Bill de Blasio

Meetings with the Mayor

Mayor de Blasio met with a host of prominent New Yorkers over the last six months of 2014 – but only once with Governor Cuomo. That’s according to his official schedule, released today through a Freedom of Information Act request. The mayor and Governor sat down together at Casa Lever, an Italian restaurant in Midtown, on July 11. He also dined with former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on September 30 at Prime Grill, a kosher steakhouse in Manhattan.
While the mayor says he is fighting to close the gap between wealthy and poor New Yorkers, his schedule shows he’s made time for some of the city’s biggest leaders in finance and media. He spoke on the phone with Jamie Dimon, the CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase and met with Lloyd Blankfein, the head of Goldman Sachs, for 45 minutes at City Hall in July. De Blasio also met with Les Moonves, the President and CEO of CBS in August and had a phone call with him in November. All three ended up serving on the mayor’s host committee as part of the city’s push to win the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
Opponents of the horse-drawn carriage industry also got an audience with the mayor. He hosted a meeting with two prominent opponents at Gracie Mansion in September. Steven Nislick and Wendy Neu got an hour of his time, according to his schedule. Both were big donors to the anti-Christine Quinn group “New York City Is Not For Sale” during the 2013 mayor’s race.
Also invited to Gracie Mansion? Lobbyists Harold Ickes and Janine Enright. They came for dinner with the mayor and his wife. Ickes, a former Clinton administration official, is also an adviser to the mayor.
There was some time for celebrating, the mayor’s schedule shows. He attended a reunion with his campaign staff at a rooftop bar on September 10th, exactly a year after he won the Democratic primary. The views from the top of 230 Fifth Avenue are impressive. The mayor and his aides could take a good look at the city they had won.

Roberts Was All For CFE Funding Before He Was Against It

Assemblyman Sam Roberts raised eyebrows this week by taking a very public swipe at Syracuse Mayor Stephine Miner and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s push for the Cuomo administration to fulfill the 2006 CFE settlement, under which the state owes hundreds of millions of dollars to school districts across the state and a whopping $1.5 billion to the Big Apple.

In a letter to de Blasio, Roberts questioned why the city is seeking additional education dollars under the auspices of the CFE settlement when it current has a healthy economy, sizable tax base and budget surplus of $1.58 billion. Instead, the Syracuse Democrat suggested, perhaps the city, with its “greater resources”, should offer to contribute to its poorer neighbors and districts elsewhere in the state.

“The Assembly has focused its attention and funding on New York City for far too long at the expense of other 676 school districts statewide,” Roberts wrote.

The assemblyman’s sentiments are especially surprising due to the fact that he signed onto a letter to the governor back in January, calling on him to include a “substantial” increase in education in his 2015-16 executive budget proposal and citing data from the state Education Department that suggests the state is $4.5 billion behind on its CFE committment to districts statewide – an argument being made repeatedly this year by AQE, NYSUT and others.

Nowhere in the January letter was any distinction made about upstate districts versus New York City – the largest school district in the nation, which was the focus of the CFE case and is owed the lion’s share of the outstanding state aid. The majority of Assembly Democrats signed the letter – including Roberts.

Perhaps the assemblyman’s change of heart – and desire to pubicly criticize two fellow Democrats who have had very public disagreements with the governor – had something to do with the report that he has been offered a job with the Cuomo administration?

A source who has spoken directly to Roberts confirmed that the assemblyman did indeed say he would likely be joining the governor’s staff at the end of this year’s legislative session. According to this source, Roberts was actually offered a job early in the year, but turned it down, and is now up for a different – albeit yet-to-be-determined – position.

Asked by the Syracuse Post-Standard whether the governor had offered him a job, Roberts did not deny that had occurred, saying only: “A lot of people offer me jobs, OK?”

“Well, that hasn’t happened as of yet,” he also told the paper. I’m still in the New York State Assembly…There’s nothing etched in stone There’s all sorts of discussions. General Motors offered me a job, but I’m still here.”

Roberts did not return a message left by SoP at his district office in Syracuse last night.

The assemblyman said in 2013 that he was considering a potential run for mayor of Syracuse in 2017 when Miner will be barred by term limits from seeking re-election.

