Sheinkopf Speaks: The Ballad of Million Dollar Jumaane

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams
Hank Sheinkopf

George Washington Plunkitt set the standard. 

If you want to be a political boss, his words should be your primer. “I seen my opportunities and I took ‘em,” said Plunkitt of Tammany Hall. He called it honest graft. He hated civil service non-political public sector worker hiring and damned those who disagreed with him. 

A Democratic Party district leader and elected state senator, mostly Plunkitt showed up and talked. His main job: move his political career along. Where does it say taxpayers shouldn’t pay for that?

We now have the case of Million Dollar Jumaane. With no real opponent in the Democratic primary for the not ever fully justified city-wide office he holds, Jumaane grabbed close to $1 million bucks from the City treasury through our very expansive campaign public finance program. Like Plunkitt, our public advocate shows up. He talks. He says he introduces laws. He publishes his own annual worst landlords list.  

Civil servants? New York City school safety agents are working-class people, blue-collar, mostly women of color. They support families on their salaries. Million Dollar Jumaane called those minority women criminals, child abusers. School safety agents collect knives and weapons and prevent city school violence. Million Dollar Jumaane says fire them.

Caught attacking civil servants–and defaming women of color–this great fellow said he would find those fine people jobs after they were fired. How Million Dollar Jumaane– gated community resident with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week taxpayer-funded NYPD detective protection–would do this rests likely with Judge Force Crater who disappeared one New York City night, and was never seen again. Solving the Crater mystery has better odds than Million Dollar Jumaane finding jobs for the minority women he’d throw into the streets.

He might have opened our city to unfair labor practice charges. So what, right? 

One day he appears at Rikers Island with other electeds. Shocked they all are. Our million-dollar man was a city council member and later public advocate. You’d think he and colleagues knew nothing about our jails. After the Rikers appearance, it was likely back into the city-owned vehicle and protective care of our police. Maybe to more meetings, or even fundraising calls. 

Raise more money. Claim credit. These seem to be the most important work completed daily by many electeds. And largely what George Washington Plunkitt accomplished. He saw his chances and he took ‘em.  Civil servants–the women of color who protect our school children–are just criminals according to Million Dollar Jumaane. Get rid of them Plunkitt would say.  

Maybe grabbing close to a million tax dollars for a mostly non-existent non-competitive campaign fits the description of honest graft.  Plunkitt would tell you, he seen his chances and he took ‘em. So what’s wrong with that? 

Here’s a bet you can’t lose.  Judge Force Carter will turn up before Million Dollar Jumaane admits that Plunkitt knew a thing or two.