was outspoken against his HIV/AIDS policies.

Even one-time Giuliani supporter, former Mayor Ed Koch, wasn't spared from Rudy’s wrath, and ended up writing a book called Giuliani: Nasty Man. Official portraits of both Koch and former Mayor David Dinkins were removed from City Hall’s blue room after each committed the sin of speaking out.

And it was Giuliani who shut down and barricaded City Hall Park to prevent public demonstrations—well before legitimate safety concerns were raised following the WTC attacks.

The word petty was commonly used to describe Rudy’s eight years in office. Giuliani was known to hold long grudges, and pursued some former Dinkins’ Administration officials with a special myopia bordering on sociopathic. False allegations of financial improprieties spurred Giuliani to publicly eviscerate former Youth Services Commissioner Richard Murphy—by all accounts an incredibly well intentioned and honorable man—practically ruining his professional reputation. It wasn’t enough to simply discredit critics or those who had the bad luck of association; it became widely known his minions might later intervene with corporate boards and/or prospective employers to ensure total destruction.

That NYC spent millions to settle civil rights law suits or pay punitive costs while Rudy was in charge speaks volumes.

For me, the tone was set for his career as an elected official on election night in 1989, after being defeated by Dinkins. My only take away while watching his concession speech on television was his screaming at, and lecturing, his own supporters. It seemed so aggressive to yell at the very people who allowed you to be in the position you were standing, even if they were rowdy. (Full disclosure--I was a volunteer for Dinkins in 1989 and on the staff of his reelection team in 1993.)

Rudy will forever be linked with the infamous police riot at City Hall in 1992. Thousands of drunk NYPD officers--most of whom don’t live within the confines of NYC but in more suburban, homogeneous areas because they have no residency requirement-- whipped themselves into an anti-Dinkins frenzy, in part because of his support for a more independent civilian complaint review board. Only this time, Rudy didn’t try to quell them; in fact, it is widely regarded Giuliani himself played a hand in stirring the pot. Racial epithets were hurled against Dinkins, who was also called a washroom attendant. At least one black member of the City Council was harassed trying to access her office in City Hall, while also being called a racial slur.

The 1993 Giuliani campaign team established a precedent with the press that followed into governing. If a story wasn’t deemed positive or flattering enough, then hell broke loose for the responsible reporter. They had an overt contempt for the media, unless it suited their purposes. (ED--I know this in part because I spent most of 1994 writing my Masters thesis analyzing local press coverage of the preceding year’s mayoral race. For this, I conducted countless interviews, and the anecdotes were immensely telling.)

Often, reporters would receive late-night angry tirades from a press person. Sometimes, their editors would be the recipients of the abuse. The threats of boycotts were often followed through once Giuliani was in office. That’s what happened to NY-1, then in its infancy—the very real threat no administration officials or commissioners would appear. It became widely understood within the media access to the administration in general was extremely limited and completely controlled, even if they weren’t angry at you. Often, a lack of transparency appeared the overall strategy. Don't forget, Giuliani’s records were secretly whisked away before city archivists could first review them.

I personally witnessed this contempt. While I was working at the late WNYC-TV—to this day, the City’s only ever public television station (WNET is NJ-licensed), we aired a long-running show nightly called ‘News City.' It was a show televising the goings-on in front of and/or inside City Hall, that’s all—no editorializing, no commentating, nothing. Obviously, because Dinkins was Mayor going into 1993, he was often filmed attending events or press conferences, and was televised often. But someone around Giuliani or he himself decided this was evidence of bias by the City-owned station, and even made this a campaign issue.

This belief required a great deal of selective fact picking. Then he was like a dog with a bone, going after the station’s existence with the fervor of a religious fundamentalist.

Saying essentially the City shouldn’t be in the business of running a television station, in 1996 he unilaterally was able to sell this publicly owned asset to a giant conglomeration. (This is also around the time he wanted to sell off the municipal water supply; this effort was thwarted by other elected officials including the Comptroller and some Council Members.) The replacement station survived less than a year. The license is now owned by an infomercial/”Christian” network. I’m still not certain how much of the $207* million sale price the City ever received.

In actuality, very little City funding was involved. The TV station was responsible for covering most of WNYC’s budget, including both the AM and FM radio stations, while much of the City’s support (about 90%) came in the form of in-kind services such as office and studio space in the Municipal Building. Apparently, being in the radio business remained acceptable.

Then there are all the well-documented accounts of Giuliani’s disrespect and nastiness belittling anyone who publicly disagreed with him.

After more than 50 women were sexually assaulted during the 2000 Puerto Rican Day parade, the Mayor steadfastly defended police conduct, where officers simply dismissed the women’s complaints--even as the magnitude of the event became clear. (Rudy often seemed to have a blind, knee-jerk reaction regarding the police—think Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo.)

During the 1999 West Nile virus outbreak, when the City was spraying huge amounts of toxic chemicals to kill mosquitos, there was a woman who got blasted by one of the sprayings on the upper west side (in Riverside Park?). After she publicly complained, Giuliani went on a vicious crusade to demean and discredit her, saying what she said had happened was impossible because the trucks weren’t spraying where she claimed she was…until it was revealed that in fact they were, and she was telling the truth.

I don’t remember any kind of public apologies with the enthusiasm he seemed to reserve for castigating everyday citizens.

Finally, this is the same man who publicly told his then-wife he was divorcing her, the same man who cravenly--as America’s Mayor--turned 9/11 into a highly lucrative personal cottage industry.

So, don't be surprised if Giuliani keeps defending Christie, even if the evidence continues to prove damning. After all, the mentality that justifies utilizing public resources for political payback no matter how harmful or trivial seems to be reserved for a special kind of twisted mind, and a close circle of sycophants who either think similarly or are prime examples of expediency or self-preservation.

There’s probably no coincidence both Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani are former federal prosecutors.

 *The original story listed $100 million.