Extras

An explosion at a building on Second Avenue and East 7th Street in Manhattan this afternoon sent huge clouds of smoke billowing into the air and caused the building to partially collapse. More here.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan says he’s looking to the Assembly for “leadership” on the Education Investment Tax Credit, though: “if this doesn’t work out, there’s a lot of blame to go around.”

US Sen. Chuck Schumer is leading a group of Democratic senators from states that have heavy oil train traffic to push for the immediate strengthening of federal regulations on oil tanker cars.

US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says taxes on soda and other “junk” foods are regressive, and while she will push policies aimed at lowering the obesity rate, taxes are not the way to change behavior.

Two bills recently introduced in the Assembly would restrict what the living could do with the previously living.

Due to the governor’s refusal to release school aid runs, the Watertown School District has proposed cutting about 15 instructional and maintenance staff postitions.

Sen. Martin Dilan: “If DREAM comes out it should all come out. The budget is where we have leverage. Outside of the budget (the DREAM Act) is dead.”

Cuomo’s raise-the-age-proposal has a variety of provisions that actually create stricter sentencing schemes, particularly for kids charged with violent crimes.

The NYT hosted an online debate over whether spending more on education is the best way to improve schools.

A new AQE video targets the Senate Republicans for failing to “walk the walk” when it comes to increasing education aid.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter will embark next week on his first domestic trip since taking office, and Fort Drum is on his itinerary.

Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. wants Texas Senator and GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz to visit the South Bronx.

A majority of the Chautauqua County Legislature approved a sales tax hike that will bring the combined local and state tax to 8 percent. The state Legislature must sign off on this.

Cuomo announced that David Rockefeller has donated $4 million to establish an operating endowment supporting the Rockefeller State Park Preserve in Westchester County.

DFS Superintendent Ben Lawsky, “no cape, but lots of crusades.”

Who were NYC’s top 10 lobbyists in 2014? Find out here.

The Commission on Judicial Conduct found Mansfield Town Judge Randy Alexander “acted realistically” by resigning his position and agreeing never to run for or accept an appointment to a judgeship again.

The Albany metro area added 5,300 private-sector jobs from February 2014 to February 2015. It was second most jobs of any city in upstate New York following Buffalo, which added 9,100 private sector jobs from year to year.

Troy gets some love from the New York Times Travel section.

The chairman of the Fulton City Republican Committee is withdrawing his support for Rep. John Katko, saying the congressman has abandoned his conservative and Tea Party supporters.

Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel, currently fighting for his political life in a heated run-off campaign, floated the idea of naming an airport after the Windy City’s favorite son: President Barack Obama.

The Skidmore student accused of sexually assaulting another student back in April of 2014 will not be allowed to return to the college for several years.

This happened.

Heastie: Minimum Wage Hike Still Under Discussion

While Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos earlier on Thursday said a minimum wage increase isn’t in the cards for the state budget, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters it remains on the table in the negotiations.

“That’s not my understanding,” Heastie said after emerging from a closed-door conference with Democratic members. “We continue to press people in this state need the minimum wage. We continue that debate.”

Assembly Democrats this afternoon huddled to discuss Cuomo’s education reform proposals, which he is linking to approving a boost of education aid in the state.

Lawmakers on Thursday confirmed the education commission initially floated that would develop criteria has been abandoned, and lawmakers are now discussing having the Board of Regents be charged with developing evaluation criteria.

“We are still discussing education, all the different ways to go,” Heastie said. “At this point, there’s no agreement in anything.”

Likewise, Cuomo is yet to reach an agreement with Senate Republicans on disclosure of legal clients in the state budget, which is due Tuesday.

Heastie said the ethics debate remains “an open subject.”

“I had a conversation about it today with the governor and he’s trying to talk to the Senate,” Heastie said.

Cuomo himself released a lengthy statement reiterating that he won’t back a budget deal without ethics or approve a significant increase in education aid without reform measures for schools included.

The governor also defended his decision to tie so much policy to spending in the budget as well.

