Preet: Not Born To Run

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara on Monday in Albany joked that, unlike Bruce Springsteen’s hit song, he’s not looking to run for anything anytime soon.

“Given that Bruce Springsteen is in town: I was not born to run,” said Bharara, an affirmed Springsteen fan, said to the audience groaning at the pun.

Bharara was interview at WAMC’s The Linda performing arts center in Albany, following a day visiting the state’s capital city to attend the Conference of Mayors’s winter meeting as well as the swearing in of Janet DiFiore, the new chief judge.

But Bharara in an interview with WAMC’s Alan Chartock indicated — at first lightly and later more seriously — that he wants to stay in his job as the prosecutor of the Southern District of New York, arguably one of the most high-profile posts in the U.S. Department of Justice.

When it was pointed out that a new president taking office in 2017 will likely appointed their own prosecutors, Bharara joked, “The new president could like me, too.”

Bharara’s success at bringing prominent corruption cases — as well as his urge for state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to push for stringent new ethics measures in the wake of the cases — has led to speculation he would join the ranks of former prosecutors like Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie who jumped into elected office.

But Bharara insisted he loves his current job.

“I think it’s the best job I’ve ever had, it’s the best I ever will have,” he said. “The only thing I ever wanted to be when I went to law school was to be an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York”

Bharara in the forum also defined how a prosecutor’s job should work when it comes to bringing cases or walking away from the ones he can’t make.

“The job of the prosecutor is not to sock up convictions, notch victories in his or her belt,” he said. “It’s to do the right thing, it’s to do justice, to make sure you bring cases that are righteous and walk away from cases that are righteous to walk away from.”

He added: “That’s a nice to go to sleep every night. Why would I ever want to walk away from that?”

As for his favorite Springsteen song, Bharara was unequivocal.

“Thunder Road,” he said. “Thunder Road is the best Springsteen song.”

Cheektowaga Council Member Plans To Challenge For Wozniak’s Seat

Western New York Assemblywoman Angela Wozniak, C, will have some competition for her seat this fall. Cheektowaga Council Member James Rogowski, D, plans to announce his candidacy at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

“I decided to run because the Lancaster-Cheektowaga area has been losing out on funding for years now. True representation has not been lived up to,” Rogowski said.

Wozniak won the seat after incumbent Dennis Gabryszak retired amid a sexual harassment scandal. Despite a 2-1 Democratic enrollment advantage, she won handily.

Now the assemblywoman is the focus of an Assembly Ethics investigation that’s been going on for months. A staffer claimed Wozniak sexually harassed and retaliated against him.

Rogowski said the allegations aren’t the reason he decided to run. He said he hasn’t even talked to Wozniak about whether she plans to run.

“I don’t get involved in other people’s problems. None of us live in glass houses. If she’s running, I’ll run against her. If someone else lines up, I’ll run against them,” he said.

Rogowski, a teacher, said he plans to have support from local labor at his press conference, including NYSUT and CWA.

DiFiore Plans ‘Excellence Initiative’ For Courts

difiorecuomoGov. Andrew Cuomo formally swore in the state’s newest top judge on Monday: former Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore. She’s the second woman to hold the top post on the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court.

“Her professional credentials and experience combined with her personal skill and integrity equip her to not only manage but to excel in this multi-faceted position of chief judge of the Court of Appeals,” Cuomo said.

The event was held as a kick off for the state Court of Appeals session, which generally begins earlier, but has deal with multiple vacancies and the Legislature not returning to consider DiFiore’s nomination until January.

DiFiore had been previously and officially sworn in by Judge Eugene Pigott last month after her Senate confirmation.

DiFiore succeeds Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, who retired last year after reaching the mandatory retirement age. While he focused on legal services for the poor, DiFiore says she wants to take a top-to-bottom approach of the state’s court system.

“We in the court system will be relentless in our efforts to achieve and maintain excellence throughout our court system,” DiFiore said in her remarks, “giving the people of New York state the level of justice services they rightfully expect and which they rightfully deserve.”

Wearing the robes of the late Chief Judge Judith Kaye, who died last month, DiFiore says she wants to find ways of improving how the judicial branch of government operates through what she is calling the Excellence Initiative, though the details remain vague.

“My team and I will be working to improve all aspects of our system and services toward achieving operational and decisional excellence in everything we do,” she said.

DiFiore’s formal swearing in on Monday came the same day as the Senate confirmed former U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia to the bench. Garcia is Cuomo’s first Republican nominee to the court and officials have denied there was a trade between the governor and Senate Republicans for the judicial nominations.

“No governor named Cuomo would believe a court is complete without a boy from Queens,” Cuomo said with a smile.

