Monday, June 28, 2010

So we are going to get a budget. Now what?

I have it on good authority that New York State will have a budget, nearly 100 days late, by the end of today. Seems like I was lied to by my good authority.

However, After hundreds of days bickering and looking like imbeciles, will anything get done over the summer before an election? I find it extremely doubtful. With the lackluster leadership we have in Albany we are in for a putrid summer of hand-holding, special interest fund raising and broken campaign promises.

While I do support both of my local state level representatives, I really hope that we see some fresh faces in Albany come January 2011. Silver, Espada, Sampson and the rest of that lot of so-called leaders need to be exposed. Thankfully, the Governor has chosen not to run again.

As my lovely wife likes to say, if anyone else in the world did their job as poorly as these fools, they would be fired. She even said that this craziness has made her consider running for office. I too am almost ready to do that, but like I said before, I support my local representatives.

However, as I noted after my trip to Albany, we really do need some serious leadership changes. Sen. Liz Krueger could lead that change. Her seniority, no-nonsense approach and willingness to work with anyone represent a resounding change from the hissy-fit mentality of our current Senate leaders. Assembly Member Micah Kellner, a friend and neighbor, is still a junior member of the Assembly but he continues to work hard for our community. I still have high hopes that he may one day take on the status quo, but for now he is constrained by the horrific excuse for a leader that occupies Legislative Office Building 932 in Albany.

So we get a budget today…we hope. It is nearly 100 days late. Odds are nothing will change. New York deserves accountable representation in Albany. We are a big state, with a ton of pressing economic and social issues to deal with right now. Jobs will continue to be lost, equality will continue to be ignored and schools will continue to stagnate unless someone stands up and say enough. I am just a schlub with a blog. We need someone with some power to say something AND do something. Who is it going to be?

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Mayor Changes Tune to Same Song

Some folks are pretty pissed at Mayor Bloomberg because of his apparent flip from pro-Food truck to simply being anti-Introduction 272. Granted I was pretty amped to see the letter from his Office of Legislative Affairs outlining the abject stupidity of this legislation but the letter clearly leaves the door open to other regulation from the city.

Most of the letter states that food trucks must obey the law (including not feeding the meter, which many trucks currently do…) but calls Council Member Lappin’s legislation too punitive. In other words, while Mayor Bloomberg supports greater regulation, he does not support Introduction 272. Got to take your victories where you can.

Now, I can’t say I am surprised that the Mayor’s office provided this clarification. While he has said he won’t run for another term as Mayor (I still am unconvinced that he won’t just do it anyway), Bloomberg does need to keep NYC business happy, most importantly those who pay a majority of the business related taxes: the brick and mortar institutions and start-ups. He may make a run at another office at some point and he will need that support.

The Street Vendor Project asked on its Facebook page yesterday if this legislation is a blessing in disguise providing its membership new-found political standing and yuppie (yeah that would be me) support. However, if this Introduction 272 does become law, which is entirely possible due to the fact that most City Council Members want to get re-elected and need to raise money from local business leaders to do so, this process will all be for not. Jobs lost, creative food gone, our city’s mobile vendor industry decimated. And I won’t get to eat my Schnitzel on Fridays…which is a real bummer.

While many City Council Members clearly have their mind made up, the advocacy must continue. Call, write or walk into your City Council office and speak your mind. Who knows, the Member’s and their staff may actually remember that it is about the people who vote for them who make sure they keep their jobs and not about the people who provide campaign donations.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fabulous Israelites and New Yorkers Should Be Able to Get Married

As I have mentioned before, I am a member of the steering committee of the Reform Jewish Voice of New York State. We do lots of progressive social justice type things up in Albany and around the state. We recently launched a major campaign for Marriage Equality. You will notice a nifty little banner ad to the right side of the blog. (look, it is there).

Last weekend, to help launch the campaign, I spoke at Temple Israel of New Rochelle at a rally for marriage equality. Below is my speech.

I thought I would take advantage of my new found web-traffic (Thanks to the always interesting New York City Council for the uptick) and ask you all to take part in this campaign. You don't have to be Jewish (but it helps if you live in New York State). So if you do live in New York, PLEASE visit and send a note to your State Senator. Every voice counts in this fight for rights and I would be honored to have you take part in this battle.

Ma tovu ohalecha Yaacov, mishcanotecha Yisrael?

How goodly are your tents oh Jacob, your dwelling places Israel?

Tents. Dwelling places. This is not a blessing just for Jacob, this is about all of our tents and dwelling places; all homes, all congregations. Even in the days of the Israelites wandering in the desert, it was clear that the people of Israel were a diverse group, a group that is beautiful and powerful because of our differences. There were a lot of people following Moses through the desert...odds are at least a few Israelites were just a bit more fabulous than the others.