“As much as the governor are working toward an agreement, that’s a place where we disagree,” Heastie said. “We don’t believe a lot of policy should be tied up in appropriations.

Despite the posturing, all sides appeared close to reaching an agreement within the next 24 to 48 hours.

Lawmakers in both the Senate and Assembly are due to return Friday to have more conversations on the budget. The Assembly is also due to be in Albany for a rare Saturday meeting on the spending plan as well.

An agreement could come as late as Saturday night in order to have measures age without a message of necessity from Cuomo and be voted on Monday and Tuesday.

Cuomo: Education And Ethics Remain The Top Priorities

The debate over policy being included in the state budget is a “red herring,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a lengthy statement on the budget talks released Thursday afternoon.

“The truth is that every budget boils down to two essential issues: How much money are we spending and how are we spending it?” Cuomo said. “There is no financial judgment that can be made without a corresponding policy judgment. Indeed many of the Legislature’s proposals in their one house budgets have related policy proposals.”

Cuomo has linked policy to spending in previous budget proposals.

But his $142 billion spending plan was seen as an even greater amount of policy linkage to appropriations this year, especially on education issues, where a $1.1 billion increase in aid is tied to reform proposals.

Meanwhile, Cuomo sought to yoke ethics measures dealing disclosure and campaign finance laws to appropriations in his 30-day budget amendments, that lawmakers declined to introduce.

Governors have broader powers over the budget process in Albany and Cuomo sought to use that leverage to achieve some policy victories.

In the statement, Cuomo reiterated his top priorities in the budget remain education and ethics reform.

Cuomo continues to insist that he won’t agree to a budget that does not include “real ethics reform” or allow a “dramatic increase in education aid” without reform measures.

Cuomo lays out those reform measures in education as being ones that deal with “accountability, performance and standards.”

On ethics, Cuomo says ethics must be considered in the budget, adding that client disclosure issues have plagued Albany for more than a generation.

“These two issues remain my highest priorities in this budget,” Cuomo says of ethics and education. “They are transformative changes.”

Currently, Assembly Democrats are meeting behind closed doors discussing education measures in the budget.

A previously proposed education commission is no longer part of the budget talks, lawmakers confirmed. Now, lawmakers are discussing having the Board of Regents potentially consider reform recommendations later this year.

Here is Cuomo’s full statement:

Cuomo Statement by Nick Reisman

NYCHA Funding War

In yet another chapter in the ongoing saga of OneUpsManship between Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, funding for the New York City Housing Authority is now the source of an intense behind the scenes fight. Sources say the figure that has been agreed upon is $100 million in the state budget for NYCHA. But it is how that money is administered which is the source of the dispute.

NYCHA hasn’t received state money in years, and serious repairs and capital investments are needed to improve the aging housing stock, some of which was built for veterans returning from the second world war. According to the state’s appropriation currently being hashed out in the budget, the state would control the money through the Division of Housing and Community Renewal. DHCR would then approve projects and allow the state to take an active role in determining how finite resources are spent.

Mayor de Blasio is livid over this, I am told. He believes NYCHA knows it’s own housing stock best, and NYCHA should administer its own money to determine how and where to spend it based on greatest need. Governor Cuomo isn’t having it. People familiar with the discussion taking place among staff between Albany and the City say NYCHA has had a serious accountability problem. That includes money it was given to install security cameras in the mid-2000s, that it is just getting around to spending now. A person with direct knowledge of the less-than-cordial conversation taking place says,

“NYCHA has not been a good steward of the public’s money in the past. There’s no question that the state wants to invest in NYCHA, but we want to do it in a fiscally responsible way.”

***UPDATE*** In response, NYCHA Spox Jean Weinberg says,

“It’s vital that Albany bureaucracy and politics do not stand in the way of critical funding for NYCHA residents. There has been a major erosion of support for public housing from the State over the last few decades. That’s why we’ve asked the State to commit $300 million — that the City will match — to ensure NYCHA can make the necessary repairs to its aging housing stock and provide residents with the housing they deserve.”

