Dueling Queens GOP Chairs

As expected, the warring factions of the Queens GOP held dueling meetings last night and elected two diffrent party chairmen, each of whom is now declaring himself the true leader of the borough’s Republican organization.

Incumbent Chairman Phil Ragusa’s spokesman, Robert Hornak, emailed a press release shortly before midnight last night, reporting that Ragusa had been “unanimously re-elected” at the “offifical reorganization meeting” held at the Reception House on Northern Blvd.

(“Unanimous” in this case means all of the people who were present, since those allied with the so-called “rogue faction” led by the “notorious Haggerty brothers” – the party’s words, not mine, and it makes them sound like outlaws in a bad Western movie – et al attended the other meeting).

“With 18 Assembly districts throughout Queens, representatives of 12 were in attendance, representing a weighted vote of approximately 58 percent,” the release stated. “Adding in those who tendered proxies but abstained pushed the weighted vote to 62 percent at Ragusa’s meeting.”

“Several longtime loyal African American, Haitian and Hispanic District leaders also attended but were unable to vote for the Chairman due to having been targeted by the opposing faction and knocked off of the ballot during petitioning.”

“With a rogue faction lead by the notorious Haggerty brothers boycotting the meeting in favor of an unauthorized meeting in South Richmond Hill, technically Phil Ragusa won re-election with 100 percent of the vote.”

The party accused the Haggerty faction of ignoring a TRO and holding an “unlawful meeting” at which former NYC Council Minority Leader Tom Ognibene was elected chairman. Hornak noted that “ringleader” John Haggerty is on trial for allegedly stealing $1 million from Mayor Bloomberg during his successful re-election campaign in 2009.

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Assembly Democrats Hire Redistricting Consultant

Assembly Democrats have retained a $400-per-hour consultant to analyze and review the redistricting of state and federal legislative boundaries, according to the state Comptroller’s Open Book website.

The majority inked a contract worth up to $143,000 with Allan Lichtman, a profesor of history at American University in Washington, earlier this year. The contract ends in 2014. Lichtman’s compensation is not to exceed $100,000, but he also receives $3,000 in travel expenses and $40,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.

Assembly spokesman Mike Whyland (who, it should be noted, made a copy of the contract available without prompting) pointed out that it was standard operating procedure for Legislature to hire consultants in order to ensure compliance.

In this case, Lichtman’s job is to ensure the new lines comply with federal laws and one-person-one-vote requirements.

Lichtman has also advised Democrats in Illinois and South Carolina, and his a former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Maryland.

It’s not unusual for either parties to retain consultants during the redistricting process, which is both a legally complex and time-consuming issue.

The Daily News reported earlier this year that both chambers retained high-priced law firms for the coming redistriciting round.

Senate Republicans signed a $3 million contract with firm Jones Day and the Assembly, too, retained the firm Graubard Miller and lawyer C. Daniel Chill through 2014 for $1.55 million.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, has vowed to veto lines he deems drawn unfairly, throwing the process to the courts.

PEF To Cuomo: Let’s Negotiate

Public Employees Federation Ken Brynien issued a new call today for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to return to the bargaining table as soon as possible.

Brynien says PEF, a union of mostly white-collar state workers, is prepared to present “new ideas” that can be accepted by the union’s rank-in-file and the administration.

The New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF) is prepared to present to the state new ideas which we believe will lead to a tentative contract agreement that will meet everyone’s needs and our members will ratify.

Although the governor has said he will not change the state’s proposal we remain hopeful we can reach an agreement. The next few days will be critical as we try to preserve state services while meeting the savings the state requires.

The statement comes as the Cuomo administration has started to send out pink slips to nearly 3,500 state workers in the wake of the union rejecting a labor agreement that includes deep concessions. The layoffs take effect in about a month.

Cuomo needs to achieve $450 million in workforce savings in order to keep the budget in balance. Cuomo issued a short statement urging PEF members to reconsider their no votes.

Cuomo’s Director of State Operations Howard Glaser, issued a more pointed statement that blasted the PEF leadership for failing to explain the terms of the agreement.

The governor, so far, has given no indciation he would be willing to re-negotiate a new deal.

Judges Want Pay Raise Plus Perks

New York’s judges are poised to receive a significant pay raise come April after going more than a decade without one, thanks to a recommendation of the Cuomo-formed Judicial Compensation Commission.

But some jurists think the 27 percent increase over the next three years is insufficient, and are urging court administrators to keep in place a $10,000 stipend that was provided to them in recognition of the fact that they had not received a salary hike since January 1999.

(The stipend was initially $5,000 when it was first created in 2007, but was subsequently boosted to $10,000 in 2010).

“We were told that it depends on the budget and we made it clear that we believe it should be continued. Indeed, some of us think it should be enhanced,” Brooklyn Family Court Judge Daniel Turbow told the Law Journal, adding that there will likely be a formal request “within the next couple weeks.”

According to the Journal’s Joel Stashenko, some judges were so unhappy with the commission’s recommendation (they had wanted more; some had suggested as much as $200,000), that they contemplated an Article 78 proceeding.

