Extras

We’re calling it a day here on State of Politics, and wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving. Please be careful if you’re traveling today. If not, you’ll find some pre-turkey headlines below to peruse. Some programming notes: If you’re a CapTon viewer, there will be no show tomorrow night or Friday. As for the blog and morning memo, both will be on vacation tomorrow – unless something really huge happens – and will return (likely in a truncated form) Friday. Everything will be back on track next Monday.

Sandra Lee says she and Gov. Andrew Cuomo will get married “some day,” explaining: “It’s been nine years,” she says. “We talk about it. It’s not like we don’t know we’re going to do it.”

Efforts by the Cuomo administration to sack Dave Wick, executive director of the Lake George Park Commissioner, are apparently being pulled back. He’s returning to work Dec. 10.

The effort to remove Wick was not solely motivated by “gallonate,” but also had to do with his role in organizing a retirement party for Commissioner Tom Conerty, according to an IG letter.

The snow might be a headache for holiday travelers, but ski mountains are psyched.

Connecticut truckers, food stores and energy suppliers tried to get Cuomo to allow commercial vehicles carrying food, fuel and emergency supplies an exemption from his storm-related ban on trucks along I-84.

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said the governor’s office will assess the situation as conditions improve. “As you know, this is among the busiest travel days of the year and motorist safety remains our top priority,” he said.

The New York state pension fund lost $2 billion in the past fiscal quarter as shaky markets eroded some of its portfolio, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli announced.

The Obama administration announced a long-delayed environmental regulation to curb emissions of ozone, a smog-causing pollutant linked to asthma, heart disease and premature death

Senate Finance Chairman John DeFrancisco backs the “Syracuse Billion.”

Carl Paladino’s snow-covered house was featured in Cuomo’s Facebook appeal for New Yorkers to remember people in need this holiday season.

A HUD audit found New York City officials improperly used some of $183 million in federal grants for hospital rebuilding after superstorm Sandy.

In advance of Black Friday, Cuomo is taking aim at three toys, including a Disney “Frozen” musical watch, which could be hazardous to children.

Rudy Giuliani’s law firm is considering an office in China after the size of its London practice doubled in a year on the strength of its energy work.

A lawyer for the parents of Michael Brown said “it was very hurtful” for them to hear Officer Darren Wilson say he had no regrets about his actions that ended with him shooting their son in Ferguson last August.

The Niagara Gazette doesn’t think much of Cuomo’s statewide weather prediction project. But the Buffalo News approves.

Hillary Clinton recently shared a table at a gala in New York City with the Olsen twins.

Few aspirants hoping to succeed President Obama – including Clinton – had much to say about Ferguson.

Obama did the traditional pre-Thanksgiving turkey pardon (of two birds dubbed “Mac” and “Cheese”), joking it would be his “most talked about executive action this month.”

The Buffalo Bills announced a sellout for their game at Ralph Wilson Stadium this Sunday against the Browns. Jim Kelly will make an appearance.

If Clinton runs for president again in 2016, who will her campaign manager be?

The family of Darryl Mount Jr., a man who died earlier this year from injuries sustained during a police foot chase in Saratoga Springs on Labor Day weekend 2013, has filed a lawsuit against the city.

Teacher pension costs are set to decline for school districts for the first time in five years, the state Teachers Retirement System said.

Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s unsuccessful presidential nominee in 2012, leads the field for the 2016 election among Republican voters, according to a new Q poll.

Stefanik Announces Staff Hires

Republican Rep.-elect Elise Stefanik on Wednesday announced a series of staffing moves as she is poised to represent the 21st congressional district starting in January.

Stefanik, who won in a landslide earlier this month against Democrat Aaron Woolf and Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello, has hired a chief of staff and a scheduler, according to her transition.

Lindley Katrovil is coming on board as Stefanik’s chief of staff. She has previously worked for congressional members from Colorado and Indiana. Like Stefanik, she is a former staffer in George W. Bush’s presidential administration.

“I am pleased to announce that Lindley will join my team as Chief of Staff. She brings a wealth of experience from both the Legislative and Executive Branches, has a mastery of key policy issues and has helped start up a new office before,” Stefanik said in a statement.

Stefanik also tapped Emily Hunter to serve as her schedule, who is moving over from the office of Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas.

Stefanik is filling the seat being vacated by Democratic Rep. Bill Owens, who declined to run for another term.

