NJ Police Complaint System Broken

A longer version of my WNYC story on New Jersey’s broken police complaint system. Shorter version and radio version are here.

New Jersey has more centralized power in Trenton to provide oversight over local police departments than most states. But a New Jersey Public Radio investigation has found the complaint system it runs collects reams of useless data that collect dust at the state capitol. And the way that information is collected also is flawed. Today, the ACLU of New Jersey released a study citing problems with the civilian complaint process against officers. The study finds that this checks and balances system, set up to help protect civilians from bad cops, may be broken.

In 2007 Terence Jones, a stay at home dad, was driving home to New Jersey after dropping off his son in Philadelphia. It was February, late at night and cold and on his way through Woolwich Township, Jones missed a turn. So he pulled into the parking lot of a trailer rental company to turn around.


On his way out of the parking lot Jones drove by a police officer parked at a WaWa convenience store. The police car had its headlights on so Jones says he could see the officer was white and the officer could see he was black. The cop pulled out and started following him – for five minutes. Which Jones says may not sound like a long time, but really is.

“Talking about a patrol car on your bumper for five minutes,” he said.

The patrol car, driven by officer Michael Schaeffer, pulled Jones over and things went downhill from there. Schaeffer wanted to know what Jones had been doing in an industrial area, where all the businesses were closed, at midnight. He asked where Jones was coming from, but refused to accept his answer of Philadelphia. The questioning went on for twenty minutes in minus 9 degree weather.

“If I had any drugs. You know, just your typical racist questions.”

Later in court, Schaeffer would testify that Jones hadn’t broken any traffic laws. That instead, he’d pulled him over as part of a “community care taking function”. Jones hadn’t done anything wrong. But Schaeffer kept asking permission to search his car. Jones refused. And we don’t just have Jones’ word for it, the stop was videotaped by Schaeffer’s patrol car.

Audio recording of Terence Jones’ stop – Part 1
Audio recording of Terence Jones Stop, Part 2


And though it was mostly off camera, according to the judge’s remarks in the court transcripts it seems likely that Schaeffer searched part of the car anyway – illegally. A few days later Jones filed a complaint about the stop. And about three months after that he got a phone call from the county prosecutor’s office. The person on the other end of the phone told him he had two hours to turn himself in before he would be arrested. Jones was being accused of filing a false complaint against the police, and facing jail time of eighteen months.

Jones didn’t go to jail. In the transcript of the hearing where he was found innocent the judge said for the police to turn a complaint into an arrest was appalling.


Retaliation, like this, by the police, is one of the things people are worried about when they make complaints. But according to the ACLU of New Jersey the whole system for filing complaints against the police is broken. Alex Shalom, a lawyer and investigator with the ACLU of NJ, says to be clear, the rules for filing complaints are great — you can file by phone, you can file them anonymously, you can file them through a third party. Shalom says in most cases, the police want to help — the problem is they don’t seem to know the rules.

The ACLU did a survey where employees called about five hundred police departments around the state to see how well complaints are handled. They pretended to have questions about how the complaint process worked and the results, recorded on scratchy sounding phone tape, were dismal. Again and again, police and civilian employees were captured giving blatantly wrong answers to the questions posed by the ACLU. 51 police departments, about a tenth of all the ones surveyed, didn’t get any questions right. One caller to a Monmouth county police department was even told it was a busy day and to try to Google the answer instead.

The transcript below is taken from a typical call, in this case, to the Wyckoff police department in northern Jersey where an officer incorrectly told the caller he couldn’t file a complaint anonymously or over the phone.

Police department: “No. No complaints can be taken over the phone – we can’t identify with whom we’re speaking. It’s go to be done in person, it’s got to be done when Lt. Van Dyke is here.”
Caller: “Ok, so he can’t do it anonymously then?”
Police department: “No, an anonymous complaint against an officer – that’s – absolutely not, that would never happen in any jurisdiction ever.”

