Monday, July 14, 2014

Cuomo Is Awful, but Astorino Is No Better

It's sad that New Yorkers have such miserable choices in our two-party system. Lately I've been encountering a sea of "anybody but Cuomo" tweets and anti-Cuomo tweeters, but they seem to regard Rob Astorino as an alternative. In his favor, he publicly opposes Common Core, and is unequivocal about it. But there are issues.

Execrable though Cuomo is, he at least has to pose as a Democrat from time to time. That's not enough to make me support him, but it means he has to think twice before he goes after, say, the Triborough Amendment that keeps our contracts in force until we negotiate new ones. This is particularly important to UFT members who've just gone 6 years without a contract. Imagine what Mike Bloomberg would have done if he'd had carte blanche to impose whatever he felt like. Doubtless we'd be working for 8 bucks an hour with no health benefits and he'd have pulled our pensions to pay for a better penthouse for Cathie Black.

Astorino has no such compunctions. He's not only criticized Cuomo for failing to attack the Triborough amendment, but he's also written an op-ed in the NY Post expressing opposition:

Consider the situation now in Westchester: All eight public unions are now working without a contract — one of them in its fourth year. But wages aren’t frozen at previous contract levels. Workers still get the longevity and step increases built into the old contract — hikes that often equal or exceed “regular” salary increases.

This is the same thing Bloomberg often said of teachers as he denied us a contract. Astorino interprets step increases he agreed to as raises. Actually they aren't. They are agreements between labor and management. Note also that Astorino had allowed all of his union contracts to expire. Does that remind you of a certain NY ex-mayor?

Astorino claims we have no incentive to negotiate because we're already getting raises, and compares demands for retro pay to Alice in Wonderland. If that's not enough, Mr. Astorino is a charter enthusiast. We haven't seen him criticize Cuomo for standing with Moskowitz against our progressive mayor, and we have no reason to expect he'll do so. His positions on women's rights, which he claims are irrelevant, are less than inspiring. He opposes gay marriage and gun control.

If we are to discount his opposition to the Triborough Amendment, most troubling is Astorino's position on taxes. Astorino's got a great point when he points to our illustrious governor as a tax evader, but when he complains of how high NY State taxes are, those are dangerous waters for those of us who support public education.

Districts have been pretty much robbed by the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which cut much-needed state aid. Combine with that Cuomo's limit on raising property taxes to 2% or cost of living, whichever is less, and districts are being forced to do more with less. The reality is many districts can only do less with less as teachers and support staff are laid off and class sizes skyrocket. If that's not enough, ask yourself why Wisconsin's notorious Governor Scott Walker is fundraising for Astorino. Is there a single public school supporter who wants a Scott Walker system in NY State?

If you're a registered Democrat run, don't walk, to support Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu in the Democratic Primary. If that fails, vote for Green Howie Hawkins in November. Neither of the major candidates merits our support, and Astorino appears to be nothing less than an incipient disaster for those of us who actually have to work for a living.
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