Collins Challenger Announces Campaign

From the Morning Memo:

Western New York Republican Chris Collins once again has a 2018 mid-term challenger. Democrat Sean Bunny has officially announced his candidacy for the NY-27 congressional seat.

Bunny, an Iraq War veteran and current Erie County prosecutor, acknowledged that running against an incumbent Republican in one of the state’s most GOP-donimnated districts will be an uphill battle. But he also thinks an argument against re-electing Collins is starting to emerge.

“I represent the values of WNY,” Bunny said in a statement. “I know we can be the kind of community where every hardworking Western New Yorker doesn’t have to worry about their job being outsourced or being one family illness away from personal bankruptcy.”

“Our current Congressman Chris Collins is being investigated by the Ethics Committee, he isn’t looking out for us. Chris Collins has never put on a uniform for his country; he’s never led a rifle platoon of 35 of America’s sons. I fought for you as a soldier; I fought for you as a prosecutor; I will fight for each of you in Washington.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and a coalition of party members have targeted Collins, a major supporter of the president, for months.

Another candidate and military veteran, Erin Cole, announced earlier this year that she would take on the Republican lawmaker in the midterms, but quickly terminated her campaign, citing fundraising frustration.

Collins, who this week raised more than $400,000 dollars during an event with Vice President Mike Pence, has a nearly $1.5 million dollar war chest, according to his campaign. Democratic leaders have not endorsed a candidate to run against him yet, but believe whoever becomes the frontrunner will find willing contributors.

Bunny is scheduled to participate in a forum this evening with two other Democrats who are also exploring challenges to Collins. They are Tom Casey and Nicholas Stankevich.

DA’s Association President Defends Vance

From the Morning Memo:

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. is taking it on the chin these days for accepting campaign contributions from defense lawyers who represented high profile clients – including two of President Donald Trump’s adult children and disgraced ex-Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein – against whom he declined to bring criminal charges.

Vance has defended himself repeatedly, insisting that the cash he received did not influence any prosecutorial decisions made by his office.

He has also announced he’s cease political fundraising while the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity investigates his fundraising practices – a move that isn’t much of a hardship on the Democratic DA, given the fact that he faces only token opposition in the general election next month from a write-in candidate, former Brooklyn sex-crimes prosecutor Marc Fliedner.

But not everyone is rushing to judgment against Vance. Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara, the current head of the state DAs Association, which Vance himself lead in 2012, defended his downstate colleague during a CapTon interview last night.

“I know Cy Vance, and I know him to be a very ethical, and he always seemed to be to be a very straight shooter,” McNamara said of his fellow Democrat. “I’ve got to say I’m very proud of the way he’s handling it right now. From what I’m seeing, and I haven’t spoken to him personally, but from what I’m seeing being reported, he’s actually having Columbia Law School look into (his fundraising).”

The revelations about Vance’s fundraising have spurred several state lawmakers to propose changes to the way DAs raise campaign cash. McNamara, speaking for himself only because he has not yet broached the subject with association members, said he is open to considering any type of campaign finance reform, and imagines most DAs probably feel the same way.

“We want to do whatever we can to raise money, it’s hard because you can’t campaign, you can’t run a good campaign, unless you have money, because that’s how you pay for your commercials,” McNamara said. “It’s a tough dance that you have to do because who gives you money? It’s usually your family members, and then it’s the people that you deal with all the time. It’s a tough thing.”

McNamara said he probably has also accepted contributions from lawyers who have cases before him, but insisted that doing so did not impact his ability to be impartial.

” I’m guessing I did,” he said. “I’ve got to be honest with you, I never look at who gives me money…I think most people that know me, and I’m sure Cy’s the same way, we do what we do, we make the call that we believe in, and I’ve heard, you know, that criticism, but I do what I believe is right in each case.”

“It doesn’t matter, I never look up on the internet if the person gave me money, like oh Jeez, I have a meeting with this lawyer, let’s see how many money he’s given me. I don’t do that. I don’t do that. You just make the call you believe in, but sometimes the attorneys are your friends.”

Nolan Plans To Protect Education Funding

From the Morning Memo:

If the state has to make spending reductions as a result of federal funding cuts to health care, it should not look to its other largest area of investment – education aid – as a target, a top Democratic assemblywoman warns.

