Cuomo Pushes Back Against Amazon Critics

Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a 2,000-word statement on Monday blasting the editorial boards and other critics of the Amazon-to-Queens deal who are skeptical of the arrangement.

Cuomo’s criticism boils down to several arguments: What about the tax credits media companies that own The New York Post and The New York Times receive? What about competition newspapers have from The Washington Post, which has common ownership with Amazon in the form of Jeff Bezos? What about the other states that have lucrative economic development programs tied to tax incentives for job creation?

“Most corporations act in their own economic interests. This is nothing new and the Post is being totally hypocritical,” Cuomo wrote of the The New York Post. “Companies controlled by Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Fox and the Post, a New York company, have aggressively sought and received hundreds of millions in government tax incentives from New York State.”

Cuomo also knocked CNN, the employer of his brother Chris, apparently over the an animated cartoon by anchor Jake Tapper lampooning the nationwide HQ2 search by Amazon.

Calling out the owners of media companies is at home with leftist press critics like Ben Bagdikian, but in this case it’s wrapped in a defense of a billion-dollar deal for a company owned by the world’s richest man.

He knocks “the socialists” who have criticized the arrangement.

“On the other side of the extreme, the socialists argue that we gave a $1 billion grant to one of the richest men in the country and that we should have given that money to the poor and the needy,” Cuomo wrote.

“Once again, it is a politically appealing argument; but also, it is once again wrong. We give Amazon nothing and their revenues give us approximately $900 million annually. If Amazon does not employ 25,000 New Yorkers, we lose $900 million. They also argue that we should let Amazon come to New York but provide no incentive. However, without the incentive Amazon, which owes duties to its stockholders (including the New York Pension Plan) would not come to New York and would not bring their revenues or jobs. The essence of the Amazon competition was that they were shopping for the best economic benefits.”

At the same time, Cuomo argues that if both the right and the left — “the extremes” — are against the proposal, it’s really an argument in bad faith.

“The reaction by some on the extremes to the Amazon transaction is merely a sign of the times—and the times are troubled. Political polarization tears at our social fabric. But when the lens of public officials is fogged by political expediency, bad decisions are made. When opinion-makers cater to hyper partisan ideologies and take hypocritical positions, honest debate suffers.”

The essay, billed by Cuomo’s office as an op/ed, was in many respects a classic reaction by the governor when he’s under attack.

There’s a common through line for the governor: His critics aren’t just wrong, but they’re hypocrites, benefiting from the very arrangements he’s being unfairly knocked over and acting out in bad faith.

Aside from the media criticism there’s the argument advanced by Cuomo as well as other defenders of the Amazon deal: They were for getting the jobs before they were against. Opponents argue they weren’t just privy to the negotiations, but unaware the tax breaks would be so large.

The merits of the deal — as many as 40,000 jobs for Long Island City, with tax breaks only if the jobs are created and the economic return will more than make up for the investment — aren’t enough: The critics are ignoring their own blind spots.

Marc Molinaro, Cuomo’s Republican opponent this year, learned this when Cuomo sought to turn the pay-to-play corruption argument back against him.

It’s a form of political jujitsu to use your opponent’s argument against them; it’s also a way of suffocating criticism and muddying a debate: Well, if this is how it works, what’s the problem?

Felder Wants NYC Voting Reforms

From the Morning Memo:

Sen. Simcha Felder late last week introduced legislation meant to change how New York City votes after sustained problems at the polls over the last several Election Days.

The measure would, where allowed, change New York City voting machines, create a mobile unit of voting technicians to make fixes and provide better training for poll workers.

“It is clear from this November’s election that changes are desperately needed to help citizens vote in New York City,” Felder said. “This legislation ensures that New Yorkers who show up to the polls are not met with broken machines and long lines.”

Felder wants voting machines with touchscreen technology that would also provide a voter with a paper record after casting a ballot.

Poll worker training and the mobile technician unit would work to alleviate any problems with machines on Election Day as they arise.

Voters in New York City this month complained of long lines at the polls and machines that were malfunctioning.

Democrats in the state Senate, poised to take the majority in January, are planning a package of election reforms that include same-day registration as well as early voting and other measures.

Felder, a Democrat from Brooklyn who conferences with Republicans in the state Senate, has not given any indication which side of the aisle he will sit on in come 2019.

