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Turning lemons into lemonade

Eric Ulrich is running for public advocate.

Eric Ulrich is running for public advocate. Photo Credit: City Council

Daily Point

Potential break for Ulrich

The 17-person New York City public advocate special election was always going to be unpredictable. But Amazon’s surprise departure might give once-clear underdog Eric Ulrich more of a path, campaign strategists tell The Point.

Ulrich, a city councilman from non-Manhattan-adjacent sections of Queens, is the lone Republican elected official in the bunch. Even though he’s a John Kasich rather than a Donald Trump Republican, the party affiliation alone would be a problem in a city where there are nearly 7 times as many registered Democrats as Republicans. But Ulrich is the only candidate who wholeheartedly endorsed Amazon’s arrival.

Now that Amazon’s HQ2 is gone, the issue may not be as front and center for motivated anti-deal voters. Instead, some deal supporters might look for a way to register their displeasure, perhaps landing on Ulrich.

It’s still an uphill battle, not helped by the fact that Ulrich didn’t qualify for the second televised official debate. But Ulrich has other factors going for him. The non-partisan special election requires that candidates run under their own party lines, not the familiar labels of Democrat, Republican, Working Families and the like. Ulrich’s is the palatable “Common Sense.”

The heavy field of accomplished and diverse frontrunners could split New York’s Democratic blocks of African-American, Hispanic, and LGBTQ voters. This would weaken a favorite like Brooklyn City Councilman Jumaane Williams, who faced voters statewide in his unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor in last year’s primaries. Candidates like former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Manhattan lawyer Dawn Smalls could split female voters. City Councilmen Ydanis Rodriguez and Rafael Espinal may compete with Mark-Viverito for Hispanic votes. There’s not a clear candidate for Orthodox Jewish voters beyond Ulrich. And there’s no runoff in this race, so if you squeak by you win.

Ulrich himself has unsurprising support from the city’s GOP and real estate communities, as per his campaign filings, which feature large sums from building companies plus $1,000 from former Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota and $175 from state party chair Ed Cox.  

He has been to GOP/moderate stronghold Staten Island multiple times, according to campaign spokesman Menashe Shapiro. And, naturally, he’s seeing what he can get from the Amazon blow-up, running ads on the subject on Facebook and Twitter, according to Shapiro.

Mark Chiusano and Rita Ciolli

Talking Point

Recycle or return?

A behind-the-scenes battle is brewing over Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal to expand the state’s bottle bill beyond water, soda and beer containers.

The plan, which is included in the governor’s 2019 budget, would slap nickel deposits on glass, plastic and aluminum containers for beverages like sports and energy drinks, ready-to-drink iced teas and coffees, and fruit and vegetable drinks.

But companies that operate curbside recycling programs and facilities that take and process those recyclables say losing all those other containers to the bottle bill would be a financial hit for them and the municipalities that hire them, especially the plastic bottles that still have some value and can be sold despite the current worldwide recycling crisis. Losing that revenue would ultimately require town and village taxpayers to pay more for their recycling programs to cover the cost.

Industry representatives say the governor should leave plastics alone and instead add wine and spirits bottles to the bottle bill with a hefty 25-cent deposit to encourage their return. Cuomo had already asked the state Department of Environmental Conservation to study that proposal.

Obviously, there will be a lot of number-crunching between now and March 31, when the budget is due. Industry representatives plan to descend on Albany on Feb. 27 to lobby lawmakers and Cuomo. And municipalities at some point will starting loudly weighing in.

This is one issue on which no one’s opinion will be bottled up for long.

Michael Dobie

Pencil Point

Nothing to celebrate

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Quick Points

Making history

  • Theodore McCarrick, the former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, was expelled from the priesthood by Pope Francis after being found guilty of decades of sexual abuse of minors and adult seminarians. Which begs a question: Is it more satisfying that McCarrick became the first cardinal defrocked for sexual abuse, or more frustrating that it took this long?
  • Former “Fox & Friends” host and State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert withdrew from consideration as UN ambassador, citing family concerns. Which is nothing compared to concerns about her lack of experience for the position.
  • In parts of the country with the highest rates of non-vaccination for nonmedical reasons, many such parents are having their children vaccinated in the midst of measles outbreaks. So much for standing firm on principle.
  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made history when she referred to her opposition to the Amazon deal in Queens as being about “dignified jobs in New York City” and said New Yorkers don’t have to “settle for scraps,” thereby becoming the first person ever to refer to $150,000 jobs as scraps.
  • President Donald Trump made history, too, when, according to former FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe, he rejected U.S. intelligence on North Korea, saying, “I don’t care, I believe Putin,” becoming the first leader of a nation other than Russia to utter those words.
  • President Donald Trump tweeted that this weekend’s “Saturday Night Live” show was not funny and unfair, and asked why networks like NBC face no “retribution.” But they do — the potential for low ratings, something Trump knows a lot about.
  • The North Carolina state board of elections found that an operative hired by the Republican candidate in the 9th Congressional District carried out a scheme to tamper with absentee ballots, but GOP officials there say there’s no evidence the operation changed the election so Mark Harris should remain the winner. Wait, because you failed at cheating you get a reward?
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says the progressive movement needs to be about equality and opportunity and that he’s going to take that message nationally. Perhaps he should first start working on it locally.

Michael Dobie

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