Liz Benjamin

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Posts by Liz Benjamin

Here and Now

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

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, First Lady Chrilane McCray, will host and speak at the DNC 2016 NYC Breakfast in Manhattan. This event will be closed press.

At 8 a.m., state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli serves as keynote speaker and Rep. Carolyn Maloney speaks during an event titled “The Impact of Wall Street and the Congressional Power Shift on the New York Economy,” an annual presentation presented by BALCONY as part of the nonprofit organization’s breakfast series; The Ballroom, 4 W. 43rd St., Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., the Assembly will hold a public hearing to examine the operations of a new compliance unit created within the state Board of Elections as part of the SFY 2014-2015 budget, Assembly Hearing Room, 250 Broadway, Room 1923, 19th Floor, Manhattan.

At 10:20 a.m., Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson will be a special guest on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show to discuss his role as prosecutor, some past civil rights cases and his reflections on recent events. Tune in at WNYC 93.9 or at www.WNYC.org.

At 11:30 a.m., the Assembly holds a hearing on agriculture, Hearing Room B, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

At 1 p.m., Assemblyman Keith Wright and an attorney representing relatives of the late Rasheen Rose who died in 2012, at the state-run Bernard Fineson Developmental Center in Queens participate in a news conference and protest march, organized by the Justice for Rasheen Rose Committee; Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building, 163 W. 125th St., Manhattan.

At 2 p.m., a hearing in the corruption case of former Queens Councilman Dan Halloran, White Plains Federal Court.

At 2:30 p.m., de Blasio holds a public hearing and signs intros 216-B, 493-A, 356-A and 361-A, Blue Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 3:30 p.m., “Prayer, Praise & Peace for Protest: A Prophetic Response to Violence” – an event featuring numerous clergy that was organized to protect the Eric Garner grand jury decision, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 7:30 p.m., former NYC Mayor David Dinkins portrays himself in the opening performance of the East Harlem Repertory Theatre Company’s production of a play titled “Mandela, The Premier”; The National Black Theatre, 2031-33 Fifth Ave., Manhattan.

Headlines…

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said a legislative special session – and a pay hike for state lawmakers – is hung up on the unwillingness of senators and Assembly members to consider changes to the state’s campaign finance system.

Cuomo is also seeking a cap on how much lawmakers earn in outside income. “I am saying I want more,” the governor told reporters of his discussions with legislative leaders. “They are saying they are not prepared for more, and that’s sort of where we are.”

Might a post-Christmas session be in the offing? “The deadline is December 31,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “There are a lot of issues that are involved beyond salaries. We have a one-time budget surplus and how do we deal with that, and make sure we have one-time expenditures to match that.”

Silver confirmed he’s running his own private law practice as part of his outside income that totaled as much as $750,000 in 2013. The speaker insisted he discloses “everything” he’s earning outside his public paycheck.

Cuomo announced $19.7 million in economic development funding for tech-centric projects at the fourth round of Regional Economic Development Council funding awards.

Western New York, already the beneficiary of Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion initiative, received $58.6 million in funding for 69 projects – the smallest of the 10 regional awards. The focus was heavy on public works and environmental projects.

Downtown development was the big winner in the Capital Region, receiving $60 million in the competition for state funding.

As in previous years, New York City received one of the smaller grant packages, with $61.2 million for 71 projects. The mid-Hudson area was awarded the largest, $82.8 million, for 118 projects, including $3.1 million for the Legoland park, slated for the Rockland County town of Haverstraw.

Nassau County Legislator and former Senate candidate David Denenberg will plead guilty to federal mail fraud charges – a decision that is likely to set off a scramble for his seat, in a district in which GOP voters outnumber Democrats.

Denenberg, whose former law firm accused him of billing clients $2 million for services never delivered, was expected to enter his guilty plea yesterday, but his hearing was postponed until January.

Federal prosecutors investigating the lane closings at the George Washington Bridge last year are considering charges based on a rarely used provision of a fraud statute, under which they could argue that associates of Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey used the bridge for a purpose other than its intended one.

Erica Garner held a vigil and “die-in” on Staten Island yesterday in memory of her father, the 43-year-old who died while being taken into NYPD custody earlier this year.

