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. The Legislature is on a two-week mid-winter break.

It’s going to be very, very cold today. Be careful.

At 9:15 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul addresses the New York State Association of Towns 2015 annual meeting, New York Hilton Midtown, 1335 Ave. of the Americas, Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., a wake will be held for NYT media critic David Carr, Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel, 1076 Madison Ave., Manhattan.

At 7:45 p.m., Office of New Americans Jorge Montalvo delivers a regional version of Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenga, Pleasant Plains, Princess Bay, Richmond Valley Civic Association, CYO MIV Community Center, 6541 Hylan Blvd., Staten Island.

Headlines…

If Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is looking for an ally in the governor against the uber-progressive agenda laid out by new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, he’s looking in the wrong place, according to Fred Dicker.

Senate Republicans have been warned by their counsel David Lewis not to “do anything stupid,” like talking to the FBI or other investigators without a lawyer present. “He said, ‘If someone knocks on your door, you don’t have to talk to them,'” a GOP senator told Ken Lovett.

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s three appointees to the JCOPE board — Paul Casteleiro, Marvin Jacob and Renee Roth — will serve at least through December amid a probe into his outside income.

Hoping to boost college access for low- and middle-income New Yorkers, Heastie outlined a series of initiatives his chamber will prioritize in the upcoming state budget talks. Though he supported the Education Investment Tax Credit in the past, he’s now re-evaluating based on his new position.

New York City has created more jobs over the past five years than during any five-year period in the last half century. But the city is not pulsing with the same boomtown swagger it radiated in past growth spurts. What’s missing? Wall Street.

US Sens. Chuck Schumer and Richard Blumenthal plan to introduce a bill to allocate an additional $50 million a year to a federal program for gates, lights and other safety improvements to rail crossings. The proposal would also provide more than $100 million a year for state grants and for a federal program that helps pay to relocate crossings.

Schumer is urging the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to add new synthetic drug chemical combinations to its list of banned controlled substances.

AG Eric Schneiderman introduced legislation in 2014 to protect communities against so-called zombie properties, but the effort never gained traction in the Legislature. Now Schneiderman is trying again, and he points to the worsening situation as the reason.

Schneiderman’s legislation would require banks to take responsibility for properties earlier in the foreclosure process and to notify homeowners of their right to stay in the property until ordered out by a judge.

NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and a delegation of 14 council members departed for Israel last night for an eight-day visit to the Jewish State. The trip will be paid for by the Jewish Community Relations Council and the UJA Federation of New York.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, ex-Sen. Al D’Amato, the late former Gov. Mario Cuomo and NJ Gov. Chris Christie are just a few of the boldfaced names discussing their Italian heritage in a new public television documentary, “Italian Americans of New York and New Jersey” that begins airing Sunday night.

De Blasio said he’ll “certainly consider” making a bid for the 2020 Democratic National Convention if he’s re-elected in 2017.

NYC shelled out $22.2 million – a five-year high – to supervisors who stockpiled vacation and comp days and cashed them in for payouts before retiring last year.

More >

The Weekend That Was

Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said that they will introduce a bill to increase federal funding for safety measures at rail crossings after a deadly crash at a Metro-North Railroad crossing this month.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made the trip up to Albany Saturday to praise newly elected Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who the mayor will need as a key ally during budget negotiations the upcoming months.

“When all is said and done I don’t want people to just say I was the first African-American speaker; I really want to be known as the speaker who got the work done and improved the lives of the people of the state of New York,” said Heastie.

US Attorney Preet Bharara told The Buffalo News that the evidence he has seen shows corruption is appallingly common throughout New York State – and not just in New York City. “It’s all over,” he said.

More than a dozen state legislators, legislative officials and other insiders interviewed by the Daily News give credit to Bharara for targeting Albany wrongdoing but are fuming over what they say is the powerful prosecutor’s publicity seeking, tarring of the entire Legislature, and wading into governance issues far beyond the scope of his office.

The Syracuse Post-Standard: “If it takes a late budget to get the attention of the Legislature and the public, so be it. Meaningful ethics reform must get done this session.”

