Aug 16th - 1:38 pm
Two Democratic special election hopefuls – congressional candidate David Weprin and Assembly contender Phil Goldfeder – are touting their endorsements by Sen. Chuck Schumer today, hoping the powerful senior senator’s name recognition and popularity helps carry them to victory on Sept. 13.
In his statement in support of Weprin, Schumer hewed to what has become the campaign’s standard line of attack (without naming names, in this case) against his GOP opponent, Bob Turner, saying Weprin is “the only candidate” who will stand up for the middle class and protect entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security against “extreme right-wing Republican policies.”
Schumer is likely to make an in-person appearance on Weprin’s behalf as the election draws closer. He discussed his support of Weprin today with YNN’s Bill Carey during a stop in Syracuse. (We’ll be bringing you that video in a moment).
The senator did appear for Goldfeder at a press conference in Lindenwood yesterday. This makes sense, since Goldfeder was, until this campaign began, the senator’s director of intergovernmental affairs.
“I’ve seen Phil in action. He’s a hard worker, a fighter and he has a deep passion for public service,” Schumer said.
“Phil will take that energy to the state Assembly and he won’t rest until he tackles the number one issue on everyone’s mind – which is jobs, jobs, jobs.”
Goldfeder is running for the seat vacated by former Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, who gave up her seat to become Queens County clerk.
Weprin, who essentially traded his old NYC Council seat for the Assembly seat that belonged to his brother, Mark, after losing a 2009 NYC comptroller bid, is running for the seat of disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner.
A recent Siena poll found Schumer, who held a version of NY-9 prior to the last round of redistricting, has a high favorability rating in the district (over 60 percent), and his endorsement is likely to hold some weight there.
Trouble is, the same goes for former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, who is backing Turner. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has not yet formally endorsed Weprin, but has said he’ll do whatever he can to be helpful, is also very popular in NY-9.
Theoretically, Schumer also might help move Jewish voters. Both Goldfeder and Weprin, who, according to Siena, was leading among Jews, are observant.
Turner has not ceded the Jewish vote, however. He spent last weekend campaigning in the Catskills in hopes of swaying Orthodox Jews vacationing upstate.
Aug 9th - 12:54 pm
Jesus Gonzalez, a candidate for the Brooklyn Assembly seat vacated by Darryl Towns, says his campaign office was robbed at gunpoint Friday night, his campaign announced today.
The thieves made off with two computers and a cell phone at around 9 p.m. on Friday. A campaign worker was present in the office at the time of the robbery, Gonzalez’s campaign said.
“The campaign appreciates the efforts of the police to identify these men,” said the Gonzalez campaign in a statement. “We are taking this crime seriously, as we do all violent crimes that take place in this community. We must work hard to ensure this is a community in which no one feels unsafe.”
The special election to fill Towns’s seat is being held Sept. 9. Towns was elevated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to lead the state Housing Authority. He was arrested and charged with a DWI in July.
Aug 3rd - 4:35 pm
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assemblyman Jack McEneny released a joint statement this afternoon pledging to follow the law that requires prisoners be counted as residents of their last known addresses, not where their facility is located.
And the lawmakers say they have updated figures from the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, which will soon be released.
The statement comes as LATFOR, the lawmaker-driven task force charged with redrawing legislative boundaries based on new Census data, is currently using the old way of counting prisoners.
The law is being challenged by some Senate Republicans in a lawsuit, who would likely lose population in their districts if the measure is upheld. Republicans hold a thin 32-30 majority in the Senate.
Republicans have argued that the bill was passed through the budget, a possibly dubious way of approving a policy issue like redistricting. The law was enacted when Democrats controlled the Senate for a two-year term.
LATFOR will hold a meeting in Albany Thursday at 10 a.m.
Of course, this could all be moot. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pledged to veto lines drawn by lawmakers and throw the process to the courts.
Here’s the Assembly statement:
Last year, the Legislature passed a law requiring that prison inmates be counted in their home communities rather than their incarceration address for the purpose of redistricting. The Assembly Majority believes that complying with the law as written is not only the prudent thing to do, it is also the right thing to do. In order to comply with the law, Assembly staff have been working with the original inmate records provided by Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to ensure inmates are counted properly. Our work is nearly complete and the results will be made public in the near future.
