Corwin Talks Debt In New Ad

Republican Congressional Candidate Jane Corwin has a new ad out positioning herself as the candidate who is serious about dealing with debt and deficit. It’s obviously trying to play off of the current debate under way in Washington.

This is Corwin’s fourth ad. Two of the first 3 focused on issues, while one of her ads attacked her main rival Democratic Kathy Hochul as a puppet of Nancy Pelosi.

Hochul fired back in an ad, suggesting that Corwin was mud-slinging Albany politician.

DiNapoli: More Than 100 Schools Seek Reserve Fund Use

On the heels of deep budget cuts for local education aid, 101 school districts around the state are asking Comptroller Tom DiNapoli permission to dip into their Employee Benefits Accrued Liability Reserve funds in order to offset.

“School districts are unable to use EBALR funds until my office certified the surplus amount,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “We moved quickly to help those districts that plan to use these funds to save jobs and maintain educational programs.”

The districts have a total of $147.8 million in their EBALR funds.

The fund is money set aside for accrued vacation and sick time that goes unused.

The districts are taking the advice of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who was able to cut $1.2 billion in education aid for school districts in order to close a $10 billion. The governor wanted school districts to cut overhead, pay for administrators and dip into reserve accounts.

DiNapoli said that despite using the reserves, districts are still in a difficult situation.

“Even with the use of these funds, school districts still have painful choices. And using up reserves now could put school districts in a precarious position next year. School districts without enough excess EBALR funds must now rely on their undesignated fund balances, tax increases or budget cuts to fill the hole left by state aid cuts. I have directed my auditors to continue to help school districts get their finances in order and to look for cost savings to help district officials deal with these difficult times.”

Steiner Sets Waiver Review Process For Walcott

As NYC Schools Chancellor-in-waiting Dennis Walcott is making the rounds in Albany today, state Education Commissioner David Steiner announced the screening panel that will consider the waiver Walcott requires to formally do the job.

The nine member panel will meet April 13 to consider Mayor Bloomberg’s formal request for Walcott’s waiver.

Education Law allows the commissioner to grant an exception or waiver to the precise preparation and experience required by law for a superintendent’s certificate.

Specifically, the commissioner is empowered to grant a waiver to an “exceptionally qualified” candidate who does not meet all the graduate course or teaching requirements in law if he finds that the candidate has “exceptional training and experience” which are the “substantial equivalent” of such requirements.

Steiner’s decision to grant a waiver to Walcott’s predecessor, Cathie Black, was controversial and done only on the condition that a No. 2 be appointed who had academic experience.

(That No. 2, Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky, will be staying on the the Walcott era).

Even the make-up of the panel that considered her waiver application was questioned and Steiner’s decision was challenged – and upheld – in court.

Unlike Black, a magazine publishing executive with zero education experience, Walcott has a master’s degree in education and social work and also some teaching experience (he taught kindergarten in Queens for two years).

Bloomberg has said he expects this waiver will be granted in due course and without much fuss. Steiner, whose departure was announced the same day Bloomberg axed Black, did not set a timeline for the consideration of Walcott’s waiver, but said he is “mindful of the need for prompt action.”

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Realtors Unveil Tax Cap Campaign

The New York State Association of Realtors will release a $750,000 advertising blitz Wednesday to push for the passage of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2 percent property tax cap.

The campaign, which has a home at the yet-to-be-launched TaxCapNY.com, will use print, television and radio spots with the goal of getting the Democratic-led Assembly to approve the cap.

This is yet another business group coming to the aid of Cuomo. The governor received help from a coalition of business groups, the Committee to Save New York, who backed his fiscal austerity plan during the budget season.

The Republican-controlled Senate already approved a the cap, which would limit annual property tax increases at 2 percent or the rate of inflation.

There’s been some doubt cast on whether the Senate GOP wants a “hard cap” after Sen. John Flanagan said mandate relief was a concern for local governments and school districts.

With many school districts facing steep cuts in spending, education advocates and some legislators say having them operate within a 2 percent cap would be difficult, even if the cap takes effect next year.

“I think those are reasonable concerns, but you have to start somewhere,” said Duncan MacKenzie, the chief executive officer of the state Association of Realtors. “You have to cut spending and force them to make reasonable choices.”

He also said a cap could stand apart without mandate relief.

“I think you can, it would be better to have it with it, but it can stand alone,” MacKenzie said.

The association will be one of several groups participating in a news conference with Senate Republicans later today, as the GOP conference tries to reframe the argument and insist they’re in favor of the cap.

End Of An Era In Albany County (Updated)

In Albany there isn’t a more well known political family than the Breslins. Neil Breslin is a state senator. Tom Breslin is a county judge. And Mike Breslin has been county executive for the past 16 years, since he was elected in 1995.

Today, Mike Breslin announced he is not going to seek a 5th term in office, and will be stepping down from the post at the end of 2011.

“Serving as Albany County Executive has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” said Breslin. “I look forward to fulfilling my commitment to the voters of Albany County by serving through 2011. We’ve made government more open, professional, transparent and accountable with a focus on public service. Over the course of my tenure, I have accomplished what I set out to accomplish and now it is time to move on to new challenges and opportunities.”

In the press release, Breslin didn’t say why he had made the decision to step down. He is however talking to members of the media this afternoon, so I am sure that question will come up.

