Liz Benjamin

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Klein Stops Short of Calling for Skelos’ Ouster

IDC Leader Jeff Klein, whose breakaway Democratic conference has a relationship – though no longer a power-sharing deal – with the Senate Republicans, issued a statement calling the corruption charges outlined today by the US attorney against Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos “serious and distburing,” but did not join fellow Democrats in calling for the senator to give up his leadership post.

“Elected officials must be held to the highest standards of conduct if they are to effectively represent their constituents and the people of New York,” Klein said. “The burden now falls on the Republican Conference to determine if new Republican Leadership is warranted.”

“The Independent Democratic Conference believes that it is our duty to continue the people’s business in spite of these developments and regain the people’s trust.”

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Deputy Minority Leader Mike Gianaris have both issued calls for Skelos to relinquish his majority leader post following his arrest – along with his son, Adam – this morning.

Two years ago, Klein denied the Democrats majority control of the Senate by entering into first-ever power-sharing deal with Skelos, which effectively allowed the Republicans to maintain control of the chamber. For two years, Klein and Skelos were co-leaders – a situation that so angered some Democrats (especially the left, who were infuriated by the lack of action on so-called “progressive” policy issues) that they mounted unsuccessful primary challenges against Klein and one of his fellow IDC members, Sen. Tony Avella, this past fall.

Both Klein, who was challenged by former AG Oliver Koppell; and Avella, who ran against former NYC Comptroller John Liu; survived their respective primaries. But the Republicans managed to win a clean 32-seat majority last fall, which was bolstered by Brooklyn Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder’s continued allegiance to the GOP conference.

Though he had appeared to pledge before the elections to return to the Democratic fold – an effort Gov. Andrew Cuomo professed to support, in exchange for the Working Families Party endorsement – Klein decided against re-joining a minority conference, and he struck a deal with Skelos in which the IDC continued to exist as a separate conference, albeit with considerably less power than before.

As CapCon’s Matt Hamilton aptly points out, if the Senate Republicans decide to try to replace Skelos with another member of their conference, they’re going to have a bit of a tough time doing it, thanks to the ongoing illness of Senate Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous, who is recovering in Florida from back-to-back surgeries connected to his fight with terminal cancer; and the absence of Sen. George Amedore, who have been recovering from back surgery.

The Republicans need 32 votes to elect a replacement for Skelos, and there’s nothing in the rules that addresses voting by proxy. Also, Klein & Co. have never voted for a Republican for leader. (NOTE: They did vote for Skelos as co-leader of the last session, in which he shared power with Klein). The last time out – this past January, that is – all five IDC members voted for Klein.

Astorino: Skelos Should Be ‘Noble,’ Step Down As Leader

In the wake of the arrest of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos on federal corruption charges this morning, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the 2014 GOP gubernatorial candidate, issued a statement expressing “confidence” that the Long Island lawmaker “will do the right thing and promptly resign his leadership position.”

“That is the noble course of action, and I know he will take it,” Astorino said. “Senator Skelos and his son, Adam, can then begin their vigorous defense against these charges, as is their right.”

This puts Astorino on the same pages as Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, which is kind of ironic. But it’s not at all surprising that the county executive has turned so quickly on his fellow Republican.

Astorino and Skelos didn’t really see eye-to-eye during last year’s governor’s race. The county executive’s wide-ranging reform plan for Albany, which included, among other things, term limits, did not sit terribly well with the Senate GOP.

Though Skelos formally endorsed Astorino, he didn’t really do that much to assist him, and also appeared numerous times – including on a late-in-the-campaign trip to Israel – with the governor (and then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, too). And many GOP senators followed their leader’s example, failing to go out of their way to assist Astorino’s long-shot bid to unseat Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, with whom the Republicans had enjoyed a fairly good – and mutually beneficial – working relationship.

Astorino did not limit his criticism today to Skelos, basically going the pox-on-all-their-houses route in castigating everyone with any power in Albany.

“”Many call this year’s historic turmoil in Albany a distraction from the people’s business,” the county executive said. “I disagree.”

