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Posts by Nick Reisman
Jul 3rd - 9:00 am
From the Morning Memo:
Comptroller Tom DiNapoli urged both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to set aside their ongoing feud and repair their relationship.
Interviewed on Capital Tonight on Thursday, DiNapoli said that Cuomo and de Blasio need to get along, if only for the good of both the city and the state.
“I certainly hope everyone lets off some steam. The mayor of the city of New York and the governor of the state of New York — these are very important players in terms of the future of millions of people in the city and state,” DiNapoli said. “They need to have a working relationship. They’ve had one in the past. Hopefully they’ll be able to get it back on track, we’d all benefit from that.”
De Blasio this week in an unusually candid interview criticized Cuomo’s approach toward negotiations in Albany, airing grievances that the governor has sought to undermine the mayor’s administration, sided with Senate Republicans in the closed-door talks and takes revenge on perceived opponents.
In turn, Cuomo has insisted he has to work well with members of the other party in order to accomplish things, even if that requires compromise.
“Whether it was correct or wise, he said it,” DiNapoli said of the mayor’s remarks. “I think the question now is how does everyone move forward.”
De Blasio’s remarks were a startling admission that the relationship between the governor and mayor had reached such a low point after lawmakers and Cuomo only agreed to a year-long extension of mayoral control of city schools.
DiNapoli has had a turbulent relationship with Cuomo in the past. The then-gubernatorial candidate in 2010 declined to endorse DiNapoli’s bid for a full term.
In government, DiNapoli’s office has differed with Cuomo over approaches to managing state spending and the budget, which has led to searing denunciations from the governor’s team.
Jul 3rd - 8:24 am
From the Morning Memo:
Broad changes to the state’s cap on property tax increases did not materialize this session.
That doesn’t mean calls for further changes in the future won’t go away anytime soon, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said in an interview.
Lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo did back changes to the cap, which limits levy increases at 2 percent or the rate of inflation, including allowing for growth in payments in lieu of taxes and BOCES capital expenses.
DiNapoli said the changes would likely have a “marginal” impact compared to the reforms sought by teachers unions along with local and school district leaders such as making it easier to override.
“The tax cap at least according to the polls a fair amount of popularity,” DiNapoli said. “I don’t think in Albany there’s been a big appetite to tinker with it too much.”
The cap itself was not re-approved indefinitely, but given another four years before it is due to sunset once again.
“I think over time you’ll keep hearing calls for more amendments,” DiNapoli said. “I don’t hear too many folks saying get rid of the tax cap entirely.”
Jul 2nd - 5:06 pm
Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s financial disclosure form made public on Thursday shows he declined to answer questions on the document for his outside business interests.
“Given pending proceedings in Federal Court it is inappropriate to answer this question; however, this answer will be amended upon completion of the proceedings,” Silver’s filing states.
Silver has been under indictment since the start of the year and is accused by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office of using his power to receive bribes masked as legal referral fees.
Silver step down as speaker following his arrest on the bribery and fraud charges.
Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, meanwhile, took the opposite track: He listed his income on the disclosure in some cases to the exact penny.
State lawmakers and elected officials filing disclosure reports are not required to provide the exact dollar amount of what they earn, but report ranges of income.
Klein’s form shows, for instance, he received $43,550 in “guaranteed payments” from the his former law firm, Klein Calderoni & Santucci, and lists the value of his various investments in stocks and funds.
Klein, a Bronx Democrat who co-led the Senate in 2013 and 2014, announced this year he was stepping away from his law firm where he had been a partner.
“Senator Klein boldly divested from his law firm earlier this year and called for a ban on outside income,” Klein spokeswoman Candice Giove said in a statement. “While Senator Klein continues to believe in a full-time legislature, he feels that in the meantime all state legislators should disclose their incomes to the penny to restore the public’s trust.”
Former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who was arrested in May, is on leave from his law firm Ruskin Moscou Faltischek as he fights corruption charges.
Jul 2nd - 4:17 pm
Former Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Barbara Fiala has been appointed the chair of the Women’s Equality Party, the ballot line formed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo during last year’s election.
Documents quietly filed last week with the state Board of Elections show Fiala, a former county executive of Broome County, had been named the organization’s chairwoman of an “interim” executive committee.
Two other slots on the panel are listed on the filing as “TBD.”
Fiala stepped down as DMV commissioner at the end of last year.
The filing lays out basic rules for the party organization to follow, including notification of meeting dates and following Robert’s Rules of Order.
The party last year was coordinated by former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and surpassed the 50,000-vote threshold in order to receive ballot status in the subsequent election cycle.
