Bloomberg: Senate Dems Were A ‘Disgrace’

Mayor Bloomberg trotted out one of his favorite adjectives – “disgrace” – to describe the leadership of the Senate Democrats over the past two years, adding: “I think most people, regardless of party, think that.”

Bloomberg, who quietly sent $900,000 to the Senate GOP’s housekeeping account during the 2010 campaign, said he looks forward to having Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos back at the helm. He called Skelos “a substantative guy, a serious guy, an honest guy.”

The mayor said he and Skelos discussed education funding “more than anything.” Bloomberg also predicted that Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whom he endorsed last fall, will give a “great” speech, but also warned: “Nobody’s should suggest or think that he’s going to have a solution to all the problems. There are no easy solutions.”

Bloomberg said the state should be “nonpartisan”…like, well, like him.

Skelos called Bloomberg a “great mayor and a great friend.”

NYSUT Launches Pro-Teacher Ad Campaign

NYSUT has launched a feel-good statewide radio ad campaign designed to remind New Yorkers that union members are “made up of their friends and neighbors who accomplish remarkable things every day in their classrooms and communities.”

The ads feature elementary school teachers – Margaret King of Long Island and Andrea Figueroa of Jamestown. No word about the size or duration of the buy as of yet.

This basically strikes me as a charm offensive by NYSUT at a time when Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his allies have been demonizing the public sector unions are largely responsible for the state’s fiscal mess. (Recall that the teachers did not endorse Cuomo during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign).

Actually, as NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi sees it, the anti-union sentiment is far more pervasive and widespread than just what’s happening here in New York.

“This is a campaign about what we should be celebrating in education, and who is responsible for that,” Iannuzzi said in a press release.

“Others – political candidates, Hollywood filmmakers, critics of public service – have tried to define and sometimes demonize NYSUT and its members.”

“But lost in the rhetoric is that NYSUT is 600,000-plus men and women who go to work every day and successfully take on the most important responsibilities a society has: educating its youth and caring for the sick and indigent.”

Sen. Diaz Has Plans

I just ran into the last remaining member of the old amigos – Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. – in the hallway outside the Senate majority offices on the Capitol’s third floor. I asked him what he thought of the new independent conference and if he plans to join it.

In short, no.

In fact, the outspoken Bronx Democrat seemed a little offended by the fact that the foursome of Klein, Savino, Valesky and Carlucci are trying to cast themselves as the anti-amigos, saying: “I was the original independent. They dare to say this is something different?!”

And then he said, rather cryptically: “My friends are still alive and kicking. You shall see.”

I have no idea what he means. But it sounds intriguing. One thing is certain, you can’t count Diaz Sr. out when it comes to mischief and mayhem.

…and, Diaz Sr. was just spotting effusively greeting Sen. Marty Golden, a Brooklyn Republican, with a big hug.

NOTE: A reader points out that Sen. Carl Kruger, who was also an original member of the amigos, is still around, too. That’s true, but he’s morphed into a loyalist to Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson, so I’m not counting him as one of them any longer.

Labor Agrees To Work Together…But On What?

“It was a little bit of Kumbya and a little of aimless wandering.”

That’s how one labor source who attended last night’s pre-SoS union summit at the Albany Crowne Plaza described the get-together, which, as far as I can tell, was more of a “we’re all in this together” pep rally than a substantive planning session for how to respond to the looming budget battle with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“There’s absolutely no plan in place to do anything as a united group,” the source told me. “There’s a consensus that we’re concerned working people are being blamed as part of the problem instead of being part of the solution.”

“…Everyone realizes there needs to be shared sacrific. But the tone of everything seems to be that the problem is public employees and public pensions and it’s a terrible place to be.”

Another labor source said the meeting was “not earthshaking,” although there was a “fair amount of anger” in the room directed at Cuomo for buying into the idea being pushed by the fiscal conservatives of the world (ie: The Post editorial page) that public sector unions are public enemy No. 1.

“It’s good that (the meeting) happened, we shall see,” this source added.

“There’s general anger that the people and institutions that caused the economic crisis – bankers and speculators – are being rewarded and middle-class people are being asked to clean up the mess…Will that morph into durable and effective work that changes this narrative? That’s a big question.”

Labor is basically accepting the fact that there will be several billion dollars worth of cuts in Cuomo’s budget.

The fault line is going to be on the extension of the so-called millionaires tax. That’s where the public sector unions and their allies and going to try to “defeat” Cuomo, my sources say.

You’re already seeing this argument start to take shape, thanks to some “safe” Assembly Democrats like Rory Lancman (who penned a DN OpEd this morning) and Gary Pretlow.

Skelos Open To Democratic Committee Chairs

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos emerged from a brief closed-door confab with Mayor Bloomberg in a very good mood.

The two men exchanged pleasantries and praise for the cameras (no wonder, remember that the mayor sent close to $1 million to the Senate GOP coffers during the 2010 election cycle, and bet the right horse this time).

Bloomberg said he expects the city will fare will under Skelos’ rule, although he doesn’t expect the Long Island lawmaker will always vote his way.

Skelos was asked what he thought of the independent conference announced this morning by four breakaway Democrats. His initial reply: “That’s their issue.”

He later told me that he’s open to working with anyone, and when I asked him if he’s open to a truly bipartisan chamber by offering committee chairmanships to Democrats, he said: “Sure. Why not?”

Skelos’ No. 2, Sen. Tom Libous, later confirmed the majority leader is indeed “open to a lot of things.” He also suggested that the four-member independent conference might end up with more resources, compliments of the GOP, than their fellow Democratic colleagues.

Recall that Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson reached across the aisle to offer chairmanships to a number of Republicans. Two of them – Sen. George Maziarz and the late Sen. Tom Morahan – accepted his offer.