January 2015 letter to Gov Cuomo seeking additional CFE cash. by liz_benjamin6490

CNY Assemblyman Swipes At de Blasio

Following news that NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner have teamed up to pressure Gov. Andrew Cuomo to fulfill the CFE settlement and make a big boost to education aid, Assemblyman Sam Roberts, a Syracuse Democrat, is accusing the downstate mayor of seeking additional state aid “at the expense of truly poor” urban and rural school districts upstate.

In a letter he sent to de Blasio yesterday (and released publicly today), Roberts notes that New York City has a $1.58 billion surplus and a sizable tax base – two things the majority of upstate communities lack.

According to de Blasio and Miner, the state owes New York City $2.6 billion and Syracuse $87.1 million as a result of never fully funding the settlement that resulted from the 2006 CFE case, which found New York was routinely shortchanging students in needy districts, thereby depriving them of their constitutional right to a sound basic education.

“The irony is that while New York City has a $1.58 billion surplus, it is requesting money based on CFE – the core principle of which is that district need and wealth should be taken into account in State funding allocations – and that poorer districts should receive higher State funding to account for a lower tax base,” the assemblyman wrote.

“…To fully comply with CFE, I would assert that NYC, who has greater resources, should contribute to the funding of its poorer neighbors and school districts within the state. The Assembly has focused its attention and funding on New York City for far too long at the expense of other 676 school districts statewide.”

Syracuse has been struggling to make ends meet for several years, with Miner warning that the city could be forced over the fiscal cliff if the state doesn’t step up and assist. She also is currently locked in a war of words with the governor over whether infrastructure funding trumps economic development funding, or vice versa. (He says the city, which recently experienced its 100th water main break so far this year, should pay for its own pipes and create some jobs before looking to the state for help).

Miner and Cuomo have had a rocky relationship for several years now. She was his hand-picked state Democratic Party co-chair, but stepped down from the post after criticizing him quite publicly on key policy proposals – most notably on the lack of attention to the fiscal woes of upstate communities and the failure to adequately address ballooning pension fund costs.

Roberts, like Miner and de Blasio, is a Democrat. He has been mentioned as a potential contender for Syracuse mayor in 2017 when Miner will be barred from seeking re-election due to term limits.

Assemblyman Sam Roberts' letter to NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio by liz_benjamin6490

De Blasio Cheers Assembly Budget

Mayor Bill de Blasio in a statement this afternoon praised the Assembly Democrat’s one-house budget resolution, a document that endorses his minimum wage increase for New York City.

The Assembly is also backing a longer extension of mayoral control for city schools: Gov. Andrew Cuomo backs a three-year sunset, Democrats put that figure at seven. De Blasio had called on Albany for a permanent extension.

“First, we’re pleased that the Assembly included a seven-year extension of mayoral control, as well as an increase in school aid and funds for universal pre-K over the Executive Budget,” de Blasio said. “These additional dollars would help us continue to make the groundbreaking reforms and innovations that truly serve our kids.”

But the minimum wage increase backed by Assembly Democrats aligns with de Blasio’s push to hike the minimum wage in the city to $15 by 2018, plus indexing to inflation future increases.

“The Assembly’s minimum wage proposal is also a critical step toward providing the fair wages New Yorkers need and deserve as we continue to take on income inequality in New York City and beyond,” de Blasio said.

Cuomo’s minimum wage proposal would grow the wage from $8.75 to $11.50 in New York City and $10.50.

Assembly Democrats backed a plan that would provide a larger increase, plus expanding it to include downstate suburban counties.

Cuomo And de Blasio: No Rivalry Here

Gov. Andrew Cuomo insisted on Wednesday he wasn’t trying to upstage New York’s other prominent Democrat: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“Only a really twisted mind would come up with that one,” Cuomo said of the implication.

De Blasio traveled to Albany to testify before a joint Senate and Assembly legislative budget hearing.

In the middle of the testimony and while de Blasio was being grilled by state lawmakers, Cuomo across the street at the Capitol building held a cabinet meeting.

The meeting featured one of de Blasio’s main primary foes from 2013: Former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is now a special advisor to the governor on campus assault and rape policy.

The second announcement at the meeting was a signature issue for de Blasio in 2014: Universal pre-Kindergarten in New York City. Cuomo at the meeting today highlighted his own efforts to extend universal pre-K not just to 4-year-olds, but 3-year-olds as well.

