Nick Reisman

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DiNapoli: Local Governments Losing Out On Water Revenue

Local governments in New York are losing out on revenue from water bills due to incorrect billing or inaccurate meters, an audit by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released on Thursday found.

The lost revenue was in part blamed also on broken or out of date underground pipes.

But in some instances, local governments have also dealt with inaccurate meters or improper billing. Taking corrective measures could boost revenues for some local governments by more than $400,000, auditors found.

“Water leaks, broken pipes and aging infrastructure are costing local governments millions of dollars annually,” said DiNapoli. “Across New York, my audits have revealed infrastructure problems, poor budget practices and a lack of long-term planning are straining municipal finances and increasing costs for taxpayers. If these problems aren’t addressed, the issues plaguing water systems will only get worse.”

The report reviewed audits of 161 local governments DiNapoli’s office had conducted and seven public water authority systems over the last 5-1/2 years.

Judges: Vote No On Con Con

From the Morning Memo:

An organization composed of current and retired state Supreme Court justices is opposing the constitutional convention.

The Association of Justices of the Supreme Court of the State of New York said Thursday it opposed the coming referendum, which will go before voters next month.

“After thoroughly reviewing the issue, the Association of Justices of the Supreme Court of the State of New York has determined that a state Constitutional Convention is unnecessary, would be overly costly, and could result in the reversion, elimination or diminution of many current constitutional rights and safeguards,” said Justice Deborah Dowling, the group’s president.

The referendum is placed before voters automatically every 20 years.

While association opposes it, the legal community elsewhere has been supportive of it, including the state and city bar associations, who have said that holding a convention is a chance to update the state’s governing document.

A coalition of labor groups and environmental organizations also oppose the referendum, saying it puts various rights, benefits and protections in the current constitution at risk if if a convention is held.

Uber Tops Lobbying So Far In 2017

From the Morning Memo:

Ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies was the top lobbying spender for the first half of 2017, a report released Wednesday by the ethics and lobbying regulators at the Joint Commission on Public Ethics found.

The company, which had sought to expand to upstate markets in a major legislative push this year, spent $1.8 million. The effort was ultimately successful as ride-hailing apps were allowed outside of New York City as part of an agreement between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature.

The move benefitted rival ride-hailing firms like Lyft as well, but Uber has seen its presence expand at the state Capitol in recent years amid disputes with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration as well as controversies surrounding the company.

Uber was followed by the Greater New York Hospital Association, which spent $1.45 million and the Rent Stabilization Association of New York, which spent $943,280. The New York State United Teachers spent $858.846.

Overall, lobbyists spent $121.2 million seeking to influence decisions made by local and state officials. Of that, $5.3 million was spent on advertising.

Though the report covered the first six months of the year, that is when the bulk of the legislative activity occurs in New York at the state level.

Here And Now

Good morning! Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City, but has nothing public planned. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has several events on his schedule, including the Al Smith charity dinner this evening.

Your schedule:

At 8:30 a.m., Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will participate in a roundtable discussion on tourism, Westin Buffalo, 250 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo.

At 10 a.m., The New York State Assembly will hold a public hearing to examine the current state of New York’s school infrastructure and facilities and study new ways to support, improve and modernize schools and boards of cooperative educational services. Hearing Room B, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

Also at 10 a.m., Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney will speak at an Opioid Summit held by nonprofit organization Drug Crisis in Our Backyard regarding efforts to curb the heroin and opioid epidemic. Arms Acres, 75 Seminary Hill Road, Carmel.

Also at 10 a.m., Regent Roger Tilles will visit the classroom of fifth grade teacher Kate Hunter, National Council for the Social Studies Outstanding Elementary Social Studies Teacher of the Year, during his visit to the Three Village Central School District. Minnesauke Elementary School, 21 High Gage Drive, East Setauket.

At 10:30 a.m., the Public Service Commission meets. 19th Floor Board Room, 3 Empire State Plaza, Albany.

At 12:30 p.m., New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will hold a media availability, Verdi Square, Amsterdam Avenue & West 72nd Street, New York City.

At 1 p.m., Lt. Gov. Hochul will honor the officer of the year, 511 South State Street, Syracuse.

At 1:45 p.m., State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia will deliver remarks and participate in a panel discussion, “The New Mental Health Education Law for New York Schools – What You Need to Know” during the Mental Health Association in New York State Annual Conference. Albany Marriott, 189 Wolf Road, Albany.