We urge our task force members to join with us, ensuring compliance with both the letter and intent of the law. This is the responsible action for the Legislature to take. Regardless of any personal political stance on the prison count issue, we encourage all task force members to join us in our effort to fully comply with the law as it is written.
Aug 2nd - 3:31 pm
Assemblyman Micah Kellner, an Upper East Side Democrat, has released an alternative to what he deemed the “troubled and highly controversial” taxi plan championed by Mayor Bloomberg and passed – after considerable lobbying and some delay – by both the Senate and Assembly in June.
The bill would expand taxi service by allowing the sale of up to 30,000 permits for new cabs, which would be painted a color other than the traditional yellow, to pick up street hails in the outer boroughs and Northern Manhattan.
Bloomberg has predicted the measure will be signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo – perhaps in the fall – although the administration has yet to confirm that. The legislation has not yet been sent to the governor by the Assembly, which passed it first and therefore controls the timing of its trip to Cuomo’s desk.
Kellner said his Access-for-All Taxi and Livery Plan has been agreed to by the largest taxi and livery associations and would also vastly increase wheelchair accessible taxi and livery service, which the Bloomberg-backed bill would not.
“Currently finding an accessible taxi is like winning the lottery: You hope it will happen, but you don’t count on it,” the assemblyman said in a press release, which appears in full beflore.
“This plan creates a real opportunity for riders with disabilities to take advantage of New York’s most iconic mode of transportation. This agreement shows that taxi owners are ready to pull up to the curb and turn on the meter for wheelchair-users.”
Jul 29th - 10:19 am
ICYMI: The Brennan Center’s Democracy Program Director Wendy Weiser told me during a CapTon interview last night that she and her allies have not ruled out suing to force LATFOR to follow the law that requires prisoners to be counted at their last known address and not where they’re doing time for the purposes of redistricting.
The Brennan Center et al sent a letter to LATFOR this week urging members of the bipartisan committee to comply with the law passed as part of the budget back in 2009.
The Assembly Democrats subsequently put out a statement that essentially agreed with the coalition and expressed hope that their legislative colleagues across the aisle would act accordingly.
Here’s the statement, attributed to Roman Hedges:
“I, along with Assemblyman John McEneny, co-chairman of the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment, agree with the groups who signed the letter regarding the prison count issue and intend to fully comply with the law. We urge our fellow task force members to do the same.”
The problem, of course, is that the Senate Republicans are suing over the 2009 law, arguing it was illegally enacted (as part of an emergency extender bill) and also that it disenfranchises voters who live in upstate districts that are home to prisons.
But Weiser and her colleagues maintain that in the absence of an injunction or other court action, LATFOR has no choice BUT to follow the law. And if its members continue to refuse to do so, perhaps they need a little push in the right direction.
“We and our clients will consider all of our legal obligations,” she said. Nothing is off the table. You know, there is certainly no legal justification that LATFOR could put forward for not complying with the law. There is no authority or ground that they can stand on on that.”
Jul 22nd - 1:42 pm
ICYMI: Assemblyman Richard Gottfried told me during a CapTon interview last night that he believes medical marijuana might be legal by now – if only Joe Bruno was still the Senate majority leader.
“I think there’s a very good chance if Joe Bruno had stayed around as majority leader in the Senate the bill would be law today,” the Manhattan Democrat said.
“Joe Bruno had, perhaps to some surprisingly, progressive positions on many issues on medical care – I think growing out of his life experience.”
“And the co-sponsors and votes for the bill in the Assembly have been from all over the political spectrum, from left and center, and some of our most conservative, rural legislators, have been active and very vocal sponsors of the bill.”
Gottfried, as you may know, has sponsored a bill to legalize med-mar for well over a decade now. The measure has passed the Assembly several times – the first time back in 2007 – but it has never been taken up in the Senate.
The bill did, at one point, have a majority sponsor – ex-Sen. Vincent Leibell, who has since been found guilty on federal corruption (not pot-related) charges and is now doing time behind bars.