During a question-and-answer session, Cuomo would not support de Blasio’s push for a permanent mayoral control of city schools.

De Blasio brushed off the talk of a rivalry.

“I applaud him for focusing on pre-K,” de Blasio told reporters at a news conference.

Later, after meeting privately with Cuomo, de Blasio was similarly unphased.

“Look, there’s a process that happens up here over – you know, in the case of the budgets, it’ll be over the next weeks – in the case of legislative session, it’ll be over months – and there’s always a lot of give and take. So I think it was an open and productive conversation, meaning I have phrased a series of concerns, he was receptive, nothing was concluded – it’s a beginning – but I think, at least, I can say safely he heard very clearly that the city has a number of concerns,” de Blasio said.

Cuomo has previously insisted that he has one of the tightest working relationships with de Blasio in recent history.

Given that governors and mayor frequently feud — Rockefeller versus Lindsay, Mario Cuomo versus Koch, Pataki versus Giuliani — the bar is set rather low.

Cuomo: Mayoral Control ‘An Experiment’

As Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday called for a permanent extension of mayoral control of schools in New York City, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called it an “experiment” that should be renewed in 2018.

“Remember, mayoral control is basically an experiment that was started under Mayor Bloomberg,” Cuomo said. “The point was let’s try this — mayoral control — in New York City. It had been tried in other cities, but let’s try it to see if it’s better than the Board of Education system. That was the genesis and let’s review it to see how it’s doing.”

Asked how he felt mayoral control was working, Cuomo said: “I think it’s doing well enough to extend it for three years.”

De Blasio, before a panel of state lawmakers, called in his testimony for a permanent extension, saying it was the most efficient vehicle for education reform.

“Mayoral control gives the City the authority it needs to carry out a vision of improving and reforming education,” he said. “The speed and scale of our pre-K-for-all and expanded after school initiatives were only possible because of mayoral control.”

De Blasio Parts With Cuomo On Testing, School Takeover

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday called for a permanent extension of mayoral control for city schools and criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s approach toward standardized testing and push to make it easier for the state to takeover struggling schools.

De Blasio’s testimony this morning before a joint legislative budget committee in Albany marked the kick off of what’s known as “Tin Cup Day” at the Capitol — typically a day in which mayors and other local government officials from around the state provide their reactions to the governor’s budget proposal.

In calling for a permanent extension of mayoral control, de Blasio quoted his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, who was a key political ally and generous donor to Republican lawmakers in the state Senate.

“Mayor Bloomberg and I agree,” de Blasio said. “Mayoral control gives the City the authority it needs to carry out a vision of improving and reforming education. The speed and scale of our pre-K-for-all and expanded after school initiatives were only possible because of mayoral control.”

Making the authority over the district permanent would “build predictability into the system, which is important for bringing about the deep, long-range reforms that are needed.”

Cuomo in his joint State of the State and budget presentation last month called for a re-approval of mayoral control for New York City schools as well as extending to schools in other cities, including Rochester and Yonkers.

While de Blasio credited Cuomo with the mayoral control push, he also admonished his efforts to reform public education in the state through more stringent teacher evaluations.

De Blasio told lawmakers that education reform “must be done the right way.”

“Of course, we must have standards and accountability – we all agree on that,” the mayor said. “But excessive reliance on high-stakes testing is troubling. Standardized tests should not be the largest part of a full evaluation of a student or a teacher. When small variations in student test scores result in failing ratings for teachers, and that can lead to automatic termination, it forces teachers to teach to the test, rather than teaching for learning. And it discourages teachers from serving our most challenging students. That is not good for teachers, parents, or students.”

He saved what was perhaps his most pointed criticism for the effort to make it easier for the state to assume control over struggling public schools through the appointment of a monitor.

In his testimony, de Blasio made clear that he opposes an effort to have the state inject itself in an effort to turn around failing schools in his city.

“… the fact is, mayoral control already makes it clear who is responsible for struggling schools in New York City – I am. I am fully accountable to the people of New York City, and if they do not believe I have succeeded, they will have the opportunity not to renew my contract,” de Blasio said.

