Liz Benjamin

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A NYT investigation found Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie benefitted from his mother’s embezzling, failing to sell an apartment purchased with ill-gotten gains when directed by a judge, and then profitting when he finally did so.

The schedule for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 25-hour trade mission to Cuba includes a “working lunch” with Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz, Cuba’s Minister of Trade and Foreign Investments, and a meeting with the country’s first vice president, Miguel Diaz-Canel.

The governor’s Flickr page has some photos of his trip.

Onondaga County Republican Committee Chairman Tom Dadey was among Republicans blasting Cuomo’s trip to Cuba, calling it shortsighted and ill-advised.

Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, a Staten Islander whose mother is a Cuban exile, said any efforts to normalize relations must be accompanied by significant concessions from the Castro regime.

Former Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin was found guilty of selling her vote for a 50-percent ownership in a community center-catering hall offered by a Monsey developer working as an undercover FBI operative.

Was former Gov. David Paterson’s criticism of US Attorney Preet Bharara planted, encouraged or otherwise influenced by Cuomo?

New York City’s subway system carried 1.75 billion customers last year, as ridership grew by the highest annual amount in more than 65 years, according to new figures released by the MTA.

Supporting District Attorney Daniel Donovan’s bid for Congress and his handling of the explosive Eric Garner case, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani will host a fundraiser for the Republican candidate next weekend.

At least 14 former state lawmakers are currently collecting a state pension despite being convicted of a crime.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is soliciting information regarding the Clinton Foundation’s acceptance of contributions from foreign governments in his latest move to cast doubt on the former secretary of state’s candidacy.

The New York Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have made exclusive agreements with a conservative author for early access to his opposition research on Clinton – a move that has confounded members of her campaign and some reporters.

Assemblywoman Margaret Markey wants Pope Francis to meet with survivors of sexual abuse when he visits New York in September.

Republican Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo has told county Republican leaders he is taking a “hard look” at challenging Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone this fall and will make a final decision by next week.

The Shooters Committee on Political Education wrote an open letter to Senate Republicans, accusing senators of reneging on their pledge to not support a budget that includes SAFE Act funding.

Declaring traffic tie-ups of up to three hours “unacceptable,” Sen. Chuck Schumer vowed to wield his “clout” to help fund a $64 million proposal for widening the U.S. plaza at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.

Two LLCs connected to Leonard Litwin’s Glenwood Management donated a total of $5,000 to state Assembly candidate Shirley Paterson, who is running for former Assemblyman Karim Camara’s seat and is backed by the powerful Brooklyn Democratic Party.

The fight against mixed martial arts has escalated, with a group of prominent New York Jewish leaders saying that legalizing the controversial sport could benefit a major anti-Israel force.

Here are this year’s Pulitzer Prize winners, which include Buffalo News cartoonist Adam Zyglis, who won for editorial cartooning.

POLITICO publisher Robert Allbritton has set a goal of tripling the size of the company in four years, POLITICO co-founders Jim VandeHei and John Harris said in a staff memo today.

A Saranac Lake teacher finished a 150-mile protest march to the state Capitol today.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo departs this morning for a two-day trade mission to Cuba, and will be in NYC and Havana. LG Kathy Hochul is in charge during his absence. She’ll be in Genesee, Monroe and Onondaga counties today, and will return to Albany this evening.

Hillary Clinton takes her 2016 campaign to New Hampshire today, after being the target there for potential GOP candidates over the weekend.

At 9:15 a.m., Hochul speaks at Genesee County Criminal Justice Day 2015, Genesee Community College, Conable Technology Building, 1 College Rd., Batavia.

At 9:45 a.m., Hochul tours PW Minor Company, which has plans to “re-shore” 100 jobs from China to Batavia, 3 Treadeasy Ave., Batavia.

At 11 a.m., SAGE chief of staff Patrick Aitcheson, AARP members and officials, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, the public policy vice president of the Alzheimer’s Association’s city chapter, Hillary Stuchin, and residents who care for the elderly promote a proposal that would fund training of residents who care for the elderly at home; steps, City Hall, Manhattan.

At noon, Sen. Leroy Comrie, Assemblyman William Scarborough, NYC Council members and other community and government officials, promotes a legislative proposal that would prohibit advertising on state-owned property that includes “provocative content” that might promote risky behavior, underage drinking or unprotected sexual activity by minors; Hollis Avenue and 190th Street, Queens.

