Saturday, December 08, 2007

Cirque du Simcha Felder

Councilman Simcha Felder, who heads the committee with jurisdiction over such things, insists he's serious about reforming how lawmakers set their pay, but you wouldn't know it from the farcical hearing he held this week.

First, Felder let one member of the committee, Bronx Councilman Larry Seabrook, deliver a tirade against Citizens Union Executive Director Dick Dadey, who came with thoughtful ideas about the Council's salary structure. Galled that CU, a top civic group, hasn't endorsed him since 1994, Seabrook demanded to know the number of blacks on its board, as well as how much Dadey is paid. Felder laughed at Seabrook's gross badgering until an aide whispered that the press was watching.

Then, Felder hit another witness, Neil Rosenstein of NYPIRG, with the same irrelevant, inappropriate question: How much did he make? Far less than a councilman, Rosenstein responded. (The base salary for this part-time job is $112,500.)

Then, Felder refused to let former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, a good-government champion, testify. Felder said Stern had failed to register to speak during the hearing's first 20 minutes - a requirement not written anywhere.

Finally, Brooklyn Councilman Domenic Recchia showed up just minutes before the hearing ended, enabling him to be counted as having attended a meeting he actually had missed.

Why did Felder, who aspires to be controller, run this circus? Because the Council promised to consider pay-raise reform when it okayed a 25% hike last year. Among the items on the agenda: barring members from voting on their own pay and banning the speaker from doling out stipends to members who head committees. These extra "lulus" are now worth as much as $28,500.

Congress lives with both prohibitions per the U.S. Constitution. The Council should abide by the same high standards. But, based on what we've observed, we're not holding our breath.


Why does this community keep electing people who know only how to make a Chilul Hashem?

Hello, Simcha? Where's the park on 18th Avenue?


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