This practice was started by former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, who tapped Democratic Sen. Carl Kruger to chair the Social Services Committee back in 2007.

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Patience Is The New Aponte

As expected, the Senate Republicans have named Frank Patience to serve as secretary of the Senate, a post previously held by the (somewhat controversial) Angelo Aponte during the Democrats’ brief stint in the majority.

“Frank Patience has proven himself to be a skilled administrator who will be an asset to every member of the New York State Senate,” Skelos said in a press release.

“Frank is already hard at work ensuring a smooth Senate transition, and I look forward to his continued leadership on this and many other issues related to the nonpartisan administration of our chamber.”

“Frank Patience is the right person to serve the people of the State of New York as Secretary of the Senate, and I am confident he’ll do an outstanding job.”

Patience has worked in the Senate for 26 years, most recently as director of Administration for the minority. He has
held that position since 2009. Previously, he served as the Senate’s personnel officer – a position he held from 2000 to 2009.

Due to the ongoing transition (and the fact that, according to Sen. Tom Libous, the Democrats left the GOP with an operating budget deficit of somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million), Patience’s salary has not yet been determined.

City Hall News reported recently that the secretary’s role will likely return to the largely administrative post it had been prior to the Democrats’ ascendance to the majority in 2008.

The job was expanded under Aponte, which was a point of contention for some members and became a sticking point during the 2009 coup when then-Sens. Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada Jr. demanded Aponte’s resignation (among other things) prior to their return to the Democratic fold.

That did not occur, but Aponte, who was brought in by former Senate Majority Leader/President Malcolm Smith, did take something of a back seat during Conference Leader John Sampson’s tenure.

Sampson To Indys: Stop Playing Politics

Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson released the following statement in response to the new independence conference formed by Sens. Klein, Savino, Valesky and Carlucci:

“Today should not be about politics. Our common goal should be progress – working with Governor Cuomo to move our state forward. ”

“Closing the budget gap, getting New Yorkers back to work, and giving struggling Middle Class New Yorkers the support they need to survive is the challenge we all face. Regardless of where any member chooses to stand in the Chamber, we must all stand with the people of New York.”

The New Amigos

Meet the new Independent Conference of the state Senate, or, if you prefer, the new amigos.

They are, as it turns out, four: Sens. Jeff Klein, Diane Savino, David Carlucci and David Valesky. They will be voting “no” today on the resolutions to elect John Sampson as the minority leader AND Dean Skelos as the majority leader.

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Recall that there were four amigos once upon a time, too: Sens. Pedro Espada, Hiram Monserrate, Ruben Diaz Sr. and Carl Kruger…but that’s about where the similarities here end.

Whereas the old amigos continued to be part of the Democratic conference, this foursome is actually breaking away from their colleagues to form a separate entity that will caucus on its own.

Klein went out of his way to reject any connections between the Espada-Monserrate coup last summer that ended up holding the Senate hostage for 31 days during the summer of 2009. He stressed that he and his colleagues are Democrats who remain committed to Democratic principles.

“This isn’t a power play,” he insisted. “This isn’t a replay of past events where individuals lost their way and held us hostage…This is not about the right price, this is about the right thing…I think the time has come to bring a functioning Legislature back.”

More >

Koch Sends A Message To His ‘Hero’ Governor

Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch is commemorating Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s first State of the State address with a congratulatory message on his NY Uprising PAC’s Website that also calls on the governor not to forget his campaign promise to support budget, ethics and redistricting reform.

The site now features a banner that proclaims Cuomo (who never actually signed Koch’s trio of pledges, but did indicate his approval via a letter) a “Hero of Reform,” and a button that lets users send a “thank-you” message to the new governor.

“There won’t be another opportunity to fix our state’s government like the one we’ve got this year,” the site reads.

“The encouraging news is that we have a Governor, Senate Republican & Democratic Leaders, and a majority of legislators who have pledged to support the meaningful, nonpartisan government reforms advocated by New York Uprising.”

“As the new year begins and they enter a new legislative session, we applaud them for taking this important stand – and remind them that we will be watching, and holding them accountable.”

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Indy Senate Caucus In The Works?

Sen. Jeff Klein is not going away quietly.

In the wake of his ouster as the head of the DSCC and subsequent resignation as Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson’s deputy, Klein appears poised to break from the minority and form his own independent caucus.

Klein put out a media advisory this morning about a “major announcement” he’ll be making at 10 a.m. along with unnamed “Senate colleagues.” Sampson’s camp was blindsided by this development, but the Republicans were not. Apparently, Klein had given them a heads up.

“Did he talk with us? Yes, he spoke with Senator Libous about what he was going to do during the course of transition talks,” a Senate majority source confirmed.

I’ve been unable to reach Klein this morning.

Speculation is he’ll be joined by Sen. Dave Valesky – the only member to abstain from voting “yes” during the vote of confidence in Sampson held late last year – and possibly freshman Sen. David Carlucci, who was left out in the cold during that leadership vote and also refused to commit to supporting Sampson during the campaign due to the AEG scandal. One or two other Democrats might also be on board with this effort.

Klein had some harsh words for Sampson over the weekend, telling me he was “disgusted” with the Brooklyn senator’s leadership and doesn’t believe he’ll be able to lead the Democrats back to the majority in 2012.

The Bronx lawmaker also told me he would not cross the aisle to join the Republicans, but refused to commit to supporting Sampson for minority leader.

He did say, however, that he wouldn’t openly challenge Sampson for that post, which stands to reason because he doesn’t have sufficient votes to win. (Remember, Klein lost two key supporters – Craig Johnson and Darrel Aubertine – during the fall elections).

The leadership vote is scheduled to take place this morning. Even with Klein’s defection, Sampson is expected to have enough votes to be elected minority leader.