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Debate week round two! Millman vs. Biviano!

The Brooklyn Paper
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Assembly candidate Doug Biviano blasted away at incumbent Joan Millman in a debate last week, hammering her for taking her pension even as she works as a lawmaker, lambasting her for backing transit cuts, and for flip-flopping on housing inside Brooklyn Bridge Park — but the harshest word he had for Millman was that she’s “nice.”

By our count, Biviano taunted his rival with the seemingly innocuous adjective six times during the hour-long debate in Community Newspaper Group’s Downtown studio, where the candidates in the Sept. 14 primary battled in hopes of attracting voters in the Brownstone Brooklyn assembly district.

Being repeatedly slammed as “nice” certainly didn’t faze Millman, who said she was more upset that Biviano called her a bum on his website.

“I don’t think ‘nice’ is a pejorative word,” she said. “I don’t mind being called nice because I am a nice person. But I’m also an effective person.”

Biviano certainly didn’t agree, slamming Millman (D-Carroll Gardens) on the issues — and for collecting her pension from her prior job as a city teacher while working as our elected representative in Albany. Biviano called that “double dipping.”

“I’m on the street and I talk to the people and they’re worried about their pensions,” Biviano said. “These people aren’t making six figures and on top of … another government pension. It’s an abuse of the pension system.”

Millman makes $92,000 as an Assemblywoman. She was elected to office in 1997 after she retired from her 27 years as a teacher and began collecting her pension.

“I had already put in my paperwork,” she said. “You can’t rescind it.”

Actually, you can. According to the Teachers Retirement System website, educators can “voluntarily suspend their retirement allowance by filing a ‘Retirement Allowance Suspension­/Resumption Form.’ ” That said, it’s also perfectly legal for retirees to draw their city pensions if they’re in “elective public office,” as Millman is doing.

For the most part, the exchanges centered on three main areas of local concern — transit service, Brooklyn Bridge Park and Albany dysfunction — with Biviano claiming that Millman is just another state Capitol insider on the wrong side.

For instance, he lambasted Millman for staging a photo op against MTA budget cuts after she voted to reduce the agency’s funding.

Millman’s answer? She was against the cuts, but had to vote for them because they were part of a “larger bill” that would also save student Metrocards.

“Don’t be fooled by her rambling,” Biviano retorted. “This is how the magician works. She voted for the bill knowing the consequences, then turns around and stages a photo op against the MTA with the very people she hurt.”

Biviano also accused her of switching gears on Brooklyn Bridge Park, claiming that Millman changed her mind about putting luxury housing in the green space after former state Sen. Marty Connor, who supported housing, lost a re-election bid to a young rival who opposed housing in the park.

Biviano saw the change of heart as a “pure flip-flop.”

“Marty Connor’s gone and she suddenly swings the other way,” he said. “It was a political calculation.”

Millman countered that housing became a necessary funding stream after she helped defeat an earlier, and to her, far worse money-making proposal: a bid by developer David Walentas to turn the Civil War-era Empire Stores warehouse into a vertical mall. After that plan was foiled, she agreed to the formula that many park advocates say was the original sin of the waterfront development: that it needed to be self-sustaining rather than funded as a normal city or state park.

For now, Millman said that she opposes “any more housing in the park.”

And that vertical mall? Millman was forced to admit under questioning that the historic Empire Stores building is falling down, a victim of state neglect.

In other debate action:

• Biviano held Millman personally responsible — thanks to her very brief stint as chairwoman of the Assembly’s election law committee — for making it difficult for grass-roots challengers to get on the ballot. Millman didn’t address that point directly, but said that she is pushing for a bill that would redraw district lines in a non-partisan fashion.

Biviano agreed that the bill is needed, but called politics-free redistricting a “tiny piece of the ballot process.”

“Qualified candidates are thrown off ballots because election law allows incumbents go into back rooms and nitpick at their challenger’s signatures,” he said. “If they remove people from the ballot before the race begins, they can be there for life.”

Millman, who said she’s never knocked anyone off the ballot in her races, argued that the current election law is “less stringent than it ever was before.”

But Biviano did the math: Out of five congressional, nine state Senate and 21 Assembly candidates up for election this year in the Democratic Party, only seven are facing challengers.

• Biviano had a lot to say about how Millman waffled on key issues, but couldn’t give our panel any clear examples about how his voting record would differ from Millman’s if elected, outside of what was discussed in the debate. Nor did he have any solid plans for ridding Albany of its dysfunctional culture other than “tackling the big issues” and providing “social pressure.”

The primary election is Sept. 14.

Updated 5:20 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Varina from Richmond says:
I'm voting for Doug.
Aug. 24, 2010, 3:50 am
sid from Boerum hill says:
if you are from Richmond and not live in the District you can vote for him anyway. and in those immortal words "you gona lose"....
Aug. 24, 2010, 6:20 am
sid from Boerum hill says:
can't vote its too early in the am...
Aug. 24, 2010, 6:25 am
Bill Harris from Boerum Hill says:
Joan Millman is not only "nice" -- she is a gifted legislator who has represented her constituents honestly and successfully. Blabiano as I "un-nicely" refer to him, has no new ideas and can only try to boost himself by claiming he can "fix" things. Doug, stick to the dripping faucets or whatever you do (engineer I think you said).
At the rate you are going you will never get elected. Try to learn from somebody like Millman.