“I believe it is the eventual pathway to the people’s business, which has been hijacked for decades by self dealing and special interest dealmaking in the hallways and backrooms of Albany. If Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who is already under the spotlight for possible corruption, and the next Senate leader continue in that ignoble tradition, then they, too, must be excised from leadership.”

“…Governor Cuomo will answer for this, too. His J-COPE and Moreland announcements were a blue ribbon lie, despite the solid efforts of commission members. They were designed to make the ultimate Albany insider appear to be a reformer, while letting business-as-usual go on. Mr. Cuomo spoke in the poetry of ethics, while the dealmaking continued under his nose. He now shrugs, while explaining with a straight face that New York ‘always will have some level of corruption.”

Astorino’s 2014 running mate, Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss, also issued a statement on the Skelos scandal, declaring himself “sick” of the endless corruption cases in Albany.

“It’s now clearer than ever that term limits are the most important ethical reform we need,” Moss said. “There’s a direct correlation between longevity and seniority and the power and greed that follows.”

“Most lawmakers probably don’t arrive in Albany intending to do wrong. But after decades in the mud, dining with lobbyists and wealthy donors, trading favors and compromising their values for political points, some can’t resist temptation.”

“The action against Skelos and Silver should be a wakeup call for the Governor, other legislators and the public. The time for term limits is now.”

Astorino has not ruled out a second run for governor in 2018, though he hasn’t spoken definitively about his political plans. He hasn’t yet committed to seeking a third term in 2017, though in January, he transferred the balance of his gubernatorial campaign account to his county executive account. In March, Moss launched a new statewide campaign committee, sparking speculation that he may have his eye on another run (for what, it’s unclear) in 2018, too.

Here and Now

As Albany holds its collective breath, waiting for the reported imminent arrest on corruption charges of yet another legislative leader (this time, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos) – perhaps as early as today – Senate GOP conference members are scheduled to meet behind closed doors at 2 p.m. at the Capitol.

President Obama is in NYC today to attend a variety of DNC fundraisers and a public event in the afternoon. He’ll also tape an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman. His visit will likely cause traffic problems in the already-congested city.

New Yorkers Against Gun Violence is holding its annual lobby day in Albany, with 150 students from NYC boarding buses early in the morning to travel up the Thruway to participate.

At 7:30 a.m., Staten Island DA and NY-11 GOP candidate Dan Donovan will greet morning commuters starting at Tottenville Train Station. He’ll then ride the train and greet commuters at the ferry terminal.

At 9:30 a.m., Donovan will greet voters at Bridgeview Diner, 9011 3rd Ave., Brooklyn.

At 10:30 a.m., Donovan will greet voters at La Bella Marketplace, 7907 13th Ave., Brooklyn.

At 11:30 a.m., Donovan will greet voters going door-to-door, starting at 937 76th St., Brooklyn.

At 1:00 p.m., Donovan will be a guest on Davidzon Radio 620AM.

At 2 p.m. in the Assembly and 3 p.m. in the Senate, UAlbany’s basketball teams are scheduled to be honored.

At 2:30 p.m., Donovan will greet voters outside PS 36, 255 Ionia Ave., Staten Island.

At 10 a.m., NYC elected officials and transit advocates from throughout New York to rally for advocated for an extensive and expansive federal transportation funding bill, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., the Capital District Working Families Party announces its support for a slate of candidates for Troy city government, Top of the Approach at RPI, near 110 8th Street, between Sage and Congress streets, Troy.

Also at 11 a.m., Family Planning Advocates members will hold a second day of action, rallying in favor of “comprehensive” reproductive health care, joined by a variety of elected officials – including Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins – Meeting Room 6, Empire State Concourse, Albany.

At noon, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will attend the 2015 TechCrunch Disrupt conference, where he will deliver remarks and participate in a conversation with technology journalist Kim-Mai Cutler, Manhattan Center, 10th Floor, 311 W 34th St., Manhattan.

At 1 p.m., elected officials and advocates will gather to urge the Senate to pass a resolution that condemns actions of the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court, which stripped hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent of their citizenship, LCA Press Room (130), LOB, 198 State St., Albany.