House Ethics Defers On Grimm – Again

For the third time since 2012, the House Ethics Committee has deferred its investigation into Republican Rep. Michael Grimm’s fundraising at the request of the US Justice Department.

Grimm, a former FBI agent, continues to be under federal investigation despite the fact that he is facing a 20-count indictment that alleges he broke a bevvy of rules while running a Manhattan restaurant prior to his election to Congress in 2010.

The congressman won a third term this past fall despite his legal troubles, largely due to the incredibly flawed candidacy of his Democratic challenger, former NYC Councilman Domenic Recchia. Grimm, who beat Recchia by 13 percentage points, ran without any aid from his party, receiving support from his Republican base on Staten Island – Democrat-dominated NYC’s lone bastion of conservatism.

This past October, a judge delayed the start of Grimm’s trial on charges of wire and mail fraud until February. But prosecutors said that if Grimm’s attorneys seeks to dismiss three charges against him — two counts of perjury and one of obstruction — because they occurred outside the jurisdiction of the Brooklyn court, the U.S. government would reintroduce them in Manhattan.

House Ethics Committee again defers Rep. Grimm investigation. by liz_benjamin6490

In NYC, Voters Write In Taylor Swift, Frank Underwood and Derek Jeter

OK, which one of you smart alecks voted for Derek Jeter?

The New York City Board of Elections on Wednesday released its certification report on the race for governor, which — delightfully — also gave a rundown of write-ins votes for celebrities, fictional characters and figures currently in the news.

Those receiving write-in votes included pop singer Taylor Swift, she received two votes, as did NYPIRG legislative director Blair Horner.

Frank Underwood, the Machiavellian politician who will stop at nothing to rise to the top of politics on the Netflix show “House of Cards”, received one vote.

The odd coupling of environmental activist Robert Kennedy, Jr. and former President Bill Clinton received one vote as well.

Dr. Craig Spencer, a Brooklyn doctor who was treated for Ebola and later released, received multiple votes alongside Kaci Hicox, a nurse who was briefly detained after returning from west Africa.

Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham Law School professor who challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo, received several hundred votes when combined with various incorrect spellings of her name.

Together with her running mate, Columbia professor Tim Wu, the erstwhile insurgent Democratic ticket received 133 write-in votes.

Perennial write-in candidate Mickey Mouse did not receive any votes, according to the report.

248331187 NY State Official Election Results by Nick Reisman

Barring Special Session, Infrastructure Spending Could Dominate 2015

Ask local governments about their wishlist for 2015 and the conversation inevitably turns to infrastructure spending. With the state running a multibillion dollar surplus, municipal leaders have a long list of what needs to get fixed.

“We think municipal infrastructure is really the foundation of economic development: transportation, water, sewer. There would be a huge return on investment if we were to do that,” said Peter Baynes, Conference of Mayors executive director.

Indeed, the 2015 legislative session could bring some major infrastructure projects for localities that have struggled to maintain roads, bridges and sewer systems after years of lean budgets.

“What happened in Erie County really brings to the front of the line if you will the need for infrastructure spending,” said Stephen Acquario, Association Of Counties executive director.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo backs using at least part of the surplus gained from windfall financial settlements on needed repairs, but the governor also wants to spend about $500 million on encouraging local governments to consolidate and share services. It’s a conversation Cuomo has tried to spark over the last several years with little success.

Local government advocates in Albany are cool to the idea, arguing that the best way to reduce property taxes is to help reduce mandated state spending.

“To dump a lot of state resources to sort of force a shotgun marriage that doesn’t always work, we don’t think makes a lot of sense. We think there’s better ways to use the money,” Baynes said.

Meanwhile, local governments may next year push for changes to the state’s property tax cap, first approved in 2011. The cap is tied to rent control laws for New York City, which are due to expire in June.

“We really have to look at the tax cap, we have to look at the language, see where it’s working, see where it’s not working in areas of payment in lieu of taxes,” said Acquario. “There are certain technical things that are tied to that current law that can and should be changed for the betterment of the program all across the state.

The debate over how to spend the surplus could be defused next in December if lawmakers convene in a special session.

Pension Fund Posts Negative Return

The total value of the state’s pension fund fell in the second quarter following a broader under performance of the financial markets, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office on Wednesday announced.

