Squeezing Out Sparks: Biviano Debates Millman

News Corp’s Community Newspaper Group (the Brooklyn Paper, Courier-Life) hosted a debate last week between the two candidates squaring off for the Democratic nomination in the 52nd NYS Assembly District.   Incumbent Joan Millman and challenger/ Brooklyn Heights resident Doug Biviano discussed many local issues, but one topic appears to be gaining traction (operative word: “appears”).   The issue: Biviano’s accusation that Millman is “double dipping” from the public coffers – one paycheck for her service as a member of the NY Assembly and the other from her NYC teacher’s pension.

The Brooklyn Paper’s recap of the debate and video after the jump:

Assembly candidate Doug Biviano blasted away at incumbent Joan Millman in a debate last week, hammering her for taking her pension even as she works as a lawmaker, lambasting her for backing transit cuts, and for flip-flopping on housing inside Brooklyn Bridge Park — but the harshest word he had for Millman was that she’s “nice.”

By our count, Biviano taunted his rival with the seemingly innocuous adjective six times during the hour-long debate in Community Newspaper Group’s Downtown studio, where the candidates in the Sept. 14 primary battled in hopes of attracting voters in the Brownstone Brooklyn assembly district.

Being repeatedly slammed as “nice” certainly didn’t faze Millman, who said she was more upset that Biviano called her a bum on his website.

“I don’t think ‘nice’ is a pejorative word,” she said. “I don’t mind being called nice because I am a nice person. But I’m also an effective person.”

Biviano certainly didn’t agree, slamming Millman (D-Carroll Gardens) on the issues — and for collecting her pension from her prior job as a city teacher while working as our elected representative in Albany. Biviano called that “double dipping.”

“I’m on the street and I talk to the people and they’re worried about their pensions,” Biviano said. “These people aren’t making six figures and on top of … another government pension. It’s an abuse of the pension system.”

Millman makes $92,000 as an Assemblywoman. She was elected to office in 1997 after she retired from her 27 years as a teacher and began collecting her pension.

“I had already put in my paperwork,” she said. “You can’t rescind it.”

The NY Post published a story by Courier Life writer Tom Tracy with the lastest in this saga:

The truth is that Millman could have deferred then -— and could still defer now. All she had to do was file a “Retirement Allowance Suspension/Resumption Form” with the Teachers Retirement System.

What Millman (D-Carroll Gardens) is doing is perfectly legal, but that hasn’t stopped her assembly challenger, Doug Biviano, from railing on her for more than a week since our debate aired on our website.

“Collecting of two government paychecks shows that Assemblywoman Millman is not only out of touch with the community, but cares more about her interests than those of the people she represents,” Biviano said. “She should be protecting the pension system and our over-burdened tax-payers, not abusing them.”

In the debate, Biviano likened Millman’s pension to Assemblymembers Rhoda Jacobs (D–Midwood) and Harvey Weisenberg (D–Long Island), Albany colleagues who collect their state legislator pensions while still serving in the job of state legislator. The loophole that allows them to do that has since been closed.

Millman’s camp has taken a flogging from Biviano since the debate, but Nelson turned it right back on the challenger.

“Doug believes she shouldn’t be allowed to retire, collect her pension — a pension funded by her money that she’s already deferred while she was a teacher in the public school system, mind you — and have a second career,” he said. “He’s sending a terrible message to senior citizens by telling them that once they retire they should just move to Florida because they’re not needed or welcome here anymore.”

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  • http://inklake.typepad.com Peter Kaufman

    Cheers for the Graham Parker reference.

    FYI, there’s a documentary being made about the man. Info here:


  • http://inklake.typepad.com Peter Kaufman

    P.S. Full disclosure: Millman’s office has helped me with the church-parking business.

    With that in mind, Biviano attacking Millman for collecting a pension she earned as a teacher, is such a bunch of garbage, it automatically disqualifies him from my further consideration.


  • Mona Bregman

    Mr. Biviano does not know what the words “double
    dipping” mean. When you double dip, you take two salaries for doing the same job.
    Ms Millman worked for the DoE for 27 years. She retired and began collecting a pension. Her pension , from the NewYork CITY Pension System, is financed, largley, by her monthly contributions over her career. Then she decided to try a DIFFERENT career, public service as a member of the NYS Assembly. Eileen Dugan passed away and Ms Millman was elected to fill the vacancy.
    I am also a retired NYC teacher. I retired after 35 years as a classroom teacher.
    Does Mr. Biviano suggest that if I get a city state or federal job, I defer my pension? Does he mean to suggest that retired police officers and fire fighters defer their pensions if they take another job, especially when they retire at a young age?
    The message that Mr. Biviano gives is that senior citizens just roll over and die when they retire. Are our productive years behind us? I think not! I salute Ms. Millman and all other retirees that retire to life rather than retiring from life.
    Unlike many other members of the Assembly, Ms. Millman doesn’t have another job. She is too busy representing those of us who are lucky enough to have her as our full time representative. She is honest, caring, intelligent and hard working. She deserves to win another term.

