Fracking Like In PA? No Thanks, Says Sen. Ball

I made a pilgrimage to the town of Patterson in the northeast corner of Putnam County yesterday to speak with Sen. Greg Ball about his hydrofracking tour in Pennsylvania last weekend with acclaimed “Glasland” filmmaker Josh Fox.

Ball, an outspoken conservative Republican, makes an unlikely ally for the anti-fracking set – particularly when the dominant view of his majority conference seems to be leaning in the pro direction, mostly due to the industry’s promise to bring thousands of jobs to economically depressed upstate.

But Ball was pretty much appalled by what he saw in Pennsylvania. He told me about seeing contaminated farms and poisoned wells and speaking at length with property owners who have little hope of remediation or reimbursement by the drilling industry.

Ball said he supported a fracking moratorium when he was in the Assembly and could continue to do so now – if only the measure would be brought to the floor by his fellow Republicans.

(A moratorium passed in 2010 when the Democrats were running the show, but then the chamber changed hands in 2011 and the new GOP leadership declined to follow the Assembly Democrats’ lead before the Legislature left Albany this year).

Ball stressed that he’s not at the point where he favors a complete ban, but added:

“We are at a point where, if it comes down to taking the Pennsylvania version, I would just say: No thank you.”

“I think that New York State has to step up to the plate and say, ‘Look there must a safe way to do this. Let’s figure this out.’ But we can’t allow individual families, farmers and sportsmen to be hung out to dry. And that’s what happens.”

Ball “>has a lot of photos from his trip posted on his Web page. He received a rather threatening email (he provided me with a copy) from a contractor who threatened to sue him if he didn’t take the images down within 48 hours. (He didn’t).

The senator is holding a fracking hearing next Tuesday in Katonah Village. He announced today that every industry expert invited to testify has either declined to participate or backed out.

My full interview with Ball will air on CapTon this evening at 8 p.m. and then re-air at 11:30 p.m.

Senate GOP Pitch: We’re Spending Less

As Senate Republicans seek to hold and expand their thin 32-30 majority, they’re pitching donors and voters on their fiscal housekeeping as a reason why they should stay in power.

In a news release posted on the recently buffed up Senate Republican Campaign Committee website, the GOP points to the $13 million in overspending by Senate Democrats, who spent a two-year term in the majority.

Meanwhile, Republicans say they’re on track to reduce spending by millions in their chamber by the end of the fiscal year.

Republicans also say they hacked hundreds of (most likely Democratic) jobs from the Senate payroll.

Like middle-class families across New York who are doing more with less to cope with a national economic recession, so are Senate Republicans.

Republicans have shrunk the size of the Senate workforce, and there are now 350 fewer people on the payroll than Democrats had just one year ago.

New Yorkers chose Republicans to lead the Senate because they believed the GOP would do a better job in reducing spending, alleviating the crushing burden of property taxes and helping the private sector create new jobs.

The argument from Senate Republicans for keeping their majority that’s emerging appears to be two-fold.

First, they’ll tout their governing ability, including the successful passage of the property-tax cap and a spending plan that closed a $10 billion deficit without increasing taxes.

That inevitably will join them with popular Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and Senate GOPers and Cuomo have both heaped mutual praise on one another since session ended.

Secondly, they’ll point to the trouble Senate Democrats had when they were in the majority (granted, one could argue that Republicans conspiring with two breakaway Democrats caused a lot of that grief) and that allowing the party to control the upper house again would erase their work.

Of course, the GOP faces an uphill climb. An independent redistricting process, as Cuomo has sought, could enable Democrats to pick up seats, based on their enrollment advantage.

And, at the same time, Buffalo Sen. Mark Grisanti, one of the four yes-voting Republicans, didn’t rule out running as a Democrat in 2012.

With Friends Like These…

NYC’s oldest continuously-published black newspaper, The Amsterdam News, rather reluctantly endorsed Andrew Cuomo for governor back in 2010, raising questions about his commitment to the minority community, but also recognizing there was no way in hell it could ever support his GOP challenger, Carl Paladino.

The paper has never really warmed up to Cuomo, with publisher and editor-in-chief Elinor Tatum basically calling him out shortly before the general election last year for failing to do enough to rally black voters – a sensitive issue for the Cuomo camp ever since his failed 2002 primary challenge to then-state Comptroller H. Carl McCall, the state’s first major party gubernatorial candidate.

And things haven’t improved much since then, as evidenced by a multiple-byline article that appeared in this morning in the Amsterdam News. It starts out thusly:

“Cuomo displays a self-assured air, which may be real or bravado, a plain sense of entitlement or straight-up arrogance. Whatever he has, he walked into the AmNews offices with it. Unabashed.”

“There was some nerves and caution as both sides worked to measure each other, along with some politically practiced dodging by the governor as he skillfully worked to move around certain issues.”

“However, the AmNews team was fairly persistent, not letting him slide on major issues of importance like charter schools, a lack of jobs and cuts in education and social services for people of color and the working and nonworking poor.”