Statewide Transit Coalition To Launch

From the Morning Memo:

A coalition is being launched today to advocate for public transportation systems in New York statewide ahead of the upcoming legislative session in Albany.

The group, to be known as New Yorkers For Better Public Transit, is being formed in part by the New York Public Transit Association, bringing together transit systems that provide service in cities like Rochester and Syracuse, as well as in the Tri-State area and on Long Island.

The coalition also includes General Contractors Association of New York, Reinvent Albany, the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, Vision Long Island, the Riders Alliance and the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA

“Whether they live in city centers or rural towns, millions of New Yorkers rely on the services transit operators across New York provide on a daily basis,” said Bill Carpenter, the president of the New York Public Transit Association and chief executive officer of Regional Transit Service in Rochester.

“Our partners in the transit community and in other industries recognize transit’s role in regional growth and development. We are excited to partner with them to push for state funding in 2019 that complements the investments the state is making in our communities and cements transit as a key contributor in improving the lives of all New Yorkers.”

The coalition has launched a petition drive meant to call attention to a variety of transit concerns, including an increase in funding, as well as a website that highlights the role public transit plays in the state’s economy.

The coalition also comes as the 2019 legislative session is expected to focus heavily on transit issues specifically in New York City when it comes to MTA service needs.

“Increasing public funding for transit is one of the best investments New York State government can make to grow the economy, improve quality of life, protect the environment and increase social justice,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany. “We are proud to be part of this coalition working to make New York better for everyone.”

Conwall To Executive Chamber

From the Morning Memo:

Jason Conwall, a familiar face around the state Capitol to reporters, is headed to the second floor.

Conwall is joining the executive chamber on Monday to serve as the deputy communications director for Albany in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office. He’ll be working with Rich Azzopardi to handle inquiries from the Legislative Correspondents Association.

He most recently worked as the senior director of communications for Empire State Development, serving as the chief spokesman for the agency and overseeing upstate communications since March 2012.

Before ESD, Conwall had spent two years with the press office of the Senate Democrats.

A Capital Region native, he’s a graduate of Hobart College in Geneva and Shenendehowa High School in Clifton Park.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public events announced or scheduled as of yet.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have lunch at the White House at 1:30 p.m.

At 10 a.m., the NYC Council Committee on Civil and Human Rights holds a hearing on legislation that would prohibit employer discrimination on the basis of an employee’s reproductive health decisions, Council Chambers, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., the NYC Council Committee on For-Hire Vehicles meets, Committee Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., the NYC Council Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities and Addiction meets jointly with the Committee on Aging, Council Chambers, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., the Assembly Committee on Codes, the Assembly Committee on Health, the Assembly Committee on Governmental Operations and the Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse hold a public hearing on allowing adult use of marijuana, Buffalo City Hall, Common Council Chambers, 13th floor, 65 Niagara Square, Buffalo.

At 10:45 a.m., Assemblyman Michael Blake attends a regional economy round table with John C. Williams, President and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of New York at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse, the Bronx.

At 11 a.m., Rep. Adriano Espaillat hosts a post office renaming ceremony in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen, United States Post Office, 99 Macombs Place, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., Queens Library President and CEO Dennis Walcott welcomes Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, NYC Councilman Donovan Richards and Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato to break ground on the new Far Rockaway Library, 1637 Central Ave., Queens.

Also at 11 a.m., NYC Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson and Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner launch the Findlay House meal and services program for seniors, 1175 Findlay Ave., Bronx.

Also at 11 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul delivers remarks at the opening of affordable housing for residents impacted by severe storms, Peconic Crossing, 11 W. Main St., Riverhead.

Also at 11 a.m., Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. gives opening remarks at the New York Federal Reserve Bank’s Economic Forum, Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx.

Also at 11 a.m., Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz provides an update on the driving while intoxicated arrests in the county, 95 Franklin St., 16th floor, Buffalo.

At 11:15 a.m., more than 80 city and village officials, including 50 mayors, from across New York converge at the Renaissance Hotel morning to discuss NYCOM’s priorities for the 2019 state budget, DeWitt Ballroom, 144 State St., Albany.

At 1 p.m., the NYC Council Committee on Hospitals meets jointly with the Committee on Health, 250 Broadway, 16th floor, Committee Room, Manhattan.

Also at 1 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will make an announcement about NYCHA, Betances Community Center, 547 E. 146th St., the Bronx.

