DEC Looking Into Another Potential Discharge Near Niagara Falls

From the Morning Memo:

State and local leaders are still dealing with the fallout from a plume of sewage, 2 1/2 weeks after it ended up in the river by Niagara Falls. Tuesday, the state Department of Environmental Conservation dropped a potential bomb.

Did it happen again?

“DEC Environmental Conservation Officers and technical staff responded to a call today at 3:40 p.m. regarding the presence of discolored water from the main outfall near the Maid of the Mist dock,” the statement, which appeared in inboxes Thursday evening, read.

The department said a high intensity storm was reported that may have contributed to the potential sewage discharge. It continued to say it was investigating to see if the incident was related to last month’s discharge.

A spokesperson for the Niagara Falls Water Board acknowledged there was an overflow situation and said it was indeed because of the heavy rain.

“When this volume of water occurs, the waste water treatment plant is permitted to overflow the hundred foot weir, with the water then passing through the monitoring station. These sort of overflow events, which are different then the July 29th discharge incident, are formally reported on both the SPDEDS permit and the NY Alert System,” Matt Davison said.

Niagara Falls has hired international engineering firm Aecom to investigate what happened last month.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is on a family vacation in Rhode Island.

President Donald Trump is scheduled to depart Trump Tower this afternoon to return to his golf club in New Jersey, where he will sign the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act.

Vice President Mike Pence departs Argentina for Chile, where he will participate in a bilateral meeting with President Michelle Bachelet, followed by a joint press conference and lunch. Pence will then meet with U.S. Embassy staff and their families in Chile.

In the evening, Pence will deliver keynote remarks at a dinner on Advancing Prosperity & Economic Growth Throughout the Western Hemisphere honoring AACCLA’s 50th Anniversary & AmCham Chile’s 100th Anniversary.

At 8 a.m., City & State hosts the 2017 On Education conference featuring NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, state Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa, CUNY Chancellor James Milliken, SUNY Chairman H. Carl McCall and others, Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Pl., Manhattan.

At 8:45 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul hosts a roundtable discussion with women leaders, Parkview Restaurant, 145 Front St., Owego.

At 9 a.m., Assemblyman Walter Mosley announces the “Love Yourself” Brooklyn Peace Concert, in partnership with Sen. Jesse Hamilton, District Leader Geoffrey Davis, and other community members, as a response to tragedies at Brooklyn’s J’Ouvert Parade in past years, Medgar Evers College, Brooklyn.

At 9:30 a.m., Hochul, Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo and members of the Broome-Tioga Suffrage Anniversary Committee announce upcoming events, Tioga County Courthouse, 20 Court St., Owego.

At 10 a.m., the NYC Department of Environmental Protection holds a public hearing, 1 Centre St., Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., Rep. Claudia Tenney tours Family Health Network for National Health Center Week and receives an award, 17 Main St., Suite 302, Cortland.

Also at 10 a.m., Republican Nassau County executive candidate Jack Martins and Curtis Sliwa will hold a press conference discussing issues in the race, Mineola Village Hall, 55 Washington Ave., Mineola, Long Island.

At 11 a.m., Hochul announces the winners of the 76West Clean Energy Competition, Double Tree by Hilton, 225 Water St., Binghamton.

Also at 11 a.m., NYC mayoral candidate Sal Albanese holds a press conference on the increase in homeless students and outlines a plan for “truly affordable housing” and a pied-a-terre tax, outside City Hall gates, Broadway and Murray Street, Manhattan.

At noon, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie makes an announcement regarding mass transit and transportation infrastructure in Westchester County, White Plains Train Station, 16 Ferris Ave., White Plains.

Also at noon, Democratic Nassau County executive candidate Laura Curran pledges to uphold the Pre-Trump Rule ensuring taxpayer funded infrastructure projects are built to accommodate effects of climate change if she’s elected, the Boardwalk at Riverside Boulevard, Long Beach.

