Downstate NY

Moody’s Down On Speed Camera Implosion

The credit rating agency Moody’s gave a dim analysis of Nassau County’s rejection of a speed camera program after initially budgeting revenue from violations.

Albany lawmakers earlier this year approved a speed-camera program for Nassau County near schools, but officials there ultimately scrapped the program following public outcry.

Moody’s examined the speed-camera situation in Nassau County and a similar situation in New Jersey that also scaled back its implementation.

The agency concludes the problems with the programs constitute a “credit negative” due to the impact on local governments not being able to access new forms of revenue in the midst of tax caps, poor sales tax growth and opposition to tax hikes.

More from Moody’s:

“Net county collections from the cameras, after the vendor’s contracted share, were $21 million between September and November, indicating the county would have exceeded the $30 million (1% of total revenues) in speed camera revenue for which it had budgeted in 2015. Neighboring Suffolk County (A3/stable), which had projected only $2.5 million from speed cameras for 2015, chose to scrap its plan earlier this month before it had even begun, partially based on the Nassau experience.”

Siena Poll: New Yorkers Back AG As Special Prosector

A majority of New Yorkers support giving Attorney General Eric Schneiderman the power to investigate other instances of police brutality, a Siena College poll released on Friday found.

The poll found that by a 58 percent to 33 percent margin, New Yorkers would back giving Schneiderman the power of special prosecutor to probe other instances of police brutality after a grand jury chose to not indict a New York police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

“A majority of Democrats, independents, voters from every region and race agree that the Attorney General and not local district attorneys should have authority in cases where unarmed civilians are killed by police officers, although Democrats, New York City voters, blacks and Latinos feel most strongly about this,” Siena College pollster Steve Greenberg said. “Only majorities of Republicans and conservatives think people of color are treated fairly by our criminal justice system. Two-thirds of Democrats and a plurality of independents disagree, as do a majority of downstaters, particularly New York City, and people of color. Whites and upstaters are closely divided.”

Scheniderman this month requested Gov. Andrew Cuomo issue an executive order granting him the special prosecutors role.

So far, Cuomo has said he’s reviewing the request, but raised questions with how broad the scope of those investigative powers should be.

The poll found that 55 percent of New Yorkers believe the grand jury should have made an indictment in the case, which has set off a wave of protests across the country and sparked a discussion over criminal justice reform legislation at the state level.

Meanwhile, most New Yorkers 52 percent to 35 percent believe the state’s criminal justice system does not treat people of color fairly.

Broken down politically, Republican voters by a 2-to-1 margin believe the grand jury was correct in not indicting Garner.

“Similarly, large majorities of Democrats, New York City voters, blacks, Latinos and younger voters want the Feds to bring civil rights charges, while Republicans are opposed, and upstaters, suburbanites, white and older voters are closely divided,” Greenberg said.

Cuomo himself has suggested he will push for a variety of criminal justice reforms, including greater transparencies for grand juries as well as strengthening police training and requiring some officers to wear body cameras.

The governor’s administration this week moved to ban hydrofracking in the state, but the poll found New Yorkers remain divided on the natural gas drilling issue.

Thirty-eight percent of voters say they are opposed to fracking, while 35 percent of those polled back the drilling method.

“Fracking has closely divided New Yorkers for several years. And while it has the intuitive partisan divide with Democrats opposing and Republicans supporting, from a regional perspective the results might be a little counterintuitive as New York City and upstate voters narrowly oppose fracking and a plurality of downstate suburbanites support it,” Greenberg said.

Similarly, New Yorkers are split on the DREAM Act, which would provide tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants. Forty-four percent of New Yorkers back the measure, while 48 percent do not. Cuomo will likely once again be under pressure from liberals in the Legislature to include funding for the DREAM Act in his state budget proposal.

A broad majority of New Yorkers continue to support Cuomo’s two-year-old gun control law known as the SAFE Act, but they are split along partisan lines.

By a margin of 58 percent to 33 percent, New Yorkers back the law, which Cuomo has said remains a significant legislative achievement for him.

The measure has the support of 69 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents, 67 percent of voters from New York City and 61 percent from the downstate suburbs. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans oppose the law.

And not surprisingly, there is widespread opposition to a pay raise for state lawmakers: 63 percent of those polled do not believe the Senate and Assembly should receive their first salary increase since 1998.

That sentiment cuts across party, geographic, gender and ideological lines.

Cuomo has said he is sympathetic to lawmakers who are pushing for the pay hike from the current $79,500, but has sought to have them enact sweeping ethics and campaign finance legislation, including the creation of a system of public financed campaigns and curtailing outside income.

