MoveOn’s ‘Massive’ Wisconsin Solidarity Effort

MoveOn.org is aiming take the protest in Wisconsin national this Saturday with a host of demonstrations across the country to demonstrate solidarity with the workers who have been ralllying against Gov. Scott Walker’s budget in Madison for the past nine days.

“We’re putting everything we’ve got into one massive display of solidarity nationwide. We’ll all show up wearing Wisconsin Badger colors: red and white,” MoveOn organizers announced in an e-mail to supporters.

“And if we can get huge crowds across the nation, it’ll send a clear message that progressives are fired up and ready to go.”

“Until this week, Republicans have dominated the debate over the economy – with Washington arguing about which vital programs to slash, instead of how to create jobs and help the middle class.”

“Now the Republicans are threatening to shut down the government next week in order to force Democrats to agree to devastating cuts to NPR, the EPA, food aid to hungry kids, clean energy research, AmeriCorps and more.”

“But thanks to the folks braving the cold in Wisconsin, that could all change. This is an opening to call out the Republican game plan for what it is: a brazen effort to use a wrecked economy as an excuse to reward the rich and powerful while destroying 50 years of democratic progress.”

“That’s why we’ve come together with a huge coalition of progressive organizations – from the Netroots to the labor movement, environmental groups to community organizations – to show our strength and make sure the folks in Wisconsin know that millions of people across the country are standing with them.”

There’s an event in Albany at noon at the Capitol.

Cuomo Punts On Medicaid, Legislators, Sachs

From Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Q-and-A with reporters following his Binghamton budget address this morning.

The governor declined to take the bait when asked – twice – by a reporter whether Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is “part of the problem or part of the solution” in Albany, saying only:

“We’re working very hard to work on both sides of the aisle with Democrats and Republicans to work cooperatively. These are very tough issues. The economy is very tough, as you know. but I’m hopeful that we can come up with a cooperative solution.”

“If we have a budget cooperatively with the Assembly and the Senate, then everyone is part of the solution. If we don’t, then I’m sure there will be a lot of finger pointing.”

Cuomo also side-stepped a question about whether Deputy Senate Majority Leader Tom Libous, a Binghamton Republican who just so happened to be standing right behind the governor while he chatted with reporters, should keep his 2010 campaign pledge to former NYC Mayor Ed Koch and support redistricting reform.

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Another Assembly Vacancy: Destito For OGS Commish

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has created a second vacancy in the Assembly Democratic conference, tapping upstate Democratic lawmaker RoAnn Destito to serve as commissioner of the state Office of General Services.

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Destito, who served on Cuomo’s transition committee, currently chairs the Assembly Committee on Governmental Operations, which includes legislative oversight of OGS.

Destito has represented the 116th AD since 1992. She held off challenges from Republican Gregory Johnson in both 2008 and 2010.

This rumor has been floating around for some time now. It was supposed to come about two weeks ago – right on the heels of Cuomo’s selection of Destito’s colleague, Assemblyman Darryl Towns, to serve as his housing czar – I’m not clear on what the hold-up was.

While often unheralded or unseen, state operations are critically important to the mission of good government,” Cuomo said in a press release.

“Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito has the essential credentials for Commissioner of Office of General Services. During her 19 years in the New York State Assembly, she has proven to be a dedicated public servant who puts needs of her constituents and New Yorkers first. She has demonstrated the type of professionalism and business savvy required for this significant position.”

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Cuomo: ‘Objective Evaluation’ Needed For Teacher Layoffs

Gov. Andrew Cuomo weighed in this morning on the LIFO question in the wake of this morning’s Q poll that found 85 percent of New Yorkers support the idea that merit, not seniority, should determine which public school teachers get to keep their jobs.

At about the 2:45-minute mark in the Ithaca Journal video below, Cuomo says:

“I agree with the sentiment and the opinion that we should have an objective evaluation strategy for layoffs, but also in general, that seniority alone is not the best measure.”

“And we should be looking at the merits and we should have an objective evaluation for teachers so we can bring that into consideration. I think seniority has been used as a proxy because there really is no objective evaluation criteria, there is no objective evaluation system right now, and there needs to be.”

Cuomo Met By Protestors In Binghamton (Updated)

They sure are feisty in the Southern Tier. For the second time in just over six months, Andrew Cuomo was met by protestors during a stop in that region.

Some 60 demonstrators with signs set up shop across the street from the Riverwalk Hotel and Conference Center where Cuomo delivered a version of his 2011-2012 budget address this morning.

According to the Press & Sun-Bulletin, the protestors “were against natural gas drilling in the Southern Tier, and cuts in the governor’s proposed budget to education, mental health and health.” They weren’t thrilled by the fact that they were kept so far away from the conference center – and behind barricades, too.

Back in August, hundreds of anti-hydrofracking protestors showed up during a campaigns top Cuomo made in Ithaca.

UPDATE: Here’s some video of the protestors who showed up today. You can see a number of NYSUT signs in the crowd along with a lot of hydrofracking signs.

Mark Ruffalo, Full-Service Advocate

From opposing hydrofracking to supporting the legalization of same-sex marriage, actor Mark Ruffalo is a busy guy in New York politics these days.