Also at 1 p.m., Assemblyman Ron Kim and Senator-elect Jessica Ramos announce legislation and budgetary policies to end corporate welfare, like the kind given to Amazon, and repurpose taxpayer money toward investing directly in the people of New York, 136-20 38th Ave., Suite 10A, Flushing, Queens.

At 1:30 p.m., Hochul attends a turkey giveaway with state Sen. Brian Benjamin, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building, 163 W. 125th St., Suite 912, Manhattan.

At 2 p.m., the NYC Council Committee on Public Safety meets, Council Chambers, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 5:45 p.m., Hochul addresses the Women Builders Council Women of Real Estate event, Anchin, Block & Anchin, 1375 Broadway, Manhattan.

At 6:30 p.m., Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer speaks from the community stage at the Harlem Holiday Lights celebration and parade, West 125th Street and Morningside Avenue, Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., de Blasio will appear on NY1’s “Inside City Hall.”

Headlines…

In a NYT OpEd, former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is mulling a 2020 presidential run, tackles the issue of student college debt, and reveals he has given his alma mater, Johns Hopkins, $1.8 billion to allow it to be need blind in its admissions decisions going forward.

The gift, believed to be the largest private donation in modern times to higher education, is a landmark in a growing national movement to make elite universities more accessible to students from low-to-middle income families.

It will enable the private research university in Baltimore to eliminate loans from financial aid packages for incoming students starting next fall, expand grants for those in financial need and even provide relief to many current undergraduates who had previously taken out federal loans to pay their bills.

President Donald Trump said that he plans to visit US troops in war zones, a remark that comes after he received widespread criticism for not visiting an American burial ground outside Paris, France, earlier this month and Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day.

Trump, who last week said he was too busy to visit Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day, lashed out against Navy SEALs and the admiral who led them for taking too long to find Osama Bin Laden.

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö denied that he had advised Trump to rake forest floors to prevent wildfires like those currently ravaging California.

Nearly 1,300 people remain unaccounted for and the death toll from the country’s deadliest wildfire in a century climbed to 76, authorities said hours after Trump surveyed what remained of a decimated Northern California community.

A utility accused in a lawsuit of igniting California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire said it contacted a customer about a power line on her property but that sparks were not part of the discussion.

Trump said there is no reason for him to listen to a recording of the “very violent, very vicious” killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which has put him in a diplomatic bind: how to admonish Riyadh for the slaying yet maintain strong ties with a close ally.

So far, a challenger to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi in the speaker’s race has failed to emerge, though some of her members have made it quite clear they are not happy with her leadership.

Just hours after finishing a tumultuous election recount, Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes submitted her resignation, ending a 15-year tenure full of botched elections, legal disputes and blistering criticism.

With his company at “war,” Mark Zuckerberg’s new approach is causing unprecedented turmoil at Facebook, driving out several key executives and creating tensions with Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

Anti-Airbnb forces from around the world are set to meet in New York City today to discuss ways to better regulate home-sharing websites.

A writer and political consultant living in Seattle pens a cautionary tale to NYC about Amazon.

Ginia Bellafante: “We have internalized our use of Amazon to such a degree that we have trouble recognizing our complicity in the manufacture of the company’s own arrogance.”

Former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who used to investigate these sorts of deals when he was an elected official, takes a closer look at what NYC and the state have offered Amazon.

Queens Democratic Sen. Mike Gianaris, a leading critic of the deal to bring Amazon to New York City, will introduce legislation to bar the state from entering into future confidentiality agreements with private companies.

Some New York Democrats who are among the most vociferous opponents of the $2.8 billion package of incentives that the city and state rolled out to land Amazon a new HQ in Queens, are among its 100 million Prime subscribers – including Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

A bipartisan bill combating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement making its way through Congress has earned the support of a majority of senators, save for a handful – including Gillibrand – that share one thing in common: plans to potentially run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

For at least two decades, the New York City Housing Authority routinely disputed tests that revealed lead in its apartments, and got the Health Department to back down in many cases. Private landlords almost never do this.

More >

The Weekend That Was

President Donald Trump says he “very easily” answered written questions from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, though he speculated that the questions had been “tricked up” to try to catch him in a lie.

Trump said he has no plans to amend the U.S. Constitution in order to run for a third term.