 

Skelos: ‘Tremendous Progress’ Toward Ethics Deal

There’s been “tremendous progress” on reaching an ethics agreement between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Republicans in the Senate, Majority Leader Dean Skelos on Thursday said.

“I think we’re making tremendous progress with the ethics legislation, cooperating with the governor, working with him,” Skelos said.

Cuomo has already come to an agreement with Assembly Democrats on an ethics package, which includes new disclosure requirements of legal clients, per diem reform and campaign finance measures.

Senate Republicans, however, have raised concerns with Cuomo over the disclosure piece and have been negotiating the finer points of Cuomo’s proposal for the last several days.

The budget is due to be passed by Tuesday, the last day of the state’s fiscal year.

“I believe we’re going to have an ethics deal by March 31,” Skelos said.

Cuomo has said he won’t sign off on a budget without ethics legislation included in the final agreement.

Still, major aspects of the $142 billion budget appeared to be closing down on Thursday as lawmakers reach key agreements or abandon more contentious policy matters to later in the session.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie emerged from a closed-door meeting with Cuomo to lawmakers were “still negotiating” before then ducking into a conference with majority Democrats.

Democrats are yet to come to an agreement with Cuomo on education reform measures he is seeking and the governor continues to link a funding increase to his policy proposals.

Meanwhile, Skelos gave mixed signals on whether an education commission, which would be charged with developing criteria for teacher evaluations and potentially other reforms, will still be included in the final deal.

“There’s some sort of a thing like that,” Skelos said. “I don’t know if the commission is still there.”

Skelos said Republicans are “in sync” with the governor on education issues, but no three-way agreement has been reached.

Senate Republicans, however, have raised concerns with how more than $5 billion of a windfall surplus should be spent.

Cuomo has proposed a variety of avenues to spend the money, including directing money to the Thruway Authority, expanding access to broadband Internet service and an economic development competition for upstate regions.

“This should be linked to economic development and job creation,” Skelos said. “That’s my concern. This is not CHIPS funding that goes to the local communities to help the superintendents of highways to repair roads. This has to go to create jobs.”

As for the upstate competition — a $1.5 billion program — Skelos raised concerns with the winners and losers aspect.

“We’re not opposed to that investment upstate. What we don’t think is there should be three winners and four losers,” he said, adding, “It shouldn’t be region against region. it should be project against project.”

The lowest award possible in the program would be higher than what winners received in the economic development council awards.

Minimum Wage Hike Falls From Budget, Skelos Says

An increase in the state’s minimum wage has been dropped from the state budget, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos on Thursday morning confirmed.

Speaking with reporters outside of his office, Skelos said the debate over the wage hike had devolved into a “bidding war” thanks to competing proposals from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“It seems like somebody says $10.50, then somebody says $13 and then de Blasio says $15 and it’s just like a bidding war without any real thought process,” Skelos said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had proposed in January a minimum wage hike of $11.50 for New York City and $10.50 elsewhere in the state. De Blasio, in a separate proposal, wanted a minimum wage of $13 for the city, indexed to the rate of inflation.

Skelos had not been enthused over the initial wage hike to begin with, but today said there should be discussions such as workers compensation and regulatory reform with any minimum wage conversation as well.

“There are a lot of issues that should be part of that, rather than a bidding war like how far I can go,” Skelos said.

The minimum wage in New York is currently $8.75 and due to increase to $9 by the end of the year.

Minimum wage and anti-poverty advocates had pushed Cuomo to include a new minimum wage increase in the state budget this year after they were dissatisfied with a deal struck two years ago on an increase, which they said was too slow.

Stewart-Cousins: Don’t Hold School Aid ‘Hostage’

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Thursday weighed in on the education funding discussions in the state budget, saying in a statement school aid should not be “held hostage” in the ongoing effort instill education reforms.

“Funding for New York State schools should not be held hostage due to the ongoing debate over how best to reform our education system. Our state’s students need help and we have a responsibility to ensure their schools are provided necessary funding immediately. Any delays or excuses to avoid adequate funding will simply hurt our students and that is unacceptable.”

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi weighed in on Twitter in response to Stewart-Cousins: “More & more money w/ no reforms keeps special interests happy, but does nothing to help kids trapped in failing schools.”

