‘It Is What It Is’

A rather testy Mayor Bloomberg chided reporters this morning for focusing on what caused him to dump his hand-picked NYC Schools Chancellor Cathy Black, instructing them to focus on how her replacement, Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, will be “moving forward.”

Bloomberg brushed aside all questions about how his misstep in selection Black – a move for which he took “full responsibility” – might be yet another indication of third term malaise, insisting this term would be “better than the second.”

The mayor sought to sum up the Black debacle in five words: “It is what it is.”

But what it is, of course, will be widely parsed by the chattering class, and it’s a safe bet this will be chalked up as yet another in what has been a series of losses for the mayor as he strugglings to keep his footing during his final four years in office.

Just consider this:

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Koch Vows Robocalls On ‘Enemies’ (Video Added)

Some New York voters should expect a call next week from former New York City Mayor Ed Koch.

Koch, in Albany today to meet with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, promised that senators who signed onto his reform agenda, but have so far failed to co-sponsor legislation that would create an independent redistricting commission, will be targeted.

“They’re very cheap and we’re going to distribute them amongst a number of districts, we’re not going to do it across the state in order to have maximum effect. It will be on the basis of are you with us or against it,” Koch said after meeting with the governor.

“Are you an enemy of reform? Sooner or later you’ll hear my voice on the phone.”

The calls are timed for when legislators will be back in their home districts. A formal announcement, along with which lawmakers will be hit with the calls, will come Tuesday.

Asked if the pressure campaign is coming early – legislators aren’t up for re-election until November 2012 – Koch said it was important to tell voters they elected a politician of “dishonor.”

“We want to tell people you elected a person who violated their pledge – a man or woman of dishonor,” the former mayor said.

In the meeting, Koch said the governor reaffirmed that he would veto legislative boundaries redraw by lawmakers and not an independent commission.

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Silver: Extenders Got Lawmakers Moving

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s threat to use extenders did the trick in moving the Legislature on the budget, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said in a radio interview set to first air Friday.

Speaking on WAMC’s Capitol Connection with Alan Chartock, the powerful speaker said his 99-member Democratic conference felt there was no money to fight over this year.

But he also said Cuomo’s vow to use the emergency appropriations to pass much of his budget if the Legislature wouldn’t bend to his cuts had the impact of giving the state its first on-time budget in five years.

“Obviously, you had less money to fight about, that might have cut down the fighting,” the Manhattan Democrat said. “You had a leader in Gov. Cuomo who was able to channel that passion and find that consensus and bring about an early agreement.”

“The governor put a sense of reality, of – ‘Look here’s the reality, here’s how much we can spend. This is all we can and if we do more than this, I’m not going to agree with it, I’m not going to accept it, and if you don’t I’m going to send you my emergency bills which will incorporate everything I want in the budget.’”

This is something of a reversal for Silver, who said during the budget process that the extender threat wasn’t playing a role in the negotiations.

The Assembly agreed to Cuomo’s deep cuts in education, health care and social services, areas that have been traditionally off-limits for the chamber. And Democrats failed to pass a tax on those making more than $1 million, which the governor and Senate GOP opposed.

The use of the extenders themselves, which Gov. David Paterson successfully used during the 2010-11 budget battle, are in a legal “gray area.”

“There’s a lot of gray area in that,” Silver said. “But the Court of Appeals basically ruled the governor has a right to define his appropriations.”

Silver was on the losing end of Silver V. Pataki, the 2004 case that reaffirmed the governor had the power to use the extenders when the budget was late.

There’s been some rumblings that legislators may again challenge the governor’s power to use extenders, especially if non-budget policy proposal, such as reinstating the death penalty, is rammed through via emergency appropriations.

“That might be an extreme position if that could happen that way,” Silver said.

The full interview airs Friday at 10:30 pm and Saturday at 1 p.m.

Sources: Black Out As Schools Chancellor

Last in, first out.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is replacing his just-hired schools chancellor, Cathie Black, sources tell NY1 this morning.

Black will be replaced by Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott.

The sacking of Black, a former publishing executive, came after a NY1/Marist College poll found fatally low approval ratings for her job as chancellor. She also made several high-profile gaffes, including a crack about fixing overcrowding in schools with birth control.