It wouldn’t be the first time the judges have sued over their pay, but it doesn’t appear there’s sufficient support to get that effort off the ground.

The Office of Court Administration has until Dec. 1 to submit its budget request to Cuomo. Last year, the judicial branch clashed with the executive over its unwillingness to following his lead in making an across-the-board budget cut. Cuomo called out the judges during his budget address.

They eventually yielded to his wishes, which led to curtailed court hours and services across the state.

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said no decision has yet been made about the stipends. The salary increase alone would cost $30 million next year (it’s being phased in), and continuing the stipends would add an additional $12 million.

Also still unclear is the cost of Lippman’s proposal that New York try nonviolent teenage offenders in Family Court – something that would require a complete overhaul of how the system treats juveniles.

PEF Exec Board Member Accuses Cuomo Of ‘Religious Insensitivity’ (Updated)

The relationship between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and leaders of the Public Employees Federation deteriorated still further yesterday, when one of the union’s executive board members accused the governor of making “retaliatory attacks” in the wake of Tuesday’s contract failure and acting with “vindictiveness,” “religious insensitivity,” and “disrespect.”

At issue for Beverly Bowen, of Region 9, is the fact that the layoff notices started going out yesterday as Jewish members of the union were preparing to celebrate Rosh Hashanah – one of the holiest days of Jewish year. Very observent Jews will be observing this holiday through Friday, and then will start their weekly observance of Shabbat.

In other words, it’s possible people who are just receiving word that they will be laid off won’t be in the office to get any guidance about how that’s going to work until next Monday.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, this email was not sent directly to me. It was written by Bowen and by her to fellow executive board members and PEF President Ken Brynien. A recipient forwarded it to me – apparently an important distinction that I have been asked to make here, since many state agencies have policies that forbid executive board members from communicating with the press.

“Regardless of the level of observance or the number of Jewish staff that will be effected by this, it was inappropriate and wrong to begin this process at a time when many are not going to be at work today, tomorrow or Friday due to religious observances,” Bowen wrote.

“For those unable to meet today, another meeting will be held tomorrow. Phone calls are going out along with the certified letters informing people of their selection on the list. The lack of respect that this continues to demonstrate to the humanity of our state worker’s is appalling and to me immoral. I could go on about the general unessecary vindictiveness of this entire action, but I’m preaching to the choir here I’m sure.”

“The union is not truly the people’s enemy and as we have said there are many diverse ways to improve the state economy before these drastic measures would be needed…This puts Jewish staff at a further demoralizing and disrespected level. I am NOT diminishing the huge impact that this is having on ALL employees who are targeted.”

“I do feel though that this rush to action/knee jerk reaction that is so typical of this administration could have waited until Monday to happen. Would this have happened on Christmas Eve? Maybe it will. It would be just as wrong then. Dare I wish everyone a sweet New Year? It is my fervrent prayer.”

I emailed Cuomo’s press office this morning to ask if the administration had given though to the fact that these layoffs coincide with the start of what Jews call the “Days of Awe” or the “High Holy Days” – a 10-day period of introspection and repentance that culminates with Yom Kippur. I did not receive a response.

The governor is definitely aware of the holiday. He released a statement on Wednesday wishes those New Yorkers who will be celebrating Rosh Hashanah a “healthy and prosperous” New Year.

Cuomo Turns Down Bill Aimed At Transparency

A bill that state lawmakers said would increase transparency for where state money was going to community-based organizations was vetoed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo late last week.

The bill was aimed at requiring every state department, including the executive, to submit two annual reports on the distribution of funds and grants to community-based organizations — a requirement that Cuomo says is already being addressed.

Though the spigot has supposedly been turned off on these grants, Gannett ably demonstrates that the money continues to flow out of Albany.

In vetoing the bill, the governor said he supports the goals of the legislation, noting that he created the Project Sunlight website as attorney general. But he writes in the veto message that the measure is “unnecessary” because much of the information is already public available.

“In addition, anticipated future reports from the new Statewide Financial System, which is a single financial accounting record and central transaction processing system managed by the Division of Budget, will substantially address the reporting requirement under the bill,” Cuomo wrote, adding that the it is more efficient to use this system, then the one proposed by lawmakers.

Still, the timing of the veto is unfortunate as Cuomo tries to demonstrate that he’s more transparent than his predecessors (he doesn’t control when the Legislature sends him bills to act on).

The governor is sensitive to the idea that his administration has been anything but transparent in its first nine months. Cuomo introduced a website that publishes some details of his daily schedule and opened up the governor’s wing of the second floor of the Capitol.

And while a poll shows that the general public thinks Cuomo has kept up a similar level of transparency if not more so, the reporters who cover him would probably disagree.

Pataki Urges Christie To Run For President

Former Gov. George Pataki took the unusual step today of publicly calling for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to jump into the race for president.

Pataki released a statement this morning through his No American Debt group, saying that none of the current presidential candidates have “leveled” with voters on the problems the country faces.

“America is in a crisis, and none of the current candidates or the President has leveled with American public about what needs to be done to rescue our future. This country needs a straight shooter and a proven leader. I urge Governor Chris Christie to run for President to fill the void and lead America forward.”

