As Campaign Commission Meets, Parties Fret Fusion Voting

From the Morning Memo:

New York’s campaign finance laws could soon be overhauled by a commission meeting over the next several weeks, with the headline change being the creation of a system of public financing.

But smaller parties in New York, including the Working Families Party, have increasingly viewed the commission as a vehicle for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to get rid of or alter fusion voting, a mechanism that has allowed entities like the WFP and the Conservative Party to retain influence.

Fusion voting allows candidates run for multiple offices on the same ballot, an arrangement party chairmen have grudgingly lived with over the years, and one that enables parties on the left or right flanks to influence Democratic and Republican platforms.

The WFP, which had initially endorsed Cynthia Nixon’s campaign for governor in 2018 before backing Cuomo’s re-election after he won the September primary, sees the commission’s broad mandate as a threat.

The commission met for the first time on Wednesday and voted to advance any package of changes as a single proposal. This was an “aha!” moment for the WFP.

“Cuomo’s hand-picked state party chair and hand-picked commissioner Jay Jacobs is the state’s most vocal fusion opponent,” WFP Executive Director Bill Lipton.

“At today’s commission meeting, he today pushed through a resolution binding all recommendations together into one vote. It’s a transparent effort to tie public financing and ending fusion voting together. This is Cuomo’s poison pill to eliminate fusion voting.”

Jacobs, the state party chairman, has been critical of fusion voting in the past. He said in an interview last month he would keep an open mind about the issue while serving on the commission.

The governor’s office scoffed at the suggestion, noting Lipton and the WFP are on the same side of this argument with the Conservative Party.

“The mandate of the commission is to create the strongest public financing system possible,” said Rich Azzopardi, a senior advisor to Cuomo. “I have no reaction to the WFP’s latest bout of paranoia or the craven political motivations of Boss Bill and his new best friends, the Trump lovin’ conservatives.”

Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul received 114,478 votes on the Working Families Party ballot line, more than twice the 50,000-vote threshold for the party to retain ballot status in the current election cycle.

Cuomo Says Justice Was Delayed For Garner Family

From the Morning Memo:

The decision to fire New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo this month following the death of Eric Garner five years ago was the right move, but took far too long, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

Pantaleo’s firing came after an NYPD judge determined he had not told the truth about the circumstances of the event leading to Garner’s death after he was held in a chokehold.

Pantaleo’s firing this week was announced by Police Commissioner James O’Neill.

“I have said from day one I think the police officer after the judge’s decision, which was a very clear decision, where basically she said the police officer did not tell the truth, that the police officer should be terminated,” Cuomo told reporters while visiting the state fairgrounds in Syracuse.

“I think the Garner family having to wait five years to close this matter was an unnecessary delay.”

The Department of Justice had previously declined to file charges in the case, and the firing is being appealed amid condemnations by the patrolman’s union.

Garner’s death ignited a national debate over policing and criminal justice law changes amid similar incidents around the country in which unarmed black men died in interactions with the police.

Cuomo on Wednesday kept the focus on Garner’s family, saying the outcome was dragged out.

“The family had no closure and I think that was an unacceptably long period of time,” he said.

Wilson Foundation Donates To WNY State Parks Projects

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation is donating $6.4 million toward improvements to Genesee Valley Grenway State Park and the Niagara Shoreline Trail in Western New York.

The money from the charity created by the estate of the former Buffalo Bills owner is in addition to $4 million the state is already investing in the parks. The state said the projects will make “key connections” to the Empire State Trail, an initiative launched two year ago to create the longest multi-use state trail in the nation by 2020.

“This support from the Wilson Foundation, coupled with new state funding, will help repair, enhance and expand recreational opportunities on these multi-use paths in two beautiful parts of western New York, which Ralph Wilson loved so much,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo,D-NY, said. “His legacy will strengthen tourism, increase safety for bicyclists and hikers, and further revitalize communities that are better connected.”

The improvements include resurfacing, signage and disability access projects in Genesee Valley. The funding  for the Niagara Shoreline will go toward one mile of new trail, a study on how to close gaps in the current trail and a public outreach effort.

“As an avid bicyclist, I know how important this significant funding will be as we continue our efforts to improve connections to the Empire State Trail,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “We are fortunate that Ralph Wilson’s spirit lives on through generous philanthropic efforts. In celebrating his legacy, we are grateful to the Foundation’s commitment towards our regional trail systems. These investments will expand recreational opportunities, and boost the tourism industry and economy of Western New York.”