Fewer than a quarter of police departments were able to answer all the ACLU’s questions correctly. So New Jersey’s Attorney General, Jeffrey Chiesa, is trying to fix the problem. He says his office is going to distribute laminated cards with the rules to police departments and create a mandatory training for employees who may find themselves fielding complaints.

But even if complaints make it through the system there are still serious problems. Rich Rivera, who used to be an officer in what he says was one of the most corrupt precincts in New Jersey, West NY, and now has a fellowship from the Soros Foundation to improve the complaint process, says to see hard evidence of this we don’t need to look farther than Elizabeth, New Jersey. The city has one of the highest rates of in-custody deaths in the entire state.

Rivera says even though the Attorney General’s office receives yearly summaries of complaints Screenshot-IA-Report-2 from every police department in the state the paperwork is largely ignored. Complaints are meant to be used as an early warning system, and Rivera says this lack of oversight has created what he calls a crisis of accountability and is leading to serious problems – even deaths.

Between 2005 and 2011, Rivera says the number of in-custody deaths in New Jersey has more than doubled. But the problems don’t stop there. Jon Shane, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and a retired captain of the Newark police department, says even if the records were analyzed there wouldn’t be much to glean from the data. Shane says the data that makes it all the way to the top, to the attorney general’s office, is so summarized it’s almost useless.

“It doesn’t tell you everything you need to know. You know, date, time location, department, officer, what are contextual circumstances, where’s all the rich context of the incident, so we can uncover patterns and trends,” he said.

According to internal affairs summary reports that I received through New Jersey’s Open Records act in 2011 there were over a thousand complaints of excessive force against police in New Jersey. But what does that number really mean? The records sent to the Attorney General lump together numbers — 10 complaints of excessive force, 13 complaints about demeanor. You can’t tell if the forms are listing three complaints against three different officers, or multiple problems with one. Shane says, until this is corrected we won’t learn anything from the numbers.

“If you don’t have data, you can’t improve the practice. If you can’t measure something, you can’t improve it. And we don’t have the data.”

The attorney general’s office says it looks for red flags in the numbers, like repeat violations by a municipality, but it wouldn’t tell me more. Professor Candace McCoy, who teaches criminal justice policy at John Jay, says, finding red flags in data this limited is simply not possible. In part because of how counterintuitive these numbers are. She says police will always get complaints – it just means they’re doing their job. And, while it may not seem obvious, the departments where you see the least complaints can signify the worst problems. After all, a lack of complaints can be a strong indicator that the police there are not open to listening to the public.

McCoy says when it comes to the data currently collected by the Attorney General’s office it’s irrelevant. She says it’s not that the process is broken, but simply that it was never meant to be a system of checks and balances in the first place.

In 1990, an unarmed black teenager was shot in the back by a white cop in Teaneck. There were riots in the streets and one year later this requirement, that local police to send yearly summaries of their complaint data to the attorney general, was put in place. The requirement is now over 20 years old. McCoy says at the time the new rules were groundbreaking, but they were never meant to be more than a nudge to local police – a reminder to take complaints seriously.

“If you want to be serious about complaint procedures and citizen police interaction, a silly little form, filed in Trenton, isn’t going to do it,” she says.

In the meantime Rich Rivera, the Soros Fellow, say yet another part of the complaint system is broken. When civilians complain about police using excessive force, the officer is found guilty only three and a half percent of the time. But when an officer files a complaint about another officer he or she is found guilty about half the time. This doesn’t surprise criminal justice professor John Shane.

“So if I’m a Captain and you’re a Sergeant and you say, you saw Bill without his hat on, I believe you. But, if Bill is a civilian and Bill says, “oh well, I saw this officer run through a red light,” prove it to me.”

Candace McCoy says one fix for New Jersey would be to implement what’s called an early warning system. A database that collects and analyzes much more through information. They’re used by many big cities –like Oakland, California, which McCoy says has a big problem with police misconduct. Even better, she says, would be for the state to do what the ACLU already has. Spot checks to make sure things are working properly.