Quinn during the 2015 legislative session worked as a $1-a-year advisor to Cuomo and help coordinate efforts to pass a bill aimed at curtailing sexual assault and rape on college campuses.
In a recent interview with City & State, Quinn said the party would “technically exist so to speak in the near future.”
Cuomo formed the ballot line last year as a way to boost his 10-point Women’s Equality Agenda, an omnibus package of measures that included pay equity protections and an anti-human trafficking component.
Nine of the 10 measures this session ultimately became law, save for a bill that would have codified the Roe v. Wade ruling in state law, which was staunchly opposed by Senate Republicans.
Liberals had criticized the formation of the women-centric ballot line and accused Cuomo of creating an astro turf ballot line as a way to undermine the established and labor-backed Working Families Party.
The party in January reported $13,487 in cash on hand, according to the Board of Elections.
Jul 2nd - 3:23 pm
Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner on Thursday backed the comments made by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio this week that were critical of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s leadership in Albany, saying policy writ large has fallen short in recent years.
“I think any time you have a mayor talking about the interests of his city and community and where public policy is falling short, I applaud that,” Miner told reporters. “I think that’s why you heard Mayor de Blasio say. we’ve seen unfortunately in very real time Albany come up very short.”
Miner was appointed the state Democratic Committee co-chair in 2012, but had a falling out with Cuomo over her criticism of a proposal to smooth out pension costs for local governments, and later criticized him for what she saw as a lack of state investment in local infrastructure projects.
De Blasio this week sharply criticized Cuomo, accusing him of siding with Senate Republicans at the end of the legislative session at the expense of rent control regulations and extending mayoral control of New York City schools.
Cuomo in response on Wednesday touted his own ability to work in a state government with power shared by Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature.
But Miner pointed to broader issues this year in the session that included the arrests of now former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
“Albany has become a place where you don’t look there to see good public policy coming out of there,” Miner said. “We think with this change is an opportunity to see better public policy so we can start solving problems.”
Jul 2nd - 2:29 pm
The city of Yonkers was authorized on Thursday to increase its sales tax by one half of one percent and impose a new occupancy tax for hotel rooms after Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved the home-rule legislation.
The measures were requested city officials and state lawmakers who represent the area as its school district seeks to plug yet another budget deficit.
The bill Cuomo signed today will allow Yonkers to hike its sales tax to 8.875 percent and is expected to generate $15 million in revenue for the city. Revenue from the sales tax must be spent on education by law.
The occupancy tax approved cannot be more than 3 percent.
In addition to the local tax bills, state lawmakers and Cuomo last month agreed to a $25 million package aimed at helping the district close its budget gap.
Jul 2nd - 12:58 pm
When responding to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pointed criticism this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo sought to play up his efforts to work with Republicans in the Legislature.
Cuomo, speaking with reporters on Wednesday night, sought to draw a distinction between his brand of governing — which has angered liberal advocates for what they say is working hand-in-glove with the GOP — versus embracing ideology.
“We had gridlock for many, many years, but under my administration it’s been different,” Cuomo said. “When there’s gridlock, it means nothing happens.”
For Cuomo, the choice is a binary one: He has to work with the Legislature he has, or nothing can be accomplished.
“We had a very productive session,” Cuomo said. “Did we get everything we want? No. We have in New York state a Democratic Assembly and a Republican Senate, so everything is a compromise. It’s a compromise or you go Washington style and you go gridlock.”
Cuomo sidestepped the broader criticisms the mayor leveled at him: Namely that in his aggressive pursuit to accomplish things in Albany, Cuomo has often run roughshod over his enemies and has a tendency to exact “revenge” on those who stand in his way.
“Everything is entitled to their own comments,” Cuomo said, before pivoting back to talk of “compromise” — a word he used multiple times in a brief gaggle with reporters.
A frustrated de Blasio this week bashed Cuomo for undermining his efforts to accomplish his agenda in Albany, which included an extension of mayoral control of city schools, extending rent control for New York City and the renewal of the 421a tax abatement.
De Blasio’s frustrations voiced first to NY1 led to a barrage of fellow liberals piling on a governor who has prided himself for governing from the center.
Only it has appeared to be harder for Cuomo to strike agreements with the Legislature, especially members of his own party who don’t trust him to back bread-and-butter issues in negotiations. Assembly Democrats have said they believed Cuomo and Senate Republicans were largely aligned in the end-of-session talks, putting them at odds with Democratic Speaker Carl Heastie.
Liberals have long suspected Cuomo prefers a GOP-controlled Senate to a Democratic majority in the chamber and have even accused him of tacitly undermining candidates in his own party.
But the governor insisted on framing his work with Republicans as a virtue in order to avoid gridlock.