Also at noon, the NYS GOP hosts a lunch with Wisconsin Governor and potential 2016 candidate Scott Walker, Union League Club, 38 East 37th St., Manhattan.

At 2 p.m., Hochul and NYS DCJS officials make an announcement to protect vulnerable New Yorkers during Crime Victims’ Rights Week, Monroe County Public Safety Building, 6th Floor, 130 South Plymouth Ave., Rochester.

At 3 p.m., the 2015 Pulitzer prizewinners for 2015 will be announced, Columbia University, Manhattan.

At 4 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio holds public hearings on, and then signs, Intros 421-A, 689-A, 690-A, 656, and 497-B, Blue Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 4:30 p.m., Hochul tours the Willis Carrier Recreation Center project, corner of Grover and Roby Avenue, East Syracuse.

At 6:30 p.m., Lawrence Lessig, Van Jones, Zephyr Teachout and will host a talk on political corruption and why Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren should run for president, Civic Hall, 156 5th Ave., 2nd Floor, Manhattan.

At 7:30 p.m., local and state emergency officials and state National Guard troops lead a session of the governor’s “Citizen Preparedness Training Program”; On Your Mark Inc., 475 Victory Blvd., Staten Island.


Critics of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s whirlwind Cuba trade mission say its timing – he’s the first US governor to visit the Communist country since the start of a thaw between the two nations – may diminish its economic value. Supporters say being first in line is key for New York, as is planting the seeds of a relationship that will blossom over time.

On the even of his departure, Cuomo issued a lengthy statement defending his trip, saying: “I agree with the President that engagement is the best way to promote democracy and bring about positive change, rather than continuing a failed policy of isolation.”

Though the Obama administration has started to normalize relations with the Communist country, it will take an act of Congress to repeal the trade embargo with Cuba, and most likely years for Cuba and the US to decide what shape their relationship will take. “This is going to be a process and not a fast process at that,” said Stefan M. Selig, the Commerce Department’s undersecretary for international trade.

Samples of treated wastewater, including those taken from six Western New York plants, show that plastic “microbeads” washed down sink and shower drains are passing straight through the facilities and into area waterways. That’s according to a first-of-its-kind study being released today by AG Eric Schneiderman.

A potential showdown is looming over a pair of NYC Council proposals that would decriminalize a host of offenses — including fare-beating, drinking on the street and public urination — in an overhaul that could dramatically impact the NYPD’s “broken windows” approach to policing.

Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. called on law-enforcement agencies to battle Apple and Google over software that makes it impossible for authorities to “decrypt” cellphones seized in criminal investigations.

It has not gone unnoticed in Albany that US Attorney Preet Bharara has been going after the children of his legislative targets in corruption cases – perhaps in hopes of getting some leverage over them. “The only time I’ve seen it this prevalent is when they’re going after organized crime families, and they’re trying to squeeze the bosses,” a former federal prosecutor said.

Despite repeated claims to the contrary, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is positioning himself to be the leftist “progressive” alternative to Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate for president, a national party operative told The NY Post’s Fred Dicker.

In his first public remarks since his wife announced her second White House run, former President Bill Clinton said: “I’m proud of her.”

An audit by the state comptroller’s office acknowledged that the state Education Department’s failure to pay state aid in a timely fashion was the leading cause of the Niagara Wheatfield Central School District’s recent fiscal crisis. But the Board of Education and past district administrations bear some blame because of their own financial decisions, too.

As Buffalo is mulling mayoral control of its troubled public school system, NYC provides a blueprint for how that might be successful. but other cities – like Detroit and Cleveland – have had disappointing results.

More >

The Weekend That Was

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is heading to Cuba tomorrow. He’ll be the first American governor to visit Cuba since the recent thaw in relations with the communist nation. Whether his trade mission generates anything more than headlines, however, remains to be seen.

While in Cuba, Cuomo will find himself in far more delicate diplomatic territory than he has ever encountered.

Hillary Clinton won’t be in New Hampshire for two more days, but she was the star of the show on Saturday as Republican presidential aspirants capped the state GOP’s two-day summit that attracted nearly the entire field to Nashua.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said his “executive experience” would make him a better president than Clinton.

Clinton is maintaining her years of silence on the Keystone XL pipeline — and environmental groups are increasingly divided on how hard they should push her to take a stand.

Clinton’s campaign has staffed up in South Carolina.