At 1:30 p.m., IDC Leader Jeff Klein, Assemblymembers Amy Paulin, Michelle Schimel, and Brian Kavanagh will join approximately 150 students from New York City who will travel to Albany to express their desire for enhanced gun legislation, LOB, Hearing Room B, 198 State St., Albany.

Also at 1:30 p.m., NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina visits the Bronx Career and College Preparatory High School with Deputy Mayor Richard Buery to make an announcement, 800 Home St., the Bronx.

At 2:30 p.m., President Obama will speak at Lehman College for the launch of My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a nonprofit organization, 250 Bedford Park Blvd,, the Bronx.

At 6 p.m., Donovan will greet voters going door-to-door, starting at 82 Westcott Blvd., Staten Island.


A full-blown battle to succeed soon-to-be-arrested Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos got under way this weekend, Fred Dicker reports, as Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco, who had planned to retire next year, signaled he wanted the job.

As of yesterday, it was unclear if Skelos would attempt to retain his leadership post if charged, but some of his colleagues said they would support him if he wanted to remain at the chamber’s helm.

Assemblywoman Vivian Cook, a Queens Democrat, skirts on the edge of scandal while her fellow pols have been hauled off to prison. She also racked up thousands in per-diem expenses, including one 12-day stretch in 2010 when she said she was in Albany but didn’t attend any legislative sessions.

Struggling and underfunded NYC schools will get an additional $33.6 million under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s budget for 2016. The budget will be formally unveiled Thursday.

The NYT re-reports our past reporting that the hold-up in the Assembly on the pension forfeiture piece of the ethics reform package negotiated as part of the budget is being caused by labor unions.

De Blasio called the shooting in the head of a plainclothes NYPD officer “an unconscionable act of violence” and an attack “against the values we hold dear.”

The man accused of shooting the officer, Demetrius Blackwell, 35, is a repeat felon.

After a series of unfortunate events for the Democratic organization, the party’s line in tomorrow’s special election to fill former Assemblyman Karim Camara’s seat is vacant. Three Democrats are jockeying for votes in the special election Tuesday on party lines that include the Working Families Party, the Independent Party and the newly formed Love Yourself Party.

The Assembly Republicans received four Chevy Impalas paid for by the state. Assembly GOP spokesman Michael Fraser said the $24,000 cars will replace older, high-mileage vehicles.

The governor’s sister, cancer doctor Margaret Cuomo, previews the first ever NYS Cancer Prevention Summit, being sponsored by the state Health Department in NYC on May 20.

Manhattan Democratic District Leader Paul Newell said he is “very seriously considering” taking a second shot at the seat of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who faces federal charges of extortion and mail and wire fraud. Newell ran an unsuccessful primary challenge to Silver in 2008.

A fund-raiser for President Obama happening blocks away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art as the annual Costume Institute Gala kicks off tonight could wreak havoc on drivers shuttling fashion insiders uptown.

More >

The Weekend That Was

Following a report that Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, will be arrested on corruption charges sometime this coming week, talk has turned to whether someone in the GOP conference will try to replace the Long Island lawmaker as leader, or is he’ll step aside.

Pros and cons of some of the frontrunners to replace Skelos as leader.

A New York City police officer in plain clothes, Brian Moore, 25, was shot in the face and critically wounded on Saturday in Queens after driving up in an unmarked car to question a man on the street.

The man who shot Moore, Demetrius Blackwell, 35, was charged with one count of attempted murder, one of assault and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon.

The Republican candidate in a special election to fill New York’s 11th congressional district pledged today — just two days before the race — to “untax” constituents.

The Staten Island Advance endorsed Donovan over his Democratic opponent, Brooklyn Councilman Vincent Gentile.

The Clinton campaign is advertising a Mother’s Day call from the candidate for the winner of an online contest.

As First Lady Chirlane McCray pushes to improve NYC mental health services, Mayor Bill de Blasio has quietly cut funding for the internationally known Samaritans suicide hotline.

