Parkside Expands (Updated)

The Parkside Group, a NYC-based consulting/lobbying firm that is a favorite of the Senate Democrats, has hired a former aide to now-Gov. Andrew Cuomo: Paul Thomas.

“Paul Thomas is a seasoned professional with extensive experience in city and state government, said Parkside Group President Harry Giannoulis in a press release.

“Throughout his career, Paul has counseled public officials on substantive policy issues and the most effective methods of community outreach. We look forward to Paul putting his considerable abilities to work on behalf of our clients.”

Thomas is coming on as the firm’s newest vice president. He served as (deputy) director of Intergovernmental and Community Affairs for Cuomo when the governor was in the AG’s office.

He has also worked for the NYC City Council, a number of state lawmakers from the Bronx and Brooklyn – including Assemblyman/Bronx Democratic Chairman Carl Heastie – and on then-state Comptroller Carl McCall’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign.

(Incidentally, that was the year Cuomo challenged McCall in an ill-fated and short-lived primary from which Cuomo withdrew one week prior to the September election).

Parkside has a strong Queens connection (that’s the governor’s home borough, in case you had forgotten). Evan Stavisky, a parnter in the firm, is the son of Queens Sen. Toby Stavisky, and has been intimately involved in any number of campaigns there – including Assemblyman David Weprin’s current quest to fill former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s NY-9 seat.

Thomas’ hiring strengthens the traditionally Queens-Bronx alliance, which has been necessitated in part by the fact that Queens Democratic Chairman/Rep. Joe Crowley’s district includes a sliver chunk of the Bronx.

UPDATE: As per a reader (thank you), much more of of Crowley’s district, NY-7, than I thought is actually in the Bronx.

There are 203,645 enrolled voters there, compared to 116,125 in Queens, with a total of 317,770 – active and inactive.

In the 2010 election, of the overall votes cast, 62,346 came from the Bronx, compared to 35,625 from Queens. Crowley won with 66,223 votes, 43,885 from the Bronx and 22,338 from Queens.

Fearing a primary challenge – particularly from a Latino candidate – Crowley has maintained close ties to whoever is in charge of the Bronx Democratic organization. That job is currently being held by Thomas’ former boss, Heastie.

(I would be remiss if I didn’t note that my former DN partner Ken Lovett beat me to the posting punch on this one).

President’s Remarks This Morning

Below are the complete remarks of President Barack Obama’s press conference this morning, discussing the looming debt deadline.

Shortly after his speech, House GOP members said they expect to vote on an altered bill by Speaker Boehner today. It’s likely to pass the House and die in the Senate. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is moving ahead with his plan, that can’t be passed until Sunday. So, either way, this deal is going to go right up to the wire.

Here are the President’s remarks:

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. I want to speak about the ongoing and increasingly urgent efforts to avoid default and reduce our deficit.

Right now, the House of Representatives is still trying to pass a bill that a majority of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have already said they won’t vote for. It’s a plan that would force us to re-live this crisis in just a few short months, holding our economy captive to Washington politics once again. In other words, it does not solve the problem, and it has no chance of becoming law.

What’s clear now is that any solution to avoid default must be bipartisan. It must have the support of both parties that were sent here to represent the American people -– not just one faction. It will have to have the support of both the House and the Senate. And there are multiple ways to resolve this problem. Senator Reid, a Democrat, has introduced a plan in the Senate that contains cuts agreed upon by both parties. Senator McConnell, a Republican, offered a solution that could get us through this. There are plenty of modifications we can make to either of these plans in order to get them passed through both the House and the Senate and would allow me to sign them into law. And today I urge Democrats and Republicans in the Senate to find common ground on a plan that can get support — that can get support from both parties in the House –- a plan that I can sign by Tuesday.
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Senecas Urge Obama To Take On Thruway Issue

As if President Obama didn’t have enough on his plate, the Seneca Nation of Indians is urging him to resolve the long-standing battle over the state Thruway jutting into its territory.

“The Thruway easement issue is not new for the state or the Seneca Nation. For 60 years and clearly and emphatically over the past decade, we asked state officials to discuss long-standing, legitimate grievances the Nation has over the illegal Thruway right-of-way on our sovereign territory,” Porter said.

Porter sent a petition to Obama earlier this week urging him to take on the issue.

The SNI claims about 300 acres of its Cattaraugus Territory has been encroached upon by the state Thruway Authority, which was built in the 1950s.

In 2007, the nation went as far as charging a $1 toll on the area of its land claim, while the state rejects those bills. Porter said the tolls have collected amount to about $80 million.

The SNI and state’s relationship has been rocky as of late. New York officials are trying to execute a plan to collect revenue from the sale of tobacco products on Indian lands. Though tribal peoples and residents of reservations are exempt, Indian officials say the plan is a non-starter.

But Porter insisted in a statement that the issues are separate.

