More Trouble For Obama In NY: PEF Takes A Pass On Early Endorsement

The PEF Executive Board refused earlier this month to adopt the union’s statewide political action committee recommendation for an early endorsement of President Obama that is being pushed hard by its “parent” organizations, SEIU and, to a lesser extent, AFT, according to a PEF source.

The vote was not a roll call, but my source said it appeared to be about two-to-one, based on a show of hands, not to give the union’s nod to the Democratic president. The vote did not rule out a future endorsement.

It’s highly unlikely that PEF would endorse any of Obama’s announced or unannounced GOP opponents – not even former Gov. George Pataki, whom the union backed over the-state Comptroller H. Carl McCall in 2002 (over the objections of some of its members).

The idea, my source said, barring the surprise entrance of some wildly popular independent candidate PEF might consider, is to try to pressure the president to return back to his pro-labor roots.

But this is yet another sign of the left’s unhappiness with Obama, and it’s particularly interesting that this is happening in New York – a heavily Democratic and strong union state.

A recent Siena poll found the president’s approval rating has tanked in New York, although voters still prefer him to any of his GOP challengers. That poll did not include Pataki, although it did include former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who came the closest of any of the Republicans to pressuring the president. (6 points).

PEF voted “overwhelmingly” (in its own words) to endorse Obama in June 2008, noting he had run in Illinois with the support of both the AFT and SEIU and was a “strong supporter” of labor.

“We are confident Barack Obama will be a strong advocate for the hard-working men and women of this country,” PEF President Ken Brynien said at the time.

NOTE: To be clear, PEF’s own statements refer to AFT and SEIU as its “international affiliates.”

Court Gives Mixed Ruling On Teacher Evaluations

A state court this afternoon was a mixed bag for teacher evaluations in New York.

On the one hand, the State Supreme Court in Albany ruled that teacher evaluations can’t rely heavily on the performances of students in a scattering of state tests. At the same time, the court also upheld a provision that allows for expedited removal of bad teachers.

The evaulation system was the product of an accord between the Board of Regents and the state United Teachers union. Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo sought to change the agreement by calling for an increased emphasis on student achievement on tests, much to the dismay of NYSUT.

From the AP:

A New York state court is ruling that a new teacher evaluation process can’t rely so heavily on how students perform on a few state tests.

But the mixed judgment also upheld an expedited review process that could speed up the firing of bad teachers.

The decision in Supreme Court in Albany County addresses a landmark teacher evaluation system worked out by the state Board of Regents with the New York State United Teachers union. That plan was abruptly changed by the Regents after Gov. Andrew Cuomo interceded to further emphasize student test performance.

Wednesday’s decision states that although 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation can still be based on test scores, half of those tests must be chosen by local school districts through collective bargaining with their union.

Cox, Long Silent On Pataki

Both Republican Chairman Ed Cox and Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long are staying silent on a possible presidential run by former Gov. George Pataki.

Cox declined to comment, and Long would only say that he would offer his perspective when and if Pataki makes an announcement.

“I’ll tell you what I’ve told every other reporter so far, and that’s I’ll comment when the time comes to comment,” Long said.

Their silence likely speaks louder than anything else.

To be sure, Cox is a not a Pataki guy.

Pataki’s first choice to lead the Republican Party in New York was Henry Wojtaszek. Instead, Cox, a son-in-law of President Richard Nixon, got the job. Pataki later supported Rick Lazio in the 2010 gubernatorial primary and Cox supported Democrat-turned-Republican Steve Levy.

Long, meanwhile, backed Pataki as governor on a host of fiscal issues. And he claimed that his ballot line not only kept Pataki in power for several terms, but kept the governor on the straight and narrow when it came to the party’s concerns.

Still, Long would likely be under pressure to back a candidate in the presidential race who is more in line with his social views, especially abortion.

Now it should be noted that Vinnie Reda, the Rockland County Republican chairman, told Gannett earlier this week that “there’s room for moderates” in the Republican primary.

And Pataki still remains a popular force in New York. A recent poll showed him with an approval rating above 50 percent. If he can hang on passed New Hampshire (he would likely have to win the Granite State or at least give Mitt Romney a scare to remain viable), Pataki could win his home state.

Keep in mind that New York’s primary next year has moved up to April 8, which pulled the state out of the so-called Super Tuesday in February. With a New York victory would likely come convention delegates and some degree of help for Pataki.

Cuomo Plans $50M Ad Campaign For Businesses

Paging Don Draper!

