The next big battle of influence peddling in City Council will be the Horse-Carriage Ban. Let’s keep an eye on elects for any last-minute “changes.”
City Council Members should not be under the influence.
As supporters and opponents go head-to-head with their positions on the Horse-Carriage Ban, lobbyists will be targeting City Council Members with a full on assault to sway their votes, but there’s one legislator who could not be bought.
Councilman Rafael Espinal Jr., Chairman of the Consumer Affairs Committee (which currently has oversight of the carriage industry) held a press conference and officially announced he’ll oppose the elimination of carriage horses in Central Park. That’s quite a clear statement. Now here’s a legislator who did his own independent investigation and found the industry to be clean, safe and well-regulated, truly an icon of New York City, but more on that later.
As of now, of the 51 council members, 13 are for the ban, eight are against it, and 26 remain undecided. Meanwhile, radical animal rights activists are fueling up their lobbyists for an all out influence war in City Hall to change this.
Save the horse-carriage industry.
So first, let’s talk turkey. Tourists love the horses, the industry generates millions of dollars every year in tax revenue, and employs over 300 people. According to a Quinnipiac poll, a whopping 61% of New Yorkers support the horses in Central Park –even Liam Niason came out in their support. But like all contentious issues, there’s a few powerful, rich elitists who have formed a special interest coalition and are using undue influence to promote their agenda to ban the horses contrary to the will of a majority of New Yorkers.
So how could they get away with it?
The conditions are ripe for inducements and kickbacks. With the ban up for vote, elected officials could be bought off in exchange for support, or receive sweet committee assignments as inducements from the top– perhaps even throw in a little something extra for their district? De Blasio even campaigned on the promise to ban the industry, but later deferred to the Council to propose the legislation.
Nothing is as what it seems. Some of these animal rights groups supporting the ban could already be facing serious criminal charges, and we aren’t even mentioning PETA here. The Feds are investigating the independent expenditure group NYCLASS, the animal rights group that backed de Blasio during his mayoral bid and sank $174,000 into last year’s elections. A large chunk of that cash went to the political action committee NYC is Not For Sale, which ran nasty attack ads against Christine Quinn.
There’s already been intimidation and threats in City Hall, with more likely on their way. During the mayoral primary, “NYCLASS’s political consultant Scott Levenson of the Advance Group (a lobbying and consulting firm) told two Quinn aides that if she wouldn’t back a ban on the horse and carriage industry, the group would launch a campaign to bring her down. She didn’t back the ban, and the group went on the attack.”
The FBI is currently investigating. In May, the Advance Group was fired amid mounting pressure and replaced with Hank Scheinkopf.
Intimidation comes in many forms; if not in City Hall, even in Council chambers too — where leadership can dole out rewards or punishment — and whip up votes with the stroke of a pen.
Will your council member sell out to the radical agenda of NYCLASS? Let’s see who changes their mind in the next few weeks.
Perhaps the only way around the quid-pro-quo dance of animal rights lobbyists is a ballot question to let democracy take its course — after all, they can’t buy us all off. If you’re a believer in honesty and transparency, then don’t stifle debate, dialogue, or intimidate public officials, let’s keep the bribery of elects to a minimum and let the people decide. And if not, call your legislator and tell him or her that you support this industry because the horses are treated well, that you’ve always romanticized a carriage ride as a truly New York experience, and they should too.
NYC Carriage Horses in Central Park