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

Elia: More Money Needed to Help Struggling Schools

EliaEducation Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is asking the legislature for more money to address the state’s struggling schools.

Elia, speaking at an Assembly hearing on struggling schools and receivership Thursday, said that while the state has allocated $75 million to aid the 20 persistently struggling schools in New York, the 124 remaining schools only identified as ‘struggling’ have not received additional funding.

The two groups are separated simply by time. Persistently struggling schools have scored low in student and teacher performance for nearly a decade while schools identified as struggling have only seen low marks over the past few years.

During this year’s budget process, lawmakers mandated that schools which continue to struggle would be placed under an independent receiver. Persistently struggling schools have one year to improve before they are placed into receivership while those who are struggling have two years.

Elia says the state has developed an index to show how much a school has improved, which will include factors such as community engagement, student performance, and several other items.

But one contested item that won’t make too much of a difference for school districts is the rate at which students have chosen to opt out of state standardized tests. Elia says that while districts will lose a few points, it won’t make a difference in the long run.

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Cuomo and De Blasio Reach Agreement on MTA Capital Program

deblasiocuomoGovernor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Saturday, announced an agreement to fund the MTA Capital Program.

The $26.1 Billion program will be the largest in the history of the city of New York, promising to renew and expand the current MTA program over the next five years.

The plan has been a point of contention between the governor and De Blasio. Cuomo has urged a larger investment from the De Blasio administration during press availabilities in recent weeks.

“You can look at the numbers. The 11 percent, Mayor Bloomberg invested about 11 percent of the capital budget, and we are asking the city to contribute about 11 percent into the capital budget,” Cuomo told reporters in Albany on Wednesday.

The resolution does not match up with what MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast pitched lawmakers in July. In a letter, he asked the state to contribute $8.3 Billion to the program, leaving the city with a $3.2 Billion investment. More >

UPDATED: Cuomo Announces Photonics Locations

PhotonicsThe site for a new Integrated Photonics Institute will be split between multiple locations in Rochester, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday.

The facility’s headquarters will be stationed at the Legacy Tower, formerly the Bausch and Lomb building. Eastman Business Park will be the site of the project’s manufacturing operations. The Sibley Building will also include a workforce development center, space for companies, and an incubator space.

Governor Cuomo told reporters yesterday that all parties involved had agreed on a final location, but did not announce specifics until today.

The $600 million facility was announced in late July by Vice President Joe Biden, who traveled to Rochester for an event showcasing the project. Just three weeks later in mid-August, SUNY Polytechnic Institute announced they would be leasing 25,000 square feet of space in the Legacy Tower for the project. That move did not sit well with lawmakers, who wanted more input on the facility’s location.

SUNY Poly then backtracked on the announcement, saying they would work with lawmakers and officials on a final location.

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle told reporters this morning Governor Cuomo helped broker the deal between SUNY Poly and leaders in Rochester.

“It’s not as if the administrative offices are that important, where that happens was not important. What I was much more concerned about, and I think others expressed was that the Rochester institutions and the Rochester part of this wasn’t being heard and the decisions were being made unilaterally without our input,” Morelle said. “The governor heard that loudly and clearly and he asked me at one point ‘Could you live with the administrative offices at Bausch and Lomb?’ I said – honestly on some level I dont’ care where the administrative offices are and that’s fine. I care where the manufacturing is and I care that Rochester be considered a full partner in this endeavor and these things he made happen and so I’m delighted with it.”

SUNY Poly President and CEO Dr. Alain E. Kaloyeros also issued a statement, saying the college is excited to be part of the initiative in Rochester.

“Today, because of Governor Cuomo’s leadership and vision, New York is taking a giant leap forward in establishing Rochester as the global center of photonics-driven research and development while further capitalizing on this unprecedented state and federal investment to leverage high-tech to renew downtown neighborhoods. SUNY Poly is excited to be part of the fabric and vibrancy of downtown Rochester, as we expand our presence in our Rochester home. We extend our sincere thanks and gratitude to Governor Cuomo and look forward to our continued partnership with Majority Leader Joe Morelle, the Rochester business community and all of our institute members from across New York and the country.”

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De Blasio Signs Legionnaires’ Regulations

de blasioNew York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has signed legislation aimed at preventing future outbreaks of Legionnaires’ Disease. This comes after a break-out of the illness in the Bronx that left 12 people dead and more than 100 hospitalized.

Like the state regulations announced yesterday, the new law requires cooling towers to be registered and tested regularly for bacteria that could lead to Legionnaires’ Disease.

If building owners do not comply with the registry and new regulations, they could face a fine of up to $10,000. If an inspection reveals that a cooling tower must be disinfected, building owners could be slapped with a $25,000 fine if they don’t follow through. Building owners have 30 days to register their cooling towers with the New York City Department of Health.

