January 9, 2002
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A front-page article in today's New York Times reports on the Bush administration's decision to change tacks in encouraging low-emission vehicles. The article quotes two non-government groups, both of which react with some skepticism to the Bush administration's decision. One of the groups is the Alliance to Save Energy, described by the Times as "a bipartisan advocacy group in Washington."
Just how "bipartisan" is the Alliance to Save Energy? Well, check out a list of its board of directors. (http://www.ase.org/about/board.htm ) Its chairman is Senator Byron Dorgan, a Democrat from North Dakota. Its vice chairman is Senator Jeff Bingaman, a Democrat from New Mexico. Its congressional vice chairman is Senator James Jeffords of Vermont, the independent who threw the Senate into the control of the Democrats when he left the Republican Party. Its other congressional vice chairman is Rep. Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts. Indeed, of the four incumbent politicians listed on the Alliance to Save Energy board of directors, three are Democrats and the other one is James Jeffords. This is what the Times describes as "a bipartisan advocacy group in Washington."
The other group quoted in the Times article is something called the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, which the Times identifies as "energy experts" and "a research and advocacy group in Washington." A quick check of the Web site of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy makes clear that it is backed in part by electric power companies. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy's board of directors includes a representative of Pacific Gas & Electric and of the old New England Electric, and the council's funders include Boston Edison and Southern California Edison Company. These companies have a stake in the debate over low-emission vehicles -- if these vehicles are electric-powered, then some of the money that now is collected at gas stations may well be collected instead at the future by electric companies, as consumers who once filled up their car's tanks with gas instead plug in their cars to charge the batteries.
Note: The editor of Smartertimes.com is in Florida and is operating this morning off the New York Times on the Web.
News Article: An original, non-New York Times-related news article follows: New City Council Shows Limits of Term Limits
By BENJAMIN SMITH
The emergence this week of Upper East Side City Council incumbent Gifford Miller as the probable speaker of the New York City Council demonstrated the limits of term limits in changing the composition of city government. Mr. Miller, like most of the 38 new members who will join him on the Council Wednesday, has not recently worked in the private sector.
While Mayor Michael Bloomberg embodies some of the hopes of term-limits backers for officials who understand private business, a closer look at the results of November's election shows that he was more an anomaly than part of a trend. Term-limits backer Ronald Lauder promised the legislation would eliminate "government by the politicians, of the politicians, and for the politicians," bringing in leaders with skepticism of government and experience outside it. But of 38 new members of the council, fewer than ten (children of politicians excluded) come from the private, for-profit sector. Even fewer have ever run a business. And Mr. Miller's traditional path to power -- he is a former political staffer with the support of key municipal unions as well as party organizations -- suggests he may run into conflict with the mayor's aims to attract businesses and impose fiscal austerity. In particular, the new speaker could fight Mr. Bloomberg's promise not to raise taxes and his attempt to save money on labor contracts.
The November election "brought a lot of new faces, not a lot of new perspectives" to the city's legislature, Cooper Union historian Fred Siegel said. "These are people who are very close to the public sector in the first place."
Term-limits advocates argue that people who have spent their lives in government are disposed to expand government, while private citizens are more inclined to fight regulation. "The career politician is more likely to vote for higher taxes and more government control than the private citizen," the executive director of the national advocacy group U.S. Term Limits, Stacie Rumenap, said.
The victory of term limits in a 1993 New York City referendum came as part of a national movement to replace the professional political class with officials drawn from private life. The measure won in New York despite being unpopular among elected officials and liberal civic groups, who argued that it would oust capable and experienced politicians and favor rich candidates like Mr. Lauder, a cosmetics heir and businessman in his own right who was the legislation's main backer.
Even the new mayor is not the typical "citizen legislator" pushed by term limits advocates in 1993, Democratic political consultant Jerry Skurnik said. "The voters weren't thinking about billionaires," he said.
Mr. Miller, on the other hand, is a familiar face in city politics. Despite his youth -- he is 32 -- Mr. Miller is now the longest-serving member of the council. He was elected in 1996 after working for more than three years as an aide to Carolyn Maloney, now a member of Congress. Most of the new council members are former political staffers, civil servants, or staff members of non-profit service organizations that depend on city funds. Four used to hold seats in the New York State legislature.
Those with private-sector backgrounds include John Liu of Queens, a former consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Charles Barron of East New York, who ran a small leadership training company that had some government contracts.
Term-limits legislation "is not a panacea, and it's not going to resolve everything that concerns us about politicians," former City Councilman Sal Albanese, an early ally of Mr. Lauder in the movement for term limits, said. "But overall, you shake things up and give more power and influence to grassroots people." Mr. Lauder's aide who handles term limits, Allen Roth, did not return a call seeking Mr. Lauder's opinion on the new City Council and its speaker.
Mr. Miller's strength became clear this weekend when he won the open backing of Queens Democratic leader Thomas Manton and his Bronx counterpart, Roberto Ramirez. Their support does not come cheap, however: people familiar with the City Council say they expect the political chiefs to pick members to chair the body's two most powerful committees, Finance and Land Use.
The council will formally choose a speaker when it meets for the first time today, but Mr. Miller's leading rivals conceded defeat Monday.
Selecting the speaker "is always done by the leaders" of the Democratic Party, Democratic political consultant George Arzt said. "It would be unrealistic to expect otherwise.
Indeed, the alliance of Queens boss Donald Manes and the Bronx's Stanley Friedman brought the last speaker of the City Council, Peter Vallone, to office.
Some members of the last City Council tried to repeal term limits, and Mr. Vallone has started a political action committee to reverse term limits.
The rule remains popular with voters, however, despite the fact that it prevented mayor Rudolph Giuliani from seeking a third term. Even after September 11, 57% of New York registered voters opposed repealing term limits, according to a Marist College poll.
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