The Joint Chiefs of Staff, including chairman General Joseph Dunford, were not aware President Donald Trump planned to tweet a ban on transgender service members – the latest indication that top military leaders across all four service branches were blindsided by the President’s announcement.

There will be “no modifications” to the military’s transgender policy as a result of Trump’s declared ban, Dunford said in a message to top military officers today.

In an arrangement prominent ethics experts say is without precedent and potentially illegal, the White House is referring questions for senior presidential adviser Stephen K. Bannon to an outside public relations agent whose firm says she is working for free.

Michael Surbaugh, the Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts, just wrote a letter apologizing for the political rhetoric of Trump’s speech at Monday’s Jamboree.

White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci is perhaps regretting (?) his call to The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, or, at the very least, declining to say the conversation was off the record.

Scaramucci appeared to attack Reince Priebus today, challenging the president’s chief of staff to prove that he is not the source for the administration’s leaks to the press.

The title of Hillary Clinton’s highly-anticipated memoir about the 2016 presidential election is “What Happened,” and the former secretary of state says she’ll be “letting my guard down” in the book.

Clinton will be the keynote speaker at the Business Council of Westchester’s Nov. 20 fall dinner, where she will also receive an award.

Just eight months into her tenure as first lady, Melania Trump will make her first solo trip, traveling to Toronto, Canada, for the Invictus Games, which will be held in late September.

The battle between de Blasio and Cuomo, as seen through a Yiddish lens.

Rep. John Katko has hired a top out-of-state Republican political operative – Capitol Franking Group of Kanas City, Mo. – at taxpayer expense to find out what’s on the minds of Central New Yorkers.

New York companies will get naming rights to subway station if they contribute at least $600,000 for upkeep, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced.

Terry Gipson, a former Democratic state senator from the Hudson Valley, has reportedly approached party activists about challenging Cuomo in the Democratic primary next year.

Ahead of Trump’s planned visit tomorrow to a Long Island community that has been reeling from violence tied to the Central American gang MS-13, local officials are raising concerns about federal support for migrant children.

A tony Palm Beach couple’s “Trump Divorce” was announced today in a press release from a firm a representing the wife.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wants to see more barley malted in New York as he aims for the state to become the “Napa Valley of craft beer.”

A state Supreme Court justice declined the state’s request to dismiss a lawsuit that aims to keep the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center open in West Seneca, but didn’t renew a restraining order that temporarily prevented Cuomo from vetoing a bill that bars the state from moving the children’s unit.

After spending more than $1.5 million to preserve its market share in New York City, the foam container industry is losing the latest battle in a four-year war over banning the ubiquitous take-out and beverage containers.

Actor William Fichtner, a Cheektowaga native, and the production team shot scenes Wednesday for his new film “Cold Brook,” at SUNY Cortland’s campus.

Russell Finley, a beef cattle farmer, real estate broker and self-described “true conservative” from St. Lawrence County, is challenging Rep. Elise Stefanik in a Republican primary in 2018, and wants to fight her for the Conservative line, too.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he drew inspiration from a fictional American president – Jed Bartlet of “The West Wing” – to prepare for political debates.

What’s really driving high costs at the MTA? The Manhattan Institute’s Nicole Gelinas says employee wages and benefits and debt load.

Starting next month, Airbnb guests in Onondaga County will begin chipping in on room occupancy taxes, just like they would at a hotel.

Erie County Fair rides will be safe, according to fair officials, who were reacting to the accident last night at the Ohio State Fair that left one person dead and seven injured.

East Hampton Town officials said they are pursuing legal action against dating app company Tinder after a group related to the corporate entity threw multiple large parties at a rented Montauk compound and violated noise codes.

A tiny insect that can kill towering hemlock trees has been found for the first time in the Adirondacks, the DEC said.

The two Republican candidates seeking to become the next Rensselaer County executive – Deputy County Executive Christopher Meyer and Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin – are back in court battling over the Independence Party line.

The DEC will conduct a study over the next year on the air quality in the Ezra Prentice neighborhood after South End homeowners voiced concerns.

RWDSU Endorses Moya For Council

Assemblyman Francisco Moya on Thursday picked up another endorsement in his race for city Council, receiving the nod from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

The union earlier this year praised Moya’s support for a bill aimed at bolstering the pay and wage theft protections for car wash workers.

“Francisco Moya stood with our members out on strike at Main Street car wash earlier this year – and now we stand with him as he runs to represent the 21st Council District,” said Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the RWDSU.