A formal announcement is expected at 11:30 this morning.

Bloomberg’s appointment of Black was criticized almost from the start. She had no education background and Bloomberg had to ask for a waiver from state Department of Education Commissioner David Steiner in order to secure the job.

Her firing also came after several city school officials left the department since Black’s appointment in January, most recently Deputy Chancellor John White, who announced he was leaving for a post in Louisiana.

Team Onion vs. Team Sweet Corn: Pick Your Side

The debate over the millionaires tax and redesigning Medicaid will likely pale in comparison to the emotional conversation being had over designating an official state vegetable.

OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration.

But! Notice that Gov. Andrew Cuomo carefully sidestepped The Times’ Thomas Kaplan’s question at Wednesday’s news conference on the vital policy issue.

“I do not have a candidate in the race for the official state vegetable,” Cuomo said at news conference in Albany, possible suggesting the LCA would be good candidates for vegetable-hood.

The issue also highlights the at-times contentious downstate-upstate divide. Freshman Sen. David Carlucci, a Rockland County Democrat, backs the onion. Sen. Michael Nozzolio, a Seneca County Republican, backs sweet corn.

Among the other items in New York officialdom: The mammal (beaver); the butterfly (red-spotted purple); and beverage (milk).

Here And Now

A late-night 90-minute meeting between President Obama and congressional leaders failed to result in a budget deal to avert a government shutdown, and the House Republicans are preparing to vote on another week-long extender bill.

The president said a shutdown would be “inexcusable.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo seemed to question AG Eric Schneiderman’s ability to defend the state in the prison gerrymandering case, but then walked that back through a spokesman.

Cuomo is open to watering down his property tax cap plan in hopes of getting it through the Assembly.

Cuomo’s shortlist of post-budget priorities.

Once (and future?) US Senate candidate David Malpass offers three “pro-growth building blocks” he believes would make Cuomo a contender – if not a frontrunner – in the 2016 presidential field.

Cuomo will host the UB2020 summit during the first week of May. The Assembly Democrats still have concerns about the Senate bill.

Judges across the state were ordered to shut their courtrooms early to cut overtime costs and avoid layoffs.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is willing to continue the millionaire’s tax fight into the next budget cycle.

Lake Placid schools will avoid layoffs by proposing a four percent tax increase.

Cuomo continues to insist school districts can mitigate state funding costs by tapping reserve funds.

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Extras

President Obama will meet tonight with congressional leaders in hopes of breaking the budget logjam.

Katie Couric! Glenn Beck! Matt Lauer? It’s an epidemic!

A Cuomo spokesman insisted the governor wasn’t referring to Mayor Bloomberg when he spoke of “propaganda” about teacher layoffs.

No agreement yet on ethics reform, as per the governor.

NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn apologized for being “nasty” to a DN reporter.

House Speaker John Bohener, in tears (again) over a possible government shutdown.

“The Census Adjustment Act is the law of New York State, and we will fulfill our constitutional obligation to defend state law as we do in all cases,” says AG Eric Schneiderman’s office.

Common Cause/NY is also in Schneiderman’s corner.

Yet another of NYC Schools Chancellor Cathie Black’s deputies is departing.

Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. makes a plea for more Criminal Court judges.

Julianne Moore as Hillary Clinton.

Sen. John McCain called Clinton an “international star.”

“It would be helpful for them to back off on the layoff threat until we have a chance to have some conversations,” CSEA spokesman Steve Madarasz said of the Cuomo administration.

David Axelrod is keeping a close eye on an under-the-radar judicial race in Wisconsin.

Axelrod implored minority voters not to repeat the mistakes of 2010 and go to the polls in 2012.

Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. introduced a clergy parking bill that he stood to personally benefit from. (It didn’t pass).

Those close to Cuomo say he’s a pragmatist above all else. He calls himself a realist, and a “progressive Democrat who’s broke.”

A Tea Partier is upset by the movement’s support of NY-26 candidate Jack Davis.

A Housing Court judge ordered Carl Paladino to repair two buildings he owns in downtown Buffalo.

Disney Magic will sail from NYC.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos received personal thanks and blessings from Satmar Rabbi Aron Teitelbaum.

Very odd.