At 1:30 p.m., Hochul delivers remarks at a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Corning Community College Health Education Center, Corning Community College, 132 Denison Parkway East, Corning.

At 2:30 p.m., enney tours the Greater Binghamton Airport and announces a federal grant, Greater Binghamton Airport, 2534 Airport Road, Johnson City.

At 4 p.m., the Black Institute President and Founder Bertha Lewis calls on the NYC Parks Department to “stop discriminatory practices toward minority business owners,” with members of Wallball World, U.S. Wallball Association, current No. 1 worldwide wallball professional athlete Timbo Gonzales and others, Macombs Dam Park, E. 157 Street and W. 161 Street, the Bronx.

At 5 p.m., Hochul joins WNY clergy and community leaders at a prayer vigil in response to the violence in Charlottesville, Durham Memorial AME Zion Church, 174 E Eagle St., Buffalo.

Also at 5 p.m., a “Fighting for Our Local Jobs!” rally, organized by Rep. Adriano Espaillat, NYC Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, Sen. Marisol Alcantra and Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa is held, corner of 179th Street and Broadway, Manhattan.

At 5:30 p.m., Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Sen. Catharine Young host the Saratoga Salute, National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, 191 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs.

At 6 p.m., the Suffolk County Republican Committee hosts the Chairman Club’s Fundraising Reception, featuring Reps. Peter King and Lee Zeldin, Tellers American Chophouse, 605 Main St., Islip.

Also at 6 p.m., NYC Councilman Rodriguez hosts a rally against the developer SJM Partners, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Workforce 1 and Marshall’s, corner of 179th Street and Broadway, Bronx.

Headlines…

President Donald Trump abandoned his measured tone and reverted to blaming both sides for the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va., at one point questioning whether the movement to pull down Confederate statues would lead to the desecration of memorials to George Washington.

In so doing, Trump buoyed the white nationalist movement as no president has done in generations — equating activists protesting racism with the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who rampaged in Charlottesville.

Members of Trump’s own party quickly condemned his statements, calling on him to stand up to the hate groups instead of encouraging them.

The chief executive of Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, criticized Trump in front of his 1.5 million American employees, widening a rift between the White House and the business community that has been growing since the weekend’s violence in Charlottesville.

Trump was asked whether the attack on Heather Heyer in Charlottesville was “terrorism.” His response may make it more difficult for Virginia to prosecute James Fields for murder (already charged) or the United States to prosecute him for federal crimes, experts said.

Trump left Steve Bannon twisting in the wind, saying “we’ll see what happens” when asked whether his top strategist will remain in the White House, though he did call Bannon a “friend of mine…not a racist, I can tell you that.”

Premiums for the most popular health insurance plans would shoot up 20 percent next year, and federal budget deficits would increase by $194 billion in the coming decade, if Trump carried out his threat to end certain subsidies paid to insurance companies under the Affordable Care Act, the Congressional Budget Office said.

In the wake of the rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that resulted in numerous injuries and the death of one anti-racist protester, Cuomo called for higher penalties for New Yorkers who incite, or participate in, a riot.

The president announced that he had signed a sweeping executive order to eliminate and streamline some permitting regulations and to speed construction of roads, bridges and pipelines, declaring this would fix a “badly broken” infrastructure system in America and bring manufacturing jobs back to the country.

Former President Barack Obama’s three-part tweet of a Nelson Mandela quote in the wake of the Charlottesville rally that left one counter-protester dead is the most liked tweet ever.

Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was the keynote speaker at a naturalization ceremony at the Freedom Tower, and was feeling pretty proud of all that is America…then came Trump’s latest press conference.

Neighbors of Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski say he threatened to use his “political clout” to make their lives “a nightmare” over an ongoing land dispute, according to a new lawsuit.

Jared Kushner’s real estate company systematically screwed some Brooklyn tenants out of rent-stabilized leases, a new lawsuit charged.