At 2:45 p.m., Hochul will highlight the first season of the Port Byron Old Erie Canal Heritage Park. Port Byron.

At 3 p.m., Sen. Robert Ortt will help unveil a new fire safety house trailer that was recently purchased by the Orleans County Emergency Management Office. 14064 County House Road, Albion.

At 4:30 p.m., advocates will protest cuts to health care funding and call on Rep. Elise Stefanik to reverse them, Outside Glens Falls Hospital, Glens Falls.

Headlines:

As he runs for re-election, Mayor de Blasio’s transit record is being assessed, an issue that’s been marked by his feud with the governor and an ongoing debate over who is responsible for maintaining the subway.

Transit workers, joined by union members from across the country, gathered in Times Square on Wednesday to rally against a major airline’s plan to open a new maintenance facility overseas.

Activists are calling for change one year after the fatal police shooting of an emotionally disturbed Bronx woman.

On Nov. 7, voters will be faced with a question on the ballot on whether to hold a constitutional convention in New York State. The opportunity comes automatically every 20 years. While reformers are eager for an opportunity to make fundamental changes to state government, others are much less enthusiastic.

More than 200 people showed up for a fundraiser for Rep. Chris Collins headlined by Vice President Mike Pence — raising $400,000 for the western New York Republican.

Another public battle is revving up between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Go. Andrew Cuomo — this time over driverless cars.

After five days of watching from afar — through television sets, social media posts,and newspaper accounts — a moment for community members to pause and honor officer Craig Lehner.

An eight point plan to better protect local kids is taking shape in Monroe County.

Judge Paul Feinman took the oath of office Wednesday to become the newest member of the state’s highest court, making him the first openly gay judge to sit on the bench of the Court of the Appeals.

A Syracuse mayoral candidate is calling out alleged pay-to-play politics in the city: Laura Lavine spoke in front of City Hall Tuesday to push a ban on awarding development deals to people who paid money to campaigns in the city.

For more than a year, business leaders in Saratoga Springs were well aware executives at Ayco planned to bring all of their employees from their Albany, Latham and Saratoga locations under one roof.

The Stillwater Town Police Department is helping victims of domestic violence with a big cell phone donation.

Former budget chief Bob Megna is heading back to Albany to serve as the chief operating officer at SUNY headquarters.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer is pushing back against a new FCC broadband proposal he said would slow down internet speed in rural areas.

The Democratic candidate in the race for Rensselaer County executive is attacking her Republican opponent’s character in a new radio ad.

In its bid to bring Amazon’s HQ2 to New York City, economic development officials bragged about virtually everything the city has to offer.

New York is making multiple bids to attract Amazon and the question remains how much the online retail juggernaut will be offered in tax breaks to bring HQ2 to the state.

The New York Times profiles Republican mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis and her frequently invoked immigrant background as she takes policy stances at odds with de Blasio on the issue.

The two candidates for governor of New Jersey held a final — and combative — debate, arguing over taxes, marijuana and transportation.

Libraries in New York City will forgive fines for children whose borrowing privileges have been suspended.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has taken a hands-on approach when it comes to major infrastructure projects in New York, but some former MTA workers wonder whether this has led to distractions from maintenance issues for the subway.

New Yorkers with a taste for an expensive city staple will have an opportunity to try the $1,000 bagel when it returns to the city next month.

New York City’s public hospital system will receive $380 million in federal and city funds after a dispute with the state over the funding.

The funding means the hospitals can now start filling vacancies following the “mutually agreeable solution.”

General Motors donated $17,000 to Gov. Cuomo’s re-election fund months before the company was picked for a self-driving car test in New York City, which is now part of a dispute with the de Blasio administration.

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro opened a 2018 campaign account geared toward a potential run for governor.

The state is sending $10 million in funding to the Bronx to combat heroin and opioid abuse.

Ride-hailing firm Uber topped lobbying in New York for the first half of 2017, spending $1.8 million.

A federal reserve report found upstate job growth is losing steam, contradicting claims made by the governor that the area is reviving under his administration.

The two candidates for Nassau County executive, Republican Jack Martins and Democrat Laura Curran, picked up some late-game endorsements.

Independent candidate for mayor Bo Dietl claimed his “male enhancement” pills are actually to help control his diabetes.

Actor Morgan Freeman has been cast to play Colin Powell in an upcoming biopic focusing on his time as secretary of state in George W. Bush’s administration.

Harvard has rescinded a medal to disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who is facing multiple allegations of sexual assault and harassment.

