Today’s news:

Ortiz “Salty dog” Ortiz changes tune after being peppered with complaints

Salty dog

Assemblymember Felix Ortiz backed off his controversial anti-salt stance to a more moderate anti-shaker, pro-recipe position, according to a recent press release put out by his office.

“My intention for this legislation was to prohibit the use of salt as an additive to meals,” Ortiz (D-Sunset Park) said. “If salt is a functional component of the recipe, by all means, it should be included.”

Last week Ortiz introduced a bill in the Legislature that would ban salt in restaurants, a move that immediately drew the ire of restaurateurs who were aghast at the bill that proposes penalties to any food joint that adds salt to its dishes. Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg came out against the rogue assemblyman, calling the bill impractical on John Gambling’s WOR radio show, even though the bill follows Hizzoner’s own proposal to reduce restaurant’s salt content by a quarter by 2014.

Ortiz defended his anti-salt offensive, saying that the removal of salt will reduce health care expenditures by $32 billion. The bill doesn’t make allotments for pre-sodiumized ingredients and dishes.

His sudden change of heart is obvious — the dogged assemblyman hopes that softening his bill will convince voters he is, well, worth his salt.

Attorney general race in focus

The Independent Neighborhood Democrats club is hosting a forum for attorney general candidates this week, so we took the chance to examine who the borough might fancy.

In a crowded race, Manhattan State Senator Eric Schneiderman might have some juice, at least according to one longtime political veteran who noted his “closeness” to state senators from Brooklyn, like John Sampson (D-Canarsie). “He’s enjoyed good relations with his colleagues,” the person said. The recently influential Working Families Party will also likely side with Schneiderman, another political observer noted, given the pol’s relationship with consultants Berlin Rosen, along with other mutual connections.

“He’s been one of the most progressive voices and very responsive to labor,” the political veteran added. “It doesn’t hurt that he has political consultants close to WFP.”

And it was the WFP that was very helpful, in “certain ways,” to county boss Vito Lopez last election, dispatching 32BJ, the property service workers union, to help Lopez-backed Maritza Davila, in the race for the 34th Council District in Williamsburg and Bushwick.

“This will help Schneiderman,” the political veteran said.

Meanwhile, Assemblymember Richard Brodsky might have some momentum of his own, thanks to support from his colleagues Joan Millman and Jim Brennan, a person familiar with the race said.

But an IND member insisted that the race, for now, is “wide open.”

Yassky finally gets TLC

Despite losing his bid for City Comptroller last fall, former Councilmember David Yassky has a shiny yellow and black consolation prize: the new Commissioner job with the Taxi Limousine Commission.

“David is the right guy for the job,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, highlighting Yassky’s experience introducing fuel-efficient taxis to the city, familiarity with small business owners, and the regulated taxi industry. “David has the experience, leadership skills and vision necessary to build on the innovations of the last eight years and make more improvements for passengers and drivers.”

Yassky, who still needs to be confirmed by the City Council before beginning the position, would serve a seven-year term expiring January 31, 2017 and earn $192,000 per year. He would oversee licenses and regulations for more than 50,000 vehicles, including 13,237 yellow cabs, 100,000 drivers, and 900 businesses, which include yellow taxicabs, black cars, liveries, limousines, and para-transit and commuter vans, transporting about one million passengers each day.

“For-hire vehicles are a vital part of the city’s fabric, emblematic of the city’s 24-7 energy and its entrepreneurial spirit,” said Yassky. “Under Mayor Bloomberg, the TLC has been a national leader in promoting sustainable, efficient urban transportation. If confirmed by the City Council, I look forward to building on the administration’s accomplishments and to advancing the Mayor’s commitment to creative government solutions and first-rate customer service for the New Yorkers and visitors.”

Term limits are such a nuisance…

At the March meeting of Community Board 14, City Councilmember Michael Nelson, who represents Brooklyn’s 48th Councilmanic District, congratulated board officers on being re-elected to another term at CB 14’s helm, lamenting, as he did, the hassles caused by the term limits law that almost stopped him from running again for the seat he has held since 1999.

“At least you don’t have term limits,” he remarked, “so you don’t have to go through the procedure of overturning it or at least extending it.”

Nelson was one of 29 councilmembers who in 2008 voted in favor of controversial legislation backed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to allow city elected officials to seek a third term, effectively negating a pair of voter referendums that had imposed a limit of two four-year terms on city elected officials. Had the law not been changed, Nelson and 34 of his colleagues would have been unable to run for re-election in 2009. Nonetheless, 12 councilmembers affected last year by term limits voted to sustain the two-term limit.

CB 18 Manager: Mike B. doesn’t get it

Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s billions might attest to his business acumen, but when it comes to governing the City of New York, not everyone in Brooklyn is quite so impressed with his alleged prowess.

“He is impossible to deal with,” Community Board 18 District Manager Dorothy Turano says. “He doesn’t understand how government works.”

Turano, like the other leaders of Brooklyn’s network of community boards around the borough, is waiting and wondering just how the mayor’s newly-appointed Charter Revision Commission will treat them.

The public advocate’s office is generally believed to be high on the possible hit list of city agencies targeted for major upheaval if not outright elimination. The offices of the five borough presidents and the city’s 59 community boards might not be far behind.

“I think he’s lost his mind,” Turano said. of Mayor Bloomberg. “Where are the checks and balances?”

The new Charter Revision Commission is expected to hold its first organizational meeting very shortly. Public hearings in each of the five boroughs will follow.

Officials aren’t saying what direction or what areas of the New York City Charter the commission will ultimately address.

Their budgets already slashed, many in Brooklyn fear that community boards could end up on top of the same trash heap as defunct school boards.

“There are probably places where agencies can be tightened up,” Turano said. “But he [Mayor Bloomberg] can’t touch community boards.”

It need not be all doom and gloom for community boards, however. The new Charter Revision Commission could actually be an opportunity to bolster the troubled community organizations.

For instance, although the City Charter presently prescribes professional community planners to each community board in the city to help neighbors deal with land use issues, the groups have never actuallyhad them.

The new Charter Revision Commission could change that and give the average citizen a stronger voice in government.

Tea Party hits Brooklyn

Members of Manhattan’s Tea Party branch brought their ultra-conservative message to Brooklyn this week.

The small group met at the No. 1 Front Street bar in DUMBO to promote its motto of “fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets.”

Fear not, liberals, the group hasn’t gained much traction yet. Its biggest donation is just $500, according to reports.

Send political tips, gossip and hearsay to politics@cnglocal.com.

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