For now, there has been no significant move to have lawmakers return to Albany in a special session to take up that legislation and vote themselves a raise.

The Siena College of 639 voters was conducted from Dec. 11 through Dec. 16. It has a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points.

SNY1214 Crosstabs by Nick Reisman

RIP David Garth

David Garth, the political and media consultant who worked on some of the more unlikely, but successful campaigns of the last half century, died Monday following a long illness, spokesman George Arzt confirmed.

Garth was the pioneering political consultant and ad man behind the successful mayoral and gubernatorial campaigns, including those of John Lindsay, Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Bloomberg and Hugh Carey.

Garth is often credited with revolutionizing and harnessing targeted advertising in political campaigns as well as messaging.

The political campaigns he chose to work for often seemed like lost causes: Lindsay’s re-election battle in 1969, elevating a little-known congressman named Hugh Carey to run for governor in 1974 following years of Republican domination at the Executive Mansion and helping Koch defeat Mario Cuomo in a heated 1977 Democratic primary for New York City mayor.

Garth is most often credited with crafting Lindsay’s appeal for votes in 1969 when, following a tumultuous term as mayor, admitted in a TV ad to making “mistakes” in the “second toughest job in America.”

Garth’s shine did not prove to be enough in 1994, when he was hired by then-Gov. Mario Cuomo to help him win a fourth term, which was ultimately not successful (Garth had just succeeded in helping Giuliani unseat Democrat David Dinkins, the city’s first African-American mayor).

Koch, who died in 2012, said of Garth in 2010: “Without him, I would never have been mayor.”

Current Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had been on the opposing side of Garth in the 1977 campaign, wrote glowingly of him in his memoir, “All Things Possible.”

In the book, Cuomo describes him as “an ornery, cigar-smoking New Yorker and friend of my father’s, pioneered political advertising in the early years of television. He had a genius for turning a candidate’s minuses into pluses… David was always kind to me and I learned much from him.”

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.

Albany Law Prof Doubts Garner Grand Jury Info Will Be Released (Updated)

Albany Law School Professor and Court of Appeals expert Vin Bonventre said he doubts Staten Island DA Dan Donovan’s request that “specific information” related to the grand jury’s decision not to bring criminal charges against an NYPD officer, Daniel Pantaleo, in connection with Eric Garner’s death be released to the public will be granted.

During a CapTon interview last night, Bonventre noted that grand juries are “purely a child of individual state law; the federal constitution doesn’t even require them.” Grand juries merely need to determine that there is probable cause – not proof beyond a reasonable doubt or clear and convincing evidence or a preponderance of evidence – to bring a case to trial.

A significant amount of information was made public in the wake of last week’s announcement that a grand jury in Ferguson, Mo. decided not to bring charges against a former white police officer, Darren Wilson, who shot and killed an unarmed black 18-year-old named Michael Brown.

But New York is not Missouri.

“I think the secrecy of the grand jury is almost inviolate,” Bonventre said. “People get in trouble for leaking matters coming out of the grand jury. And we don’t necessarily want lots of information coming out because we want people to be able to serve and to be absolutely honest. Remember, all we’re talking about is there enough evidence (to bring a case to trial) – they just didn’t think so.”

“I do find that shocking, but I wasn’t there to listen to all the evidence.”

Donovan said in a statement released after yesterday’s announcement of the grand jury’s decision in the Garner case that he had asked a court to release some information (he did not specify exactly what) related to the case.

The DA’s application was sealed and it was unclear if the information he asked to have released might shed any light on the decision that ignited protests around New York City as well as in some upstate cities – including Albany.

A Staten Island judge is expected to rule by the end of the day on Donovan’s request. Pantaleo’s attorney told the Daily News he might file an opposition to the release of any grand jury data, saying he doesn’t see any reason why it should not remain secret – as is the norm in New York.

UPDATE: According to DNAinfo, Donovan’s application does not include releasing testimony of witnesses — including NYPD officers, paramedics, doctors or police tacticians, which is sealed under state law. And it does not include disclosing important details of the medical evidence and forensics that likely played critical roles in the jurors’ decision not to indict.

A source also told DNAinfo that the fact Supreme Court Judge Stephen Rooney did not immediately brush aside Donovan’s request may indicate that he is interested in finding some way to accommodate it.

RIP Herman Badillo (Updatedx3)

Herman Badillo, a former congressman and Bronx borough president and the first Puerto Rican to have been elected to those posts, has died, according to the office of the current Bronx borough president, Ruben Diaz Jr.

Badillo, 85, was also the first Puerto Rican candidate for mayor of New York City – a position he was unsuccessful in seeking. He was an often controversial figure, but also a long-standing fixture in New York City politics.