The Wilson Foundation grants will be made to the National Heritage Trust which is supporting the work being done by the State Office of Parks.


Here And Now

Good morning and happy Thursday!

Happening today:

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is heading back to town after being on the campaign trail; he has nothing public planned.

At 10:30 a.m., it’s Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s turn to be at the State Fair. He will be at Gate 2, 581 State Fair Boulevard, Syracuse.

Also at 10:30 a.m., Sen. Jim Tedisco will announce a state grant for the Rexford Fire Department. NY Rt. 146, Clifton Park.

At 11:30 a.m., Heastie will visit the New York State Assembly booth at the fair, Building 6, Syracuse.

At 1 p.m., New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams will attend the Police Athletic League luncheon. 320 Park Ave., New York City.

At 4 p.m., criminal justice advocates will hold a news conference to discuss disciplinary actions against NYPD Sgt. Kizzy Adonis. Tompkinsville Park, 40 Victory Blvd, Staten Island.

At 7 p.m., Public Advocate Jumaane Williams will appear on NY1’s Inside City Hall.


New York is suing the federal Environmental Protection Agency after the massive environmental cleanup project on the Hudson River earlier this year was declared finished. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says state reviews of the river say otherwise.

State lawmakers are blasting MTA officials, accusing them of dodging meetings and hiding details of the next $50 billion capital plan.

Former Assemblyman Dov Hikind paid his auto and travel bills with campaign funds.

Gov. Cuomo signed legislation that allows more crime victims to file lawsuits and collect damages.

The sergeant who oversaw the arrest of Eric Garner will not face a departmental trial, but sources told NY1 that she will be docked vacation time.

Garner’s death five summers ago was an inflection point for the New York Police Department. Caught on video, the fatal encounter between Garner, a black man, and Officer Daniel Pantaleo led the nation’s largest police force to train officers to de-escalate confrontations and to reassess how they interact with the public.

The de Blasio administration is easing requirements to enter the city’s lotteries for affordable housing. With the changes, many more undocumented immigrants will be eligible to land one of the hard-to-get apartments, which are subsidized by city taxpayers.

Advocates for criminal justice law changes want reform after the death of the longest serving female inmate.

Police are investigating threats made against Brooklyn Democratic Rep. Nydia Velazquez.

New York City is facing a potential $85 million lawsuit over unrest at Marcy Houses.

Councilman Andy King was accused of retaliation, disorderly conduct, conflict of interest and sexual harassment by the New York City Council’s Ethics Committee.

Gov. Cuomo’s partner Sandra Lee has cut the offering price of the home she shared with him by $300,000.

Quality over quantity is not a choice for the nurses at Vassar Brothers Medical Center, and nurses say they are fighting for both.

A new chapter for the city of Cohoes on Wednesday as any sign of their previous mayor, Shawn Morse, was removed from the mayor’s office in city hall.

Powerful storms have battered the Capital Region in the last few days and thousands are left without power.

One of the biggest announcements made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the state fairgrounds was the GreenFair initiative. The fair plans to become energy self-sufficient by 2023.

Jimmy Vielkind on how the politicos at the state fair make the annual trek to sample the sausage (not doing so is at your own political peril).

An audio problem at an Iowa labor event Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed by video conference had him speaking in a comedically high-pitched voice.

Gov. Cuomo is not on board with Mayor de Blasio’s idea of forgiving a beloved Brooklyn pizzeria’s tax bill after it was shuttered due to its debt.

It’s taking a creative approach to the controversy surrounding I-81. A new art exhibit gives a voice to those most impacted by changes with the viaduct through Syracuse.

Proposed apprenticeship changes from the Department of Labor have workers in the Mohawk Valley and Rep. Anthony Brindisi worried.

Prior to an advisory committee meeting in Buffalo, Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan met with Congressman Brian Higgins.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer from Buffalo is being hailed a hero after saving the life of a child Sunday in Donna, Texas.

Advocates in the Southern Tier joined a nationwide rally this week calling for elected leaders to “people over pharma profits.”

Officials say the Long Island Rail Road’s Elmont Station will be ready by 2022.

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle columnist David Andreatta will become the new editor of Rochester City Paper.

Here’s a list of the unhealthiest foods at the State Fair.