“Just to remain politically polarized and get nothing done — that’s Washington, that doesn’t work for New York,” Cuomo said. “We need compromise, we’ve reached compromise, the state is moving forward.”
Jul 2nd - 10:00 am
From the Morning Memo:
The publisher of Gannett’s Rochester Democrat and Chronicle this week wrote to Gov. Andrew Cuomo urging him to back a bill that addressing independent newspaper carriers.
The bill, sponsored by Democratic Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle (a Rochester-area lawmaker) and Republican Sen. George Amedore, is aimed at codifying state Department of Labor guidelines that exempt delivery people who are hired as independent carriers from aspects of the unemployment, the minimum wage and workers’ compensation coverage laws, according to the sponsor’s memo.
(Disclosure: I worked for Gannett’s Albany bureau from 2010 through 2011, while my father works for Gannett-own Journal News in Westchester County)
In the letter, publisher Michael Kane insisted the bill won’t impact the already existing Commercial Goods Transportation Fair Play Act and pointed out Sen. Diane Savino, a Democrat with ties to organized labor, backed the carrier bill in the Senate both in committee and on the floor.
The bill itself lays out a series of employees who would not be covered by the guidelines, such as those workers who sell subscriptions and are treated as employees for federal tax purposes.
Kane framed the legislation as one that could help preserve existing jobs.
“Preserving the affordable distribution of printed newspapers saves Teamster jobs in pressrooms, as many Pressrooms are represented by the Graphic Communications Conference of the Teamsters,” Kane wrote.
Left unmentioned in the letter is the challenging environment print media has found itself in over the last decade and falling circulation with the rise of the Internet and cheaply transmitted delivery over the Internet.
Gannett this week officially separated its broadcasting division with 46 TV stations and renamed itself TEGNA.
The newspaper division itself is left with properties in 92 U.S. markets, USA Today and the U.K.-based Newsquest.
“This bill will ensure continued deliver of important local news and information to homes throughout New York,” he added. “Failure to enact this legislation would harm newspapers, their employees and their communities.”
Jul 1st - 3:58 pm
Former New York Gov. George Pataki on Wednesday released a letter to the declared and soon-to-declare Republican candidates for president blasting mogul Donald Trump’s controversial comments on Mexicans and immigration.
“One hundred years ago, when Irish immigrants were coming to America, my grandmother among them, they were too often characterized as “drunks.” A few years later it was the Italian immigrants, my grandfather among them, who were called “mobsters” or worse, “dagos.” This type of divisive rhetoric is just wrong. It was wrong 100 years ago and it’s wrong today,” Pataki wrote in the letter, which included a “cc” to Trump himself.
“Yet here we are in 2015 and a leading candidate for the GOP nomination for president is calling Mexicans criminals, rapists and drug dealers,” the letter states. “This is unacceptable.”
Trump, who declared in June he would launch a presidential campaign, has been criticized for the controversial remarks, and both NBCUniversal and department store chain Macy’s has severed ties with him in the wake of the controversy.
The letter also helps Pataki, who has polled consistently low in the crowded Republican presidential field, gain some press as Trump’s comments continue to reverberate during a comparatively slow week in national politics.
Pataki, who has urged his fellow Republicans to de-emphasize social issues like same-sex marriage in the campaign, called on his fellow candidates to join him in denouncing Trump.
“Join me,” Pataki wrote. “Stand up now. Denounce his comments today.”
Jul 1st - 3:29 pm
State corrections officials on Wednesday announced a new superintendent would assume control at Clinton Correctional Facility following the escape of two convicted killers from the Dannemora prison.
Michael Kirkpatrick, most recently the first deputy superintendent of the Elmira Correctional Facility, will take charge after the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision placed 12 prison employees on administrative leave after the resolution of the three-week manhunt for David Sweat and Richard Matt.
The FBI, along with the state inspector general, are investigating both the circumstances of the escape, security protocols at the prison and potentially broader corruption at the facility.
Along with his appointment, Kirkpatrick will be charged with helping implement interim security protocols that have been in place since June 6 at the prison, which includes eliminating the so-called “honor block” where Sweat and Matt lived.
New rules are being put in place that would require securing job boxes of contractors in a locked trailer that inmates cannot receive access to.
Security gates are also being installed in the facility’s tunnels, which Matt and Sweat used to escape after gaining access to power tools.
Matt was shot dead on Friday, while Sweat was taken into custody by State Police on Sunday after he was wounded by Sgt. Jay Cook.
Former prison employee Joyce Mitchell is being charged with providing help to the men, while Corrections Officer Gene Palmer is being investigated for also providing support to Matt and Sweat.