The former secretary of state’s recruitment of Gary Gensler, a former top federal Wall Street regulator, as her campaign’s chief financial officer was meant to show donors she is serious about avoiding the overspending that plagued her 2008 presidential campaign

Former Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, who formed an exploratory committee in November, jabbed at Clinton’s fundraising power, carefully constructed image, and lengthy public career during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.” He said the country is suffering from “incumbent fatigue.”

Long Island Rep. Pete King, who is mulling a potential bid for the 2016 GOP nod, made yet another appearance in New Hampshire.

John Podhoretz thinks NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s refusal to endorse his former boss, Clinton, and his early criticism of her will backfire in the long run.

NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer says his “intention is to run for re-election” in 2017, and not to challenge de Blasio is a primary.

US Sen. Chuck Schumer is continuing to “withhold judgement” on the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran until he learns both sides “carefully.”

The state test controversy has turned into the latest and bloodiest scrum between Cuomo and the state’s teachers’ unions. This time, experts say it could cost the governor some political clout in the Lower Hudson Valley and Long Island – the suburban birthplaces of a rapidly expanding movement that has mobilized thousands of parents and teachers.

The city of Yonkers and Cuomo are heading for a higher-stakes confrontation more than state-aid and the future of the Yonkers public schools.

NYC-funded animal shelters are overcrowded and administering medicine that’s more than a decade old to suffering creatures, according to a scathing new report unveiled by Stringer.

Charles Wait of Saratoga Springs has resigned from the New York Racing Association board effective immediately. No reason was given for his departure.

Building maintenance by the Hrynenko family, which owns several properties in the East Village, is at the center of the investigation into the gas explosion at 121 Second Avenue that killed two men and leveled three buildings.

An advocacy group released their assessment of de Blasio’s performance on education issues, giving him a “mixed” report card with letter grades ranging from A to F reflecting, how it views his effort on make good on campaign promises.

Nearly half the students in some Onondaga County public school districts are too fat, according to the state Health Department.

US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is making a strong push for a bill that would designate 25 schools as “manufacturing universities” and provide them with incentives to align their curriculum with the needs of modern manufacturers.

Only 17.7 percent of New York cabbies bothered to get an influenza vaccination, endangering themselves and their passengers, according to a new study.

An increase in the use of synthetic marijuana has sent more than 160 people to the hospital in New York since early April, Cuomo announced.

Republican Assemblyman Ray Walter will challenge Democratic Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz this fall.

The state Department of Labor has notified more than 40 full-time and 2,500 part-time employees of Nassau Coliseum that they will be laid off this summer when the arena closes for renovations led by Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner.

The number of breakfasts served in the nation’s schools has doubled in the last two decades, a surge driven largely by a change in how districts deliver the food.

The hotel-workers union is trying to steer a bill through the NYC Council to force hotels to get city permission before converting rooms into apartments. Critics have called it a misguided bid to protect union jobs at the expense of the rights of property owners.


AbTech Industries, the company at the center of the reported federal investigation of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, has strong connections to an environmental group headed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the governor’s former brother-in-law.

AbTech says
it’s not a target in the Skelos probe, and is cooperating with federal investigators.

Former Gov. David Paterson criticized U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for publicly promoting his case against former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, saying: “(T)he line of respect, I think he went over that line.”

State GOP Chairman Ed Cox slammed NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio for his “magical mystery tour” to the Midwest.

Bloomberg LP terminals, widely used by traders to access real-time financial data, went down globally for a few hours this morning, disrupting a bond sale in the UK.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released a $565 million five-year contract to Xerox to redesign and operate the information system for the state’s vast $50 billion-plus Medicaid program.

Former Florida Governor and potential 2016 contender Jeb Bush called on his fellow Republicans to stop stalling and confirm New York US Attorney Loretta Lynch, the president’s pick to be the next US AG.

Less than a week into her presidential campaign, Clinton has the largest New Hampshire operation of any candidate – 19 staffers.

Romulus town board members have backed Citiva Medical’s proposal to install a medical marijuana growing facility at the former Seneca Army Depot, which was a U.S. Army installation from 1941 to 2000.

The requirements to become a NYS teacher vs. the requirements to become a NYS governor – in song.

Staten Island DA Daniel Donovan, the Republican NY-11 candidate, may be breaking Federal Election Commission law with his campaign signs, which lack a required disclaimer.

Assemblyman Sheldon Silver did not want his photo taken today.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney raised $609,942 in the first quarter of 2015 – the most of any incumbent Democratic representative in the country.