Health-insurance rates for individuals in New York will increase next year on average by about 15 percent, as well as 9 percent for small group plans, which is lower than the 17 percent and 11.5 percent sought by the industry.

The state’s rate decision, made by DFS, will not affect the vast majority of New York residents, who get their health insurance through a big employer, Medicare, Medicaid or the state’s Essential Plan.

Diocese officials announced they would be removing a plaque honoring Gen. Robert E. Lee that has long been affixed to a tree outside a Brooklyn church following the events in Charlottesville last weekend and renewed concerns over Confederate symbols and statues.

One person was arrested during a second wave of protests at Trump Tower yesterday, police said.

The FDA has filed court papers in support of an effort to overturn a New York City law requiring calorie counts to be posted by certain establishments — at least the second time the Trump administration has inserted itself into a local case.

A federal district court judge has ordered Costco to pay Tiffany more than $19 million for selling generic diamond engagement rings that were marketed using Tiffany’s name.

Assemblyman Herman “Denny” Farrell, 85, said that on Sept. 5 he will resign the seat he’s held the past 42 years, citing age, health, and the demands of the job as chairman of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee as key reasons for his decision.

More >

Extras

President Donald Trump delivered an unusual and fiery press conference at Trump Tower in which he reverted to blaming both sides for racially charged violence in Virginia.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh sent a strong message that hate groups will not be welcome in his city ahead of a planned “Free Speech Rally” that will reportedly take place on Boston Common next week.

The NAACP of Syracuse and Onondaga County called for Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco to apologize for remarks he made in a radio interview about the race-fueled violence in Charlottesville, Va.

Given the fractious tenure of outgoing Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, the candidates vying to replace her have been trying to outdo one another in how collaborative they can be, which is keeping the race pretty tame so far.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino has a new re-election ad out.

The DMV has not done enough to prevent automotive repair shops and inspection stations from operating without valid registrations, putting consumers at an increased risk to be scammed by dishonest businesses, according to an audit issued by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.

Congestion pricing is a heavy lift at the Capitol, political observers say, and it will be impossible to fully assess the proposal’s prospects until more is known about Cuomo’s actual plan and the extent to which he’ll embrace his own trial balloon.

Democrats for Education Reform President Shavar Jeffries, one of the charter school sector’s most prominent black leaders, resigned from the Success Academy Charter Schools’ board of directors earlier this summer after criticizing U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

A new Ron Perlman movie is filming in Syracuse this week; crews set up scenes for filming “Asher,” starring Perlman as an aging hitman who seeks redemption, last night and early this morning.

Mark Elliott is suing White Plains Democratic City Committee leaders for striking his name from a petition supporting a Democratic challenger for mayor because he put his address down as being in “WP” instead of spelling out White Plains.

RIP Milton Mollen, who led a commission that found that the New York City Police Department had been “willfully blind” to drug-related corruption by organized bands of rogue officers in the 1980s and early ’90s. He died yesterday at his home in Manhattan at the age of 97.

RIP Wayne Bennett, the retired State Police superintendent who went on to lead the city’s police and fire departments for a decade, who died today at the age of 71.

The financial troubles for Connecticut’s capital, Hartford, which is veering toward bankruptcy, come at a time when the state is mired in its own problems, including going weeks without a budget.

Charter Communications is asking state regulators to effectively freeze administrative complaints that it filed against Verizon and other utilities in the state after not being able to get their cable wires attached to poles.

Factory activity in New York surged this month to the highest level in nearly three years.

The latest addition to the State Fair food roundup: The milky bun.

Prince is being honored with a custom color. The Prince Estate and the Pantone Color Institute teamed up to create the hue called “Love Symbol #2.”

DFS: Insurance Rates To Increase 14.6 Percent

Insurance rates on average will increase by 14.6 percent for individuals and more than 11 percent for group plans for the 3 million people who are enrolled in the state’s health care exchange, the Department of Financial Services on Tuesday announced.

