Downstate NY

Gianaris Calls for Abolishing Ice

From the Morning Memo…

State Sen. Mike Gianaris, of Queens, is the latest Democratic elected official to call for abolishing ICE, taking that stand at a rally welcoming a Guatemalan woman detained at the U.S.-Mexico border to NYC for a brief visit with her three children, from whom she was separated at an Arizona immigration facility six weeks ago.

“ICE is a rogue agency under the direction of a rogue President and both must be stopped before more havoc is wreaked on people seeking a better life in our country,” Gianaris said. “We must abolish ICE and then abolish Donald Trump at the ballot box as soon as possible.”

According to his press release, Gianaris was the first person to welcome Yeni Maricela Gonzalez Garcia to Queens when a convoy in which she had made the cross-country trip to see her children – 6-year-old Deyuin, 9-year-old Jamelin and 11-year-old Lester – stopped by a rally held to offer her support.

Gonzalez Garcia was detained in Arizona for five weeks while her children were taken from her under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “zero tolerance” family separation policy, which has since been rescinded by an executive order signed by President Donald Trump.

Gonzalez Garcia’s children have been in the care of the Cayuga Center in East Harlem, which placed them in a foster home. She is scheduled to see them today, but it could be weeks before the family is permanently reunited.

Gonzalez Garcia was released from detention on a bond raised on a GoFundMe page organized by volunteers, led by Julie Collazo. Volunteers drove her across the country after she was freed.

Gianaris, the former deputy Senate minority leader and head of the Senate Democrats’ political arm, is one of a growing number of Democrats calling for ICE’s abolition in the wake of self-prossed Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocacio-Cortez’s upset victory in last week’s NY-14 primary primary over veteran Queens Rep. Joe Crowley.

Ocasio-Cortez traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border at the height of the “zero tolerance” policy controversy, and also call for abolishing ICE, making that a significant plank of her campaign.

Gianaris has long been close with Crowley, who has also served since 2006 as chair of the powerful Queens Democratic Party.

Espaillat, Diaz File Complaint After Attorney’s Racist Rant

A racist rant by a New York attorney that has gone viral is now the subject of a formalized complaint by Rep. Adriano Espaillat and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.

“The statements made by this attorney at a New York restaurant serves as further proof of the wave of intolerance that is running rampant across our country,” Espaillat said.

“This individual has had a troubling history of hateful behavior, while the White House is sending a clear message that you can say anything and get away with it. The Trump Administration’s proposed policies that would tear immigrant children away from their families and most recently calling individuals animals is simply outrageous. We are sending this grievance to say that you cannot engage in xenophobia, bigotry, hate and get away with it. Such behavior should never be tolerated.”

Attorney, Aaron Schlossberg, was caught on video berating Spanish-speaking restaurant employees and threatening to call immigration enforcement.

Diaz and Espaillat sent a former letter of complaint to the Departmental Disciplinary Committee in the state court system.

“Racism and hatred have no place in New York State, and certainly no place in our justice system,” Diaz said. “I stand with Congressman Espaillat in calling for the disciplinary committee of the New York State Unified Court System to examine the attorney identified as Aaron Schlossberg’s reprehensible behavior and review his law license for possible revocation.”

Broadway Dems Back Nixon, Williams

The Broadway Democrats, a party club on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, voted last night by a wide margin to endorse insurgent gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon against her primary target, incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The club members also backed Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams over incumbent LG Kathy Hochul, and former NYC Councilman Robert Jackson, who is challenging Sen. Marisol Alcantara, a member of the now-debunked IDC, in the September primary.

According to a source who took part in the voting, the final outcome was not close.

Nixon received 23 votes to Cuomo’s nine, while six people opted for “no endorsement.” In the LG race, Williams got 25 votes to Hochul’s 12, while 2 people would have preferred to see the club remain neutral in the primary.

The existence of party “clubs” might sound a little alien to people who live upstate, where they are not the norm – though some do exist, mostly in urban centers like Albany and Buffalo. But they are prevalent in New York City, providing an entry point for grassroots politics and also serving as a key organizing force.

Club endorsements are important because members act as volunteer foot soldiers in campaigns, circulating petitions on behalf of chosen candidates and assisting with literature drops, phone banks, and other GOTV efforts.

As a result of this vote, the names of Nixon and Williams will be on the petitions circulated by the Broadway Democrats when petitioning begins next month. According to my source, it could also potentially assist Nixon is hitting the all important 25 percent mark to get on the ballot in the weighed state committee vote at the state convention.

The convention votes are weighted and the 69th Assembly District, which is where the Broadway Democrats are located, is the most Democrat-dominated in the state, and also generally has the highest turnout, which means its support matters when the weighted vote is calculated.

This is not the first club to back Nixon over Cuomo. A source says that the Three Parks Independent Democrats, which is in the 67th Assembly District, also voted this week to support the governor’s primary rival.

The Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats threw its support to Nixon last month.

Meanwhile, Cuomo has been endorsed by The Martin Luther King Jr. Democratic Club, the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club and the Hell’s Kitchen Democrats.