Bruno expressed support for the measure after his successful treatment for prostate cancer. The sticking point has always been whoever is sitting in the governor’s office. Republican George Pataki was opposed. Ditto for Eliot Spitzer, who said his doctor brother told him synthetic drugs like Marinol work just as well, although he was open to discussion on the subject.
(For the record, advocates and med-mar users say Marinol is inferior because it’s hard to regulate the dosage – unlike smoking, which is done in, well, puffs).
Former AG Andrew Cuomo said during the 2010 governor’s race that he opposed the legalization of pot for medical use. Just this week, however, following NJ Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to lift the freeze and his state’s program that he enacted last spring, Cuomo said he’s reviewing the issue, but doesn’t have a “final position.”
Jul 15th - 12:59 pm
Assemblywoman Grace Meng, a Queens Democrat and the lone Asian-American in the NYS Legislature at the moment, has only been in Albany for three years.
But during that time, she has managed to quietly amass a campaign war chest of more than $500,000 – $519,327, to be exact, according to the July 15 report on file with the state Board of Elections.
That’s a feat only about 10 legislators manage to accomplish each year, according to NYPIRG’s Bill Mahoney. At the moment, only two legislators – Meng and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos – are reporting balances that surpass the half-million mark, but not all of the mid-summer financial filings are on-line yet.
UPDATE: I stand corrected. Sen. Mike Gianaris, another fundraising powerhouse and chair of the DSCC, has $1.57 million on hand between two camapign committees and, as the DN’s Ken Lovett writes, is another one of these young legislative up-and-comers to watch out for. He’s also from Queens, albeit a very different area, and he also taps into an ethic vein of cash. In his case, the Greeks.
Historically, only senior lawmakers and those with leadership posts have managed to hit the fundraising high-water mark.
In July 2009, for example, the only Assembly members who had a warchest with a balance of $500,000 or more were:
Speaker Sheldon Silver, Dov Hikind (a major Brooklyn Orthodox Jewish power broker), Vito Lopez (Brooklyn Democratic boss and Housing Committee chair), Richard Brodsky (now a former assemblyman who used to chair the Corporations Committee and lost a 2010 AG bid), Joe Morelle (chair of the Insurane Committee and head of the Monroe County Democratic Party), and Peter Abbate (chair of the Governmental Employees Committee, in the Assembly since 1996).
Meng only raised $12,000 over the past six months and spent almost four times that ($44,905), most of that on wages for her political operation and literature.
She has ramped down her fundraising since the 2010 cycle, even though she faced no opponent in either the primary of general elections.
That was a major milestone for Meng and her Flushing, Queens district, which had seen its fair share of turmoil in recent years.
The seat in the 22nd AD has only existed since 2002, and was first represented by Barry Grodenchik. He was ousted in 2004 by Grace Meng’s father, Jimmy, who was the first Asian-American ever elected to the Assembly. Two years later, Meng retired, citing health problems, and Ellen Young took over. After a bitter primary battle in 2008, Grace Meng ousted Young.
That fight was a re-match. Meng, an attorney of Chinese descent, had run against Young in 2006 but bowed out of the race when Young challenged her residency.
It also had broader implications: Then NYC Councilman John Liu, who is now city comptroller and the city’s only Asian-American citywide elected officials, backed his protege, Young, over Meng in 2006.
The secret to Grace Meng’s success? Constituent services. The district, which has a very high immigrant population, was starved for some attention, apparently. Or, as she told City Hall News last July:
“It’s like when a girl hasn’t heard from her boyfriend, waiting for him to call. She gets frustrated. I just want them to feel that the next time it’s time for them to vote, that I didn’t just come around to get re-elected.”
Meng made headlines recently when she was the first New York elected official to propose “Caylee’s Law” in the wake of the Casey Anthony trial verdict. The measure that would it a felony offense for parents and guardians to fail to report their missing children within a timely manner.
Jul 14th - 9:30 am
New Yorkers were heartened by the results of the unusually productive 2011 legislative session, with 48 percent saying state government appears to have become less dysfunctional.
Half of voters – including a majority of Democrats, independents and voters from New York City, and a plurality of voters from upstate and the downstate suburbs – said the session moves the state forward in the right direction.
Favorability ratings for the Assembly and Senate, while still in the negative, rose significantly in the last month. And Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s rating remains sky-high – 71-21, up slightly from 68-21 percent last month.