IDC Leader Jeff Klein broke ties with his Bronx law firm, but as an equity partner, he’ll get a payout for his 33 percent share of the business. He’ll also receive future payments from his share of settlements or jury awards in cases he worked on that are resolved after Feb. 9.

The former president of Upstate Medical University used money from a $33 million fund set up to benefit Upstate’s medical school to pay his household expenses, according to a secret SUNY audit.

Laura Santucci, who served as de Blasio’s chief of staff before overseeing the city’s unsuccessful push for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, is taking a job with the United Nations in Rome.

The Philadelphia-based firm Shorr Johnson Magnus reportedly turned down an offer to work as one of the media consultants for Hillary Clinton when she runs.

Sen. Rand Paul wished Clinton a happy Valentine’s Day on Saturday by tweeting a parody Pinterest page dedicated to lampooning the potential Democratic presidential candidate.

Last Thursday, the same day Philadelphia won the Democrats’ next presidential nominating convention, Philly Mayor Michael Nutter signed into law a paid sick leave bill. Clinton tweeted her approval.

“How far will the Clinton family’s ties to moneyed interests complicate Hillary’s efforts to fashion a populist campaign built around the theme of defending the middle class?”

Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who is married to longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin, talked about the former secretary of state’s potential 2016 bid as “a member of the family in the dome of silence in the corner of the room.”

The Buffalo News: “If Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is taking a political risk by linking unconnected but controversial matters in his budget proposal, then more power to him.”

Newsday says Cuomo “ought to move, swiftly, to appoint a special prosecutor in the 2011 case of an unarmed cabdriver in Suffolk shot by an off-duty police officer from Nassau.”

Newsday also urges parents to take the governor’s side against the teachers unions in the education reform budget battle.

New York City’s streak of 12 days without a killing has ended. A 28-year-old Queens man died on Saturday from gunshot wounds he sustained on Friday, the police said.

Eight members of the de Blasio administration were granted permission last year to skirt residency laws and live outside New York City.

The government is proposing rules to usher in a new era in which small, commercial drones zipping through U.S. skies are a part of everyday life. It is likely to be two or three years before the rules are made final.

The FDNY responded to 30,290 calls last year for stalled elevators and people trapped inside lifts. The worst elevators in the city, outside of NYCHA, are in the apartment building at 561 W. 147th St., with 91 unresolved violations from the city Department of Buildings.

Bob McCarthy takes a look at how “life goes on” in the post-Silver-as-speaker era in the Assembly.

Michael Bloomberg’s representatives have asked the Aspen Institute not to distribute video of his Feb. 5 appearance in Aspen, where the three-term New York City mayor made pointed comments about minorities and gun control.

Cuomo says representatives from more than two dozen wineries across New York state are in Massachusetts for one of the premiere wine trade shows in the nation.

Tension at the Sunmount facilities for developmentally disabled people in Tupper Lake is on Cuomo’s radar.

New York’s pension fund for state and local government workers has risen to $181.7 billion following an investment return of 1.9 percent in its latest quarter, the state comptroller’s office reported.

The lawsuit seeking to force Cuomo to hold a special congressional election on Staten Island could hinge on a decision made in a similar case five years ago.

Cablevision agreed to a contract with the CWA for a Brooklyn branch of the company—concluding a bitter three-year battle that dragged in the National Labor Relations Board, the federal court system, the WFP, Congress members, the City Council and de Blasio.

Across the state, arrests for intoxication by alcohol or drugs dropped from 43,887 in 2013 to 41,752 last year. The numbers, combining felonies and misdemeanors, represent drivers age 16 and older who were fingerprinted at the time of arrest.

The Organization of Management/Confidential Employees has launched a letter-writing campaign to urge Cuomo “to accelerate his pay parity for M/Cs schedule and to allow participation in the parity program for all those promoted from bargaining unit positions to M/C jobs since 2009.”

The new leader of the 43North business plan competition wants to expand the scope of the contest during its second year.