There is at least one difference between the state and city regulations. As we reported yesterday, testing is required about every three months regardless of location. Under the city’s law, those tests are only required during months when cooling towers are in use. The state regulations require testing year-round.

The bill was passed by the New York City Council last week and takes effect immediately, starting today. A release from the mayor’s office indicates that the legislation was crafted in collaboration with the City Council and the governor’s office.

“The recent Legionnaires’ outbreak has been an unprecedented challenge requiring an unprecedented response,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in the release. “But a powerful response is just one piece of the equation. New Yorkers need to be protected from the disease through aggressive preventive action, and this groundbreaking legislation, developed in partnership with the City Council, is exactly that.”

State Adopts Legionnaires’ Regulations

legionnairesThe Department of Health has adopted new regulations to combat the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in the Bronx and prevent outbreaks across the state in the future.

Under the new regulations, any building owner with a cooling tower must register that tower with the Department of Health within 30 days of today. They must also submit a culture from that cooling tower to be tested for the bacteria that leads to Legionnaires’ within 30 days. After the initial 30-day period, towers must be tested for the bacteria every 90 days.

Building owners must also submit a maintenance plan to the Department of Health by March of next year. That plan should include a schedule of when towers will be tested.

All registered cooling towers must be compliant with these regulations by November of each year, starting in 2016. If they are not determined to be compliant, the governor’s office says the Department of Health may consider the cooling tower a nuisance and “may take such action as authorized by law.” That could include heavy fines or time spent in jail.

The state worked with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office and the City Council to develop the new regulations. There is at least one difference between the two; the state requires testing every 90 days, the city requires every three months – but only during months when cooling towers are in use.

According to the latest numbers, the Legionnaires’ outbreak downstate has killed 12 people and hospitalized more than one hundred.

Ethics and Guidance Committee to Meet in Albany

AssemblyThe Assembly’s committee on Ethics and Guidance will meet in Albany next week, according to the chamber’s committee schedule posted online.

The only item on the agenda is to move into executive session.

It’s unclear what members will be discussing in the closed-door meeting, but there is at least one possibility. The Assembly has been searching for an Executive Director of the New Office of Ethics and Compliance since May.

When Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie appeared on Capital Tonight last month, he said the chamber was continuing to search for the position, and that no choices had been made just yet.

Cuomo Commits to MTA Capital Plan, Says de Blasio’s “a friend”

Governor Andrew Cuomo said, Wednesday, that in exchange for what could be the largest Capital Plan ever approved for the MTA, he’ll push for another significant investment in upstate roads and bridges.

Cuomo accepted MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast’s request for an $8.3 Billion commitment to the Capital Plan Monday. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has not said publicly whether he will commit $3.2 Billion to the plan for maintenance and improvements to the MTA System.

“This is a big part of the budget, it always has been,” Cuomo said on The Capital Pressroom. “This is a worthwhile investment, and I’m sure we can find the funds if we make it a priority and I’m willing to make it a priority.”

The money would come from the state’s budget, which would require approval from the legislature. Cuomo says he doesn’t expect any push-back from the downstate-dominated body.

“When you look at the MTA region, that’s by far the bulk of the New York State legislature in terms of members,” Cuomo said. “But will the upstate people say ‘what about us?’ Yes – and we have a big, robust roads and bridges program which we had last year and we’re going to propose again next year and that will be addressing the need for upstate – and the MTA’s downstate.”

This year’s state budget included a $1 Billion investment in roads and bridges across New York State, thought that wasn’t limited to upstate infrastructure. Now the investment is in the hands of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who Cuomo says he’s spoken to about the plan.

“I talk to the mayor about any relevant issues that we have to talk about.,” Cuomo said. He did not say whether they mayor was planning to commit to the investment. He did say – after a weeks-long, very public feud with the Mayor – that he now, once again, considers him a friend.

“This is not personal,” Cuomo said. “On a personal level, I consider the mayor a friend as everybody knows and he made a couple of comments because he was frustrated and from my point of view life goes on and we have a number of important issues to work through and the MTA Capital Plan is one of them.”

The commitment from Cuomo comes more than a month after the end of legislative session. The governor says they wanted to take a closer look at the plan before they committed the full amount.

“We had a couple of suggestions that, frankly, the MTA hadn’t taken into consideration,’ Cuomo said. “I believe in Design-Build. We used it on the Tappan Zee and we saved a lot of money. And I believe the MTA could have more aggressively used the Design-Build strategy. They did, and they actually saved like $3 Billion on the Capital Plan.”

The $8.3 Billion will be paid out by the state over five years, meaning a $1.6 Billion commitment each year. If the city signs on, they’ll be paying out $600 Million annually. Cuomo joked that, from his perspective, the city should be giving more.

