Dec 11th - 5:35 pm
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by Rep. Charlie Rangel that had sought to overturn the 2010 House censure of the veteran Harlem congressman for financial wrongdoing.
“Matriarch of the gay-rights movement” and New Yorker Edith Windsor was a runner-up for TIME’s person of the year.
A Valley Stream insurance executive pleaded guilty to grand larceny and money laundering in connection with an alleged kickback scandal involving the former leader of the Met Council.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver feels secure in his leadership position. “I think I have the support of all the members and we go from here.’’
Republicans are so nervous about Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm’s re-election chances that they’ve quietly reached out to former Rep. Vito Fossella to make a comeback for his old seat.
EJ McMahon doesn’t think much of the proposals from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s second tax commission.
The Dec. 31 deadline for re-registering for STAR tax exemptions is fungible.
Ignazio Marino, the new mayor of Rome, Italy, says Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio was too busy focusing on the transition to meet with him while he was in NYC.
Belief in Santa is eroding among New Yorkers, according to a new Siena poll.
Sen. Liz Krueger is staying in Albany, and not preparing to join the de Blasio administration.
Former President George W. Bush showed off his retirement artwork on Air Force I.
NYC kids under age 5 who attend daycares or pre-schools will be required to get annual flu shots after the Board of Health voted to approve the mandate.
NYCLU and the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging the village of Kiryas Joel’s refusal to disclose public records about a sex-segregated park.
Members of a new, pro-casino group in Saratoga Springs gathered for the first time today.
The Moreland report reveals new details of a financial relationship involving an unnamed state legislator and his for-profit company that mirror reports about Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s ad business and a hospital in his district.
Albany Mayor-elect Kathy Sheehan has been elected as the next chair for the Capital District Transportation Committee.
In one of his last initiatives while in office, Mayor Bloomberg proposed a bill to prevent cranes manufactured more than 25 years ago from operating at building sites in NYC.
Law enforcement agents have searched the home of GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander’s chief of staff over allegations of child pornography.
Dec 11th - 4:38 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo in Albany earlier today unveiled more than $715 million in economic development grants for the regional economic development councils around the state.
It was the third year in a row the governor has held to tout the packaged grant money, which is being doled out on a competitive basis to the 10 different regions of the state.
The big winners or “top performers” were the Southern Tier, which received $81.9 million, the Mohawk Valley region received $82.4 million, the North Country received $81.3 million.
The Albany area received one of the largest packages, $82.8 million, an area of the state that has already greatly benefited from the state’s investment in both the nanotech college at SUNY as well as the tax credits for GlobalFoundries in Saratoga County.
Earlier this afternoon, the governor’s office released a 142-page book detailing where the grant money will earmarked.
Some are more specific than others, but there’s a mix in there for equipment purchases at colleges, trail construction and improvement and even marketing.
For example, $100,000 will be spent to “deliver a detailed business and implementation plan” for Adirondack North Country Product Branding.
Also in the North Country, $4.5 million will be spent on the expansion of the Plattsburgh International Airport.
In Cooperstown, the National Baseball Hall of Fame will receive $234,000 to help create a mobile app for the museum.
The YMCA in Syracuse will receive $985,000 for part of a $17 million construction project for a new facility.
All together, many of the items appear similar to the now defunct legislative member items that had been lavished on districts by the Assembly and Senate, often those in the majority. New member items have not been approved since the Paterson administration.
Dec 11th - 3:42 pm
A source close to Rep. Charlie Rangel tells SoP that the veteran Harlem lawmaker is preparing to announce his re-election campaign – perhaps as early as next week.
“Next week is the week they’re trying to get it done,” the source said. “They really want to get it done now, get it out there before the holidays, which allows him to spend the rest of January meeting with different groups.”
If for some reason, the timing of an announcement next week doesn’t work, the congressman’s campaign team is eyeing the third week in January, according to this source.
Rangel’s spokeswoman declined to comment on the congressman’s thinking regarding 2014. Rangel himself is currently en route home from South Africa, where he attended the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, and couldn’t be reached for comment. The congressman plans to be back in time to vote tomorrow on the budget agreement reached this week by House and Senate leaders.
During an interview with NY1′s Michael Scotto last week, Rangel said he would be making an announcement “sooner rather than later” about whether he’ll seek yet another 23rd term in 2014. He insisted – contrary to an on-the-record claim by his close ally and potential successor, Assemblyman Keith Wright – that he had not yet made up his mind about running, but would do so before Christmas (which, at this point, is jsut two weeks away).
Rangel also said he had started to meet with potential successors, telling Scotto he had been “talking with some people seeing whether or not there can be some coalition around a candidate as it has been for the last 43 years.”