DiFiore is Cuomo’s sixth nominee to fill a vacancy on the state Court of Appeals. By the end of the year, he will have to select a replacement for Pigott, the final appointee of Gov. George Pataki, who is reaching the mandatory retirement age.

Flanagan, At NYCOM, Avoids Bharara

Republican Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb told the New York Conference of Mayors that ethics reform needs to be a top priority in the Legislature this session.

Ditto for the Democratic Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who said the parade of corruption scandals was causing people to lose faith in the state.

But the representatives of the legislative majorities in Albany chose not to address ethics concerns when speaking before U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara at the group’s winter meeting in Albany on Monday.

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, representing the Democratic conference in the Assembly, stood in for Speaker Carl Heastie.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan bolted from the room after addressing the group to discuss local government issues and the state’s property tax cap.

“He’s making a lot of speeches all over the place and this should be no different,” Flanagan said when asked about Bharara’s presence in Albany.

As reporters pursued Flanagan up a winding flight of stairs at the Albany Hilton, the Suffolk County lawmaker was asked about whether he believed Bharara’s corruptioncase against his predecessor, Dean Skelos, was justified.

Flanagan responded: “I have faith in the court system and I’m guided by that all the time.”

He didn’t address additional questions when asked about whether ethics legislation should be in the budget.

Extras

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will help Hillary Clinton raise campaign cash on Feb. 16 – in the interval between the New Hampshire primary tomorrow and the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 20 – at an undisclosed location in New York City.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has taken heat from the press for rising homelessness, tensions with the police and his attention to fringe issues like restricting horse carriages in Central Park. He’s also winning respect from an unexpected corner: Wall Street.

President Barack Obama is asking Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to help fight the Zika virus.

A peanut butter, espresso, almond milk and chocolate smoothie is fueling young political operatives in New Hampshire. (It’s especially popular with Clinton campaign members).

Bad weather could complicate things for tomorrow’s New Hampshire primary.

Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg tells the Financial Times why he’s considering a presidential run: “I find the level of discourse and discussion distressingly banal and an outrage and an insult to the voters,” adding that the public deserves “a lot better.”

Former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is becoming a senior fellow for a campaign called What Works Cities – an initiative launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies last year to encourage 100 mid-sized cities to better leverage data and evidence in their policy making.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani blasted pop star Beyonce for what he deemed her “outrageous” halftime performance at the Super Bowl that attacked police officers. Long Island Rep. Pete King: Ditto. (More or less).

Cuomo threw cold water on Assembly speaker Carl Heastie’s plan to increase taxes on the rich, telling reporters: “I don’t believe there’s any reason or appetite to take up taxes this year.”

State Sen. Jeff Klein, the head of the Independent Democratic Conference, introduced a bill offering 12-weeks of employee-funded paid family leave. It has no same-as bill in the Assembly.

HIV/AIDS activists are flooding Cuomo’s office with letters saying that AIDS funding in the executive budget is inadequate, and asking for additional dollars when he submits his 30-day amendments later this month.

Republican Andrew Heaney is up on Fox News Channel on cable in NY-19 with his second TV ad, this one highlighting what the candidate views as missteps by the Obama administration in handling ISIS.

Three reasons why Rep. Chris Gibson might have a better shot than his GOP predecessors at getting elected governor: US Attorney Preet Bharara, his upstate roots and his record as a proven vote getter – albeit in congressional district, not statewide.

Rep. Brian Higgins, marking the formal transfer of 50 acres of land from the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., said he believes there could be development at Terminals A and B on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor by the end of the year or early next year.

Two more Democratic contenders have pulled the plug on running to succeed retiring Long Island Democratic Rep. Steve Israel. Financier Todd Richman of Great Neck and Suffolk Legislator William Spencer informed party leaders they no longer wish to run.

At her swearing-in today, new Chief Judge Janet DiFiore wore a robe that belong to the late Chief Judge Judith Kaye.

Long Island congressional contender Anna Throne-Holst has taken fire for her recent switch to the Democratic Party, but her backers say primary foe David Calone has political baggage of his own — his tenure on the Long Island Power Authority board.

Cuomo announced the recipients of $35.3 million from the Higher Education Capital Matching Grant Program, which requires grantees match about $3 for every $1 the state awards. The projects funded range from repairs, renovations and new construction of classrooms, laboratories and other facilities.

Cornell University President Elizabeth Garrett announced that she is undergoing treatment for colon cancer.

University at Albany will hire about 15 faculty members for its College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity over the next few years. Enrollment in an undergraduate minor in emergency preparedness, homeland security and cybersecurity has been higher than expected.

Garcia Confirmed By Senate

Former U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia on Monday was confirmed by the Republican-led Senate to fill a vacancy on the state Court of Appeals.