During a Capital Tonight interview last night, Assembly Education Committee Chair Cathy Nolan recognized the “triple threat” faced by the state, financially speaking, at the moment: Lower than expected PIT revenues, a $4 billion deficit and the feds planning to do “who knows what” when it comes to health care reform.

“They may come after health, which is the other big pocket, so to speak in the budget,” the Queens Democrat said. “It’s my job to make sure that education is protected if there is an attempt to perhaps look at the education field to solve other problems.”

Nolan stopped short of saying that she’s drawing a line in the sand when it comes to her stand on leaving education spending alone.

“I’m not a line-in-the-sand-drawer,” the assemblywoman said. “I don’t draw every well, and I never get to the beach, so I don’t draw a lot of lines in the sand.”

“But I think that it is important to make the case, and remind people, first of all of the good work that our schools do. And yes, we spend a lot of money on our schools, and there are problems, and ways we can make them more cost effective.”

“…Even with all the problems and the lack of funding for state Ed to do oversight, we still have to also remind people that we have a fabulous amount of school buildings, many of them state-of-the-art. Good things happening, and how do we maintain them, how do we do proper surveys so that all children…so the equity issue is addressed.”

Nolan also expressed her dismay over the recent decision by a SUNY committee that allows some charter schools to certify their own teachers – a move that is being challenged by the statewide teachers union, NYSUT, and its NYC affiliate, the UFT, both of which are longtime allies of the Assembly Democrats.

Nolan echoed the concerns expressed by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie that the committee may have overstepped its powers even under a bill passed in 2016 by the Legislature that gave SUNY more authority over the charters it oversees.

The assemblywoman said she, like the speaker, wants to await the outcome of the unions’ legal challenge, but added that she also has been spurred to take a closer look “into the whole mishpocheh, so to speak,” noting: “SUNY is an arm of the government, after all.”

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

President Donald Trump will receive his daily intelligence briefing this morning, and later meets with the secretary-general of the United Nations.

Vice President Mike Pence has no public events scheduled.

At 8 a.m., Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, New York City Councilman Barry Grodenchik and other local officials participate in a community outreach effort in recognition of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, 188th Street and Eastbound Horace Harding Expressway, Queens.

At 8:30 a.m., Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa will deliver welcoming remarks to open the National Coalition on School Diversity Conference: A Struggle We Must Win – Advancing School Integration Through Activism, Youth Voice, and Policy Reform, Teachers College, Columbia University, 525 West 120th St., Manhattan.

At 9:30 a.m., activists will confront hedge fund billionaire Seth Klarman at the Robin Hood investor conference, and call on him to drop his substantial holdings of Puerto Rico debt, Spring Studios, 50 Varick St., Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., NYC Councilman I. Daneek Miller, New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and state Sen. Leroy Comrie announce the completion of the Jamaica Avenue street resurfacing project, southeast corner of 175th St. and Jamaica Ave., Queens.

Also at 10 a.m., Sen. Terrence Murphy and medical professionals provide details of their recent storm relief mission to Puerto Rico, New York Medical College, Dining Annex, 19 Skyline Dr., Hawthorne.

Also at 10 a.m., Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie joins Assemblyman James Skoufis to visit a half-day kindergarten class at Taft Elementary School, 20 Toleman Rd., Washingtonville.

Also at 10 a.m., NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina visits the new PS 452 building, 210 W. 61 St., Manhattan.

At 10:15 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will appear live on Buzzfeed’s AM2DM morning show, which will be available at http://buzzfeed.twitter.com.

At 10:30 a.m., Assemblyman Sean Ryan and leaders from the City of Lackawanna will view the progress of upgrades that are happening at a soccer field in Lackawanna’s First Ward, 150 Lehigh St., Lackawana.

At 10:40 a.m., Heastie tours the Round Hill Elementary construction site, 1314 NY-208, Washingtonville.

At 11 a.m., Rep. Tom Suozzi hosts “Orchestrating Both Coasts For A Better Sound 2.0” – a major gathering of local, state and national leaders to discuss the health and future of the Long Island Sound, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, admissions office, 300 Steamboat Rd., Kings Point.