  • ABC

    It’s not an abuse of the pension system. What a moronic idea.

    Who is he talking to on the street worried about their pensions? Pensions are protected by the ny state constitution. Biviano should be assuring them their pensions are safe.

  • tb

    Biv needs to tell us why he can stop the ocean from rolling up on our shores. This double dipping thing is painting him as a regular politician.

  • bkre

    Everytime you publish an article on Biv, it just shows me more clearly what a douche he is.

  • Mickey

    Peter Kaufman: by “church parking” were you referring to the people who park in the bike lane on Sunday? I thought that was resolved but I walked past the Presbyterian church on Henry Street at 10:30 yesterday and again at 1:00. Both times there were 10-12 cars parked in the bike lane. I suppose the Pastor can’t be taken at his word, so we should start calling the precinct.

  • Big Dave

    At one time I had some hope for Mr. Bivano, but the pension flap shows he is not very good at thinking things through — as the above comments are so quick to point out. He seems too bent on finding unsubstantive things that make good sound bites. That might work for tea-partyers — I hope our Brooklyn Democrats are not so swayed.

  • http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/21808#comments NH

    What I don’t understand is if the “double dipping” regardless of how you define it, is not a big deal then why has Millman flip flopped her position on it? It doesn’t pass the smell test. She clearly knows it is a flaw in the system otherwise she would have simply held her ground and kept the same belief.
    For a bunch of other reasons, she needs to go.

    Regarding pensions: The problem with pensions for government workers is that there is no incentive to leave. There are hardly any other private sector jobs available that provide pensions. Why? They are expensive and inefficient. Remember, the government doesn’t produce anything. It is simply taking money from some private individual and giving it to a government worker.

  • FS

    Why is Millman lying about her pension? First she says that she would defer it if she could, then she refuses when called on her statement of same. I don’t know which is worse: The fact that she is siphoning off public funds, or the fact that she can’t be trusted to tell the truth. Don’t take my word for it, see below:

  • FS

    Why is Millman lying about her pension? First she says that if she could have deferred it, she would have. Then when called on it, she refuses. I don’t know which is worse, the fact that she is siphoning off public funds or that she can’t be trusted to tell the truth. Don’t take my word for it, see below:

  • WillowtownCop

    “The problem with pensions for government workers is that there is no incentive to leave.”

    I disagree. In the NYPD, staying on the job past 20 years is called “pension roulette” and is considered a bad idea. You can go for 20 years and be a model cop, but all it takes is one bad thing to happen that might or might not be your fault (i.e. dark stairwell, kid points gun at you, turns out to be a very real looking toy, Post headline the next day: cop shoots unarmed 13 year old to death), and now the pension that you worked hard for for 20 years is gone.

    When I retire, I will be 45 years old. I will have worked 20 years to earn my pension, which is not enough to live on in this town. So, I will have to get another job. What difference does it make if I get a private job or a government job? I still earned my pension and should be able to collect it, and if I’m the most qualified person for the other government job, I shouldn’t be precluded from getting it and earning the same salary for the same work as everyone else.

  • liam

    biviano is a dork !
    so what she qualifies for 2 pensions, she EARNED it!
    biv should look for a real job and real issues!
    and also endorsed by dennis kucinich (enuf said)

  • RC

    Do the abuses to tax payers by ELECTED OFFICIALS ever end?

    Today the Daily News points out 8 NY Congressmen who get NYS pensions. I think congress gets paid a $174,000 salary.


  • Doug Hershberger

    Part of the reason why the state is in such deep trouble financially is because it pays out too much money to people like Milliman. She should be working to reign in spending and double dealing with taxpayers’ money. Instead, she wants to be first in line at the trough.

    It’s hard to be part of the solution, when you’re part of the problem!

  • A new friend of Willowtown Cop

    Attention Biviano and Tilzer:
    1. Stop posting in all these different names.
    2. Stop being so stupid- that pension is her money. She put into the system and worked hard as a public school teacher. She also worked hard to make PS 8 the great school that it is. You might have heard about that school.
    3. Stop speading lies about Millman. Get a real issue to campaign about. Oh wait, that’s right, you’ve done nothing for the community as compared to her over 25 years of service for us.
    4. Stop breaking the law! File your campaign disclosure reports.
    5. Stop being like Pedro Espada! We don’t need another Espada in Albany!

  • WillowtownCop

    Apparently I have a new friend. Hi, friend.

    I’m not sure if I should be flattered or confused as to why you’re associating yourself with my handle- I hope no one confuses our posts.

  • Doug Hershberger

    Liam said: “so what she qualifies for 2 pensions, she EARNED it!”

