Al Sharpton

Sharpton, Senate Dems To Oppose Skleinos ‘Over The Long Haul’

If you thought last weekend’s public outcry by black and Latino leaders against the new IDC-GOP coalition in the state Senate was a one-off, think again.

These critics, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, are not going to end their very vocal complaints any time soon. In fact, they plan to escalate their efforts over the coming weeks, and are even putting together a strategy for how to interact with – or, more pointedly, counteract – the coalition should it weather the storm long enough to start trying to run the chamber next month.

According to a source intimately involved with these planning sessions, “everything is on the table” at this point – including, as Democratic Leader John Sampson has hinted, the possibility of boycotting certain (note: not ALL) votes or even refusing to come to session altogether in order to force the IDC-GOP coalition to go it alone, even if that means sacrificing key pieces of legislation in the short term.

“If you’re going to steal the leadership, which this basically is, then you should basically be able to pass these agenda items,” said my source.

“There’s talk of like what happened in Wisconsin, where Democrats just didn’t come to the chamber (during a debate over stripping unionized public employees of their collective bargaining rights). If it’s a sham leadership, let them get the votes.”

“…There’s this belief that as long as (Senate Majority Leader Dean) Skelos and everyone else allows, say, the minimum wage vote to go forward than what’s the big deal? We can check that box and move on. The big deal is that the leadership was hijacked, so who knows what the minimum wage bill is going to be and what people had to give up in order to get it to the floor. You already start behind the eight ball with Skelos driving the discussion.”

We have seen the Democrats try this before, like when they all walked en masse out of the chamber last March to protest the redistricting bill. The measure ended up passing 36-0, with all four IDC members voting “yes.”

While they were gone, the Republicans quickly put a number of other bills onto the floor, including the inclusion of a sixth tier in the state pension fund (this was all part of the so-called “big ugly,” as you’ll recall), which was very unpopular with the public employees and the teachers. The four IDC members were the only “no” votes recorded on that bill.

But isn’t it a big risk to essentially sign the death warrants on issues that are popular with voters – even if the final versions are watered down and not anywhere close to what Democrats have been championing for years?

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NAACP Prez Urges Cuomo To Break Up Senate’s ‘Cozy Little Cabal’

NAACP President Hazel Dukes is the latest African American leader to implore Gov. Andrew Cuomo to get involved to address what she calls the “blatantly discriminatory” IDC-GOP coalition poised to take control of the state Senate by urging it to be “more inclusive.”

“We are quite frankly stunned at the idea that you, the Governor of this State, would, if true, ‘sit back and watch what happens’ in the chaos of the New York State Senate Leadership,” Dukes wrote in a letter to Cuomo yesterday.

“If what I read is true, there is one African American, no Hispanic and 35 White members in this important leadership group. This ‘cozy’ little cabal excludes women, gay and Hispanic legislators from most important leadership positions.”

“…I am urging you to use your good offices to get this blatantly discriminatory group to be more inclusive and more representative of the Senators.”

Dukes’ letter comes on the heels of criticism from the Rev. Al Sharpton, who plans to join three black senators – Bill Perkins, Ruth Hassell-Thompson and Eric Adams – this Saturday in a push to empower 15 black and Hispanic Democrats with key committee chairmanships and more influence.

A source close to the “regular” Senate Democrats (the ones left behind by the five IDC members) says the minority conference and their union/progressive allies have not yet lost hope that it still might be possible for Sen. Jeff Klein & Co. to scuttle their coalition government plan and return to the Democratic fold.

That seems like a pretty tall order, though. Klein et al is pretty far out there at this point, sitting for multiple interviews – including an extended talk on CapTon this week – outlining their power-sharing plan with the Republicans.

It has not been lost on long-time observers of New York politics how awkward this situation is growing for Cuomo.

After all, this is hardly the first time he has been the subject of pressure and criticism from the minority community.