At 11:30 a.m., de Blasio rides the Westbound M23 Select Bus Service and delivers remarks (at 11:45 a.m., Chelsea Piers
West Side Highway between 23rd & 22nd Streets), about improving bus service, 9th Avenue & West 23rd Street, Manhattan.

Also at 11:30 a.m., Rebecca Seawright, Chair of the Assembly’s Consumer Fraud Protection Committee, and health experts, will hold a press conference to warn of the hazards and the strong possibility of permanent eye damage – including blindness – from wearing over-the-counter colored contact lenses, 1485 York Ave., Manhattan.

At noon, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli speaks at North Country Chamber of Commerce lunch and releases an economic profile of the region, Holiday Inn, 412 State Route 3, Plattsburgh.

At 7 p.m., the Italian American Labor Council hosts its 76th Anniversary Four Freedoms Dinner Dance, featuring state Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon and Assemblyman Peter Abbate Jr., 55 Northern Blvd., Great Neck, Long Island.

Headlines…

The U.S. Senate approved the Republican-backed budget last night, a major step forward for the GOP effort to enact tax cuts.

By a 52-47 vote, the Senate passed an amendment to repeal the long-standing provision that allows Americans to deduct their taxes paid on real estate, personal property, state income and sales tax.

One of the preident’s top economic advisers said elimination of the state-and-local tax deduction would put middle-class taxpayers in New York in a better financial position if the “entirety” of the Trump tax plan is enacted.

The budget resolution could also pave the way for opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil exploration by ensuring that drilling legislation can pass with only Republican votes.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly delivered a searing, personal defense of President Trump’s phone call this week to the widow of a slain Army soldier, describing the trauma of learning about his own son’s death in Afghanistan and calling the criticism of Trump’s condolences unfair.

Trump’s treatment of families of fallen troops “sickens” former Defense secretary Chuck Hagel, who labeled his recent calls and other statements “beneath the dignity of the presidency.”

Neither of them mentioned Trump by name but two of his predecessors – George W. Bush and Barack Obama – emerged from political seclusion yesterday to deliver what sounded like pointed rebukes of the current occupant of the Oval Office and the forces of division that propelled him to power.

House Speaker Paul Ryan lampooned Trump at the Al Smith charity dinner last night, mocking his Twitter habits, his former top advisor Steve Bannon and his Big Apple roots.

“Every morning, I wake up in my office and scroll Twitter to see which tweets I will have to pretend that I didn’t see later,” Ryan told the attendees at the dinner, which Trump was at a month before the 2016 election, but did not show up for last night.

As he prepared to collect a $500,000 payday in Moscow in 2010, Bill Clinton sought clearance from the State Department to meet with a key board director of the Russian nuclear energy firm Rosatom — which at the time needed the Obama administration’s approval for a controversial uranium deal, government records show.

Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o accused scandal-scarred ex-Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein of making a move on her at his Connecticut home when she was a college student, which she dodged by giving him a massage to avoid something potentially worse.

NYPD officials dampened expectations that Weinstein — accused of rape and sexual harassment — could face criminal charges, saying detectives have so far found no prior related complaints within city jurisdiction, either in police records or from calls to the department’s Crime Stopper hotline.

Counter demonstrators greatly outnumbered white nationalist Richard Spencer’s supporters at the University of Florida, their chants drowning Spencer out during his speech.

Linda McMahon, the former pro wrestling executive who heads the Trump administration’s Small Business Administration, is scheduled to visit Buffalo next Tuesday. She has been visiting SBA districts around the country on her “SBA Ignite” tour, meeting with small businesses to hear their concerns.

The feud continues. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio declared that he would seek to block Gov. Andrew Cuomo from permitting trial runs of autonomous cars in lower Manhattan – a move he deemed “dangerous” and a “mistake.”

The NYPD plans to start fining the employers of riders caught operating electronic bicycles, the illegal mode of transportation used by some food deliverers to rush orders to customers, de Blasio said.

Go to Yankee Stadium? Buy from Amazon or Starbucks? Establish relationships with business leaders? De Blasio just can’t do it, even when his job would seem to call for such gestures.

State officials plan to review why regulators and others did not act after women involved with the secretive Albany-based group called Nxivm reported they had been branded with a cauterizing device or traumatized during an “experiment,” a Cuomo spokesman said.

