Gov. Cuomo’s First Meeting

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was all smiles as he entered the Capitol Red Room to meet with his cabinet for the first time.

“This is so exciting for me. I hope it is for you too. Its a great new beginning — at a time when the state desperately needs a great new beginning,” said Cuomo.

It’s unclear what was Gov. Cuomo and his cabinet members discussed as the video feed ended during his opening remarks.

Deputy Press Secretary Josh Vlasto briefed the media afterwards but also did not provide many details, suggesting the governor will lay out his agenda in his inauguration speech later this afternoon.

“The governor opened up with his vision to discuss not only what we’re going to be doing in the next couple days but in the weeks ahead, months ahead, and over the course of his term, but he spoke in specifics about policy initiatives coming up as well as planning for the State of the State.” said Vlasto.

Some members in attendance included Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy as well as Steve Cohen, Rich Bamberger, Paul Francis, Joe Percoco, Larry Schwartz, but notably absent was budget director Bob Megna. When asked why he wasn’t there, Vlasto simply said, “I’ll discuss that later.”

Extras

Happy New Year’s, all!

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be sworn in this evening at the mansion around 10 p.m. and officially become the 56th governor of the Empire State at the stroke of midnight.

CapTon has a single showing tonight (8 p.m. only, no re-air) and there will be footage, compliments of the incoming administration, of the executive mansion swearing in around 10:30 p.m. or so. We’ll be back bright and early tomorrow with inauguration coverage.

Until then, be safe…and be well. Enjoy the tail end of 2010. It’s good to be home. – LB

Cuomo is starting work bright and early tomorrow.

Cuomo is the first unmarried governor since Hugh Carey.

Mario Cuomo, casual.

EJ McMahon wonders where outgoing Gov. David Paterson has been on pension reform.

A last-minute settlement for AG Cuomo.

Is this the man to blame for the NYC blizzard debacle?

Goodbye, officially, to outgoing NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, to whom the city “owes a debt of gratitude,” according to Bloomberg.

Vintage Andrew Cuomo.

The 2010 election in 42 minutes.

Rep. Charlie Rangel defended Bloomberg’s blizzard response.

2011 predictions, compliments of Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker.

An invitation you won’t be needing.

Roger Stone’s annual best/worst dressed list is out. (He says it’s getting “harder and harder” to compile).

No pardon for Billy the Kid.

Education headlines, a year in review.

Goodbye (and good luck!) Michael Scotto.

Assemblyman: Paterson Deserves Post-Storm Blame

Mayor Bloomberg has been bearing the brunt of the blame for the lackluster post-blizzard clean-up, but one state lawmaker thinks there’s more than enough of that to go around with a share belonging to outgoing Gov. David Paterson.

Assemblyman Bill Colton, a Brooklyn Democrat, said Paterson should have declared a state of emergency after the storm, following New Jersey’s lead, arguing that would have allowed for the mobilization of resources – from the National Guard, for example – to help the city with its sub-par snow removal effort.

“I think the governor clearly had a responsibility to, at the very minimum, call the mayor and say: Do you need help? Should we call a state of emergency? At the very minimum, the governor should have done that,” Colton told me during a brief telephone interview this afternoon.

“There should at least have been a discussion of whether it was needed.”

When I noted Paterson has one foot out the door (although he has managed to find the time to issue more than a few pardons and a commutation), Colton replied:

“The reality is the snow occurred a week ago and it would seem to be that he’s got to keep his hand on the helm of the ship.”

Colton, who was in a car during our interview, the situation “has improved considerably” in the city, although there are still streets in his district that haven’t yet been cleared. He said the mayor’s office – “once they started communicating with us” – has been responsive to constituent calls.

“But why did it take four or five days, that’s where the governor could have come in,” Colton reasoned. “There was a shortage of private vehicles for plowing. They didn’t have enough plows. If there had been a state of emergency declared, maybe we might have had more resources.”

During his weekly radio show with WOR’s John Gambling this morning, Bloomberg defended his decision not to call a snow emergency in NYC, arguing it could have actually worsened an already bad situation by forcing cars off the main streets and onto the already-clogged side streets.

A New New Job For Grannis

Pete Grannis didn’t last long in the private sector…just over two weeks, to be exact.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli just announced that the former DEC commissioner and assemblyman has accepted a job as first deputy comptroller, effective Jan. 20. He’ll be replacing Mary Louise Mallick, who has been given a new post as senior policy advisor.

As you’ll recall, Grannis was bounced from his DEC post by outgoing Gov. David Paterson. Well, actually, by Paterson’s top aide, Larry Schwartz, who accused Grannis of insubordination, among other things, in the wake of a leaked memo that criticized the administration’s planned staffing cuts at the agency.