As for replacing Breslin, there are sure to be a handful of Democrats interested in the position because of the solid enrollment edge Democrats have in the district. Also, because the election is this year, members of the legislature, including Sen. Neil Breslin, could seek the seat and not lose their current job.

Update: Senator Schumer just issued this release.

“For 16 years Mike Breslin has served the people of Albany County with honesty, integrity and considerable talent. I understand his reasons for not running for a fifth term, but I am saddened because we need more people like Mike in elected office not fewer.

I have worked with Mike on countless issues, from bringing jobs to the NanoCollege and the Watervliet Arsenal, to trying to assist counties with their budgets, to the effort to gain recognition for Sgt. Henry Johnson, and literally hundreds of issues in between. He has been a tremendous public servant, but I am also pleased to call him my friend.”

The Shuttle Has Landed

Sources have confirmed to NY1 that an original Space Shuttle prototype will be making its new home at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum.

An official announcement is expected later today that the Enterprise prototype will be coming to the floating museum that is moored on the Hudson River.

Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand had been pushing hard since 2010 for the Intrepid to land a retiring shuttle.

The Enterprise shuttle was a test model that flew, but never orbited space and was not equipped with a heat shield. It is expected to move to the Intrepid by May 2012.

NASA is also expected to announce later today where the retiring Discovery, Atlantis, Endeavour shuttles will go on display.

Other shuttle finalists are thought to include the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Tax Cap Vs. Rent Control, McMillan-Style

If you want to find the elusive link between a property tax cap and rent control legislation, look no further than the teachings of former gubernatorial candidate Jimmy McMillan.

Twice in less than 24 hours, New York’s favorite catchphrase from the 2010 campaign has emerged in the debate over the tax cap and rent control bills. Depending on who you ask, rent/property taxes are “too damn high!”

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Capital Region Assemblyman Jim Tedisco is calling on the Assembly majority to vote on Gov. Cuomo’s property tax cap bill, which the Senate has already passed.

“Some may be outraged about the cost of rent in New York City, but there’s no doubt about it, New York State’s property taxes are too damn high!” said Tedisco (R-Saratoga).

“If the Assembly can protect rent-controlled apartments in Manhattan then it has the time to bring tax cap legislation to the Floor for an up or down vote before the month is up.”

Tedisco voted against the bill, which would cap the amount tenants pay for their apartment.

Meanwhile, Assembly Democrats and even some in the minority conference are touting the rent control bill as a major win for downstate residents, saying it would adjust income thresholds to more accurately reflect current wages and the rate of inflation.

“Gubernatorial candidate and fellow Vietnam Veteran Jimmy McMillan summed it up best: The rent is too ‘damn high,’ words that ring true for too many tenants in Westchester County and throughout the greater metropolitan area,” said Assemblyman Robert Castelli (R–Goldens Bridge).

Tasini Files Suit Against AOL, HuffPo

New York political activist Jonathan Tasini announced today he is filing a class-action lawsuit against The Huffington Post and AOL over its compensation (or lack thereof) for bloggers and other content producers.

The website, which was purchased earlier this year by AOL for $200 million, highlighted the concern among those in journalism and publishing that HuffPo is a repository for junk content written to appeal to quick Google searches.

“Arianna Huffington is pursuing the Wal-Martization of creative content and a Third World class of creative people,” said Jonathan Tasini, the lead plaintiff in the suit, in a statement. “Actually, that is unfair to Wal-Mart because at least Wal-Mart pays its workers something for the value those workers create. In Arianna Huffington’s business model, economic gain is only reserved for her. Everyone else, apparently, is expected to work for free regardless of the value they create. Greed and selfishness is the order of the day.”

Tasini, a New York City resident, has launched unsuccessful Senate campaigns against both Hillary Clinton in 2006 and HuffPo contributor Kirsten Gillibrand in 2010.

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L&0′s Meloni Films HRC Video

TV cop Christopher Meloni filmed a pro-gay marriage web video for the Human Rights Campaign, which is recruiting celebrities to advocate for the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York.

Other celebrities who have joined the HRC’s effort include Ethan Hawke, Russell Simmons, Mark and Sunrise Ruffalo, Joan Rivers, Barbara Bush, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Whoopi Goldberg, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon, Fran Drescher, Moby, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Cuomo Celebrates GM Investing $100M In Rochester

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this morning is touting General Motors Corp. plan to invest $100 million for a new fuel injection product line at its Rochester plant.

Cuomo’s news release says the investment at the GM plant will retain “hundreds” of jobs and create 30 additional jobs.

“To say that New York is open for business is an understatement – and this announcement just proves the point,” Cuomo said in a statement. “For generations, General Motors has provided quality products and good jobs for New Yorkers, and this move builds on the company’s historic legacy in this state. As a car enthusiast, I look forward to seeing the future of automotive technology designed, engineered, and built by New Yorkers.”

The announcement is good news for Rochester, which has seen a variety of major businesses, notably Kodak, severely cut back on jobs and its corporate presence. Cuomo also needs businesses like GM to stay and expand in the economically troubled upstate region, which has struggled to retain jobs.

The governor’s budget, which remained largely intact through the budget process, was developed with an eye toward reversing the state’s perception that its high taxes are hostile to businesses.

The announcement comes as Cuomo is poised to dispatch his lieutenant governor, former Rochester mayor Bob Duffy, to lead the 10 regional economic development councils that are charged with developing job-creation ideas. The councils survived the budget battle, which were met with skepticism by Senate Republicans.