The increase comes as insurance companies had sought a 17.7 percent increase in June, with most of the initial requests revised downard.

State insurance regulators said the increases were needed in order to potentially offset cuts from the federal government if changes to the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, are approved.

“DFS has carefully examined the rates requested by health insurers to reduce the burden of excessive health insurance premium increases on New Yorkers while maintaining competitive markets in the face of rising national healthcare and pharmaceutical costs, compounded by ill-conceived Congressional attempts to repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act,” said Financial Services Superintendent Maria Vullo in a statement.

The health exchange has 15 plans that offer individual coverage and 20 plans for those in small group coverage.

Tax credits for those eligible will decrease the rates by up to 5 percent when purchasing low-cost silver plans.

“Many consumers buying plans through the NY State of Health Marketplace will be eligible to receive federal tax credits, reducing the monthly cost of coverage,” said NY State of Health Executive Director, Donna Frescatore. “In many cases, after tax credits, consumers’ costs will be about the same or in some cases lower in 2018. Thousands of NY State of Health Assistors will again be available to help consumers shop the Marketplace for the best value.”

Efforts to repeal parts of the ACA have so far sputtered in Congress.

Silver Receives April 16 Trial Date

A second trial for ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will start April 16 and run through late May, a federal judge on Tuesday ruled.

Judge Valerie Caproni noted in her order the date is subject “to a decision from the Supreme Court” related to the definition of corruption charges.

Silver was convicted in 2016 of fraud and corruption charges stemming from referral fees he received as an attorney at Weitz & Luxenberg. The conviction was tossed earlier this year, however, due to jury instructions that did not comport with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of a “theft of honest services” charge.

Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York soon indicated they would seek a second trial for Silver, requesting one for the spring of next year.

Silver Trial by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Voter Roll Tick Tock

It took just over a month for President Donald Trump’s commission on election integrity to gain access to New York’s voter rolls, according to documents obtained from Board of Elections through the Freedom of Information Law.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had declared on June 30 the state would not share voter data with the commission, formed after Trump falsely declared he would have won the popular vote last year had it not been for the millions of illegally cast votes.

The statement came four days after Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity had written to New York Secretary of State Rossanna Rosado to request the voter information. Unlike many states, the secretary of state in New York does not maintain the state’s voter rolls or oversee elections.

The letter, signed by commission vice chair Kris Kobach, included a list of questions including what federal election law changes should be made to “enhance the integrity of federal elections” and if any convictions for “election-related crimes” have occurred in New York since the 2000 election.

On July 10, the federal voter commission sent an email to the state Board of Elections, asking the board to not release any voter information to the commission pending the outcome of a judicial ruling in a case challenging the commission’s work.

The Board of Elections, through spokesman John Conklin, responded with some bewilderment.

“The NY State Board of Elections never received any request for data from your organization as it was sent to the NY Secretary of State. In NY the Secretary of State has very little responsibility for elections,” the email stated. “It would be greatly appreciated if you would submit a letter to the attention of our Commissioners or our Co-executive directors at the below mailing address and this email address.”

Ultimately, the ruling landed in the Trump administration’s favor. The led to a July 26 letter from Kobach making a second, more formal request for information from the Board of Elections.

“I want to assure you that the Commission will not publicly release any personally identifiable information regarding any individual voter or any group of voters from the voter registration records you submit,” he wrote. “Individuals’ voter registration records will be kept confidential and secure throughout the duration of the Commission’s existence. Once the Commission’s analysis is complete, the Commission will dispose of the data as permitted by federal law.”

Two days a later, on July 28, a formal FOIL request by the election integrity commission was made for the state’s voter registration rolls.

On Aug. 2, the board announced at its meeting it would comply with the request.

“It’s going through the normal process, but my understanding is the process is moving forward with complying with it,” said Board of Elections spokesman Thomas Connolly.

