Learning to Govern: My Life in New York Politics, From Hell Gate to City Hall

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9781884092077: Learning to Govern: My Life in New York Politics, From Hell Gate to City Hall
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This book tells the inspiring story of Peter F. Vallone, the second most powerful political official in New York City after the mayor for 12 years – as Speaker of the City Council during the Koch, Dinkins, and Giuliani Administrations. In a personal, breezy style this political "page turner" tells the story of how Vallone rose from a Queens clubhouse to the seat of power in City Hall - and in the process overturned the structure of the city’s government.

Although he has been a major figure in New York State - he was Democratic candidate for Governor in 1998 - and for a while even in national politics - Vallone never left his roots in a typical New York City neighborhood. Learning to Govern presents a view of a lifelong Democrat with strong spiritual values as well as a loving husband and friend who strives to always "do the right thing."

- A unique portrait of the interaction between the City Council and Mayor's office in a large city.

- A "fly on the wall" perspective of the inner workings of city government, and shows how conflicts are resolved and alliances fromed among contending parties.

- A vivid chronicle of the political life of New York City for the past 30 years.

"Peter Vallone served as Speaker of the City Council during part of my administration and during the administrations of David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani. He has written a superb book. If you want to know how government functions and how the City Council and Mayor of New York City conduct the business of the people, this is the book to read. I know. I was there. Read Peter's book and become the fly on the wall." – Ed Koch, former Mayor of New York City "Peter Vallone was an invaluable partner during my years as mayor. In this book he provides a keen legislative view of the workings of city government that should be required reading for anyone who wants to know how New York began its rebirth in the early 1990s." —David Dinkins, former Mayor of New York City "This book displays the power of working together. Peter Vallone and I disagreed on many occasions about many things. But we shared a love of New York City and a belief in the power of cooperation. Because we were - and are - friends, we were able to accomplish things that benefited all New Yorkers. Drawing on his years of public service and his commitment to the highest level of integrity, Peter Vallone provides a memorable account of government that all who care about New York City and American government will appreciate." —Rudolph W. Giuliani, former Mayor of New York City "Learning to Govern will teach you why one should run for public office and how to do it when you get there. No one has ever done it with more sincerity or integrity than Peter Vallone." —Mario Cuomo

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Review:

Peter Vallone's Learning to Govern offers a [needed] contribution to the literature on global urban studies. It deals with politics in the most well-known, ethnically diverse, and arguably important city in the world--a global city that has come to be associated in the minds of many across the world with some of the most salient aspects of American culture and power. Vallone's story, written in the first person, is a local one, but as the late Tip O'Neill quipped, ``All politics is local,'' and the lessons and advice he offers have wide applicability. From budgetary politics and taxation, to election laws, campaign finance reform and redistricting, to the homeless, to zoning, to crime, to education we see the speaker's complex navigation across the three branches of government at the city, state, and federal levels in order to carry out effective policymaking. The sophisticated reader will see Vallone's judicious alternation of approaches to being a legislator as embracing both Edmund Burke's trustee function of exerting independent judgment and the delegate function of mirroring the preferences of one's own constituents, always balancing district-wide concerns with those of the city at large. The author believes that the balance of power among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches enshrined in the U.S. Constitution should operate at all levels of government. Vallone is forthright about his strong belief in ``God, country, and family.'' However, [he] upholds a clear and unequivocal separation between secular and religious matters. Further, and most important, he exhorts those who want to practice the art of good government to treat all issues in a racially and ethnically nondiscriminatory and nondivisive manner. Learning to Govern is interspersed with a lot of optimism and faith that people with integrity and qualifications in the end prevail. The book would make wonderful reading in many of the countries where our type of democracy and our value system are so misunderstood. -- Giuseppe Ammendola American Foreign Policy Interests

From Publishers Weekly:

From his vantage point deep in the Democratic Party machinery and as the longtime Speaker of the City Council of New York City, Vallone delivers a detailed view of the complex workings of Big Apple politics from the 1970s through 2001. A deft mix of the political and the personal, Vallone's narrative depicts former mayors Dinkins, Koch and Giuliani with generosity and characteristic grace, but Vallone might have been too reticent in this telling; as if aware of political fallout, Vallone concedes the good points of everyone, making this not the political dish that readers might seek from a man who has seen so much. And if he is too cute in his depictions of others, he is positively coy about himself. When describing the Democratic primary battle between Koch and Cuomo, Vallone writes, "today I cannot be sure which lever I did pull in the voting booth." This, from an author who plucks minute political references from a diary he's kept for decades, is typical of a too-bald desire to look good in print. Vallone takes great pains to show that a career politician can be an optimistic, deeply moral man governed by duty to the citizenry. His kindness and unwillingness to make harsh judgments of others may have made his book less entertaining or revelatory, but they almost certainly were the reasons that he had such a long career.
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