Cuomo said that he expects the state Legislature to pass an oversight bill for the East Ramapo school district sometime between April and June.

Extras

GOP lawyers argued in federal court today that Cuomo must immediately allow a special election to replace former Rep. Michael Grimm, claiming the governor has failed to provide a valid reason for posposting such a vote.

NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said she’s “surprised” the IDC “suddenly finds public housing of interest.” She dismissed a recent report on the subject by the conference as “nothing new.”

…not suprisingly, Sen. Diane Savino had something to say about that. She called Mark-Viverito an “idiot” on Facebook.

Jim Maguire, the attorney who helped then-Gov. George Pataki greatly expand the powers of the governor over state legislators in the budget-making process, met this week with Cuomo administration lawyers.

State Education Department officials agree with Gov. Andrew Cuomo that the state should make “a close examination” of how a Massachusetts law allowing for state takeovers of underperforming schools is working there.

Hillary Clinton is worried that European governments are being “too wimpy” in dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin, London’s mayor Boris Johnson said.

New Yorkers are living longer, which is good news for the state’s 19.7 million residents. But for Cuomo, it’s triggering a budget headache

De Blasio is just now annonucing that Jerika Richardson, former spokeswoman for US Attorney Preet Bharara, joined his press shop six weeks ago.

Mike Bloomberg explains why he’s going back to India since shortly before the first time he was elected mayor of NYC in 2001.

Before he resigned as Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver gave three top staffers – Judy Rapfogel, Jim Yates and Mike Whyland – hefty raises.

All but a few members of NYC’s congressional delegation say they plan to attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress. Rep. Charlie Rangel isn’t going.

Wayne Barrett delves into potential avenues of investigation by US Attorney Preet Bharara into Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ outside business interests and relationships.

U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2018, said he would be willing to lift the state’s fracking ban if natural gas drilling can be proven safe.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg blames falling asleep at this year’s State of the Union address on not being “100 percent sober.”

Two more participants in the scheme to steal $9 million from the Met Council were sentenced today.

Vice President Joe Biden is in no rush to decide whether he’ll run for president in 2016, saying he’ll make up his mind “at the end of the summer.”

New York’s health-care exchange will allow people who apply for coverage by Sunday to finish the process by Feb. 28.

Jim Maisano, vice chair of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, said a complete ban on outside income for state lawmakers would be misguided.

Top GOP fundraisers will join Grover Norquist and Michael Bloomberg’s Partnership for a New Economy group on a conference call next week to push for comprehensive amnesty legislation.

Heart-shaped pizza!

Enck: Treating Climate Change Symptoms Is Not Enough

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo generally treads a very careful line when discussing climate change.

Generally speaking, the Democratic governor tries to avoid the debate over whether climate change exists – deeming that a “distraction” – in favor of addressing the symptoms of the disease (mostly in the form of extreme weather, which he calls the “new normal”) rather than its cause.

After the massive snowstorm that buried Buffalo earlier this winter, Cuomo told reporters he didn’t want to get into a “political debate” over what is causing the weather to go haywire.

“Forget the causes,” he said. “Is it global warming? Is it reliance on fossil fuels? Forget the causes. What is inarguable is the result.”

This approach is classic Cuomo.

The governor has always been more concerned about results than the hows and whys of getting there. If the process is messy, well, so be it. He’s convinced, and usually rightly so, that what the public really cares about is that government functions – and produces – on their behalf.

But this half-pregnant approach to climate change does not satisfy Cuomo’s critics. They say his refusal to address the contributions of fossil fuel reliance and other human factors to climate change is no better than those who outright challenge the science that the phenomenon exists in the first place.

Cuomo has made investments in clean energy – especially solar. And he also has focused state resources on adapting everything from mass transit to infrastructure to better prepare for the next big storm.

What’s more, he has advocated for lowering the total amount of carbon dioxide that companies may admit under a regional cap-and-trade program that regulates air pollution.

During a CapTon interview last night, I asked EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck about Cuomo’s symptomatic relief approach to climate change, and – without specifically criticizing him.

