Goo-Goos Want Review Of Wright’s Lobbying

A collection of good-government organizations on Friday called for ethics and lobbying regulators to review former Assemblyman Keith Wright’s work for a lobbying firm while also holding the Manhattan Democratic Party chairmanship.

“Keith Wright can be a party chairman or a lobbyist but he can’t have it both ways,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause New York. “The opportunities to wield his political position for personal enrichment, or use his position to advance a client’s agenda present a clear conflict of interest. He’s got to make a choice.”

The groups — Common Cause, Citizens Union and Reinvent Albany — sent a letter to the joint Commission on Public Ethics calling for an investigation.

“Keith Wright is a gifted New Yorker who did an excellent job representing the residents of the 70th Assembly district for 22 years,” said Dick Dadey, Executive Director of Citizens Union. “He also has done a very good job as county chair of the Manhattan Democrats. But his position now as both a paid and retained lobbyist, and party chair of the New York County Democrats is a troubling conflict.”

Wright left the Assembly last year after unsuccessfully running for the House seat vacated by Democrat Charlie Rangel, losing a primary to Adriano Espaillat.

Wright is now considering a run for the state Senate.

Faso: Town Halls Not ‘Productive’

As his colleagues receive an earful in town hall events across the country, Republican Rep. John Faso questioned why they should be held at all.

The freshman lawmaker said the events have turned into “shouting sessions” that aren’t conducive to discussing issues.

“I haven’t scheduled town halls because I’m finding if you look around the country, they really haven’t been extraordinarily productive,” Faso told Time Warner Cable News. “They’ve turned into shouting sessions and I don’t think that that kind of approach works.”

Faso was elected last year to the 19th congressional district, a Hudson Valley House seat that has been a battleground for both parties, even as the GOP has retained control of it since the 2012 round of reapportionment.

Faso’s fundraiser at the Fort Orange Club in Albany on Wednesday was the site of a protest, drawing constituents concerned with the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the alleged ties of President Donald Trump’s allies to Russia as well as other issues.

Enviros Urge Hoosick Falls Mayor Not To Settle

Environmental groups are urging Hoosick Falls Mayor David Borge to reject a proposed settlement with Saint Gobain and Honeywell for the PFOA water contamination.

“The proposed agreement sells the Village and its residents short, sets a poor precedent for other communities facing similar crises, and is not something to rush into as your term expires,” the letter states.

The letter from Environmental Advocates and Food and Water Watch was released on Thursday, hours before Borge adjourned a meeting of the village board early announcing one trustee had fallen ill and could not attend. The settlement is controversial within the village itself, with some residents saying it doesn’t go far enough.

The environmental groups, meanwhile, believe the settlement just isn’t too small, but could set a precedent for the other small communities in New York that are contending with similar industrial contaminates.

“Hoosick Falls is patient zero for water contamination crises in New York State – all eyes are on the Village to unequivocally set a strong example about what is the right way to respond to water contamination crises,” the groups wrote. “It is of utmost importance that the agreement the Village comes to with these two very large companies sets a high bar for communities everywhere.”

Mayor Borge Agreement Letter by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Moody’s Finds Free Tuition Plans Are Credit Positive

Proposal aimed at phasing out tuition costs in several states, including New York, are considered “credit positive” for public colleges, especially community colleges, Moody’s Investor Service found Friday in a report.

“Early indications are that community colleges, to which most of the implemented programs have been targeted, will benefit from enrollment growth at the expense of regionally oriented four-year public universities,” the report states. “However, should students transfer into four-year public university programs after completing two year community colleges, the net effect may balance over time. Programs to date have been relatively small in scale, with accordingly modest credit impacts.”

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $152 billion spending plan would provide free tuition to students whose families earn less than $125,000 once fully phased in.

Tennessee, Rhode Island and San Francisco are considering proposals with similar goals.

“The number of programs and proposals is likely to grow because free-tuition programs meet several policy priorities of governments, including increasing higher education participation rates to cultivate a trained workforce while maintaining affordability,” the report found. “They tend to be relatively cost-effective for sponsoring governments because each of the programs use a ‘last-dollar’ model whereby the state subsidizes tuition costs after the student has exhausted all other available state and federal financial aid.”

Questions remain in Albany over Cuomo’s proposal and whether the $160 million price tag he has set for the plan goes far enough in the budget.

Cuomo introduced the proposal in January alongside Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president last year and remains popular with the party’s base.

Senate GOP Backs Cuomo’s Push Against Bias Crimes

From the Morning Memo:

Senate Republicans are backing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest effort to combat hate crimes in New York, which includes $25 million in grants to strengthen security at soft targets like day care and community centers.