As mentioned earlier, these clubs, while small, can be a potent force when it comes to working on a candidate’s behalf. Also, people who join these organizations tend to be true believers – the sort who turn out to vote on primary day – and the more of them that are backing Nixon over Cuomo, the more concerned the governor might be.

Then again, the Upper West Side is know as a bastion of liberalism, so I guess it’s not really a surprise that some of these clubs are going to for the left-of-center option, following the lead of the Working Families Party, Citizen Action and others. We’re also talking about a neighborhood that knows Nixon well, as she used to call it home.

I believe Nixon and her wife have since decamped downtown.

Suffolk County Creates Public Matching System For Elections

Lawmakers in Suffolk County on Tuesday approved a public matching system for elections there, making it the largest county to date to do so.

The bill is backed by Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone.

“This bill is an important step in the effort to reform the politics of Suffolk County by empowering grassroots candidates to run for office and challenge the status quo,” he said.

The measure creates a public matching system for donations of no more than $250 and participating candidates must raise at least $5,000 in eligible contributions.

There are also limits on what the candidates can spend the money on, such as clothing, haircuts and car payments.

Money for the public matching fund will come from a portion of the county’s proceeds of video lottery terminals at Off-Track Betting parlors.

The law comes as public financing of elections statewide has largely stalled in Albany. Lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2014 backed a public financing system for the comptroller’s race that year, intended as a pilot program of sorts. Republican Bob Antonacci failed to qualify for matching funds and incumbent Democrat Tom DiNapoli, citing the haste in which the bill was approved, declined to participate.

Adams Urges Cuomo To Sign CUNY MOE Bill

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams in a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week urged him to back a measure that would fund a maintenance of effort for the City University of New York.

Supporters of the MOE, which was approved by the Legislature unanimously in June, expect the bill would cover what is considered to be the total operating cost increases for both CUNY and the SUNY system.

In his letter, Adams wrote that the bill would help reduce class size and provide “robus” student services.

“By signing the MOE bill into law, you can ensure that our public colleges and universities — and our public teaching hospitals — will have the funding they need,” Adams wrote in the letter. “Reliable state investment will allow CUNY and SUNY to manage the growing number of students.”

MOE Letter Final by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Airbnb Hosts Criticize Stringer’s Airbnb Stance

Airbnb hosts in a letter to New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer released Thursday criticized his stance on promoting MWBE businesses and raising concerns over the online booking site.

“The truth is that you don’t ‘invest in MWBEs’ by cutting off a key source of startup capital and you don’t deliver ‘real, local wealth creation’ by siding with multi-billion dollar hotel companies against home sharing hosts who plow 97 percent of the list price of their space back into the local economy,” the letter states.

The letter also took Stringer to task for signing onto a letter that linked Airbnb to the legal problems facing Paul Manafort (the former Trump campaign manager was an Airbnb host for a real-estate property he owns).

“Instead of attacking constituents like us, you should be examining how hotel companies — including several that are in the portfolios of funds you manage on behalf of public servants — are bankrolling secret spying by third-party investigators that violates the privacy rights of everyday New Yorkers,” the letter states.

The company has been waging a regulatory battle in New York at the both the state and city level over the last several years, which has spilled over into political campaigns as well and put the firms at odds with hotel chains and the influential labor group Hotel Trades Council.

In a statement, Stringer’s office rebuked the hosts’ letter.

“We want our communities to be affordable and our neighborhoods to thrive,” said Stringer spokesman Tyrone Stevens. “We also believe that laws should be followed and millionaires shouldn’t use real estate to evade tax laws. That would be our message to the lobbyists and high-paid communications staff behind this letter.”

Letter to Comptroller Stringer From Airbnb Hosts 11 9 17 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Hillary Clinton Endorses Latimer

Hillary Clinton on Friday endorsed Democratic Westchester County executive George Latimer, who is locked in a heated race against Republican incumbent Rob Astorino.

“I’m proud to join Senators Schumer and Gillibrand in supporting George Latimer for County Executive, who is facing a difficult race against an opponent being funded by some of Donald Trump’s most powerful allies,” said Clinton, the former secretary of state and 2016 presidential candidate.

“It’s important that Democrats turn out on Tuesday and vote for Latimer, along with other Democrats running across Westchester, including the wave of New Castle business women, from Kristen Browde for New Castle Town Supervisor to Ivy Pool and Gail Markels for New Castle Town Board.”

A poll published Thursday showed Latimer and Astorino in a statistical dead heat.

Latimer, a state senator, has sought to link Astorino to President Donald Trump. Astorino has distanced himself from the president on key issues, including criticizing a House Republican tax plan on Thursday that would cap deductions on state and local taxes.

“I am honored to receive the endorsement of Secretary Clinton. I’ve had the pleasure of working with her directly during her days as our U.S. Senator, and her intellect, energy and dedication were always on display,” Latimer said. “For those of us drawn to public service, Secretary Clinton has proven to be a tremendous role model and consummate public servant. Even in the face of the same Alt-Right hate and lies we now see in this campaign, she has proven to be a tireless fighter and advocate for all. We feel especially blessed to have her as a neighbor here in Westchester, and I look forward to serving as County Executive for her family, and every family in the county.”

