ESDC Blowback (Updated)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to tap soon-to-be-former state Business Council President Ken Adams to serve as CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation is raising some eyebrows.

Michael Caputo, who served as the campaign manager for Cuomo’s GOP/Conservative opponent, Carl Paladino, tweeted the following at 3:30 pm:

“QUID PRO QUO: Under KAdams, the NYS Biz Council endorsed a Gov. candidate for the first time in history – Cuomo.”

As you’ll recall, the Business Council’s annual meeting was the site of the near-fight between Paladino and the Post’s Fred Dicker. Paladino spoke at the event. Cuomo did not, sending then-LG candidate Bob Duffy in his place.

Also, it has been noted that the Business Council, under Adams’ leadership, has played an active role in the Committee to Save New York, the pro-Cuomo entity that raised some $10 million to fund a campaign in favor of Cuomo’s fiscally conservative and pro-business agenda.

As it turns out, Adams is a member of the Committee to Save NY board, which was only revealed after it came under fire for refusing to reveal its donor list. Good government advocates have criticized this lack of transparency, noting it doesn’t seem to mesh with Cuomo’s pledge to end the culture of secrecy in Albany.

UPDATE: According to Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto, Adams has stepped down from the CSNY board.

Not surprisingly, the business community is pleased with the selection of Adams. Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist who represents, among others, supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis, called Adams a “good choice,” adding:

“We know Ken to be a tireless worker, as well as a creative out of the box thinker on economic development.”

“There have been times when we have crossed swords on certain issues-and other times when we have worked together. In all circumstances, however, we have come away impressed with his erudition and charm-an unlikely political combination from our experience.”

Cuomo Taps Parks Commish From Private Sector

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has selected Rose Harvey, a researcher at a green real estate policy, development and investment firm, to serve as commissioner of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

“Rose Harvey’s experience and knowledge as well as her expertise creating countless cost-effective parks, playgrounds and open spaces in underserved communities with efficiency makes her the person we need to lead this agency,” Cuomo said in a press release.

“I thank her for her public service and look forward to working with her.”

Harvey is currently a senior fellow at the Jonathan Rose Companies, where she acts as an advisor and researcher on parks and open space issues, and launched a non-profit organization to fund, design and develop safe, well-managed parks in urban neighborhoods.

She was also recently a McCluskey Fellow and Lecturer at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Harvey got her start as assistant director for Conservation Easement at the Maryland Environmental Trust. She held leadership positions for 27 years at The Trust for Public Land, most recently as senior VP and national director of Urban Programs.

Former Parks Commissioner Carol Ash resigned last fall to help start a new nonprofit, the Alliance for New York State Parks, to advocate for the park system from outside government.

Harvey will require Senate confirmation. No immediate information about her salary was available.

Krueger: Hate Senate Deadlocks? Blame Dean

Here’s Part II of my CapTon interview last night with Sens. Mike Gianaris and Liz Krueger in which Krueger said Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is to blame for the precarious place the Senate has been in since 2008 where the loss of just one member could deadlock the chamber.

Krueger noted that Skelos had led the last redistricting effort for the Senate GOP in which a decision was made “in dark of night” to add a 62nd senator, “leading us into the situation where we can have a tie.”

The Manhattan Democrat said she was opposed to that addition back in the day and called it “hypocrisy” for the Republicans to have created this situation and now seek to strip the LG of his tie-breaking capability.

There has been persistent talk around the Capitol lately about the possibility that the Senate might seek to change this situation by either adding another seat or returning back to the old 61-seat model. Of course, if they opt for the latter, someone’s district would have to go.

Schneiderman’s First Initative: Taxpayer Defense

Eliot Spitzer was the White Knight of Wall Street. Andrew Cuomo was the Sheriff of State Street. Now AG Eric Schneiderman is forging a new role for himself: Defender of taxpayers.

The newly-minted AG rolled his first policy initiative this morning, announcing a new “Taxpayer Protection Unit” that will target corrupt contractors, pension con-artists, and large-scale tax cheats who rip off New York’s government and its taxpayers.

Schneiderman also announced he has bolstered the AG’s existing Medicaid Fraud Control Unit dozens of additional prosecutors, investigators, and auditors. He plans to pay for this using federal funds and increased recoveries, thereby rendering the initiative cost neutral to New Yorkers.