With a tax cap, reduced spending and no new taxes in the state budget, Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to show off the Empire State’s business bonafides.

At centerpiece of this plan is an ad campaign akin to the venerable I Love NY tourism campaign. Cuomo plans to recruit an advertising firm to “create a bold new campaign, across all media, to promote the advantages of doing business in New York.”

Cuomo named nine people from the business field, including AmEx chairman and CEO Kenneth I. Chenault to lead a committee tasked with attracting businesses back to the state.

Cuomo is following up on his announcement back in July that he would devote the rest of his year to encouraging the private sector to invest in New York.

“The ‘New York Open for Business’ campaign will get the message out to companies throughout the world that New York is a premier place for businesses to invest and grow,” Cuomo said in a statement. “As we continue to transform Albany’s approach to economic development, we must emphasize the many advantages New York has to offer, including our central location, our wealth of resources, our unequalled network of colleges and universities, and our diverse, innovative, educated and hard-working residents. With this campaign, we will help build a stronger economy and foster greater private investment throughout New York State.”

The governor has sought to switch gears this summer, playing up the fiscal progress made during the first six months of his administration. He’s also touting the ethics overhaul measure that he says made the state unattractive to businesses.

Cuomo has also rolled out his 10 regional economic development councils. Those committees are being led by Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy, and are charged with developing job creation ideas. They’re competing for up to $1 billion in development funds and tax credits.

Giuliani Plays In Utica Mayor’s Race

Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani appears in a TV ad endorsing Bob Cardillo, the Republican running to become the mayor of Utica this fall.

According to the Utica Observer Dispatch’s Dan Miner, the GOP primary between Cardillo and Michael Cerminaro has become pretty heated in recent weeks.

Cardillo, a Utica native, is a management expert, according to his official bio. He’s now in the private sector, but worked for HUD and coordinated its disaster response activities in Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina (not sure that’s something to brag about, but there you go).

Prior to joining HUD, Cardillo worked for Giuliani managing New York City’s public affairs activities for the NYCOTB Corp.

The current mayor of Utica, David R. Roefaro, is a Democrat. When he was elected in 2007, he became the city’s first Democratic executive in more than three decades. Roefaro had an on-again/off-again re-election campaign this year.

First he was in, then he was potentially running for former Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito’s seat, then he was out again.

When he abruptly changed his mind back in April, Roefaro didn’t say much about why, exactly, he decided not to seek a second term. In May, there was a report that he was reconsidering yet again. When I chatted with him during one of our Friday Getaway shows earlier this summer, he was firm in his decision not to run – ostensibly to focus on running the family funeral home.

The Utica Democrats endorsed Robert Palmieri, a former codes commissioner fired by Roefaro during a City Hall clean-up, to run for mayor.

As for Giuliani, he recently said he’s not yet ready to make a decision about 2012 and won’t likely do so until the end up of September.

PEF Members Urge ‘No’ Vote On Contract

The Public Employees Federation has begun holding informational meetings this week about the 5-year contract deal its leaders struck last month with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and a faction of union members is urging their colleagues to reject the agreement.

This flyer was handed out yesterday during a standing-room-only gathering at the Empire State Plaza’s Meeting Room 6. I’m told there were two more meetings scheduled for today: One at Pagliacci’s Restaurant across from the TU Arena and another at the NYSUT HQ.

The anti-contract PEF members argue the governor has provided the union with a “false choice” of givebacks or layoffs without providing an ironclad promise that there will be no layoffs as he works to downsize state government.

Thay also believe five years is too long for a contract that calls for significant concessions, suggesting that if economic and political circumstances change, members will be stuck with their deal and unable to return to the bargaining table.

PEF has long been a bigger problem for Cuomo than its counterpart, CSEA, which is sort of ironic, since PEF endorsed the governor in 2010 and CSEA was among the few labor holdouts (along with NYSUT) that declined to back him. (Fixed…thanks!)

It took PEF officials longer to strike a deal with Cuomo, even after CSEA signed off on no raises for three years, health care contribution increases and furloughs. Eventually, PEF ended up with a nearly identical contract, which apparently isn’t sitting all that well with its rank-and-file.

CSEA members recently approved their contract, and the vote wasn’t even close. The union still has an uneasy relationship with Cuomo, however. The results of the PEF vote are expected on Sept. 27.

Calling All PEF Proud

Cuomo Readies State Hurricane Response

Hurricanes! Earthquakes! New York is getting all the lousy natural disasters from California and Florida these days and none of the plastic surgery charm.