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes said she’s working with her staff, not Cuomo, on Buffalo mayoral control legislation that she plans to introduce tomorrow.

In the current year, 112 local governments borrowed $346 million to cover retirees’ pension costs – a drop of 27 percent from 2014, records from the state Comptroller’s Office said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this week dined with the executive director of JCOPE, the state ethics commission that oversees his administration, at a restaurant in upstate Saugerties owned by her extended family.

Now that the budget’s done, the governor and legislative leaders must address property tax relief, which didn’t end up in the final spending plan, the Poughkeepsie Journal says.

Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langowrthy says the party’s challenger to Democratic Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Assemblyman Ray Walter, will have “the necessary resources” to run a competitive campaign. Walter’s first test will be the July 15 campaign finance filing is due at the state Board of Elections.

By blaming teachers for some students’ poor academic performance, Cuomo has ignored the troubling racial segregation and socioeconomic inequity in New York’s public schools, AFT President Randi Weingarten said.

Weingarten also said she regrets supporting Cuomo’s LG running mate, Kathy Hochul, in the 2014 elections. The former UFT president recorded a last-minute robocall for the former congresswoman that irked some union members.

Darius G. Pridgen, a pastor and Buffalo Common Council president, headed to Baltimore today with plans to join a peaceful rally and make a statement on the importance of government listening when residents feel aggrieved.

Fred LeBrun says the state has been dragging its heels on criminal justice reform.

The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation recently flipped the switch on a 50-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system at Fort Niagara State Park. The solar energy system is expected to save $9,100 annually and bring a clean, modern source of energy to the park.

Bernie Sanders’ nascent presidential campaign announced that it raised more than $1.5 million in its first 24 hours, a number that far outpaces what Republican presidential hopefuls posted in their first day.

New York Times Co. shares leaped 10.7 percent in after-hours trading after Fox Business Network reported billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg had expressed renewed interest in buying the paper.

AG Eric Schneiderman really isn’t running for governor in 2018.

Puerto Rico’s governor signed an executive order authorizing the use of medical marijuana in the U.S. territory in an unexpected move following a lengthy public debate.


Baltimore’s chief prosecutor charged six police officers on Friday with crimes including murder and manslaughter in the arrest and fatal injury of Freddie Gray.

Former Port Authority official and high school pal of NJ Gov. Chris Christie David Wildstein pled guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy against civil rights in connection with the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal.

Wildstein admitted in federal court that he conspired with two other allies of Christie to close lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge. His plea sets up a much larger case that threatens to undermine Christie’s presidential aspirations in 2016.

No, Kirstie Alley is not involved with politically motivated lane closures in New Jersey.

Federal investigators reportedly have begun wiretapping a new set of potential targets as a result of the probe that led to the indictment off former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Rep. Louise Slaughter unveiled her portrait as former House Rules Committee chair. She was the first woman to hold the post back in 2007.

“There is no need for a summit since we already preserve emails and the Governor is free to modify his retention policy,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s spokesman Mike Whyland said.

…the Senate Republicans won’t be attending the May 22 summit, either.

Rep. John Katko broke ranks with House Republicans on two votes Thursday night, rejecting his party’s 2016 federal budget and a GOP effort to strike down a reproductive rights law in the District of Coumbia.

Transit advocates are asking Cuomo to “hop out of his muscle car and ride the subway with them to experience the MTA’s needs first-hand.”

The Schoharie County GOP Lincoln Day dinner will feature 2014 AG candidate John Cahill as a guest speaker on May 14.

President Obama will be in New York City Monday. He speak at an event at Lehman College launching the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a new non-profit organization, and will also attend DNC events.

New York City is expected to spend parts of a $447 million settlement it is set to receive from French bank BNP Paribas on initiatives for its criminal justice system.

A new art exhibition in Albany will feature the work of a long-time watercolor artist who specializes in paintings inspired by countrysides and depicted with “rich browns, yellows and golds.” This artist’s day job: SUNY chancellor.

Hillary Clinton is stepping up her race for campaign money, holding three invitation-only events in the nation’s capital Thursday ahead of a fundraising swing next week through California.

