Saranac Lake Mayor Spots Celebrity On Street Corner

Apparently Gov. Andrew Cuomo took advantage of the Legislature’s extended spring break to get a little R-and-R of his own, returning to the Adirondacks – a favorite vacation spot – with his youngest daughter and live-in girlfriend, Sandra Lee.

Cuomo’s press office didn’t inform reporters of the trip, although his public schedule did mention he would be in the Albany area over Easter weekend. But it’s hard to fly under the radar screen when you’re the governor, particularly when traveling with a major Food Network star.

According to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, Cuomo was in Lake Placid on Friday, where he, Lee and his youngest daughter, Michaela, 13, shopped and ate at a local restaurant. (This was confirmed for the paper by Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto).

Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau (who once ran for LG) spotted Cuomo on the street in his village late Friday afternoon.

The mayor said he had heard Cuomo was in Lake Placid and thought this man looked like him, but he wasn’t sure, the paper’s managing editor, Peter Crowley, reported.

“So I said, ‘Hey A.C.!’ because I didn’t know if it was the governor or not,” Rabideau said. “I didn’t want to call some stranger the governor.”

…The mayor said he thinks he also saw Lee, a television cooking show host who recently told US magazine that Saranac Lake was one of her two favorite vacation destinations, along with Capri, Italy.

“Interestingly, there was a tall, blond-haired woman with dark sunglasses sitting by herself in a Range Rover,” Rabideau said. “I didn’t ask for an introduction…I really wanted to give him space, but how often do you see your governor standing in front of your village hall?”

After US reported Lee’s love for Saranac Lake, Rabideau invited her to attend the village’s first-ever “Daffest”, which is being held this weekend in celebration of its signature flower.

She unfortunately couldn’t make it due to a previously scheduled engagement (the White House Correspondents Dinner), but offered to host or participate in some capacity next year.

Cuomo is a big fan of the Adirondacks. He was spotted in Saranac Lake not long ago pumping his own gas during a day trip to the mountains with his daughters.

Trump, Animated

Good timing by the Next Media Animation folks, although I’m sure the pro-Donald Trump camp will say they have a clear bias against the real estate developer-turned-reality TV star. And they wouldn’t be wrong.

The video’s title – “Is Trump Destroying the GOP’s chances for 2012?” – pretty much sets the tone.

My favorite parts: Trump’s hair deflecting a bullet from GOP strategist Karl Rove’s gun in an Old West-style shoot-out. (The video’s makers say Rove has “stated the obvious: Donald Trump is a joke candidate.”) Trump then throws a dollar sign-shaped ninja star at Rove that embeds in his chest and knocks him over.

“Democrats must be hoping Trump runs,” the video concludes. “The more Trump talks, the crazier he makes the Republicans seem.”

WIGS Backers Change Tactics

Supporters for wine in grocery stores, disappointed that their-long sought provision was not included in the 2011-12 state budget, are regrouping with the hope of having the measure approved by the end of session in June.

The New York League of Conservation Voters is sending out “action alerts” to senators and assembly members calling on them to support the selling of wine in supermarkets, a move that is opposed by small business groups.

Supporters are also trying to reframe the debate over the issue, saying it will help preserve the state’s shrinking farmland acreage. Ten percent of the revenue, they said, would go toward preserving farmland.

The conservation league points out that there’s a backlog of farmland preservation projects around the state. The pot of money meant to preserve agricultural areas has also shrunk over the last several years.

Here’s the letter that’s being sent to lawmakers.

Farms generate $5 billion per year for New York State’s economy. However, over 613,500 acres of farmland were lost between 1997 and 2007, and New York is currently losing one farm every 3.5 days

Protecting our farms also means protecting our food supply, open spaces and public health. As a member of the New York League of Conservation Voters, I am urging you to support allowing the sale of wine in grocery stores as a way to help protect New York’s farms.

A recent study commissioned by New Yorkers for Economic Growth and Open Markets found that the proposal to sell wine in grocery stores would create over 6,000 new net jobs, raise hundreds of millions of dollars through franchise fees and generate $71.1 million annually through sales taxes on additional consumption.

I support dedicating 10 percent of the projected proceeds generated by the sale of wine grocery stores to:

* Fully fund the backlog of approved farmland protection projects, and

* Honor future commitments to farmland protection.

I believe that the revenue generated from the sales of wine in grocery stores is an ideal source of financial support for New York’s farms as it is a no-cost, revenue-generating solution that will also create jobs in wineries and related industries.

Please help grow New York’s economy by protecting local farms.

Thank you for your consideration.

Unshackle Addresses Tax Cap ‘Myths’ (Updated)

The folks at the Rochester-based Unshackle Upstate, a coalition of business organizations that back Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2 percent cap on local and school property taxes, released a white paper today giving a statistical breakdown of why a cap is needed.

But the paper also was used to address the “myths” and criticisms of Cuomo’s proposal, which has passed the Republican-led Senate, but faces a tougher climb in the Democratic-controlled Assembly.

The paper aims to debunk concerns over the cap hurting poorer school districts, the criticism that a cap would allow for 2 percent annual tax increases and that the teacher-union supported circuit-breaker solution.