UPDATE1: According to George Arzt, Badillo died this morning of congestive heart failure at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan. His funeral will be private, and will be held this Sunday at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral home on Sunday. Former NYC Mayor Giuliani and former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly are scheduled to speak.

Badillo, who lived on the Upper East Side, is survived by his wife, Gail, and a son, David, from his first marriage. Badillo’s first wife, Irma, died in 1996.

Diaz confirmed Badillo’s death in a statement in which he said he is “deeply saddenedby the passing of a man whom I looked up to as a role model and who represented Latinos, Bronxites and all New Yorkers as an exemplary public servant.”

“Herman Badillo was one of my inspirations as a young man of Puerto Rican descent who was born and raised in the Bronx and pursuing a career in politics,” Diaz continued. “He was a true Bronxite and the epitome of a passionate leader who truly cared for his community. Herman Badillo worked assiduously throughout his career to make a difference in the lives of countless individuals across our Borough and City.”

“Most importantly, Herman Badillo was both a mentor and a friend to me personally. Herman was always there to listen to questions and offer advice. He was a guiding voice early in my career, and he remained a rock throughout my time in elected office.”

“I, along with all 1.4 million residents of The Bronx as well as all the people whom he touched during his long work in public service, offer my thoughts and prayers to Mr. Badillo’s family.”

In 1970 Badillo was elected to the House from what was then the 21st congressional district in the South Bronx, becoming the first Puerto Rican to serve. He was re-elected for three subsequent consecutive terms. In 1986, he ran for state comptroller on the Democratic ticket led by then-Gov. Mario Cuomo. Badillo lost that race to the GOP incumbent, Edward “Ned” Regan, who died this past October.

He unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York in 1969, 1973, 1977, 1981 and 1985, coming closest on his second attempt when he was defeated by then-New York City Comptroller Abe Beame in a runoff.

In 2001, Badillo unsuccessfully sought the Republican mayoral nomination, losing by a landslide to billionaire businessman and first time candidate Michael Bloomberg, who later won the general election, defeating Democratic NYC Public Advocate Mark Green.

In 1993, Badillo – still a Democrat at the time – ran a failed campaign for NYC comptroller on a “fusion” ticket with GOP mayoral candidate Rudy Giuliani. He also sought the Democratic nomination, but finished third in that race behind the incumbent, Liz Holtzman, and Alan Hevesi. Running in the general election on the GOP and Liberal Party lines, Badillo lost to Hevesi.

Badillo had a series of jobs with the Giuliani administration, serving as the mayor’s special counsel on education policy and as chair of the CUNY Board of Trustees.

UPDATE2: A reader reminds me that Badillo re-joined the Democratic Party in 2011 at the age of 82.

UPDATE3: Gov. Andrew Cuomo released the following statement in response to Badillo’s death:

“Today, New York lost one of its most cherished and revered citizens. Herman Badillo was a longtime public servant who dedicated himself to improving the lives of others. From his tenure as Bronx Borough President to his work leading the CUNY Board of Trustees, Herman was a shining example of how a dedication to civil service can make a difference in the world around us.”

“As the Bronx’s first Puerto Rican Borough President, Herman also embodied the spirit of diversity that defines New York today, and his legacy will live on for years to come. On behalf of all New Yorkers, I offer my condolences to his friends and family. He will be greatly missed.”

House Ethics Defers On Grimm – Again

For the third time since 2012, the House Ethics Committee has deferred its investigation into Republican Rep. Michael Grimm’s fundraising at the request of the US Justice Department.

Grimm, a former FBI agent, continues to be under federal investigation despite the fact that he is facing a 20-count indictment that alleges he broke a bevvy of rules while running a Manhattan restaurant prior to his election to Congress in 2010.

The congressman won a third term this past fall despite his legal troubles, largely due to the incredibly flawed candidacy of his Democratic challenger, former NYC Councilman Domenic Recchia. Grimm, who beat Recchia by 13 percentage points, ran without any aid from his party, receiving support from his Republican base on Staten Island – Democrat-dominated NYC’s lone bastion of conservatism.

This past October, a judge delayed the start of Grimm’s trial on charges of wire and mail fraud until February. But prosecutors said that if Grimm’s attorneys seeks to dismiss three charges against him — two counts of perjury and one of obstruction — because they occurred outside the jurisdiction of the Brooklyn court, the U.S. government would reintroduce them in Manhattan.

House Ethics Committee again defers Rep. Grimm investigation. by liz_benjamin6490

Fighting Words

Two nights ago on Capital Tonight – and subsequently highlighted on SoP – two progressive leaders warned of a significant backlash if state lawmakers dare to raise their own pay without also giving another boost to New York’s hourly minimum wage.