“This is a separate issue and one of long-standing disagreement between the Nation and the state,” Porter said. “State officials for 10 years have thus far ignored all of our appeals on the easement, and we can document many. These issues are critical to our Nation and our people and it’s time for the state to recognize that and join us in discussing them.”

Porter added that when he met with Gov. Andrew Cuomo in January, he told the new governor that among the items on his agenda included resolving the right-of-way issue with the Thurway.

Petition to the President Re Thruway_072511

Higgins Nixes 14th Amendment Option

Another ICYMI from last night’s CapTon: Count Rep. Brian Higgins among those who say the president should NOT invoke the 14th Amendment to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling in the (increasingly likely?) possibility that Congress fails to get a deal by the Aug. 2 deadline.

“I think that will just confuse the issue that much more,” the Buffalo Democrat told me.

“People of good will should be able to come together and solve this problem on behalf of the American people. That’s why everybody was sent here,” Higgins continued.

“I think that there is plenty in these plans, components of these plans, that allow individual groups to go back to their constituency and say: Look, we didn’t get everything, but we got a lot here. But more importantly, more importantly than anything else, the economy needs a clear, concise signal from Congress that we’re serious about reducing this debt and deficit moving forward.”

Higgins is in line with the White House on this one. But a number of his fellow House Democrats – including, as of this morning, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer – believe the president not only has the power to act alone, but should use that power to avoid seeing the country default.

Another Redistricting Lawsuit In The Offing?

ICYMI: The Brennan Center’s Democracy Program Director Wendy Weiser told me during a CapTon interview last night that she and her allies have not ruled out suing to force LATFOR to follow the law that requires prisoners to be counted at their last known address and not where they’re doing time for the purposes of redistricting.

The Brennan Center et al sent a letter to LATFOR this week urging members of the bipartisan committee to comply with the law passed as part of the budget back in 2009.

The Assembly Democrats subsequently put out a statement that essentially agreed with the coalition and expressed hope that their legislative colleagues across the aisle would act accordingly.

Here’s the statement, attributed to Roman Hedges:

“I, along with Assemblyman John McEneny, co-chairman of the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment, agree with the groups who signed the letter regarding the prison count issue and intend to fully comply with the law. We urge our fellow task force members to do the same.”

The problem, of course, is that the Senate Republicans are suing over the 2009 law, arguing it was illegally enacted (as part of an emergency extender bill) and also that it disenfranchises voters who live in upstate districts that are home to prisons.

But Weiser and her colleagues maintain that in the absence of an injunction or other court action, LATFOR has no choice BUT to follow the law. And if its members continue to refuse to do so, perhaps they need a little push in the right direction.

“We and our clients will consider all of our legal obligations,” she said. Nothing is off the table. You know, there is certainly no legal justification that LATFOR could put forward for not complying with the law. There is no authority or ground that they can stand on on that.”

‘I Thought We Already Took Care Of This S@#T”

Jon Stewart is not amused.

You may recall how the host of “The Daily Show” pushed hard for the so-called Zadroga bill, dedicating an entire evening to championing the long-delayed legislation to provide ongoing health care to 9/11 workers.

And after the act was finally approved by Congress, Stewart hosted Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who was instrumental in its passage, for a little love fest.

So, it’s no surprise that Stewart was among those infuriated by the federal government’s decision that cancer is being excluded from the illnesses covered by the act, with experts insisting there’s no firm medical proof that first responders’s apparent higher incidence of the disease can indeed be linked to the time they spent at Ground Zero.

Stewart’s response in a nutshell: Proof, schmoof.

“The worst-case scenario here is we accidentally treated a 9/11 responder’s cancer, even though his cancer may not be proven to have its genesis on 9/11,” Stewart said. “How about everyone who worked down there on the pile gets a pass on the origin of their personal tumors?”

“So, if you’re someone who spent time on the pile, I don’t care if you ate 200 Sweet-n-Low packets a day sprinkled on your favorite cereal – Tumor-Os – while wearing a cellphone suit and smoking Chernobyl Lights – unfiltered – and making regular stops to your favorite snack joint, Agent Orange Julius. You get cancer, we cover it.”

Here And Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is letting LG Bob Duffy do the honors by unveiling the last economic development council’s membership. Duffy will be in Brooklyn at the NYC College of Technology at noon. Cuomo is in Albany and NYC and has no public schedule.

“Do I believe there can be plans that lose?” Cuomo said after announcing the Capital Region’s council members yesterday in Schenectady. “Sure. But by the way, that’s the way it should be.”

Also announced yesterday: Economic development councils for the North Country, (Sen. Betty Little introduced Cuomo and laid the praise on thick), and the mid-Hudson Valley region.

More headlines….

Just minutes from the roll call, House Speaker John Boehner put the brakes on an expected vote on his debt ceiling plan due to a lack of conservative support.

It’s likely Boehner will try again today with a reconfigured plan.

The delay caught the White House off guard. The administration had no immediate reaction.