Cuomo’s cap would limit annual property tax increases at 2 percent or the rate of inflation. Localities would be able to exempt themselves from the cap if voters approve a specific referendum.

“This white paper demonstrates that escalating property taxes negatively affect all New Yorkers,” said Unshackle Upstate’s Executive Director Brian Sampson. “From the cost of electricity to the price of groceries, property taxes are a part of everything we consume. By enacting a 2-percent tax cap, homeowners will be able to save more money and private-sector businesses will be able to create desperately needed jobs.”

The backers of Cuomo’s cap might have reason to worry. Though the Senate approved the cap, there’s lukewarm support for it in the Assembly, where many Democrats represent New York City. Though Silver has said he wouldn’t mind a 2 percent cap, he said that some exemptions may be needed.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, have been accused of not truly wanting a cap over concerns that municipalities would be hurt by ever-increasing state mandates.

Update: It’s pointed out that Senate Republicans spent a good part of the last week before legislators’ spring break refuting that claim. Sen. John DeFrancisco of Syracuse made mention that the hold up is Speaker Sheldon Silver, not them.

UUTaxCapWhitepaper2011

Obama: We Don’t Have Time For This ‘Kind Of Silliness’ (Updated)

President Obama just made a roughly 5 minute statement about the release of his full birth certificate by the Hawaii Health Department that all the networks took live – which Obama joked about at the top.

Obama went on to say he was partly motivated to reach out to Hawaii officials to put an end to this controversy when networks were more focused on this issue than the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, and the his plan to deal with the rising debt.

“Normally I would not comment on something like this. Because obviously there is a lot of stuff swirling in the press on any given day, and I have a lot of other things to do. But 2 weeks ago when the Republican House had put forward a budget that will have huge consequences for the country” Obama said.

“And when I gave a speech about my budget, and how I felt that we need to invest in education, infrastructure, and making sure we had a good safety net for our seniors, even as we were closing our deficit.”

“All that week, the dominant news story wasn’t about these huge monumental stories that we will have to make as a nation, but it was about my birth certificate.”

UPDATE: A full transcript of the president’s remarks, delivered this morning in the James S. Brady press briefing room, appears after the jump.

More >

Levy Hits Back At Post Story

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy is hitting back at a New York Post story this morning critical of Police Commissioner Richard Dormer’s handling of the Long Island serial killer investigation, calling it “unfounded and untrue.”

The story claimed Levy was “furious” with Dormer over releasing details of the investigation and for “bungling” the inquiry, adding that he was about to lose his job.

In his statement, Levy, who is not running for re-election this year following a probe from the Suffolk County district attorney’s office over his campaign fundraising, said it was unsurprising that Dormer would be looking for a new job by the end of the year.

Today’s New York Post article regarding Suffolk Police Commissioner Richard Dormer is unfounded and untrue. The rumor also was unequivocally refuted by the county executive in statements given to The Post, which chose to give greater credibility to an unnamed source than to the Executive branch’s official statement.

The County Executive has not fired or asked the Commissioner to resign and is extraordinarily happy with the work of the Commissioner and the department.

It is not surprising that anyone in the administration might be exploring job opportunities after December 31.

Obama’s Birth Certificate Released

The White House Blog just posted this:

President Obama’s Long Form Birth Certificate
Posted by Dan Pfeiffer on April 27, 2011 at 08:57 AM EDT

In 2008, in response to media inquiries, the President’s campaign requested his birth certificate from the state of Hawaii. The state sent the campaign the President’s birth certificate, the same legal documentation provided to all Hawaiians as proof of birth in state, and the campaign immediately posted it on the internet. That birth certificate can be seen here (PDF).

When any citizen born in Hawaii requests their birth certificate, they receive exactly what the President received. In fact, the document posted on the campaign website is what Hawaiians use to get a driver’s license from the state and the document recognized by the Federal Government and the courts for all legal purposes. That’s because it is the birth certificate. This is not and should not be an open question.

The President believed the distraction over his birth certificate wasn’t good for the country. It may have been good politics and good TV, but it was bad for the American people and distracting from the many challenges we face as a country. Therefore, the President directed his counsel to review the legal authority for seeking access to the long form certificate and to request on that basis that the Hawaii State Department of Health make an exception to release a copy of his long form birth certificate. They granted that exception in part because of the tremendous volume of requests they had been getting.

The controversy over the President’s birth certificate has been in the news for almost 3 years now, on and off, and Donald Trump’s recent media blitz has added to the fire over the “birther” movement. As White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer says above, the “tremendous volume of requests” for the certificate led the state of Hawaii to make an exception and release the document below.

Here And Now

By pushing for prison closures, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is dismantling a piece of his father’s legacy.

Cuomo and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli are a bit at odds over the governor’s plan to make permanent rules banning placement agents, lobbyists and elected officials from involvement with the pension fund.

The governor also unveiled a proposal dubbed “Hevesi’s Law”, which would block future elected officials and state employees from collecting a pension if they’re found guilty of corruption connected to their positions.

