Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Which side are you on? Look who's on your side.

Campaign contributions draw a profile of a candidate more telling than public speeches. Contribution information is easily accessible. Go to

Although campaign contributions don't show you the candidate's principles, they do provide an inside snapshot and a partial answer to the question, "Which side are they on?" by naming who's on their side -- whom they asked for support, who their friends are, where their roots reach and what kind of money their supporters wield:

P.J.Kim's campaign is studded with dozens and dozens of hefty contributions from individuals in finance and banking.

Margaret Chin's campaign is broadly financed by hundreds upon hundreds of modest contributions -- many as small as $2, $5, $10, $20 -- from individual constituents.

Rosie Mendez' largest contributions come from unions and affordable housing advocates.

Check out Gerson, Gleason and the rest for yourself. (My favorite page is Norman Siegel's list of contributors. Reads like a city-wide roster of legal advocates for good government. Exactly what you'd expect for Norman.)

Information for the DA's race does not appear to be available on the city site, but it is available at the state's site

Unfortunately, the state site omits contributors' employment information.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Hearing on retail diversity

State Senator Squadron will hold a hearing on retail diversity.

Unless we want every neighborhood in New York to look alike, local businesses will need support, non local businesses regulation and restriction.

The latter can include the former. A zoning that restricts businesses -- there are zonings that exclude banks and airlines, for example -- can drive down commercial rents, preserving local stores that serve the local community: if big payers like banks or nightlife destinations are excluded from a neighborhood, landlords must settle for the humble low renters like the store that's already there and been there eighty years.

I'd want to warn the Senate that big money is more accomplished than small business at exploiting government programs. Unless carefully crafted, government assistance to business can easily spread the harm it was intended to contain. And big business will lobby to craft any measure to its benefit.

I'd also warn that no narrowly-bestowed assistance or focused regulation can alone save small businesses from the onslaught of the sweeping rush towards money. Loss of local business belongs to a larger social and economic trend towards the upscale in New York that includes both local residents and businesses. Residential upscaling endorses commercial upscaling in the advancing spiral towards generic mainstream culture of no particularity, no flavor, no difference, no identity, leaving chain stores and non-local upscale nightlife where a neighborhood once was. Even old stores in situ cannot resist the transforming allure of new money. There's no frog wouldn't prefer being prince.

So the force of that current in a metropolis can't be reversed with a narrow focus on retail, but preserving retail is one good place to start the dam. Without regulation, the real estate marketplace -- both the purveyor profiteers and their limitless hosts of consumers -- will efface the entire city and all its neighborhoods.

The blight continues in the East Village and the Lower East Side, and is infecting Chinatown now.