Top White House aides have been saying Boehner’s plan would “ruin Christmas” by forcing us to go through this all over again during the holiday season.

The great “pizza seduction” – a tactic employed by House Whip Kevin McCarthy – was a failure.

“Refusing to raise debt limit is the equivalent of holding a gun to the head of the economy,” says Michael Cohen in a DN OpEd.

Rep. Tom Reed had been prepared to vote “yes” on Boehner’s plan. Ditto for Rep. Chris Gibson, who criticized the Senate for failing to act on the “cut, cap, balance” bill.

“I have no idea what it cuts,” Rep. Bill Owens said of Boehner’s proposal. “It almost has the smell of pass it and decide later.”

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NY1/Marist Poll: Quinn Narrowly Leads NYC Mayoral Field

A new NY1/Marist Poll shows that the race for New York City mayor is wide open, now that Rep. Anthony Weiner is out of the race.

Back in April, our poll had Congressman Weiner as the front-runner, with 18 percent. With him now out of the race following his sexting scandal, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn leads the crowded Democratic field. Here is how it breaks down:

  • Christine Quinn – 16%
  • Bill Thompson – 15%
  • Marty Markowitz – 14%
  • John Liu – 9%
  • Bill De Blasio – 7%
  • Scott Stringer – 6%
  • Undecided – 32%

The poll also asks voters if they think former Rep. Weiner, or former Governor Eliot Spitzer should run for mayor. The two didn’t fair well. Weiner only got 26% of support, and Spitzer got 33% support for a mayoral run.

And we also asked if Police Commissioner Ray Kelly should run. The electorate was divided on him. 42% said yes, they want him to run. And 42% said they didn’t want him to run, with 16% undecided.

Yesterday, a Quinnipiac University poll asked all voters who they would prefer to be Mayor. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly topped the field with 23% – though winning a general election against whatever Democrat comes out of the primary might be tough, assuming Dems unite around the winner.

EMBARGOED_Complete July 28, 2011 NYC NY1-Marist Poll Release and Tables

Extras

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not making contingency plans in case Washington fails to get a debt ceiling deal because he believes the Aug. 2 deadline “forces resolution.”

The governor refused to take sides in D.C. mess, saying: “I don’t blame. I’m not about blame.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler says there’s a “very high likelihood of a total impasse” in Washington, and urges the president to “make room for the 14th Amendment.”

Rep. Nan Hayworth has had a change of heart on the debt ceiling vote and supports Speaker John Boehner’s plan.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed to kill Boehner’s plan – assuming it gets through the House.

The Senate and Assembly majorities have shelled out big bucks for Manhattan law firms to represent them during the redistricting process.

Rep. Kathy Hochul was appointed to her second House committee – Armed Services. (Her first was Homeland Security). No link.

NJ Gov. Chris Christie is in “good spirits” after being hospitalized earlier today with breathing complications.

Christie received emergency treatment for an asthma attack and then was “in charge and at work” in his hospital room.

Grannies dance for Medicare.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says the White House has formally nominated Ronnie Abrams to serve as U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York at her urging. This is the senator’s first judicial recommendation. (No link).

The Capital Region economic development council membership was unveiled today. Ditto for the North Country.

NYC’s emergency communications czar is leaving.

Joe the Plumber is back.

Call To Tax The Rich Persists

And you thought that whole millionaire’s tax thing was dead. Well, think again.

Exhibit A: An ad released by 1199 SEIU in Massachusetts asking Sen. Scott Brown whether he continues to support the House Republicans and “their latest proposal that protects tax breaks for millionaires” after voting “yes” on the “cut, cap, balance” proposal that passed largely along party lines (with a small boost from five aisle-crossing Dems).

The money quote: “Tell Senator Scott Brown it’s time to stand for a plan that protects ordinary Americans, not tax breaks for millionaires.”

Exhibit B: A video Tweeted by the Alliance for Quality Education for its ongoing “Students First!” campaign that features a message to Gov. Andrew Cuomo from a woman by the name of OCynthia, who says:

“You are not helping the people in comnunities that I live in. You’re not helping our schools, you’re not helping our teachers, our nurses, our seniors. You’re hurting us and you’re protecting bankers and millionaires, the same people that got us in this fix that you had to have such a dramatic budget passed. So I would say to you: Tax the millionaires, tax the rich and balance your budget that way.”

Reminder: During his address to the nation Monday night, President Obama again expressed support for taxing the rich, even though that’s a non-starter with House Republicans. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as you’ll recall, staunchly rejected the Assembly and Senate Democrats’ push to extend the millionaire’s tax.

Advocates have noted there’s still time to reinstate the tax before it sunsets at the end of this year. The Legislature is likely to return to Albany this fall to pass the PEF contract and deal with some other still-on-the-table matters – including, perhaps, a measure to establish the health care exchange.

But it seems unlikely at this point that the millionaire’s tax will be resurrected, despite the fact that the governor today predicted a $2.5 billion deficit next year.