But, according to this source, the purpose of those meetings was actually for Rangel to tell his would-be successors that he had decided to run. “He’s feeling great,” the source said, noting that the 83-year-old lawmaker defeated multiple primary challengers – including Sen. Adriano Espaillat – back in 2012 despite having been hospitalized for an extended period of time and also in 2010 after being censured for ethics violations.
Rangel used a walker during much of the 2012 campaign, but has since grown stronger and healthier, the source said.
Speculation about Rangel’s political intentions ramped up still further yesterday when another of his high-profile potential successors, former Gov. David Paterson, said he would not be running for the congressman’s seat.
UPDATE: Just after I hit “publish” on this post, I saw Azi Paybarah’s report on Rangel’s fundraiser tomorrow in Washington, D.C. and his apparent efforts to assembly a campaign team. At the end of September, Rangel had just $121,221 in his campaign committee. He also notes that Espaillat is reportedly “overwhelmingly likely” to run in a primary against Rangel again in 2014, and several other would-be candidates are also still considering a run, too.
Dec 11th - 3:08 pm
The bill that would legalize and regulate marijuana like alcohol is a “non-starter” a spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.
The measure, introduced by Manhattan Democratic Sen. Liz Krueger, would remove penalties for possession of two ounces of marijuana or less and make 18 the minimum legal age for marijuana possession and consumption.
The bill would also allow for the cultivation of up to six marijuana plants and create a system fo granting licenses for production, transportation and sale.
“Prohibition of marijuana is a policy that just hasn’t worked, no matter how you look at it, and it’s time to have an honest conversation about what we should do next,” Krueger said in a statement. “The illegal marijuana economy is alive and well, and our unjust laws are branding nonviolent New Yorkers, especially young adults, as criminals, creating a vicious cycle that ruins lives and needlessly wastes taxpayer dollars. Worst of all, this system has resulted in a civil rights disaster: African Americans are dramatically more likely to be arrested for pot possession than whites, despite similar rates of marijuana use among both groups.”
Cuomo, who last year support decriminalizing a small amount of marijuana that would make possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana a violation in order to stem “stop-and-frisk” arrests in New York City.
The measure did not have enough support for passage in the Senate, where power is divided among an independent conference of Democrats and Republicans.
Dec 11th - 1:42 pm
Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein is taking issue today with comments made by New York State Rifle And Pistol Association President Tom King, one of the more visible opponents of the sweeping gun control law approved in January.
King spoke with YNN on Tuesday about the “B+” rating New York received from two gun control groups, which credited Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s SAFE Act for a drop in crime.
“Wouldn’t get a B+ from us It’d be more like an F,” King said.
He added, “Saying that the SAFE ACT or any other law that was passed less than a year ago and hasn’t been implemented is responsible for that drop in crimes is totally ludicrous,” King said.
Klein, a Bronx Democrat and co-president of the Senate, knocked King’s stance in a statement:
“Tom King’s recent remarks on the NY SAFE Act are insulting to all New Yorkers who understand we need smart gun control laws. That is why I was proud to sponsor this landmark legislation in the Senate. As a downstate legislator from the Bronx, I’ve seen first-hand the devastation and tragedy wrought by past gun crimes in New York. Despite Tom King’s opposition to some of the toughest gun control laws in the nation, New York is much safer today thanks to the NY SAFE Act. Instead of complaining over the widespread praise we’ve received from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brady Campaign, I think Tom King’s time would be better spent figuring out ways to better protect New Yorkers from the scourge of gun violence that is shattering lives each and everyday.”
Back in January, the passage of the SAFE Act was at the time viewed as an early test of whether the power-sharing agreement between the breakaway IDC and the Senate Republicans — who are in a numerical minority in the chamber — could work. Ultimately several Republican lawmakers wound up supporting the measure.
Dec 11th - 1:31 pm
After voters in Saratoga County rejected a proposal to expand casino gambling in New York through a constitutional amendment, a coalition of community officials and business leaders has formed to bring table-top gaming to the area.
Despite Saratoga Springs being the location for the world-famous race course, their is local opposition to bringing a larger, Vegas-style casino to the area.
But the group, Destination Saratoga, stresses it is not in favor of a “behemoth” style facility in the mold of Las Vegas.
“Saratoga is a world-class destination, and we formed Destination Saratoga to ensure the community continues to thrive by working with a local community partner to responsibly expand gaming, add jobs and grow the economy,” said Dan Hogan, Co-Chair of Destination Saratoga. “Keeping these resources locally will go a long way to ensuring Saratoga is a year-round destination for travelers from across the globe.”
Among the group’s committee members is Jasper Nolan, the former Republican county chairman.