Every day, Jews around the world utter the words of Balaam to start their morning, by way of reminding themselves that in fact that Jews are a blessed people. Our blessing is multifold. We here today are blessed to live in a free country, a place that allows us to embrace our faith and traditions. We live a place with purple mountains and majesty. A place where the individual and the community are sacrosanct. We live in a country with a history of struggles and civil rights. And we live a state that is willing to listen to our complaints about inequality, if we are willing to speak up about them.

That is why I am here today. My name is the dcc and I am a straight married man who stands for marriage equality. I am also proud to be a Reform Jew who is actively engaged in the mitzvah of pursing justice for our community members who are systematically denied thousands of federal and state protections because of who they are.

I am a member of the Reform Jewish Voice (RJV) of New York State steering committee, co-sponsors of this event. RJV aims to engage congregations as advocates for progressive social and economic policies at the state level. Through conferences, advocacy programs and events like this, RJV interacts with more than 100 Reform congregations in New York State with nearly 100,000 members. RJV brings Reform Jewish values and the spirit of tikkun olam to state policy makers through this extensive network of individuals and congregations. And we want to help bring your voice to our state capital.

Just last week we launched a new campaign for marriage equality in our state. The progressive Jewish community of New York aims to become a key player in the ongoing fight for equality in our state, but we need your help. Please log on today to and send a letter to your state senator. (don’t worry all you need is an email and a zip code, we take care of the rest.)

We cannot be silent. We may be blessed but we must take part in ensuring our blessing continues and that takes hard work. It takes action. And I thank you for your help as we continue to pursue justice so that we once again can share all our blessings with all the tents and dwelling places of our land.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wow! The Mayor Supports the Food Trucks

This is a great letter, outlining the stupidity of this legislation. Patrick A Wehle, Director of City Legislative Affairs nails the worst aspects of this law and why it is a bad idea.

Thank you very much for the support.

City Testimony Re Intro 272

Monday, June 14, 2010

Another way to stand up to the man and support the food trucks

So, you, like most people have jobs -- like the ones Council Member Jessica Lappin's new legislation will destroy -- and can't just leave said job to attend the New York City Council's Committee on Consumer Affairs meeting that will discuss the aforementioned anti-business legislation introduced by Ms. Lappin.

Well have no fear, the dcc is here to help you voice your concern about the short-sighted, prejudicial, anti-Small Business legislation.

In addition to calling and writing Ms. Lappin's office, call and write all the members of the Committee on Consumer Affairs. How you ask? Well just click on the links below and you will be taken to their pages were you will find email and phone numbers so you can be in touch. Isn't that just so easy? I thought so.

Karen Koslowitz - Queens-D email (Chair and Co-sponsor of the good luck)
Charles Barron - Brooklyn-D
Leroy G. Comrie, Jr. - Queens-D email
Julissa Ferreras - Queens-D email
James F. Gennaro - Queens-D email
G. Oliver Koppell - Bronx-D email
Michael C. Nelson - Brooklyn-D
Remember to be nice, mention the leg by name (Introduction 272) and make sure to say where you live in the city.

We can win this fight, but we need to be vocal.

Get out there and let them know you care about the diversity of our small business and the deliciousness of our food trucks!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Response To Ms. Lappin

Council Member Lappin,

Thank you for your response to my email regarding Introduction 272. From your legislative and administrative priorities, it is clear that the most pressing issues facing our City are the safety of and access to our streets. Below is just a partial list of your work saving our streets for the public. I personally thank you for your ongoing action:

* A three hour “Horn Honking Sting” on December 10th with officers of the 19th Precinct at 63rd and York
* Participation in the East Side Streets Coalition’s open meetings this past March
* The extremely important Trafficstat bill you introduced on April 29th that mandates information about dangerous intersections and traffic accidents be published on the web
* Your ongoing crusade against idling

It is clear that you are a true friend of New York pedestrians and are always willing to overwork New York’s Finest for such meaningful causes. And now with Introduction 272, you are changing the rules to target a small group of innovative business owners, providing exciting and diverse food on the streets of our great City, all in the name of keeping our streets safe and open to the public.

But I must ask, why stop at mobile food vendors? Why not introduce legislation calling for additional Parking Enforcement on all of your constituents who park on the streets illegally. After six tickets (I would give these folks just a few more chances than the food vendors) in a 12 month period, drivers will lose their vehicle registration. This of course would be after a review process. That way we wouldn’t have to worry about our streets being congested with some many illegally parked cars and we could get some of the worst polluters off the street. It really doesn’t matter that some of these drivers make their living by driving, what matters is our streets are free of distractions like cars.

One more piece of legislation that would ensure greater public access to the City’s avenues and boulevards is a bill that would remove the meters. That way no one would pay to park in pay to park places illegally. There will be no meter feeding or even coming back to make sure you don’t get a ticket from an over zealous Parking Enforcement Officer. By removing the regressive tax for parking you will make it much easier for working New Yorkers and those who travel into the City work, to park. It would save a lot of money for individuals. But please remember to post the no parking hours clearly so it is possible to enforce the above outlined six strikes you’re out rule.