Clinton will not be providing a rebuttal at this year’s LCA show.

A Colorado-based energy company is asking New York’s top court to re-hear a case that freed Tioga County landowners from their oil-and-gas leases.

A new report from the NYC Voter Assistance Advisory Committee shows an inverse relationship between advances in technology and the proportion of citizens who get involved in elections.

Six agencies, including four police departments and a probation department, are getting new body armor paid for by funds from the Oneida Nation tax settlement.

At a Brooklyn Democratic Party dinner last night, Cuomo praised Hillary Clinton’s choice to locate her campaign headquarters in the borough, calling Brooklyn “the heart and soul of the Democratic party.”

Panepinto: Cuomo’s Behind Buffalo Mayoral Control Push

From the Morning Memo:

Sen. Marc Panepinto, who is no fan of the push for mayoral control over the troubled Buffalo public school district, suggested during a CapTon interview last night that there are forces bigger than a certain local assemblywoman behind the effort.

“My feeling is it’s the governor, or people on the governor’s behalf, who are driving mayoral control for the city of Buffalo,” the freshman Democratic lawmaker said.

“…Obviously, the governor has had issues on the education front, as we saw played out during the budget, and I think he believes he’s got good institutional support from the assemblywoman (Crystal Peoples-Stokes) and the mayor (Byron Brown). So, if he wants to do a test case for upstate mayoral control, Buffalo is the place to do it.”

Peoples-Stokes, who is drafting mayoral control legislation for Buffalo that is expected to be released this coming Monday, served as Cuomo’s campaign co-chair last fall.

Brown has long been viewed as a Cuomo loyalist, and was twice rumored to be under consideration to serve as the governor’s LG running mate. But he was never selected, passed over in 2010 for then-Rochester Mayor Bob Duffy, and in 2014 for a fellow Buffalonian, former Rep. (and now LG) Kathy Hochul.

It’s also worth noting here that Cuomo didn’t endorse Panepinto’s 2014 campaign.

The Democrat ran against former GOP Sen. Mark Grisanti, who was the last of the Republicans who voted “yes” on same-sex marriage during Cuomo’s first term, earning the governor’s support and gratitude.

Grisanti ended up losing a GOP primary and running in the general election on the Independence Party line. Panepinto won – with a heavy assist from NYSUT – and was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal showing by the Democrats last fall.

After months of speculation, Grisanti has been nominated by Cuomo for a Court of Claims judgeship. The Senate Judiciary Committee will be taking up his nomination next Tuesday.

The Cuomo administration did raise the question of expanding mayoral control outside New York City before this year’s legislative session even got underway.

Back in December 2014, a top aide to the governor, Jim Malatras, broached the subject in a letter to the regents chancellor and then-state education commissioner that was widely seen as the first salvo in what would be a protracted battle over reform.

There have been discussions about mayoral control in several upstate cities – including Rochester and Albany – over the years, but they have never gone anywhere.

Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg had to push hard to gain control over the downstate school system, but the Legislature has refused to make that system permanent, forcing the mayor – whoever he or she may be – to repeatedly return to Albany to get the power renewed.

Mayoral control in NYC expires in June, and a battle is brewing in the Senate over whether to extend it. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio make enemies in the GOP conference, thanks to his failed effort to help the Senate Democrats take the majority in the 2014 elections.

Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan suggested this week that extension of NYC mayoral control is not a sure thing, and also said the Republicans are unlikely to sign off on the program again without making changes to it.

As for mayoral control in Buffalo, Panepinto has proposed a compromise bill that would give the mayor “input” through the appointment of two additional school board members.

“I don’t think that pushing (for mayoral control) in the last eight weeks of session, disenfranchising the voters of the city of Buffalo, and disempowering nine elected members of the board makes sense,” the senator said, adding that he hoped an additional two board members selected by the mayor would “help to reduce the acrimony” among existing members.

Here and Now

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

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will meet with senators and assembly members, labor leaders and housing advocates for a strategic session on renewing and strengthening rent regulations this legislative session in Albany. This meeting is closed press.