A retailer is apologizing for selling an Anne Frank-themed Halloween costume, which has been pulled from the Internet after social media outrage.

An ill-considered poll about the Holocaust is costing short-lived former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci speaking gigs.

Molinaro Files For Gov Run

Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro has filed papers with the state Board of Elections to run for governor in 2018.

Molinaro, a former state assemblyman, has created the campaign committee “Molinaro For New York” according to a post on Wednesday at the state Board of Elections.

The Citizen in Auburn reported earlier this week Molinaro is planning a potential ticket with Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb.

The Republican race for the gubernatorial nomination is a potentially crowded one next year: The party’s 2014 nominee Rob Astorino is expected to run and businessman Harry Wilson, a 2010 candidate for state comptroller, is also weighing a campaign for governor.

The party’s 2010 nominee, Carl Paladino, has not ruled out running again, either.

Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo is running for a third term next year.

In County Exec Race, Astorino Seizes On Property Tax Issue

The campaign of Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino has for the last several weeks blasted his Democratic opponent George Latimer over $48,000 in unpaid property taxes on a Rye home owned by the lawmaker’s wife.

And on Wednesday, extensive criticism was leveled at Latimer by Astorino himself over the issue, which Latimer has said stems from unsettled issues surrounding the estate of his late mother-in-law, who owned the home.

“George will somehow claim to be the victim of this great big misunderstanding, and make the news media feel badly and want to stop asking questions,” Astorino said. “But this is a serious public policy issue: We’re talking about a sitting state senator and county executive candidate refusing to pay taxes. Are we in the Twilight Zone? Questions need to be asked.”

In his remarks, Astorino pointed to Latimer claiming he owned the home on financial disclosure forms, noting a line of attack for Latimer’s re-election in 2014 was to knock his Republican opponent’s lack of mortgage payments.

“And now the kicker: We found out right after the election, of course, that Senator Latimer’s house was going into foreclosure all the while, and he was being sued by all sorts of creditors,” Astorino said. “Who does that? Really. Who does that?”

Latimer spokesman Jon Greenfield blasted Astorino, calling the claims made in the remarks lies.

“Rob Astorino’s lies about the Senator and his family are a sad reflection of his character, his campaign’s desperate need to distract from his own tax hikes and misspending, and what politics have become under his friend Donald Trump,” Greenfield said. “He really should be ashamed.”

The odd-numbered election year is an otherwise sleepy one in the race of the state, but the outcome in Westchester County could have a wide-ranging impact on the politics of 2018. Astorino is widely considered to be a potential candidate for governor again next year after losing to Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo in 2014.

Latimer on Wednesday, meanwhile, focused on the county’s financial issues, rolling out a shared services plan he said would save taxpayers money.

“Rob Astorino continues to show that he’s more interested in political grandstanding than helping Westchester taxpayers,” Latimer said. “We have some of the highest property taxes in the nation and we continue to suffer the consequences of Astorino’s borrow and spend policies. Sharing municipal services is a pragmatic plan for cost-saving that will help put our county back on sound financial footing.”

Schneiderman Joins Bid To Keep ACA Subsidies

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is backing an effort with fellow state AGs to preserve Affordable Care Act subsidies President Donald Trump’s administration wants to end.

The lawsuit was filed with a coalition of 19 attorneys general.

The subsidies are aimed at keeping insurance affordable as part of the law, commonly referred to as Obamacare. Senate Republicans are working on a compromise measure that would seek to stabilize the marketplace and provide the subsidies, generally aimed at those with qualifying incomes.

“President Trump’s abrupt move to cut these subsidies is reckless, dangerous, – and illegal,” Schneiderman said. “These payments are vital to thousands of New Yorkers and millions of Americans who rely on them to afford their health care. Yet President Trump is using those families as political pawns, putting their lives at risk to advance his own partisan agenda. We won’t stand for it – and we’re moving to block these dangerous cuts before they do any more harm.”

The subsidies have been previously challenged in court by House Republicans, who argue the payments are not legal.

Counties Release Shared Service Plans

County governments could save a combined $208 million in 2018 with the shared services proposals that were unveiled this week in Albany.

All together, 34 counties out of 57 have adopted a plan by Sept. 15. The remaining counties will adopt plans by Sept. 15 of next year, based on legislation approved in the state budget in April.

“The first round of the local shared services program has gotten results with plans across the state projecting reductions in property taxes, finding efficiencies, and achieving better coordination among local governments across the state,” said Jim Malatras, the president of the Rockefeller Institute of Government. “The process has promise for future efforts because it has laid the foundation for better coordination and cooperation among local governments.”