Back in 2010, Sharpton decried the all-white Democratic ticket after Cuomo chose then-Rochester Mayor Bob Duffy to be his LG running-mate.

Sharpton, who has had a bumpy relationship with Cuomo over the years, later criticized the lack of diversity on Cuomo’s transition team and warned it could cause “governing problems.”

Sharpton’s complaints led Cuomo to promise he would have the most diverse administration in modern New York history – a pledge that not all black and Latino leaders believe he has lived up to, though the Reverend himself praised the governor’s first round of high-level appointments.

Remember, too, that Cuomo was the subject of a maelstrom of discontent from black leaders when he dared to challenge the party favorite – then-state Comptroller H. Carl McCall – in a Democratic gubernatorial primary back in 2002.

McCall was the state’s first black major party candidate for governor, and minority community leaders did not take kindly to any attempt to derail his momentum.

In the end, Cuomo bowed out of the race just one week before primary day, and McCall went on to lose to then-GOP Gov. George Pataki in the November general election.

Eight years later, then-AG Cuomo was widely expected to run for governor again – this time potentially challenging the state’s first sitting black governor, David Paterson, to do so.

Luckily for Cuomo, Paterson ended up dropping out of the race shortly after he declared his campaign, felled by multiple ethics investigations and scandals.

Ironically, it was on Paterson’s WOR radio show that Cuomo addressed the latest round of concerns from black and Latino officials about his failure to inject himself into the Senate leadership mess, saying: “It’s not my place to get involved in internal legislative affairs.”


Black & Latino Leaders Warn Of Redistricting ‘War’, Plan Push-back

African American and Latino leaders worried they’re about to get the short end of the stick in redistricting are participating this morning in a 9 a.m. conference call organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton to map out a unified push-back strategy, according to a source with knowledge of their plan.

These leaders suspect the maps released by the court-appointed special master, US Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann, will not be a starting point for negotiations, as legislative leaders suggested yesterday, but instead will provide cover for the Senate and Assembly majorities to shortchange minority communities – particularly in the Bronx – to protect white incumbents.

The Assembly Democrats’ decision not to register any objections to Mann’s plan only exacerbated the situation and solidified that suspicion.

It has been believed for weeks that the Assembly Democrats were deadlocked by a power struggle between Manhattan Democratic Chairman Keith Wright and his Bronx counterpart, Carl Heastie, over the future of Rep. Charlie Rangel’s district.

The Senate Republicans have been using the Heastie-Wright fight as an explanation for why they were unable to come up with a House redistricting deal with their majority counterparts on the other side of the Capitol, and the Assembly Democratic leadership has done nothing to dispel that.

However, according to this source, Heastie and Wright presented the Assembly majority leadership with a deal last night in which Rangel’s district would get about 300,000 voters from each of their boroughs with another 100,000 from Westchester County.

That would preserve Rangel’s historic “black” seat, but also giving the tie-breaking vote in selecting his successor – should Rangel retire mid-term after winning re-election this fall (assuming he does), to Westchester County Democratic Chairman Reggie LaFayette.

But the agreement was rejected by Assembly Democratic counsel Jim Yates, according to this source, who said it appears the Senate Republicans like the special master’s plan, making it difficult to cut a deal with them at this late date.

“There’s a growing sense or realization that what’s happening is the Heastie-Wright dispute gave cover to the real agenda, which was protecting white incumbents at expense of Rangel and a new Latino district,” the source fumed. “Now that it has dawned on them, it’s infuriating people.”

“…What’s happening is that every time you come up with a resolution the Shelly team comes up with another reason for why it can’t work. It’s ‘We can’t do this because we can’t piss off so and so.'”

Black and Latino leaders are particularly ticked off by the perception that the Assembly leadership is going out of its way to deliver for Queens Democratic Chairman/Rep. Joe Crowley, who desperately wanted to get rid of the Bronx piece of his district, and to create a new district in Queens in which Assemblyman Rory Lancman, as my source put it, “gets a free pass to Congress.” (Unless, of course, Rep. Gary Ackerman decides to run there, too).

