‘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 >

Extras

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.”

Assembly, Senate Review Cuomo’s Budget

Here, in no particular order, are the reviews by the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2011-2012 spending plan.

Their release corresponds with the first joint budget hearing, which was held today and drew local elected officials from all over the state to testify.

“This report presents the governor’s proposal in the detail needed to make the critical decisions ahead,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“This is a key step in the Assembly’s analysis of the state’s fiscal standing and in the process of working with the governor and Senate to craft a timely and responsible budget.”

2011Yellow

Senate Majority Staff Analysis of the SFY 2011-12 Executive Budget

When Budget Directors Attack

They do it in a fairly civilized manner. Because, after all, they’re budget directors – you know, numbers guys. And, of course, they’re exchanging these barbs in public. Lord knows what’s being said behind closed doors.

NYC Budget Director Mark Page responded thusly to today’s assertion his state counterpart, Bob Megna, that the Bloomberg administration’s numbers overstate the amount of state aid NYC stands to lose under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2011-2012 spending plan:

“We had a fruitful discussion with the Governor and his team today about how to substantially reduce State mandates in order to help New York City manage the State’s $2.1 billion cut, down from its November budget plan.”

“The State Budget Director’s suggestion, however, that New York City has $2 billion in reserves is flat-out wrong.”

“The City is using $1.1 billion of resources generated this year to help close our multi-billion dollar Fiscal Year 2012 budget gap, which, even with these resources, totals $2.4 billion. If the Budget Director applied this rationale to the State budget, $3.5 billion in State closing funds balances from this year would obviate the need for any school aid cuts, statewide.”

“Obviously, this is not reality.”

Stalemate

The Cuomo administration is so far willing to do little more than listen to Mayor Bloomberg’s complaints about the governor’s proposed funding cuts to NYC, dispatching state Budget Director Bob Megna to refute the mayor’s numbers (yet again) via press release.

Megna’s statement basically a retread of what the administration had to say the first time Bloomberg slammed Cuomo’s budget proposal, calling it “unfair” to the city. The governor has, however, expressed his willingness to work with Bloomberg on the issue of pension reform.

“We appreciate the Mayor’s support and look forward to continuing to work with the Mayor and his Administration in a collaborative fashion to address this serious fiscal situation,” Megna said.

“The Mayor’s budget assumed a double-digit percentage increase in education aid even though the city received a year-to-year cut in last year’s budget.”

“Given the fiscal situation facing the city, state, and nation, it was obviously not realistic to assume an increase in funding in the 2011-2012 budget.”

“Governor Cuomo’s budget does not cut $1.4 billion in education aid to New York City. Rather, on a year to year basis, education aid to New York City is cut $579 million. In addition, the $579 million cut is approximately 2.7 percent of the city’s total school budget, which is lower than the statewide average cut of 2.9 percent of the average school budget.”

It is also worth noting that Mayor Bloomberg has up to $2 billion in reserves which could be used to offset the loss of this education funding. As a result, we believe teacher layoffs should not be necessary.”

“As for revenue sharing, last year, the city received no money in revenue sharing and this year it will receive no money in revenue sharing, and therefore, there is no year-to-year reduction regarding this money.”

Timing I$ Everything

A sharp-eyed reader wrote in to note two rather well-timed fundraisers being held in Albany tonight, the timing of which is all quite serendipitous, I’m sure.

The chairs of the Assembly and Senate Racing & Wagering committees – Gary Pretlow, a Mt. Vernon Democrat; and John Bonacic, a Mt. Hope Republican – are both holding $500-per person events tonight.

Pretlow’s fundraiser is at the University Club, Bonacic’s is at the Fort Orange Club. They’re actually a mere block apart, which makes it easier for the racing interests in town to hit both events without breaking much of a sweat.

The racing industry reps are in town for Bonacic’s hearing on the future of racing, wagering and gaming in NY. Only those invited to testify were allowed to do so. The list of those expected to speak included:

Michael Amo, Chairman of the Board of the Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association based out of Saratoga; Michael Speller, President of Resorts World New York; Charles Hayward, President and CEO of NYRA; representatives of several OTB Corporations including Donald Groth of Catskill OTB, John Signor of Capital OTB, Arthur Walsh of Nassau OTB; Joseph D’Amato of Empire Resorts; Joseph Faraldo of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York; Richard Violette, Jr. of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Inc. and Jeffrey Cannizzo of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders.

Some news coming out of the hearing: Jim Odato reports Genting, which hasn’t even opened its Aqueduct racino yet, is already talking about expanding the number of VLTs on site.