There is talk of forming an education commission to develop some of the reform criteria, including new standards for teacher evaluations.

Cuomo wants to boost education aid by as much as $1.1 billion, with the funding strings attached to backing the reforms.

Lawmakers this month backed a $1.4 billion hike in education aid.

Both the Senate and Assembly are due to leave Albany later today after the scheduled session, but could return at some point this weekend if a framework deal on the budget is reached.

Updated: The education reform group StudentsFirstNY responds.

“Students in New York schools should not be held hostage by legislators kowtowing to the special interests that have created our broken education system,” said Tenicka Boyd, the group’s Director of Organizing. “Senator Stewart-Cousins and her colleagues should immediately pass the Governor’s budget and give New York kids the funding and school reform they deserve. Her suggestion that we should turn a blind eye while the system fails another generation of children is unconscionable.”

Cuomo’s Second Term Blues

From the Morning Memo:

A major facet of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s first-term power was his power to persuade, cajole and pressure state lawmakers and elected officials to bend to his will.

This year, the opposite appears to be occurring.

Now entering his second term, the governor appears to have lost high-profile debates in the state budget session to the state’s teachers union on education issues while he’s had difficulty in getting Senate Republicans to agree to disclosure legislation.

Those were once nominal allies of the governor, like mainline Senate Democrats, have little hesitation in criticizing him, either.

“It sounds like what we’re headed towards is a glorified extender which keeps the government running, but takes all the major issues out of it,” said Sen. Mike Gianaris, a Queens Democrat who is the deputy leader in the chamber, in a Capital Tonight interview.

Indeed, budget lines in the sand from Cuomo over ethics, education reform, the DREAM Act and education tax credit melted away in the last several days. Jettisoned from the budget talks, too, were discussions over juvenile justice reform and curtailing sexual assault on college campuses (funding for raising the age of criminal responsibility is still under discussion in the budget talks).

Every budget year is always different, but this does not appear to be shaping up to be the like packages of the first term, which included long-sought reforms in addition to being on time.

Part of that is Cuomo’s skill as a negotiator. Gianaris, in the interview, added a second factor: Cuomo’s mandate.

“There’s always a deference to a governor who is recently elected in his first term,” he said. “There’s a mandate there”

He cited Republican George Pataki who, in his first several years, won major victories on the death penalty and tax cuts, but ran into difficulty legislatively later in his time as governor.

Then, like now, the mandate for Cuomo appears to be waning, which has encouraged lawmakers in both parties to push back.

“As that fades, I think the Legislature is emboldened to speak up and stand up a little more,” Gianaris said. “Now we’re seeing, coming off an election the governor scored 52 percent or so of the people that turned out, I think people are feeling on the legislative side, and we’re talking about the majorities as well, a little emboldened to make that case. That’s a natural phenomenon, I’ve seen it happen with other governors and I think we’re seeing it now.”

Granted, Cuomo has found ways in his first four years to win major victories outside of the budget: Same-sex marriage, gun control, tax reform, a new pension tier and previous ethics victories just to name a few.

Cuomo can still turn his year around in Albany, but he’ll have to do without the powers afforded the governor in the budget-making process.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule. The Assembly is in session at 9:30 a.m., the Senate at 11:30 a.m. NYSUT is holding a big protest at the Million Dollar Staircase at 4 p.m.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will attend an event hosted by the Campaign for One New York, which is closed to members of the press.

At 10 a.m., the NYC Council Public Housing Committee will be holding a preliminary budget hearing to review the Authority’s current and future expenses, revenue, and operations, Committee Room, City Hall, Manhattan. (Public comment period begins at noon).

Also at 10 a.m., state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. host a community event at Bronx Borough Hall to bring attention to unclaimed funds, 851 Grand Concourse, 3rd Floor, the Bronx. (UPDATE: This event is taking place tomorrow).

At 11:30 a.m., NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and the Police Athletic League of New York City officials participate in the league’s 17th annual “Legal Profession Luncheon”; The Pierre hotel, 2 E. 61st St., Manhattan.