July 26%2c 2017 Letter From Vice Chair Kris Kobach to New York by Nick Reisman on Scribd

July 26%2c 2017 Letter From Vice Chair Kris Kobach to New York by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Cuomo Pushes Bill Expanding Hate Crimes Laws

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced Tuesday he will introduce legislation that would add rioting and inciting to riot that target specific protected classes to offenses under the state’s hate crime laws.

The measure comes in response to the violent clashes on Saturday in Virginia that left a counter demonstrator and two state police officers dead.

“The ugly events that took place in Charlottesville must never be repeated, and in New York we’re going to stand united against hate in all of its forms,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“Our diversity is our strength and this legislation will help protect New Yorkers and send a clear signal that violence and discrimination have no place in our society. New York is one community and one family, and we will never stop fighting to ensure the safety and equal treatment of all New Yorkers.”

State law currently provides for charging a person with a hate crime if they commit an offense that is targeting specific victims based on their race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, disability or sexual orientation.

Cuomo’s bill would amend the existing law to add inciting a riot and rioting when directed a specific class.

Penalties would be increased from a class E felony to a D felony for rioting. Inciting a riot would have penalties increased to a class E felony.

Cuomo is also calling on lawmakers to amend the state’s human rights law to add protections for public school students against discrimination. On Monday, he signed legislation that bolster penalties for those who make bomb threats against community centers.

GOP Advocacy Group Unveils New Digital Campaign

From the Morning Memo:

A Republican-aligned advocacy group is ramping up a new $500,000 digital campaign this week with ads targeting 31 congressional districts — including three in New York — to boost GOP efforts on tax reform.

The American Action Network is airing the ads in the 19th, 22nd and 24th congressional districts in upstate New York — all considered key swing districts ahead of next year’s midterm elections.

“It’s time to cut taxes for working families. Congress must act on tax reform that will deliver more jobs, bigger paychecks, and allow the U.S. to compete with countries like China,” said Corry Bliss, AAN Executive Director.

“Polls show Americans are ready for tax reform, and AAN’s Middle-Class Growth Initiative will continue working to build momentum for a pro-growth tax code with lower rates. With this latest effort, across 31 congressional districts, we’re urging Americans to make their voices heard and urge their member of Congress to keep up the fight and make meaningful tax reform a reality.”

The ads will run for the next month, aimed at mobile users, and urge constituents to push House lawmakers to back tax reform legislation, which is expected to be part of a contentious debate in Washington once the summer recess ends.

For New York, the ads will be seen in the districts of Reps. John Faso, Claudia Tenney and John Katko — three Republicans believed to be potentially vulnerable in 2018 by the host of Democratic candidates lining up to challenge them.

The group previously announced a $3.5 million radio and TV campaign for tax reform.

Stewart-Cousins Won’t Call for Loeb Cash Returns

From the Morning Memo:

State Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins declined to call for recipients of campaign cash from Dan Loeb – including Gov. Andrew Cuomo – to return the money, even after the hedge fund manager has been roundly criticized for making a racist statement about her on Facebook. 

In her first TV interview since the incident last week, in which Loeb made a KKK reference in connection with the African American senator, Stewart-Cousins said all elected officials need to be circumspect about the origins of the political contributions they receive. 

“I think that people have to be extremely concerned, we all as public officials have to be extremely concerned, about who is giving us money and what their expectations are,” the senator said.

“And certainly once one reveals who they are, then I think it’s incumbent on anyone to take a look at whether or not this money should be kept. And again, these are individual decisions.”

Stewart-Cousins did specifically note that Loeb has given money to the IDC, (basically echoing my comments on the matter), and then got in a dig about the Senate Republicans’ blocking campaign finance reform, saying: 

“Tthe reality is that we are all here for public service; we are here because there’s a bigger agenda. We should be here because we care about what happens to New York and what happens to New Yorkers, and we should be prepared to work together as public servants to do that, despite the outsized influence of money, which, because our Republicans continue to stop any notion of campaign finance reform, we continue to deal with.”