“On this Capital Plan, the predominance of the money goes to New York City, and the predominance of the riders are New York City,” Cuomo said. “Frankly, I could argue that the MTA is asking too much from the state from my point of view.”

As for the crumbling commuter tunnels under the Hudson River, Governor Cuomo says he wants to see a fix but the money’s not there.

“The problem there is money. It’s about $12 Billion dollars – that’s a lot of money,” Cuomo said. “If the federal government – which has only offered about $3 Billion – if the federal government can make a significant contribution then let’s go.”

Cuomo says he’s spoken to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie about the issue, and that both agree repairs are needed as soon as possible.

IG: Nothing But Mitchell’s “Full Cooperation Will be Tolerated”

The woman who helped Richard Matt and David Sweat escape from a Clinton County prison has agreed to cooperate in an investigation into the incident as part of her plea deal, the state’s Inspector General said today.

Joyce Mitchell, a former Clinton Correctional employee, plead guilty to promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation in Clinton County Court this morning. As part of the plea deal, she’ll serve a maximum of seven years in prison starting in September. She’ll also have to cooperate in an investigation by the state’s Inspector General, Catherine Leahy Scott.

Scott was charged with the investigation in June following the breakout, which would become a 21-day manhunt. Richard Matt was killed by authorities during the chase. David Sweat was injured, but recovered after spending time at a hospital in Albany.

In a statement following Mitchell’s plea this morning, the Inspector General said nothing but Mitchell’s “full cooperation will be tolerated.”

Today’s plea by Joyce Mitchell makes clear her culpability in the systemic breakdown that led to the escape of two cold-blooded killers. I thank District Attorney Wylie for ensuring at my request that the plea agreement include full cooperation by Mitchell with my ongoing investigation.  Nothing short of her full cooperation will be tolerated, and I am confident that when she fulfills this obligation, I will provide a thorough and complete accounting of all the factors contributing to this elaborate breakout, with an eye toward ensuring this never happens again.


Petitioning Open for Sam Roberts’ Seat

If you’re itching to be elected to a seat in the New York State Assembly, one is now available in the Syracuse area. Petitioning is officially open to replace Assemblyman Sam Roberts, who was confirmed by the Senate last week as the Commissioner of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

Roberts is consequently no longer a member of the state’s lower chamber. His page and name have already been removed from the Assembly’s website, less than 24 hours after the end of this year’s legislative session. Instead, his name as been added to the OTDA website.

Anyone seeking to take the 128th Assembly district seat has to submit their petition to the Onondaga County Board of Elections by July 9th – less than two weeks from today.

The county’s Democratic committee has already placed its bets on Syracuse Common Councilor Pamela Hunter. She won their endorsement during a vote Thursday night.

But two other Democrats are reportedly preparing a primary challenge against the committee favorite. Jean Kessner, another member of the Common Council, and David Scott, a former county legislator are also preparing their petitions for a run.

The district itself includes part of the city of Syracuse and a few surrounding municipalities, making it unlikely that a Republican would flip it in their favor.

Heastie Announces Off-Session Travel Reimbursement Policy

In an effort to curb per diem abuse by state lawmakers, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Friday, announced reforms to the chamber’s travel policy.

The new requirements apply to travel reimbursements sought when session is not scheduled in Albany. If a lawmaker wants to claim expenses for more than 30 trips during that time, they’ll have to seek approval from the Speaker.

Under federal regulations, lawmakers are allotted $172 for a full day for food, lodging and costs related to the trip. They’re allowed $61 for a partial day per diem.

The new regulations limit off-session trips to 30. Lawmakers can claim a full-day per diem for only 20 of those trips. Legislative duties, like public hearings, are excluded.

Heastie said in a statement that the reforms come in response to calls for greater transparency at the capitol.

“Shortly after I was elected Speaker, my colleagues and I pledged to review the Assembly travel per diem policy,” Heastie said in a statement. “Today, we’re delivering on our promise, consistent with legislation enacted during the budget process, and instituting new rules that will apply to members when the Assembly is not in session.  We believe these new policies will provide increased transparency and greater accountability to the process by which members are reimbursed for their actual travel expenses.”

These new guidelines build on reforms released by Heastie last month. Under those rules, lawmakers are now required to electronically prove they were in Albany for business through voting in committee and using swipe machines in the state plaza’s Legislative Office Building.

For travel reimbursements, lawmakers must also provide documented proof, like toll records and receipts from hotels and restaurants that show they were in Albany at the time.

This comes after a third lesser-talked about scandal came to a bitter end for one Assemblyman this session. Former Queens Assemblyman William Scarborough plead guilty to charges of per diem abuse in federal court last month.