Bill Thompson To Lead Judicial Compensation Panel

Former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson will lead the panel charged with determining whether the state’s judges deserve a pay raise, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this afternoon.

Rick Cotton, an executive with NBC Univerisal, was also named to the board, as was financier Bill Mulrow.

Thompson, who was the Democratic candidate for mayor in New York in 2009, is currently the chief administrative officer/senior managing director at Siebert Brandford Shank & Co. In addition, he is chairman of the Battery Park City Authority.

Mulrow was Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s original pick to become comptroller in 2007 following the resignation of Alan Hevesi. Though he’s considered well-respected in Democratic circles, the Legislature ultimately chose one of their own, the well-like Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli.

The Judicial Compensation Board was established in 2010 during the Paterson administration to study the best pay rate for state judges. Pay increases for the judiciary has been a major goal of former Chief Judge Judith Kaye and her successor, Judge Jonathan Lippman.

Judges, whose pay increases have usually been tied to salary hikes for the Legislature (a deeply, insanely unpopular move these days) have not received a pay bump since 1999.

Stephen Baldwin Would Be ‘Very Surprised’ If Brother Alec Runs In 2013

Stephen Baldwin threw some cold water on speculation that his brother and fellow actor, Alec, might run for NYC mayor in 2013 now that scandal-scarred Rep. Anthony Weiner’s candidacy is all but dead.

“I would be very surprised if he would have any serious aspirations for this next New York City mayoral contest; I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Stephen Baldwin told reporters during an appearance earlier today in Syracuse.

“But, you know, it’s interesting conversation – like when Mr. Trump started talking about his aspirations.”

(Being compared to The Donald by your own flesh and blood. Ouch!)

Stephen Baldwin urged reporters not to “misinterpret” his words, saying it’s likely his brother would “consider” a run. Alec Baldwin’s spokesman, Matthew Hiltzik, told The Hollywood Reporter earlier this week that his client “wouldn’t rule it out” when asked about a possible run in two years.

“If there was enough of the perfect storm were to come together, then who knows what he might do,” Stephen Baldwin continued. “But, I just know on a personal level he’s looking to finish the TV show and do more of the things in his personal life that he enjoys, like relax.”

Alec Baldwin has insisted that he’ll be leaving show business in 2012 when his “30 Rock” contract expires. He told former Gov. Elliot Spitzer in January that he is very strongly considering a run for something, although he didn’t get into specifics.

The actor is a liberal Democrat and has been involved in politics for some time. He’s a big supporter of AG Eric Schneiderman.

In case you’re curious what Stephen Baldwin was doing in Syracuse. His mother, Carol, lives in Camillus and has a foundation, the Carol Baldwin Fund. He traveled to Central New York to announce details of the organization’s annual Ride for Research, set for Sept. 11.

Last fall, Alec Baldwin appeared with his mother in a holiday-themed TV ad campaign for Wegmans.

Cuomo Announces Appointments

Gov. Andrew Cuomo just announced four appointments to senior positions within the administration. They are:

- Dennis J. Hayes, chief executive deputy director of the State Insurance Fund. Hayes was previously special deputy superintendent of the New York Liquidation Bureau, but, as Cuomo announced earlier this week, that position has been given to Assemblyman Jonathan Bing.

- Bennett Liebman, deputy secretary for Racing and Gaming. Liebman was executive director of the Government Law Center at Albany Law School. Under his leadership, the center established the country’s first full-time racing and gaming law program that focuses on the study of law and policy as it relates to various aspects of gaming including horse racing, Indian gaming, lottery, casino gaming and charitable gaming.

Previously, Liebman served as counsel for the state Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee. From 1988 to 2000 he served as commissioner of the state Racing and Wagering Board that oversees horse racing, off-track betting, bingo, games of chance, and Indian casino gaming.

- Jacqueline Moody-Czub, assistant secretary of Agriculture and Markets. For the past four years, she has been serving as deputy commissioner of Ag and Markets, overseeing the plant, soil and water, and animal industry divisions.

- Katie Campos, assistant secretary for education. Campos is the co-founder and executive director of Buffalo ReformED, a not-for-profit education reform advocacy organization. She has also worked as the director of public affairs for the New York Charter Schools Association and as director of development for Democrats for Education Reform.

None of these positions require Senate confirmation. The initial press release did not include salary information. We are efforting that from a Cuomo spokesman.