And surely Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn’t want to be caught unprepared for what’s turning into a bad Roland Emmerich-mega-disaster movie.

OK, maybe not.

But there is a real concern that Hurricane Irene, now threatening to make its way up the East Coast, could hit Long Island. Hurricanes on Long Island aren’t unusual, and they’ve actually had some devastating effects in the past.

Cuomo said today he was initiating emergency management protocol to ensure a coordinated response to any hurricane-related issues.

“We are actively working to ensure that New York State is prepared for the potential impact of Hurricane Irene,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The state government is coordinating with our federal and local partners so that we can effectively respond to any emergency situation that may arise due to the storm. I encourage New Yorkers to pay close attention to the track of the hurricane and, if necessary, to follow the instructions of emergency officials. By properly preparing in advance, we can most calmly and decisively take action if the storm arrives.”

He also urged New Yorkers to stock up on supplies like water, batteries, non-perishable food, radios, batteries, supplies for any pets, and first aid kits

The governor took time off from his Long Island vacation yesterday to brief reporters on the state response to the earthquake that didn’t produce any injuries or property damage, but certainly rattled some office workers.

Rabbi Ties Earthquake To Gay Marriage (Update)

Yehuda Levin, an ultra-conservative and controversial Orthodox rabbi, posted a video on YouTube linking yesterday’s quake with New York’s legalization of same-sex marriage earlier this summer.

UPDATE: Sometime between my writing of this post and 5 p.m., YouTube has removed this video due to its policy “prohibiting hate speech.” That did not sit well with this Jewish blogger, who said he thinks Levin is a “disgusting, loudmouthed bigot,” but also opposes censorship.

This isn’t in the least bit surprising. Levin, as you’ll recall, was a key player in the uproar over Carl Paladino’s anti-gay statements during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

He actually wrote at least one version of the Buffalo businessman’s remarks, delivered to members of the Orthodox community in Brooklyn. Paladino later apologized – more or less – for saying children shouldn’t be “brainwashed” into believing that being gay is an appropriate and acceptable “lifestyle.”

Levin promptly unendorsed Paladino during a press conference held – where else? – on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

In the video Levin demonstrates a self-awareness and humor that I found a bit surprising, saying with just a hint of a smile:

“An email went out in my community just a few hours ago: How long will it take Rabbi Yehuda Levin to tie this earthquake in with homosexual marriage. I’d like to answer that tonight: Not very long at all. I’m happy to see that people, even if they are scofflaws, are starting to see there is a connection. Yes, there is a connection.”

Pataki Gets A Website. Sort Of. (Update)


Here, via Azi Paybarah, is a screen shot from what appears to be a password-protected campaign-website-in-waiting for former Gov. George Pataki.

Pataki is rumored to make some sort of announcement later this week regarding his presidential ambitiouos. Fueling these rumors his is announced trip to Polk County, Iowa.

As Azi notes, the website includes rollover bars for subjects on Pataki’s record, including “K-12 education”, “welfare and “taxes” along with “national security.”

It appears that after the screenshot was taken, the campaign logo and other information was quickly removed from the public view of the site.

Updated: David Catalfamo emails this response to inquiries about the site, saying it will be formally launched only if the former governor decides to run.

Can’t run a campaign without a website — the hosting company apparently made a mistake and has prematurely made it searchable. The site is still in development and will only be launched if the Governor decides to get in the race.

If anything, this shows that Pataki’s people are indeed gearing up for a race and are putting the infrastructure in place should he run.

NRCC Quick To Attack Maffei

He’s not even in the race yet, officially, but the NRCC is already attacking former Congressman Dan Maffei as he prepares to announce he is going to challenge Republican Ann Marie Buerkle in a rematch.

NRCC Spokesman Tory Mazzola is tying the Democrat to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, highlighting the fact that he voted with his House leader 96% of the time when he was in office.

“After spending the last few months at a lobbying firm, Dan Maffei must have realized that he wants to do more to make Nancy Pelosi Speaker again,” said NRCC Spokesman Tory Mazzola. “Unfortunately, he’s at a lobbying firm now because voters already rejected him twice and because he helped pass the failed stimulus bill, government-run healthcare and tax increases on small businesses that are hurting our economy.”

In his email to supporters late last night, Maffei attacked incumbent Ann Marie Buerkle for voting to cut funding for health care reform and supporting the “radical ideology” of the Tea Party.