“We stand with the Governor, Assembly and the people of New York in strongly condemning hate crimes and anti-semitism anywhere it exists, and look forward to taking decisive action to combat it,” said Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif. “Security has always been a top priority of our conference and we must ensure the state provides adequate resources to protect our citizens from these attacks or threats.”

Cuomo announced the measures, which includes a text messaging feature for the Division of Human Rights to report hate crime incidents, after yet another round of bomb threats Jewish Community Centers and at the headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League in New York City.

Scrutiny has been further placed on anti-Semitic activity as President Donald Trump was slow to condemn both the incidents as well as the support he’s received from white supremacist groups during his campaign.

Trump this week forcefully condemned the incidents, saying the threats have to stop.

Ex-Sabres President Not Running For Buffalo Mayor

From the Morning Memo:

About three weeks or so ago, someone commissioned a mysterious poll about the upcoming mayoral race in Buffalo, according to a number of city residents who reported receiving the survey call.

Among the names of possible candidates mentioned during the call, many were expected.

There were, of course, questions about incumbent Mayor Byron Brown, who had not yet formally announced his campaign for a fourth term, which has subsequently occurred; city Comptroller Mark Schroeder, who’s planning to announce his widely-expected primary challenge to Brown next month; and Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant, who has said she’s still mulling a run.

But, as Harlan Snow noted in Artvoice earlier this month, two people the pollster heavily focused on were surprising – Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and Buffalo Public School Board member Larry Quinn.

Hochul was quick to say – on Twitter, naturally – that she already has a job, thanks very much, and has no plans to leave it. She helped introduce Brown at his re-election campaign kickoff earlier this week, so we can pretty safely rule her out of the race.

As for Quinn, he said – definitively – that we can go ahead and cross him off would-be candidates list, too.

“I don’t know who did the poll;” Quinn said. “I don’t know which candidate did the poll but I’m not running for mayor.”

Quinn, the former president of the Buffalo Sabres, expressed confusion as to why his name was in the mix, noting he has never expressed any interest in the mayor’s office.

“I think sometimes when they do polling, if whoever did it is trying to determine where they fit with people that might support me, so they might be trying to gauge their own popularity based on polling against somebody that might be in elected office,” he reasoned.

For the record, Quinn said he thinks Brown has been a good mayor and plans to support him in his quest for a fourth, four-year term.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City and Washington, D.C. with no public schedule.

President Donald Trump is also in D.C., where he is scheduled to make remarks at CPAC (Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center) this morning.

At noon, Trump will sign an executive order that is expected to address regulatory reform within government agencies.

In the afternoon, the president will meet in the Oval Office with one of his 2016 GOP primary opponents, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and also with President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of Peru.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will travel to Atlanta, Georgia to attend the DNC Winter Meeting. He’s expected to be questioned by federal agents this morning regarding a probe into his fundraising.

At 9 a.m., John Jay College of Criminal Justice 27th annual Malcolm/King Scholarship Breakfast, honoring John Jay College of Criminal Justice President Jeremy Travis and Center on Race, Crime, and Justice Founding Director Delores Jones-Brown, 524 W. 59th St., Manhattan.

Also at 9 a.m., Rep. Adriano Espaillat hosts a Black History Month celebration, 163 W. 125th St., 2nd floor art gallery, Manhattan.

Also at 9 a.m., Rep. Nydia Velazquez attends a Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp. quarterly elected officials briefing, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Building 92, fourth floor, Brooklyn.

At 10 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul participates in the groundbreaking ceremony for a $3.3. million penguin exhibit at the Aquarium of Niagara, 701 Whirlpool St., Niagara Falls.

Also at 10 a.m., there’s a federal court hearing on the temporary restraining order issued on Trump’s first immigration-related executive order, Eastern District, 225 Cadman Plaza, Courtroom 10D, Brooklyn.

At 11 a.m., Sen. Tim Kennedy will join nearly a dozen members of Buffalo’s leading business and community organizations to discuss Phase II of Buffalo Billion funding that has been proposed in the 2017-2018 final state budget, University Metro Station, second level, 3434 Main St., Buffalo.

Also at 11 a.m., Rep. Carolyn Maloney joins seniors to warn against a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Swinging 60s Senior Center, 211 Ainslie St., Brooklyn.

Also at 11 a.m., Assemblywoman Nily Rozic joins Townsend Harris High School students, alumni, parents, teachers and others at a rally against acting Principal Rosemarie Jahoda and her candidacy in the C-30 process to choose the next principal, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 11:30 a.m., Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and concerned residents of Greenpoint will sound the alarm on the feared environmental and public health harm that may result from the state’s planned implosion of the Kosciuszko Bridge, Meeker and Stewart avenues, Brooklyn.