“Francisco has been with us through our fight to give a union voice to car wash workers across New York City, and has been a leader in the Assembly in our fight to end the tip-credit – he knows that supporting our immigrant workers is what makes New York City move every day. We know firsthand that he will stand up and protect workers’ rights to organize, have a safe workplace and ensure they can earn a fair wage. The RWDSU is proud to support Francisco on his campaign for City Council and we look forward to continue to work with him.”

Moya is running for the Queens council seat held by Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who is not seeking re-election. He is in a contested primary against disgraced former state Sen. Hiram Monserrate, who was removed from the Senate following a domestic violence charge in 2009.

“RWDSU has always stood up for the rights of working men and women throughout New York. As an Assemblyman, I have stood with them on the fair work week campaign, ending on call schedules, and most recently to pass my legislation to give carwash workers fair wages,” Moya said. “I am proud to have their support and will continue to lead the fight for low wage and immigrant workers in the City Council with the help of RWDSU.”

Judge Denies State’s Motion To Dismiss Psych Center Lawsuit

A State Supreme Court judge has denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-NY, and the state’s mental health commissioner.

Advocates for the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center are suing to halt plans to move young patients from the West Seneca facility, to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center where adults are currently treated. Dozens of them showed up to the Thursday hearing.
“It says everything. That courtroom was packed. We had people out in the hall. These are people that took off from work. They didn’t go to school because of how important it is,” David Chudy, Save Our WNY CPC Coalition, said.

The coalition’s attorney Steve Cohen, argued the Office of Mental Health needs approval from the state legislature to close the CPC under New York’s mental hygiene law. The state said the plan is not to shut it down, but to move it.

“To take away the Governor’s power and instead to have this court assert this view of what legislation should be passed. Frankly that’s not the courts prerogative, that’s the governor’s prerogative.” State Assistant Attorney General Christopher Boyd said.

After denying the motion to dismiss, the judge gave both sides until September 20 to gather more information and reconvene. The judge’s decision kept hope alive for those who say the current location is the best place for kids who need help.
“The Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center is by far the best possible facility for those kids. The children, their parents, their taketakers, the friends of those kids, everyone says CPC is the best place for those kids,” Cohen said.
Lawmakers unanimously passed a measure to keep facility intact last month.  Governor Cuomo has yet to receive the bill to sign or veto it, a decision the state’s attorney said is up to the governor alone, not the courts.

The coalition is planning a fundraiser in August to help with mounting legal fees.

OSC Approves $1.04 Million Contract With Buffalo Billion Investigator

Independent investigator Bart Schwartz earned more than $1 million from New York State for his work reviewing Buffalo Billion and SUNY Polytechnic projects. The Office of the State Comptroller confirmed Thursday it approved the $1.04 million contract with Schwartz’s company, Guidepost Solutions, last month.

The terms of the contract ended at the end of last year, roughly six months before the approval, but OSC said it didn’t receive the document from the governor’s office until April 25, 2017. A spokesperson noted, at that point, the amount had more than doubled the originally reported agreement, which stated the investigator be paid no more than $450,000.

“The final contract represents a wider than anticipated scope of these tasks, which included sifting through hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, meetings, and other tasks associated with the review of $400 million in contractual payments and the development of new, stronger protocols for state agencies,” Empire State Development spokesperson Jason Conwall said. “‎The contract has concluded, the Comptroller’s Office went through their review process and it was approved.”

The comptroller’s office stated it plays a critical role in reviewing state contracts to ensure best value of taxpayer dollars.

“By reviewing contracts before they are awarded, our office uncovers significant fiscal and integrity issues,” OSC spokesperson Kate Gurnett said.

“Our review process adheres to vigorous standards and legal requirements and examines contracts for construction projects, grants, consultants, commodities, concessions, professional services, intergovernmental agreements, leases, and land purchases and sales. Specifically, we check to see that the vendor selection was fair, the cost is reasonable, the contract is sufficiently funded and that the agency has performed due diligence to ensure the contractor is responsible.”

The governor’s office hired Schwartz, a former prosecutor, a little more than a year ago after learning about an investigation into potential bid-rigging with several state contracts. Eight men, including top Cuomo aide Joseph Percoco, are awaiting trial in connection with the allegations.


Astorino Attempts To Snag Reform Party Line Back From Latimer

George Latimer, of the Democrats seeking to unseat Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, has secured the backing of the political line Astorino founded in 2014.

Astorino, running for a third term, still may get the chance to run on the Reform Party line through an opportunity-to-ballot campaign.