The fund’s rate of return was a negative 0.52 percent, taking the pension fund’s estimated value to $178.3 billion.

At the start of the state’s fiscal year, April 1, the fund was valued at $176.8 billion and had grown to $180.7 billion.

DiNapoli blamed the fund’s poor performance on “challenges” in the various markets, including small cap stocks and central banking decisions that led to market volatility overall.

“On the heels of a robust first quarter, the second quarter presented investors with challenges,” DiNapoli said. “As always, our diversified investment allocation positions us to maximize long-term value.”

Early Bird Lawmakers

From the Morning Memo:

If the Legislature does return to Albany for a special session, some newly-elected lawmakers may have a chance to get a jump on their fellow freshmen when it comes to voting.

Those lawmakers elected to fill seats that were vacant before the Nov. 4 elections can be certified as full fledged members of their respective houses prior to the start of the 2015 session in January.

The eight Assembly members – six Democrats and two Republicans – who fit into this category will be certified on Dec. 15, according to Assembly spokesman Mike Whyland, which means they will take the oath of office and can be seated that every day.

If a special session is called before Dec. 15, then a resolution could be passed to make those members eligible to vote.

This is important because every vote will count when it comes to a pay raise.

Downstate lawmakers likely have more cover than their upstate counterparts, since $79,500 is on the low side when it comes to average professional salaries in NYC and on Long Island.

In the Senate, there were two empty seats prior to the elections – one was vacated by Democrat Eric Adams, who left to become Brooklyn borough president; the other belonged to Long Island Republican Chuck Fuschillo, who resigned to take a private sector job.

Democrat Jesse Hamilton won Adams’ seat. There’s still some question about whether Hamilton will join the IDC when he arrives in Albany.

Republican Michael Venditto won Fuschillo’s seat. That race was pretty much a walk for the GOP after the Democratic candidate, Dave Denenberg, dropped out of the race (though his name remained on the ballot) after he was sued by members of his former law firm for allegedly bilking clients out of $2 million worth of services.

Technically speaking, outgoing lawmakers who did not seek re-election for whatever reason could resign tomorrow and whoever was elected to replace them could be sworn in and eligible to vote in a special session.

But that’s highly unlikely, because those lame duck votes come in handy when it’s time to vote on a pay raise. Lawmakers who aren’t returning to Albany don’t have worry about incurring the wrath of their constituents by voting “yes” on a big salary bump for their soon-to-be-former colleagues.

Special Session Over-Under

From the Morning Memo:

There has been a lot of talk about whether the Legislature will return to Albany before the 2015 session – most likely in the second week of December – to approve a pay raise for lawmakers, whose $79,500 starting salary has remained the same since early 1999.

Officially speaking, there are no formal negotiations taking place. Both legislative leaders have spoken publicly about their support for a pay raise, but Cuomo hasn’t yet said much of anything.

That’s thanks in part to the fact that he was focused on storm recovery in Western NY, where he spent almost an entire week. Now, of course, the governor’s attention has turned to the next big storm to threaten the state.

But this storm isn’t expected to be nearly as significant, accumulation-wise, and Cuomo’s return to the NYC area has re-started the special session speculation.

The main question is what – if anything – lawmakers and the governor will seek to link to the pay raise in order to give themselves some cover.

If legislators return to Albany just to give themselves a nice holiday gift of higher pay, it isn’t going to sit well with many New Yorkers – especially when liberal advocates are calling for action on a minimum wage increase. But there isn’t really any consensus at this point on the linkage question.

Last night on CapTon, John McArdle, the Senate GOP’s former chief spokesman, who maintains strong ties to the conference and its leader, put the chances of a special session at “50-50, no better right now.”

McArdle argued in favor of a straight pay raise bill with nothing attached, other than perhaps reform of the per diem system.

“I think anything that’s on the table right now could be done in January, so there’s really only one issue that would require them to come back,” McArdle said.

“..when you get to what that could potentially be traded for, that’s where it becomes problematic, and may negative the session. Period.”

McArdle also argued that at a time when people like US Attorney Preet Bharara are investigating supposed “quid pro quos” and other illegal actions by state lawmakers, it might not look so great for legislators to vote “yes” on a pay raise in exchange for their support of some unrelated legislation.

Of course, that’s a time-honored tradition in Albany.