The newly created White House panel on policing will consider establishing a national repository that tracks all manner of civilian deaths at the hands of law enforcement officers.

Whoever replaces departing state Education Commissioner John King will occupy a now very prominent post, where he or she will have to juggle numerous contentious issues, including testing, teacher evaluation and training, and charter schools.

Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch said she will lead a “good, honest, honorable”—and confidential—national search for the next state education commissioner. “I do not plan to comment about the search, ever,” she insisted.

More >

Extras

Bob Hardt: “(T)he second floor in the Capitol is starting to resemble the final days in Nixon’s bunker- with longtime Cuomo aide Joe Percoco playing the part of the ultimate loyalist, Al Haig.”

A correspondent for Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” disrupted a press conference in the Bronx this morning to embarrass NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio for declining to appear on the show. (Transcript here).

New Jersey voters say that America isn’t ready for one of their own as the commander-in-chief, and would pick Hillary Clinton in 2016 over their state’s governor, Chris Christie.

GOP strategist Karl Rove says Clinton has long lacked a “core message” and is “at best a mediocre presidential candidate.”

Clinton is reportedly considering the nitty-gritty details of how and when to organize a campaign amid signs that she will postpone making things official until later in 2015 than expected.

Dozens of congressional staff members walked out of the Capitol this afternoon in a show of support for protesters angered by the Michael Brown and Eric Garner grand jury decisions.

“SantaCon,” an annual bar crawl in which participants dress as Santa Claus, is scaling back this year to make room for protesters against police violence.

Seth Lipsky defends the grand jury process, which many on are seeking to change since the Brown and Garner decisions.

Sen. Diane Savino dismissed Queens Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley’s allegations of sexual discrimination in hiring at the FDNY, arguing that most women are uninterested – and even  unfit – to become firefighters.

Toll hikes on the state Thruway and the new Tappan Zee Bridge could be offset by state subsidies, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Assemblyman Jim Tedisco is calling for public hearings on any proposed toll hike, and wants to use the $5 billion financial settlement windfall to offset any increases.

The chairman of the New York City Council’s sanitation committee wants to adopt a “pay-as-you-throw” system to incentivize recycling.

State Education Commissioner John King gave a farewell speech, telling educators his new job in D.C. is an opportunity to “build on the work we have done together” in New York.

NYPIRG and Common Cause called for “decisive, comprehensive action” on a package of reforms should the Legislature convene for a special session.

Pataki propaganda exists.

Ed Skyler, ex-NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s former deputy mayor for operations, has been elected chairman of the Citizens Budget Commission.

The state DOH declared influenza prevalent in New York, which means health-care workers who are not vaccinated against influenza must now wear masks when they are in contact with patients.

Former CFB head Fritz Schwartz, writing in the New York Law Journal, says the special prosecutor investigating the WFP should “stand down” and let the CFB continue with its audit of the party.

Dollar Day at the New York State Fair last summer paid off. Big time.

President Obama supports legalization of the recreational use of marijuana in the nation’s capital as approved by D.C. voters in a November referendum.

A federal effort to help states expand their newborn health screening programs, which became law after a push from retired Buffalo Bills great Jim Kelly and his wife, Jill, will continue for another five years

Cuomo Seeks Federal Disaster Declaration for 9 WNY Counties

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today that he is asking the Obama administration to issue a major disaster declaration for nine Western New York counties that sustained significant damage during last month’s snowstorm and subsequent flooding.

The counties – Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Jefferson, Lewis, Orleans, St. Lawrence and Wyoming – together had more than $46.6 million in response costs and infrastructure damage verified as a result of the storm that rocked the region from Nov. 18-26, dumping just over seven feet of snow in some areas.

According to the governor, the highest snow accumulation of 88 inches was reported in Cowlesville, Wyoming County. Several locations in Erie County exceeded 50 inches, with Cheektowaga recording 65 inches of snow and Hamburg recording 79.8 inches. Snow fall rates from this storm were as much as six inches per hour in the Buffalo area.

Cuomo noted that a disaster declaration is the next step toward getting financial assistance from the federal government, which requires a $27.3 million damage threshold to qualify for aid.