US Sen. Charles Schumer accused House Republicans of passing an estate tax loophole that would benefit only a few thousand of America’s wealthiest families.

Cuomo today proclaimed April 19-25 Earth Week, emphasizing the administration’s environmental commitments to New York’s natural resources, as well as promoting cleaner and healthier communities that are more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

State Police are targeting speeding and aggressive driving in a campaign that runs through Wednesday.

Cuomo’s office declined comment on the WikiLeaks emails’ revelations that the governor’s close friend and former boss, Andrew Farkas, tried to arrange private jet travel for Cuomo after movie industry moguls threw him a $25,000-per-person fundraiser last year in Hollywood.

The South Street Seaport Museum has picked a captain – literally – to lead it through some very challenging waters.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is leaving Des Moines, Iowa to return to NYC. He has no public schedule.

At 8:30 a.m., Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, NYC EDC head Kyle Kimball, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Carlo Scissura and other business, community and government officials discuss efforts to support businesses and employment in Brooklyn, during the business organization’s “Economic Development Exchange Forum”; courtroom, Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon St., Brooklyn.

At 8:45 a.m., the NYC Bar Association holds its 25th annual program on “Current Issues in Insurance Regulation,” New York City Bar Association, 42 W. 44th St., Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., the Board of Directors of the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation holds its monthly meeting, 10th-floor conference room, Edward A. Rath county office building, 95 Franklin St., Buffalo.

Also at 9 a.m., Rep. Chris Gibson speaks at the Institute for Disaster Mental Health Conference: “Preparing for the Health and Mental Health Consequences of Climate Change”, SUNY New Paltz.

At 9:30 a.m., the mother of Eric Garner, who lost consciousness and died during an attempted arrest on Thursday, July 17, Gwen Carr, and a co-director of the U.S. program of Human Rights Watch, Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno, discuss human rights in the U.S. during a forum presented by the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at CUNY’s Hunter College and the US Human Rights Network in anticipation of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s in-person “Universal Periodic Review” of U.S. human rights scheduled in Geneva on Monday, May 11; 47-49 E. 65th St., Manhattan.

Also at 9:30 a.m., Queens Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras delivers an opening keynote speech during CUNY’s 27th annual “Big Apple Job & Internship Fair”; Galleria and River Pavilion, The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center of New York, 655 W. 34th St., Manhattan.

At 10:10 a.m., Sen. David Carlucci hosts LG Kathy Hochul on his monthly edition of the “Albany Report,” WRCR1300 AM.

At 1 p.m., former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean delivers keynote address during a “Tackling Economic Inequality” symposium presented by NY Law School’s Center for New York City Law and the law school’s Impact Center for Public Interest Law, featuring panel discussions with city officials, family, housing and legal advocates, legal professionals and scholars; auditorium and event center, second floor, 185 W. Broadway.

At 2 p.m., AG Eric Schneiderman makes remarks in Syracuse, 707 First North St. (Rain location: Syracuse City Hall, 233 East Washington St.)

Also at 2 p.m., Assemblyman David Weprin, NYC Councilman Rory Lancman and city transportation officials and community leaders unveil the fully converted 168th Street, which now only runs one-way, Jamaica Muslim Center, 8537 168th St., Queens.

At 2:45 p.m., Hochul tours NYSERNET construction and expansion of the data center, 300 South Salina St., Syracuse.

At 8:30 p.m., Schneiderman attends the Democratic Rural Caucus dinner, Holiday Inn, 441 Electronics Parkway, Liverpool.


A corruption unit of the Nassau County district attorney’s office will open a review of county contracting practices, in response to revelations that a federal investigation into Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, is focused in part on a county storm water contract.

Nassau County legislators who approved the contract in question with an Arizona company that employed Adam Skelos, AbTech Industries, said that they did not know the senator’s son worked there.

Skelos confirmed the existence of the federal inquiry and said he is cooperating – a switch from months ago, when he attacked a report about the existence of the probe as “a thinly sourced” story that did “not meet the standards of journalism.”

A source who recently met with investigators for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara indicated that about half the questions focused on the lobbying arm of the law firm where Skelos is of counsel, Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, and if there was any direct or indirect interaction with the senator.

County Executive Ed Mangano and nearly all of Long Island’s senators have been subpoenaed in connection with the Skelos federal grand jury probe.

Adam Skelos, the 32-year-old son of Sen. Skelos, appears to have benefited from his dad’s position with a series of jobs at GOP-wired entities, according to campaign finance and payroll documents and public information provided by firms that employed him.