Enck said addressing the cause of climate change can’t be shunted aside “because you need a strategy to drive down carbon pollution, or else you’re going to have more Hurricane Sandys and more intense Hurricane Irenes.”

“There are kind of two areas,” she continued. “One is driving down carbon pollution, and then at the same time dealing with what a lot of people call resiliency or adaptation, and that is getting our communities ready to deal with the impacts of climate change – because it is here.”

“For a while, people were not wanting to deal with resiliency because it suggested we were giving up on on driving down carbon pollution. I think you’ve got to do both.”

“…You can’t leave, though, the issue of what’s causing climate change to the side, because you need to drive down the pollution so we don’t have these bigger problems.”

Enck also spoke of the Obama administration’s efforts to combat climate change by circumventing the GOP-controlled Congress and using the president’s executive powers.

And she sought to explain how Obama can be a champion of both natural gas drilling, which anti-fracking activists say contributes to climate change, and efforts to curb the pollution that’s having a negative impact on the planet.

The link to my full interview with Enck, who spoke last night at her alma mater, St. Rose, can be found below.

Here and Now

Happy Friday the 13th! Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Rockland County and New York City.

At 10 a.m., Cuomo discusses his 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Pascack Community Center, 87 New Clarkstown Rd., Nanuet.

Also at 10 a.m., NYS Environmental Facilities Corp. President & CEO Matt Driscoll delivers a regional version of Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda, SUNY Cortland Brockway Hall, Jacobus Lounge, 35 Graham Ave., Cortland.

Also at 10 a.m., NYS Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner and CEO Darryl Towns delivers a regional version of the 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Albany-Colonie Chamber of Commerce, 5 Commerce Dr. South, Albany.

Also at 10 a.m., NYC Mayor Bil de Blasio delivers remarks at the Department of Correction promotion and recruit graduation ceremony, Lehman College, Center for the Performing Arts, 250 Bedford Park Blvd. West, the Bronx.

At 11 a.m., OGS Commissioner RoAnn Destito delivers a regional version of the 2015 Opportunity Agenda, City Hall, 61 Church St., Amsterdam.

Also at 11 a.m., Brooklyn BP Eric Adams will host over 150 of the borough’s couples that have been together 50 years or more, in a celebration of 8,245 combined years of their love, Brooklyn Borough Hall, Community Room, 209 Joralemon St., Brooklyn.

Also at 11 a.m., climate change activists hold a news conference to call upon state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to rapidly divest the $180 billion pension fund of fossil fuel investments and invest in sustainable solutions, LCA Press Room, (130), LOB, Albany. (Rally and leafletting will follow outside the comptroller’s office, 110 State St., Albany).

At 11:30 a.m., Sen. David Carlucci discusses the IDC’s ethics reform package, outside the Rockland County Court House, 1 South Main St., New City.

At 1 p.m. Driscoll delivers his second speech of the day, Penn Yan Fire Department, 125 Elm St., Penn Yan.

At 1:45 p.m., de Blasio speaks at the NBA All-Star FIT Celebration Court, 439 West 49th St., Manhattan.

At 2 p.m., Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton delivers a regional version of the Opportunity Agenda, County Seat, 102 County View Dr., Lake Pleasant.

At 6 p.m., the 44th annual caucus weekend kicks off with a reception hosted by Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators Chair Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Convention Center, Albany.

At 9 p.m., Bronx BP Ruben Diaz Jr. holds a caucus weekend reception, Governor Ballroom, Albany Hilton, 40 Lodge St., Albany.

Headlines…

NYT media critic David Carr collapsed in the newsroom last night and died. He was 58.

In a memo to his staff, Times executive editor Dean Baquet called Carr “the finest media reporter of his generation, a remarkable and funny man who was one of the leaders of our newsroom. He was our biggest champion, and his unending passion for journalism and for truth will be missed by his family at The Times, by his readers around the world, and by people who love journalism.”

The difficulty of setting up a security zone in a largely residential neighborhood around the Barclays Center contributed heavily to the DNC’s decision to reject Brooklyn as a site for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and choose the more traditional Philadelphia instead.

