I’m glad to see that former Daily News Bronx bureau chief Bob Kappstatter has landed a gig over at City Hall News (Manhattan Media). Kappy is a good newsman with a chatty writing style. But in recent times, his political reports have been gossipy (“bochinche” in spanish) which trivializes Latino and black politics.
In today’s City Hall News report, Kappy trivializes the Somos El Futuro conference by focusing on the gossipy, behind the scenes in-fighting over hotel accomodations. The public policy agenda of the conference given short shrift — if not, a kiss-off. I guess Kappy will leave “wonky” serious reporting to others.
Given the tenor of his report, no wonder most minority elected officials and community leaders believe the media shows disrespect (not that some of these leaders aren’t wanting).
The “Fear and Loafing” lede may be a playful reference to the actual “fear and loathing” that some in the media and the NY establishment feel about Latino and black political empowerment. But read for yourself below.
Fear And Loafing In San Juan – Bob Kappstatter
SAN JUAN, P.R. – You could call it Fear and Loafing in San Juan.
The annual Somos El Futuro (We Are The Future) conference of the Assembly Senate Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force ended yesterday with the usual sunburns and hangovers, plus new grumbling about where the attendees laid their heads.
Seems the new head of the task force, Brooklyn Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, committed organizational blasphemy by switching travel agents for Somos.
When Bronx Assembly members Peter Rivera and then Carmen (Granny) Arroyo headed the task force, they used New York City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Nick Lugo’s travel agency.
This year, Ortiz yanked the rug out at the last minute, handing arrangements to the Hispanic Federation and leaving Lugo stuck with 100 reserved rooms at the traditional San Juan InterContinental – just next door to the El San Juan, the REAL party hotel and casino.
Somos officials claimed Lugo’s rates for the prime-location InterContinental were too high and went the supposedly cheaper route at the Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza, on the western edge of the tacky Condado strip.
Lugo managed to make limon-ade out of the situation, slapping together an anti-Somos hands-across-the-sea business conference at the InterContinental. Naturally, this sold out, forcing Nick to book even more hotel rooms nearby.
Somos attendees who stayed at the Condado were none too happy to find their rooms a pricey cab ride away from the InterContinental action. And just about everyone at the Somos confab complained about spotty-to-nonexistent cell phone service.
“It’s costing me $80 a day in cabs,” groused one angry veteran lobbyist. “My client told me to live with it. It’s only once a year.”
Somos draws city and state legislators to Puerto Rico every November for serious panels and conferences on Hispanic issues, and they in turn draw their camp followers – the consultants, lobbyists, developers and other expense-account legions who descend to schmooze, make contracts and mend fences.
In addition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s fast hit-and-run appearance Friday, other pols paying fealty included state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Comptroller John Liu and Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio.
We promised not to name a particularly colorful powerbroker for fear of losing a good source, but all of the above candidates trekked over the sands to his beachside poker table outside the El San Juan to give him their props at a table full of other movers and shakers.
Besides Lugo’s Chamber of Commerce conference crowd, a lot of Somos folks from the Bronx also grabbed rooms through Lugo at the InterContinental, including Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. (looking buff poolside in a red Orchard Beach tank top), Bronx Dem Party Boss Carl Heastie, and former Bronx BP Freddy Ferrer (zoning out on the beach with Nina Simone on the earpods) and wife Aramina.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Brooklyn Democratic boss Assemblyman Vito Lopez stuck it out at the Condado with their borough-mate, Ortiz.
Ortiz put an upbeat face on it, noting the conference drew 400 registrants, about 10 percent of them elected officials.
“We are trying to shrink the junket-pool image and increase the seriousness of this conference as the Latino population rises dramatically,” Ortiz told us. “We raised the status of the conference, with full workshops showing that people are serious about getting engaged and continuing the Hispanic agenda.”
To which Somos Executive Director Tony Martinez added: “We are serious about public policy and working with leaders for labor and business.”
Somos organizers can expect more competition next year: Lugo said he’s already organizing another anti-Somos New York City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Trade Mission to Puerto Rico.
And he’s booked 200 rooms at the InterContinental for it.