The last time lawmakers passed a (38 percent) pay raise, they did so only after striking a deal with then-Gov. George Pataki that created charter schools in New York and set up a system in which legislators’ paychecks would be withheld if they failed to enact an on-time budget. (In the long run, that didn’t work very well as a deterrent).

McArdle did point out that Cuomo ostensibly “needs” a pay raise just as much as legislators do, since any increase in salary will apply not only to his own bottom line, but also to that of his senior staffers.

And that might help the governor attract some new talent for Term Two at a time when he’s having a very tough time recruiting replacements for departing top aides.

Signs right now are pointing to the days on or around Dec. 10 as a likely time for lawmakers to return to Albany.

As Capital’s Jimmy Vielkind notes this morning, the Senate Republicans are scheduled to host a fundraiser at the Fort Orange Club in Albany on Dec. 10, which is the same day Cuomo will announce the latest round of regional economic development council awards.

Here and Now

Good morning, happy day-before-Thanksgiving, the busiest travel day of the year, which is being complicated this year by a winter storm.

Due to the storm, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office has announced the following travel restrictions:

- Starting at 7 a.m., long tandem vehicles will be banned from the New York State Thruway on I-90, both directions from Interchange 32 (Westmoreland/Rome) to Interchange 24 (Exit 24) and on I-87, both directions from Interchange 24 (Albany) to the New York City line.

- Also at 7 a.m., commercial vehicles will be banned from Interstate 84, both directions, from the Pennsylvania border to the Connecticut border.

If you’re planning on taking I-84, considering seeking alternative routes or travel early. If you do choose to use I-84, use caution and call 5-1-1 to check road conditions before leaving.

The state has prepared 911 snow plows, more than 1,800 plow operators and more than 130,000 tons of road salt between New York City and Albany to respond to the storm.

This is becoming a bit of a (nasty) habit – Cuomo’s press shop has not yet released his public schedule for the day.

At 8:30 a.m., the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey’s aviation director, Thomas Bosco, discusses the agency’s preparations for Thanksgiving holiday travel; near the food court, departure level, Central Terminal Building, LaGuardia Airport, 23rd Avenue and Ditmars Boulevard, Queens.

At 9 a.m., Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade parade’s executive producer, Amy Kule, broadcaster and chef Sandra Lee, “Miss USA 2014″ pageant winner Nia Sanchez and Santa Claus ring the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange to publicize the parade, Exchange Place and Broad Street, Manhattan.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., an Amtrak representative offers interviews about Thanksgiving holiday travel; Pennsylvania Station, Pennsylvania Plaza, 234 W. 31st St., Manhattan.

From 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., NYC Councilman Andy King, law enforcement professionals including city police department Capt. James R. McGeown and religious officials discuss techniques to prevent identity theft during a seminar; auditorium, 135 Einstein Loop, the Bronx.

At 11 a.m., Kirsten John Foy, NAN’s Northeast Regional Director; to accompany Kimberly Michelle Ballinger, Akai Kareem Gurley’s domestic partner and mother of his two-year-old daughter, as she identifies Gurley’s body, Brooklyn Medical Examiner’s office, 599 Winthrop St., Brooklyn. (Press conference to follow at 11:45 a.m.)

At noon, the executive director of the West Side Campaign Against Hunger, Stewart Desmond, NYC Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal and representatives of religious organizations and schools distribute Thanksgiving food as part of the campaign’s fourth annual “Thousand Turkey Challenge”; basement level, 263 W. 86th St., Manhattan.

At 5 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will tour and deliver remarks at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon inflation, 77th Street and Central Park West, Manhattan.

At 5:20 p.m., NY1 reporter Zack Fink is a guest on WABC’s “The Ride Home with Pat Kiernan and Rita Cosby.”

Headlines…

Thousands of protesters marched through the streets of New York City for the second night, chanting loudly and blocking traffic on some of Manhattan’s busiest streets to express outrage over the decision not to indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in the death of an unarmed black man, Michael Brown. Some arrests were made.

“I have a clear conscience,” Wilson said to ABC ‘s George Stephanopolous, who talked with him for an hour and a half at an undisclosed location in St. Louis. “I know I did my job right.”

In Washington, St. Louis and Ferguson itself, an array of public officials, community leaders and clergy were deeply critical of one another as they sought to explain how protests over the grand jury’s decision had spun further out of control than the unrest that followed Brown’s death in August.