Critics faulted NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio for pushing his home borough as the convention site over Manhattan, which has already played host to the event, proving it’s doable there. Others attributed the loss to Pennsylvania’s swing-state appeal, which New York doesn’t have.

Philadelphia is “a microcosm of the challenges Democrats face in putting together a winning coalition” for the White House in 2016.

Another problem: A convention in liberal Brooklyn might have brought protests from the left, where the Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, was vulnerable in 2008, and also raise questions about her ties to nearby Wall Street as the party tries to highlight a populist economic agenda.

A source told the Daily News that DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz worried about being upstaged by de Blasio if the convention was held in New York, where the mayor is trying to make a national name for himself as a progressive champion.

A group of Orange County school superintendents angry with Cuomo over a pending public education funding crisis “of his own making” are seeking a face-to-face meeting with the governor. Cuomo’s office had no comment about their request.

Cuomo is asking state education officials to do a detailed analysis of Massachusetts’ takeover program for failing public schools to determine the specific measures making it successful.

The Metro-North Railroad crash last week, in which six people were killed when a train plowed into a sport-utility vehicle at a grade crossing in Westchester County, N.Y., cast renewed attention on the constantly lurking danger posed by the mixing of cars, trains and human nature at the tens of thousands of rail crossings across the country.

Charlotte Forest, owned since the 1940s by the Kernan family, is endangered by the Constitution Pipeline, a $700 million, 124-mile conduit designed to transport natural gas from the Marcellus Shale fields of northeast Pennsylvania to Wright, N.Y., 80 miles southwest of Albany, where it will connect with two other pipelines to serve markets in New York and New England.

Cuomo made a rare trip to Plattsburgh to push his budget proposals and ethics reform agenda, and received both enthusiasm and skepticism.

The governor also brought his message to Utica.

The number of retired educators eligible for six-figure pensions nearly tripled between 2009 and 2014, according to a survey released by the Empire Center.

More >

Extras

US Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid had a second eye surgery as part of the continued recovery from the New Year’s Day exercise injury that mangled his face and left significant damage to his right eye. Sen. Chuck Schumer talked to Reid’s family, and reports the procedure went well.

The Cuomo administration is holding off on releasing budget amendments until next week.

Continuing corruption scandals in New York sank Mayor Bill de Blasio’s hopes of landing the 2016 Democratic presidential convention for Brooklyn.

…another obstacle: De Blasio’s tense relationship with the rank-and-file members of the NYPD. (The mayor’s office hotly disputed this).

The mayor raised over $6.5 million in the (failed) effort to land the convention. That money will be returned to donors.

NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito congratulated Philadelphia for winning the convention, and said she’s looking forward to the cheese steaks.

Cuomo has hired three members of the Assembly’s communications staff to fill similar positions in his second-term administration.

Legislative leaders are hoping to pass the state budget from March 23 through March 26 – days before a March 31 deadline. But is it an attainable goal or wishful thinking?

Meet Deputy NYC Mayor Tony Shorris, the most powerful New Yorker you’ve probably never heard of.

The NYS GOP’s financial situation has become so precarious in recent years that it is now third among the state’s central party committees in overall fund-raising.

The number of educators including administrators and teachers eligible for six-figure taxpayer-funded pensions has nearly tripled between 2009 and 2014, according to the Empire Center.

President Obama and the selfie stick in a BuzzFeed video. Because…YOLO.

How the New York Times works…with so many moving parts, it’s amazing they get a paper out every day.

The Glens Falls Post-Star: “If (Cuomo) wanted to help New York’s community colleges, he could start by increasing state aid for the colleges, which has been flat for years, rather than attaching strings to the aid the state does provide.”

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney is the lone New Yorker on the DCCC’s list of the 14 most vulnerable incumbents for the 2016 elections.

Sen. George Amedore has introduced Kenneth White’s Law.

Rep. Elise Stefanik announced the hiring of Courtney Carrow as her legislative assistant for military affairs.

