De Blasio Raises For Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold

deBlasioAs he prepares a presidential campaign forum in Iowa to discuss inequality, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio released a fundraising email for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Russ Feingold, urging supporters to back the “true progressive.”

“Russ fights for the issues you and I care about: debt-free college, raising the minimum wage, fighting income inequality, and supporting hardworking families,” de Blasio writes in the fundraising email sent on Wednesday afternoon. “He’s the one who cast the lone vote against the terribly flawed PATRIOT Act in 2001. He’s the one who authored historic, bipartisan campaign finance legislation to curb the influence of corporate money in our elections. He’s a champion for the people of Wisconsin and our nation — not special interests. Russ is the one we need in the Senate.”

Feingold was a U.S. senator from Wisconsin from 1993 through 2011, losing re-election to Republican Ron Johnson. Feingold is launching a comeback campaign against Johnson for next year’s election to win his old seat back.

De Blasio has sought a more prominent platform in recent months to promote his causes — especially when it comes to income inequality — while also promoting a more liberal vision for the country as a whole. The mayor, though, has raised eyebrows among fellow Democrats for holding off on endorsing Hillary Clinton, whose Senate campaign he worked on in 2000, in the presidential race.

More WEP Candidates Lose Ballot Line

Broome County Republicans on Wednesday are amplifying the latest batch of Democratic candidates to lose the Women’s Equality Party ballot line.

A half-dozen Democrats running in local elections in Broome County — including District Attorney Gerald Mollen and Vestal town Supervisor John Shaffer — lost the WEP’s ballot status following a state Supreme Court ruling

The development comes after Democratic Senate hopeful Barbara Fiala also lost a bid to run on the WEP line as well as she runs in a special election against Republican Fred Akshar. Fiala’s campaign says the ruling, based on a technicality, will be appealed.

“These Democrat candidates apparently thought that they get to play by a different set of rules than the rest of us. But the Supreme Court saw otherwise; they can’t game the system and run on Andrew Cuomo’s bogus so-called ‘Women’s Equality’ line,” said Broome County Republican Chairman Bijoy Datta.

The WEP was formed last year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who was promoting a package of legislation aimed at impacting, but has been assailed by liberals for potentially competing for votes with the Working Families Party, a liberal, labor-backed organization.

Control of the party has been challenged by two additional groups seeking to wrest power from a group led by Cuomo, leading a state Supreme Court judge to declare no one could claim leadership over the line until a majority of the candidates who ran last as WEP candidates sign off on the rules.

Diane Ravitch: Where Are The Opt-Out Supporters?

testsDiane Ravitch, an influential education researcher and Common Core critic, is criticizing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest efforts to overhaul the controversial education standards.

In a blog post, Ravitch questions why Cuomo did not include any proponents of test opt outs on the panel, which is being led by former Citigroup and Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons and includes Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.

“Does anyone seriously believe that this commission has the expertise or the time to do what they are supposed to do?” Ravitch wrote on her blog. “Can anyone explain why there is no one on the commission to speak for the parents who opted their children out of the state testing?”

In a separate post, Ravitch writes, “Leaders of the Opt Out movement are disgusted by Governor Cuomo’s appointment of a commission that ignores parents of the 220,000 children who opted out of state testing.”

The Department of Education in August estimated that 20 percent of students opted out of the April round of state testing in English-Language Arts and math.

Cuomo indicated to reporters he was sympathetic to the concerns of parents who chose to not have their children take the tests, saying it was their choice.

I Ain’t Gonna Play SolarCity

SolarCity is an enormous project. It’s the anchor of Governor Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” announced during the 2012 State of the State address where Cuomo said,

We are ready to invest one billion in an economic development package for the City of Buffalo!

Turns out, $750 million worth of State money is going to SolarCity to build solar panels, which will presumably be in high demand as the nation transfers away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources. How quickly that transition will be however, is anybody’s guess. But a simple rule in business is that you don’t build supply when there isn’t sufficient demand. I can make all the widgets I want, but if no one wants to buy them I’m gonna end up broke and throwing those widgets at the people who stop to laugh at me in my dumpster.