Nearly two decades after voting problems in a handful of Florida counties paralyzed the nation, America’s election grid this month remained a crazy patchwork of inconveniences, confusion and errors, both human-made and mechanical.

The Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to American officials.

A top White House official responsible for American policy toward Saudi Arabia resigned – a move that may suggest fractures inside the Trump administration over the response to the brutal killing of Khashoggi.

Trump acknowledged Friday he shouldn’t have skipped a Veterans Day event honoring the nation’s fallen soldiers, marking a rare showing of regret from the typically remorseless commander-in-chief.

The standoff over Nancy Pelosi’s bid to regain the gavel intensified as Democrats left Washington for the Thanksgiving break, and Trump jumped in Saturday offering to “perform a wonderful service” by rounding up Republican votes for Pelosi’s speaker candidacy.

Democratic Staten Island Congresmsan-Elect Max Rose will not “under any circumstances” vote for Pelosi for speaker, his campaign manager reaffirmed.

In recent weeks, with his electoral prospects two years from now much on his mind, Trump has focused on the person who has most publicly tethered his fortunes to him. In one conversation after another he has asked aides and advisers a pointed question: Is Vice President Mike Pence loyal?

Amid a numbing succession of mass shootings, gun control groups outspent the National Rifle Association in the midterm election cycle, federal filings and additional reporting indicate, upending the usual order in the partisan battle over gun use.

A federal judge on Friday ordered the Trump administration to restore the press credentials of Jim Acosta of CNN, handing the cable network an early win in its lawsuit against the president and members of his administration.

Trump arrived in Northern California on Saturday to see firsthand the grief and devastation from the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century amid confusion over how many people remain unaccounted for.

The wildfires that have laid waste to vast parts of California are presenting residents with a new danger: air so thick with smoke it ranks among the dirtiest in the world.

Raging flames on both ends of the state have killed 74 people so far, and officials estimate as many as 1,011 were still unaccounted for late Saturday – but one official called that list “dynamic.”

Democrat Stacey Abrams begrudgingly acknowledged Friday that Republican Brian Kemp will be Georgia’s next governor — but she refused to officially concede the race and pledged to launch a lawsuit against the “gross mismanagement of this election.”

Democrat Andrew Gillum ended his hard-fought campaign for Florida governor on Saturday, just hours before counties must turn in their official results following days of recounting ballots.

Republican governor Bill Scott eked out a victory over Democrat incumbent Bill Nelson in the race for Senate in Florida following a hand recount of the votes nearly two weeks after the midterm elections.

Browns general manager John Dorsey said last week that he was open to hiring a woman as Cleveland’s next head coach, and one prominent name is on the team’s wish list to interview: former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In the culmination of a fierce rivalry between the two men, de Blasio fired Mark Peters, the head of the NYC Department of Investigation, on Friday – the first time in the agency’s 145-year history that its leader was booted by City Hall.

The firing takes effect Wednesday – the day before Thanksgiving – so Peters can “make a public explanation,” which is a requirement of the City Charter. Peters issued a statement saying he would take that opportunity.

The mayor named Margaret Garnett, the state’s executive deputy attorney general for criminal justice and a former federal prosecutor, to replace Peters at the Department of Investigation. Her appointment must be approved by the NYC Council.

Letitia James, the public advocate and incoming state attorney general, denounced Peters’ firing as “Trump-like behavior” and called on the NYC Council to hold hearings to ensure that ongoing investigations of the administration aren’t swept under the rug.

The NYT: “Mr. de Blasio appointed Mr. Peters and has the authority to fire him. But the city has benefited from Mr. Peters’ tenure. Mr. de Blasio’s administration needs rigorous oversight, just as much as the administrations of his predecessors did.”

The New York metro region was all but paralyzed by an early winter storm that led to recriminations and second-guessing Friday about what exactly went wrong.

NYC’s flaky response to last Thursday’s surprisingly heavy snowfall left some legislators wondering if Sanitation Department boss Kathryn Garcia has too much on her plate, and say her job should be re-evaluated.

NYC Schools chief Richard Carranza deserves an F for his handling of the snowstorm aftermath, angry parents said, because he refused to cancel or delay classes, even though countless students endured hours-long rides home the night before, some that lasted past midnight.

More >

Extras

In a rare move, Mayor de Blasio on Friday fired Department of Investigations Commissioner Mark Peters.

Cleanup efforts are underway across the Big Apple after the first snowfall of the season downed trees and brought the Thursday evening commute to an icy halt.