Grannis then announced he would be working for Environmental Advocates as a special counsel. Apparently, that’s off.

“Pete Grannis has built a life-long reputation for vision, leadership, integrity and the ability to get things done,” DiNapoli said in a press release.

“We’re facing some of the toughest times in New York State history. Pete’s skills, leadership and expertise will help us face those challenges. New York is fortunate that Pete Grannis chose to continue his public service career with the Office of the State Comptroller.”

There had been some speculation that Mallick, a former GOP Senate Finance secretary, was in DiNapoli’s crosshairs when he asked for resignation letters from 15 top staffers following his close election to the statewide post he inherited from ex-Comptroller Alan Hevesi in February 2007.

As it turns out, Mallick is sticking around. A DiNapoli source refused to characterize this move as a demotion for Mallick, saying she is merely being given a “new assignment.” She’ll be making $162,000 in her new position. Grannis will be earning $165,000.

DiNapoli has been adding new staffers as he prepares to put his stamp on the office to which he has now been elected for the first time.

He has not always seen eye-to-eye with incoming Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and so will undoubtedly need all the help he can get – particularly if Cuomo tries a push to end the sole trusteeship of the state pension fund.

Pressuring Cuomo On Public Financing

The to-do list for incoming Gov. Andrew Cuomo is growing longer by the day.

The latest push comes from an unusual coalition of progressive labor interests, political (Democratic Party, that is) and environmental groups, health care interests and good government advocates who are urging Cuomo to enact a “voluntary” public campaign finance system early in the 2011 legislative session – one of the many camapign promises outlined in his “New New York Agenda” books.

The groups sent a pre-Christmas letter to Cuomo signed by everyone from the Working Families Party to Citizen Action to NYSUT, 1199 SEIU and several Moveon organizations. Upstate and downstate are represented, as are the usual goo-goo subjects – the Brennan Center, NYPIRG, Common Cause etc.

“It will take someone in your position, with your vision for a stronger, more democratic and transparent New York to lead the effort to truly clean up state government and change the culture in Albany,” the letter states.

“Like you, we agree that in order to truly give Albany a ‘clean bill of health,’ a system of public campaign finance along with other campaign finance reforms including lower contribution limits, closing loopholes and strong but fair enforcement, must be enacted.”

“For decades, our organizations have confronted a state government fraught with corruption as we advocated for changes in Albany. We know that the public interest would be better served if out elected officials were able to run for office using a system of public campaign finance like New York City’s.”

Of course, the trouble with public campaign financing is that it’s expensive – even a hybrid matching system like the one NYC has. That’s a heavy lift when the state is facing a $9 billion to $10 billion budget gap.

BUt when it comes to reforming Albany, the advocates have some powerful partners, not the least of which is the New York Times, which editorialized today that “the need for reform goes far beyond the budget” and urged Cuomo to “immediately – next week – introduce an omnibus ethics reform bill.”

The Times didn’t mention public financing, but did specifically cite the need for a nonpartisan independent redistricting commission.
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More Cuomo Appointments

Governor-elect Cuomo just announced more of his staff appointments, and nominations.

Most notably, he has tapped top Deputy Attorney General for Public Integrity Ellen Biben to be the next Inspector General, replacing Joseph Fisch. Biben played a key role in several of Cuomo’s high profile corruption prosecutions, including the case against Senator Pedro Espada Jr.

Cuomo has also nominated former Goldman Sachs, and Chase Manhattan executive Tom Mattox to be the next Commissioner of Tax and Finance. Appointed his campaign Deputy Director of Policy Jim Malatras as the Deputy Secretary for Policy Management. And named his campaign press secretary Josh Vlasto the Deputy Communications Director for the administration.

Complete biographies are after the jump.
More >

Paterson Talks Pensions On Squawk Box

Governor Paterson kicked off his final day in office by appearing on CNBC’s Squawk Box, and discussing today’s Op-Ed in the Daily News about the looming pension crisis.

Paterson detailed many examples of the changes that other states and cities are making to pensions, in order to keep them sustainable. And he warned that unfunded pension liabilities might be between 2 and 4 trillion dollars, so sacrifices are going to have to be made next year.

“What you might see is a serious downgrade in 2011 of their asset pools, and that would create a major problem. Everybody would suffer if there is a meltdown in pensions,” Paterson said.

“And that puts us in the position of having to make a financial, and also a moral choice. Which is, are we going to hurt taxpayers who would have to write off this debt that they had nothing to do with. Or, are we going to take those people who have provided the broad revenue basis that we all have been able to live, those in retirement, and abandon them.”