Garcia’s confirmation in the full Senate came the same day as Chief Judge Janet DiFiore was formally sworn in to her new post by Gov. Andrew Cuomo across the street in the top court’s chambers.

“I want to congratulate Michael Garcia on his confirmation as an Associate Justice of the NYS Court of Appeals,” said Sen. John Bonacic, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Mr. Garcia’s depth of legal experience, and his knowledge of the law will serve him well in his new role. I wish him much success as a new member of the Court.”

Garcia replaces retired Judge Susan Read and is Cuomo’s first Republican nomination to the court.

The announcement of Garcia’s nomination coincided with the Senate briefly delaying the approval of DiFiore’s confirmation. After Cuomo’s office announced Garcia’s nomination, the Senate Republicans confirmed they would move forward with the consideration of DiFiore.

Cuomo on Monday seemingly addressed the question over whether there was a trade of Garcia’s nomination for DiFiore, joking that he wanted to nominate a fellow “Queens boy” to the bench.

With the pending retirement of Judge Eugene Pigott next year, the entire Court of Appeals is due to be composed of Cuomo nominees. The only other governor to appoint all of the court’s judges was the current governor’s father, Mario Cuomo.

Cuomo Praises Clinton’s Reality-Based Approach

The presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton is pursuing “achievable goals” while the success of her rival Bernie Sanders is in part due to economic anxieties, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters on Monday in Albany.

Cuomo was largely in line with what Clinton surrogates — the candidate herself for that matter — have said as Sanders continues to perform well in polls ahead of the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday and a week after she narrowly defeated him the Iowa caucuses.

“I think the Hillary campaign in many ways is more realistic in putting forth proposals that could actually be enacted,” Cuomo said. “She is putting out the ideal, what would you do if you were the only person, what would you do if you could snap your fingers. She has the benefit and the burden of actually getting things done.”

Cuomo confirmed Monday that he would be attending a fundraiser for Clinton in the coming days.

“I believe I’m the head of her New York leadership group, or whatever it’s called,” Cuomo said. “I’m doing a fundraising event for her coming up. I’ll do whatever I can do to help her.”

Sanders has harnessed the liberal base of the Democratic Party in recent months to give a stronger-than-expected challenge to Clinton, who has emphasized in the race her ability to accomplish programs and proposals.

The Clinton argument is remarkably similar to a approach Cuomo has taken with government: Words are nice, but governing with accomplishments is better.

“The question is not what would you like to see happen if you didn’t have to deal with Congrss and the other party, it’s what can you see accomplished,” Cuomo said. “I think these are achievable goals.”

He went as far as to speak tacitly in favor of governors running for the GOP nomination — John Kasich and Chris Christie are sitting governors, Jeb Bush is a former governor — who “tend in my opinion to be more reality-based” than their opponents.

As for Sanders’s success, Cuomo pointed to “an animated electorate” in both parties.

“I don’t think it’s problems quote-un-quote with Bernie Sanders,” Cuomo said. “You have a very animated electorate on both sides. You have a right end of the political spectrum that is animated that we talk about more and then you have a left side that is animated.”

Cuomo Sidesteps Bharara’s Presence

CuomogagglefebOver the course of his first gaggle with reporters in Albany since October, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was asked at least multiple times about the appearance of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in the state’s capital city on Monday.

And each time, Cuomo for the most part demurred.

“I went in, I did the event,” Cuomo said when asked about Bharara. “This was a major gathering for law enforcement people — judges, colleagues from all across the state. I think the turnout was magnificent. I think that was an endorsement of the selection.”

There were no plans for both men to meet today at the Capitol.

Both Cuomo and Bharara were literally face to face for the swearing in ceremony of the state’s new chief judge, Janet DiFiore, a former Westchester district attorney nominated by the governor to fill the vacancy created by the retired Jonathan Lippman.

The event of both men being in the room together was highly anticipated: Bharara has prosecuted some of state government’s most high-profile cases, winning convictions of both leaders last year in the Senate and Assembly.

Bharara was in Albany to address the New York Conference of Mayors as well as participate in a forum at WAMC public radio.

Both Cuomo and Bharara were in the packed Court of Appeals chamber — filled to overflow capacity — for the swearing in of DiFiore, which the governor administered.

Bharara at NYCOM didn’t reference either case brought against Sheldon Silver or Dean Skelos, nor did he stop to take questions from reporters at the event.

While Judge Eugene Pigott went through a long list of the VIPs in attendance of the state’s legal world and said Bharara’s name, Cuomo applauded politely and smiled.

During Cuomo’s remarks, Bharara was attentive and polite, smiling for most of the lighter moments.