The mayor’s budget testimony — his second in Albany since taking office last year — comes as he continues to part ways with Cuomo on key policy matters. Last year, Cuomo resisted de Blasio’s push to allow New York City to raise taxes on high-income earners in order to fund a city-wide pre-Kindergarten program (In the end, Cuomo funded a statewide version without a surcharge).

Now, de Blasio and Cuomo are odds over a minimum wage increase. Cuomo’s proposal would create a two-tier system that would provide for a $11.50 minimum wage for the city and $10.50 elsewhere.

De Blasio wants a $13 minimum wage for the city, plus indexing that would eventually make the wage $15 an hour as poverty advocates have called for in recent months.

Cuomo’s office has called the de Blasio wage proposal a “non-starter” with the Legislature.

At the same time, de Blasio’s push to develop Sunnyside Yards faces administration opposition as well.

If anything, de Blasio continues to face a classic problem that his predecessors have struggled with, namely the push and pull of home rule — a struggle that has stymied mayors dating back to the Rockefeller era.

But de Blasio is traveling to Albany in which majority Republicans in the state Senate are once again openly hostile to his agenda.

De Blasio sought to help Democrats take full control of the state Senate last year, only to have three upstate incumbents lose to Republican challengers last fall.

De Blasio last year also sought to shore up his alliance with Cuomo through lobbying the Working Families Party to endorse the governor for re-election.

For now, de Blasio strongest Albany allies may be the Assembly Democrats, who have a new speaker following Shelly Silver’s corruption arrest.

De Blasio traveled to Albany earlier this month to praise the new speaker, Bronx Democrat Carl Heastie, at a weekend gathering of black and Hispanic lawmakers.

De Blasio Testimony by Nick Reisman

Cuomo: Minimum Wage Up Hike Up To Legislature, Not de Blasio

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday shrugged off the call from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for an even either minimum wage increase than what is proposed in the state budget, saying it’s up to the state Legislature to vote on the issue, not the mayor.

“The mayor’s opinion is relevant, but the mayor doesn’t vote on it,” Cuomo said in Syracuse. “It’s the Assembly and the Senate. Everyone has an opinion on this issue, I respect everyone’s opinion, but it’s going to be up to the Assembly and the Senate.”

Cuomo’s minimum wage proposal would create a two-tier system for the minimum wage: $11.50 for New York City, $10.50 for the rest of the state.

De Blasio, a fellow Democrat, is calling for a $13 minimum wage for the city and have it indexed to inflation so that it reaches $15 an hour by 2019.

“The current minimum wage proposal simply doesn’t do enough to help New York City,” de Blasio said in his address. “That’s why we will fight to raise New York City’s minimum wage to more than $13 per hour in 2016—while indexing the minimum wage, which would bring us to a projected $15 per hour by 2019.”

Cuomo’s plan does not include indexing future increases and he is opposed to allowing local government raise the wage on their own through a state-based formula.

Cuomo did endorse indexing and a version of local control over a minimum wage hike upon receiving the endorsement of the Working Families Party in May.

“The state minimum wage is set by the state Legislature. It’s really going to be between the Assembly and the Senate.

I don’t. The state minimum wage is set by the state Legislature,” Cuomo said of the wage proposal. “It’s really going to be between the Assembly and the Senate.”

Cuomo also noted that his wage proposal comes from the political middle, a comfortable spot for him.

“The Assembly and the Senate will have to decide,” Cuomo said. “Some people think my proposal is too high, some people think my proposal is too low.”

A Cuomo spokeswoman yesterday was harsher in the assessment of de Blasio’s minimum wage proposal, calling it a non-starter with the state Legislature, as did a spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

The current minimum wage in New York is $8.75. It is set to increase to $9 by the end of the year.

Updated to clarify the Cuomo administration’s remarks on the de Blasio proposal.

De Blasio: ‘Crucially Important’ Assembly Leadership ‘Fair’ To NYC

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio refused today to pick a favorite in the ongoing speakership tussle taking place in the Assembly Democratic conference, though he stressed that whoever is ultimately selected to lead the chamber must be “fair” to the five boroughs and keep his city’s best interests in mind.

“It’s crucially important New York City have leadership in the Assembly that wants to be fair to New York City,” the mayor told reporters. “And let’s be clear, we often don’t get our fair share from state government.”