Since his traffic stop in Woolwich Township Terence Jones has settled out of court with the police department which pulled him over. He’s also become a civil rights advocate and has now filed over twenty complaints against the police on behalf of other people. But he says he’s not getting any answers. The office of the Gloucester county prosecutor, where Jones sent his complaints, says because it was in court with Jones it forwarded them to the Attorney General. But the Attorney General’s office says it can’t comment on complaints being handled by the county. Rich Rivera says until there’s more oversight in place our system of policing the police, will remain broken. And the Terence Jones of the world will remain stuck at the metaphorical sides of the road.

Tax Prep for Journalists: Notes from a non-accountant – Part 2

*GIANT DISCLAIMERI am not an accountant, and do not profess to know anything about tax law. This is the second part of some notes I took during the New York Press Club’s event Personal Tax Prep For Journalists.  The first part is here. I hope they’re helpful, but for the real deal, talk to a real accountant. Please do not sue me.

I’m not sure how much you know or don’t, about doing your taxes, but here’s what was new/helpful for me.

1. Are you really a journalist?
This is a very sad story told by one of the accountants at the event. It’s the story of a photographer with a dream. A dream gone wrong somewhere around tax-time.

Once upon a time in a far away land a client went to see the accountant.
She was, she said, an underwater photographer. She had bought all this
really super expensive (probably waterproof) camera equipment.  And she
had taken lots and lots of pictures (as photographers are wont to do),
underwater.  “That’s nice,” said the accountant. Had she, he asked, made a
profit from her photography work? Her answer? No. (Here’s where, to flesh
the story out nicely, there should be a list of questions, and answers,
but there isn’t. And that, in part is why this is such a sad story.) “Well
then” the accountant said. “You are not a photographer. Instead, according
to the IRS, photography is merely your HOBBY. And therefore you will not
be able to deduct, as a legitimate business expense, the thousands of
dollars of expensive photo equipment you bought this year.”


The moral of the story, (which I wish rhymed or at least was more pithy,
but isn’t) is this: while in early years, say the first few, when you’re
beginning your career, the government will allow you to generate losses,
very soon afterwards you must make money, a profit, or whatever you
want to call it, OR, what you consider your career, Uncle Sam will call a

Q: Given the very very sad story above should I reduce the expenses I
declare to demonstrate profits?
A: No. A, if you don’t deduct it, it’s gone.  You will NEVER be able to deduct it again.  B, purposefully not filling
an expense could be perceived as violating the tax code.

2. Can I deduct my cell phone?
How about *lunch? My cable bill? What about my subscription to Car and
Driver Magazine? As long as you can prove it’s more than 50% business
related you can deduct it (not including lunch, that’s different see
below). Like with travel expenses the burden is on you to prove what
you’re doing is a legitimate and reasonable business expense. If you’re a
food writer, expensing Field and Stream Magazine may be a hard sell. But
sportswriters, ESPN makes sense for you. If you’re not clear about, say,
whether your computer falls into the category of a legitimate and
reasonable business expense the accountants suggest you ask yourself the
following questions:

• How many hours a day do I use the computer for work?
• How many hours a day I use the computer to plan my vacation?

*Lunch, which falls into the entertainment category is slightly different.
You still have to prove that meals are legitimate and reasonable, but you
can only deduct %50 of them and meals cannot be extravagant. (Blame the
80’s for this one).

If you’re still unsure of  what counts as a legitimate and reasonable expense, the accountant’s answer is this:  “It’s like pornography, you’ll know it when you see it.”

Note: There is more, things like don’t submit a messy, filled-out-with-a-pencil-with-answers-all-erased-and scratched out form that you dropped pasta sauce on at lunch, because messiness can be a red flag for an audit, and so can having lots of money and buying expensive things at an auction, like the home run ball from a game, which then gets written up in the news with your name in (FLAG! (but I don’t think we have to worry about that do we?))  but there’s lots and lots too much for me to post here. Some helpful links: The American Institute of CPAs, IRS Forms and Publications. Good luck!

