Dan Clark

Dan Clark joined the Capital Tonight team as Video Producer in August 2014. Dan is based at the state capitol in Albany, where he manages field production for the statewide political unit. You can most often find him roaming the halls with a camera looking for someone to talk to. Dan also generates interactive content on the blog. He put together our exclusive Race for Congress section, which you can find above in the navigation. He has outlined competitive races statewide and an overview of the state’s delegation. If you need to get in touch with Dan, shoot him an email at: Dan.Clark@twcnews.com

Posts by Dan Clark

No Position From Ritchie on DOT Responsibility As Water Problems Continue in Orleans

State Senator Patty Ritchie is not ready to place blame on the state Department of Transportation for water contamination in the town of Orleans.

Local officials in the Jefferson County town claim a supply of road salt at a local DOT facility contaminated the drinking water and corroded the town’s pipes. They also say that because the salt corroded the pipes, lead was found in the town’s water.

The state has not taken responsibility for the contamination, but have moved the road salt into a barn. Residents in Orleans say they believe the salt is still entering the water despite the move. It was previously kept uncovered, which the DEC advised against in 1989 according to documents from the agency.

The state has offered to assist the town with applying for grants and loans to repair the damage. Local officials believe that the state should pay to repair the damage since the contamination was allegedly caused by the Department of Transportation. When asked if the DOT should take responsibility for the problem, State Senator Patty Ritchie did not commit to a position.

“I think there are still definitely concerns with the people who live there and rightfully so,” Ritchie said Wednesday. “As we go forward I’m sure that will continue to be a topic of discussion.”

To its credit, the state has supplied the town with bottled water in recent weeks, though the water contamination has impacted Orleans for the last several years. The town is now working with the state to build a water main to nearby Alexandria, which Ritchie says is a good step forward.

“For the first time, the state is focusing on making sure that the residents have fresh drinking water, bottled water now, and helping to make sure the pipeline is put in place,” Ritchie said. “So, I think we’re moving in right direction.”

The new infrastructure will come with a price tag of more than $12 million, including immediate repairs and the water main expansion to Alexandria. The town has already secured more than $1 million in grants. The state has offered the town a zero-interest loan to cover the rest, but Town Supervisor Kevin Rarick told Time Warner Cable News’ Brian Dwyer in January that they aren’t keen on the idea.

“I mean, it would be like a DOT truck comes and runs into your house, causes all sorts of damage and then takes you to the bank and gets you a zero percent interest loan to fix your house. It’s the same principle,” Rarick said.

More than 500 homeowners in Orleans have been affected by the salt contamination, stemming from 50 wells. The water is safe to bathe in, but residents can not drink it or cook with it. It’s the latest in a string of water problems that the state has had to deal with, including the chemical contamination in Hoosick Falls and a major water main break in the Capital Region.

Bill Would Spur Gun Violence Research Paid For By Gun Owners

A new bill that would establish a Gun Violence Research Fund would be paid for by gun owners themselves.

The bill from State Senator Brad Hoylman would add an additional $5 fee on top of each gun sale. That $5 would be collected from vendors, reported, and added to the Gun Violence Research Fund.

The fund would be managed by the state, with money going to the Department of Health and the State University of New York. They would use the fund to award grants for research on gun violence and how to prevent gun-related deaths.

In the sponsor’s memo, Hoylman says the fund would be established to make progress where the federal government has fallen short. Congress has not allocated significant funding toward gun violence research in more than a decade.

Hoylman compares gun deaths to fatal car accidents in his memo, saying Congress has allocated money to research car safety, but not gun violence.

The fund would not request any additional money from the state budget, only the amount collected from gun owners. The bill was has also been introduced in the Assembly by Assemblyman Matt Titone.

START-UP, Casino Laws Back in Court

Bob SchulzOne man’s case against two bills passed at the end of the 2013 legislative session was heard in the state’s appellate court division today.

Bob Schulz says the bills that created the START-UP NY program and paved the way for the approval of four additional casinos upstate go against the state constitution. His main argument centered around the governor’s message of necessity, which was used for both bills. A message is used to waive the three-day aging process required for bills under state law.

Schulz said during oral arguments today that the message should not have been used in either case because there was no emergency for either program.

“There are no emergencies attached to these bills that are being rushed to through the legislature. It has to stop,” Schulz said. He’s the founder of We The People of New York, a group who says they exist to ‘hold government accountable’ to the state constitution.

The state argued in favor of the message, saying it was necessary because of changes made to the legislation after it was introduced. They also said Schulz’s constitutional interpretation of the message was incorrect.

“All the constitution requires is that they contain some factual statements and it’s undisputed here that the messages of necessity contain factual statements,” said Kathleen Arnold, the attorney for the state. “In this instance, the legislature requested the messages of necessity. It’s not really sure what the problem is actually.” More >

Gia Arnold Makes First Court Appearance Over SAFE Act Charges

Gia Arnold, a former candidate for state senate, had her first court appearance today in Niagara Falls for charges relating to the SAFE Act.