The New York News Publishers Association is opposing a Cuomo budget proposal that would eliminate the requirement that constitutional amendments and ballot questions be published in local newspapers.

Cuomo to Fete Heastie at Caucus Weekend

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will host a brunch this Sunday at the executive mansion to celebrate the Black Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus and also honor new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie – the first African American ever to hold the highest leadership post in his chamber.

The event will correspond with the 44th annual conference weekend held by the state Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators.

According to an invite sent by the governor’s office, former Gov. David Paterson – the governor’s hand-picked state Democratic Party chairman – Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the first black woman legislative leader in Albany history; and Buffalo Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, chair of this year’s caucus weekend, will also be honored.

Caucus weekend is a must-do event for Democratic elected officials and candidates, and even for a few brave Republicans looking to curry favor with the key black and Latino voting blocs. It’s also traditional for the governor to announce some sort of policy and/or administration hire designed to please this particular constituency.

Last year, Cuomo announced a plan that would have used state funds to pay for college for prison inmates, arguing that the investment would save taxpayer dollars in the long run because incarceration is more expensive than education.

But the plan was never realized after it sparked a firestorm of criticism, led by Republicans and Conservatives, who said it would be unfair for taxpayers to foot the bill for prisoners to get educated when so many law-abiding New Yorkers are going deep into debt to finance their college careers.

Caucus weekend is always on Valentine’s Day weekend, and also always ends with a big – and very long – black-tie gala that has in the past drawn a wide variety of big name speakers. This year, the keynote address will be delivered by actor and civil rights activist Danny Glover.

Though he attended the gala in 2010 when he was the state attorney general preparing to run for governor – an awkward moment that saw him sharing a table with Paterson, who looked to be on a political collision course with Cuomo until he decided not to follow through with his plans to seek a full four-year term – Cuomo generally avoids the public portions of caucus weekend in favor of private events at the mansion where he has more control – both over the guest list and media access.

In 2011, Cuomo spoke at the gala and was interrupted by loud protests from one of his 2010 opponents, now-Assemblyman (then NYC Councilman) Charles Barron and his supporters, who were pressuring the governor to reconsider his opposition to extending the so-called “millionaire’s tax.” That’s something he no doubt would very much like to avoid experiencing again – especially now that Barron is in Albany.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Clinton and Oneida counties.

At 8 a.m., London’s deputy mayor for policing and crime, Stephen Greenhalgh, discusses law enforcement budgets, reductions in crime and technology during an event as part of the Citizens Crime Commission of NYC’s “Milstein Criminal Justice Policy Forum” series; Sea Level Cafe, Emigrant Savings Bank, 6 E. 43rd St., Manhattan.

At 8:10 a.m., NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito appears live on PIX11 Morning News.

At 9 a.m., actor Gbenga Akinnagbe, NYC Councilman Robert Corny and representatives of the groups Black Lives Matter and The Coalition for African Peace and Justice hold a news conference to call for federal officials to send humanitarian aid and take further action in response to attacks in Nigeria by supporters of the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram; steps, City Hall, Manhattan.

9:30 a.m. the Assembly Education Committee continues interviews for the Board of Regents, Assembly Parlor, Capitol, Albany.

At 10:30 a.m., Cuomo discusses his 2015 Opportunity Agenda, SUNY Plattsburgh, Angell College Center, 101 Broad St., Plattsburgh.

At 11 a.m., IDC Leder Jeff Klein, Sen. Adriano Espaillat and NYC Councilman Ritchie Torres unveil a joint investigative report detailing “deplorable” conditions in NYCHA buildings, and outline reform and funding plans for the agency, 250 Broadway, Room 2009, Manhattan.

At noon, NYS Office for the Aging Director Corinda Crossdale delivers a regional version of Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda speech, Town of Tonawanda Senior Center, 291 Ensminger Rd., Tonawanda.

At 12:30 p.m., OGS Commissioner RoAnn Destito delivers a regional version of Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Commerce Chenango, Northeast Classic Car Museum, 24 Rexford St., Norwich.