    You do realize that it is your money that pays Milliman’s generous salary and pension? When times were good, they voted themselves raises and sweetheart pensions. Now that times are tough, Milliman takes the money from the MTA rather than touching her own bloated package. The state can no longer afford to pay people way more than they could have made in the private sector. We need to elect representatives who are going to put an end to waste and corruption. It’s hard to lead that charge while taking money from the taxpayers with both hands.

  • John Thomas Longo

    Doug Biviano talks a good game, but that’s all he does. Talk. Incredibly, this self-proclaimed reformer continues to evade the state election law requirements for disclosing campaign donations and expenses. That’s right, for the past two weeks

    Biviano has had better things to do than comply with state law by failing to file public disclosure reports due back on August 13th. See for yourself, by clicking here

    What does he have to hide? How long will he try to get away with hiding his campaign donors and vendors? Next time you see him, ask him why he chooses to be a deadbeat and avoid public disclosure of his campaign spending.

  • Socrates Johnson

    When Biviano makes this attack on Millman, what he’s really doing is attacking all teachers, and all retired teachers. If Millman isn’t entitled to the pension, then who is?

  • John Thomas Longo

    The State Board of Elections URL didn’t come thru on my first post, so trying again …


  • WillowtownCop

    Doug wrote: “You do realize that it is your money that pays Milliman’s generous salary and pension?”

    1. She is entitled to the pension she earned. It was part of her contract.
    2. If she is not reelected, someone else will be getting her salary.
    3. So, it isn’t costing taxpayers any more money to have her as our representative.

  • http://inklake.typepad.com Peter Kaufman

    Heaven knows Millman isn’t perfect, and I hope this doesn’t make her take my vote for granted, but going after Millman on this spurious and scurrilous and spurious pension stuff is an automatic disqualifier for me.

  • http://? carol

    Biviano has not evolved as a credible candidate since he ran for the 33rd Council seat. He attacks his opponents as either lacking leadership or having ethical problems but fails to present a specific plan that he would bring forward if elected. The “I’m an engineer and know how to get things done” mantra is wearing pretty thin without some details. He has mastered the sound bite but little else, it seems.

  • Doug Hershberger

    I don’t get it, Longo. That link you posted shows that Biviano _did_ post a disclosure report. So I guess you are going to vote for him now.

  • Reggie

    imo, no further comment seems needed on the legality or appropriateness of collecting a municipal pension and then taking another job in government (see WillowtownCop, Mona and others above).

    What concerns me most about Millman’s response, and I do not vote in this race, is why she didn’t she say what others have said above. She isn’t very good at being a politician. Only someone as pointless as Biv can make her look good, is she? As I have written here before, we will see one more term for Millman and then a real candidate will push her from office, perhaps simply by declaring their intention to run.

    Full disclosure: My situation is similar to WillowtownCop’s, although I don’t have as many years on the job or as many years left to work in a new position.

  • John Thomas Longo

    Doug, the report that Biviano filed was in July. He did not and as of this writing has not filed the 32-day pre-primary disclosure that was due in mid-August. Why?

    Why has Biviano purposely evaded the very campaign disclosure laws he says are too weak? How can he be critical of his opponent when he doesn’t comply with the law?

    Another report, the 11-day pre-primary report, is due in the next couple of days. Will he also fail to file that report as well? And should Biviano decide to finally disclose his donations and expenses, he must also come clean on why he has evaded the law so far.

  • Doug Hershberger

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes. “Who will watch the watchers?”

    My main issue is not with teachers, firefighters and policemen collecting pensions. It is with the very real problem of people like assembly members, chief of police, school superintendents, etc. writing their own retirement plans and then hiding behind the everyday heroes and saying “How dare you try to take away their pensions?”

    I’m a capitalist at heart. I expect people will do whatever it takes to make more money. Which is why we need a system which ensures that the people who make the laws can’t change the rules in their favor. Such a system needs strong principled leaders to make it work. I don’t think that Millman is a bad person for taking more than others. But she is a bad example and therefore a bad leader.

    Albany is already full of bad leaders. Perhaps it is time to give someone else a chance.

  • John Thomas Longo

    Why would we “give a chance” to someone like Biviano who purposely evades campaign disclosure laws? Here we are, September, 1, and no campaign filing that was due on August 13. Another is due September 3. Will he fail to file that one, too?

    No thanks … Biviano ignores even the lax laws he gives lip service to reforming … that alone shows a contempt for the voters. I wonder what Ed Koch thinks about this scofflaw campaigner?

  • TOM

    Its way time we have change in Albany, and although Biviano should get his minuta together as far as filing paperwork, hes the only pony in town. Vote for him to rid of us of machine dynasty people like Millman.With people like millman nothing will ever change. Due to the overwhelming liberalness of the district and democratic enrollment, a Republican would have no chance in winning, so Biviano it has to be.