Pataki was said to be considering a run for president himself and aides even went as far as creating a mock website for his campaign. In the end, the former three-term governor decided it would be too much of a burden on his family to make a run.

Christie has been under pressure from the Republican establishment to make a run as Texas Gov. Rick Perry faltered and elites remain unconvinced of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Christie gave a speech at the Reagan library and museum earlier this week and did little to temper expectations he would or would not run.

Survey: NYers Oppose MMA, Back Casinos

A Siena College poll released this morning found New Yorkers oppose legalizing mixed-martial arts because of the brutality, but believe expanding casinos in the state would be an economic plus.

But at the same time, a large percentage of New Yorkers think adding more casinos would increase societal problems and gambling addiction.

“Majorities of Democrats and Republicans, and of residents of every region of the state, support allowing Vegas-style casinos to be built here in New York. While there is concern about crime and compulsive gambling, the need for jobs and government revenues appears to far outweigh the downsides according to most New Yorkers and voters,” Siena College pollster Don Levy said.

Seventy-eight percent of New Yorkers polled believe expanding gaming will create jobs, while 71 percent responded that they think it will bring much-needed revenue to local governments.

The results come as Gov. Andrew Cuomo is publicly mulling whether to call for an expansion of non-Indian casinos. Cuomo has called the issue a complicated one, especially given the state’s tenuous and fractious relationship with the Indian nation.

The governor plans to make his feelings known on casinos in January.

Meanwhile, mixed-martial arts, or MMA, is opposed 48 percent to 39 percent of New Yorkers. A bill that would legalize MMA in New York, while pushed by the industry and some upstate lawmakers, has languished in Albany over the last several years.

And, in news that is heartening to this Yankee fan (sorry Red Sox!), shortstop Derek Jeter wins the popularity contest as the most loved athlete in the Empire State.

Sports0911 Crosstabs

Here And Now

L’shanah tovah, if it applies to you. Observance of the Jewish New Year might mean a slow news day in the New York political world.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in NYC with no public schedule. Ditto for Mayor Bloomberg (who is Jewish).

Port Authority Executive Director Chris Ward, a Paterson administration appointee whose job has been viewed as in jeopardy for some time, will reportedly resign at the end of October. He doesn’t yet have another job lined up.

It isn’t clear if the Cuomo administration has selected a successor to Ward, whose tenure has been widely seen as quite successful – particularly when it comes to Ground Zero redevelopment.

The PEF layoffs have begun, and OMH, which has some 17,000 union members on its payroll, was hit the hardest, with 643 pink slips.

Words like “retreating” and “bumping” take on a whole new meaning at a time like this.

PEF hasn’t 100 percent ruled out a revote, but doesn’t see the point unless the contract that failed gets “tweaked.”

The Oneonta Daily Star is the latest paper to call on PEF and the administration to return to the bargaining table.

The Poughkeepsie Journal sides with Cuomo, saying it’s up to PEF members to “come to their senses” and schedule a revote. Ditto, says The Watertown Times.

The great 2012 primary shuffle is underway, thanks to Florida.

Welcome to the “Big Tease,” in which would-be presidential candidates are getting more attention than those who have already declared.

NJ Gov. Chris Christie has apparently changed his mind about not being interested in a presidential bid this year. He could make a decision as early as Monday.

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Extras

Democrats prepare to go on the defensive as Rep. Paul Ryan doubles down on his controversial budget proposal.

Mayor Bloomberg’s out-of-NYC travel will remain private, thanks to NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Azi Paybarah takes note of a significant lede change in the NYT’s PEF contract story.

Former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky compared the Occupy Wall Street protestors to the Boston Tea Partiers.

Clyde Haberman questions why Albany is suddenly in charge of making taxi policy, when “logic” suggests that the NYC Council’s job.

Time’s Michael Crowley on NJ Gov. Chris Christie’s 2012 problem: “(H)e’s a moderate in a party with little taste for moderation.”

Christie delivers “apostasy with a smile.”

Participate in an unscientific Politics on the Hudson poll on whether Christie should join the fray.

Former Gov. George Pataki will boost his onetime administration appointee and GOP Troy mayoral candidate, Carmella Mantello, at a fundraiser tonight.

Getting The Donald’s endorsement isn’t likely to land a Republican the presidential nomination, but it could come with other perks.

Florida might move up its primary date, throwing the GOP 2012 selection process deeper into chaos. (Nevada is contemplating a move, too).

Wayne Barrett rails on Cuomo’s widely-acknowledged “favoritism” of the Post’s Fred Dicker.

Obama believes the courts will settle the DOMA question “fairly soon.”

Some much-needed downstate attention to the plight of flood-ravaged upstate farms.

Partisan ping-pong!

The Rockefeller Institute is holding an Oct. 3 event to mark the late Gov. Carey’s legacy. (Benjamin pere is scheduled to participate).

Funding for NYC’s anti-poverty programs is in danger until Congress gets its act together.

The Rev. Al Sharpton defended Obama and dismissed the Hillary 2012 pushers.

Sympathy for the jobless.

The much-hyped Saratoga lip dub has landed. Some 1,000 people turned out for the recording on Sept. 1.