The short history of the Reform Party is microcosm of the complex rules surrounding fusion balloting in New York.

In 2014, then-gubernatorial candidate Astorino formed an independent ballot line focused on his opposition to the Common Core education standards.

After Election Day, the line morphed into the re-branded Reform Party in an effort to broaden its appeal to issues like political corruption.

But then a twist for Astorino’s political operation occurred when control of the line was wrestled away by a group of political activists, including Frank Morano (Morano quit the Independence Party in 2010 and is a prominent activist in Staten Island politics).

Astorino advisor Bill O’Reilly wrote in an email there is an “ongoing dispute” over the control of the Reform Party.

“In the end, we are confident that the hijackers will be grounded and that control of the party will be returned to actual reformers,” he wrote.

“The Reform Party was founded with strict bylaws and singular principles: stopping and replacing Common Core and passing urgently needed state term limits, like Westchester and New York City already have. Someone well healed clearly didn’t like that and funded an effort to divert the Party from its reform mission. We are curious to know who’s behind that effort. What’s clear, though, is that it’s someone who wants to slow down Astorino’s genuine reform agenda and preserve the status quo. Without naming names, that narrows the list.

The Reform Party dispute and OTB campaign was first referenced by Latimer in a Facebook post.

O’Reilly confirmed Reform Party members in the county are organizing an OTB campaign on Astorino’s behalf.

“We are grateful for their efforts whether they succeed or not,” he added.

As of April 1, there were 35 registered Reform Party voters in Westchester County, according to the Board of Elections.

This is not the first time Astorino has faced challenges for a separate ballot line. In 2009, Astorino was denied the Conservative Party, which went to Democratic incumbent Andrew Spano, part of a local-level dispute with the county organization.

“State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long took the extraordinary step of asking Conservatives not to vote on their own line that year — and in 2013 the Independence Party sued to stop a primary. Astorino won both those elections with healthy margins despite the shenanigans,” O’Reilly wrote in the email.

“At the end of the day, whether we run on the line or not, we are confident that voters will re-elect Astorino for the simple reason that he has done for taxpayers, and continues to do, exactly what he promised to. That’s all that ultimately matters.”

Latimer, a state senator, faces a primary for the Democratic ballot against Ken Jenkins, a county legislator. Latimer also has the Working Families Party endorsement as well as the Women’s Equality endorsement, a ballot line created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2014.

NY Remains Top In Per-Pupil Spending

New York remains a leader when it comes to education spending. A report released by the Empire Center for Public Policy found the state spends more than $20,000 per student, nearly twice the national average.

“New York is spending a lot. At $21,200 we’re well above the national average, which is $11,000. We’re beating it by 86 percent,” said Tim Hoefer, Empire Center executive director.

The Empire Center’s report found much of that money, more than $14,000 per pupil, is driven by salaries and benefits at New York schools, and that the total cost continued to rise over the last three decades.

“If you look at the last 25 years, if you look back at 1995, New York’s spending has gone up in a 25 percent spending increase, which is double what the national has done,” Hoefer said.

Not everyone agrees with the assessment New York is spending a lot on its public schools. The Alliance for Quality Education has pushed the state to spend an extra $3.6 billion; money they say satisfies the terms of a lawsuit over school funding.

“We think there is not enough money going to our schools. There is money that is owed in foundation aid, the $3.6 billion, and that’s just to meet the constitutional requirement – the sound, basic education,” said Marina Marcou-O’Malley, operations and policy director with AQE.

The group, which is allied with teachers unions, is more concerned with poorer communities they say are unfairly impacted by the distribution of state aid.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, too, has railed against the per student cost of education funding, but has also touted his own efforts to spend more each year on schools.

School districts for the last six years have been budgeting with a cap on property tax increases in place. Supporters say that’s controlling high taxes, while opponents contend that makes it harder for schools to raise money.

Cuomo Insists State Stepping Up For Subway

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in an address to the Association for a Better New York on Thursday said the state was stepping up its efforts to fix the New York City subway system, ailing this summer from overcrowding, delays and break downs.

“New York state is not going to go backwards because we didn’t step up to the plate and fund the subway system,” he said.

At the same time, Cuomo challenged New York City to step up as well with more funding — money the de Blasio administration says is not needed, pointing to funding already in place that hasn’t been spent.

But Cuomo’s speech focused on his own efforts, an emphasis on the state’s role in funding mass transit in New York City after suggesting the state was spending the money out of a “moral obligation.”