As you can see Ms. Lappin, while some measures are appropriate to foster street safety and access, others go way too far. Targeting of a group of small business owners, who for the most part, follow the rules as they are outlined by law, serves only to get your name in the paper while hurting people who don’t vote for you or provide donations. I am disappointed that your next campaign for Public Advocate veiled ever so slightly in the guise of legislative agenda supporting seniors and street access, is taking precedence over smart government. Again, I respectfully ask you to withdraw your support for this legislation.

Thank you for your time,

the dcc

Ms. Lappin's Form Letter Outlining Her Reasons to Hurt Small Businesses

I got this email just a few minutes ago.

Mr. Cutler,

Thank you for your email in opposition to Introduction 272, a bill which would change the city enforces feeding the meter and idling regulations on mobile food vendors. Food vending trucks are part of our city’s food landscape. I hope that they will remain that way. But they are not exempt from the laws that are already on our books.

My bill does not ban food trucks, but changes the way we enforce two key illegal acts: 1) idling for more than 3 minutes, which pollutes our air; and 2) feeding parking meters. Food trucks have a license to operate as a mobile business. That means, by definition, they are required to be mobile. That’s what they agreed to when they got the permit in the first place. There are trucks that now take a parking spot and use it to vend all day long. They take the same space every day for hours on end. That isn’t legal and it isn’t right.

The city streets belong to the public, not to any one business owner. Food trucks can park somewhere for an hour or two, depending on the regulations, and still sell their wares. They can use twitter and blogs to communicate with their customers. But they are not allowed to take over a parking spot forever for their own use.

Unfortunately, some mobile vendors are doing just that and view tickets as a cost of doing business. My bill seeks to change that.

I’m sorry we could not agree on this issue. Please feel free to contact me should you have additional questions or concerns.


Jessica Lappin

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Jessica Lappin Targets Small Businesses…on Wheels

Here is the logic: Getting parking tickets makes your food truck dirty and unhealthy and therefore if you get two tickets in 12 months you lose your vendor license. Say what?

Or at least that is what City Council Member Jessica Lappin (D-Upper East Side) is trying to promote with her new bill before the City Council.

Needless to say the mobile-gourmands took to Twitter and Facebook to fight back against this ill-conceived plan. The boys over at “Schnitzel and Things” put up a petition that attracted hundreds of signatures within a few hours of its publication (I am #27). Nearly every iPhone and Droid on those targeted trucks were a buzzing in the aftermath of the announcements and the people responded to the epicurean call to action.

But Council Member Lappin, my representative to the somewhat lawless body of the New York City Council, has yet to reply to my email or Facebook messages. Granted she is probably busy with the unexpected backlash to this bill, but I would like to know her rationale for this legislation. (I will let all three of you reading this know if she gets back to me.)

What Council Member Lappin is trying to accomplish, besides riding our streets of creative culinary treats and tasty morsels of deep fried goodness, is really beyond me. The cynical side of my political mind says that she is getting pressure from real estate bound restaurants, many of whom would love the viral support of a Wafle & Dinges (haha…dinges) or Rickshaw Dumpling Truck. The restaurant industry, which has been hit so very hard by this recession and employees most of the “aspiring” actors in a town of “aspiring” action, legitimately needs help. But I can’t think of a better way to support local businesses than to change the rules to hurt other small local business. Can you?

New York City would not be the same place if it wasn’t for our diverse and delicious food establishments. There is a reason why New York is the capital of American Food. (Back off LA, you so don’t even come close. Chicago, that is cute but chill out. San Fran, please enjoy your tofu and sit quietly on your organic high horse.) Supporting local industry is an extremely worthwhile goal of local legislation. But this piece of slick, backroom dealings hurts more than it could ever help.

For example, Thomas DeGeest, CEO and Founder of Wafle & Dings (I said dinges again, huhuh) outlines the amount of money the city collects from these mobile business owners. This represents only the parking costs; these numbers are before taxes are collected, before people travel into the city to find these treats and before DeGeest and his other employees spend their hard earned green in New York City establishments:
In my business, Wafels & Dinges, we are relentless and truly obsessive about paying for munimeter receipts and avoiding parking tickets. But sometimes you have a line and you're just 5 minutes late, which is enough to give you a 95% chance on a ticket (thanks to Mr. Bloomberg, who has turned parking tickets into a major revenue source for the city).

We still end up with average 3 tickets per month, but we do pay an average of $36 per day in munimeter receipts (5 days / week, make that $9180 / year). Add the tickets at an average $106 / ea and we pay another $3800 / year in tickets.

I have long been a supporter of the exciting new food trucks and their older, traditional cousins. There are lots of things these guys do, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not, that can get on the nerves of other businesses. But there is no reason to create a specialized parking law that targets these entrepreneurial up-starts.

This is a self-serving law that puts the interests of brick and mortar restaurants before those of a group of newer, faster moving, innovative businesses represented by these trucks. Ms Lappin should be fostering all business in our city and not fixing the books to favor one group over another.