Participation on the 9 a.m. call is expected to include Heastie and Wright; Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who very much wants to see a new Latino district created so he can run in it; Assemblyman Karim Camara, chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus; Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., who has been outspoken about plans to break up the Bronx; and state Democratic Party Executive Director Charlie King.

King’s participation in the call is not sanctioned by the Cuomo administration, according to the source. King was hand-picked by Cuomo for his current post during the 2010 campaign, but he worked for Sharpton for years prior to that and has maintained strong ties to him.

The unification of the black and Latino leadership is coming late in this redistricting process. Individual members have spoken out against the disenfranchisement of minority voters in both the state legislative and congressional lines, but there has been no organized opposition effort to date.

This new development could present a problem for Cuomo, who has had an up and down relationship with the black and Latino communities for years, dating back to his short-lived primary challenge to then-state Comptroller H. Carl McCall, the state’s first black major party candidate for governor, in 2002.

(In true Cuomonian style, the governor has since turned McCall into an ally, making him a top surrogate in the 2010 campaign and the 2011 budget battle and appointing him chair of the SUNY Board of Trustees).

“If the congressional lines go down badly, it’s going to be a war out there,” the source said.

“Once we get though this mess, the other lines – the Senate and Assembly lines – become equally important. There will be outside coalitions created, organized. The fight will continue on…everyone’s been paying attention.”

“…When you get to the Assembly and Senate lines. I don’t think that anyone’s going to get a free pass. The governor is going to want one, but what if every black and brown elected votes no? He’s going to have a hard time signing then.”

Cuomo Takes A Pass On Sharpton Event – Again

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s press office announced this morning that the governor will be attending a 10 a.m. MLK Jr. Day commemoration at the Empire State Plaza in Albany.

That means Cuomo will not be attending National Action Network’s Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton – generally a must-do event for New York elected officials (especially Democrats seeking to curry favor with Sharpton and the all-important African-American voting bloc) held at the House of Justice in Harlem. (1:30 p.m.)

Both Mayor Bloomberg and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sent out schedules indicating their plans to be on hand for NAN’s annual MLK fest. It’s a safe bet many, many other currently sitting pols and aspiring candidates will be on hand, too. After all, it is an election year.

It’s not the first time Cuomo has skipped a gathering hosted by Sharpton.

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Cuomo Won’t Attend Sharpton Event With Obama

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will not be on hand when President Obama addresses the Rev. Al Sharpton’s “Keepers of the Dream Gala” in midtown Manhattan tonight, sources from both the administration and Sharpton’s National Action Network confirm.

Cuomo was invited to attend the event at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers for which Obama is making a special trip back to the Big Apple – his second in just over a week.

The governor, who has been keeping a deliberately low profile and sticking close to Albany while the Legislature is in session, declined Sharpton’s invite, opting to remain at the Capitol and work. (State lawmakers put in three days in Albany this week and aren’t scheduled to return until Monday, April 11).

The administration is sending Alphonso David, Cuomo’s deputy secretary for Civil Rights, to represent the administration at the NAN gala.

David, as you may recall, is one of a number of staffers Cuomo brought with him to the second floor from the AG’s office, where he served as special deputy AG for civil rights.

Sharpton and the governor spoke on the phone, according to an administration source, and there were no hard feelings about Cuomo’s decision to stay away from the NAN event.

Sharpton, as you may recall, criticized the lack of diversity on the Democratic ticket during the 2010 campaign, which spurred Cuomo to pledge he would create the most diverse administration in New York history if elected. (He’s still working on that, according to black and Latino leaders).

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Sharpton Preaches Against Budget Cuts

NY1’s Erin Billups reports that the Rev. Al Sharpton delivered a fiery sermon this morning, accusing lawmakers of forgetting why they were elected, and calling on them not to impose drastic budget cuts without asking the rich to pay more in the form of taxes.

