Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Not For Whose Profit?

We have been making the point that the accusations against state senator Pedro Espada are a case of selective outrage. As we said in January, critiquing the NY Post’s obsession with the senator: “The NY Post is at it again-singling out Senator Pedro Espada for ridicule and leaving out any of the context that would, if understood, make mockery of the paper's invidious campaign of slander: " As for “controlling government spending” — let’s just say he’s trying to control as much of it as he can. Soundview, a nonprofit, relies heavily on Medicaid dollars — yet Espada appears to run it as a personal and political piggy bank. He took home a $460,000 salary in 2007, while Soundview pays his for-profit custodial outfit nearly $400,000 a year, far more than the job should cost.”

To which we replied: “Now for the missing context-and also missing is the fact that neither the Post's Rupert Murdoch, whose paper delights in making sport of Bronx pols, nor the attorney general-have ever done a damn thing to bring health care to the underserved South Bronx; something that Espada's Soundview HealthCare Network has done for over thirty years. The NY Times captured this last year in an article that AG Cuomo's folks would do well to read carefully: "But on White Plains Road in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx, State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. is a central figure, to some a populist crusader, in a health care system that every year provides care to 25,000 poor people who have long been ignored by the medical establishment."

And Soundview does a lot of good for a lot of folks: “So Espada and Soundview are doing an immense amount of good things for the medically underserved communities of the South Bronx. As the Uptown Chronicle reports: "With 2,832,287 people in New York City eligible for Medicaid this year, according to New York State’s Department of Health and Human Services, there is a disproportionate number of patients receiving subsidized healthcare in the city’s poorer neighborhoods. In the South Bronx, where unemployment hovers above 13 percent, it’s the small conveniences that make Soundview so appealing to residents in the neighborhood. “It’s a big reason why I come here,” Rodriguez said. “They don’t hassle you. This place is meant for people who are poor. It’s not a big surprise to them or anything.”

But now, as the NY Post reports, there are a whole slew of not-for-profits that are living quite large-and the paper calls them, “culture vultures” “Taxpayer-funded museums and cultural attractions suffered their worst economic crisis in decades but still paid executives fat salaries and bonuses -- and doled out perks like housing allowances and club memberships, The Post has learned. Hammered by the recession, with donations down and endowments shrinking, the institutions saw revenue drop by 50 percent in some cases, according to tax filings for the year ending June 30, 2009. The groups cut hundreds of jobs and slashed programs. Yet bosses at many of the 33 museums, zoos and other attractions hardly felt the hit.”

And how about our old pal John Cavelli? Compare his situation with that of the the hassled Espada: “There were no pay cuts for execs at the Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the Bronx Zoo, New York Aquarium and other zoos, but pay has been frozen since 2008. And while budget crunchers were threatening to fire the Bronx Zoo's porcupine, Society Director Steven Sanderson's salary and benefits were $1 million in 2008, including an Upper East Side apartment. John Calvelli, the society's p.r. chief, got a $41,283 bonus in 2008, bringing his total pay to $485,635. The bonus was "in recognition of extraordinary accomplishments," the group's tax filing says.”

So, let’s get this straight. Espada the profiteer is being out-earned by a flack at the zoo? Not to mention all of the other swells with expanding waist lines: “The Metropolitan Museum of Art handed out hefty pay hikes in July 2008, the start of a fiscal year that would see a 40 percent drop in revenue. Suzanne Brenner, the Met's chief investment officer, got a $354,923 bonus, bringing her total compensation to $1.2 million in 2008, the museum's tax filing shows. Yet the income from investments she supervised plummeted from $270 million to $112 million.”

It is certainly quite interesting too us that the guy supplying medical care to the South Bronx is targeted, while all of the culture vultures are given a pass. In our view, the conduit for flu shots deserves a better break than the wildlife and art lovers are being given. It makes you think that there might even be a double standard at work.