Arnold was arrested last week with 18-year-old Halim Johnson during a traffic stop in which police found the pair in possession of a weapon that allegedly violated the SAFE Act. Arnold was also charged with public obstruction after police say she tried to speak with Johnson during the stop.

In court today, Arnold’s attorney argued that both charges be thrown out. James Ostrowski, a Buffalo-area attorney, is representing Arnold.

“There was no indication in the allegations that it was an assault weapon,” Ostrowski said, referring to one of the two guns found in the vehicle. Police said last week they found an AR-15 rifle, a magazine for that gun, an additional handgun, and a combat knife during the traffic stop.

As for the obstruction charge, Ostrowski told reporters after court that Arnold was not acting illegally when she spoke during the stop. Police said last week that she was trying to speak to Johnson during the stop, but Ostrowski says Arnold is charged for speaking to the police while they are trying to speak to Johnson.

“She’s charged with speaking to the police and that’s protected speech under the first amendment. It’s not obstruction. It’s just not,” Ostrowski said. “You can talk to the police in America – until further notice, I guess.”

Opponents of the SAFE Act were also at the court appearance to support Arnold. One man was wearing a black T-shirt that read ‘REPEAL NY’S S.A.F.E. ACT’.

When asked by reporters what he thought of the case, he simply responded “Yeah, honor the second amendment.” He did not respond to additional requests for an interview.

“There’s interest in the case from people who oppose the SAFE Act, who believe it’s unconstitutional, as do I,” Ostrowski said, referring to the guests. “But I’m not going to comment any further.”

Arnold is out of jail on $1,500 cash bail, which was lowered from an initial $5,000.

Bill Would Bump Up Pay Raise Schedule for M/C Employees

A new bill could speed up the pay raise schedule for management and confidential employees from a salary increase over three years to just one year.

The bill was introduced Wednesday by Senate Finance Chairperson Cathy Young. Its companion bill in the Assembly was introduced last year by Ways and Means Chairman Herman (Denny) Farrell.

Salary increases were withheld from management and confidential employees – who do not have collective bargaining rights – in 2009 and 2010. Last year’s budget agreement allocated a seven percent increase for M/C employees by 2018, starting with a two percent increase in 2015, a two percent increase in both 2016 and 2017, and a one percent increase in 2018.

This legislation would increase salaries by five percent this year following a resolution in the state budget, which OMCE – the non-union organization that advocates for M/C employees – called for ahead this session. With the two percent increase already enacted in 2015, this would complete the seven percent phase-in two years early.

Farrell actually introduced the bill last year following the initial increase for M/C employees, but the Senate had not signed on to the legislation at that time.

The bill follows a lawsuit against the state by a group of Thruway employees, who alleged the withheld pay increases in 2009 and 2010 violated terms that were previously agreed to within the agency. There has been no resolution in that case, but previous legal challenges from M/C employees have failed in court.

Bill Would Create Prison Body Camera Pilot Program

A new bill from Manhattan Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell would launch a pilot program for the use of body cameras in state prisons.

The bill – introduced Wednesday – would use the program to measure whether body cameras would improve safety at prison facilities across the state.

Governor Cuomo has already allocated $25 million as part of his executive budget proposal to “ensure that correctional facilities and officers will be outfitted with the latest technologies available in the field.” That could include cameras – both worn and in prisons – thermal imaging, and heartbeat monitors.

The allocation would also launch a body camera pilot program. This bill would set the standard for the program if the funding is approved by the legislature.

The memo found in the O’Donnell bill says body cameras have proven to both improve safety and cut costs “in nearly every criminal justice organization that has tried them.”

Advocates have called for greater oversight of the state’s prison system following last year’s break-out from the Clinton Correctional Facility in June and a homicide at the Fishkill Correctional Facility allegedly involving a prisoner and multiple corrections officers, which is still under investigation by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office.

Teachout Prioritizes Infrastructure Issues in NY-19

Teachout and MaloneyCongressional hopeful and former gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout says she will focus on infrastructure and transportation issues in the Hudson Valley if elected to represent the 19th Congressional District.

Teachout made the remarks following an endorsement from Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who represents the 18th Congressional District to her south.

“I think there’s incredible possibility working with Congressman Maloney on transportation issues, infrastructure,” Teachout said. “He’s actually made infrastructure and transportation a focus and working across the aisle has produced real results for his district.”

Teachout said if she’s chosen by voters in November, she’s planning to work closely with Maloney to push for more infrastructure spending in the region.

“If we can work together on transportation and infrastructure projects that support the whole Hudson Valley,” Teachout said, “that more than doubles the power of New Yorkers in this region in Washington.”

The Democratic hopeful also said she remains committed to widespread campaign finance and ethics reforms, both in Albany and Washington. Those are issues she focused on in 2014 when she, and her runningmate Tim Wu, unsuccesfully sought the Democratic nominatinon for governor.

“The job is a different job and you can look at my record and see what I focused on in the past, which is big money in politics, and fighting to end corruption in Albany and fighting to end corruption in Washington,” Teachout said. “That’s something I’ve always cared about, something I’ve always done.”