More >

Extras

Ex-President George W. Bush took a veiled swipe at Trump and urged Americans to fight to maintain their democratic values. “Bigotry seems emboldened,” he said. “Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”

Trump, in a personal phone call to a grieving military father, offered him $25,000 and said he would direct his staff to establish an online fundraiser for the family, but neither happened, the father said.

The parents of a U.S. Army specialist killed in Syria in May said they hadn’t received any acknowledgment from Trump, despite his claim to have called “virtually” all families of fallen U.S. soldiers. But they’re not looking for a call.

A bipartisan trio of senators unveiled legislation that would place new disclosure requirements on political advertisements in an effort to combat the kind of election meddling that Russia engaged in during the 2016 election campaign.

Nine introspective letters former President Barack Obama wrote to his college girlfriend offer a closer look at the former president’s formative years as he struggled with identity, loneliness and hopes for the future.

Obama is heading back into the political fray today for rallies where he’ll try to turn black voters out for the Democratic candidates in two closely watched governor’s races.

A liberal-led push to overhaul the Electoral College could be moving from the op-ed pages to the courtroom, as Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard professor who flirted with a dark-horse Democratic presidential bid last year, vows litigation to change the system.

Republican NYC mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis’ appeal as a child of immigrants is the root of her political career, yet it may be compromised by her conservative voting record and positions on issues that directly affect many of those same people.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law that prevents elephants from being used in entertainment acts.

Almost two years after he was appointed to SUNY’s Stony Brook campus as vice president of finance and administration, veteran budget hand Robert Megna is headed back to Albany for a job as chief operating officer at SUNY’s central administration. He’ll be earning a combined $400,000 a year.

NYC’s three library systems today offered a one-time amnesty on late fees, forgiving all fines for children 17 and under and unblocking their cards.

Sen. George Latimer, the Democratic candidate for Westchester County Executive, accused Republicans of spreading false rumors about infidelity in his longtime marriage to sink his challenge to incumbent Rob Astorino.

Latimer accused Astorino of not taking drafting a shared-services plan seriously because it was an initiative from Cuomo, whom Astorino challenged unsuccessfully in 2014 and may run against again in 2018.

What scandal-scarred Harvey Weinstein’s staff knew – or didn’t know – about his long history of sexual harassment and assault.

Kelsey Francemone, the then-22-year-old Syracuse police officer who ran headfirst into a chaotic shooting and riot in June 2016, was honored by LG Kathy Hochul as the state’s “officer of the year.”

Seizing an opportunity to get a word with the White House, Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich spoke with Vice President Mike Pence this week about Lake Ontario water-level concerns, urging the Trump administration to appoint new members of the International Joint Commission.

DNA phenotyping uses genes from human remains to give police an idea of what an unknown person looked like. Critics say the technology isn’t ready for crime-fighting.

JetBlue will stop selling tickets on a dozen discount travel websites in hopes of driving customers to the airline’s site and reducing the company’s costs.

Former Mayor of New York City, billionaire, and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg has announced a new commitment of $64 million to support Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign; one day after President Donald Trump repealed the Clean Power Plan.

Cuomo Backs Bill Outlawing Elephant Entertainment Acts

Entertainment acts including circuses, parades or trade shows will no longer be allowed to use elephants following the approval of a new law signed Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“The use of elephants in these types of settings is dangerous to their health and potentially abusive,” Cuomo said. “The Elephant Protection Act furthers this administration’s efforts to fight animal cruelty, and create a stronger, more humane New York.”

Some major circus groups had previously ended the use of elephants in their acts over concerns of animal mistreatment.

“Elephants have been exploited and abused in entertainment acts for too long,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Amy Paulin. “Confinement, torture and unhealthy living conditions have led to early death for these intelligent, gentle animals. Today, New York has become the leader in ending this horrible practice. Elephants will no longer be subjected to cruel treatment for our amusement.”

Sen. Terrence Murphy, a Republican who backed the measure, said in a statement the measure was spurred by the advocacy of the Pace University Environmental Clinic and its students.

“Once again, New York State is proving to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves,” Murphy said.

In Letter, Cuomo Pitches New York To Amazon

Cities across the country — and in regions of New York — are competing for Amazon’s HQ2, the online retail giant’s second headquarters that promises to create 50,000, mostly white-collar jobs.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t have a preference for where Amazon lands, as long as its somewhere in New York.