Also at 11:30 a.m., the Thruway Authority holds a board meeting, 200 Southern Blvd., Albany.

At noon, acting state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, state Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball and Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren hold a press conference at the Rochester Public Market to commemorate the beginning of spring farmers’ market season in New York, 280 N. Union St., Rochester.

At 2:45 p.m., NYS Broadband Program Office Director David Salway discusses the governor’s New NY Broadband Program, 26th Annual Local Government Conference, Jefferson Community College, 1220 Coffeen St., Watertown.

At 4:45 p.m., acting state Tax Commissioner Ken Adams discusses the governor’s property tax proposal, home of Norman Ungermann, 8917 Ungerman Rd., Cuba.

At 5 p.m., Washington Heights residents demonstrate against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposals; in front of Gregorio Luperon High School, 165th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, Manhattan.

Also at 5 p.m., Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz will deliver his third State of the County address, Mason O. Damon Auditorium, downtown Central Library, 1 Lafayette Square, Buffalo.

At 6 p.m., Sen. Brad Hoylman and Fordham Law Prof. Zephyr Teachout speak to members of the Downtown Independent Democrats; downstairs meeting room, Von Bar, 3 Bleecker St., Manhattan.

At 6:40 p.m., Diaz Jr. discusses visiting Israel with Latino officials in January as part of a trip sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York Inc., and participates in a question-and-answer session; Riverdale YM-YWHA, 5626 Arlington Ave., the Bronx.

At 7 p.m., Sen. Leroy Comrie will host a forum on Consumer Protection at the Allen Community Senior Center, 166-01 Linden Blvd., Queens.

Headlines…

Under fire for letting the Education Investment Tax Credit and the DREAM Act fall off the budget table, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on the Legislature in a Daily News OpEd to move forward with stand-alone votes on both bills.

Cuomo and lawmakers are in talks to finalize the terms of what he has named as his top priority: a package of ethics overhauls designed to, among other things, shed more light on legislators’ outside income. Much of the rest of the governor’s agenda, as laid out in his executive budget and 30-day amendments, will now be addressed after the budget deal is reached.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the chamber’s majority Democrats take “major issue” with Cuomo’s plan to withhold a boost in school funding until lawmakers agree to reforms to the state’s education system. Senate Republicans aren’t thrilled with the idea, either.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos blamed Assembly Democrats for legislation to address sexual assault on college campuses apparently falling out of the state budget.

Cuomo has highlighted of his inclusion in this year’s budget of a ban on the personal use of campaign funds, as he promotes his commitment to ethics reform. But it is difficult to identify a single currently legal expense made by a legislator in the past decade that would not still be allowed if governor’s proposal is approved.

The state Legislature’s Black, Puerto Rican and Hispanic Caucus called on Cuomo to publicly apologize for reportedly saying that the indicted former Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, is still running the chamber behind the scenes, saying the governor’s alleged comments show a “disturbing” lack of respect for the first black speaker, Carl Heastie.

Lawmakers have agreed to put $18 million of the revenue earned by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in to the Environmental Protection Fund, according to sources close to the talks. An additional $23 million will go toward other programs, sources said. This goes beyond the $36 million Cuomo initially proposed diverting.

Hundreds of public school teachers organized by NYSUT are expected to protest Cuomo’s education reform proposals at the Capitol today as closed-door budget negotiations continue.

Voting largely along party lines, the Assembly approved the most-debated individual measure of the 10-point Women’s Equality Act, but it’s not likely going anywhere in the Republican-controlled Senate.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio urged Cuomo and the Legislature to reauthorize mayoral control of New York City’s public schools, ratcheting up public pressure as his aides scrambled behind closed doors on several budget-related education issues.

If de Blasio wants to see mayoral control renewed in the state Senate, he’s going to have to accept letting the charter cap rise, according to Sen. Simcha Felder.

Assemblyman Dan Stec, a Republican from the southern Adirondacks, has signed on to an Assembly bill mandating the state keep emails for at least seven years, which would reverse a Cuomo administration policy of automatically deleting messages after 90 days.