Should Skelos be indicted and forced to step down, as happened to Silver, no seamless replacement strategy is in place. That is because his second-in-command, Sen. Tom Libous, of Binghamton, faces a federal trial this summer on charges of lying to FBI agents who were investigating the financial activities of him and his son.

Barbara Bartoletti, of the NY League of Women Voters, sees no reason for Skelos to give up his leadership post right now. “There is a presumption of innocence, and we should at least wait until federal authorities have finished with their investigation,” she said. “We should all just be aware that the culture of corruption in Albany has very long tentacles.”

Bharara, one of the most acclaimed prosecutors of his generation, is locked in what seems to be an escalating war of words with the federal judiciary — one that some judges fear could influence important rulings.

The state Board of Elections declined to change a longstanding ruling that critics say has allowed millions of dollars to flow, virtually unchecked, into campaign coffers across New York. The board’s four commissioners deadlocked 2-to-2 on the issue of whether to rescind its own 1996 opinion that found limited-liability companies should be treated like individuals when it comes to contributions.

Emails between Sony executives and Cuomo’s campaign staff leaked as part of the Sony Pictures hack and published in full by WikiLeaks Thursday appear to show Sony executives believed donating to the governor was a good idea because he is a “strong protector” of New York’s film tax credit.

Though his focus was national during his brief Midwest trip, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio could not entirely escape local issues, as a Nebraska rancher and radio host showed up to question the mayor’s proposal to take horse carriages out of Central Park. Also, de Blasio brushed off questions about whether he wants to run for president.

More >


Writing for TIME’s 100 Most Influential People list, Hillary Clinton called US Sen. Elizabeth Warren “a special kind of leader” and said the Massachusetts Democrat is holding her feet to the fire.

Clinton will make her first trip as a presidential candidate to the early voting state of New Hampshire next week, participating in small events Monday and Tuesday with students and small business employees.

US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is a big fan of actress/advocate Julianna Margulies, whom she calls a “kindred spirit” in TIME.

Republican state senators are saying nothing – for now – about a NYT report that federal prosecutors have Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, in their crosshairs.

The acting Nassau County district attorney said she will review county contracting procedures after reports of Skelos’ influence on a $12 million local stormwater systems contract the Arizona-based company that employed his son, AbTech Industries.

“If Skelos were to step aside, either temporarily to fight any changes or permanently if the charges turn out to be severe, the top contenders to replace him could be Syracuse’s John DeFrancisco and Suffolk County’s John Flanagan.”

On the heels of snubbing Clinton, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared in Iowa (right as she was leaving the early presidential voting state) to preach his tax-the-rich message.

“After 25 years in the public eye, Mrs. Clinton has suddenly developed the capacity to surprise.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo departs for Cuba on Monday, April 20. He’s due to speak at a Food Bank for NYC gala Tuesday night (April 21) where the company of his longtime girlfriend, Sandra Lee-Simply Living Publishing, will be honored.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s top executive will join Cuomo on his trip to Cuba, home to a state-sponsored biopharmaceutical industry.

Sen. Diane Savino, never one to be shy about sharing her opinion, bashed de Blasio on Facebook for traveling to Iowa and Nebraska, saying: “Dude, you do have a city to run.”

According to former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, Clinton still “loves” de Blasio, even though he hasn’t endorsed her.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Long Island GOP freshman, released a video to mark his first 100 days in office.

Another GOP freshman from New York, Rep. Elise Stefanik, marked her first 100 days with an OpEd in the Denton Republican.

Meet the “everyday people” who work at the Ohio Chipotle where Clinton ordered a chicken burrito bowl and went unnoticed.

Following Clinton’s lead, former Gov. George Pataki, a potential 2016 GOP contender, ate lunch at a Chipotle with is wife, Libby. (Neither wore sunglasses).

The state Senate Democrats believe having a “rock star” like Clinton atop the 2016 ticket will help them retake the majority.

Cuomo announced the craft beer industry in New York State grew 59 percent from 2013 to 2014, with a total economic impact estimated at $3.5 billion.

After Cuomo’s budget proposal to raise the state’s minimum wage failed earlier this year, AG Eric Schneiderman has taken up the cause – and then some. He wants the hourly wage to increase to $15 an hour.

There may be more than 155,000 students opting out of state exams this week, but the state Education Department says they’ll still have enough results to evaluate the performance of students and teachers.