Meanwhile, Astorino’s campaign continued to criticize Latimer for a variety of issues, including the taxes owed on a Rye home that is in his wife Robin’s name, his previously unpaid parking tickets that led to his car’s registration being suspended and his subsequently driving of the car despite the registration still being suspended.

“His bizarre and dishonest behavior should alarm anyone who cares about honest, competent government,” said Bill O’Reilly, an Astorino spokesman. “The outright lies he has told about the $48,742 his household owes in property taxes, and the ever-changing stories about his illegal driving and $2,200 in unpaid parking tickets, are the behavior of a delinquent teenager, not a serious man asking to take the helm of a million-person county with a $1.8 billion budget.”

Bellone Considers Forcing Spota Deputy’s Removal

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in a radio interview on Thursday said he is considering asking county lawmakers there to forcibly remove a prosecutor who, along with the district attorney, was charged in an obstruction of justice case by federal law enforcement.

Bellone has been pushing for the resignation of District Attorney Tom Spota and his deputy, Chris McPartland, for the last several months, but increased those calls following their indictments on charges they aided in the cover up of the Suffolk police chief’s beating of a suspect in custody.

Bellone said he sent a letter to the county Legislature suggesting proceedings to remove McPartland from office should begin unless he steps down voluntarily.

“We can’t begin the process of restoring integrity to that office and restoring justice to the county while these two continue to hold office,” he told WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom. “If Chris McPartland does not resign from his office we need to begin proceedings to remove him from that office.”

Bellone added Spota needs to resign as well. Spota said last week he would step down following his federal indictment, but so far has not.

“Every day they remain in that office they are undermining the work that is happening in the courtroom,” Bellone said. “He needs to resign, I called for his resignation a week ago. Eight days later after the indictment he has still holding that office.”

Donovan Defends Trump (Updated w/Collins Comments)

President Donald Trump has ruffled the feathers of some of his fellow Republicans in Congress, who are not at all happy with his recent willingness to cut significant policy deals on contentious issues like the debt ceiling and DACA with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

But one New York Republican, who knows a little something about working across the aisle in the interest of political survival, is stepping up to defend the president’s newfound interest in bipartisanship, specifically when it comes to DACA.

Staten Island Rep. Dan Donovan, the lone GOP House member from Democrat-dominated New York City, issued the following statement this afternoon:

“For decades, previous administrations wouldn’t dare to expend their political capital to try and negotiate an immigration solution. Naysayers of the president will find a way to criticize what he ate for breakfast, but fact is he deserves credit for trying to get it done. This should be a wake-up call to those in Congress who refuse to negotiate in good faith.”

Now granted, Donovan is not your standard sort of Republican, as far as the conservative-leaning House GOP is concerned. He’s a moderate from a blue state that is home to a massive immigrant population who needs to be pragmatic when it comes to certain issues.

Staten Island may be the most GOP-friendly borough, but it’s still in NYC, after all, which makes it a heck of a lot more liberal than say, Texas. Even so, it’s worth noting that not every Republican is hating on the president for cozying up to Schumer and Pelosi.

UPDATE: I just happened to tune into MSNBC, where Rep. Chris Collins, a longtime Trump supporter and surrogate from Buffalo, is defending the president’s dealings with Democrats on DACA, and he’s also willing to give those who were brought here by their parents when they were children citizenship. He was quick to say, however, that most of his colleagues are not on board with that idea.

“They did not break the law,” Collins said of the so-called “dreamers, adding: “Their parents came here, they’re not undocumented workers. That’s a whole different thing. WE’re never going to give citizenship to those adults…I’m actually fine with a path to citizenship.”

Collins said he’s on board with a bill that would give working visas to those covered by DACA for as long as 10 years. He also insisted that the president “will get the wall, whether it’s tied to DACA or another way.”

“I trust our president, the great negotiator that he is,” the congressman said. “He’s going to have to work in a biapartisan way. Not only on this, but on tax reform.”

Transit Union Calls Millionaires Tax A ‘Long-Term Solution’

The Transit Workers Union in a statement said it “likes the idea” of a surcharge for millionaires to bolster the New York City subway system, but called the move a “long-term solution.”

The union, which has been supportive of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, pointed to New York City’s $4 billion surplus.

“DeBlasio is delaying efforts to fix the NYC subway,” said TWU President John Samuelson. “The city must finally start reimbursing the MTA for the student MetroCards and paratransit services that the MTA provides. That’s nearly $500 million a year which can be used for vital system maintenance, which will help end the riders’ summer of hell.”

Samuelson added: “Since the city doesn’t reimburse the MTA for those services, the MTA is subsidizing city government to the tune of nearly $500 million a year. It doesn’t make sense. Its flipped upside down. City Hall is supposed to subsidize the MTA, not the other way around.”

The comments come a day after Cuomo in a statement also suggested a new revenue stream for the MTA was an issue that needs to be considered months from now. He has called on New York City to contribute more to the MTA as well. Spending more on transit is not necessarily a black-and-white solution to the issue as the MTA has struggled to spend the money it has on system upgrades.