“Looking at the education funding dynamic. Look at the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, and the court settlement there and the fact that to this day we still are owed billions and billions of dollars in education funding. That’s not the only area where there’s that kind of disparity. I think historically, the Assembly leadership has tried to defend the valid interests of New York City, and it’s very important that that continue.”

An upstate-downstate divide is just one of several rifts within the conference that have emerged since Speaker Sheldon Silver’s arrest on federal corruption charges last week touched off a furious round of discussions – both public and private – about whether the Manhattan Democrat is too damaged to continue in his leadership role.

Last night, after a marathon closed-door session, the Assembly Democrats emerged to announce that they agreed Silver must go – though whether he will voluntarily heed a growing call for himto resign or they will be forced to actively seek his removal remains an open question. They remain far from an agreement, however, on who should replace Silver once he’s out of the picture.

The possibility that Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, of Rochester, might succeed Silver – even on a temporary basis – is believed to make the de Blasio administration nervous. Not only is Morelle an upstater, but he is a more moderate Democrat than the very liberal NYC mayor, who has become an outspoken champion of the left since his election in the fall of 2013.

Observers and insiders believe that the mayor’s preferred speaker candidate is Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie. But de Blasio insisted – just as Gov. Andrew Cuomo repeatedly has – that this decision rests with the Assembly Democrats, and them alone. He did not deny that members of his administrastion are making calls up to Albany about the speaker situation, but said those calls aren’t intended to try to influence the outcome.

“I’m not talking to Assembly members at all,” the mayor said. “We’re trying to keep abrest of what’s happening because we have a lot of things that matter to us…We’re trying to stay close to what’s happening so we are able to act on the substance of the situation. We’re just trying to gather information.”

The perception that de Blasio might be trying to ivolve himself in this battle is not sitting well with Assembly Republicans, who, no doubt, recall the Democratic mayor’s heavy – and ultimately unsuccessful – involvement in last year’s fight for control of the state Senate, in which he raised campaign cash for the Democrats to aid their effort to re-take full control of the upper house.

Yesterday, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., a former assemblyman himself, issued a statement demanding that the next speaker be from NYC, noting there will be no legislative leader from the five boroughs if that does not occur.

(Also note that a NYC speaker has long been the tradition. The last upstate speaker was Binghamton’s James Tallon, who only held the position for a few days after the conviction on federal fraud charges of former Speaker Mel Miller, who was later exonerated. Tallon, as majority leader, automatically rose to the position of interim speaker when Miller was convicted, but he was quickly deposed by Assemblyman Saul Weprin, of Queens).

De Blasio was taken some heat for defending Silver in the wake of the speaker’s arrest. The mayor reiterated today that his comments praising Silver were “about my own experience” and were made based on the “consistency” the speaker has displayed over the 20 years de Blasio has known him.

“He has done everything he said he was going to do,” explained de Blasio, who said he has not read the US attorney’s complaint outlining the charges against Silver. “Obviously, I’ve made very clear that we would not have achieved pre-K for all qwithout him. and that’s very important to me. So, I’m talking about my own experience and the consistency I’ve seen in him in that experience.”

De Blasio, With Business Before Albany, Defends Silver

From the Morning Memo:

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio needed a friend in Albany and this year he drew Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

At odds with Senate Republicans after he sought to oust them from power in the Senate, de Blasio’s natural ally in the Legislature is Silver, a Democrat from lower Manhattan.

Unfortunately for de Blasio, Silver is embroiled in a bribery and kickback scandal as he now faces five counts of corruption and fraud.

De Blasio on Thursday defended Silver as a man of integrity who has helped to do a lot for the city.

“I think there’s two separate concepts there,” de Blaso told reporters. “I think he has a right to due process. I really think that’s something we always need to affirm. Allegations are allegations. Charges are charges. And there has to be a process to determine the outcome. I think, separately, it’s a true statement – he’s done a lot for New York City, and I value that certainly.”

And he differentiated between the charges former Rep. Michael Grimm, a Republican, faces and Silver’s legal troubles.

“I think in Michael Grimm’s case, we saw a pattern of questionable practices over a long period of time, and it played out. I think, in my experience with Shelly Silver, I’ve seen integrity and public service,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio still has to get his agenda through the Legislature, of course. A number of major issues impacting New York City are before Albany state lawmakers this year, including an extension of rent control protections and mayoral control of New York City schools.