Loeb’s financial support of the Senate Republicans has been widely reported, as has his contribution to the IDC and his donations to a pro-charter school independent expenditure that spent heavily on behalf of members of both conferences in the last election cycle and helped keep them in power. 

Loeb has also contributed a heft chunk of change over the years to Gov. Andrew Cuomo – more than $170,000 when money given by the hedge fund manager’s wife is also tallied. Though he has rebuked Loeb for his racist statements, the governor has so far not said anything about returning these contributions. 

(FWIW, Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco said yesterday he doesn’t see any reason why the governor needs to give back Loeb’s money, though he deemed the racist remarks made against Stewart-Cousins “outrageous”). 

Stewart-Cousins joined us just hours after attending a Harlem rally at which fellow Democrats expressed their support for her and for her ascension to majority leader of the Senate. The event was not attended by the governor, though he did send his top counsel, Alphonso David. 

Also attending the rally was Deputy Senate Minority Leader Mike Gianaris, a Queens Democrat, whom an anonymous top Cuomo aide bashed to Ken Lovett of the NY Daily News, essentially blaming Gianaris for the failure of the so-called regular Democrats and the IDC to come to a peace agreement due to his ongoing rocky relationship with IDC Leader Jeff Klein, of the Bronx. 

Stewart-Cousins rejected the notion that Gianaris is to blame, and reiterated (multiple times) the importance of having Democrats come together to claim what she sees as their rightful place in the majority, though a current vacancy – via the seat given up last week by former Brooklyn Democratic Sen. Daniel Squadron – temporarily complicates matters. 

For the record, Stewart-Cousins says she doesn’t have a favorite in the battle to replace Squadron, and feels comfortable with the process of having the party leaders of Manhattan and Brooklyn select a candidate to run in a yet-to-be-called special election. 

Flanagan: Democratic Infighting Will Help Senate GOP

From the Morning Memo:

The idea of Democrats gain a governing majority in the state Senate is a “moot point” considering Republicans have a working majority in the chamber already, Republican leader John Flanagan wrote in an op/ed to State of Politics.

At the same time, Flanagan wrote the internecine fighting among Democrats will help Republicans retain and grow their power in the Senate.

“Democrat infighting, and the machinations being made by Senator Stewart-Cousins and Senator Gianaris about who would be in charge of a hypothetical Democrat Senate, are academic,” he said. “Republicans have the majority now and will have an even more robust one come 2019.”

The op/ed is Flanagan’s most extensive remarks since the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference this summer has been pressured by activists groups and the mainline conference to align themselves with the rest of their party in the Senate.

“No matter how many times the mainline Democrats or their radical allies on the left say Republicans don’t have a numerical majority, it’s just not true,” Flanagan wrote. “We have 32 members in our conference who caucus together and work together to improve the lives of the citizens of this state.”

Flanagan is referring to Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a registered Democrat who conferences with the Senate GOP in the chamber. Felder has indicated he would side with Democrats, but only unless the IDC bolted from their alignment with the Senate Republicans.

The IDC, led by Bronx Democrat Jeff Klein, had worked in a coalition-stlye arrangement in the Senate for a two-year term. But the IDC has remained a key bloc of votes in the Senate, growing by several members in the last year and angering liberals anew after the election of Donald Trump to the presidency.

A new pressure point appeared last week, when billionaire political donor and charter school benefactor Dan Loeb criticized Democratic Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins for harming people of color more than Ku Klux Klan. Loeb apologized and elected officials from both parities criticized the remarks.

Flanagan, meanwhile, expects to be able to grow his conference — and its narrow margin in the chamber — in next year’s elections.

It’s unclear, for now, where Republicans plan to play offense next year. But both parties will likely stake their battleground races in suburban districts once again, with the Hudson Valley and Long Island seats playing vital roles in determining who controls the Senate after next year.