In national news:

The nation’s budget deficit will exceed $1 trillion, the Congressional Budget Office warned.

The rising deficit gives policymakers fewer tools to fight a potential recession.

President Trump reversed himself on Tuesday when asked about tax cuts, saying there’s no reason to, arguing the economy is strong.

Employers are slowing down hiring in 2019, posting weaker jobs gains than they did a year ago.

A new rule backed by President Trump’s administration would allow migrant families to face indefinite detention.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who centered his presidential candidacy around climate change, is dropping out of the race.

Republican former Rep. Joe Walsh plans to run a primary campaign against President Trump.

From the editorial pages:

Times Union columnist Chris Churchill writes the new license plate plan is a former of “Thruway robbery” for drivers.

The Times Union’s editorial board also blasted the plan, calling it a surprise $25 car tax.

The New York Post said President Trump would be foolish to not follow through with strengthening background checks.

From the sports pages:

It’s Travers week in Saratoga, and Tax the Horse aims to make his second stakes win on Saturday.

The Buffalo Bills have added a woman to its coaching staff.


Yet another massive thunderstorm blowing through the Capital Region.

It was a stormy start to the Great New York State Fair, but that isn’t stopping the fun.

It’s Governor’s Day at the New York State Fair, so Gov. Andrew Cuomo stopped by the fairgrounds to pay a visit and make some announcements.

The University at Buffalo lifted its suspension of Greek Life Tuesday, less than a week before the start of the fall semester.

Reducing bus and subway service, hiking the fare, and cutting managers – all part of the MTA’s game plan to corral galloping deficits. Now, officials are asking its roughly 40,000 unionized workers to pitch in, by paying more for health care, reducing overtime costs and letting private contractors handle some work.

The de Blasio administration is relaxing the requirements to enter the city’s lotteries for affordable housing, making it far easier for undocumented immigrants to land one of those hard-to-get apartments.

The iconic Pepsi-Cola sign in Long Island City has gotten a lot of attention over the years. But now it’s drawing attention for a whole new reason.

Two former New York Mets players have been linked to one of the biggest drug networks in the Dominican Republic.

Cuomo Backs His Brother In ‘Fredo’ Flap

Gov. Andrew Cuomo sympathized with his brother’s heated exchange last week with a man who called him “Fredo” — saying it’s understandable when you are confronted by a hostile critic when out with your family.

CNN anchor Chris Cuomo in a video that went viral last week confronted a man who compared him to a character from “The Godfather” — a jibe he said an anti-Italian slur and at one point threatened to throw the man down a flight of stairs.

Cuomo earlier this week blasted a column by an editor at the Times Union for making light of the incident. And on Wednesday he sympathized with what happened to his brother.

“I think what he said was right. I think he should be better than his opposition,” he said. “This is a very hostile political climate. It’s a very emotional political climate. People are hostile on both ends of the political spectrum. It’s hard when you’re with your family and you’re in a personal day and someone attacks you. Your normal instinct is to defend yourself and your family.”

The governor said he has experienced similar moments of being criticized as well and chalked it up to the polarized political era.

“People are very heated, they’re very emotional. A lot of the issues are emotional. They get very passionate. They get very enraged. That’s the climate of our times as unfortunate as it is,” he said. “I think my brother was right in the statement that he issued afterwords that he should have been better than that.”

Cuomo’s comments came at the state fairgrounds outside of Syracuse, where the governor did the traditional spin around the fair. He shook hands with fairgoers, including several people who acknowledged they were Republicans.

One man held a sign behind him saying, “Where’s Fredo?” Cuomo ignored him.

Cuomo Defends License Plate Replacement Plan, $25 Fee

The plan to replace license plates in New York is needed in order to have the plates be picked up by cashless tolling censors, which will soon be everywhere on the state Thruway system, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters on Wednesday.

“The license plates are not designed for our license plate readers,” Cuomo said. “The license plate readers, electronic tolling, needs a light color background and a darker color number-letter for the license plate reader to work. The majority of cars in the state today are going through electronic tolling.”

At the same time, Cuomo defended the $25 fee for a new plate, which will be required beginning in April for any driver with a 10-year-old license plate or older, beginning to effect the blue and white plates first. The state charges $20 for keeping the same plate number.

The state announced this week announced a contest for the next license plate design. But state lawmakers from both parties blasted the plate change, calling it a stealth tax hike.