Also at 12:30 p.m., LG Kathy Hochul addresses the United Steelworkers Conference lunch, Holiday Inn, 441 Electronics Pkwy., Liverpool.

At 1 p.m., Cuomo discusses his 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Mohawk Valley Community College, Alumni College, Center Room 116, 1101 Sherman Dr., Utica.

Also at 1 p.m., Sen. Brad Hoylman, the Empire State Pride Agenda and the Coalition for Homeless Youth will be joined by elected officials and advocates to call for increased funding in the state budget for homeless youth shelters, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 1:15 p.m., Hochul tours the Sky Armory, 351 Clinton St., Syracuse.

At 3 p.m., community activist Jamaal Bailey, Kings County DA Kenneth Thompson and urban farmer Karen Washington will be honored by Bronx BP Ruben Diaz Jr. during an annual event marking the observance of “Black History Month”; Dreiser Loop Community Center, Co-op City, 177 Dreiser Loop, the Bronx.

At 7 p.m., Office for New Americans Director Jorge Montalvo delivers a regional version of Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Knights of Columbus Hall, Lincoln Shopping Center, 2985 Kenneth Pl., Oceanside.

Also at 7 p.m., EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck will address climate change, the scope of the problem, major steps that EPA is taking to fight climate change and tips on how people can help, The College of St. Rose, Thelma P. Lally School of Education, Touhey Forum, 1009 Madison Ave., Albany.

At 7:30 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray attend the “home going service” for Alfonso Bernard, Jr., Christian Cultural Center, 12020 Flatlands Ave., Brooklyn.

Headlines…

Never an easy collaboration, the relationship between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who describe themselves as friends, has become steadily more strained, according to close associates of both.

For four minutes, the NYPD police officer who had just fired his gun into a darkened housing project stairwell argued with his partner over whether to tell their superiors about the shot. “I’m going to be fired,” said the officer, Peter Liang, whose bullet killed Akai Gurley. Liang has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter.

While unveiling the six-count indictment against Liang, Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson said this case had nothing to do with the Michael Brown (Ferguson) or Eric Garner (Staten Island) cases.

A judge who since Sheldon Silver’s arrest has come under scrutiny for the sky-high damages that juries in her court have awarded to Weitz & Luxenberg clients recently slashed a record $190 million asbestos-poisoning payout to less than $30 million.

A legal ethics expert hired by Weitz & Luxenberg found Silver had a legitimate “of counsel” relationship to the firm, allowing it to give him unlimited referral fees without breaching professional conduct rules.

In her State of the City speech, NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito took aim at the “broken windows” approach to policing, proposing a significant easing of penalties for certain minor quality-of-life offenses like jumping turnstiles.

Republican Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, who has critics within her own party due to her close relationship with Cuomo, started 2015 with $656,000 in her campaign account and no opponent as she prepares to seek re-election this fall.

More >

Extras

Peter Liang, the NYPD officer who last year killed Akai Gurley, pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges in the death of the unarmed 28-year-old man.

Sen. John Defrancisco will almost double his base salary with his pension when he double dips this year.

A lobbying firm with close ties to new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and other minority politicians has been hired to push a controversial bill that would allow check cashers to make high-interest loans.

Mike Boland, who left the Working Families Party to run Zephyr Teachout’s gubernatorial campaign, has returned to the progressive organization.

Liberal organizations just won’t take “no” for an answer from US Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

New York politics has given Jon Stewart a lot of show fodder.

More on why Stewart is calling it quits now…and what might be next for him. (Spoiler alert: Likely not NBC’s Nightly News).

In her State of the City address, NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito proposed creation of a Civil Justice Coordinator and an Office of Labor.

UFT President Mike Mulgrew rallied teachers against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education reform proposals during a town hall meeting, asking them to prepare for a “tough road” ahead during budget negotiations.

Erstwhile Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Warren Redlich is making headlines in his new home state of Florida.