It’s State of the Union Time! In their honor, my favorite radio piece about them

What Brought the House Down

by awesome producer Brendan Greeley

Every line in the 2004 State of the Union address that received more than twenty seconds of applause. http://www.prx.org/pieces/1448

Tax Prep for Journalists: Notes from a non-accountant – Part 1

*GIANT DISCLAIMER- I am not an accountant, and do not profess to know anything about tax law. This part 1 of some notes I took during the New York Press Club’s event Personal Tax Prep For Journalists.  (Update: Part 2 is here.) I hope they’re helpful, but for the real deal, talk to a real accountant. Please do not sue me.

I’m not sure how much you know or don’t, about doing your taxes, but here’s what was new/helpful for me.

1. Record Keeping
The accountants who spoke were very focused on keeping records. Apparently, when audited, one of the first thing out of an IRS agent’s mouth will be, “where’s your client’s diary?” So, while record keeping isn’t legally required, the burden of proof is on you, and if you have a handy log of all the miles you’ve driven (with odometer readings please), taxied or subwayed all the better. Note for drivers: in addition to logging miles you’ll also want to note the destination and purpose of each trip. And the same idea holds true for other types of receipts. You don’t have to keep a spreadsheet of all your expenses, if you’re not diary, or log-minded, use the back of the receipt to jot down the who/what/where and when’s for each expense to prove it’s a legitimate business expense. Three record keeping mantras to repeat to yourself, sort of like the yogic ohm, but for journalists limbering their minds, not limbs, for tax-prep:

• Inundate the IRS with paper

• No diary, no deduction

• More equals better

2. For Drivers
Wondering which car trips count as legitimate business expenses? For starters, you’re not allowed to deduct commuting costs. So, if you drive from your house to office you’re out of luck. However, if you’re driving from your home or office to an interview, along with tolls and parking, that’s a Kosher business related expense.

3. For users of  mass transit
See numbers 1 and 2 above. For number 2 swap the words “Car” with  “mass transit” and “drive” with “take mass transit” and you should be good to go. The same concepts hold true. Additionally, if,  like me, you buy a monthly pass to your city’s public transit system you have a couple of choices. You can figure out whether or not more than fifty percent of the travel you’re doing is business related. If it is, it’s a legitimate business expense. If not, you’ll need to figure out exactly how much the trips you did take cost, and consider those as the expense.

4. Users of the home office
Your home office must be a dedicated room set aside exclusively for work. It doesn’t have to have walls, ie, it can be a corner of your living room/dining room /closet, however,  it may not double as a guest room for Aunt Marge with a pullout sofa bed. Nor may you declare a home office if you have a regular office at your employer where you work regularly.  You may expense rent, utilities, and, if you’re the kind of journalist successful enough to employ a housekeeper, (apparently the accountants get questions about this, so perhaps there is some hope for the success of our field) any cleaning expenses associated with your home office. To figure out how much you can deduct you’ll need to figure out the square footage of your space. Then calculate the percentage of each expense based on the percentage of square foot the office area takes up.  Taking photos of your office, the kind with the date stamped on them, to keep in your file, is recommended.

5. Something regarding cell phones and computer usage we’re supposed to do, but don’t and the IRS rarely enforces it anyway
We are supposed to log use of personal computers and cell phones. Ha. Anyways, as long as we use our electronics more than fifty percent of the time for business we’re supposed to be ok.

Here ends Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2.

Media Detox

While reporting a story for Marketplace on Slow Media and talking to slowies like Jennifer Rauch and Nick Jones, who are paring down their new media usage, I decide to give my own media diet a whirl.

*Note, for all you purists out there, this is a transcript of an audio diary I kept while detoxing. I was not blogging at the time.

12:15, Friday afternoon
I feel like I can’t get anything done. Now seems as a good a time as any to give this media diet a try. My plan is to stop using email, stop using my cell phone for… well, at least the rest of the day. We’ll see how long I can last.