It wasn’t your imagination: A plane marked like Air Force One was doing touch-and-go landings at Albany International Airport today.

Buffalo school leaders must figure out how to cut roughly $10 million from their budget for the next school year, something that could lead to contractual changes or staff reductions.

The University at Buffalo has turned to a nationally known branding company for help, hiring Ologie of Columbus, Ohio, to work on its new “brand identity.”

Tisch to Feds: Don’t Penalize NY

From the Morning Memo:

As federal education officials make vague noises about financial sanctions as as result of the unprecedentedly high opt-out rates New York is seeing during this week’s standardized English tests, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch delivered this message: Don’t even think about it.

“I would urge the federal government not to come and threaten the students in New York state for a variety of reasons,” Tisch said during a CapTon interview last night.

“Number one: I don’t believe that taking money away from our most vulnerable schools, which is where Title I is targeted, would be very helpful to getting the kinds of outcomes we want for those targeted populations.”

“I don’t believe in threatening people and I don’t think that’s very effective.”

“On a much more basic note,” the chancellor continued, “over the last several days, the federal government has started to signal that as part of reauthorizing the Elementary, Middle and Secondary Act, they are going to move away from using test scores as part of their evaluation system.”

“It would be really disingenuous for the federal government to come into New York state, which has met its obligations under Race to the Top, and had testing as part of evaluation, and then threaten to remove money that this state uses for its most vulnerable populations because we couldn’t get to yes while they are moving away from that obligation altogether.”

A US Department of Education spokeswoman told The Buffalo News that the department has not had to withhold money “yet” over the requirement that schools and districts have 95 percent test compliance or lose federal Title I funding because that threshold has not yet been reached.

However, there were reports that some districts across New York had as many as 70 percent of students opt out for Day One of the ELA exams this week. And the federal government says it has “made clear” that states are expected to “consider” sanctions when the threshold is not met.

Federal aid is a small fraction of the public funding school districts receive, most of which comes from the state. But many of New York’s high-needs districts are already stretched thin, and cannot afford to lose even a small amount of money.

The opt-out movement was started by parents concerned about over-testing of their kids, and the viability of the tests themselves.

But the cause was kicked up a notch this year when it was embraced by the statewide teachers union, NYSUT, in an effort to undermine the teacher evaluation system after a bitter budget battle in which the governor pushed – and the Legislature approved – changes the union opposed.

An estimated 100,000 students have opted out of this year’s tests so far, compared to some 60,000 in 2014. Despite this dramatic increase, the state Education Department still plans on using this year’s tests as a basis for school and teacher evaluations, Gannett reports.

Tisch said the Board of Regents will “absolutely” take into account the opt out movement while trying to come up changes to the teacher evaluation system within the parameters of the legislation agreed to by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders.

“At the end of the day, no one is going to be 100 percent satisfied with where this lands,” Tisch warned.

“…The Constitution of New York state gave us this authority, and not to use it to help students and parents and teachers would be walking away from what I think is our constitutional obligation to give our best judgement in crafting regulations around complicated policy.”

“…Absolutely we will not ignore the voices of parent across this state; that is an absolute,” Tisch continued. “Absolutely, we will not ignore what is already in statute through the budget process in the state of New York.”

“How we get there, and how we managed to bring these disparate voices together during a very complicated public debate I think is going to be challenging, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.”

Tisch said she doesn’t believe – either as a parent or a chancellor – in “punitive measures,” but rather in setting standards and expectations.

She did express concern, however, about the timeline set out for coming up with a new evaluation system. (It’s due by June 30). And she also said she’s “openly worried” about the ability of close to 700 districts to put together plans under the new rules and submit them to SED for approval by November.

Here and Now

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

At 9:30 a.m., presidents of NYC public libraries speak to about 200 librarians from across the city as they mark the start of “Lobby Day” meetings with Council members to discuss city funding for libraries; The New York Public Library’s New Amsterdam Library branch, 9 Murray St., Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus and officials attend a grand opening of a rehabbed apartment building and highlight revitalization efforts in Newburgh, 197 Lander St., Newburgh.

At 10:30 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers remarks at Drake University, Cowles Library Reading Room, 2725 University Ave., Des Moines, IA.

At 11 a.m., Staten Island DA and NY-11 GOP candidate Dan Donovan will attend the Empire Outlets groundbreaking ceremony, Richmond County Bank Ballpark, 75 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island.