Strong Economy for All’s Mike Kink said there would be “widespread civil disobedience” if the Legislature doesn’t link these two issues together. He appeared on the show with Karen Scharff, executive director of Citizen Action of New York and co-chair of the labor-backed Working Families Party.

Kink’s words did not sit well with one New York City assemblyman, who, unlike many of his colleagues, was willing to speak publicly – and strongly – in favor of raising the $79,500 base pay for state lawmakers, who haven’t seen an increase since early 1999.

“I would have NO problem voting for an increase in the base pay for NYS legislators,” Assemblyman Michael DenDekker, a Queens Democrat wrote in an email.

“In fact, if legislators’ base pay was indexed to the increases to the minimum wage, (from 4.25 an hour to 8.00 an hour), the current salary would be $149,647.05.”

“As someone who is a staunch advocate for labor, there is absolutely no job title that has never received a cost of living increase for 16 years,” the assemblyman continued.

“I am completely supportive of increasing the minimum wage, as well as fair cost of living increases for NYS legislators.”

DenDekker is a relatively new member of the Assembly, first elected in 2008. He hails from a city with a high cost of living, where the base pay for a NYC Council member is $112,500 – thanks to the 25 percent increase the body approved in 2006.

The Assembly is a seniority-driven chamber, and there are far more members in the Democrats’ majority conference than there are committee chairmanships and leadership posts to go around.

That means most Assembly members have to wait years before they get a title that affords them a stipend – known in Albany as a lulu – on top of their base pay.

Of course, there’s always per diems that help offset the costs of travel, lodging and meals when lawmakers are in Albany. But the per diem system is under fire, with widespread calls for reform, thanks to abuse by several members that lead to criminal charges.

DenDekker said he was offended that any advocate could “even suggest” a worker should go 16 years without a pay raise – especially one who has, as he put it, “rallied for workers pay, walked picket lines and voted to increase the min wage in my current position.”

“I would also ask all the advocates: What was your pay 16 years ago?” the assemblyman concluded.

Kink and Scharff added their voices to a call for legislators to return to Albany before the start of the January 2015 session – when the Senate will officially be under GOP control – to take action on a measure that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, index future increases to the rate of inflation and also give municipalities the power to hike their own hourly wages as much as 30 percent higher than the state set “floor.”

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who did not endear himself to the Senate Republicans by helping the Democrats in their failed attempt to re-take the majority, yesterday called for the Legislature to approve an increase in the state minimum wage “whenever it first can be done.”

“I certainly look forward to talking to the governor about whether there will or will not be” a special session,” the mayor said.

But in a radio interview last week, the governor said he didn’t believe a special session was needed – not even to confirm his latest Court of Appeals nominee, Judge Leslie Stein.

A Cuomo aide told the Wall Street Journal: “We have not heard from any legislative leader that they have the votes or desire to pass anything.”

Bill Clinton to Campaign for Rep. Bishop

The Democrats are bringing out the biggest gun they’ve got – former President Bill Clinton – to shore up veteran Long Island Rep. Tim Bishop as Election Day looms.

Clinton will headline a rally for Bishop at 5 p.m. tomorrow at The Staller Center at Stony Brook University along with DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, who has a lot riding on this race, since it’s taking place in his backyard.

The Republicans have been trying to dislodge Bishop for several cycles now, and haven’t yet managed to oust him, despite the fact that his fundraising remains under investigation by the House ethics committee. The congressman is again a top target this fall, and he’s facing a challenge from GOP state Sen. Lee Zeldin.

A Siena poll released early last month found Bishop leading Zeldin by 10 percentage points – a spread the senator’s campaign disputed. The race must be tightening according to the Democrats’ internal numbers, however, or they wouldn’t bother deploying Clinton this far out from the Nov. 4 election.

A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal/Annenberg Center poll found that of all the big name Democrats, a nod from Bill Clinton moves voters like no one else – and even he can’t influence a race that much.

An endorsement from the former president makes 38 percent of voters think more favorably about a candidate, the poll found, and 24 percent of voters think less favorably. Former First Lady/Secretary of State and potential 2016 presidential contender Hillary Clinton was right behind her husband, with 34 percent saying they would view a candidate more favorably if she bestowed her endorsement upon him or her.

A number of big names on both sides of the aisle have been making appearances on behalf of statewide and congressional candidates in recent weeks.

Just yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden headlined a rally at the airport in Syracuse in support of Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei, who faces a tough challenge from Republican John Katko in NY-24. Westchester County Executive and GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino has received in-person support from Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, along with statements and/or email appears from former Massachusetts Governor/presidential candidate Mitt Romney and US Senator/former presidential candidate John McCain.