Tesla offered a tour inside its western New York factory — as long as cameras didn’t come along.

Serve America Movement, the ballot line that former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner ran on, has won its consolation prize: Ballot status for another four-year term.

A Cuomo spokeswoman on Friday wrote a letter to the Syracuse editorial board taking the newspaper to task for endorsing Republican Marc Molinaro after the governor won the city of Syracuse.

Can de Blasio be both a progressive and a booster of Amazon, a company led by one of the world’s richest men?

A judge ruled on Friday that the White House should reinstate the press pass of CNN reporter Jim Acosta.

President Donald Trump made an off-color joke about the sex life of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia during the ceremony for the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Higgins Reiterates He Won’t Support Pelosi For Speaker

Buffalo Democratic Congressman Brian Higgins has been relatively vocal this year about his lack of support for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The Democrats will take the majority for the first time in nearly a decade in January. Higgins said his opinion has not changed.

“It’s a preference that I have to see real reform in the House of Representatives,” he said. “I will not be voting for her but I want to see changes in the way this place operates.”

Higgins said both Democratic and Republican leaders have consolidated power while taking influence away from individual members and committees. He said the election of a new speaker is a chance to seize some of that power back.

“(There’s) a lot of buzz about Karen Bass out of California but I think there are plenty of candidates that should emerge as a potential speaker candidates that could put the votes together, given their geography, given the caucuses that their involved in. I just think we need a change,” Higgins said. “We’ve had the same leadership for 16 years and too much power has been consolidated under the leader and not enough power has been exercised by the individual members who were sent to Washington to represent 725,000 people.”

The congressman said, because whoever is elected needs a full majority, it gives lots of different caucuses leverage points. He said each of them will likely have their own priorities.

 

Flanagan To Remain Republican Leader

Sen. John Flanagan will remain the leader of the Republican conference in the state Senate as the conference will move to the minority for the first time since 2009.

Flanagan received 14 votes, with nine members backing Sen. Cathy Young, a western New York lawmaker who led the conference’s political fundraising efforts.

Republicans lost eight seats this month and could have as few as 23 members in the 63-member chamber next year.

“Right now we’re at a pivotal moment and we need to make adjustments to how we go along,” Young said after the vote. “We all need to work together. We need to unify behind each other because we certainly have some very challenging times ahead.”

The vote was preceded by a debate among Republicans over whether there is a need to have an upstate lawmaker lead the conference after a decade of a Long Island member at the top post. Flanagan, who gained the backing of both upstate members and his two fellow Long Islanders in the GOP conference, insisted he would be able to work as a statewide leader.

“I don’t mince my words. If I think the governor is doing something great, I’ll say so,” Flanagan said. “But I’m scared to death what’s coming.”

With Democrats holding large majorities in the state Senate and the Assembly, lawmakers are expected next year to push for a variety of measures, including single-payer health care, tax increases on the rich and driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants — proposals Republicans have campaigned against.

“The governor owns this. He’s all in on all of this,” Flanagan said. “I will match my ability to articulate our positions with anybody.”

Cuomo Is Not Running For President

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not running for president in 2020.

The evidence of a Cuomo 2020 bid — ramping up a campaign effort with trips to New Hampshire, a sudden interest in corn subsidies — is just not there.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has visited New Hampshire, has also hedged about running, a reverse from her pledge during his re-election bid that she would serve out her six-year term.

Cuomo, however, has not been hedging or winking or even shrugging about running for president.

He was pressed on it today in an interview with WAMC’s Alan Chartock about the potential of facing off against Gillibrand in a Democratic primary.

Cuomo, who said he and Gillibrand are friends and he respects her, also said, “I want to be governor, though.”

In his public comments since Election Day, Cuomo hasn’t really commented on broad-based national issues, but the coming 2019 legislative session. He has not shifted his view of single payer health care and the cost impact it would have on New York. He thinks lawmakers deserve a pay raise, but only if they ban outside income and “perform” — ie, approve budgets by the April 1 deadline.

Now, things can change. There’s still plenty of time for Cuomo to put together a campaign infrastructure and take those trips to early primary states.

His critics think he is running for president. Perhaps even some of his supporters would like him to. Maybe he has the ambition to be president, but that is different from actually running for president.

But, for now, Cuomo is not running for president.