“Once again, extreme weather came to New York and once again New Yorkers came together to help our neighbors in their time of need,” Cuomo said in a press release, (issued smack in the middle of the regional economic development council awards ceremony).

“The state, working with communities from every corner of New York, mobilized an unprecedented response to the storm that struck Western New York and the North County. As we continue the recovery process, federal assistance is critical to helping these communities and their residents move beyond this storm and prepare for the rest of the upcoming winter season.”

The governor said that a total of 14 fatalities and six injuries were attributed to the storm, and more than 370 roofs were damaged and 38 structures completely destroyed due to the weight of the considerable snow accumulation. In rural communities, barn collapses killed and injured livestock, including cattle and horses, and dairy farmers were forced to dump more than 250,000 pounds of milk.

Damages to the agricultural industry alone are estimated at more than $15 million, Cuomo said.

The governor requested technical assistance in the form of a joint State-FEMA Preliminary Damage Assessment, which was initiated Dec. 1. The results of that assessment validated state and county expenditures on storm response and recovery. In the wake of the storm, Cuomo said a number of smaller communities wiped out their entire snow removal budgets for the year just responding to this single event.

Additionally, Cuomo said he has requested a Physical Disaster Declaration from the Small Business Administration for low interest loans. Eligible applicants could receive homeowner physical disaster home loans (homeowners and renters), physical disaster business loans (businesses and non-profits), and economic injury business loans for small businesses.

Assembly Churn Could Lead Fight Over Leadership Posts

From the Morning Memo:

An interesting side note to the pay raise debate…

A downstate Assembly member predicted that if lawmakers don’t see their base pay increased, it will intensify the already considerable competition for leadership posts and committee chairmanships in that chamber.

“There will be a bloodbath” for the two top posts currently available – speaker pro tempore and assistant speaker, this lawmaker predicted.

Those titles were held by Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, of Long Island, and Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs, of Brooklyn, respectively, both of whom decided not to seek re-election this fall.

The positions carry big stipends, known as “lulus” in Albany parlance: $25,000 for assistant speaker and $22,000 for speaker pro tempore. That’s a lot, especially when you consider the fact that the average chairmanship carries a lulu of “just” $12,500.

Two committee chairs are vacant at the moment: Aging, which was held by Brooklyn Assemblywoman Joan Millman; and Environment, which was held by Long Island Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, of Long Island.

Both Millman and Sweeney opted not to run for re-election.

There has already been considerable speculation about who might be elevated by Silver, but he – as usual – is playing his cards close to the vest.

If Silver decides to tap a member who already has a committee to fill one of these vacancies – say, Manhattan Assemblywoman Deborah Glick to replace Sweeney, as has been mentioned – then that member’s chairmanship (in Glick’s case, Higher Ed) will open.

This will touch off a process known in the Assembly as “churn,” in which lower ranking members move up the food chain and perhaps land a committee of their own.

This is a hot topic in the Assembly Democratic conference, where, unlike in the Senate, which has far fewer seats, there are not enough lulus to go around.

A decision from Silver will likely come in January – perhaps in the middle of the month. The speaker doesn’t like to be rushed when it comes to issues of member management.

New Wrinkle In Pay Raise Talks (Updated)

From the Morning Memo:

Officially speaking, there are no formal negotiations taking place about a legislative pay raise – the first since 1999 – and what the governror might be interested in trading for that.

But it has been clear for some time that those talks are indeed taking place, and, according to multiple sources, that is occurring at the highest possible level.

(In other words, with direct conversations between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders, and not just among staffers for the three men in the proverbial room).

Officially speaking, no numbers have been floated as far as how big a raise lawmakers might be seeking.

But it has also been clear for some time that those who have been calling the longest and the loudest for an increase in their $79,500 base legislative salaries hail from downstate, where the cost of living is highest.

The starting salary for a New York City Council member is $112,000, which has been mentioned by state legislators as a figure they, too, would very much like to obtain – at the very least.

But a boost of that size – or even to just under $100,000, so as to not break that ugly six-figure mark – would make New York’s Legislature the most highly compensated in the nation.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, California lawmakers currently make the most, with a base annual salary of $90,526. Pennsylvania comes in second at $84,012. New York ranks third.