At noon, Bronx Chamber of Commerce hosts Black Heritage Luncheon honoring award recipients including NYC Councilman Andy King, NYC Parks Owen Dolen Recreation Center Manager Kathleen Walker-Pinckney and others, F&J Pine Restaurant, 1913 Bronxdale Ave., the Bronx.

Also at noon, Maloney joins seniors to warn against a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Pete McGuinness Senior Center, 715 Leonard St., Brooklyn.

At 1 p.m., U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Robert Capers speaks at a Police Athletic League luncheon, Mutual of America, 320 Park Ave., Manhattan.

At 3:30 p.m., Hudson Valley AFL-CIO holds a “Care Not Chaos” press conference, Monticello Village Hall, 2 Pleasant St., Monticello.

At 6:30 p.m., Velazquez attends the 10th anniversary gala and recognition awards ceremony of the Hotel Chinese Association, Jing Fong Restaurant, 20 Elizabeth St., Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., Sen. Ruben Diaz, Assembly Members Marcos Crespo, Luis Sepulveda, Michael Blake, Victor Pichardo and New York City Councilmember Rafael Salamanca hold the annual “African-American Abrazo,” honoring the contributions of African-Americans to the state and city, Maestro’s Caterers, 1703 Bronxdale Ave., the Bronx. (Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is among the honorees).

Headlines…

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is set to be questioned today by federal prosecutors in connection with a corruption investigation into fundraising on his behalf. A spokesman for the mayor has said that he didn’t request and wasn’t offered immunity in exchange for participating in the questioning.

In recent weeks, investigators appear to have focused on a relatively new area in the inquiry, looking into the mayor’s relationship with a Brooklyn businessman, prominent Satmar rabbit and leader Moishe Indig, who hosted a fund-raiser for de Blasio in October 2013, after the Democratic primary but before the general election.

President Donald Trump touted his administration’s efforts to remove criminal immigrants who are in the United States illegally, describing the initiative as a “military operation.”

In the wake of Trump’s broad executive orders on deporting undocumented immigrants, Suffolk County police officials are wrestling with a conundrum facing police departments across the country: how to shut down a violent gang when the immigrants they will need as witnesses and tipsters may be afraid to come forward.

The FBI reportedly shot down a request from White House chief of staff Reince Priebus to dispute media reports that top Trump aides had regular contact with Russian agents during the presidential election.

Priebus and pugnacious chief presidential strategist Steve Bannon took their strained buddy routine to the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday, reminiscing about Trump’s election victory, promising revolutionary change in Washington, denying their ongoing West Wing power struggle and — naturally — bashing the news media.

In his first public speaking appearance since Trump took office, Bannon said the new administration is locked in an unending battle against the media and other globalist forces to “deconstruct” an outdated system of governance.

Richard Spencer, a founder of the alt-right movement that seeks a whites-only state and that strongly backed Trump for president, was expelled from the Conservative Political Action Conference after being criticized from its main stage, then giving interviews to a growing crowd of reporters.

Trump might get lucky on his second try for a labor secretary. His nominee Alexander Acosta — who stepped up to replace fast-food CEO Andy Puzder, who withdrew from contention the day before his Senate confirmation hearing — has received some early union support.

The vast majority of Americans support keeping ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion, according to a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

A Muslim staffer on the National Security Council quit eight days into the Trump administration, citing the president’s travel ban as the motivating factor in a personal account published Thursday by The Atlantic.

Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is “very easy to get along with,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said.

Bader Ginsburg praised the media at a time when the Trump administration has accused reporters of being dishonest and delivering
“fake news.”

In response to a sharp uptick in hate crimes across New York state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for a $25 million program that would provide additional security measures to schools and day-care centers affiliated with religious or other belief-based organizations.

Cuomo is still declining to weigh in on who should become the next chair of the Democratic National Committee, making him one of the state’s only high-ranking Democrats not to name a preference in the closely watched race.

No matter who wins, the next Democratic chairman will face a daunting task, said Buffalo Mayor and state Democratic Chairman Byron Brown, who is leaning toward backing former U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez, a Buffalo native.

“They say I’m thin-skinned. I’m calloused compared to FDR,” Cuomo told an audience at the West Haverstraw Municipal Center in Rockland County.

Caitlyn Jenner finally broke her silence on Trump’s move to end federal guidelines that directed public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identities, calling it a “disaster.”

Cuomo says the state will continue to allow transgender students to use public school bathrooms that match their gender identity after the Trump’s administration reversed a similar federal policy.

More >

Extras

New Education secretary Betsy DeVos defended the Trump administration’s decision to rescind protections for transgender students, arguing that the protections were an “overreach” of the Obama administration.