“Sometimes it seemed like a slick oilman or salesman was hovering around the room. Yes, he is personable, but personality does not resolve issues affecting the masses and the middle class if a genuine intent to do the right thing is absent.”

Ouch. And there’s more where that came from.

The AmNews took Cuomo to task for failing to spend sufficient time – in its opinion – downstate, (funny, because Albanians would probably say he doesn’t spend nearly enough time at the executive mansion, preferring instead the comforts of the Westchester County home he shares with Food Network star Sandra Lee).

The governor said his so-called post-session “Phase II” will include more time downstate – and not just in Manhattan.

The paper is also unhappy with Cuomo’s refusal to extend the millionaire’s tax and use the resulting cash to offset cuts to education spending. The governor responded by stressing that no NYC teachers were laid off as a result of his cuts, despite threats to the contrary by the Bloomberg administration.

The AmNews’ unhappiness with Cuomo comes as no big surprise. Some of that is due to the paper’s anti-establishment nature (this is the same paper that endorsed then-Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi over then-AG Eliot Spitzer in 2006 – the most significant – if not only – publication to do so).

But it’s still worth noting that he continues to struggle to improve his standing with a certain segment of the black community – the segment that’s probably more inclined toward the Charles Barrons of the world.

(I was remiss in not noting that NY1 political director Bob Hardt pointed out this AmNews story to me…thanks, Bob!!)

Anglers Paradise: Cuomo Keeps Commercial Ban On Striped Bass

Gov. Andrew Cuomo may have gone fishin’ on vacation, but he’s preserving a ban on commercial fishing for striped bass in the Hudson River.

The law Cuomo is signing today continues a prohibition on commercial striped bass fishing, a popular law for recreational anglers.

“This law benefits both public health and the vibrant recreational fishing industry that is an important part of the local economies along the Hudson River. I thank Senator Grisanti and Assemblyman Abinanti for sponsoring this legislation,” Cuomo said in a statement.

The ban covers striped bass fishing for commercial purposes from the Hudson River located between the George Washington Bridge and the federal dam in Troy.

The ban has been in place since the 1970s and safeguards against PCB-tained fish from being sold in markets. The ban expires on the first day of April 2015 and takes effect in 120 days.

The Department of Environmental Conservation blocks all fish consumption from Fort Edward, the site of the General Electric Co. plant that discharged polychlorinated biphenyls, 40 miles down to Troy because of possible PCB contamination.

General Electric is currently funding a federally overseen project to dredge PCB-laced sediment from the Hudson River, one of the largest environmental cleanups in history.

The governor embarked on a vacation this week, and spokesman Josh Vlasto tells me Cuomo is actually doing a little recreational angling for stripped bass himself today. Cuomo is reportedly vacationing in both the North Country and on Long Island (he’ll be at the State Fair in Syracuse next week).

Fuschillo: Time To ‘Re-Evaluate’ PA Leadership

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Charles Fuschillo is calling on Govs. Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie to re-evaluate the leadership at the Port Authority.

The statement from the Long Island Republican doesn’t go as far as calling for Executive Director Chris Ward to step down, but he does say Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s unflattering overtime audit, combined with the proposed toll increases shows the authority’s management needs to be scrutinized.

And Fuschillo points to the recent stories about the costs for rebuilding the World Trade Center running $2 billion over budget under the authority’s watch.

All this adds up to a bad trend for Fuschillo.

“Families and businesses have been tightening their belts and doing more with less to make ends meet. They’ll have to work even harder to do that if these toll increases are approved. That’s the example the Porty Authority should be following, but clearly is not,” Fuschillo said in a statement.

Cuomo, who denied that he knew about the proposed steep bridge and tunnel increases, has sidestepped questions about Ward’s future with the authority, saying he wants facts before making a judgment.

Bloomberg: Haven’t Heard From Cuomo On Speaking Role

Gov. Andrew Cuomo hasn’t reached out personally to Mayor Michael Bloomberg about having a speaking role at the ceremony memorialzing the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that Cuomo’s aides sought a larger role for the governor in this year’s 9/11 memorial and greater control over the event. In the past, governors and other elected officials have kept a low profile on the anniversary of the attacks, usually just reading lines of poetry.

NY1 reports that Bloomberg said during a question-and-answer session that the ceremony will stick to tradition this year and that the schedule has been set in stone.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, meanwhile, did contact Bloomberg about a role for his predecessor, ex-Gov. Donald DiFrancesco. The mayor’s office said yes, but it remains unclear what role the former governor will play at the ceremony.

We’ll update this once we get the video of the Q and A.

NYSCOPBA Chief: Threats Aren’t Productive

Correction union chief Donn Rowe struck back at Director of State Operations Howard Glaser, whose memo sent Wednesday called out both his organization and UUP for dragging out contract negotiations.

In the memo sent to department heads, Glaser suggested layoffs for those bargaining units could be on the way unless a labor agreement is finalized.

Rowe, the president of NYSCOPBA, said threatening staff reductions is unproductive. Correction officers have already been hit with layoffs after the Cuomo administration recommended seven prisons across the state close, part of an overall effort to cut spending at the Department Correctional Services.