Asked by reporters later about Bharara’s presence, Cuomo largely shrugged it off.

“How do you feel about him being here?” asked New York Public Radio’s Karen DeWitt?

“In terms of what?” Cuomo responded.

He pivoted to an area of public agreement between Bharara and him: the need for ethics legislation in state government.

“I think his point that we need ethics reform is the same thing that I’ve been saying,” Cuomo said. “We have a very aggressive agenda on ethics reform.”

Bharara’s office continues to investigate the state’s economic development programs in western New York, known as the Buffalo billion. Asked if there were any recent subpoenas issued, Cuomo said he has “heard nothing.”

“I’ve heard nothing,” Cuomo said. “When I say I’ve heard nothing, what does that mean? I’ve heard nothing. That’s what that means. I’ve heard nothing.”

Cuomo insisted he’s pushing for ethics legislation, adding that it’s up to individual New Yorkers to pressure state lawmakers, especially on the issue of limiting what state lawmakers can make outside of their government jobs.

Cuomo wants to cap outside pay of state lawmakers at 15 percent of their base income, which is currently at $79,500.

“I think you don’t really get to this issue until you resolve the fundamental conflict and the fundamental conflict is legislators are allowed to make outside income,” Cuomo said while adding, “Politicians listen to the people. The way they taught us is politicians. I think very often the people lead. I think people get it, but they have to take the next step and communicate with the legislators.”

Cuomo: No Appetite This Year To Tax The Rich

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday indicated he was cool to the proposal to increase taxes on the wealthy in New York this year, saying he doesn’t think there is “any reason or appetite” to do so.

Cuomo was reacting to a proposal backed by the Democratic-led Assembly that would re-approve tax rates due to expire in 2017 that would increase taxes on those earning more than $1 million a year.

The Assembly Democratic conference also backs the creation of an earned income tax credit that would benefit lower-income earners.

But Cuomo was skeptical the measure should be taken up this year.

“I don’t believe there is any reason or appetite to take up taxes this year,” he said.

It’s a similar answer Cuomo gave last year, when his office was skeptical of a paid-family leave program advancing in the Legislature. Cuomo this year backs a 12-week paid leave program.

At the same time, Cuomo is fending off calls to alter the state’s cap on property tax increases. Local government officials as well as school district leaders are concerned the state’s cap — due to be less than 1 percent this year because of the low rate of inflation — will dry up revenue for cash-strapped municipalities and schools.

But Cuomo indicated he is not open to unlinking the cap to the rate of inflation, rather than having a straight 2 percent cap on tax levy increases.

“Politically they don’t want to override the 2 percent,” Cuomo said of local leaders. “It’s become a good housekeeping seal for budgetary diligence. If a locality wants to go beyond the cap, they can go beyond the cap.”

As for raising taxes?

“You have to think before raising taxes,” Cuomo said. “This state has been automatic pilot and these local governments have been on automatic pilot raising taxes year after year.”

Monroe County Executive Amends Office Of Public Integrity Proposal

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo, R, announced, Monday, an amendment to her proposed legislation to create a county Office of Public Integrity.  The county legislature is set to vote on the bill, with the new amendment, Tuesday.

Under the proposal the office would have the ability to examine all county operations independently and report its findings to law enforcement. Dinolfo said the changes were the result of bipartisan input from the legislature as well as the public.

“Some of the amendments have been added to ensure clear understanding of the Office of Public Integrity. Many additions were implied before and were common sense or are already in statute. However, by incorporating these sections into the amendments, there will be one document setting forth all of the duties of the Office of Public Integrity,” Dinolfo said.

The new proposal more specifically outlines the role of the office’s director. The director would be appointed by the County Executive, confirmed by the legislature, and serve a fixed 5-year term.

He, or she, could only be removed for cause. The amendment also gives the director full authority to issue subpoenas to any private vendor doing business with the county including Local Development Corporations.

An LDC scandal plagued the former County Executive Maggie Brooks’s, R, last term in office. Three of four men accused of bid-rigging by the state Attorney General’s Office have pleaded guilty, including Brook’s husband Robert Weisner, the former security director at the Monroe County Water Authority.

“I think it’s something that County Executive Dinolfo was very vocal about as she was coming into office and I think it’s a fantastic idea and I think it’s something that she wanted to bring to county government and I think it’s very welcome,” Legislature Majority Leader Brian Marianetti, R, said.

Marianetti said he’s confident the legislation will pass Tuesday. Democrats in the legislature also issued a press release praising the changes.

“County Executive Dinolfo promised a new and more open Monroe County government, and on this issue, she has delivered,” Minority Leader Cynthia Kaleh said.