“Those of us who believe in government as a force for good must be the very harshest critics when it comes to waste, fraud, and corruption in the public sector,” Schneiderman said in a press release.

“Today’s announcement is a signal to anyone thinking of ripping off New York taxpayers: We will go after you with every tool we have, and you will pay the price for these crimes. The taxpayers of this state deserve nothing less.”

Schneiderman’s release also features a quote from his immediate predecessor, Gov. Cuomo, who called the recovery of taxpayer dollars illegally siphoned from state coffers “critically important” at a time when New York is facing a $10 billion budget deficit.

“In the attorney general’s office we aggressively pursued these recoveries and I commend Attorney General Schneiderman for bringing fresh ideas and new approaches to build on this record of success,” Cuomo said.

For additional details on Schneiderman’s announcement, click here.

Senate Dems Blast GOP As Anti-Upstate

Sens. Mike Gianaris and Liz Krueger joined me on CapTon last night for a GOP slamfest following the majority’s failed effort to change the chamber’s rules earlier this week.

The Democrats have tried out several lines of spin since the Republican majority sprung their rules sneak attack – an effort that didn’t succeed thanks to Sen. Ken LaValle’s absence from the Rules Committee meeting.

Last night, Gianaris specifically called out two senators – Jim Alesi and Joe Robach – for supporting the change that would strip LG Bob Duffy of his ability to cast a tie-breaking vote on procedural matters, which includes the all-important leadership question.

“It’s interesting to me that the Senate Republicans, which are led by Dean Skelos now from long Island, when we finally have someone from upstate who’s in a position of power in the form of the lieutenant governor, Bob Duffy, attempt to strip him of one of the most significant powers
he has.”

“And when we see Senator Alesi and Senaor Robach supporting that change, they should answer to the people of Rochester for why they’re denying Bob Duffy the power that the Constitution grants him.”

This is kind of ironic, since one of the Republicans’ major selling points for returning them to the majority was that upstate was getting a raw deal under downstate-dominated Democrat rule.

RFK Jr. Joins Gay Marriage Push

Calling the block on same-sex marriage the “last vestige of institutionalized bigotry in this country,” Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has joined the Human Rights Campaign’s New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign, which features videos of prominent Empire State residents.

RFK Jr. equates the push for gay marriage to the civil rights battles in which his father so famously engaged.

“We are winning the fight for fairness in New York and nationwide,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.

“Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is part of a family that has been fighting for equality for generations. We are honored to have him lend his respected voice and join others – both high-profile and everyday New Yorkers – in the call for equality.”

This is the tenth video to be released in connection with this effort. Others have featured everyone from Mayor Bloomberg to actress Whoppi Goldberg and shoe designer Kenneth Cole (who also just so happens to be Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s brother-in-law, as RFK Jr. once was, too).

Today’s video comes on the heels of a Q poll that found support for same-sex marriage at its highest point ever in New York. Fifty-six percent of voters now favor the legalization of gay marriage, up from a previous high of 51 percent in June 2009.

Adams For ESDC Prez (Updatedx2)

The Cuomo administration has finally settled on a nominee to head the Empire State Development Corp. – a post for which the governor has drawn some criticism for leaving empty this long while insisting his main focus is “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

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The governor has tapped state Business Council President and CEO Ken Adams to serve in the same capacity at ESDC. Cuomo also announced he plans to change the leadership structure at the corporation, separating the CEO and chairman functions.

The Business Council endorsed Cuomo for governor shortly after playing host to what we at CapTon have dubbed the “Sagamore Smackdown” between then-GOP gubernatorial hopeful Carl Paladino and the Post’s Fred Dicker at its annual meeting in Bolton Landing.

Cuomo didn’t make it to the event, sending his hand-picked LG running mate, Bob Duffy, in his stead.

Adams will also serve as commissioner of the Department of Economic Development. A chairperson for ESDC will be chosen, and the administration is seeking someone “who will bring a specific understanding of the issues facing economic development in upstate New York.”

More >

Former Sen. Velella Dies (Updatedx2)

Former Sen. Guy Velella has lost a battle with inoperable lung cancer and died at the age of 66, sources informed of his passing confirm.

