Earlier this year, a neighbor asked if I were going to run, again, against Catherine Nolan for the NY State Assembly, District 37 seat. When I answered, "yes", she said, "That's gonna be tough for you; because so many people like her."
It's true: many adore her. She's feisty, funny, loved by her employees, is procedurally adept, and is a Mom. What's not to like? If you are one of the chosen who has received a check, distributed by Cathy, but, paid for by your neighbors, you probably like her even more than most. Often, when people say how wonderful a legislator is, they are really revealing that they've sold their vote for whatever amount was granted to their pet project by that particular pol. A Tax-And-Spend Democrat, Cathy has spent her career serving her two true constituencies: the leadership of the United Federation of Teachers, and Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver.
The people of Queens, who struggle with America's 5th highest cost of living, pay the highest taxes in the nation. Though she has served 30 years and has seniority greater than all but 3 members of a body of 150, has she ever exerted any leadership in speaking out for lowering those taxes for people and businesses--freeing capital and creating jobs--helping to ameliorate that cost of living? It is unlikely that she would; as, she has needed those public dollars, over the years, to dole out "member items" and "discretionary funding" at an excessive rate in what amounts to a neat little vote buying scheme.
She engages in wealth re-distributive class warfare via her support of the so-called "Millionaire's Tax". She burdens businesses with nuisance regulations. For these and many other reasons, she earned a negative rating in job creation from NY's Business Council in 2010 (-15 out of 100). In fairness, in 2012, her score improved to 42 out of 100; but, appropriate to the Education Chair of the Assembly, that would still result in a "letter grade" of "F".
She has done nothing to aid the 53,000 minority and low income children who are on a waiting list to get into a Charter School. They wait on lists because their parents understand that Charters (which are public schools that consistently score greater academic success--for less public money) are the best chance those youngsters have for a better future. Charters embarrass the UFT, which funds Cathy's campaigns. She actually allows the UFT's lawyers to dictate policy to her. Isn't she supposed to be our representative?
So many things NY's legislators do would lead to an indictment if done in private life; but, in Government, become "perks" of the job. Shelly Silver rewards Cathy for her loyalty to him with the Education Chairship (which includes a $10,000.00 bump in yearly salary); and, Cathy morphs into a symbiotic relationship with the UFT. There are no worries about "conflict of interest" or "appearances of impropriety" because the beneficiaries make the laws. However, Shelly is finally under investigation for trying to make Vito Lopez's "sex abuse problems" disappear by spreading around some public funds on the sly. He has admitted to the pay out; perhaps soon he'll be on his way out.
Cathy will tell you she's a Democrat because she wants to "help people." Is she helping taxpayers? Business owners? Consumers? School kids? Parents? I understand "liking Cathy"; but, voting for her on that basis alone might violate your values and self-interests…unless you are one of the relative few who've received a check paid for by the many.
So, why do the rest of us vote for her?