Superintendent Salary Cap Support Grows

Sen. John Flanagan told me during a CapTon interview last night that he’s open to the idea of a salary cap for public school superintendents, whose compensation was targeted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his budget address last week.

Cuomo mentioned the salary of a Syosset schools superintendent, Carole Hankin, who earns $386,868 a year, as an example of where education officials might consider cutting to make up for the loss of state aid they are expected to suffer during this budget cycle.

(He didn’t call Hankin out by name during his Feb. 1 presentation at the Egg’s Hart Theater, but she’s easy enough to identify, thanks to her outsized paycheck).

A spokesman for the governor refused to discuss with the NY Times whether Cuomo is considering following the lead of NJ Gov. Chris Christie in imposing a cap on most superintendents’ salaries, but Flanagan told me he thinks that’s fair game.

"And then if we want to go to that debate about distribution and fairness and equity, then I think it's all part of what should be discussed. There's no question in my mind, a contract like that to me, in my opinion, as a taxpayer, as a parent, as an elected official, it's outrageous."

Flanagan is one of the so-called “Long Island nine” – the GOP senators who make up the Nassau and Suffolk delegations (including Majority Leader Dean Skelos) who are digging in on Cuomo’s proposed education cuts, saying they aren’t fair and equitable.

Sampson Brands Skelos An ‘Enemy Of Reform’

Senate Minority Leader John Sampson took a shot at his GOP counterpart today, accusing Majority Leader Dean Skelos of backtracking on his 2010 campaign pledge to support ethics and redistricting reform.

After addressing the New York Association of Counties annual conference at the Desmond, Sampson told reporters Skelos has abandoned his support of requiring moonlighting lawmakers to disclose their outside income within narrow ranges and, in the case of attorney-legislators, release their client lists.

This comes on the heels of the majority leader’s waffling on his election-year promise to former NYC Mayor Ed Koch that he (not to mention every member of his 32-person GOP conference) would co-sponsor a bill to form an independent redistricting commission by March 1, Sampson noted.

“After breaking his promise on independent redistricting and now backing away from full ethics disclosures for public officials, Senator Skelos is showing himself to be an enemy of reform,” Sampson said. “It appears as if Senator Skelos signed the reform pledge in disappearing ink.”

Both Skelos and Sampson are of-counsel at downstate law firms.

The same goes for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has long balked at the idea of revealing his client list, but had a change of heart on the subject after Gov. Andrew Cuomo came into office pledging to clean up Albany.

Koch appeared on CapTon last week and threatened to revive his statewide reform tour – but this time accusing balky lawmakers of being liars with their pants on fire – if his March 1 deadline isn’t met.

Cuomo is reportedly planning to send an ethics program bill to the Legislature in hopes of pressuring members into taking a public stand on the measure.

ADA: Bloomberg Testified In Haggerty Case (Updated)

NY1 political reporter Grace Rauh is in the courtroom today for the oral arguments in John Haggerty’s trial, and reports Manhattan ADA Eric Seidel (Rackets Bureau chief) revealed Mayor Bloomberg testified before a grand jury in the case.

Bloomberg’s office had steadfastly insisted the mayor did nothing wrong in connection with the $1.1 million worth of personal campaign contributions he made to the state Independence Party that was subsequently funneled to Haggerty, a Queens GOP operative, to (ostensibly) for for a ballot protection operation on Election Day, 2009.

Manhattan DA Cy Vance Jr. indicted Haggerty last June, accusing him of creating a “sham” election company and using it as a conduit to steal Bloomberg’s money.

A grand jury was empanelled last spring. Haggerty’s indictment did not prevent him from being hired by former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino to run the Buffalo businessman’s petition drive that successfully landed him a spot on the GOP primary ballot last September.

Haggerty was charged with grand larceny, money laundering and falsifying business records. He has pleaded not guilty and, according to multiple reports, has rejected all offers of a plea deal, threatening to spill the beans in court on what Team Bloomberg knew and when they knew it.

Bloomberg contributed $1.2 million in two $600,000 donations to the housekeeping account of the Indy Party, whose chairman, Frank MacKay, has long been close to the mayor and was involved in his never-realized White House bid in 2008.

The party only reported sending $750,000 to Haggerty’s firm, Special Election Operations, which wasn’t officially incorporated with the state Secretary of State’s office until after the November elections.

Haggerty used the address of Albany-based consulting/lobbying firm Capitol Public Strategies, whose principles insisted they had no idea what he was up to.

The oral arguments were supposed to be held on Jan. 24, but Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Ronald Zweibel rescheduled for today to give himself more time to review the motion to dismiss filed by Haggerty’s legal team.

UPDATE: More from Grace…Apparently, word about Bloomberg testifying before the grand jury came as a complete surprise to the defense, which is being led by former AG Dennis Vacco.

There was no decision in the case today. A decision will likely come on March 14 when the two sides reconvene in court.

Grace says there was a sort of weird “meta” moment when e-mails sent by NY Post City Hall Bureau Chief Dave Seifman inquiring about Haggerty’s compensation were being projected onto a screen in the courtroom
and Seifman was sitting in the second row.