Ridge: Gas In Wells Is ‘Naturally Occurring’ Not Result Of ‘Fracking’

Former Secretary of Homeland Security and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge defended hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” on The Colbert Report Thursday, saying the practice has been around since the late 40s and more than a million wells have been constructed.

gasland_clip

Colbert raised safety concerns with Ridge regarding how the gas is extracted, ironically praising the partial secrecy of the Bush Administration’s energy policy.

“One of the things I like about this is that during the Bush Administration, Vice President Cheney’s Energy Task Force made sure that the gas companies did not have to reveal what the chemicals were that were being pumped into the ground,” Colbert said.

“Now it’s been reported that some of the things are kerosene, benzene, urea, toluene… how many of those can I feed my toddler?”

Ridge insisted that it has not been proven any “fracking” chemicals or natural gas has made its way into water wells and the flaming faucets shown in such films as Gasland is the result of “naturally occurring” methane deposits.

However, a recent study by Duke University suggests evidence of “methane contamination of drinking water associated with shale-gas extraction.” Meanwhile, the study does state there is no evidence the “fracking” chemicals used in the drilling process have contaminated drinking water supplies.

Either way, Colbert says gas in the water is a plus because “you can wash your vegetables and grill them at the same time.”

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Liu Leaves Door Open For Re-election Bid

NYC Comptroller John Liu, who is widely speculated to be eyeing a potential mayoral run in 2013, actually hasn’t ruled out running for re-election that year.

Liu, the first Asian-American to hold a citywide post (he was elected in the fall of 2009, was asked whether he plans to seek another four-year term during a recent interview with CityWide host Ken Fisher.

“The voters have given me four years to do this job; that is my lens on everything,” Liu replied. “It’s a four-year term.”

“If I complete everything that I set up to do within these four years, and I feel that I can do more if the voters gave me another four years, then at that point I will make a case to the voters what more I would like to do in this office…It’s hard to say what will happen, but I’m 17 months into this position, and it’s a great place to be.”

Liu also opined on the tension between himself and Mayor Bloomberg, chalking much of it up to the fact that the comptroller’s job is, in part, to serve as a check on the executive branch. He also said he realizes the mayor has a very difficult job.

CityWide airs on CUNY-TV/ cable TV channel 75 in NYC. This program will premiere June 15th.

Rangel Scoffs At Calls For Weiner To Resign

“For what? To please whom?”

That was the response from Rep. Charlie Rangel when asked by NY1′s Grace Rauh yesterday whether his NY congressional delegation colleague, Rep. Anthony Weiner, should step down in the face of a House ethics investigation following his admission that he sent explicit messages and photos to women he met on the Internet.

Rangel said his advice to Weiner is as follows: “First take care of your wife, and remember that this too shall pass.”

The veteran Harlem Democrat is perhaps the person most able to empathize with Weiner. He lived through a prolonged ethics investigation that resulted in his censure on the House floor, and nevertheless managed to win re-election in a multi-candidate primary last fall.

Rangel weathered an experience similar to the one that Weiner now faces, with fellow Democrats calling for him to resign and Republicans both making him a target and using his predicament to slam his conference colleagues. Like Weiner, he refused to leave – and he survived.

Rangel’s case had nothing to do with sexting. But it nevertheless dominated the headlines intermittently for weeks on end.
The congressman predicted earlier today that Weiner would be able to return to being an effective congressman “if the press gets off his back.”

The ever-quotable Rangel also said he doesn’t understand why Weiner is being singled out for criticism.

“I know one thing: He wasn’t going out with prostitutes, he wasn’t going out with little boys, he wasn’t going into men’s rooms with broad stances.”

“All of those things I understand.” “Certainly I know immoral sex when I hear it from other (House) members and no one has screamed for their resignation, so I don’t know why they’re selecting Anthony.”

Strahan Joins Same-Sex Marriage Push (Updated)

Former NFL Star Michael Strahan and his wife Nicole Murphy are the latest to cut an ad for the Human Rights Campaign, advocating for the legalization of gay marriage.

The former NY Giants Defensive End is the first pro football player to lend his voice to the cause, but not the first athlete. NY Rangers Winger Sean Avery also cut an ad for the HRC. And Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash, who spends the off-season in New York City, cut an ad as well.

“Michael Strahan is part of an ever growing list of professional athletes speaking out for marriage equality,” said HRC’s Brian Ellner. “There are a lot of tough New Yorkers, but none tougher than Michael Strahan, one of the most feared and accomplished defensive ends in history.”