Ruffalo and his wife, Sunshine, are the latest New Yorkers to record a video as part of the HRC Campaign for New York Marriage. (They live in the Hudson Valley, where they are raising their three kids).

“Yesterday President Obama ordered the United States Department of Justice to stop defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act,” said the campaign’s senior strategist, Brian Ellner.

“It was an historic move that will provide significant momentum as we push to win the freedom to marry across the country. In the meantime, loving committed couples can’t marry in New York and our work to win marriage equality here continues.”

“Released days before the Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actor nominee Mark Ruffalo and his wife Sunrise Ruffalo are Upstate New Yorkers for Marriage Equality. No matter who wins on Sunday, Upstate New Yorkers Mark and Sunrise Ruffalo win best supporting nods from us for their support for equality.”

Corwin Wades Into Nat’l Politics

She’s been an official candidate for Congress for about 24 hours, and Republican Assemblyman Jane Corwin is already taking on the White House.

She released this statement today in response to yesterday’s announcement that the Obama administration will no longer enforce the Defense of Marriage Act:

“The President of the United States swore an oath to uphold the laws of our great country and as a member of the Executive Branch he needs to enforce those laws, including the Defense of Marriage Act. It is the Supreme Court’s job to consider the constitutionality of the law and the President should not usurp the authority of the Supreme Court.


“The Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law nearly 15 years ago by President Clinton – he himself a democrat like President Obama – who understood that marriage should be defined as a union between one man and one woman. While more Americans lose their jobs every day, the Obama Administration is blatantly ignoring the law of the land for a political stunt, and I hope the Administration will reconsider this wrong decision and focus on strengthening the economy and creating jobs, the number one issue the majority of Western New Yorkers care about.”

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Nixon Lobbies Against Education Cuts

Just days after NYSUT launched a multi-million dollar TV ad campaign in opposition to the governor’s proposed budget cuts, the Alliance for Quality Education is out with a web video featuring a famous New Yorker.

Cynthia Nixon of “Sex and the City” fame is known entity in NYS politics.  She has lobbied on behalf of AEQ in the past and is an outspoken advocate for same-sex marriage.

In the video entitled “Priorities,” Nixon lays out some scenarios that could result from the governor’s proposed $1.5 billion in cuts to education.

She says the cuts will lead to the elimination of programs, cutting teaching jobs, closing schools, etc., which Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto calls scenarios “plucked out of thin air.”

Nixon also urges New Yorkers to send in home videos explaining to Governor Cuomo how his proposed cuts hurt them.  The best entry wins an iPad or a $1,000 donation to a classroom or youth group.

UPDATE: AQE’s Billy Easton called to respond: “These scenarios are not plucked from thin air, plucked from the front pages of newspapers all across the state. It sounds like the governor’s people are out of touch with how these school cuts actually effect local communities all across the state.”

Limited Exposure

Assemblywoman Jane Corwin had a little fun at the expense of the disgraced ex-congressman she’s seeking to replace during her campaign announcement tour in NY-26 yesterday.

YNN’s Leah George noted the plethora of sex-related scandals that have plagued New York of late, including the Craigslist debacle that led to Chris Lee’s rapid demise, and asked Corwin if she can guarantee voters that she won’t go down in a similar ball of flames.

“I guarantee you I will never be on Craigslist…and I won’t be taking my shirt off, either,” Corwin replied.

“But certainly we do have a history of representatives who have not always behaved appropriately,” she continued. “Certainly I spent several years in the Assembly. I believe I have a strong record there – not just in terms of a voting record, but in terms of how I handled myself.”

“But 36 years in the private sector, I am a citizen; I spent my entire life as a private citizen, and, I like to believe, led an honorable life. I certainly hope that comes out during the campaign.”

Q Poll: NYers Like Teachers, But Their Unions? Not So Much

Today’s Q poll finds that while New Yorkers are generally fans of teachers (50-22), they believe (51-35) the unions that represent these public employees tend to play a negative role in improving the state’s educational system.

By an overwhelming majority, (85-12), voters support the repeal of the “last in, first out” rule governing teacher layoffs, agreeing that the decision governing who loses a teaching job should be based on performance and not seniority.

Support for performance-based layoffs was strong among all groups, including 75-20 percent among voters in households with a union member. New Yorkers with a child in public school support the idea 90-7.

“All those ads by the teachers’ union may not be working exactly as planned,” said Q poillster Mickey Carroll.

“New Yorkers like the people who teach their kids, but they don’t like the union that placed the ads. And voters reject by almost 2-1 margins some fundamental pillars of teacher contracts: They support 64-33 percent merit pay for outstanding teachers and they say 62-33 percent itshould be easier to fire bad teachers.”

This comes as Sen. John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, has introduced a bill to do away with LIFO – a major priority for Mayor Bloomberg in Albany this year.

The measure has been fast-tracked in the Senate, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he’s open to discussions on this topic (although he hasn’t heeded the mayor’s call to include LIFO repeal in the budget). The big question mark: The Assembly Democrats, long-time allies of the teachers union. So far, Flanagan’s bill has no Assembly sponsor.

Also in this poll: New Yorkers are concerned the focus on the budget in Albany will imperil ethics and redistricting reform this year, and support for legalizing same-sex marriage continues to hold steady, with Republicans and senior citizens generally opposed.

022411 NY ISSUES + BP