Seifman told Grace he never testified in front of the grand jury.

Gillibrand To Albany: Pass Gay Marriage, End ‘Institutionalized Discrimination’

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand again injected herself into the debate over same-sex marriage in Albany today, sending a letter today to state lawmakers urging them to end “institutionalized discrimination” in New York by allowing gay couples to wed.

“I am honored to stand with a solid majority of New Yorkers who support the effort to finally bring full marriage equality to New York,” the Democratic junior senator wrote, reiterating her own “full support for marriage equality.”

“As you are aware, the New York State Assembly passed marriage equality during the two preceding legislative sessions, in both 2007 and in 2009. ”

“Five other states – Iowa, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia – have adopted similar measures. A number of court cases and legislative initiatives across the country appear poised, over time, to rule in favor of full marriage equality.”

“This year, new leadership is preparing again to consider this important measure. As elected leaders, we must reaffirm our commitment to equal rights and equal protection under the law for all New Yorkers. ”

“Equal protection under the law has been a hallmark of the American legal, social and political system since the founding of the republic. In this instance, I believe that this principle must be extended to all of those in our state who seek the civil contract of marriage and the numerous legal rights, protections and benefits that only the status of marriage confers.”

Gillibrand, who used to work for Gov. Andrew Cuomo at HUD, is not at the Capitol today, but members of her staff are joining with Miss New York Claire Buffie and other gay marriage advocates in lobbying senators on this issue.

The senator has been a champion for gay rights since she inherited her US Senate seat from Hillary Clinton (who, incidentally, favored civil unions, as does President Obama). She won national recognition after pushing hard for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

IDC Skips Senate Dems’ Cuomo Dinner (UPDATED)

The four-member Independent Democratic Conference did not attend Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s schmooze fest at the executive mansion with the Senate Democrats last night.

Two senators confirmed the renegade foursome was not present while the minority conference munched on sliders (the same menu the Senate Republicans were served back in January) and chatted with the governor about everything from redistricting and ethics reform to UB 20-20 to the rent laws and, of course, the budget.

Sen. Diane Savino explained (via a brief text message interview early this morning) that, technically speaking, the Senate Democrats, not the IDC members, had received Cuomo’s invitation. Since the IDC no longer considers itself part of the Democratic conference, it made sense for its members not to show up.

However, she also said the breakaway conference would be more than happy to sit down with the governor – if specifically asked to do so.

The recognition of the IDC has been a bone of contention between the Senate Democrats and Republicans ever since the four, led by Sen. Jeff Klein, bolted their conference to form their own entity – a move intended as a “no confidence” sign in Senate Minority Leader John Sampson.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos gave the IDC members committee chairmanships and lulus, but he didn’t include them when the governor invited his conference to the mansion.

A senator who did attend last night’s meeting said it the conversation was civil and “mature,” unlike Cuomo’s get-together with the Assembly Democrats, which apparently got a little heated on the topic of the millionaire’s tax.

Cuomo was scheduled to breakfast this morning with the Assembly GOP as part of his ongoing charm offensive in hopes of winning state lawmakers over to his way of thinking, following the age-old adage that the best way to a man’s heart – and perhaps his “yes” vote – is through his stomach.

UPDATE:  We’re told the menu for the Assembly Republicans was the same as the one served to their (mostly downstate) Democratic counterparts: bagels, lox, scones and fruit.

Gillibrand Aides, Miss NY Advocate For Gay Marriage

Members of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand staff and Miss New York Claire Buffie will join advocates from around the state today in lobbying state senators for the legalization of same-sex marriage.

“We have a new governor in office who has not only made the commitment to our community and to New York State to pass marriage equality, but he said he’d like to have it done this year,” said Ron Zacchi, executive director of Marriage Equality New York. “With this statement, its urgent New Yorkers put their time and energy to have it pass in New York State this year.”

“…There are 26 pro-marriage equality votes in the state Senate. (That’s) two more than there were when a marriage equality bill was struck down in late 2009. The state Assembly has passed the marriage equality bill three times, so Senate Republicans remain crucial.”

Advocates are targeting Sens. Roy McDonald and Betty Little as potential GOP “yes” votes. (Remember that no Republicans voted “yes” when the bill died in the Senate two years ago).

Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports gay marriage and said during the campaign that it would be a priority of his first year in office. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said last October that he thinks the bill should come to the floor for an up-or-down vote, but he has so far shown no sign of moving the measure.

Gillibrand has made gay rights – including the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – a focus since she inherited former Sen. Hillary Clinton’s seat in January 2009 as a means to demonstrate her liberal cred to skeptical progressives who were worried by her Blue Dog days in the House.

Buffie made gay marriage her platform for the 2011 Miss America contest, although she didn’t win. (Miss Nebraska, one of the youngest competitors this year, landed the coveted crown).

Ex-Sen. Thompson Fundraises For Possible Return (Updated)

Former Sen. Antoine Thompson might not be done with politics after all.

Following the former Buffalo Democrat’s stunning loss last fall to Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti in one of the state’s most Democrat-dominated districts, Thompson is soliciting campaign contributions so he can “communicate with interest groups” and “demonstrate broadbased (sic) financial support” as he mulls a return to elected office.