NYSUT has kicked off its weekend-long 43rd Representative Assembly, featuring AFT President Randi Weingarten and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli as speakers, Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, 153 Franklin St., Buffalo

At 8 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul speaks at Erie Community College’s Annual Advisory Council Partner and Community Appreciation Breakfast, Erie Community College, North Campus, Spring Student Center Café (near Wehrle Drive entrance), 6205 Main St., Williamsville.

At 8:15 a.m., CityLaw holds a breakfast with a talk featuring Corporation Counsels who served during the past two decades, New York Law School, 185 W Broadway, Manhattan.

At 9:30 a.m., NYC Public Advocate Tish James holds a press conference regarding the regulation of nail salons in New York City, steps of City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 9:30 a.m., Hochul speaks at the Western New York Network for Women Leaders in Higher Education Annual Conference, University at Buffalo Center for Tomorrow, North Campus, Amherst.

At 10:30 a.m., Sens. Rich Funke and Joe Robach, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, and George Romell, president & CEO of the YMCA of Greater Rochester, hold a press conference on childcare funding in the new state budget, Carlson MetroCenter YMCA, 444 E Main St., Rochester.

At 11 a.m., Staten Island DA and NY-11 GOP candidate Dan Donovan will greet voters at the JCC Senior Center, 1466 Manor Rd., Staten Island.

Also at 11 a.m., IDC Leader Jeff Klein, NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto and NYC Councilman James Vacca announce $1 million in state funding for the new NYC DOT preliminary design study to reduce congestion at the Hutch Metro Center, Hutchinson Metro Center lobby, Tower 1, 1250 Waters Pl., the Bronx.

At 4:15 p.m., US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand hosts a roundtable discussion on sexual assault, Nott Memorial, Union College, 807 Union St., Schenectady.

At 5:30 p.m., NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray delivers remarks at the Gracie Mansion Spring Kick-Off, 88th Street and East End Avenue, Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., Donovan will visit the Staten Island Hindu Temple, 1318 Victory Blvd., Staten Island.

At 7:30 p.m., Donovan will attend the Staten Island Conservative Dinner, Excelsior Grand, 2380 Hylan Blvd., Staten Island.


The Cuomo administration has set a date of May 23 for a summit to discuss email policy – four weeks after it said it would convene statewide elected officials and leaders of the state Legislature to develop uniform standards for retention and deletion.

State education officials will soon adopt regulations finalizing a new teacher evaluation system, but because of a statutory deadline imposed by Cuomo and the Legislature, they’ll do so without the formal public comment period that’s typically required by law.

Former Sen. Mark Grisanti has been nominated by Cuomo for a State Court of Claims judgeship. The Buffalo Republican’s name is on a list of 14 nominees who will be considered by the Senate Standing Committee on the Judiciary when it meets Tuesday in Albany.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, drawing praise from some of his critics and rebukes from his political base, defended the NYPD’s handling of a Baltimore-related protest that turned into a melee Wednesday night as dozens of people were arrested.

De Blasio met with the Rev. Al Sharpton, who criticized the heavy-handed police response to the protests, and – according to a Sharpton spokesman – the mayor “submitted” to getting answers.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he has “no reason to second guess” the NYPD following the controversial arrests of more than 140 anti-police brutality protesters.

A group of more than 100 protesters that marched yesterday from Syracuse University to Clinton Square and back did not have permission to do so. Bill Ryan, Mayor Stephanie Miner’s chief of staff, said the protesters organized the march through the city without obtaining permits.

If US Attorney Preet Bharara’s insistence that he’s not interested in seeking elected office turns out not to be true, he might have some trouble, thanks to “a spate of recent judicial challenges, rulings, and setbacks that have many questioning whether he has veered into overly aggressive behavior.”

Advice former federal prosecutor-turned-Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky has given his colleagues: “Look, if someone offers you a bag of money, don’t take it.”

