Bill de Blasio

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.

De Blasio’s New Albany Calculus

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein proved to be a key ally for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in Albany last year.

The mayor, though, faces a different calculus in Albany this year after pushing Democratic candidates in unsuccessful races.

Now, de Blasio faces a Republican-led Senate in year that mayoral control of city schools is up for renewal as well as rent-control regulations. At the same time, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will no doubt push to strengthen charter schools statewide.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos didn’t hesitate to criticize de Blasio’s statements on the New York City Police Department with reporters today.

“I think that Mayor de Blasio has to be more sensitive, in terms of the words or statements he makes concerning the police,” Skelos, a Long Island Republican, said in a post-session gaggle.

The comments come as lawmakers will be mulling potential changes to the state’s criminal justice system in the wake of the Eric Garner decision as well as the shooting deaths of two New York City police officers.

Deputy Senate GOP Leader Tom Libous indicated last night those changes may be arriving later in the session.

“There’s always been differences between the Senate and the Assembly when it comes to these issues,” Libous said, making something of an understatement when it comes to the divide between Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans when it comes to the details of criminal justice issues.

Klein, who does not have the same degree of power he had over the last two years, said he remains a staunch supporter of mayoral control, adding that is “hopefuL” it is maintained.

“I think it’s going to be a balance, like we’ve always done. I’m a firm believer in the continuation of mayoral control,” Klein said. “An issue as important as education should be directly in the hands of an executive, like a mayor.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver remains the most natural ally for de Blasio in Albany. The speaker today echoed Klein’s words.

“It’s obviously up for renewal,” he said. “It has worked well in the city of New York and hopefully it will continue.”

Astorino Piles On de Blasio

From the Morning Memo:

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino last night accused NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio of making an already bad situation “worse” with his “rhetoric” in an ongoing war of words with the NYC police unions following the Eric Garner grand jury decision.

“What is not helpful is to have certain people in the community – including, by the way, Mayor de Blasio, who I think is making it worse in New York City right now with his rhetoric and turning his back in many ways on law enforcement – to inflame the situation rather than bringing some common sense,” Astorino said during a CapTon interview last night.

“I think adults need to be in the room right now,” the county executive continued. “…Everyone needs a little time out here.”

The county executive also said he did not agree with PBA President Pat Lynch’s call for NYPD officers to fill out a form asking de Blasio and NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito not to attend their funerals should they be killed in the line of duty.

“I think that was a little over the top,” Astorino said. “But, you know, I understand why they feel that way, you look at what they’re going through as well.”

The county executive predicted more attacks on law enforcement and even “race riots” with New York City officials can’t get a handle on the situation.

It’s not surprising that Astorino, a conservative Republican who failed in his attempt to unseat Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month, would criticize de Blasio. The mayor is not only a Democrat, but also a liberal poster boy leading a national push for progressive policies.

De Blasio played a key role in the Senate Republicans’ successful campaign to re-take the majority this fall, raising campaign cash for the Democrats and providing fodder for the GOP’s exploitation of the upstate-downstate divide.

And this isn’t the first time Astorino had something negative to say about the mayor. Back in October, just as the governor’s race was heating up, Astorino told The New York Observer that he believed de Blasio only measures success by “how many people on welfare.”

For the record, Cuomo tried to play peacemaker between de Blasio and Lynch yesterday.

He insisted the mayor’s comments about warning his son, Dante, about how to deal with the police were not “racist”, and also called Lynch a “friend” and fellow “Queens boy” who is just “standing up for the police, which is his job.”

“I believe at the next funeral – and I hope there is not a next funeral – I am sure at the next funeral…you’ll see the mayor of New York, you’ll see me and you’ll see Pat Lynch because we need to work together,” Cuomo said during an interview with Susan Arbetter on “The Capitol Pressroom”.

As for Astorino, don’t expect him to go quietly into the night following his loss to Cuomo.

The county executive, who gave a broad hint during his election night concession speech that he’s thinking of running for governor again in 2018, reiterated yesterday that he’s indeed “leaving the door open” to another run.

Astorino, who was re-elected to a second term to his county executive post in 2013, said he hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll seek a third term in 2017.

The county executive referred to himself several times during the 10-minute+ interview as a candidate, and then promptly corrected himself.

He also insisted that Republicans can “make inroads” in New York City, enabling them to win statewide, if they have sufficient time and resources to do so.

Cuomo Plays Peacemaker For Lynch And de Blasio

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday adopted a peacekeeper role between New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and police union head Pat Lynch amid the increasingly fraught dynamics in the wake of the Eric Garner case.

Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, has suggested that de Blasio and other elected officials stay away from police funderals.

But Cuomo today on The Capitol Pressroom downplayed the growing rift between de Blasio and the NYPD as protests continue following a Staten Island grand jury not indicting a police officer who held Garner in a chokehold that ultimately led to his death.

“I’m sure at the next funeral, God forbid that there is one, you’ll see the mayor of New York, you’ll see me and you’ll see Pat Lynch,” Cuomo said. “I know the mayor very well and I know Pat very well and I know we will be working together.”

Cuomo added that he understands why Lynch has in recent days has made critical statements in recent days, adding that police officers overall are doing an “extraordinary job.”

The comments from the governor come after a police lieutenant over the weekend was injured during one of the demonstrations.

“I also know that Pat has tremendous respect for the office of the mayor and understands the police need a good relationship with the mayor. And he also understands the mayor has a job to do,” Cuomo said.

He also disagreed with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who said it was “racist” for de Blasio to have instructed his son Dante, who is black, how to handle interactions with the police.

“The mayor was speaking sincerely about concern for his son and his son’s safety,” Cuomo said. “I think Pat is defending the police point of view and the police perspective.”

Cuomo has spoken in recent days both to Lynch as well as activists including Russell Simmons and Jay Z regarding potential reforms to the state’s criminal justice system following the Garner case.

Cuomo has raised the possibility of forming a special prosecutor’s office to handle brutality cases as well as more transparency for grand juries in certain cases.

The governor reiterated that he’s planning to introduce a “comprehensive package” of criminal justice reforms that “will restore and improve confidence” in the criminal justice system.

Cuomo said he plans to unveil these proposals around the time of his State of the State address next month.

De Blasio: ‘Black Lives Matter’

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is undertaking one of the biggest challenges of his year-old mayoralty after a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict a white police officer in the death of an unarmed black man, Eric Garner.

De Blasio this morning released a lengthy statement to supporters following a night of protests and demonstrations throughout the city.

The mayor adopted what has become a rallying cry for demonstrators in protests and on social media following the deaths of unarmed black teens Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown — “black lives matter.”

“When invoking this refrain, we must be mindful that issues surrounding policing and civil rights are not just an issue for people of color, they’re not just a problem for young people, and they’re not just a problem for people who get stopped by police,” de Blasio said. “They’re a problem for all Americans who care about justice.”

He added that “frustration is understandable” as he urged peaceful protests.

“Centuries of racism precede us. But working together, we can turn from that history and make a profound and lasting change in the culture of law enforcement and bring police and community closer together,” he said.

And, as he did yesterday in public and in statements, touted his own administration’s work on policing matters.

“We’ve dramatically reduced the overuse and abuse of stop-and-frisk, initiated a comprehensive plan to retrain the entire NYPD to reduce the use of excessive force and to work with the community, reduced arrests for minor marijuana possession, and given officers body cameras to improve transparency and accountability,” de Blasio said.