Lots of Tweetcongrats for new DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Here’s Cuomo’s entire Q&A with reporters today. Topics include: Education funding and teacher layoff “propaganda”, ethics reform, a property tax cap and the battle over naming an official state vegetable. (He has no favorite as of yet).

Cuomo: Ritchie Handled Aubertine Confirmation Like A Pro

There’s a few ways to take Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (possibly back-handed) compliment to Sen. Patty Ritchie at this afternoon’s news conference.

Essentially, the governor told Ritchie, a freshman legislator, that she handled the confirmation of her old political rival Darrel Aubertine to the job of commissioner of Agriculture and Markets like an old Albany hand.

“Your professionalism (in handling the confirmation) suggests you’ve been here a very long, long time, senator” Cuomo told her with a wink.

Given Cuomo’s disdain for the unseemly politicking in state government, it’s an odd way to flatter the North Country lawmaker.

Aubertine was one of the first nominations by Cuomo for his new cabinet and was a fairly unsurprising pick. The scuttlebutt around the Capitol was that Ritchie, the newly installed chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, was holding up her former rival’s confirmation.

There was not much love lost between Ritchie and Aubertine. He defeated her for an Assembly seat in 2002. Ritchie got her revenge in November when she defeated Aubertine, one of the key seats for the GOP to regain control of the Senate.

So was Cuomo genuinely complimenting Ritchie or was he making a sly dig at the drawn-out 90-day confirmation process? Check out the exchange and judge for yourself:

Cuomo Won’t Attend Sharpton Event With Obama

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will not be on hand when President Obama addresses the Rev. Al Sharpton’s “Keepers of the Dream Gala” in midtown Manhattan tonight, sources from both the administration and Sharpton’s National Action Network confirm.

Cuomo was invited to attend the event at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers for which Obama is making a special trip back to the Big Apple – his second in just over a week.

The governor, who has been keeping a deliberately low profile and sticking close to Albany while the Legislature is in session, declined Sharpton’s invite, opting to remain at the Capitol and work. (State lawmakers put in three days in Albany this week and aren’t scheduled to return until Monday, April 11).

The administration is sending Alphonso David, Cuomo’s deputy secretary for Civil Rights, to represent the administration at the NAN gala.

David, as you may recall, is one of a number of staffers Cuomo brought with him to the second floor from the AG’s office, where he served as special deputy AG for civil rights.

Sharpton and the governor spoke on the phone, according to an administration source, and there were no hard feelings about Cuomo’s decision to stay away from the NAN event.

Sharpton, as you may recall, criticized the lack of diversity on the Democratic ticket during the 2010 campaign, which spurred Cuomo to pledge he would create the most diverse administration in New York history if elected. (He’s still working on that, according to black and Latino leaders).

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Two-Week Break For Legislature?

Getting an on-time budget was such hard work that the state Legislature apparently needs an extra week to recouperate.

The Senate and Assembly are in discussions to take off the week following their week-long traditional Passover-Easter break, legislative sources confirm.

The 2011 session calendar agreed to by the legislative leaders at the start of the year calls for lawmakers to be in Albany from April 11-13 and then return to work two weeks later on April 27 for a quickie, two-day session.

The topic of the extra week off was broached this morning during a closed-door conference of the Assembly Democrats, at which Speaker Sheldon Silver indicated the Senate GOP is pushing for the extra time off, according to sources in the room at the time. (NOTE: A Senate source rejected this allegation and insists it’s the Assembly who wants the additional days away from Albany).

This news didn’t sit well with some rank-and-file Assembly members, who privately grumbled about the negative press they will likely receive for staying home an extra week, suggesting there’s plenty left for them to do in Albany before the session’s scheduled end on June 20.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made a point of maximizing his time in Albany, forgoing trips outside the state and taking just one weekday off (to take his daughters skiing in the Adirondacks) during his three-month tenure in office.

The governor went out of his way after the budget passed to praise the Legislature for meeting (or beating, depending on your view of things) the April 1 budget deadline.

It’s unclear how he might react to the news that lawmakers plan to take extra time off when he’s is pushing a chock-full post-budget agenda that includes ethics reform, a property tax cap, extension and strengthening of the rent control laws, which are set to expire on June 15.