12:15:25 (Twenty Five seconds in)
Well, guess the first thing I have to do is quit my email. I’ll just check it one more time. Couldn’t help it. Or I guess I could go offline and that way I won’t need to… wait a second How do you go offline? Hm…. Oh well, I’ll guess I’ll just quit my mail. Email is shut down. Take that digital media!

Oops! Auto response. Can’t forget that. I have to go and add an auto response to my email now

“Hi, thanks for the email. I’m on a media diet for a story. I’m here, just not checking email for as long as I can hold out. Hopefully 5 p.m. today But I do want to talk to you. So call me, but not on my cell; that’s out too. I’ll be at… thanks, Sally.”

I better open my email to check and make sure the auto responder is working.

Ok, let’s see how long I can last. It’s been… 5 minutes.

It’s 12:24, so it’s been 14 minutes, and I keep instinctively going to check my email, which is not on. Hm…. Don’t think I’m doing I’m doing so well.


I just realized I don’t even know how to tell if I have messages on my landline because I usually get an email telling me. Guess I’ll just sit here now and wait for the phone to ring.

Ooh! Phone.

Just got off the phone with Mike Song, efficiency expert who writes about how to cope with email. Mike tells me I may start to feel something akin to panic that I’m missing out on on something important because we, as people, are genetically engineered to love, cherish and seek out new information. So far so good though. It’s been about 40 minutes, and although this does feel pretty weird, it also feels kind of good.

Feel like I’m on vacation.

So relaxed.

I wonder if email is sort of like chocolate cake because I’m looking at that little icon on my desktop and I really, really want to click it, but I also know that this will not make me feel good later.

Starting to get paranoid. What am I missing? What if I’m miss an assignment? What if an expert I’ve been trying to get in touch with has emailed me and is too busy to call or just doesn’t want to? Starting to get really freaked out. Don’t know if I’m going to make it all the way to 5 o’clock. Pretty sad. It’s only been 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Just for the record I’d like to point out that not only am I refraining from email, I’m also staying clear of the internet. In case that wasn’t clear earlier. I’m sitting here at my desk, working on my computer, not using email or the internet.


It’s Friday afternoon, and honestly, at this point I would quit, except that I don’t want everyone to think that I’m a wimp. I feel like I need email kind of like people need coffee. Give me my email! Phone ringing. My intern Douglas, who wants to know if I got his email.

Douglas told me he forwarded me an email from a potential expert I’ve been trying to talk to about another story. Clock is ticking. I need to get in touch with this guy. Guess I’ll need to go into my email to get this person’s contact information. Sort of nervous about this, but has to be done. Here we go.

Back online.

3 hours. Guess I didn’t last very long. While it was tough, as a journalist, to give up email access during the working day, it also seems pretty ridiculous that it was so hard. Tom Jackson, otherwise known as Dr. Email (another source I interviewed for this story) told me email is an addiction, but the pain of withdrawal tends to disappear after about two weeks. And you don’t have to abstain altogether – just hit a happy medium. Find your stride. Checking email every millisecond drains your productivity juice. Instead check your email maybe four times a day. But in part, the difficulty comes from what Jennifer Rauch has honed in on (take a listen to what she has to say in the story here). That it’s not her, or you, or me, it’s Other People’s expectations. In other words it would have been much easier for me to go sans email for a day had I not had to worry about being disconnected from co-workers, sources and experts, in a word, everyone. But when I was able to go off-line it felt great. So I am going to log off, or log-on less. What about you?

Podcasting Questions from the Pitch Group

Here’s a list of questions about podcasting that came up at the Jan. 11 NYC Pitch Group meeting. Any other areas of murkiness or mystery missing from the list below?