New York outspends every other state when it comes to government benefits like Medicaid, food stamps and Medicare.

House Republicans are getting flack from constituents over their support of Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to change Medicare.

Rep. Tom Reed is defending his “yes” vote on Ryan’s proposal under pressure from his failed 2010 Democratic opponent, Mat Zeller, who might run again.

The president is back in NYC today for the third time in less than a month.

Mayor Bloomberg has “zero” regrets about running for a third term, even though it has been rocky to date.

Bloomberg launched a probe into why the NYPD provided P Diddy with a police escort at the request of a dry cleaner.

Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch OpEds in favor of Bloomberg’s pension reform proposals, including a call to restore the city’s ability to negotiate pension benefits as part of the collective bargaining process with unions.

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Extras

Rudy Giuliani is leaving the door open to a 2012 presidential run, but thinks Donald Trump is “the most exciting candidate in the race.”

Rep. Ron Paul is in the pool, but says his fellow Republicans are being “cautious” – perhaps because they believe President Obama is stronger than poll numbers indicate.

The Draft Trump committee hired in President Obama’s home state of Illinois.

Draft Trump’s HQ is decidedly downmarket. (Does The Donald know?)

Trump’s Intrade stock is rising, thanks to one confident bidder.

Jon Stewart debunks early polling.

You can’t ask for a much better lede than this if you’re a 2013 mayoral contender.

The Bloomberg administration is investigating why P. Diddy got a police escort following a recent Manhattan concert.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is being asked to expand the Immigration Pardon Panel started by his predecessor, David Paterson.

Rep. Paul Tonko held a town hall meeting at which he discussed voted against “ending Medicare.”

Rep. Michael Grimm will be met by protestors at his town hall meeting Thursday.

Ditto for Rep. Richard Hanna, who is holding a town hall tomorrow at noon. Activists will march to Congressman Hanna’s Office to the tune of the original song “Hard Hearted Hanna.” (No link).

NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn claims she was able to convince a previous “no” voter on gay marriage to vote “yes”.

New York has new contribution limits.

Cuomo praised an agreement that will bring 103 new jobs to Westchester County.

Harry Siegel is taking Tom Robbins old job at the Village Voice.

Katie Couric made it official.

A federal judge struck down a NYC law requiring all cigarette-selling businesses to display graphic anti-smoking posters, but they’re still all over town.

A Mercedes Benz cab? Could happen.

The president will be busy in NYC tomorrow.

Mitt Romney is catching flack for suggesting the US is not at war. (He accused the president of going on a “peacetime” spending binge).

Choreographer Bill T. Jones, a Steuben County native, is the latest well-known New Yorker featured in the HRC New Yorkers for Marriage Equality Campaign.

Cuomo Releases Hevesi-Inspired Pension Reform Plan (Updated)

A week after former Comptroller Alan Hevesi was sentenced to 1-4 years in state prison, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has released a reform proposal aimed at stomping out corruption in the pension fund pool.

The new guidelines address an issue raised by Jim Odato’s column in the TU on Monday, which pointed out many of the safeguards put in place by the state Insurance Department in the wake of the Hevesi scandal were temporary.

“It is long past time that we learned the lessons of the Hevesi case and made permanent changes to our system that will stop the culture of corruption,” Cuomo said in a statement. “In case after case in the pension fund investigation, we saw the systemic abuse of the pension fund by public officials and those seeking quick profits at the expense of taxpayers. Our mission now must be to protect public and taxpayer dollars from being further abused by elected officials who misuse their office and violate the law.”

Hevesi, a Democrat, plead guilty to using his office in a massive pay-to-play pension fund scheme. Hevesi received millions of dollars in trips and gifts in exchange for favorable investment in the fund. The scandal also led to the conviction of Hevesi’s longtime political fixer, Hank Morris, as well as five other people.

Among the proposals:
· A permanent ban on elected officials, lobbyists and all placement agents, whether paid or unpaid, which have been a source of conflicts of interest with the pension fund.

· Impose a higher standard of conduct: The new regulation will prohibit (1) improper relationships between pension fund officials and an investment firm’s personnel or agents, (2) “revolving door” employment by investment firms of former public pension fund officials and employees, and (3) improper gifts by investment firms to public pension fund employees and officials.

· A prohibition on firms that make contributions to the Comptroller: The regulation will also ban investment firms that directly or indirectly make campaign contributions, charitable contributions, or gifts to the Comptroller.

Cuomo also plans to introduce a measure that would prohibit a state employee convicted of a felony from receiving their pension. The Hevesi conviction was a feather in Cuomo’s cap just as he was leaving to the attorney general’s office to be sworn in as governor.

Update: Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who hasn’t been on the best of terms with the governor — Cuomo did not endorse him during the campaign — issued a statement noting that placement agents have been banned since 2009 in his office.

Comptroller DiNapoli banned placement agents in April 2009. As long as he’s Comptroller, that ban will stay in effect. The Comptroller welcomes today’s regulations, and he continues to advocate that his placement agent ban – along with the pension forfeiture bill he proposed earlier this year and his other pension reforms – be made into law.