Totes McGoats Video And Theme Song Coming Soon

I don’t know if the City of Niagara Falls expected the kind of attention it received after introducing its new recycling mascot in October. Half man, half goat, totally bizarre, Totes McGoats became an overnight internet sensation featured on sites like the Huffington Post and Time.

Whether or not this was the plan, Niagara Falls appears to be running with it. Tuesday night the city is unveiling a Totes McGoats recycling video and theme song.

“We will not be held responsible for the Totes McGoats theme song getting stuck in your head,” the press release warned.

The recycling promotion has been effective so far. The city’s Solid Waste Education and Enforcement Team (S.W.E.E.T.) reported a 20 percent decrease in the amount of garbage picked up from 2014 to 2015.

“Above all cost and money, the biggest (benefit) is cleaner and greener future for our children and generations to come and tourists who come here, and people who love this natural wonder,” said Brook D’Angelo, who coordinates the waste education program.

Totes promises to be a big part of the 2016 outreach and I haven’t heard from anybody who’s disappointed about that.

Tax Cap Changes Unlikely, Flanagan Says

Changes to the state’s cap on property tax increases are unlikely this year, even as Senate Republicans disagree internally over whether to continue the measure as it stands now, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Monday told mayors at a convention in Albany.

“I would be surprised if there were any changes to the tax cap, certainly this year,” Flanagan said.

The comments come after Democratic lawmakers here at the New York Conference of Mayors winter meeting told local government officials they were sympathetic to the increasing concerns being raised over the cap on property tax levy increases.

The cap is due to provide for an increase of less than 1 percent this year, squeezing local governments on their ability to raise revenue at a time in which sales tax dollars have been largely flat.

State lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo did agree to modest changes to the tax cap last June, allowing for growth in BOCES and capital spending.

But local government and school district officials have called for revisions to the cap, given it is linked to the rate of inflation or provides for a 2 percent cap, whichever is lower.

The cap in recent years has allowed for growth of less than 2 percent and, with inflation flat again, the cap is due to be virtually zero.

In his remarks, Flanagan noted the cap remains popular with taxpayers who live under the highest property taxes in the nation.

Nevertheless, Flanagan noted there were some lawmakers within his conference that were sympathetic to altering the cap.

“We have some members,” Flanagan said, “who feel it should be a straight 2 percent.”

Flanagan bolted from the room after addressing the conference for about 20 minutes in remarks and taking several questions. He left the Albany Hilton just before the arrival of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whose office successfully prosecuted the case against his predecessor, Republican Dean Skelos as well as former Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat from Manhattan.

Flanagan told reporters without stopping that he had several meetings to attend later in the day.

Gibson Registers Campaign Committee

As expected, Rep. Chris Gibson on Monday has registered a campaign committee in a lead up to a potential run for governor in 2018.

The filing for Gibson For New York was filed and posted on the state Board of Elections website this morning.

Gibson, a three-term House representative from Kinderhook, is retiring from the 19th congressional district in the Hudson Valley at the end of the year.

He is getting an early start on fundraising, citing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $16 million war chest that he is maintaining ahead of a declared run for a third term.

Gibson is also facing a potentially crowded field for the Republican nomination, with Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the party’s 2014 nominee, considering another run for governor.

Harry Wilson, the party’s 2010 nominee for comptroller, is also considering a run for governor as is Carl Paladino, a businessman from Buffalo who ran in 2010.

Gibson, who turned aside a well-funded challenge from Democrat Sean Eldridge in 2014, has staked out moderate positions on social issues in recent years.

No Republican has won statewide in New York since 2002, when George Pataki won a third term as governor.

DiNapoli: Pension Fund Unlikely To Hit Target

The state’s pension fund is unlikely to hit its targeted rate of return of 7 percent by the conclusion of the state’s fiscal year, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli on Monday said.

DiNapoli addressed the New York Conference of Mayors’s winter meeting in Albany Monday morning, sympathizing with the village and city leaders at the Albany Hilton here that local governments continue to face revenue constraints.