Peaceful rallies protesting the Ferguson decision took place in Buffalo and Albany.

Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton said the grand jury system was misused in the Brown case. He urged a continued investigation by the federal government.

Albany County DA David Soares slammed St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch, calling him “tone deaf,” and accusing him of “mismanaging” the presentation of the grand jury’s decision.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren’s Facebook comments about the Ferguson decision sparked controversy.

Chanting “Black lives matter!,” more than a dozen NYC Council members, led by Andy King, the co-chairman of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, interrupted a stated meeting yesterday soon after it began and marched out of the chamber to protest the Ferguson decision.

Former NYC Mayor and ex-US attorney Rudy Giuliani said he would prosecute some of the Ferguson grand jury witnesses for lying in their testimony against Wilson.

The suspect who threw fake blood on NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton during a Ferguson protest in NYC Monday night is a veteran of the Occupy Wall Street movement. He was arraigned last night and ordered held on $30,000 bond.

State officials will serve up scraper “shoes” to clear LIRR train rails, “storm fighting centers” and other strategies to keep public transportation mayhem to a minimum as a nor’easter visits the region on one of the biggest travel days of the year.

The Buffalo News remembers the lives of the 13 victims of last week’s massive lake effect storm.

Three anonymous WNY Thruway workers said in separate interviews they informed Authority supervisors that portions of Interstate 90 needed to be closed in the late evening hours of Nov. 17, but their warnings were ignored and the highway remained open until the following morning.

The exact cost and economic impact of the Buffalo storm remains unknown. Cuomo said that he suspected losses would surpass $27 million, the threshold for financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The State Department of Health is investigating the death of an elderly woman after she was evacuated from a nursing home outside Buffalo during the storm, a Health Department official said.

With the country in a recession, Democrats should have followed the 2009 economic stimulus bill with bills to help the middle class, then attempted to pass health care later in Obama’s presidency, US Sen. Chuck Schumer said. His comments irked fellow Democrats.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner announced a $1 billion list of projects intended to address long-term infrastructure needs and vowed to aggressively lobby Cuomo and the Legislature for state support. More here.

More >

Extras

US Chuck Schumer said Democrats made a mistake by setting their sights on health care reform early in President Barack Obama’s first term, arguing that his party should have focused on fixing the economy first.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was “very sad” to see the violent response in Ferguson, Mo., after a grand jury’s decision declined to bring charges in the police shooting of an unarmed teen, and emphasized he believed peaceful protest could affect the change people were seeking.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, police officer Darren Wilson broke his silence about the shooting of Michael Brown.

More than a dozen NYC Council members walked out of their regularly-scheduled meeting today at City Hall, to protest the grand jury decision.

A day after NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton was hit with fake blood by a man protesting about Ferguson, the agency head made light of the incident and took a shot at the activist who hurled the stage prop.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren is being criticized for the response to Ferguson that she posted on Facebook.

CNN’s Don Lemon is under fire for his coverage of the Ferguson protests.

Just in time for Christmas, state AG Eric Schneiderman is urging retailers like Walmart and Target to make sure the toys they sell do not contain toxic chemicals.

Cuomo’s refusal to take a position on climate change is getting some negative attention.

…that puts him at odds with the official position of his administration, (as per the DEC website).

De Blasio held a gathering at a Brooklyn public school last July that improperly barred the press, according to a joint investigation by his own Department of Investigation and the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the schools.

A Senate GOP spokesman bluntly rejected a de Blasio administration official’s call for a new real estate tax, arguing that creating a new revenue stream to fund the mayor’s affordable housing plan sends “the wrong message” to New York City.

Rockland Democratic Chairwoman Kristen Stavisky said Sen. David Carlucci’s decision to stick with the IDC will be viewed as a “betrayal” by local Democrats.

Whiteface Mountain Ski Center will begin daily operations tomorrow.

Buffalo Bills president Russ Brandon expects Ralph Wilson Stadium to be “100 percent operational” in time to host the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

North Country and Lake George residents closed ranks around embattled Lake George Park Commission Executive Director David Wick, urging commissioners to stand up to the Cuomo administration’s effort to oust him.

An argument in favor of holding the Democratic National Convention in Columbus, OH.

Buffalo’s Wise Guys Pizza stayed open during last week’s snow storm, and did a brisk business.