The Bronx Republican, who was a serious smoker, recently told friends and associates that he had somewhere between three and six weeks to live. He was recently moved from Sloan-Kettering Hospital in Manhattan to Calvary Hospital for the terminally ill in the Bronx, near his Morris Park home.

Velella was once one of the most powerful members of the GOP Senate majority and chairman of the Bronx Republican Party. He indicted in 2002 on 25 counts of bribery and conspiracy for allegedly accepting at least $137,000 worth of kickbacks in exchange for steering public works contracts to select vendors.

He pleaded guilty to one count in exchange for a year in jail. As part of the plea agreement, Velella resigned both his Senate seat and his party post and also gave up his law license. He served a total of six months – in two separate stints – at Rikers.

Bronx BP Ruben Diaz Jr. sent out the following statement on Velella’s death:

More >

Pensions According To PEF

PEF, New York’s second-largest state workers union sent this handy fact sheet to state lawmakers this week in hopes of convincing them that state pensions are not, in fact, the evil incarnate that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg have made them out to be.

The sheet includes claims like: “Our pensions are not overly generous.” The average pension benefit payment, PEF points out, was $18,300 in FY 2009-2010. The union also notes that the state – with the blessing of PEF and CSEA (and a no-layoff promise that bedeviled former Gov. David Paterson) – created Tier V in 2009, which is supposed to save taxpayers $35 billion over the next 30 years.

Bloomberg has made pension reform his No. 1 priority in Albany this year, tapping former NYC Mayor Ed Koch to lobby on his behalf at the Capitol and pledging not to sign any contracts with salary increases unless they include reforms in benefits packages that result in significant savings.

Cuomo has made it clear state workers are going to feel significant pain this year, perhaps facing the loss of up to 15,000 jobs, unless their union leaders agree to concessions in the upcoming contract negotiations.

The governor is a big proponent of pension reform, particularly when it comes to oversight of the pension system, which he would like to see under control of a board and not a sole trustee (the state comptroller).

Organized labor is hoping it has a defender in Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who owes a significant degree to unions for helping him across the finish line in his close race last fall against Republican Harry Wilson.

So far, the comptroller is fulfilling that role, speaking out against the “vilification” of state employees. It’s unclear, however, how much he’ll be able to do to protect them.

Pensions FactSheet-1-24

Crazy Eddie Would Be Proud

What does Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano really think of NIFA’s decision to take over the county finance’s: It’s “absolutely IN-SANE!”

The Long Island Republican is pretty much apoplectic over the control board’s unanimous decision yesterday to put his county under state oversight, insisting the move was politically motivated and born of the NIFA members’ concern that his capable management will soon make them obsolete.

“We’re ending 2010 with a surplus,” Mangano told radio host Curtis Sliwa on AM 970 The Apple this morning.

“Do we have challenges? Aboslutely, but we’re meeting those challenges. If you look at what NIFA’s done, they’re bringing nothing to the table but more cost and expense to our taxpayers.”

“…Do you think that we need another layer of government in Nassau County? Do you think we need to hire and pay their attorneys?…The taxpayers are going to pay their accountants. It’s absolutely insane.”

Mangano repeated his “insane” line at least twice during his 10 minute interview with Sliwa. The county executive was so agitated that he barely let the shock jock get a word in edgewise, which, if you know Sliwa (AKA King Cuomo II), is no easy task.

Mangano insisted NIFA has played a role in the county’s fiscal woes by signing off on contracts negotiated by his predecessor, Democrat Tom Suozzi – the selfsame contracts, he noted, that the board members are now condemning.

The county executive slammed NIFA for creating what he called “a media circus” and declining to make “hard decisions” by taking a pass on declaring a fiscal emergency to freeze wages. He promised: “The people of Nassau County are going to know the truth as long as my lungs have air.”

Mangano found a sympathetic ear in Sliwa (when he managed to finally make himself heard, which I believe happened after the county executive hung up the phone), who apparently has a Guardian Angels project going on in Nassau and so has been following this situation closely.

Sliwa called Suozzi a “pretty boy” and said Mangano is being “pre-emptively dogged” by NIFA.