New York is also up there when it comes to per diems, though Alaska, (where the base pay is $50,400) comes in highest at $234 per day.

Imagine this headline: New York lawmakers raise own bottom lines, become highest paid in the nation.

Even with whatever reforms the governor manages to wring out of legislative leaders, that one’s not going to play terribly well.

It especially won’t sit well with the New York Times, which has been hammering Cuomo for failing to make good on (in the Gray Lady’s eyes, anyway) his 2010 pledge to clean up Albany, and for pulling the plug early on his anti-corruption Moreland Commission.

The Times reported earlier this week that Cuomo is trying to drive a hard reform bargain with lawmakers in exchange for their pay raise, and won’t sign off on anything until he’s satisfied those changes are “significant.”

Now, one could argue that the Times is probably never going to be satisfied with the level of reform to which legislative leaders are likely to agree. And it will be Cuomo who will bear the brunt of the paper’s wrath, since lawmakers can’t really sink much lower in the editorial board’s esteem.

As we’ve noted in previous memos, Cuomo could benefit from a legislative pay raise himself, since it’s tied to his own salary, not to mention the salaries of his top commissioners and second floor aides.

It’s no secret the governor has been having a tough time attracting top talent to work for him in Term II, and perhaps a boost in the salaries he’s able to offer would sweeten the deal for potential new employees.

Today might be the make-or-break moment for a legislative pay raise. Cuomo and the leaders are due in town for the regional economic development grant awards, postponed from yesterday due to the weather.

It’s widely expected that the three will get together for a leaders meeting after the noon event at The Egg.

A special session, if it’s called, would likely have to take place next week – most likely Monday.

But one lawmaker told me Tuesday or Wednesday is also a possibility, even though Chanukah starts at sundown Tuesday, complicating matters for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, an observant Jew.

After that, you’re cutting things pretty close with the Christmas/New Year’s holiday season and pre-session vacations.

UPDATE: A Cuomo administration source emailed to correct me on the question of the governor’s own salary, which is not set in a pay bill, but rather by a joint resolution of the two houses of the Legislature, as laid out in the state Constitution.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany and New York City.

At 10 a.m., as the NYC Council’s Committee on Education hold a hearing on “Diversity in New York City Schools,” alumni from the city’s specialized high schools, community and minority advocates and government officials hold a news conference calling for an increase the number of minority teenagers in those schools; City Hall steps, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., the New York City Campaign Finance Board members hold a public meeting; boardroom, 12th floor, 100 Church St., Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., Sen. David Carlucci’s Veteran’s Advisory Committee will be meeting to discuss legislation they will be supporting in this upcoming legislative session, VFW Ramapo Post 2973, 16 Ramapo Ave., Suffern.

Also at 10 a.m., the Assembly will hold a public hearing to review and assess the impact of the 2014-15 SFY Budget on the NYS Department of Transportation (DOT) Two-Year Capital Program, Roosevelt Hearing Room C, LOB, Albany.

At 10:30 a.m., activists from NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign” and the group Transportation Alternatives discuss NYC bus routes the groups consider to be the slowest and most unreliable, during an annual “Pokey and Schleppie awards” news conference; First Avenue and 79th Street, Manhattan.

Also at 10:30 a.m., the PSC meets, 19th Floor Board Room, 3 Empire State Plaza, Albany.

Also at 10:30 a.m., actor Alan Alda delivers opening remarks and the president and chief executive of the Liberty Science Center museum in Jersey City Paul Hoffman hosts the presentation of the $200,000 “Stony Brook University Discovery Prize” to one of four professors selected as finalists; Simons Foundation, 160 Fifth Ave., Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., during a briefing about implementation of the state’s electronic health record system, “SHIN-NY,” Healthix Inc. executives, Maimonides Medical Center’s senior vice president of integrated delivery systems, Oscar Insurance Corp. executives and acting state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker are scheduled to speak; conference room 1301, Smilow Research Building, NYU Langone Medical Center, 550 First Ave., Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., NYC Public Advocate Tish James holds a public hearing on the economic and social impacts of the proposed Time Warner Cable/Comcast merger, CUNY School of Journalism, 19 West 40th St., Room 308, Manhattan.