He Said, He Said – Tea Party Edition

At the risk of getting in the middle of what’s shaping up to be a full-blown war of words between WNY Tea Party advocate Rus Thompson and former Carl Paladino campaign manager Michael Caputo, I’d like to state up front that this will be my last blog post on this particular topic.

There, now that we have that out of the way….Caputo sent me the following e-mail responding to the e-mail that Thompson sent yesterday to his list of TEANewYork supporters:

I read Rus Thompson’s email. Rus is my friend and colleague and we often disagree. Today he requires correction:

1) “Carl has been quoted in the local media as saying Caputo is way off the reservation by contacting the TEA Parties.” (NO – Carl said exactly this: “[Caputo] was way off the reservation if he was trying to speak for the tea party people.” Watch it on video here.

“Carl is right; he knows I’m not a member of the Tea Party. Pretending to speak for an group to which I do not belong would certainly be “way off the reservation.”)

2) “He is using the master email lists for his own purpose and without permission from Carl.” (WRONG – I own my copy of the list, and campaign-related lists are a fraction of what I’ve used to drive 3,000 letters to New York State legislators in support of Cuomo’s fiscal reforms. )

3) “I have to say first and foremost Carl Paladino does not condone or support what Caputo is doing.” ( NO – I cleared this with Carl early on. Twice. He doesn’t oppose me speaking my mind. He also doesn’t want to jump aboard, but that would be inappropriate – and weird – anyway).

Caputo later followed up with: “This is certainly a tempest in a Tea pot, especially when you compare these few buzzing hornets to the pressing matters at hand in Albany.”

The Republic Of WNY

You can say a lot of things about WNY – too cold, economically challenged, etc. – but you can’t say that residents of that end of the state aren’t independent minded.

Failed 2010 gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino carried that portion of the state, as you’ll recall. ‘Nuff said.

Hence today’s Buffalo News editorial, which I missed somehow in today’s “Here and Now,” but is nevertheless worth highlighting even at this late (relatively speaking, from a 24-news cycle standpoint) hours.

The upshot: The paper is calling for the ouster of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, arguing the state “cannot afford him waiting in the way.” Yikes. An excerpt:

“Silver’s) minions toil under a feudal system that renders them almost meaningless. They collect the perks of incumbency in exchange for their unflagging loyalty.”

“Silver drove home the dangers of revolt in 2000 when the Assembly ‘majority leader’ – a hollow title graced on an upstater – attempted an overthrow. Silver undermined the coup, remained in the palace and banished Michael Bragman to an island of obscurity for the rest of his career.”

“It should surprise no one that we have little faith in Sheldon Silver’s willingness to join the new governor on a more responsible course. His history speaks volumes, and his comments at Cuomo’s State of the State address weeks ago failed to impress.”

It should be noted that Silver reportedly is ready to get all the way on board with the governor’s ethics reform proposal – even the part that would require him to fully disclose his client list at Weitz & Luxenberg, which is something that Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who is also of counsel (at the Long Island firm of Ruskin Moscou Faltischek), doesn’t seem all that interested in doing.

Buffalo is also home to Assemblyman Mark Schroeder, who was the lone member of the Democratic conference not to vote “yes” on re-installing Silver as speaker for another two years.

As I blogged last week, Silver is celebrating his “Chai” year in the speakership with – what else? – a fundraiser.

Tenants PAC Capitalizes On Its Investment (Update)

Tenants PAC, the NYC-based tenants advocacy group, invested in a big way (considering its size) in helping now-Sen. Gustavo Rivera defeat then-Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. during the Democratic primary last September.

Now, the organization is hosting a low-dollar fundraiser featuring Rivera, a Bronx Democrat who is identified in the invite as “a genuine progressive and strongly pro-tenant” (note that this comes at a time when a major battle over the rent laws is brewing in Albany).

Also worth noting: Espada is identified in the invite as “Tenant Enemy #1.” He was, as you’ll recall, the chairman of the Housing Committee, which was good for the landlords/REBNY, but not so fantastic for the tenant advocates.

As of mid-January, Rivera had just $7,172 left in his campaign committee. He also had $15,000 worth of debt.

UPDATE: Sorry, just to be clear: This event is in support of Tenants PAC, not Rivera himself. In the accompanying email, PAC Treasurer Michael McKee wrote: “The proceeds of this event will be used to support the Real Rent Reform Campaign to renew and strengthen our rent laws.”

The event is being held at the home of NYC Councilwoman Gale Brewer.

Tenants PAC Gustavo Rivera