Thursday, October 16, 2008

Serf Serves up the Bacon, but Howard Beach Goes Hungry

Louis Brandeis, a wise Supreme Court Justice, wrote “Sunlight is the best of disinfectants." Over the past few weeks, we’ve shed some of those rays on some information regarding the mail and excessive spending of our tax monies by Senator Maltese on the rentals and staffing of his district offices. This week we’ll spread a little more sunshine your way so that the light will shine down on yet more of his spending habits.

It’s clear that pork-barrel spending has been on his mind, judging by the mail he sent out trying to smear Joe Addabbo with Christine Quinn’s council slush fund shenanigans. Curiously Serf, no group Joe funded was among any we read about in the daily papers earlier this year.

And just so our big spender, affectionately dubbed Serfplus, thinks we have nothing positive to say about him, we don’t think he’s spent any of his pork on groups not worthy of funding, either. But, and it’s a big BUT –he has NOT distributed his pork grants equitably among groups in the many neighborhoods he represents. Nor has he been fair with distribution in distribution with the actual neighborhoods in his district. The senator clearly has favorites and we think you should know whether or not your community or group is on the “Hit Parade”. The See Through NY website, as does Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s Project Sunlight website, shed some light on the subject of where that money goes and for what purpose.

A glaring example of inequity was evident in Howard Beach last week. Maltese was on hand last week at St. Helen’s school to award $20,000 for a worthy project. Kudos to Serf. But before those of you who were on hand singing the senator’s praises get too excited, perhaps you should look at the bigger picture. Because once you’re armed with all the information surrounding the smiling photo-op at St. Helen’s you’ll be saying, “It’s about time,” instead of “Thank you so much.”

According to data on See Through and Sunlight, Maltese doled out $2,002,000in member items – AKA pork - to groups in and out of his district for State fiscal year 2007-08. In that year only $23,000 went to Howard Beach groups. In State fiscal year 2008-09, he’s doled out $2,440,500 in pork, and again less than $30,000 to groups in Howard Beach. If you’re up to a little perspective on this issue, how about this---total spending in Howard Beach for the last two years—less than 2% of Serfplus’ available funds.

We can’t help but wonder if he looked across the street while he was at St. Helen’s. If he did, he might have noticed the senior center located there on the other side of “God’s Alley.” It’s been right there in his district for years serving seniors. In 2007-08 part of that $2 million was allocated by him to senior groups. Senator Serfplus doled out $481,000 to senior programs in that year. Grand total to senior programs in zip code 11414 shown in the data for that year? Zip, zero, zilch.

How about fiscal year 2008-09? Well, out of that $2.4 million it seems he allocated $547,500 to 22 senior programs. Ten of the programs received amounts ranging between $20,000 and $100,000. Eleven groups received amounts between $5,000 and $18,000. One group, the one located across the street from St. Helen’s, which serves Howard Beach with its growing aging population, got $3,000. That’s $3,000 out of $1,030,500 over two years. Something’s wrong in the equity department. That’s about 0.3% out of two years worth of Serf-plus’s tax money allocated for senior programs. It seems that the biggest contribution Serfplus makes to Howard Beach is his rent payment.

As they say, follow the money. The Senator is a big spender. That shows clearly in his campaign spending. In case you were wondering, his most recent required filing of campaign expenditures shows those TV commercials we were treated to cost at least $483,260, but thankfully those aren’t our tax dollars, they’re the dollars of his supporters. Also of note in that filing was $370,000 in contributions from the NYS Republican Senate Campaign Committee. Guess that’s what paid for the nasty mail we got.

And speaking of nasty, that’s just about the best way to describe some phone calls The Forum received last week from readers who were irate over the Celebrity Look-Alike column which featured Gov. Sarah Palin. I guess you guys like Sarah more than Serf because I haven’t been getting any complaints about bashing the senator. In fact, news on that front has been very supportive.

But getting back to the look-alikes, we can understand why some would find the material offensive but we must insist that it was in no way meant to insult any of our readers or their political views. Maybe those of you who were so upset last week can take a look at the roasting of Democratic VP hopeful Sen. Joe Biden this week. Try to remember it’s only a column designed to aim for a little political or general satire, but never meant to offend.

We’re truly sorry about any upset we caused our loyal readers but remain very grateful that they continue to call and express themselves about their likes and dislikes in The Forum.

Please stay tuned as we come down the home election stretch because we’ve been storing up plenty of little bombs to drop on the local as well as the national scene. And if you’re waiting to see who we think should take their seats at the head of the class in November, your wait is almost over. Next week we’ll pick those we see and some of whom we hope will be known as our future elected officials.

Until next week...

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