It’s not immediately clear whether DiNapoli will have to increase contribution rates for local governments to the fund, he told reporters after his remarks. Contribution rates are typically announced in September.

The state’s pension fund is valued at around $184.5 billion, one of the largest retirement funds in the country.

Last year, DiNapoli announced the state would once again reduce contributions from 18.2 percent of payroll to 15.5 percent. The average rate of contribution for the police and fire retirement system declined by 2 percent — from 24.7 percent to 24.3 percent.

At the time, DiNapoli has revised the fund’s expected rate of return from 7.5 percent to 7 percent.

Contribution rates for local governments remain a key factor in local government budgeting, which is being squeezed this year with a tax cap that limits levy growth to less than a 1 percent increase.

At the same time, local governments are facing flat increases in aid to municipalities funding. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been hesitant to increase AIM aid in recent budgets, arguing local governments should find ways of reducing costs through consolidations and shared services.

Adding to the difficult fiscal times, sales tax revenue outside of New York City has not been growing as fast as it has been in recent years, DiNapoli said.

DiNapoli told mayors assembled here that the state should consider its first AIM increase in years given local government’s revenue issues. He said an AIM increase would have relatively little impact on the overall budget picture, but “go a long way” for local governments’ budgets.

SD-9 Shaping Up To Be A Clash Of Titans

From the Morning Memo:

The battle for the Long Island Senate seat that once belonged to ex-Majority Leader Dean Skelos is officially joined, with both sides settling on a candidate, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo calling a special election on April 19 to coincide with New York’s presidential primaries.

With these formalities out of the way, the Democrats and Republicans have retreated to their respective corners to plot their respective campaign plans, and with so much on the table – this race is widely viewed as crucial in the fight for the majority – they’re bringing in the big guns and plan to spare no expense.

On the GOP side, political newcomer Chris McGrath’s campaign will be run by E. O’Brien Murray, better known to insiders as “O.B.”

Murray has considerable experience working on a variety of Senate and congressional campaigns. Interestingly, he has been working for several years now as an adviser/strategist for another Long Island Republican, Sen. Jack Martins, who is putting the GOP conference in something of a bind by opting to run for retiring Democratic Rep. Steve Israel’s seat in NY-3.

The GOP has also called again on BrabenderCox, which has done media/strategy for a number of national Republican candidates and also cut effective TV ads in the last campaign cycle for key GOP Senate candidates (who are now freshmen members in need of defense): Rich Funke and George Amedore.

The Republicans opted for McGrath, a trial attorney with no strong political ties to either Skelos or the Nassau County GOP, specifically because he can’t be painted as an insider, though he has given a considerable amount of campaign cash out over the years to both Democrats and Republicans – a fact that has given some on the right pause.

The GOP is already laying out its argument against the Democrats’ candidate, Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor who is making ethics and reform a hallmark of his campaign, given the recent history of this seat.

Basically, the Republicans are going to try to tie Kaminsky to disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who, like Skelos, went down in flames due to a federal corruption conviction; and slam him for not voting “yes” on a hostile Assembly minority amendment on pension forfeiture – among other issues.

On the Democratic side, a source familiar with the Kaminsky campaign called it an “all hands on deck” effort, with a wide variety of consultants and operatives involved. Officially speaking, the campaign is being managed by Rich Orsillo, who also worked on Kaminsky’s 2014 Assembly bid.

The DSCC and its preferred consulting firm, Queen-based Parkside, is also heavily involved, as is Evan Thies, who served as a spokesman for Kaminsky’s 2014 campaign.

Global Strategy Group will be doing the polling, and ad man Jimmy Siegel, best known (to NY reporters, anyway) as making his political debut on then-AG Eliot Spitzer’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign, will be doing the TV.

The Democrats are prepared to spend in the neighborhood of $2 million, all told, according to this source.

And if the Republicans make a similar commitment, this very well could go down as one of the most – if not THE most – expensive special elections in New York history, rivaling the 2007 special election in which now former Democratic Sen. Craig Johnson bested Republican Maureen O’Connell, in which a combined $5 million was spent by the two sides.