Under the arrangement for the SolarCity economic development plan at RiverBend, the State will own the building, and own the specialized manufacturing equipment that will supposedly be able to churn out 10,000 solar panels per day. As one Republican insider puts it, the concept of solar panels may poll well among Democrats, but that’s an extraordinary risk to put on taxpayers should this business fail to meet expectations. Democrats tend to believe in public investment to spur economic growth. Sometimes that can work. But bigger isn’t necessarily better. Especially if a burgeoning market is only just developing. Maybe one day there will be demand for thousands of solar panels every day, but some might argue the lobbies for more traditional fuel sources aren’t going allow that transition to happen overnight. Going forward energy will likely be drawn from multiple sources. Think of our energy as a big pool, which connects to the grid. One needs multiple sources of energy constantly feeding into that pool, at least for the foreseeable. Solar may very well be the long term answer to our energy needs. But it’s unclear if it will be the answer in 2016 when the plant will be up in running ( 2016 is in three months, btw ).

The man with the plan to build SolarCity is Lou Ciminelli, a big donor to Governor Cuomo. How big, you ask? It appears as though Lou and his wife AnnLouise have given the Cuomo Campaign roughly $96,500 over the years. And now this relationship appears to be the subject of a federal inquiry. But that doesn’t include money given through a Limited Liability Company or LLC, known as Highland Park Village. Stay with me now, because this gets complicated. Jon Reznick of Competitive Advantage Research gets credit for finding this connection.

The City of Buffalo issued this press release in May 2012, referring to Strickler Development Group, an LLC owned by Ciminelli. But as it turns out, Strickler had already filed to change it’s name to Highland Park Village. And Highland Park Village contributed yet another $25,000 donation to Cuomo/Hochul in May 2014.

So, here is the timeline…Ciminelli and his wife contribute more than $25,000 to Cuomo in January 2014. It’s over the limit and some of the money has to go back as a refund. Ciminelli gets selected as the developer for SolarCity shortly thereafter, and then in May Highland Park Village gives another $25,000, which in Reznick’s words makes both contributions nice “bookends for both before and after the SolarCity contract was awarded.”

So, if you are keeping track at home, Ciminelli and his wife have contributed $123,850 to Cuomo’s gubernatorial campaigns. And that doesn’t count the other half of the Ciminelli family, including Paul, which would bring the total closer to $128,000.

Investing a billion dollars in Buffalo may be just the prescription the doctor ordered. Nobody disputes that the economy in Buffalo needs a shot in the arm, and already there are signs that construction needs are pushing down the unemployment rate. But when subpoenas start to fly over the manner in which public contracts were awarded, it starts to give off a stink. And that stink could persuade additional private investors to stay away. There may be absolutely no merit to any of the inquiries, but this project probably doesn’t need a taint this early in the game. Especially since it’s roughly a billion dollars worth of taxpayer money.


Contractors Knock RFP Process At State Fair

cuomobridgeThe Associated Builders and Contractors is criticizing a request for proposal process it says was amended in effort to exclude non-unionized companies from winning contracts for the renovation at the state fairgrounds outside of Syracuse.

The group in a statement released on Tuesday compared the change in the RFP to reported investigation into the contracting process for the construction of the SolarCity facility in Buffalo, part of the “Buffalo Billion” economic development program.

“We applaud the efforts of New York State to modernize and provide much needed improvements to the State Fairgrounds, and certainly support continued investments that can spur further economic benefits. Having said that, and in light of the investigation into the awarding of contracts at the Solar City facility in Buffalo, we hope that New York State and relevant agencies do everything in their power to provide a transparent bidding process,” said Joshua Reap, a government affairs director for the group. “Unfortunately, based on documents we have reviewed, it looks like not much has changed as it’s clear that a similar bidding approach to the one being used in the ‘Buffalo Billion’ is being considered for this project.”

The group criticized what it saw as “restrictive measures” that it said would exempt “the vast majority” of local contractors from bidding for the project.

The Office of General Services, however, said the use of Project Labor Agreements in such cases is a common practice. More >

Fiala Downplays Cuomo’s Role In Senate Campaign

fialaDemocratic Senate candidate Barbara Fiala in an interview downplayed the involvement of Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the campaign, saying she has not spoken to him.