Also at 11 a.m., the chairman of the state Senate Task Force on the Delivery of Social Services in New York City, state Sen. Tony Avella, hosts the opening event of the task force’s planned series of public forums; Senate Hearing Room, 19th floor, 250 Broadway, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul, EDC President Kyle Kimball, Staten Island BP James Oddo, city officials and executives from Brooklyn-based real estate development firm BFC Partners LP, investment firm Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and tourism marketing agency NYC & Company mark the start of construction of a 340,000-square-foot mall; Richmond County Bank Ballpark, 75 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island.

Also at 11 a.m., Poughkeepsie Mayor John Tkazyik, Assemblyman Kieran Lalor and Councilman Lee Klein will host a press conference discussing the proposed “Safe Storage” ordinance in the City of Poughkeepsie, 62 Civic Center Plaza, across from The Poughkeepsie Journal building.

At noon, the state Board of Elections meets to consider whether to close to the so-called LLC loophole in campaign finance law, 40 N. Pearl St., Suite 5, Albany.

At 1 p.m., Donovan will host a press conference to receive the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, St. George Pharmacy, 99 Stuyvesant Pl., Staten Island.

At 5:45 p.m., de Blasio speaks at the Progress Iowa Gathering, Iowa State Education Association Headquarters, Second Floor, 77 3rd St., Des Moines, IA.

At 6 p.m., Cardinal Timothy Dolan receives a proclamation from Oddo and an Archdiocese of New York auxiliary bishop, the Most Rev. John O’Hara, serves as guest speaker during a Catholic School Region of Staten Island’s gala; Nicotra’s Ballroom, Hilton Garden Inn New York/Staten Island, 1100 South Ave., Staten Island.

Also at 6 p.m., Discovery for Justice, an advocacy group made up of community activist, clergy, seniors, elected officials, labor, and retired law enforcement officials will be sponsoring a community forum on criminal justice reform, 1199 SEIU penthouse, 330 West 42nd St., Manhattan. (Panelists include: Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson and Assemblyman Joe Lentol).

At 6:45 p.m., NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray delivers remarks at at a Vaisakhi Celebration, 31 Chambers St., Manhattan.


The NYT reports federal prosecutors have begun presenting evidence to a grand jury considering a case against Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam. The focus of the federal investigation has been on Adam Skelos’ business dealings, and whether the senator used any of his influence to assist the companies for which his son works.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano was one of several Long Island politicians subpoenaed to testify last week before a federal grand jury looking into the Skeloses.

Yesterday’s “Fight for $15″ protest by tens of thousands of low-wage workers, students and activists in more than 200 American cities is the most striking effort to date in a two-and-a-half-year-old labor-backed movement that is testing the ability of unions to succeed in an economy populated by easily replaceable service sector workers.

Hillary Clinton tweeted her support of the “Fight for $15″ campaign, saying “every American deserves a fair shot at success.”

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who is mulling a 2016 White House run, said Clinton isn’t ready to confront the nation’s billionaires to address the rising income inequality issue. “Based on her record, I don’t think so,” Sanders said.

So far, Clinton’s Wall Street backers don’t seem terribly worried about her populist sentiments on the campaign trail.

Peter Kosinski, the Senate GOP’s counsel, has replaced James Walsh as the Republican co-chair of the state Board of Elections. The move comes the day before the board is scheduled to vote on whether to change its 1996 interpretation of LLCs as individuals for the purposes of calculating contribution limits.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s memoir has not burned up the best-seller list, but it earned him $376,667 in income last year. The governor’s tax returns, which his office made available to reporters, show that he made a total of $553,371, the largest chunk being book income, plus money he made on a blind trust, minus expenses.

So far, Cuomo has received $565,000 over the last two years for his book, which, has not sold as well as some other political memoirs. According to Nielsen, which tracks 85 percent of print sales, the memoir — released in October had sold 3,000 hardcover copies as of Sunday.

Tens of thousands of New York students refusing to take required English exams have not dissuaded the state Education Department from using those tests as the basis for school and teacher evaluations.

Federal education officials are hinting that New York public schools with high opt-out rates during this week’s standardized tests could face financial sanctions. But Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch warned Washington not to penalize students for a fight the grownups are having.

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Statewide, the anti-testing advocates said at least 100,000 students opted out of yesterday’s ELA tests – a number expected to grow significantly.

The tombstone of Hillary Clinton’s father, Hugh Rodham, was upturned in what Pennsylvania police say may have been an act of political vandalism.