To HRC, Cuomo Defines A ‘New York Value’

From the Morning Memo:

On Saturday night, Gov. Andrew Cuomo touted his executive order to block insurance coverage of conversion therapy of gays and lesbians, linking the effort to his signature push for the 2011 legalization of same-sex marriage.

Cuomo was speaking before a receptive and enthusiastic audience: The Human Rights Campaign, the national LGBT rights group that was a member organization of the coalition that successfully lobbied for the measure five years ago.

In his remarks given at the group’s gala, Cuomo took the national view of the same-sex marriage fight in New York, noting once again how the measure’s passage in the Legislature led to President Obama later altering his own view on the issue.

“When it happens in New York, every politician, the next day, gets the question. ‘What would you do about marriage equality?’ and ‘What would you do about marriage equality?’ and ‘What would you do, Mr. President, about marriage equality?'” Cuomo said in his remarks.

But he went further, tying the most recent efforts to strengthen LGBT rights — such as regulations that seek to address discrimination of transgender individuals — as well as the order to curtail conversion therapy as part of the overall agenda in the new year.

Cuomo has increasingly turned toward executive action when it comes to bills that have languished in the Legislature, and both limitations on conversion therapy and the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act fit that mold of blocked legislation.

Cuomo, however, was unapologetic in his effort to go around the Legislature, taking a veiled swipe at Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s recent disparaging of “New York values” in the process.

“That’s the power of New York and that’s why we’re going to do it and do it and do it and do it again. And that’s why we took executive action and said you cannot discriminate against transgender,” Cuomo said. “I don’t care if the legislature is not going to pass it, I’m going to do it, because it’s a New York value.”

LGBT rights aren’t the only measures Cuomo has sought to exert executive action: He’s raised the minimum wage for fast-food and state employees through his office’s powers as he seeks a broader minimum wage increase to $15 for all workers, that would be phased in over several years.

Cuomo indicated in his speech he wants the state to continue to be a national leader on these decidedly liberal issues, such as the $15 minimum wage (a figure that puts him more in line with the campaign platform of Bernie Sanders than his endorsed candidate, Hillary Clinton).

“That’s why we proposed $15 as the minimum wage, the highest in the United States – because everyone who works should have the dignity of work,” Cuomo said. “And that’s why today we rejected fundamentally the absurd notion that being gay is a psychiatric disorder and that they should be treated and we’ve ended conversion therapy in the state of New York, and I am proud to have done it.”

Preet’s Coming To Town

From the Morning Memo:

Every now and then, the planets align in Albany for a truly fascinating — and hectic — day.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara will make his first-ever public sojourn to the state’s capital city today, providing the keynote address to several hundred attendees of the New York Conference of Mayors’s winter meeting.

He’ll be speaking at a hotel just a stone’s throw down the hill on State Street from the Capitol building itself, where Bharara’s office has struck genuine fear with a series of blockbuster prosecutions.

Later, he’ll be attending the swearing-in of the state’s new chief judge, former Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore.

Also in attendance: Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose administration Bharara’s office recently cleared in the investigation into the handling of the anti-corruption Moreland Commission. Federal prosecutors are said to still be looking into the governor’s signature economic development program in western New York, the Buffalo Billion.

Later, Bharara will be taking part at a forum further uptown for the public radio station WAMC.

Amid all of this, Bharara’s immediate predecessor as the top prosecutor at the Southern District, Michael Garcia, will have his nomination for the Court of Appeals considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee and, likely, the full Senate.

Oh, and Bruce Springsteen is in town.

Just over a month ago, Bharara netted his biggest fish: Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos were convicted in corruption cases brought by the Southern District.

Bharara’s presence may be unsettling to some state lawmakers, but his remarks at such events have in recent weeks been remarkably consistent.

Bharara preaches that good actors (be it lawmakers or Wall Street bankers) should help blow the whistle on bad actors. He likes to tell the tale of Adam Skelos grousing on wiretap that “f-ing Preet Bharara” is listening in on every call. And he likes to remind politicians that he’s merely doing his job in making cases and, instead of complaining about his methods, find ways of reforming their system.