The new chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel, says Democrats are “out of touch” with Americans.

The vast majority of Americans are no fans of Russian president Vladimir Putin, but despite a well-oiled anti-Russia machine in Washington his approval level has nearly doubled, according to a Feb. 21 Gallup poll.

The League of Conservation Voters’ national environmental scorecard is out. Not surprisingly, New York Democratic House members score high, while their Republican colleagues score low.

Trump said in an interview he doesn’t support the “one-sided” new START treaty that places caps on nuclear weapons with Russia.

The NBA has generally moved to the political left in repudiating Trump, but Knicks owner James Dolan gave $300,000 to a group supporting the Republican’s presidential campaign.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan announced the formation of a campaign to push for equitable state aid to the state’s capital city.

In the wake of Rochester City Council voting to re-affirm Rochester as a sanctuary city, Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo says she has reservations about the county following suit.

Brooklyn Rep. Yvette Clarke on Thursday predicted Trump will be impeached soon: “It won’t be long.”

Cuomo rallied for his shared services proposal on Thursday in Rockland County, picking up support for the plan from County Executive Ed Day.

After it was unable to find a buyer, Kraft-Heinz is distributing layoff notices to workers at its cheese factory in the Southern Tier.

Cuomo also continued to remain neutral in the race for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee.

Oprah Winfrey will speak at Skidmore College’s graduation this spring.

Alan Colmes, a former Fox News host and liberal sparring partner of Sean Hannity, has died.

Cuomo Beefs Up Anti-Hate Crimes Efforts

With heightened concerns over anti-Semitic acts in New York and around the country, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday unveiled a push to combat hate crimes.

Cuomo, who met with 50 religious leaders from across the state in New York City, announced a $25 million grant program for schools, community center and day care facilities that would bolster security. At the same time, New Yorkers can report hate crimes by texting “HATE” to 81336, which would direct them to the state Division of Human Rights.

And Cuomo plans to push for legislation that would expand the state’s human rights law that would include a public-private legal defense fund for immigrants.

The moves come following bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers in New York cities as well as a bomb threat this week aimed at the Anti-Defamation League’s offices in New York City.

“There is no place for hate or discrimination or bigotry in New York,” Cuomo said this afternoon. “And New Yorkers will come together with one voice, as one force, we will find the perpetrators of these hate crimes and it will stop. Period. And we hope that this message that we send in New York today echoes across this country. Because enough is enough.”

Cuomo: ‘No Confusion’ In Transgender Rights (Updated)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a letter to officials at the state Education Department on Thursday wrote that despite the shift in Title IX enforcement for transgender students by the Trump administration, nothing should change in New York.

“There can be no confusion in this State,” Cuomo wrote in the letter to Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “New York State schools must continue to enforce the law and protect transgender and gender non-conforming students.”

Cuomo pointed to the state’s Dignity for All Students Act, an anti-bullying measure that requires schools to protect students based on discrimination or harassment.

“No student should be confused about their rights or fearful of losing these important protections,” the letter states. “By immediately issuing this directive, the State will provide clarity to all school administrators and provide our transgender students with the reassurance they need to maximize their potential and understand their rights.”

The letter comes as the federal government through President Donald Trump’s administration will no long enforce the Obama-era guidance of protections for transgender students when it comes to issues such as lockroom or bathroom use based on gender identification.

The Trump administration has insisted the move is based on an interpretation of states’ rights. Nationally, individual states have come under fire to implementing measures considered hostile to the LGBTQ community. Cuomo, in turn, has instituted non-essential state travel bans to states like North Carolina.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers are expected to once again push for the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that is designed to block discrimination in the workplace or housing based on gender identity.

The measure has stalled in the Senate, but Cuomo has through executive action enforced aspects of the measure through existing human rights legislation.

Updated: Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Elia in a joint statement reiterated support for enforcing current laws aimed at protecting students.

“The Trump Administration’s decision to rescind this guidance sends a dangerous and divisive message and threatens some of our most vulnerable young people,” Schneiderman said.

“But in New York State, the law remains the law — and school districts have independent duties to protect transgender students from discrimination and harassment when they go to school. My office will use all the existing tools of federal, state, and local law to ensure that transgender kids are safe in their schools and are provided equal access to all programming and facilities consistent with their gender identity.”

Added Elia: “Transgender youth are valued members of our schools and communities across New York State, yet statistics show that more than half of them will attempt suicide at least once by their 20th birthday. So we must do everything in our power to create learning environments that are safe and welcoming for all. The guidance we have developed with Attorney General Schneiderman and our partners underscores the value we place on respecting all students and indeed all people.”