Gersh and your team: very fair reporting. I thought the
video accompanying the story on line was superbly managed. Not easy I am sure when one party "has all the answers."
Aug. 24, 2010, 1:22 pm
Steve from Park Slope says:
Bill what about the Double-Dipping from the pension fund? It is easy to attack Bill when your wife is running on the same ticket a Millman. I guess it sliped your mind when defended an Assemblywoman who has never seen opposition.
Aug. 24, 2010, 3:19 pm
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
well what about it? most of the legislatures have full time other jobs. Doug would like to have ANY job. he can't make his mind up about what he wants(except to be employed). Personally I would rather her collect a pension for 27 years that she worked for and be a full time legislature than a part time one. And given that she is on the same ticket as Joanne, it means she is bucking the democratic county chair person(ie. the boss).....

I have no problem with Doug running except that he runs such a negative campaign....
would he be able to bring back anything from Albany for us? not with his current attitude...
Aug. 24, 2010, 5:39 pm
Bill Harris from Boerum Hill says:
Steve from Park Slope: so glad you asked about JM's
"double dipping"--so I guess she works for was it 25 or 35 years as a teacher and doesn't deserve a pension? Is this really the way you figure it. Believe me, if you had the job as Assembly person, driving sometimes weekly the boring 325-325(?) miles roundtrip to Albany, you would very quickly feel that $92 grand a year was chump pay.
Did you expect her to do this for free? Try it sometime.
Just once.

As for my wife, Jo Anne Simon, she is paid....NOTHING.
You wouldn't want that job either, Steve. JM never saw opposition (I guess) because she is damned good. Go
figure that one too. Everybody work for free!
Aug. 24, 2010, 5:39 pm
Chris from Park Slope says:
Wait, Bill... you think our Assemblypeople are UNDERPAID? No wonder you're willing to blindly throw support behind the same people in Albany who have screwed us for a generation.
Aug. 25, 2010, 8:33 am
Larry Littlefield from Windsor Terrace says:
Thanks to Doug for giving at least some people a choice. Those who think running against an incumbent is easy should try doing THAT some time.

The fact that our future has been sold by a vote of 212 to zero does not excuse those voting in the affirmative. Millman has effectively represented the self-interest of those who are now mostly dead or in Florida over the years, against those coming after, like the rest of them in Albany. Haven't they taken enough?
Aug. 25, 2010, 9:20 am
Nathan H. from Downtown Brooklyn says:
Can someone explain Millman's claim that it was necessary to cut funding to the MTA in order to "save" free student transit on NYCT? Isn't state funding just the thing that free student transit needed (and still needs), and didn't the MTA mysteriously agree to continue to eat the student transit funding gap long *after* the bill Biviano referred to?
Aug. 25, 2010, 9:54 am
boof from brooklyn says:
Millman earned her pension, and that's not the reason why I hope she loses this election.

Her failure to properly fund transit is why I hope she loses this election.
Aug. 25, 2010, 12:31 pm
Marty from Prospect Heights says:
I've been against Millman ever since she failed to fight for congestion pricing. But this guy is an idiot to suggest that she's not entitled to her pension.
Aug. 26, 2010, 9:17 am
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
congestion pricing was lost in the State Senate not in the Assembly.....
Aug. 26, 2010, 2:22 pm
Nathan H. from Downtown Brooklyn says:
You've got pricing mixed up with bridge tolls, Sid.

"Speaker Sheldon Silver said on Monday that the congestion pricing plan for New York City would not come to the floor of the Assembly for a vote"
http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/04/07/congestion-pricing-plan-is-dead-assembly-speaker-says/
Aug. 27, 2010, 10:18 am
Sid from Boerum Hill says:

So I guess that means she didn't vote against congestion pricing? never came to a vote. I am pretty sure Joan supported congestion pricing-to the chagrin of many in the community . I stand by what I said, it was lost in the State Senate when people like senator Kruger said they and the republicans would vote against it. So does that mean that all state senators didn't do enough to support it? I don't think so.
BTW most places its the locality that pays for student transportation but I believe that the State severely under funds mass transit anyway. the Ravitch report recommended different ways to pay for the MTA but the state and again mostly the Senate refused to do it that way. Where is Joe Bruno when you need him- he supported congestion pricing- yes I know he is in Jail....
Aug. 27, 2010, 12:58 pm
Larry Gulotta from Park Slope says:
What has Mr. Biviano done for the community, the 52nd Assembly District? Joan Millman has been out there doing a good job in Albany and in the neighborhoods of the 52nd. AD.

Not to say that in the years to come, Mr. Biviano might do something important. So far, he just runs for office. It was city council last year, it is Assembly this year. Next year it will be another position.

I believe Mr. Biviano should develop his resume by doing good work for the neighborhoods and for the people, before he makes his mark in the electorial process.

I find unemployed engineers to be terribly arrogant.
Aug. 31, 2010, 2:17 pm

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