So tell us, Professor Muzzio, this kind of strong-arming of a city council member (“Bloomberg Scouted GOP Candidates to Oust Weprin After Stop-and-Frisk Vote“) is a pretty common thing, right?
Maybe not. Colby Hamilton reports:
Muzzio said that while political pressure is regularly applied to legislators behind closed doors, Bloomberg’s decision to directly target a sitting councilmember was unique.
“This is overt,” he said. “This is different.”
Well, it’s not as if there was no warning given to Queens Councilman Mark Weprin and other councilmembers who voted for the pair of bills passed last month, which would allow people who believe themselves to have been improperly racially profiled to sue and would create a extradepartmental inspector general for the NYPD.
You may recall that early this month, pointing out that “when billionaires get grumpy, things can get ugly,” I noted (“Here’s why entrusting gov’t to the care of benevolent billionaires may not be such a great idea) that Mayor Grumpy,
who’s in a snit over a pair of bills aimed at getting back some measure of control over an increasingly out-of-control NYPD which were recently passed by the City Council by votes large enough to make mayoral veto overrides possible, — unless the little fella can make a bunch of councilmembers see things his way. And he has announced that he plans just such a campaign of persuasion, relying heavily on a favorite tool, the sledgehammer.
Actually, I stand corrected about the number of councilmembers the Grumpyman needs to persuade. As Colby Hamilton points out, it’s possible that mayoral vetoes can be upheld if a single member who voted for the bills votes against override or simply goes MIA the day of the vote, expected to happen sometime later this summer. (The mayor has 30 days to veto the bills.)
And according to “one Queens Republican insider,” Bloomberg aide Howard Wolfson was “actively making the phone calls and making the last-ditch effort to find a viable candidate to run” against Weprin. And “multiple sources on the ground in Queens confirmed that calls from Wolfson went out scouting for candidates who would use the mayor’s considerable resources to run a campaign against Weprin.”
Primary nominating petitions were due last Thursday, you may recall, and in fact no Republican submitted petitions. However, according to Hamilton,
[R]eports of a phone poll conducted earlier this month suggested the possibility of at least one candidate. While it is unknown who specifically conducted the phone poll, former Republican state Senate candidate Joseph Concannon’s name was mentioned in a hypothetical matchup with Weprin.
Reached by phone Monday, Concannon would neither confirm nor deny that Bloomberg’s office had reached out to him to run against Weprin. Concannon did, however, go on to say that Weprin had “made a calculated mistake” in supporting the Community Safety Act, the measure that included the two bills.
“I think Mark has done this less because he believes in the Act, and more because he thinks he’s going to win the votes of his other City Council members to become speaker of the City Council,” Concannon said, referring to reports that Weprin is interested in leading the body next year.
Yeah, that must be it, Joe. Mark W doesn’t believe in the bills, he just thinks other councilmembers will vote for him for speaker if he supports them. That just goes to show how unpopular they are in the City Council chambers. Uh, doesn’t it?
So how is the man in the crosshairs reacting to these developments?
Reached by phone Monday, Weprin said the mayor’s tactics would have no effect on his vote.
“I have no beef with the mayor. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the Police Department,” Weprin said. “I am just representing the best interests of my constituents. My conscience and my constituents and the City of New York require me to support this bill because these reforms improve a system that has been flawed.”
It should always be remembered, in dealing with dealings between Mayor Grumpy and the NYPD, that it is a genuine “special relationship.” His Grumpiness has made the police the front-line shock troops of his 21st-century approach to civic order, which means that the First Amendment is suspended anytime a public expression of political opinion might make him uncomfortable. And remember that the Grumpyman is predisposed to uncomfortableness. As we saw, for example, in the armed suppression of Occupy Wall Street, the police have mayoral authority to do pretty much any damned thing they feel like in the interest of protecting his dainty Richie Rich sensibilities. When it comes to public demonstrations, the cops’ orders are apparently to go into occupation-force lockdown mode.
Now I’m not sure it’s fair to read into this development that Mayor Grumpy has gone to war and is taking no prisoners. It seems more in the nature of an early-round sending of a signal. According to “one source familiar with the situation,” “They’re looking to see if Weprin is willing to turn his vote around. If he does, then I think people will take a back seat.”
I can’t help thinking that if a true war of wills between the billionaire and the City Council schlepper from Queens, if the schlepper had been in a war he would sure as shootin’ know about it. Of course we don’t know what back-channel pressures are being brought to bear on Weprin and others who took these modest stands to get the NYPD back under control, thereby inscribing themselves in the Grumpyman’s Book of Enemies. It should be interesting to see what the coming weeks bring.
Oh yes, for the record: “The mayor’s office declined to comment.”