A reader forwarded this solicitation his organization received from Thompson yesterday via fax in which the former senator claimed “many people” are urging him to consider giving public life another go.

Thompson didn’t specifically mention any particular office he’s currently eyeing, but the GOP is worried about retaining Grisanti’s seat and already thinking about how his district lines might be redrawn (assuming that whole independent/nonpartisan redistricting pledge goes out the window) to best protect him in 2012.

UPDATE: A reader says Thompson might be eyeing a run for Buffalo comptroller – a post that will be open March 17 when its current occupant, Andrew SanFilippo, starts his new job with state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

As of mid-January, Thompson had just $3,928 in his campaign committee, which he has continued to tap despite the fact that he’s out of office.

Thompson’s campaign account has drawn scrutiny in recent months. Grisanti also claimed the former senator was something of a sore loser, allegedly destroying constituent files prior to turning over his office. This prompted Grisanti to propose a bill that would criminalize that kind of action, making it a misdemeanor.


‘Dear Governor Cuomo’

The Alliance for Quality Education has launched a video contest dubbed “Dear Governor Cuomo” in which students, teachers, parents and other “concerned community members” are being asked to go on camera to explain how the governor’s proposed spending cuts directly impact them and their school districts.

Prizes include 3 iPads and a $1,000 award to purchase educational materials or services for a public school classroom or a youth-service organization. (Interesting that this education advocacy group is running a competition much like Cuomo has proposed making districts compete against one another for education aid).

The submission window begins today and ends Tuesday, March 8.

AQE, as you’ll recall, is receiving $425,000 from the statewide teachers union, NYSUT, to help run a grassroots campaign against Cuomo’s education cuts. The campaign now has a slogan: “College and Careers. Not More Cuts.”

“Students, parents, teachers and other concerned community members from across the state have heard from Governor Cuomo,” said AQE spokeswoman Nikki Jones.

“Now it is time for Governor Cuomo to hear from them. A $1.5 billion to cut to schools, atop of last year’s devastating cut, will mean that many students will be less likely to realize their dreams of on-time graduation and college and career readiness. The final budget will be the only tell-tale sign to show whether or not the Governor has offered a listening ear to the people of New York.”

Here And Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will reportedly turn up the heat on state lawmakers by introducing his own ethics reform bill in hopes of forcing them to take a public position on it.

Silver confirmed he supports requiring all lawyer-legislators to reveal their client lists and outside income.

The Times finds Cuomo’s prison-closing goals “worthy” but also believes he’ll be “hard-pressed” to reach his goal.

The so-called Tin Cup Brigade, led by Mayor Bloomberg, pressed its collective case at the Capitol, but seemed resigned to spending cuts.

The mayors abandoned the every-city-for-itself approach to present a united front.

Bloomberg had a “testy” meeting with the Senate Democrats about his push to repeal “last in, first out” for public school teachers.

The state and NYC budget directors exchanged verbal barbs via press release.

The mayor advocated for pension reform and mandate relief during his short trip to Albany, which he says would save the city $1 billion.

Bloomberg warned of “devastating” layoffs and senior center closings as a result of the cuts Cuomo wants, but focused most of his lobbying efforts on mandate relief.

Bill Hammond likes many of Bloomberg’s proposals and wises lawmakers paid more attention to his testimony.

The second join legislative budget hearing – on environmental protection – is getting underway now.

Cuomo met with the Senate Dems at the executive mansion last night (on the menu: sliders). He’s breakfasting with the Assembly GOP this morning. (No link).

More >


The Democratic Leadership Council is out of money and will soon shut down.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown was at the White House Super Bowl party (with J-Lo!)

Mayor Bloomberg won’t push for congestion pricing again.

Brooklyn BP Marty Markowitz was fined $2,000 by the NYC Conflicts of Interest Board.

Black lawmakers and advocates are calling for action on the 30 percenet HIV/AIDS rent cap bill that was vetoed by former Gov. Paterson.

Grading MTA Chairman Jay Walder, whom Cuomo is keeping.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is teaming up with Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal to protect abortion rights.

Here’s a novel idea…I think it might be unconstitutional, though.

CPAC’s 2012 straw poll ballot doesn’t include a certain former governor of New York, but does include Chris Christie.

Rep. Bill Owens will sit on a third House committee: Small Business.

The IDC rolled out its fourth report – this time on combatting auto insurance fraud.

Sen. Jeff Klein appears to have changed his mind about the powers of the LG.

Dan Collins writes up the end of the “mutually self-interested” relationship between AFT President Randi Weingarten and Bloomberg.

Greg David suggests a united Cuomo-Bloomberg front on pension reform.

Hillary Clinton has out-traveled her predecessor.

The financee of a congressional staffer killed in the Tucson shooting has endorsed Rep. Carolyn McCarthy’s high capacity magazine ban bill.

A Latino call to action on redistricting reform.

Bloomberg is the second most philanthropic person in America.

Cuomo’s intramural basketball team (back in the day) was called the “Gonads.”