Two internal investigators with the state Thruway Authority were “separated” from their jobs in the past week following a state Inspector General’s office probe that prompted the abrupt resignations of two authority leaders in December. Neither of the investigators was accused of wrongdoing or told why they were being terminated, both were involved in the investigation of whether a former top authority official’s government cellphone had been used to contact a suspected prostitute.

More >

Race For Erie County Executive Becoming Clear… Sort Of

The race for Erie County Executive just got a little clearer.  One of the two top contenders for the GOP nomination, to challenge incumbent Democrat Mark Poloncarz, dropped out Wednesday and threw his support behind another fellow Republican.

“Party leaders and donors asked me to speed up my timetable and make a decision to either run myself, or clear the field,” Erie County Stefan Mychajliw in a press release Wednesday morning.

Mychajliw has been considered a rising star in the party after winning two straight races in a county with 130,000 more Democrats than Republicans.  Mychajliw, 41, said the decision was personal.

“If I became a candidate for County Executive it would take me farther away from my family and will be the third time in four years I ran a grueling county-wide campaign,” said Mychajliw.

Rather than just announce his intentions, Mychajliw seemed to unintentionally put some pressure on Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs.  While Jacobs has long been considered a candidate for County Executive, he has yet to throw his hat into the ring.

“It is my duty to lead the charge to bring our party together and strongly support Chris Jacobs in his quest to become the next County Executive,” Mychajliw said.

The Jacobs reference did raise some eyebrows.  Republican Consultant Vic Martucci acknowledged it broke protocol.

“It’s unusual. It may just be he knows Chris Jacobs is running,” Martucci said.

The problem is Jacobs himself hasn’t yet decided.

“I appreciate Stefan’s comments, I will be making a decision sometime soon,” he said.

Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy saw Mychajliw’s comments as a ringing endorsement and not an effort to pressure Jacobs to declare.  But with the list of potential GOP candidates shrinking, Langworthy knows the clock is ticking.

“Everyone’s got their own internal checkpoints and processes before they jump into a race of this magnitude.  It’s a huge undertaking.  There’s a great deal of questions they have to internally answer.  Chris is going through that process right now and I expect that he’ll be giving me an answer shortly,” Langworthy added.

Along with the party enrollment disadvantage for the GOP the current County Executive seems to be enjoying a high level of popularity.  Martucci said, no matter the candidate, it could be an uphill battle.

“(Mark) Poloncarz had two big wins in his first term.  He negotiated a successful lease agreement with the (Buffalo) Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. It was an ironclad deal that prevented any potential buyer from moving the team.  He also delivered a strong performance during the November snowstorm.  Those two issues are still fresh in voters’ minds,” said Martucci

Other than State Senator Pat Gallivan, who told us Wednesday night he’s not running, Martucci sees Jacobs as the best candidate the Republicans could field to oust Poloncarz.

“He’s got everything you’d want in a candidate.  He’s likable, a fresh face, and has done a great job in the clerk’s office which has been a spring board to higher office,” Martucci said.

Jacobs has made no secret out of the fact he’s been thinking about a run for a long time.  Despite the challenges the race presents he sees a path to victory for the GOP.

“If I do enter this I will do it because I sincerely believe it is winnable, but more importantly because I sincerely believe that I could make a profound impact and better impact than who is there currently,” Jacobs said.

The Republican powers-that-be would like to see Jacobs make a decision sooner than later.  Langworthy said there are other candidates, with a lower profile, interested in running who would need to start their campaigns a little sooner.

“If we go to a different echelon of candidates, where they may have a district that doesn’t include all of Erie County, they have to go get known in different areas other than where they’re most familiar with,” said Langworthy.

Jacobs understands the ball is in his court.  But he’s always prided himself on being his own man and said he’ll announce his decision when he’s ready.

“The way you run a race independently enables you to govern independently and I felt very, very strongly about that,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs has served as New York’s Secretary of State under Governor Pataki and as a member of the Buffalo Public School Board. He was elected Erie County Clerk in a special election in 2011.