Few outsiders knew anything about Karen Magee before the head of the state teachers union ousted a predecessor considered too willing to compromise and immediately escalated the public war against Cuomo and state lawmakers. She has raised NYSUT’s public profile and the level of confrontation, blazing an assertive public awareness campaign spanning all mediums, from television ads to social media.

It appears that James G. Weimer Jr. no longer wishes to be the board majority’s handpicked choice for superintendent of the Buffalo Public Schools. His change of heart comes after an angry and contentious meeting Wednesday night, where parents, teachers and community members hurled insults at him, board members and at each other.

More >


A Brooklyn man has been arrested for allegedly threatening to shoot Staten Island Councilman Vincent Ignizio over a dispute regarding a property near PS 6 in Richmond Valley.

The president of St. John Fisher College has rejected a request by dozens of faculty members to rescind an invitation to Rudolph Giuliani to deliver the college’s commencement address next month.

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s real estate company, Spitzer Enterprises, has closed a deal to sell the jewel of its real estate portfolio in Manhattan for $1.78 billion, setting a world record for the highest price per square foot ever paid for an entire office building.

Staten Island DA and NY-11 GOP candidate Dan Donovan, who didn’t secure an indictment in the Eric Garner case, doesn’t want any special prosecutor investigating future deaths of unarmed civilians caused by police.

National Democrats, many of whom expressed dismay at the Staten Island grand jury’s decision in the Garner case late last year, have not rallied against Donovan. And even the DA”s opponent, Councilman Vincent Gentile, is generally skirting the issue.

Donovan said he supports repealing the Affordable Care Act, taking his firmest stance yet against President Obama’s signature health care bill.

As the city debates how to handle minor offenses, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton issued a report that is intended to show the department’s enforcement of low-level crimes has been declining under his watch.

A handful of deep-pocketed donors are reportedly reconsidering their gifts to the $2 billion Clinton Foundation amid mounting questions about how it’s spending their money and suggestions of influence peddling.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $1.5 billion upstate “Hunger Games” is officially under way.

Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs is traveling with Bill and Chelsea Clinton this week as part of the Clinton philanthropic foundation’s annual excursion through Africa.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is expected to be the featured guest speaker at a western New York-based organization on Saturday.

The health and finance committees of the state Senate are set to consider approving Dr. Howard Zucker as the state’s health commissioner next week.

A state computer programmer will get five years of probation after collecting his government paycheck while he was at home selling counterfeit cell phone cases on Ebay and Amazon, according to the state AG and IG.

Rep. Elise Stefanik: “It’s not that I graduated from Harvard that I’m most proud of, it’s that I graduated Harvard and stayed a Republican and a Yankee fan.”

Albanian president Bujar Nishani will visit the Capitol next Tuesday as part of an event hosted by Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj and IDC Leader Jeff Klein, both Bronx Democrats.

Syracuse businesses and institutions spent more than $500,000 trying to influence New York lawmakers last year, part of a record high $226 million spent on lobbying.

The Oneida Indian Nation in central New York said it plans to open its new $20 million upstate, Wizard of Oz-themed casino on June 2, a move seen as a way to counter a casino planned for the Finger Lakes.

Democratic Assemblyman Keith Wright rebuked a tweet sent by Republican Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney of New Hartford earlier this month in which she referred to a member of the Oneida Nation as “Spray Tan Ray.”

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said she is preparing for the reality that the city may only see half the $2 million in red light camera revenue she budgeted this year.

Sandra Lee released more details of her baby seal saving escapades in California.

Go Kate!

Advocates: Gov Would Appoint AG Special Prosecutor

From the Morning Memo:

It has been widely reported that families whose loved ones were victims of police violence met with Cuomo at the Capitol and extracted a promise from him about appointing a special prosecutor in similar cases should the Legislature fails to pass criminal justice reform.

Now comes a new twist: According to one advocate and the mother of a black teenager killed by an NYPD officer, Cuomo said that the special prosecutor in question would be state AG Eric Schneiderman.

“The families do support that, and that’s actually what we talked to the governor about,” Loyda Colon of the Justice Committee said during a CapTon interview last night.