Cuomo wrote a letter this week to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos pitching New York’s skilled workforce, transportation options and its history of innovation — drawing a parallel with the company.

The letter isn’t just a pitch for Amazon, but also for the Erie Canal, in particular — a favorite history point for Cuomo.

“Commercial innovation is embedded in New York’s DNA,” Cuomo wrote in the letter. “When the Erie Canal opened in 1825, it reduced shipping time from New York City to Buffalo from twenty-one days to six, and it cut the cost to ship a ton of goods from $100 to $5. Consumer suddenly had access to much greater choice at much lower cost — exactly the kind of innovation Amazon delivers.”

Potential sites in New York include Queens and Brooklyn, as well as a bid for the Hudson Valley, the Albany area, Syracuse and the western New York corridor between Buffalo and Rochester.

Among those, Rochester landed high on a list of potential sites nationally for its low cost of living and access to employees. The details of what the state is offering haven’t been revealed, but other states and cities have offered up billions of dollars in tax credits and incentives to land the company.

Cuomo in the letter does not endorse a specific bid.

“This engineering marvel taught us a vital lesson about the importance of transportation,” he wrote.

“Two centuries later, New York is in the midst of a similar renaissance with a $100 billion transportation infrastructure program – the most ambitious in our history. Transformative investments in airports, train halls, subways, roads and bridges from the tip of Long Island to the shores of Lake Erie and everywhere in between make New York the place to move goods and people.”

Amazon is not without controversy, with the company being pushed by some to add union jobs while a coalition of liberal advocacy groups have called on elected officials to not offer tax breaks and other credits to the company in exchange for job creation.

GAMC Amazon Letter by Nick Reisman on Scribd

New York Unemployment Rose In September

The unemployment rate in New York increased last month despite a hike in the overall number of private-sector jobs in the last 12 months, the Department of Labor said on Thursday.

New York’s unemployment in September rose to 4.9 percent, up from 4.8 percent in August, growing from 4.7 percent in July.

New York’s private-sector job count grew by 1.1 percent, or 84,400 jobs, year over year.

“Despite today’s preliminary job report, when looking over the past year, New York State’s economy has added more than 84,000 private sector jobs and experienced historically low statewide unemployment rates,” said Bohdan M. Wynnyk, Director of the New York State Department of Labor’s Division of Research and Statistics.

The national unemployment rate is 4.2 percent.

Advocates Fret Workers Comp Changes

Advocates from the health and safety professions this week are pushing back against proposed changes to the state’s workers’ compensation regulations over concerns the reforms will tip too far out of balance for those injured on the job.

State lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed to the first workers compensation law changes in more than a decade earlier this year.

But advocates, some labor officials and Democratic lawmakers in the state Senate have become increasingly uneasy with the changes as their regulations are being considered.

Groups on Wednesday delivered post cards to workers compensation offices across the state to register concern.

“We’re delivering these petition cards to call on the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board to protect New York’s injured workers,” said Charlene Obernauer, the executive director of New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health. “It’s that simple. These proposed guidelines have no basis in medical science and need to be unilaterally rejected. We’re sick of the attack on injured workers, and we’re here to say that injured New Yorkers deserve better than to have their benefits taken away.”

NY-24: Miner Won’t Run For Congress

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner won’t seek a central New York House seat that has been a battleground district over the last decade, she said in a statement to Capital Tonight.

“After much thoughtful consideration and conversations with my family, I have decided I will not be a candidate for Congress in 2018,” said Miner, who is term-limited from seeking re-election this year.

“This was not an easy decision given magnitude of issues faced by our community, but I believe we are best served supporting other progressive leaders in this election both at home and across New York.”

Miner, a former co-chair of the state Democratic committee, has been openly mulling a Democratic primary challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is seeking a third term next year.

Some Democrats had been quietly hoping Miner would run for the 24th congressional district, held by Republican Rep. John Katko.

While talk of Miner’s political future has been dominated by the potential run for governor, Republican-aligned super PACs had began preparations for her to run against Katko.

The seat has reliably changed hands between the two parties since 2006, though Katko won re-election to a second term last year against Colleen Deacon.

Miner has been a vocal critic of Cuomo in recent years, criticizing his administration’s policies toward local governments in particular.