“He’s our Super Bowl champion for New Yorkers for Marriage. We are honored that he and his fiancée Nicole, would join us in this historic fight for fairness. A vote could happen any day now, and we need all New Yorkers to let their voices be heard in support of marriage equality.”

UPDATE: (Liz adds…) A reader with far more spots knowledge in one finger than I’ve got in my entire brain wrote the following:

“I’m sorry, but I can’t help but laugh at the HRC trotting out a divorced, retired football player and his adulterous second wife with the hopes that – what? – undecided senators will suddenly ‘see the light’?”

“Tell me how the woman who was married to Eddie Murphy when he picked up a transvestite prostitute is going to have any effect on undecideds?

Dems Take On Doheny, Early

U.S. Rep. Bill Owens isn’t up for re-election for another year and a half, but New York state Democrats are already sharpening their knives against his possible Republican challenger Matt Doheny.

Doheny, who wants a re-match against Owens in 2012 for the North Country congressional district, is yet to take a position on the controversial budget plan proposed by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, which supports long-term cuts to Medicare.

From the New York Democratic Party:

“Matt Doheny has decided to run for Congress but has so far refused to tell the voters where he stands on Washington Republicans’ signature issue, Congressman Paul Ryan’s Republican budget plan which passed the House with nearly unanimous Republican support.”

Owens was something of an anamoly in 2010, a big year for the GOP, in which he won a full term after replacing Republican John McHugh, who joined the Obama administration after several upstate Democrats in neighboring districts were swept out of office.

As Maury Thompson at The Post-Star reported today, Doheny may face a challenge for the Republican nod in the 23rd CD from Kelly Eustis a 23-year-old political consultant from Washington County (Eustis turns 25 just before the election, the minimum age to become a member of the House).

Measure Would Restrict Car Electronics Usage (Updated)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced a new measure today that would impose severe penalties on the use of electronic devices while driving.

The measure would include the use of devices like iPads, cell phones, Blackberrys, laptops and GPS units.

(Update: I’m told that for GPS units, the law would not apply to devices attached to the car’s dashboard).

Cuomo said penalties for using the devices would add three points to a driver’s license and a fine of up to $150.

“Every day, countless drivers, particularly teenagers and young adults, drive with their eyes on a screen rather than the road,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Distracted driving is nothing less than a lethal activity for the driver themselves, other drivers on the road, and pedestrians. Current warnings, educational programs, and driving laws aren’t working. We need to impose a true deterrent to stop people from driving while using an electronic device and to keep our roads and citizens safe.”

The legislation is similar to a bill passed the Republican-led Senate that increases penalties for texting while driving.

The measure is third piece of legislation Cuomo has announced introduction of in the last several days as the legislative session winds down. He’s introduced bills that would create a less-than-generous pension tier for public workers and a measure that would allow SUNY campuses to raise their own tuition, capped at either 5 or 8 percent annually.

Cuomo is clearly setting up a busy week with six days left in the regular session. The Senate is expected to vote on an ethics measure next week, with the Assembly following suit.

The governor also wants to renew and strengthen rent control for New York City, due to expire June 15. And Cuomo wants a tax cap approved, along with same-sex marriage.

Miringoff: Next Revelation Could Sink Weiner

Embattled U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner is getting some reprieve from a Marist College/NY1 survey that shows support among his constituents despite his sexting scandal.

Still, Marist pollster Lee Miringoff says the next bad news that comes out the slow-motion train wreck that is the Weiner saga could force his resignation.

“Right now, the 56 percent of his constituents not wanting him to step aside is a big plus for Weiner,” Miringoff told Fred Dicker on Talk-1300 AM this morning. “But anymore revelations and he could go down for the count. That’s going to the equation a little bit.”

The last revelation — that Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin is roughly three months pregnant — added a new wrinkle to the scandal involving Weiner trading sexually explicit photos and messages with young women on social networking sites.

Weiner has touted the poll as a sign that his constituents still support him, even amid growing calls from Democrats that he should resign.

“The guy doesn’t have a friend in the room,” Miringoff said.

It’s also possible that Weiner may stay in the House and become a sacrificial lamb of sorts during Congressional redistricting. His district could be eliminated or force him to run against popular lawmakers like Joe Crowley or Gary Ackerman.

“Now there’s talk that the district may vanish altogether,” Miringoff said. “That would sort of solve some political problems for Democrats.”