“All the families who met with the governor…were asking that he appoint the AG’s office, the attorney general’s office, the special prosecutor.”

“…So the governor did say that he actually only has the power to appoint the attorney general the special prosecutor; he can’t just choose any person,” Colon continued.

“So, he told the families he would meet with them in a month and also that if the reforms don’t go through that he would appoint the attorney general.”

Constance Malcolm, whose unarmed, 18-year-old son, Ramarley Graham, was shot and killed by and NYPD officer in 2012, concurred with Colon’s interpretation of Cuomo’s comments, saying of the AG-as-special-prosecutor idea: “We would take that as opposed to what we’ve got right now.”

A Cuomo spokesman was contacted regarding the advocates’ claims, but never responded to confirm or deny the governor’s alleged comments on this issue.

This is an interesting turn of events, given the longstanding tension between Cuomo and Schneiderman.

Not to mention the fact that Schneiderman long ago sought an executive order that would direct his office to investigate – and, if necessary, prosecute – cases involving unarmed civilians killed by police officers.

The governor wasn’t exactly big on that idea, nor were the local district attorneys, who don’t want to lose control over these cases – and, who advocates argue are too close to law enforcement to effectively prosecute them.

Instead, Cuomo in his State of the State address proposed a governor-appointed independent monitor who would have access to all records in these sensitive cases, and also would be able to appoint a special prosecutor should a local DA fail to secure an indictment.

Cuomo had hoped that his seven-point criminal justice reform plan would end up in the final budget, but it – like so many other policy proposals – fell off the negotiating table.

Malcolm said she and other family members “are not interested in the political back-and-forth” on this issue.

Advocates want the governor to use his executive power to appoint a special prosecutor ASAP, and are not interested in waiting until the end of the legislation session in June for action.

Labor Blocking Assembly Pension Forfeiture Vote

From the Morning Memo:

Despite a pledge from Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie that his house would give first passage to a constitutional amendment that would strip public officials of their pensions after a felony corruption conviction, that vote has yet to be taken.

The measure was included in the ethics deal negotiated by legislative leaders and the governor as part of the new state budget.

The Senate approved the legislation as planned. But in the wee hours of the morning on April 1, as they rushed to get the budget done just after the constitutional deadline, the Assembly failed to follow suit.

At first it was unclear exactly why this had occurred, and Heastie quickly issued a statement assuring that the matter would be taken up when his members returned from their three-week spring break.

But lawmakers have been back to work for two weeks now, and the issue has yet to come to the floor.

That’s much to the chagrin of good government reformers and Republicans.

Members of the minority conference in particular having been rattling the Democrats’ cage on this – especially following news over the break that the US Attorney is investigating Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos and Assemblyman William Scarborough’s announcement that he will plead guilty to per diem-related fraud charges and resign his seat.

During the debate over the pension forfeiture measure, some lawmakers expressed concern over what might constitute a work-related felony conviction for which they would lose their pensions.

Would that extend, for example, to a drunk driving conviction while in Albany, which has been known to occur on occasion?

But the real pushback has come from labor unions.

They argue that the language in the legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman David Buchwald, is too broad, and would apply to any and all public officials – elected and non-elected alike – and not just the corrupt elected officials who have been making headlines for the past several years.

The Legislature and governor tried to address this issue by putting language into the budget that would guide the pension stripping process if the constitutional amendment is ultimately successful.

But the unions remained concerned. And now, according to one labor source, the Assembly is now “taking a look, realizing how broad this is, and trying to tighten it up by narrowing the language.”

An Assembly Democrat source said the conference “remains committed to passing a constitutional amendment, but how we get there at this point remains to be seen.”

This issue will likely come to a head next week, as Heastie’s office in currently in talks with Buchwald about how to change the language, and will then present the changes to the rest of the conference before bringing the amended measure up for a vote.

Of course, if changes are made, the Senate would have to get on board, too, because it has already passed the original version.

And given the way things are going in that chamber these days, it’s unclear how talks on this issue might go, though arguably members have an extra incentive to demonstrate that they’re really serious about cracking down on bad behavior by elected officials.