At 11:15 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and Timothy Cardinal Dolan will break ground at Artsbridge, a community housing development with 61 apartments for low-income seniors, a press conference will follow, corner of West 172nd Street and Plimpton Avenue, the Bronx.

At noon, Cuomo attends the 2014 regional economic development council awards, Hart Theatre, Egg Center for Performing Arts, Empire State Plaza, Albany.

Also at noon, Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel and Sen. Daniel Squadron, Manhattan DA Cy Vance Jr., advocates from New Yorkers Against Gun Violence and high school teenagers call for state lawmakers to pass additional gun control measures during an event marking this week’s second anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 1:30 p.m., DA Vance appears on Ronan Farrow Daily, MSNBC.

At 3:30 p.m., thousands of unionized construction workers, including Gary LaBarbera, president of Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, will protest against unsafe worksite conditions on JDS Development Group’s NYC projects, 111 West 57th St., Manhattan.

At 6 p.m., Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried will be honored as “Legislator of the Year” by the Public Health Association of New York City at its annual gala at the Interchurch Center, 475 Riverside Dr., Manhattan.

Headlines…

Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke privately with hip-hop magnates Russell Simmons and Jay Z yesterday to hear their appeals for reforms on investigating police misconduct following a grand jury decision not to indict an NYPD officer in the death of Eric Garner.

Simmons said Cuomo pledged to order that special prosecutors, rather than local district attorneys, handle cases of alleged police brutality. But the governor’s spokeswoman said a “range of options” about reform had been discussed.

Simmons said protests will continue “until this whole list is achieved,” referring to a 10-point plan which included “immediate” passage of the Right to Know Act in the New York City Council, which Mayor Bill de Blasio does not support, and an “end” to Broken Windows policing.

The TU endorses AG Eric Schneiderman’s request for an executive order giving his office temporary jurisdiction over cases in which unarmed civilians are killed by police officers.

The NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau has started its investigation into the Garner case.

Officer Daniel Pantaleo was interviewed by IAB for two hours, and said he did not use a chokehold, bur rather a takedown maneuver, and contact with Garner’s neck was accidental.

African American Congressional staffers are planning a protest on the U.S. Capitol steps this afternoon, disrupting their workday to speak out against the Garner and Michael Brown grand jury decisions.

The NYT says Cuomo can “make a real difference” in the short term by vetoing a police misconduct bill passed by the Legislature this past session. He rejected a similar measure in 2012.

The UFT plans to send busloads of protesters to the Rev. Al Sharpton’s anti-cop rally in Washington, DC, this weekend — despite the fury it sparked by co-sponsoring a similar march over the summer.

State Education Commissioner John King is headed to the nation’s capital to be a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

NYSUT: “We hope (King) has learned from his stormy tenure in New York State and look forward to working collaboratively and productively with the Regents to improve public education going forward.”

More >

Regents To Launch Search For King Next Week

The state Education Department just issued a statement officially announcing the departure of Commissioner John King, who has accepted a position in Washington as senior advisor to US Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and will be leaving his state post at the end of the month.

“I’m humbled and honored to have the chance to work with President Obama and Secretary Duncan,” King said in the SED press release. “Their extraordinary leadership is helping students all across the nation get better prepared for college and careers. I’m excited to become part of that team.”

“I’m also humbled and honored to have had the opportunity to work with Chancellor Tisch, all the members of the Board of Regents and the dedicated professionals at the State Education Department. We have accomplished great things for New York’s students. As a kid whose life was saved by the incredible teachers I had in public schools in Brooklyn, I’m proud to have served my fellow New Yorkers.”

The Board of Regents will waste no time in looking for King’s replacement. A search committee will launch next week, according to Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch.

Tisch pledged a “a smooth and efficient transition,” noting that there is “strong leadership team” in place at SED that will keep things running in the short term. In the long term, the chancellor said, the board is seeking a new commissioner who will “continue to advance the Regents Reform Agenda and support our districts as they implement higher standards to ensure all of our students graduate ready for college and careers.”

Tisch, who has been a steadfast King supporter, called the outgoing commissioner “a remarkable leader in a time of true reform.”