Another Indy Party Indictment

…This time it’s upstate.

The Utica Observer-Dispatch reports Oneida County Independence Party Chairman John Dote turned himself in yesterday morning in connection with a 29-count indictment that accuses him of stealing cash from hundreds of people who donated to the local party between 2005 and March 2010.

Dote is accused of using nearly $60,000 in political donations to pay for personal expenses including cigarettes, a leather jacket, a mattress and personal hygiene products.

More from the U-D story:

Topping the list of alleged victims is Richard Hanna, a Republican who is due to be sworn in next week as a U.S. congressman.

Hanna was elected in November to the 24th District with an endorsement from the Independence Party. In the indictment, Dote is accused of misusing $11,000 in funds donated by Hanna between 2006 and January 2010.

Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara said neither Hanna nor any of the other donors gave money to the local Independence Party with any understanding that Dote would spend the money as he wanted, including buying groceries and paying rent or utility bills.

(Interesting aside: McNamara’s predecessor is Mike Arcuri, the Democrat Hanna defeated in the November election. The party endorsed Hanna this year, despite the fact that it was under investigation at the time).

State Indy Party Chairman Frank MacKay told me back in June that he hadn’t spoken to Dote and had no idea about the mess in Oneida County.

Meanwhile, the downstate case involving Mayor Bloomberg’s $1 million, the state party and indicted GOP consultant John Haggerty continues, since Haggerty has so far refused to cop a plea.

Defending The NYC Sanitation Department

Mayor Bloomberg and NYC Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty took to the airways this morning to reiterate their defenses of the department’s post-blizzard performance, which is now the subject of an investigation by Department of Investigations Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn.

Bloomberg did call the response “an embarrassment,” but also said the Sanitation Department did its best and should not be criticized. He stressed that if reports of a slowdown prove true, it will not be tolerated.

“I don’t know if it took place; if it did it was a disgrace,” Bloomberg insisted. “…If the laws were broken, (Gill Hearn) will take appropriate action. She is tough. Everybody knows that.”

“This is just a reminder that you can’t break the law. Mother nature is tough enough to deal with. We don’t always make the right decisions. That’s tough enough. But deliberately not doing the job, particularly if you try to use it for political reasons…it’s an outrage and we’re not going to tolerate it.”

Bloomberg was quick to say that Doherty, a 50-year veteran public servant who has held his post through two administrations (Giuliani and Bloomberg), will be doing another three years in his job, adding: “He didn’t have to worry about that.”

Doherty said he’s a “little bit disappointed in some things,” but praised the men and women who worked “a lot of long hours,” saying they had done an “outstanding job” and he’s “proud of them.”

The commissioner said his employees are still working around the clock to clear bus stops, crosswalks and parking meters, which will go back on-line Monday (alternate side parking will remain suspended, however).

Some curtailed garbage pick-up will also resume Monday, according to Doherty, who urged NYC residents to dig out their trash to help things along.

From Stranded To Outraged

Here’s the report of post-blizzard calls and e-mails (mostly complaints, but at least one “thank you”) placed by NYC residents to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s office.

As the NY Times reported this morning, the 33-page report catalogues 933 complaints fielded between 9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 27 and 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 29. It shows:

-39 percent of total complaints came from South Brooklyn.

-69 percent were lodged on Tuesday, when New Yorkers awoke to unplowed streets for the second day in a row.

-18 percent involved abandoned vehicles blocking streets.

“For days, city government failed to provide the most fundamental services,” de Blasio said. “People couldn’t get a human being on the other end of the line at 311.”

“Ambulances and fire trucks couldn’t reach those in need. Hundreds of frustrated and scared New Yorkers turned to our office for help. From what we heard, it’s clear the city needs a new playbook to stay ahead of big storms.”

De Blasio’s report includes a number of recommendations, including increasing the capacity of 311 to handle weather-related emergencies.

Speaking to WOR’s John Gambling this morning, Mayor Bloomberg said the 311 system will be included in the comprehensive review of the city’s response to the storm that his office is undertaking.

The mayor noted New Yorkers were asked not to call 311 or 911 unless there was a true emergency in the wake of the blizzard, but the systems got overloaded anyway.

“Eventually, you get so many calls no system can handle it,” the mayor said. “There was a technological problem with Verizon for a few minutes, but that’s not the real problem.”

“We will take a look at all these decisions. It’s second-guessing, Monday morning quarter-backing, should have, could have, would have, but there’s no reason not to take a look and see: Could we have done something better?”

Storm Report