Saratoga Casino and Raceway, part-owned by James Featherstonhaugh, already has plans to expand its operations regardless of whether it receives one of the four lucrative gaming licenses in the first round of casino construction.
Lawmakers approved enabling legislation earlier this year that allows for casinos in the Catskills, Southern Tier and the Albany area.
Among the criteria for whether a license will be granted is whether there is local community support for a casino.
Dec 11th - 1:08 pm
Cutting the corporate tax for small business, reducing the PIT for small businesses and overhauling the sales tax assessment process works are on the Albany agenda for the National Federation of Independent Business in 2014.
“An unprecedented level of uncertainty pervades the business climate in New York which discourages growth and job creation,” said NFIB New York State Director Mike Durant. “Key policy decisions in Albany and Washington, DC, will affect the sustainability of many small businesses in our state. Our goal is to create a road map for the Governor and legislators that will lead to a more competitive environment for small businesses and wider prosperity for New Yorkers.”
NFIB also casts a skeptical eye at the renewed proposal to create a “circuit-breaker” for property taxes, which ties increases to a household income.
The circuit breaker was among the recommendations made in the McCall-Pataki tax commission.
“A circuit breaker would utilize surplus state funds that would better be used to reduce taxes for individuals and small business,” Durant said. “The circuit breaker does not reduce the sizable property tax burden; it is merely a politically simplistic shift.”
Calls for tax cuts are already being made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has indicated he plans to use an undetermined budget surplus to spend some sort of a cut come next year.
Durant will be a guest on Capital Tonight this evening.
Dec 11th - 12:39 pm
From the morning memo:
With the presentation of the tax commission report by the panel co-led by Carl McCall and George Pataki, the great tax debate of 2014 is unofficially underway.
As Gov, Andrew Cuomo had hoped when he first announced the panel in October, the commission’s 13-page report dwells heavily on relieving businesses and homeowners of the state’s sky-high property tax burden.
And in doing, the commission recommends putting pressure on local governments to act — both by living within the tax cap and then sharing services or consolidating — with the local voters in the area ostensibly being enticed by the carrot that is a tax rebate amounting to two years’ worth of a freeze.
Indeed, the proposal seems like another iteration of a long-sought Cuomo goal: Finding ways to pare down the size and cost of local government, an effort that hasn’t really taken off from the launch pad over the last several years.
“We just have too much government, period,” Cuomo told reporters after the event, held on the campus of SUNY Old Westbury. “We have to find a way to get them to consolidate and share services.”
On the right and the left, the reactions were mixed to negative.
Writing in The New York Post, E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center took issue with the lack of details in the commission’s report and the potential price tag.
“… how would homeowners — most of whom pay taxes to at least three different levels of local government — even know if they’re eligible for the rebate? And how would state government decide which local governments and schools are taking “meaningful concrete steps” toward saving money by merging or consolidating? Administering this thing would be a real headache,” he wrote.
Labor groups, meanwhile, blasted the commission’s findings as well. Never happy to see former Gov. George Pataki pop up anywhere, the reaction is a bit of surprise given former AFL-CIO President Denis Hughes’s role on the panel, as well as the inclusion of the circuit-breaker mechanism for property taxes, which ties increases to household income, a move that has had support among labor.
A reader notes Hughes was not included on the final list of commission members.
“New York’s working families who rely on vital public services such as education and health care are not breathing a sigh of relief from the so-called property tax relief recommendations presented today by the state’s Tax Relief Commission,” said Stated United Teachers President Dick Ianuzzi. “The commission’s proposals will further exacerbate the inequality created by the property tax cap and erode local decision-making while ignoring the investments that the state must make to strengthen our economy.”
Then there’s the state Legislature, with leaders in the Assembly and Senate taking wait-and-see approaches.
In his reaction to the commission’s report, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver gave notice to all the policy programs friendly to the left — from funding the DREAM Act to universal pre-Kindergarten.
Obviously, the rubber meets the road when Cuomo presents his final budget before running for re-election next year.
Outside of Albany, elected officials in western New York are giving the tax commission report a thumbs up:
“If the governor does half of these things, I would be more than ecstatic,” Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, said.
Included is a state subsidized two-year property tax freeze for municipalities that stay within the two-percent tax cap.
“I think this is a very good start at looking at giving money back to people, a good start of a discussion,” Sen. Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma, said.
In the second year, local governments would have to take steps to consolidate and create long-term savings.
“This commission has done its part and now the municipalities have to do their part also, in terms of making New York a place where people want to live, want to do business,” former state Comptroller Carl McCall, a Democrat, said.
Western New York Republicans said the proposal doesn’t address the expensive share local governments pay toward Medicaid.
“Let the state pay for it,” Gallivan said. “We can reduce the county tax levy by a corresponding amount and directly return property tax dollars to the citizens who pay the taxes.