“You get elected and act like your only job is to get re-elected. (applause) As soon as you get in you’re worrying about how to get back in rather than how to do the job that people sent you up here for.”

“You cannot cut working class people and the poor and talk about you love them. You cannot spare the super rich and penalize those that are helpless and vulnerable, and act like you did what you had to do. You did what you wanted to do!”

The speech comes on the day that Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to attend the annual Black and Puerto Rican Legislature’s Conference. Cuomo’s budget calls for cuts across the board, including $2.85 billion to Education and Medicaid. Cuomo has said he is opposed to extending an income tax on those making more than $200,000.

Sharpton And Bloomberg Venture North

YNN’s Tamara Lindstrom caught Mayor Bloomberg and the Rev. Al Sharpton this morning after their brief visit to the Louis Gossett Jr. Finger Lakes Residential Center in Tompkins County, after which they returned to NYC to propose an overhaul of the state’s juvenile justice system.

Bloomberg and Sharpton were full of praise for the staff at the center – the mayor went so far as to say the people working there are doing “God’s work.” But also said they’d like to see the kids incarcerated closer to home, noting most of them come from the five boroughs.

In a press release outlining his plan, the mayor called the state-run juvenile facilities “relics of a bygone era, when troubled city kids were stripped from their families and shipped to detention centers in remote rural areas.”

It would be more humane – and possibilty cut down on the recidivism rate – Bloomberg reasoned, to let NYC further develop its own juvenile justice system where kids won’t just be “retained,” but also “reformed.”

Juvenile Justice Facilities Occupancy Map

Dance Fever!

Say what you will about the Rev. Al Sharpton, but the man’s got rhythm.

Sharpton cut a rug with his daughter, Dominique, to the tune of James Brown’s “Poppa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” at last week’s “The Stars of New York Dance” fundraiser in Brooklyn that raised money for at-risk children.

The “contest” was won by Colvin Grannum, president and CEO of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, and his partnter, Shani M. Worrell, dancer and vocalist for the Restoration Youth Arts Academy.

NYC Councilwoman Tish James also participated, (if you click here the link in the first line, there’s video), and apparently suffered from a “wardrobe malfunction,” when the strap on her gown broke. NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio danced with his wife, Chirlane McCray, but there’s no video that I can find.

Barron: Sharpton Is Voting For Me

Despite the recent attempt by the Cuomo campaign at a rapprochement with the Rev. Al Sharpton, the prominent black leader publicly announced over the weekend that he will be voting for NYC Councilman Charles Barron for governor on the Freedom Party line.

At least, that’s what Barron says.

According to the Brooklyn Democrat, who has accused Cuomo of ignoring the black community, Sharpton made this announcement on his radio show Saturday morning. Barron was a guest on the show.

“He said that he is a Democrat and he’s going all across the country supporting the Democratic Party ticket,” Barron told me during a brief telephone interview this evening.

“But here in New York, he is voting for Charles Carron because I was there with him and in our movement and our cause for so many years, and how could he not go with someone who has been there in our community for so may years?”

Barron said much the same thing yesterday to blogger Michael A. Harris.

The councilman offered a new twist on the story when I spoke to him. He said Sharpton made an analogy about his decision to stick with an ally being much along the lines of President Obama’s snub to Rhode Island Democratic gubernatorial candidate Frank Caprio out of loyalty to his opponent, independent candidate Lincoln Chafee, who (as a Republican) crossed party lines to endorse Obama over GOP Sen. John McCain in 2008.

I have been unable to track down Sharpton’s spokeswoman Rachel Noerdlinger to either confirm Barron’s claim or comment on it.

City Hall news’ Edward-Isaac Dovere wrote recently about the “complicated” relationship between Sharpton and Barron. Wayne Barrett has delved deeply into the topic of Sharpton and his tangled political alliances, too.