“He spent every moment working to open the doors of opportunity for all our students – regardless of their race, or zip code, or their immigration status,” she continued. “John has transformed teaching and learning, raising the bar for students and helping them clear that bar.”

“In classrooms all across the state, teachers and students are rising to the challenge of higher standards. The positive impact of John King’s work in New York will be felt for generations. We’ll miss his wisdom, his calm leadership and his remarkable courage. But New York’s loss is the country’s gain. He’ll be a powerful force for educational opportunity in Washington.”

Extras

Former Gov. Mario Cuomo was released from the hospital about a week ago, according to Chris Cuomo. The governor’s spokeswoman declined to comment.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced tractor trailer bans on portions of I-90, I-81, I-390 and I-690 due to the snow.

The Thruway Authority’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts Jan. 1 suggests that tolls could grow by as much as 5 percent in 2015, and by as much as 44 percent by 2018.

“(A)fter factoring in projected natural growth in base tolls and other revenues, 92 percent of the projected net ‘toll target’ increase by 2018 will be necessary to pay” for the new Tappan Zee, according to EJ McMahon.

In a blow to US Attorney Preet Bharara’s aggressive prosecution of insider trading cases, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the conviction of two traders, saying they were too far removed from the privileged information.

Congress is set to pass Rep. Tom Reed’s legislation creating 15 “manufacturing innovation hubs” across the country, and he hopes that one of those factory job generators will end up in his Southern Tier district.

Banking giant Investec apologized for a research paper it published using the headline “I can’t breathe” to describe state and federal efforts to crack down on British bank Standard Charter.

Success Academy C.E.O. Eva Moskowitz hopes to have 100 schools in her New York City charter school network within the next decade, and predicted another battle with the de Blasio administration over space.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio called the late Herman Badillo’s widow last night to offer his condolences for the political trailblazer’s death. (He skipped the funeral to go to the gym).

Pro-gun lawyers and a federal appeals court judge questioned an aspect of the SAFE Act, saying its mandate that gun owners load only seven bullets into magazines with a 10-bullet capacity seems unenforceable.

The NYC Campaign Finance Board is set to hammer NYCLASS with fines related to two City Council campaigns, but the powerful animal rights group is blaming their old consultant for the alleged wrongdoing.

Congresswoman-elect Elise Stefanik has been appointed to the House Armed Services and Education and the Workforce committees.

Ebola fighters are TIME magazine’s “person” of the year.

Former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean says he’ll support Hillary Clinton if she runs in 2016.

Clinton is the top choice of millionaires to be president in 2016, according to a CNBC poll.

Former Alaska governor and 2008 VP candidate Sarah Palin’s thoughts on 2016: “I’d love to see a women, on both sides of the aisle, shooting for that top spot.”

The state pension fund lost $346,000 by mistakenly sending a retired New Castle police officer monthly checks for 28 years after his death.

The federal government may reimburse New York City for the more than $20 million  incurred in expenses related to the treatment and prevention of the Ebola outbreak, US Sen. Chuck Schumer said.

One former prosecutor in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office agrees that a special counsel should be appointed for such cases if the public’s faith is to be restored in the criminal justice system.

The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission approved an application to construct a new penthouse atop 45 East 66th St. despite the objection of a well-known resident: Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

NJ Gov Chris Christie will travel to Iowa next month to attend the Iowa Freedom Summit hosted by Rep. Steve King and outside group Citizens United.

SED Commissioner John King Headed to DC (Updated)

State Education Commissioner John King, who has had a tumultuous tenure since he was unanimously appointed by the Board of Regents in May 2011, is poised to announce he’s leaving for a job in the Obama administration, TWC News has confirmed.

The commissioner will be taking a job as the second-in-command at the US Department of Education, headed by Arne Duncan.

Duncan defended King during a visit to New York in April, calling him a “remarkable leader” and “as smart and as thoughtful as anyone working in this space.” At the time, there was a full-throated opposition mounting against King – with some, including NYSUT and several state lawmakers – calling for his resignation due to what was widely perceived as the botched rollout of the controversial Common Core curriculum.