“Certainly, I have not had a conversation with the governor,” she told TWC News. “I was at a state meeting and I’ve talked to Democrats on a state level and they support me and continue to support me. But I have not had a conversation.”

Cuomo quickly endorsed Fiala’s bid for the 52nd Senate district a day after a felony conviction ousted longtime GOP Sen. Tom Libous from office. A former Broome County executive, Fiala served during the governor’s first term as his Department of Motor Vehicles commissioner.

“People made a lot that they did endorse me,” Fiala said. “Well, I was part of his cabinet. Who would he endorse?”

Nevertheless, Cuomo has reportedly helped raise $100,000 for Fiala, who trails Republican opponent Fred Akshar by 28 percentage points in a TWC News/Siena College poll. The same survey released this week found 59 percent of likely voters in the race hold an unfavorable view of the governor, including 60 percent of independent voters.

Fiala knocked the assistance Akshar has received from the Senate Republican conference in Albany, which she said ran as high as $500,000, allowing him to air multiple TV ads in the race so far. More >

Miner Lashes Out At Katko

minerFrom the Morning Memo:

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner sharply criticized Republican freshman Rep. John Katko, tying him to recent GOP-led votes on defunding Planned Parenthood and cutting food stamps.

Katko, a Republican who unseated Democratic incumbent Dan Maffei last year, broke with his party on a vote to cut funding to Planned Parenthood (as did neighboring GOP Rep. Richard Hanna, a supporter of abortion rights).

Nevertheless, Miner blasted House Republicans for the Planned Parenthood vote, which came amid a broader fight over federal spending, but is now unlikely to lead to a government shutdown as House Speaker John Boehner prepares to step down.

“I think it’s disingenuous to have the House attack Planned Parenthood and say this is about abortion when it’s really about access to women’s health care, and I think for us to get a better government to get a more representative government, we need more people standing up and calling out,” she said in a Capital Tonight interview. More >

Here and Now

Good morning!

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in central New York to hold “Capitol For A Day” events in and around the area, along with his cabinet and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. Mayor Bill de Blasio is in New York City.

Your schedule:

At 9:30 this morning, Gov. Cuomo will host a morning cabinet meeting at the Holiday Inn, 441 Electronics Pkwy, Liverpool.

At 11:15, Cuomo will make an announcement at the state fairgrounds, Horticulture Building, 581 State Fair Blvd., Syracuse.

At 11:45, Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Sam Roberts will make an announcement at the Grand Opening for Rescue Mission, 122 Dickerson St., Syracuse.

At 12:30, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will meet with the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council Meeting to make a transportation-related announcement. Holiday Inn, 441 Electronics Pkwy, Liverpool.

At 1:30, Cuomo will make an announcement at the Anhueser-Busch Brewery, 2885 Belgium Rd., Baldwinsville.

At 2 p.m., Hochul will speak with students and faculty at Syracuse University to discuss the new law aimed at cracking down on sexual assault and rape on college campuses. Syracuse University, the Legacy Room at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
Crouse Drive, Syracuse.

At 4 p.m., Hochul will host a cabinet “debrief” meeting at the Holiday Inn.

At 6:45 p.m., Mayor de Blasio will attend high school family night, Brooklyn Generation School 6565 Flatlands Ave., Brooklyn.

Your headlines:

New York City officials confirmed additional cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the Bronx as the illness spreads once again following a summertime outbreak.

Cuban President Raul Castro met with President Obama while at the United Nations, their second meeting this year (Castro had also met with Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio).

The president of Planned Parenthood was grilled by Republican lawmakers in Congress, though it’s unlikely an effort to defund the organization will lead to a government shutdown at this point.

Lawmakers interrupted during the Planned Parenthood meeting — a lot.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood and the health-care services it provides rallied throughout the country in support of the organization.

Reps. John Katko and Richard Hanna, both in battleground districts, broke with the GOP on a bill aimed at defunding Planned Parenthood.

Republican leaders in Congress and the White House, meanwhile, are in new talks for a two-year budget agreement.

Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who is defying the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage, is believed to have secretly met with Pope Francis while he was in Washington, D.C.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is yet to make an endorsement in the race for the White House, will host a bipartisan presidential candidate forum in Iowa on income inequality.

Edward Snowden joined Twitter and Gov. George Pataki, a Republican presidential candidate, called on the social media site to ban his account.

Donald Trump’s tax plan would likely increase the federal deficit by $12 trillion, according to economic analysts of the proposal.

Former President Bill Clinton accused Trump of running a “fact-free” presidential campaign.

Megyn Kelly is not impressed by Lena Dunham’s interview with Hillary Clinton, questioning whether that was a proper forum for a presidential candidate.

The chief counsel at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is retiring amid an investigation into a highway project. More >


If the MTA doesn’t get billions more from state and city governments, travelers will likely pay through higher fares and cuts in service, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli warned.

Interstate 81 and Onondaga Lake are among the topics on tomorrow’s agenda as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his top commissioners come to town for an all-day focus on Central New York. But it’s unclear how many members of the public will be able to attend these “Capital for a Day” events.

James Knickman, founding president and CEO of the New York State Health Foundation, has announced his resignation and plans to leave during the first half of 2016 to take a job at NYU.

A 3.0 magnitude earthquake rattled the area around the Gilboa dam and reservoir complex in Schoharie County late Saturday but officials from NYPA, which operates a hydro plant there, said there was no damage.

The best time to plan for the next double lake-effect snowstorm is on a 70- or 80-degree day in August or September, according to new DOT Commissioner Matthew Driscoll.

Democratic US Sen. Chuck Schumer is in talks with Republican Rep. Paul Ryan on a major tax and infrastructure deal.

EJ McMahon says Long Island towns’ complaints about getting squeezed by the tax cap and warning they could be forced to cut services as a result “just won’t hold water.”

Hundreds of Planned Parenthood supporters clad in pink rallied in Manhattan this afternoon, taking aim at Republicans in Congress who are threatening to cut federal funds to the reproductive healthcare provider.

Current and former New York Yankees players joined Yogi Berra’s family and friends at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in New Jersey to remember the former catcher, who died on Sept. 22 of natural causes at the age of 90.

Two federal agencies requested that the Obama administration postpone General Electric’s plan to end its cleanup of the Hudson River without removing all the related pollution.

A month before the winners are selected for this year’s 43North business plan competition, the contest received the bulk of the funding it needs to hold the entrepreneurial event again next year.

Judge Pamela Chen granted
class action status to a federal lawsuit in which the NYPD’s 911 operators allege they were subjected to discriminatory, racially-motivated work rules.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said the state Legislature should consider increasing the minimum penalty for illegal gun possession as part of a larger antidote to persistent urban gun violence.

Attorney generals across the nation today released a letter to the US Food and Drug Administration urging it to take enforcement against the growing use of liquid nicotine among youth.

Air quality sensors will be installed in some New York City nail salons to monitor for hazardous health conditions.

The US has failed to stop the flow of Americans to join the “largest global convergence of jihadists in history,” and New York and New Jersey rank among the top suppliers of aspiring fighters, according to a six-month congressional investigation.

The US Labor Department is funneling $1.55 million to help state and local governments explore paid leave policies.

Fiala Kicked Off WEP Ballot Line

fialaDemocratic Senate candidate Barbara Fiala was kicked off the Women’s Equality Party ballot line on Tuesday, dealing a blow to her effort to flip the Southern Tier-based district long held by Republicans.

State Supreme Court Judge Richard Platkin ruled on Tuesday that Fiala, a former chairwoman of the party, stems from a technicality in the filing certification for the nomination.

More broadly, the fight over the party has rested on an effort to gain control of the WEP’s rules, with three different groups competing for leadership of the party: One led by allies of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, another backed former Sen. Cecilia Tkacyzk and a third backed by two Niagara County clerks.

A majority of the candidates who ran on the newly formed ballot line last year have not signed off on a set of rules for the party and a judge’s ruling this month threw the party’s status into legal limbo. That ruling is being appealed. More >