Mayor Byron W. Brown said his city is issuing a formal request for proposals as it looks for a consultant to help grow Buffalo’s film industry.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman John Bonacic discusses the dynamics during the confirmation hearings of Cuomo’s two newest Court of Appeals judges.

If she’s indeed looking for campaign HQ space in Brooklyn, Hillary Clinton’s options are limited.

One of the first bills passed by the state Assembly this session will help small farmers fight large agribusinesses that sue over seed patents.

Final disclosure reports for the 2014 midterms reveal at least 10 races where one House candidate – including ex-Reps. Dan Maffei and Tim Bishop and Sean Eldrirdge – outspent their opponent by more than $1 million – and still lost.

New York will lend a hand as Massachusetts continues to dig out from record-breaking amounts of snow that has fallen over the past couple of weeks.

Cuomo’s budget calls for a $10 million boost to the Environmental Protection Fund – to $172 million – and for using $5.7 million of that for invasive species control.

Cuomo’s executive budget earmarks $1.4 billion for healthcare infrastructure, yet details remain vague.

London Mayor Boris Johnson once described Clinton as a “sadistic nurse in a mental hospital,” but now only has nice things to say about her.

Ex-NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who performed with the Broadway casts of Mamma Mia!, The Phantom of the Opera and Hair in Inner Circle shows, will receive The Actors Fund’s Medal of Honor at its annual gala.

The nonprofit Open Space Institute announced the purchase of 135 acres of rolling farmland along the western edge of the Town of New Paltz.

Flanagan: Don’t Let Ethics Eclipse Education

From the Morning Memo:

Before the latest ethics reform craze swept the state Capitol in reaction to the Sheldon Silver corruption scandal, education was the top topic of debate among lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo made it clear long before he unveiled his 2015-16 budget – and even before the November 2014 elections – that he had the teachers unions in his crosshairs, and intended to break the so-called “monopoly” he believed is to blame for most of the public education system’s woes.

As promised, Cuomo included a host of aggressive education reform proposals in his budget. And he told lawmakers that if they accepted his overhaul plan in total, districts would receive $1.1 billion in aid instead of just $377 million.

This set the stage for an epic education budget battle – perhaps the biggest Albany has seen for some time.

But it’s taking place alongside the ethics reform fight. Cuomo has said this is now his top priority – something for which he might even be willing to shut down the government if lawmakers don’t accept his five-point plan to clean up Albany.

Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan said during a CapTon interview last night that while ethics reform is important, it shouldn’t distract lawmakers from the rest of the budget – and education in particular.

“I want to stay focused on what are our primary responsibilities,” Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, told me.

“Education is New York State’s number one obligation and responsibility, and I believe that’s dictated by virtue of our Constitution and a long historical perspective.”

“So, what we do on education – whether it’s funding or reform – has to be the focal point of the budget, and it has been for a long time.”

“Of course, there are great parallels to the health budget in large part because of federal funding. But New York State’s primary focus and obligation has to be on the proper and appropriate funding of education. The other issues…are real and they’re legitimate, and there’s going to be discussion on that.”

Flanagan is one of 16 state lawmakers who reported earning at least $100,000 from outside work in 2013. (Like a number of his Senate and Assembly colleagues, he’s an attorney).

The senator said yesterday that he does not support a full ban on outside income, which has been floated – though not formally proposed – by the governor, and endorsed by the IDC as part of a larger legislative reform package.

Flanagan said he believes Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, (also an attorney, whose outside income is reportedly the subject of a federal investigation), and the rest of the GOP conference will “support transparency and disclosure.”

But, Flanagan argued, a full ban on outside income would dramatically limit the Legislature’s talent pool, preventing anyone but career politicians and the very rich from entering public service.

“I believe there’s nothing wrong with people making money,” the senator said. “That’s one of the fundamental components of our democracy…I believe in government service…But I don’t think that should preclude me or anyone else from being able to earn money for our family.”

At the end of the day, Flanagan predicted that the Legislature and the governor will be able to come to a deal on an on-time budget that is “a good, solid product everyone can be proud of.”

But he allowed the process of getting there will likely be messy – to say the least.