Cuomo said the fee was meant to cover the cost of the plates, which are manufactured in a state prison in Auburn by inmates who earn well under the state’s minimum wage.

“It’s your license plate, you should pay for the cost of the license plate,” he said. “If you don’t pay, then you’d have to pay out of tax dollars.”

The current $25 plate fee, Cuomo noted, was approved under his predecessor David Paterson.

“The $25 for the plates we did not establish,” he said. “That was established in law, 2009, before I was even governor.”

State lawmakers are urging Cuomo to waive the new plate replacement fee. The initial wave of replacements could generate about $75 million in revenue for the state.

New York Sues EPA Over Hudson River Cleanup

New York on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, claiming the federal government failed to fully complete its removal of PCB-laden muck from the Hudson River.

The challenge to the cleanup’s completion has been telegraphed for the last year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and environmental officials in his administration as they cast doubt on the EPA granting a certificate of completion to General Electric Co. for the removal of polychlorinated biphenyls from the river.

“Trump’s EPA is failing New Yorkers and the environment by putting the priorities of polluters first,” Cuomo said.

“The Hudson River is among New York’s most precious natural and economic resources, but despite years of dredging, levels of PCB contamination are still unacceptably high in the river and in fish. We have an obligation to protect the health and vitality of both the Hudson River and the communities along its banks for current and future generations. Since the EPA has failed to hold GE accountable for restoring the river, New York is taking action to demand a full and complete remediation.”

The cleanup of the Hudson River began with a dredging project in 2009 and completed in 2015, focused on two areas of the river: Hudson Falls to Troy and in the lower portion of the river from Troy to the tip of Manhattan.

“We will not allow the EPA to let big polluters like General Electric off the hook without a fight,” said Attorney General Letita James, whose office filed the lawsuit.

“The facts are clear: Hudson River fish remain much too contaminated with PCBs to safely eat, and EPA admits they don’t know when – or if – they ever will be. EPA can’t ignore these facts – or the law – and simply pronounce GE’s cleanup of PCBs complete. That is why we filed this lawsuit to force EPA to follow the law and require GE to truly complete its PCB cleanup and finally return the full use of the Hudson River to the people of New York.”

As Campaign Finance Commission Meets, Advocates, Parties See Stakes

An appointed commission will hold its first meeting today that is the start of a process that could remake New York’s campaign finance laws.

The commission’s top-line charge is to develop the outline of a system of publicly financed campaigns. But the panel, appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the top leaders in the state Legislature, could also alter campaign laws like fusion voting — increasing the stakes for groups like the Working Families Party and the Conservative Party.

The good-government group Reinvent Albany on Wednesday released a list of 18 proposals, including an independent campaign finance board, lower qualifying thresholds for candidates for state offices, a public matching system, lower contribution limits for all offices and party committees as well as “sure winner” provisions limiting public funds to candidates who do not have a serious opponent.

The Green Party, meanwhile, wants a public financing system similar to the one in place for Maine.

“New York needs a system of full public campaign financing like Maine’s,” said the New York party’s co-chair Gloria Mattera.

“The matching funds system proposed by the Governor, with its high donation threshold to participate, was designed to aid incumbents and mostly exclude third party and independent candidates who rely on grassroots support. Commission members have a chance to broaden democracy and limit the corruption epidemic in New York by putting forth a bold system of full public campaign financing based on the support of community members, not the donor class.”

Say My Name

Taylor Raynor is no more.

The Democratic Assemblywoman representing the 18th District on Long Island has legally changed her last name to “Darling.”

Darling was elected ( as Raynor ) last November after defeating long serving Incumbent Earlene Hooper in the June Primary. The Assembly is coming off a banner year in Albany where they managed to pass multiple legislative priorities that had been bottled up by Senate Republicans for years.

Reached by phone, Darling explained that the name “Raynor” was her married name, and she is now divorced. She wasn’t a huge fan of her maiden name which was “Bertley,” so she decided to go with something empowering, and settled on Darling.

“I wanted a name that Cherishes myself,” Darling said. It can also mean that she is the “darling” of America, or most certainly the darling of the 18th district.

Asked when she chose to make the change, Darling said it happened last year after being exploited and ultimately fired by her previous employer. Pressed for more detail, Darling simply said he was “a Trump supporter.”

And I am going to bet that will likely satisfy most of Darling’s Democratic voting constituents.