Downstate NY

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.

Transit Union Cheers MTA Plan

The union that represents transit workers on Tuesday in a statement cheered the broad strokes of a plan being adopted by the MTA that seeks to provide faster fixes and expedited maintenance for subway cars.

The union, TWU International and Local 100, pointed to the MTA taking on a number of its recommendations from its Work Boots on the Ground proposal.

“We’re gratified the MTA in many areas has agreed with the men and women who know the subway the best – transit workers,” said John Samuelsen, the president of the TWU Local 100. “We can and will do our part to end this reliability crisis. Our elected officials now have to step up and provide the necessary funding to get the job done. No more political games. No more shirking responsibility.”

The MTA board met Tuesday amid a growing crisis over subway delays and occasional derailments of cars this summer. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been criticized for his handling of the transit problems, but has also called for the city to take on more of a role in funding transit.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has countered the money has largely been put in place, but says the funding needs to be prioritized.

Partnership For NYC Hopes For Trump Admin Help On Gateway Project

The business-backed Partnership for New York City on Thursday reacted to the release of a report assessing the environmental impact of the Gateway project, which is expected to include a tunnel under the Hudson River.

The project would provide another connection between New York City and New Jersey amid ongoing problems with train service in the metropolitan region.

In its statement, the group signaled hope for help from the Trump administration in helping fund the project.

“The New York business community considers Gateway our top priority infrastructure project,” said Partnership for New York City President Kathryn Wylde.

“It will provide essential connectivity between the global financial and commercial center in New York City with the rest of America west of the Hudson River. We are confident that the Trump Administration understands that this is a project of national significance and intends to partner with us in ensuring its timely completion.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, too, has said he wants to work with the federal administration to fund major building efforts in New York. President Trump’s own stated goals for infrastructure efforts have stalled amid a legislative push for health care legislation in Congress and investigations into alleged Russian involvement in the presidential election last year.

Astorino Sues Over Indian Point Closure

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino announced on Tuesday a lawsuit that challenges the closure of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant.

Astorino’s legal challenge to the Entergy-owned plant’s closure stems from the claim the facility’s closure isn’t complying with the state’s Environmental Quality Review Act.

“Our lawsuit has nothing to do with the debate over nuclear energy,” he said. “It has to do with safety and the rule of law. Ultimately, the issue isn’t whether Indian Point stays open. It’s that any plan to close the plant must fully comply with the law. If our environmental laws are to mean anything, then surely they must apply to the closing of a nuclear power plant that affects the lives and livelihoods of nine million New Yorkers. If ever there was a case for the State Environmental Quality Review Act to be enforced, this is it.”

The closure was announced earlier this year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has long sought to have the plant shuttered due to its age and proximity to the densely populated metropolitan region.

The plant is now scheduled to close by April 2021.

Westchester officials have questioned the closure and how the nearby communities will be made whole by the loss of payments in lieu of taxes by the facility’s closure. At the same time, questions remain as well as how the 2,000 megawatts of power will be replaced for New York City and Westchester.

“Even those who applaud the closing of Indian Point should be deeply concerned about how it is being done and the environmental and economic aftershocks to come,” Astorino said.

The lawsuit comes as Astorino is planning a re-election bid and may run again for governor in 2018, facing Cuomo, who is seeking a third term.

Democrat George Latimer, a state senator challenging Astorino this year in his re-election bid, criticized the lawsuit in a statement, saying it won’t aid the school districts impacted by the plant’s closure.

“It’s ‘good politics’ if you’re running for the Republican nomination for Governor, but if you intend to be County Executive for the next four years, you should be meeting with New York State officials to hammer out a plan to deal with the real world problems these communities are facing,” Latimer said. “It’s one more example of how Rob has made making headlines more important than making headway on solving this problem.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office also blasted the suit, noting the closure had been negotiated by Entergy.

“Astorino is wrong on the facts, wrong on the law and a hypocrite all at the same time — falsely accusing the state of circumventing a process, and then doing an end run around his own legislature to file a frivolous law suit that puts at risk the long-term safety of residents,” said spokesman Rich Azzopardi.