Cuomo’s job performance rating also rose slightly to 58-40, up from 55-41.
Only among conservative voters does Cuomo’s favorability drop below 60 percent, and even they like him: 59-35. Similarly, conservatives are the only group with a majority giving Cuomo a negative job performance rating.
That likely has something to do with the governor’s successful push to legalize same-sex marriage in New York. But overall, 46 percent of voters said the change moves the state in the right direction.
New Yorkers are less sure about a controversial issue looming for Cuomo: Whether hydrofracking should be allowed in the Marcellus Shale.
Statewide, 45 percent of voters favor DEC’s recommendation that the fracking ban be lifted, while 43 percent oppose it.
By a 54-33 percent margin, voters statewide said they’re more inclined to trust hydrofracking opponents rather than supporters. That view is held by 53 percent in NYC, 54 percent in the downstate suburbs and 55 percent upstate.
New Yorkers generally don’t like the speculation about Cuomo moving on to bigger and better things.
At least 80 percent of voters from every party and region saying all this White House talk is premature and Cuomo should focus on his responsibilities as governor.
More bad news in this poll for President Obama. His favorability has slipped to its lowest level since last December, 57-39, down slightly from 59-38 percent last month,
Jul 13th - 7:55 am
It now appears to be a foregone conclusion that New York’s judges will receive a pay raise – and a fairly substantial one at that.
After a delay caused by appointment lags, the Judicial Compensation Commission finally got to work this week. Its members seem to agree that 12 years without a salary increase has been far too long for the state’s jurists, who rank dead last in compensation compared to their counterparts in other states.
But what of state lawmakers, who, like the judges, haven’t seen a raise since January 1999?
The starting salary for a rank-and-file legislator is $79,500 (compared to $136,000 for the average state Supreme Court justice). With extra pay for chairmanships and other posts, they earn just over $90,000, on average, for what is technically a part-time job.
Legislators are allowed to moonlight, of course, while judges have restrictions on doing so. But with the new ethics bill (apparently about to be signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo) requiring new disclosure of outside income, that’s looking like a less attractive option for some senators and assembly members.
Judicial and legislative compensation was traditionally linked, which is what caused the judges’ long pay lag in the first place.
Lawmakers aren’t legally allowed to vote to raise their own pay, although they can vote to boost the bottom line of the next sitting Legislature. Since there’s a nearly 99 percent re-election rate in Albany, they’re essentially voting to give themselves a raise – near political suicide.
Former NYC Comptroller Bill Thompson told me on CapTon last night said he favors a commission to regularly review legislative pay – which is how things work for the NYC Council, which has a $112,500 base pay.
“What they have there is a commission that the mayor names,” the once-and-future NYC mayoral contender told me.
“A three-person commission, every x number of years, and they make a recommendation. I think that’s a way that the state Legislature – I don’t know if it’s prohibited by the constitution – (but) put that commission together. Let them do it.”
That would, of course, take the option of using a pay raise as a bargaining chip (which Gov. George Pataki did in exchange for charter schools) away from the governor.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo hasn’t been asked about this lately, particularly given the state’s precarious fiscal position – something that needs to be kept in mind, Thompson acknowledged, as judicial pay raises are contemplated.
Jul 12th - 4:02 pm
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver this afternoon issued a statement in support of Assemblyman David Weprin’s special election bid to replace ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner, saying the Queens Democrat can be counted on to be a “strong voice for Israel in Congress.”
“I have known David Weprin, and his family, for years,” said Silver, who replaced Weprin’s father, Saul, in the speaker’s seat after the elder Weprin’s death in 1994.
“We have worked together on many issues important to New Yorkers in general, and the Jewish community in particular. David Weprin has always believed in the safety and security of the State of Israel.”
Silver, as you’ll recall, is an Orthodox Jew. Weprin is an observant Jew who routinely describes himself as “shomer Shabbos.”
But Weprin has come under fire for being, for lack of a better way of putting it, not Jewish enough.
The Orthodox newspaper Hamodia ran a scathing opinion piece that accused the assemblyman of paying for the Democratic nod in NY-9 with “his very soul,” noting in particular his “yes” vote on same-sex marriage.