The more fascinating moment will surely be to watch the body language and interaction (if any) between Cuomo and Bharara — the two heavyweights in the room at the Court of Appeals chamber today.

Albany is cramming a lot into one day (kind of like the budget!) and we’ll be here to follow as much of it as possible.

Siena Poll: Clinton And Trump Lead In New York

One was born and raised in New York, and came to exemplify the city’s intoxication with success and grandeur.

Another moved here to run for a U.S. Senate seat, settling in an affluent suburban neighborhood in Westchester County following a “listening tour” in upstate New York.

And now both Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton hold double-digit leads over their respective rivals for the presidential nominating contest in New York, a Siena College poll released today finds.

Clinton, the former secretary of state who represented New York in the Senate from 2001 through 2008, leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, (who is Brooklyn born), 55 percent to 34 percent among Democratic voters.

Trump, a real-estate developer and reality TV show host, receives 34 percent of the vote among Republican voters. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz each have 16 percent.

Gov. Chris Christie of neighboring New Jersey received support from 11 percent of GOP voters, with all other candidates who are still in the running in the single digits.

New York’s presidential primary is scheduled for April 19. The state’s primary is usually so late in the calendar for presidential primaries that it rarely matters in the nominating process.

But with Republican candidates bunched up together in an effort to dislodge Trump, and Clinton fending off a surprisingly strong challenge from Sanders, it’s possible New York could still be in play by the start of the spring.

Despite the lead Trump holds here in his home state, he also polls with the highest unfavorable rating – 71 percent – of any of the presidential candidates.

At the same time, New York is not likely (for now) to turn a shade of red in the upcoming November general election. More than half of voters expect Clinton will be the next president, including two-thirds of Democratic voters.

Both Clinton and Sanders lead potential Republican challengers in a general election matchup by double digits, the poll shows.

Among the GOP candidates, Rubio and Christie come closest in running against Clinton and Sanders, but they’re still far behind in New York.

Clinton leads Rubio in a head-to-head duel by 17 percentage points, while she leads Christie by 19 percentage points. Sanders defeats Rubio, meanwhile, by 22 percentage points and Christie by 23 percentage points.

New York last voted for a Republican presidential candidate in 1984, when President Ronald Reagan was re-elected in a landslide.

When it comes to issues facing the country, New York voters list jobs and the economy at the top, along with keeping America safe.

At 72 percent, the issue of jobs beats security (51 percent) overall with most demographic groups save for Republican voters, the poll found.

The poll of 930 registered voters, including 434 Democrats and 235 Republicans, was conducted from Jan. 31 through Feb. 3. It has a margin of error 3.8 percent overall. For Democratic respondents, the margin of error is 7 percent. For GOP responders, it is 5.6 percent.

Sny0215 President Crosstabs by Nick Reisman

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany and New York City. US Attorney Preet Bharara is in Albany for the first time (ever, at least publicly). The two will appear at the same event (though not necessarily together) this afternoon, which reporters who cover the state Capitol are VERY much looking forward to.

Also, both houses of the Legislature will be in session. Another budget hearing will be taking place. The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider Cuomo’s nomination of Michael Garcia (a Republican) to the Court of Appeals.

So much is happening today that the schedule appears at the end of this post.

Headlines…

The Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl, 24-10 over the Carolina Panthers, giving Payton Manning, who, at 39, is the oldest starting quarterback in Super Bowl history, his second win in what might be the end of his football career.

The NRC is sending a radiation-protection specialist to New York this week to inspect the Indian Point nuclear power plant after state officials found evidence of a surge in radiation levels in groundwater there.

Entergy Corp. said elevated levels of radioactive material found in groundwater at the 2,000-megawatt Indian Point nuclear power facility north of New York City don’t pose a threat to public safety.

Disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver appears to still be pulling strings, controlling crucial votes in the contest to pick his successor. Alice Cancel, a Democratic district leader, emerged yesterday from the pack of hopefuls seeking a ballot spot in a Manhattan special election to replace Silver, who lost his seat due to a corruption conviction.

