Washington - New York To Have The Most Influence With Obama As President
Washington - There’s the senator from upstate Chappaqua, the financial whiz president of the Federal Reserve Bank in Manhattan, a Queens native turned federal prosecutor, the Bronx borough president and a legislative guru with roots in Baldwin.
When all is in place, President-elect Barack Obama’s top advisers could include five with strong New York ties, a contingent local politicians and observers say would provide a powerful outlet for the state to be heard in the new administration.
“Now we have an E-ZPass to the White House,” said Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington). “These are five absolutely vital positions within the president’s inner circle.”
Already in place are Federal Reserve Bank of New York president Timothy Geithner as Treasury secretary and Philip Schiliro as White House liaison to Capitol Hill. In the 1990s, Schiliro waged two failed runs for congressional seats from his hometown of Baldwin.
Today Obama is expected to nominate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state and Eric Holder Jr., who grew up in East Elmhurst and graduated from Stuyvesant High School, as attorney general.
And there’s talk that Bronx borough president Adolfo Carrión Jr. is being considered for secretary of housing and urban development. His spokeswoman said he’s not yet commenting on any such possibility.
It makes sense that Obama is tapping advisers who hail from a talent-rich state, said Mitchell Moss, professor of urban policy at New York University’s Wagner School for Public Service.
Drawing from New York makes sense when the failing economy weighs heavily on the nation, Moss said. “New York is really the finishing school for people with financial expertise,” he said. “What’s striking, I think, is so many of the top people in the Obama administration have spent time in New York, including Obama going to college here.”
But the appointees may not be in positions that provide much pull for New York. If, for instance, “a New Yorker was appointed to director of homeland security ... it would be great for the state because there’s a lot of money there,” said Justin Phillips, assistant professor of political science at Columbia University.
Matthew Lebo, an associate professor in political science at Stony Brook University, agreed that five out of hundreds might not have a big impact, and pointed out they’re not from Illinois. President Jimmy Carter, he said, “brought half the Georgia statehouse to Washington.”
“It’s encouraging that the president-elect is looking for the best people he can and not looking for the symbolism of where they’re from,” Lebo said.
Obama seems to recognize “that New York is still the economic engine that drives the country in many ways,” said Michael Dawidziak, a Bohemia-based political consultant. “It would be naive to think someone’s going to forget where they came from.”
New York’s wealth of talent hadn’t been recognized in recent previous administrations, said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) - but it did help that Michael Chertoff, secretary of homeland security, had been a prosecutor in New Jersey.
“He had ridden the subways, he had worked in lower Manhattan,” King said. “That’s the only real New Yorker I can think of that I dealt with.”
Dealing with those who understand New York “just makes it easier if you have a request, if you have a proposal,” he said. “I’m not just talking about the accent. Often New Yorkers live in another world from the rest of the country.”
Not having to explain that to Schiliro and Holder will be refreshing, he said. When King found out that Holder is from East Elmhurst, he brought up his nearby hometown of Sunnyside. “That’s the first five minutes of the conversation,” King said. “Human relations do mean something. Common experiences do mean something.”
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