The U.S. Capitol Police have arrested a single occupant of a gyro-copter that landed on the west lawn of t‎he U.S. Capitol. According to the Tampa Bay Times, a Florida mailman was trying to deliver a message on campaign reform to Congress.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on his early life as a boxer: “I’m not too sure all those blows I took to the head did me much good.”

Reid said the GOP presidential field is made up of “losers,” and also revealed that US Sen. John McCain once threatened to kick the “sh*#t” out of him.

US Attorney Loretta Lynch is still waiting to be confirmed as attorney general, and her allies – led by the Rev. Al Sharpton – are hoping a hunger strike will do the trick.

Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be the commencement speaker at St. John Fisher College on May 9. The college will give him an honorary degree of doctor of laws.

Trustees of Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox Jewish organization, told Brooklyn Democratic Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz he would be the target of a 2016 primary if the education investment tax credit doesn’t pass this session.

NJ Gov. Chris Christie covered a lot of ground – literally and figuratively – during his trip to the early presidential voting state of New Hampshire this week.

The Child Safe Products Act has two more sponsors in the state Senate – Republican Joe Robach of Rochester and Democrat (IDC member) David Valesky of Syracuse.

Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg shared the early-morning-coffee/get-ahead strategy from the early days of his career.

Freshman Long Island Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin reported that he raised $457,204 from January through March of this year, and that he now has $426,782 in the bank.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is proposing legislation that would require the entities administering tax check off funds to improve efforts to spend dedicated contributions within the year they were made and report how the money was spent to the public and state officials.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says the state and feds should bear the brunt of the cost for fixing local infrastructure – such as the city’s water system – which is why she’s not proposing a hike in local water rates.

Former Gov. David Paterson will be the keynote speaker at the Glens Falls NAACP branch scholarship fund gala at 6 p.m. April 25 at Queensbury Hotel in Glens Falls.

REBNY members and their firms gave $21.7 million in campaign contributions to state-level elections in the last cycle, accounting for more than 10 percent of the money that entered the campaign finance system.

Did NYC Public Advocate Tish James take a veiled dig at NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will her email endorsement of Clinton?

As usual, there are a number of New Yorkers on Out magazine’s 9th annual Power 50 list.

DiNapoli announced his office stopped $25.3 million in questionable or fraudulent personal income tax refunds from being paid so far in 2015. The comptroller’s office has audited and approved 5.1 million state refunds totaling $4.7 billion. More than 368,000 refunds totaling $386.9 million are expected to be paid in the coming days.

Capital NY will be rebranded and relaunched as POLITICO New York as part of an expansion at its Beltway-based parent company, which is gearing up to roll out new satellite publications across the U.S. and Europe.

Real estate developer Sonny Bonacio withdrew his application seeking tax breaks to finance a proposed $30 million renovation of the historic, empty Kenwood Convent in Albany into 125 luxury apartments.

NYC Public Advocate Backs ‘The Right Woman’ for the Presidency

NYC Public Advocate Tish James, who just yesterday seemed a little wishy-washy in her support for Hillary Clinton’s second White House run, this afternoon issued a full-throated endorsement of the former secretary of state, calling her the “right woman for the job.”

“I know that America’s tomorrow will be better with Hillary Clinton as our next President,” James wrote in an email sent to supporters this afternoon from her campaign committee, Letitia James 2017. “By electing Hillary as President, we will shatter the highest, hardest ceiling of them all.”

“Even more importantly, we will be electing a proven champion for working families and a leader with the experience and vision to move our country forward. I am proud to endorse Hillary for President and urge progressives everywhere to join us in supporting Hillary in 2016.”

Following NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s refusal to endorse Clinton right off the bat, and NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s reluctance to jump on the Clinton bandwagon, James seemed to back off her earlier pledge to endorse the former first lady in her 2016 quest for the presidency, telling the NY Observer:

“I think Hillary is absolutely fabulous and wonderful, and it would be really exciting, exciting to have a woman president, and I’m looking forward to that. And I have a number of questions for Hillary, and I’m looking forward to that conversation.”

James backed Clinton’s unsuccessful White House run in 2008, and had said – unlike some of her fellow New York Democrats contacted by Capital NY in January – that she would support the former US senator again.

In her email, James said she feels a “sense of urgency about the challenges we face as a nation” – especially income inequality, which is an issue about which the left is particularly concerned as Clinton mounts her second presidential bid.