A day before the New Hampshire primary, Donald Trump has won the backing of a legendary New York Republican, former state GOP Chairman Bill Powers, who also blasted his own state party’s failure to rally behind the candidacy of its “favorite son” presidential hopeful.

Two days after a 38-year-old man was killed by a crawler crane that collapsed onto a Lower Manhattan street as workers tried to secure it against accelerating winds, Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City was lowering the wind-speed threshold at which such equipment must be shut down.

Sergeants Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins criticized de Blasio’s plan to require that NYPD officers take “implicit bias” training starting this spring. ​

In the wake of a report showing the difficulties for average fans to buy concert and sports tickets at face value, two state senators – Bard Hoylman and Daniel Squadron – are calling for a legislative hearing into the matter.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s efforts to force corporations to disclose their political spending has resulted in a six-figure payout to one of his major campaign contributors, Manhattan law firm Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossman.

Bob McCarthy: After almost three years of tension between the Peace Bridge Authority’s Canadian and American delegations, the New Yorkers loyal to Cuomo may have now prevailed, thanks largely due to a change in command at the top in Canada.

But more than three years after Sandy, Hoboken, NJ is just as vulnerable to a deluge from the Hudson River and the plan to defend it with a sea wall is mired in controversy.

The Bloomberg-for-president speculation continues.

Flint, Michigan Mayor Karen Weaver thanked Hillary Clinton, saying the former secretary of state’s concern over the city’s water crisis helped spur government action for her constituents.

Clinton called the Flint water crisis “immoral,” and demanded that Congress approve $200 million in emergency aid to address the community’s battle with lead-contaminated water.

NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and a variety of fellow female New York Democratic elected officials campaigned for Clinton in New Hampshire this weekend ahead of tomorrow’s Granite State primary.

Clinton said that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s attacks on her beliefs about abortion are “pathetic.”

State Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long says Rubio’s presidential bid has the support of many party leaders — though Donald Trump is still appealing to rank-and-file activists.

More >

The Weekend That Was

Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a new public service announcement to educate New Yorkers about the disease of addiction and inform them that help is available. The 30-second PSA will debut during Super Bowl 50 on the Capital Region CBS affiliate, and will air statewide through TV and digital media starting Feb. 15.

The Donald’s brash New York persona is playing well in New Hampshire.

In advance of receiving an award from the Human Rights Campaign, Cuomo announced a series of measures intended to eliminate so-called conversion therapy, a practice that claims the ability to reverse same-sex attraction in some people but that has been widely discredited by scientists and criticized by gay-rights groups.

A couple who run a small urban farm said powerful Queens Sen. James Sanders, who is now running for Congress, offered them $1.7 million in taxpayer money to fund their operation — then demanded a $250,000 kickback. They have filed a report with US Attorney Preet Bharara’s office.

Rep. Chris Gibson, a Republican who is forgoing a re-election bid this year to prepare for a possible gubernatorial run in 2018, is filing paperwork tomorrow to establish an exploratory committee for that statewide bid.

New York will investigate the Indian Point Energy Center after Cuomo said he learned that “radioactive tritium-contaminated water” leaked into the groundwater at the nuclear facility in Westchester County.

Financial disclosures filed last year show just 24 state lawmakers – mostly lawyers – were making about as much or more in outside income as their $79,500 base annual pay from the state. Those 24 accounted for at least two-thirds of outside income reported for 2014, which ranged between $4.6 million and $7.1 million.

Every year, scores of New Yorkers are removed from their dwellings without ever facing trial or consulting a lawyer.

At least three investigators with the Suffolk district attorney’s office have been subpoenaed as a federal investigation has expanded into whether county investigators and prosecutors engaged in federal civil rights violations by illegally using a wiretap, sources tell Newsday.

John L. Tishman, who oversaw the construction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center, died Saturday at age 90.

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem says young women are supporting Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders for only one reason: To meet boys. The outspoken Hillary Clinton supporter made the eyebrow-raising remark in a Friday night appearance on “Real Time with Bill Maher.”

Fireworks flared at the the first head-to-head debate of the 2016 campaign season when Clinton accused Sanders of attacking her with an “artful smear.”