“We have made historic investments in the MTA. I have invested more in the MTA than any governor in political history and I am proud of it,” Cuomo said this morning. “Mass transit is the city’s circulatory system. You slow down the subway system, you slow down the blood system of this city.”

Cuomo, too, expressed sympathy for riders who have experienced frustrating delays during what he has called a “summer of hell” for commuters.

“Subway riders are suffering and subway riders are the hardworking men and women who are doing the work of this city,” he said. “They deserve all of us to step up and make a difference. It is smart because if we don’t improve the subway system, it will actually hurt the economy.”

But the de Blasio administration wasn’t sway. Soon after Cuomo’s comments ended, the mayor’s office released a fact sheet detailing the years of funding from the MTA and questioned the accounting of the authority.

“This morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo asked New York City to put money into the MTA’s new plan to fix the subways,” the mayor’s office said. “But before he asks hardworking New York City taxpayers to kick in more, the Governor should return the money he siphoned away from MTA riders, re-allocate the money he’s using to light up bridges, and fulfill his $1 billion promise.”

Emily’s List Targets NY House Members

Emily’s List on Thursday announced plans to challenge 50 Republican elected officials, focusing in New York on five members of the state’s House delegation.

The group this morning sent out releases critical of GOP Reps. Chris Collins, Elise Stefanik, John Katko, Lee Zeldin and John Faso as being “on notice.”

The impetus for the push comes over the Republican-led effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which is currently facing stiff headwinds in the U.S. Senate. Of those lawmakers, only Katko did not back the repeal and replace bill in the House.

“Rep. Chris Collins has failed to protect the people of New York he was elected to represent – and EMILY’s List and our five million-strong community are aggressively looking to flip his seat. Women voters are furious at his shameful lack of courage and leadership – especially when it comes to protecting the safety and wellbeing of their families,” the organization said a in a statement.

“Collins voted for the Republican health care bill that would kick 23 million Americans – including thousands of New Yorkers – off their insurance. He has repeatedly voted to defund Planned Parenthood and voted to undermine equal pay protections for women. On top of all of this, Collins is under an ethics investigation over his shady business dealings.”

The work comes more than a year before incumbents face re-election, but are already facing declared challengers. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also announced plans to marshal the resources of the state Democratic Committee to challenge sitting incumbents who backed the health care legislation.

Heastie Knocks Trump’s Upstate Comments As ‘Beyond Reprehensible’

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie sharply criticized President Donald Trump’s comments about the upstate economy and encouraging people to leave their homes for other job opportunities as “beyond reprehensible.”

Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, is undertaking another summertime tour of the various upstate regions. He’s already held events in central New York, the Rochester area and in the North Country.

“Instead of working to unite this country, he has chosen a dangerous path that will only divide us,” Heastie said. “During my travels across upstate New York this summer and when I first became Speaker, I have found that our regions have much more in common than they are different. We all want good paying jobs, stable housing, great schools, and opportunities to grow and succeed.”

Trump, the first New Yorker to be elected president since Franklin Roosevelt, made his comments to The Wall Street Journal as a major technology manufacturer was planning to move jobs to Wisconsin.

“The President of the United States should be working to put in place policies that will allow every corner of this great country to grow and prosper,” Heastie said. “Instead, he has chosen to lead us down a destructive path that pits Americans against one another in a zero sum game that is corrosive to our democracy. In my travels, I have met so many good people who want to work to improve their communities and realize the American dream. That is my commitment to people across New York. President Trump’s uninformed comments are not what we need in order to help our citizens.”

James Endorses Moya For Council

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James endorsed on Thursday Assemblyman Francisco Moya’s bid for the city Council.

“Francisco Moya has been a champion for Queens families in the Assembly, and I am confident he will bring the same dedication to the City Council,” James said in a statement. “Whether it’s fighting to protect the rights of working families, pushing for more affordable housing, or standing up for criminal justice reform, Francisco has been, and will continue to be, a tireless advocate. I am proud to support Francisco in this election and look forward to working with him.”

Moya, a Queens Democrat, is running in a contested primary against disgraced former state Sen. Hiram Monserrate, who was removed from the Senate following a domestic violence charge in 2009.

Both are seeking the seat being vacated by incumbent Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.

“It’s an honor to receive the endorsement from our Public Advocate Letitia James,” Moya said. “For Tish James, there has never been an issue too big or too small in our community. When our community bands together to fight unscrupulous landlords, address the lack of access to quality health service, or seek to quiet the airplanes overhead, our Public Advocate is there, leading the way. I look forward to working with Tish to address the needs of working families in Queens.”