Duncan, like King, has been a champion of the Common Core. At one point, Ducnan said he found it “fascinating” that much of the outcry over the new standards was coming from “white suburban moms who - all of a sudden - their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”

King was 36 at the time of his appointment, making him among the youngest of the nation’s education leaders. He was the clear front-runner for the job since his predecessor, former Commissioner David M. Steiner, announced in April 2011 that he would resign. He had a compelling personal story – losing both of his parents at the age of 12, and then going on to have a meteoric career in the education field, co-founding a top charter middle school in Massachusetts, and leading Uncommon Schools, a network of charters based in New York.

King, a New York native who attended Harvard, credited his success to a good education, and often spoke about her personal experience to illustrate the need to provide high quality schools in all parts of the state, but especially in high-needs communities, and also to have high expectations of students and their capability for achievement.

King’s charter school background made him suspect to make public school teachers and advocates. Aside from the Common Core controversy, which was the biggest of his tenure at SED, he also touched nerves on issues like teacher performance evaluations and a new teacher certification system.

Throughout all the upheaval, King found a staunch ally in Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch. The two often appeared together, and gave joint interviews to news organizations (including this one).

The state education commissioner is one of the few top positions in Albany that is not controlled by the governor. The Regents, who are elected by the Legislature (a procedure dominated by the Democrat-controlled Assembly), will determine King’s successor.

UPDATE: While we’ve been told a formal announcement from King and/or SED is imminent, we’ve received the first statement in response to the news that the commissioner is departing. It’s a glowing testament from StudentsFirstNY, who is a pro-charter organization.

“John King is leaving behind an extraordinary legacy,” said StudentsFirst NY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis. “John King showed that if you raise standards in a smart way, students will rise to the challenge. It’s no wonder he’s been tapped for a national post. New York’s loss is the nation’s gain. John King is one of the most respected educators in the country and will build on his New York successes.”

AG Backs Special Session For Police Reform Action

From the Morning Memo:

Though he is seeking short-term jurisdiction over cases in which unarmed civilians are killed by police officers, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says he believes the governor and lawmakers should act sooner rather than later to reform the entire criminal justice system.

“I think a special session would be great,” the AG said during a CapTon interview last night. “I think it’s important to show that we take this seriously, to address it.”

“We are ambitious and we have been for a long time,” Schneiderman continued. “I think it’s important for us to show leadership on this issue…this is not a situation where we don’t have empirical evidence on what criminal justice policy is. We have it; we just have to follow it.”

Schneiderman later said he sees the current conversation sparked by the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases as a “national movement” for change, adding: “I think we need clarity, and I think we need action. And this is action we can take now.

Schneiderman has said that the executive order he’s seeking from Cuomo giving his officer the power to investigate and prosecute these cases should expire when the governor and legislative leaders reach a reform agreement.

The AG said that he believes the changes should be widespread because “the law in this area is messed up beyond what most New Yorkers understand.”

But he declined to say specifically what should be done, refusing to take a position on any of the bills that already exist or legislation floated in the wake of the Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to bring criminal charges against an NYPD officer in Garner’s chokehold death.

The AG also refused to say whether he supports the grand jury decision.

“I’m passing no judgement on that, and honestly, I think it’s unfair for anyone to pass judgement on that because we don’t know what happened in the grand jury,” he explained.

Schneiderman said his request, which Cuomo’s office has under review, will “compel the Legislature to act,” though he also noted change is often slow to come to Albany – especially on controversial issues like police training and oversight.

The AG said communication between himself and the governor on this issue has so far been limited to the staff level. He also defended his decision not to give a heads-up to the state’s district attorneys before going public with his request, insisting that he did not intend to offend or impugn them.

Schneiderman is not alone is saying this issue should be dealt with in a special session – should one occur between now and the regularly scheduled session in January.

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins yesterday said she hopes no special will take place without addressing grand jury and police reforms – an about-face from her comments on CapTon last week, when she said she didn’t believe there was enough time to put together any agreements.

The Senate Democrats have proposed appointing a special prosecutor to review any deaths of unarmed civilians involving police officers. They are also calling for additional funding in the 2015-16 budget for police body cameras.

Stewart-Cousins said she could support the AG’s request for jurisdiction until a long-term legislative solution can be found.