Dec 11th - 11:48 am
After thinking over the decision for more than a month, NYC’s incoming First Family has decided where to live. The de Blasios are leaving Park Slope and moving into Gracie Mansion.
A statement from de Blasio’s transition office is reporting that they’re leaving their beloved neighborhood row house for fancier digs. Gracie Mansion which has served as the official home for the city’s mayors since 1942.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg never moved in, preferring his own elegant townhouse off Fifth Avenue to Gracie Mansion, an 18th Century former country house, which was built in the Federal Style at a bend in the East River. The Bloomberg administration has frequently used Gracie Mansion for receptions and meetings.
Here’s part of the statement from de blasio:
For a variety of reasons, like logistical and security concerns, we’ve decided to move to Gracie Mansion. It’s a practical choice but one that we make with respect and gratitude for the people of New York City.
While this is a temporary move for us, it is one that we are very proud to make. It’s also one that we will phase in over the next few months.
De Blasio said the choice wasn’t easy… in part because his teenage son Dante now has an easy commute to Brooklyn Tech high school in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene section. That’s going to be a longer ride now, although presumably he can catch a ride in a city car.
The incoming first family also says they’re keeping their Brooklyn home, and stopping by Park Slope favorites like The Purity Diner and Bar Toto as often as they can.
And they add: don’t bet against seeing them at the Park Slope YMCA occasionally.
Dec 11th - 6:47 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany and New York City.
At 10:30 a.m., he’ll attend the regional economic development awards, Hart Theatre, Egg Center for Performing Arts, Empire State Plaza, Albany.
At 8 a.m., the founder of the Flatbush Shomrim Safety Patrol, NYC Councilman-elect Chaim Deutsch, and Sen. Simcha Felder host an “Appreciation Breakfast” honoring outgoing NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, The Canal Jean Building, 2236 Nostrand Ave., Brooklyn.
At 11 a.m., Sen. Liz Krueger, joined by advocates and government officials, outlines her legislative proposal to legalize and tax the sale of marijuana; steps, City Hall, Manhattan.
At 11:30 a.m., Mayor Bloomberg will sign Nelson Mandela’s condolence book at the South African Consulate General, 333 East 38th St., (between First and Second avenues), Manhattan.
At 1 p.m., the Assembly Standing Committee on Real Property Taxation will hold a public hearing on the STAR registration program, Roosevelt Hearing Room C, Legislative Office Building, 2nd Floor, Albany.
From 4:45 p.m. to 8 p.m., the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, former Mayor David Dinkins, the Rev. Al Sharpton and others attend a memorial service for Nelson Mandela, 91 Claremont Ave., Manhattan.
At 5:30 p.m., Councilwoman and NYC Public Advocate-Elect Letitia “Tish” James will host a transition town hall meeting, York College, The City University of New York, 94-20 Guy R. Brewer Blvd., Jamaica, Queens.
House and Senate negotiators reached a budget deal that would raise military and domestic spending over the next two years, shifting the pain of across-the-board cuts to other programs over the coming decade and raising fees on airline tickets to pay for airport security.
Cuomo’s tax commission recommended $2 billion in tax cuts and rebates aimed mostly at reducing levies on property, providing a blueprint for the governor’s 2014 fiscal agenda.
NYC homeowners were largely left out of the commission’s relief recommendations, though renters may get a break. The panel paid zero attention to Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s plan to tax the rich to pay for pre-K.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver reacted cautiously to the recommendations, saying: “Any proposal should be premised on a principle of fairness to all New Yorkers, city residents, suburbanites and rural residents alike.” He also wants any pre-K and the DREAM Act.
At the Long Island press conference where the report was unveiled, Cuomo said he had not yet read the document, but called it “impressive.”
Business groups and some lawmakers hailed the commission’s proposals, while left-leaning critics called them unaffordable, ill-targeted toward the wealthy and corporations, and likely to leave less money for public schools.
In 2011 and 2012, at least 52 grants or tax breaks totaling $40 million worth of projects awarded by Cuomo’s regional economic development councils were either pulled or rejected.
The FBI and federal prosecutors are reportedly now investigating whether top Upstate Medical University administrators illegally received extra pay, intensifying a scandal that has already resulted in resignations.
A Manhattan judge removed herself from a case brought by two of Vito Lopez’s sexual harassment victims against the Assembly and Speaker Silver because she is a former colleague of Silver’s attorney.
A federal safety agency says the technology known as positive train control would probably have prevented the Dec. 1 train derailment that killed four people in New York.
SL Green Realty Chairman Stephen Green addressed business owners’ anxieties over the incoming administration of de Blasio, calling those feelings “overblown.”