The counties with the highest savings for the first year include Nassau County with $13.5 million and Broome County with $20.3 million. Suffolk County will save $16.5 million and Dtucehss County $15.2 million.

In the out-years, Suffolk County will save $20.9 million, with Dutchess saving $12.5 million.

“It’s critical for New York that counties and other local governments have embraced intergovernmental collaboration and are working together to create economies that will result in savings and improved services for their taxpayers,” said Gerald Benjamin, director of the Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz.

The shared service plans had been pushed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as a means of controlling the local property tax burden. Local government officials have chaffed, though, at the claims that the proliferation of governments and taxing districts has led to high taxes, instead placing the blame on the mandated spending placed on them by Albany.

Feinman Sworn In To Court Of Appeals

Paul Feinman was ceremonially sworn in on Wednesday as the newest judge on the state’s highest court — the first openly gay man to serve on the Court of Appeals.

With his family and husband in attendance in the chambers of the Court of Appeals, Feinman spoke of his late brother, a comic and poet, who was also gay, as an inspiration.

“Were it not for him and all the leaders of the LGBT community and the LGBT judges who preceded me in the judiciary, it was all of them who forged a path before me and without them this day would not have been possible,” Feinman said. ”
From this, I understand I have an obligation for those who come after me.”

Feinman is joining one of the more diverse courts in its history, replacing the late Sheila Abdus-Salaam, who police say committed suicide earlier this year. The entirety of the court, based on mandatory retirements, has been nominated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat (Cuomo has appointed a Republican, Michael Garcia).

“Compare this court to any other court in the country — extraordinarily diverse,” said Vin Bonventre, an Albany Law School professor. “I don’t care what the category is. We’ve got a diverse court, which is great, because when they go into conference, they’re going in with different backgrounds, different wisdom, different perspectives.”

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins also hailed the moment, and Feinman’s credentials.

“Becoming the Appeals Court’s first open LGBT judge will bring further diversity to our highest court to greater reflect New York’s diverse citizenship,” she said. “Judge Feinman’s qualifications and skills gained throughout his distinguished career will also be a great addition and I wish him well in this great responsibility.”

DeRosa: ‘Course Correction’ Needed On Respecting Women

The top aide in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on Wednesday called for a change in how society respects women in professional life and societal life, recalling moments of condescension and harassment from men in politics and the media.

Melissa DeRosa, the first woman to serve as secretary to the governor — the equivalent of the chief of staff post for a president in the executive chamber — recounted that despite her resume as a top official in Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office and role in the state campaign for President Barack Obama, she has been defined in the media by her relationship to her lobbyist father and husband, a former Cuomo spokesman who now works for Uber.

She recounted her experiences at a Berkeley College discussion on women in the media.

“When my appointment as secretary to the governor was announced back in April, I was ‘the daughter of’ or the ‘wife of,'” she said.

“Never mind the fact that when I did work with my husband, I was his boss. My entire professional life defined by my father’s chosen profession. To them, perhaps, these words were a distinction without a difference. But for many women, we all too often find ourselves being labeled on the basis of our gender, not our accomplishments.”

DeRosa recalled an exchange on Twitter with Republican Sen. Joe Griffo last year, in which he said her father had taught her better. She responded by calling the tweet “condescending sexism.”

“My response made waves,” she said. “But let’s take a moment on that – no one blinked when a male state senator lectured the governor’s female chief of staff saying that ‘my father taught me better’, but my shot back wasn’t to be tolerated.”

She also discussed how, at 25, a man made a lewd reference to her in a conference call. The unnamed man is now a national leader in progressive politics, she said.

“This kind of behavior has been normalized for decades, with the anomaly being those who call it out,” she said.

And just this weekend, DeRosa returned a phone call to a member of the Assembly who insisted on speaking to the governor “man to man.”

“For the record, I hung up on him; I may not be a member of the Assembly, but I won’t be talked to that way,” DeRosa said.

Her remarks come amid a heightened conversation on harassment and sexual assault of women following the allegations leveled at Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein by multiple women. In Albany, women have been subject to harassment and abuse as well, the most prominent instance involving the late former Assemblyman Vito Lopez.

“That’s why it’s so important that women speak up and speak out,” DeRosa said. “The power of influence and media that is being projected through the ‘MeToo’ campaign on Twitter is exposing how widespread this phenomenon is, and makes clear that it won’t be swept under the rug anymore.”