Teachout faces at least one serious challenger on the Democratic side in Livingston Deputy Town Supervisor Will Yandik, who has received an endorsement from the Columbia County Democratic Committee. But results from the 2014 gubernatorial primary seem to show Teachout with good standing – she won 10 of the 11 counties that make up NY-19 over Governor Andrew Cuomo in that contest.

Teachout says part of that favorability comes from her strong ground game on the campaign trail.

“I’ve never been a political insider so for me the key is what’s happening at the ground level and the people who really believe it’s possible to get our democracy back,” Teachout said. “The highly local work that you can do in every corner of the district is the essence of the job of being a congressperson.”

So far, that message is paying off. Teachout says she has received over 4,000 contributions since she announced her candidacy more than a week ago with an average of $28 per contribution.

One thing working against Teachout: time. Her opponents on the other side of the aisle have been at work campaigning for months now with plenty of money on hand to show for it.

Heaney Continues to Outraise Faso in NY-19

Andrew Heaney continues to out-raise his Republican primary opponent John Faso in the race for the 19th Congressional District.

Heaney raised $363,475 in the last quarter, according to his latest filing with the FEC. Faso trailed behind with $233,706.

That’s a larger difference than last quarter when both candidates were separated by about $20,000. Heaney pulled ahead in that filing with contributions totaling $645,856.

Now Heaney has a comfortable advantage over Faso with $761,890 on hand to Faso’s $624,267.

Both campaigns have spent similar amounts since declaring last year. Faso has thrown $234,188 into his campaign while Heaney has spent slightly more at $247,440.

Bob Bishop, a Delaware County farmer, has raised just under $6,000.

The two leading Democrats in the race declared their candidacy after the filing deadline, so we won’t have public information on them until April, just two months ahead of the Congressional primary.

We do know that within the first day former gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout declared her candidacy, she raised $43,656 from 1,000 contributions.

Teachout has received support from several Democratic chairs in the district, with the exception of Columbia County where Livingston’s Deputy Town Supervisor Will Yandik has the endorsement.

But if history repeats itself, Teachout has work to do to make up ground in the 19th Congressional District. Republican Congressman Chris Gibson won the district easily with 62.5 percent of the vote in 2014. His Democratic opponent, Sean Eldridge, was able to get 34.4 percent.

Enrollment also does not do Teachout any favors. Republicans and conservatives outnumber Democrats and WFP voters by almost 10,000 as of last November. There are enough voters who do not identify with either party for that point to be moot, though.

One advantage for the Fordham Law Professor – the year. We know statistically more Democrats turn out in a presidential election year than off-years.

UPDATED: Wright Has Strong Fundraising Lead in NY13

Assemblyman Keith Wright has more than $80,000 as his closest opponent in the race for the 13th Congressional District, his latest filing with the FEC shows.

Wright, a Manhattan Democrat, posted fundraising totals of more than $155,000 in the latest quarter, bringing his campaign account to just below $270,000.

UPDATE: His closest opponent – Clyde Williams –  raised $251,829 in the same quarter, but with spending remains below Wright with $189,309 on hand.

His second closest opponent – State Senator Adriano Espaillat – raised $104,630 in the last quarter. That’s nothing to frown at, but it still leaves Espaillat down more than $167,000 from Assemblyman Wright. Espaillat has slightly more than $102,000 in cash on hand moving forward.

Some of Espaillat’s trouble comes from a crowded field of primary opponents. Six other Democrats – besides Wright and Espaillat – have registered to run for the seat that’s being vacated by retiring Congressman Charlie Rangel. Four of those six have posted fundraising totals, though none come close to what Williams or Wright have raked in.

State Senator Bill Perkins has slightly more than $18,000 to boast in his campaign account. But ahead of him are Democrats Suzan “Sujay” Johnson Cook and Adam Clayton Powell. Cook has just below $70,000 on hand and Powell has $77,000.

Both Powell and Espaillat have been in this boat before. Both lawmakers have tried to take the seat from Rangel two separate times. Espaillat came close in 2014 but lost to Rangel in a primary by less than five percent.

Democrats outnumber Republicans 17 to 1 in the Harlem-based district, so the race will most likely be decided following primary results in June.

Poll: De Blasio Handling Homeless Better Than Cuomo

de blasio cuomo 1More New York City voters think Mayor Bill de Blasio is doing a better job on the issue of homelessness than Governor Andrew Cuomo, according to a new Quinnipiac poll released today. That’s despite an executive order the governor implemented last year giving municipalities authority to provide shelter to homeless individuals during extreme weather conditions.

The poll found that 33 percent of NYC voters believe the mayor is handling the issue better, while 28 percent side with the governor. The remaining slate of voters – 39 percent – are undecided on the issue.

Good news for both Governor Cuomo and the mayor: the poll found that the approval rating for both executives has sneaked up since October. Governor Cuomo is up two points, bringing his approval rating 65 – 29. Mayor de Blasio is up five points with an approval rating of 50 – 42.

An issue sure to help the governor among New York City voters is a hike in the state’s minimum wage. The poll found that three out of four New York City voters support raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2018.