  1. MP3, Mp4, compression… So how do you make a podcast anyway? Can I have a step-by-step set of instructions please?

  2. Distribution – Once you make your podcasts how do you get them out there? What are the steps for making it appear on Itunes, other distribution outlets or a website?
  3. How do I set up an Rss feed? And what is an rss feed anyway?
  4. How do I get *my podcast to be one of the top rated casts?
  5. Money – how do I make some by podcasting? What do people charge? Should I charge by the hour, by the project?
  6. How is podcasting different then standard radio?
  7. Legalese – the law is different for podcasting then it is for radio right? What does it say? What are my rights? What can I do with podcasting that I can’t do in radio?
  8. Listeners. They’re out there right? So how and when do they listen? Why don’t they listen more?
  9. Who podcasts? Do the satellite stations podcast?
  10. Video. Talk to me about those moving pictures. Should I worry about video?

Change Hunting – my experiences looking for loose change on New York City’s Streets

While working on a story on folks who stop and pick up stray pennies on the street for Marketplace I decided to keep my own change seeking diary. You can hear the full story here.

Wednesday, Day 1
TOTAL: .01

A penny! Right outside my doorstep I find one penny. It’s still early in the morning, I’m on my way to work and my mic is packed safely away in my bag so that later in the day, at a more Decent hour, I’d be able to document my finds. I fish my mic out of my bag, untangle my headphones from around a sandwich (lunch)plug in and record. What a GREAT start. Clearly this isn’t going to be as hard as I thought.

Thursday, Day 2
TOTAL: .02

Jackpot. Again a first -thing-in-the-morning find. This time it’s 14 cents: a dime, then the pennies, one, two, three, four. I am SO GOOD! I’m a change finding goddess! Wonder what I’ll buy with all my riches. I’ll just run downstairs and tell my boyfriend my good news. Hm… Daniel looks suspiciously unsurprised. A minute later he cracks and admits he PLANTED the change. Want to strangle him with my mic cord. But all is peace and harmony a few minutes later when I find a penny under the bench on the platform of the A train at Jay Street Borough Hall. I’m a numismatic goddess again.

Friday, Day 3
TOTAL: .02

4 p.m. So far I’m on a streak. So it’s only two days at a penny a day. So what? That’s two cents I didn’t have before. Tonight there’s an opera in the park and I plan to clean up big as the concert fans pack up their blankets, wine bottles and baguette crumbs and go. I’ll be there with my change purse.

9:30 p.m. – Ug. Why didn’t anyone tell me that Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna were going to sing so many encores? And why didn’t I remember to bring a flashlight? There may be change on the ground here, but it’s too dark to see a thing. I’ll come back tomorrow and look properly. Nothing today.

Saturday, Day 4
TOTAL: .02

11:00 a.m. It’s gotta be over 90 degrees today. The city feels a steamy shower stall, but not with that shower fresh scent. It’s not the kind of day that inspires action let alone change hunting. But, I’ve got to get to the park to see if I can cash in on last night.

12:00 – I don’t understand this. There were tens of thousands of people here yesterday. How is it possible that I can’t find so much as a penny? After tramping what feels like miles through the grass I decide to take a walk around the block. All I see are gum wrappers, cigarette butts and many reminders that people need to clean up more thoroughly after their dogs, but no spare change. I’m starting to get depressed.

Sunday, Day 5.
TOTAL: Still an uninspiring .02

Don’t want to talk about it. Tomorrow am off to interview Humphery family of Long Island who have somehow miraculously managed to accumulate over a thousand dollars in change. They have two small daughters. Small daughters must have sharper eyesight. Aha! That must be it. Feel better now.

Monday, Day 6, Staten Island
TOTAL: .02
The Humpherys are amazing, especially Barbara. She’s turned change hunting into a hobby for the whole family. They’re a military family and sit lined up on their couch looking all-American as Scott Humphery, the dad, jokes that he wants to send thank you notes to everyone who’s dropped the coins they pick up as he says that collecting brings the family together. They fill me on some tips, things that worked for them. To be honest, they are things I’d thought of, but I think I lack the determination. The next day I speak with another collector, Scott Caulfield in St. Paul. He’s also good, definitely much better then me, after all, he’s found over $200.

