Mike and the Bronx Boys

Categories: On the Stump
You'd be hard put to find better symbols of everything Mike Bloomberg says he hates about politics than the crew that celebrated him last night in the Bronx.

The event was the Bronx County GOP dinner where some 300 celebrants turned out to greet the mayor at the Villa Barone Manor, and lift a glass to new party chairman Jay Savino and his immediate predecessor, Vic Tosi.

In a five minute, flat-as-a-pancake speech, Bloomberg hailed both men, toasted his own record, and told the crowd to "take nothing for granted" on election day. "I want every vote and I haven't been shy about asking for them on both sides of the aisle," said the mayor.

Savino and Tosi, who stayed glued to Bloomberg as he worked the room after his remarks, both owe their careers to the man who was the real powerhouse in Bronx Republican politics, former state senator Guy Velella who served six months in jail last year on a contract corruption rap. Wiretaps in the investigation picked up Savino ("Velella's Bush Push," Voice June 29, 2004), then seated at his desk at county GOP headquarters, talking about how, at Velella's suggestion, he wasn't going to look too hard to find several Republican campaign workers whose presence in court had been demanded by a federal judge. The campaign workers' testimony was being sought for a lawsuit alleging fraud in petitions collected by county political operatives for George W. Bush in the New York Republican presidential primary in 2000.

"If you reach them, you reach them; if you don't, you don't," Savino was heard telling another party aide. Savino, who lived in Rockland County until recently, was named to take over the post of Velella's father, Vincent, who also was charged in the bribe scheme, as a commissioner on the city's patronage-filled Board of Elections. Savino's move to the Bronx is a first step toward running for Velella's old senate seat.

Savino walked the mayor over to meet his father, Joe, an ex-city councilman who did federal time in the 1980s for tax evasion and possession of a machine gun and three pistols with silencers.

Tosi, who held a number of patronage posts courtesy of Velella's clout (he currently earns $73,000 a year as deputy chief clerk of the election board's Bronx office), could have been the poster child for the kind of school board abuses that Bloomberg once denounced for crippling the city's education system. Back in 1995, a Manhattan grand jury named Tosi as one of 11 officials who had conspired to rig a school board election. No charges were filed but the grand jury took the rare step of urging that he be fired. Tosi was sacked, but promptly got a better paying job at the state's Department of Labor with Velella's pull. When he lost that post in 2000 he was rehired at the elections board in 2000, despite the earlier findings ("Once and Again," Voice June 21, 2000).

"As you know," Bloomberg told the Villa Barone crowd last night as he stood at the podium flanked by Savino and Tosi, "I am not a career politician."


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