“We are always open to a dialogue with the Governor and his team concerning the many issues that affect our members. However, as contained in the Director of State Operations’ recent memo, threatening layoffs to our bargaining unit – one that faces real-life safety threats everyday – is neither productive nor is it in the best interest of preserving New York’s safety.

We understand and appreciate that this is a difficult time for our State and its people. And, in this time of sacrifice, we have already given more than most.

In addition to the seven prison closings this year, in the past two years alone we have lost nearly 1,000 officer positions due to cut backs. At the same time theDepartment of Corrections budget has continued to grow. Meanwhile, the level of violence has spiked throughout the prison system with inmate suicides doubling and violent attacks up by more than 12%. We need officers to keep our jails safe, not more bureaucrats wasting taxpayer money.”

Glaser has used memos before to spur unions to come to the bargaining table and accept givebacks in the form of pay freezes and furlough days. CSEA’s rank and file approved their contract this week and the Public Employees Federation is due to vote on their agreement by September.

Here And Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is “s out of the office in New York State,” according to his public schedule.

Former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr.’s Soundview Health Center and its affiliates hold a press conference at the Bronx Co. Courthouse at 1 p.m. to announce filing of a restraining order against OMIG, DOH Commish Shah in response to loss of Medicaid funds.

NYC Councilman Peter Koo (a Republican), hosts Assemblyman David Weprin, Democratic NY-9 candidate, for a “special event” with Queens Asian Business leaders in Flushing at 12:30 p.m.

Weprin’s GOP opponent, Bob Turner, will campaign at noon a senior center and also visit local businesses in Forest Park with NYC Councilman Eric Ulrich (who took a pass on the race) and Assembly candidate Jane Deacy.

Mayor Bloomberg is also in Queens, visiting one of nine NYC business incubators at 10 a.m. At 6:15 p.m., he hosts a reception to honor “Dominican heritage” at Gracie Mansion.

The Cuomo administration is upping the contract ante with UUP and NYSCOPBA, threatening layoffs now that CSEA has ratified its deal.

Weprin could be the first casualty of the same-sex marriage bill’s passage in NYS, Brooklyn Democrats are rushing to shore him up.

More upset over the 9/11 10th anniversary event: NJ Gov. Chris Christie reportedly called Mayor Bloomberg a “Napoleon,” “dictator” and “putz” over lack of invite to ex-NJ governor. The invite has since been extended.

The Post says pols should be “ashamed” for fighting over such a solemn event.

The pressure on Christie from some Republicans who want him to run for president has become “almost relentless,” but it hasn’t changed his mind.

Fitch lowered NJ’s credit rating.

Gay family members of two GOP assemblywoman – Teresa Sayward and Janet Duprey – who broke with their party to vote “yes” on same-sex marriage “made it legal” in the North County last weekend.

More >

Michael Carey: OPWDD/State Police Agreement ‘A Good First Step’

Michael Carey, an outspoken advocate and driving force behind, “Jonathan’s Law,” said today that the joint agreement between the Office for Poeple With Developmental Disabilities and New York State Police is a good first step to minimize abuse in group homes across the state, but also says could go much further.

The agreement would make it easier for information of alleged abuse to reach the ears of law enforcement, however Carey says such a directive should be mandated.

“When the calls of abuse are reported by mandate reporters, anybody that witnesses abuse, most of these calls, go to the abuse hotline,” Carey said.

“We want those calls to immediately forwarded to law enforcement, not just the state police, but local law enforcement so whoever is the closest agency around. It’s critical that these are immediate and not two or three days later because evidence disappears, bruises disappear and employees are influenced because a fear of losing their jobs.”

Extras

NY’s already sky-high campaign contribution limits have jumped again.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is confident Rep. Michele Bachmann and supporters pushing a national act against marriage quality will fail.

Dan Collins misses the old Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani’s new 2012 timeline: The end of September.

Eliot Spitzer offers the Obama administration advice on how to fix the housing market and reduce the unemployment rate – all in one fell swoop.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher is recommending that two presidents in the system take over responsibility for an additional school.

In defense of the not-so unfashionable WFP.

Following his “After ‘I Do’” symposium last night, Sen. Daniel Squadron launched a resource page for recently married LGBT couples.

Says the Syracuse Post-Standard: “Next time, Governor, please pay back the taxpayers for your aircraft ride home. Think of it as yet another way to “rein in spending.”

The Sabbath, according to Sen. Joe Lieberman.

The rained-out Black Eyed Peas Central Park concert has been rescheduled for Sept. 30 because will.i.am feels sorry that NYC is not LA.

Mayor Bloomberg knows a lot of musicians.

NJ Gov. Chris Christie is not, despite a report to the contrary, conducting focus groups with an eye toward joining the 2012 fray.

A new low of 26 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s handling of the economy, according to Gallup.

A lot of job jumping is going on at the Capitol.

Bloomberg signed a bill into law that urges NYC agencies to buy local.

REBNY is not happy about the concrete workers contract deal.

For the record: I get my own coffee every single day. Carry my own bags, too.

Thanks Mayor Graham!