Here are some tips Scott and the Humpherys give me:

1. Colleges and parking lots are among the best place to look. Especially under vending machines. Barbara says college campuses are solid gold.

2. Car washes, stores near the register and security checkpoints (a tip from Scott’s friend Chris) are also good bets.

3. Banks will let you trade in your old coins, banged up ones that don’t look useable for shiny new currency.

4. (From the Humpherys) – those old earrings, broken chains and other doo-dads you find on the street might be valuable. Grab ‘em if you spot them. They’ve been picking up old jewelry and so far have managed to make over one hundred and fifty bucks from broken bits that turned out to be gold and silver.

5. If change hunting is for you might also look into soda cans, bottles or even bottle caps. But those do take more room.

Sunday, Day 18
TOTAL: More then .02 but still under .50

Since talking to the Humpherys and Scott Caulfield I’ve realized that change hunting is sort of like training for the Olympics – it’s something you’ve really got to want. I have found more change since talking to them – a penny here and a penny there and now I make a point to stop and pick it up. In the past I might not have. And today, at the Laundromat I had my biggest find ever – 16 cents. Not bad for a beginner.

Mr. Softee – it’s a love/hate thing.

New story on New York’s new noise code. Listen here.

Title IX (that’s “Title 9″ for all of you out there who, like me, don’t know their Roman numerals)

New story
Hundreds of U.S. schools are using changes made to the federal Title IX law last fall to extend boys- and girls-only classes beyond gym and sex ed. But critics say that could lead to the very stereotyping and discrimination the law’s meant to prevent. Sally Herships reports.

Democratic Parkas of Love

Have you ever seen a democratic love parka? I saw one today. You may be thinking, ‘what is a democratic love parka?’. But don’t worry, a democratic love parka – it’s one of those things – one of those things that when you see it -you know it. Fernando Ferrer, democratic nominee for Mayor of New York City, appeared today at his first press conference as the ‘official’ democratic candidate for mayor. And he was wearing what? You guessed it – a democratic love parka.*
A democratic love parka sort of looks like triplets, except that they’ve enfolded someone else in an embrace and there’s no hood or gore-tex.

Fernando Ferrer, or Freddy, as the press likes to call him, was so tightly wedged in between Giffy Miller and Anthony Weiner that I thought they must be entering a three legged race, you know, one of those races you enter when you’re in fourth grade where your leg gets tied to someone else’s and you have to hobble around together? And to top it all off, Christine Quinn was behind him. Were they afraid he was going to fall over?

There was a point when he lost his place in his speech. And at that moment, a huge gawping (bigger then gaping) endless hole stretching the edges of his speech farther and father apart from one another I wanted to lean over and make sure his shoelaces were tied. Freddy Ferrer’s bad speech making skills triggered my maternal instinct.

Good sign for a mayoral nominee? I’m thinking no. But truth be told, I don’t really know much about his political record. I know he’s said some stupid things, and I know(now) he’s really bad at public speaking. I’m also pretty sure that Anthony Weiner is about 10 times brighter then him. The energy floating from Anthony’s shoulders alone during the press conference was enough to knock the wind out of Ferrer. You could actually feel it. It was like Weiner’s brain was in a little eighties jogging outfit, sweatband and all and was running circles around the other guy – maybe that’s why Ferrer lost his place in his speech – he got distracted by Weiner’s jogging brain.

In the end what does this mean? I really don’t know. Bloomberg – he’s got lots of money. Weiner – he’s got a pretty fast brain, but I have no idea what kind of person or politician he is. Anyway, as he himself said today “I’m yesterday’s news”. And Ferrer? I think he’s going to have to fast track through political puberty and leave the three legged races behind if he wants to get anywhere fast.

*At this point you may find yourself wondering ‘how does Sally know this?’
In case you are, the answer to your question is – I was there.