Nick Reisman

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WFP Names Sochie Nnaemeka NY State Director

Organizer and activist Sochie Nnaemeka has been named the New York State director of the Working Families Party, the organization on Friday announced.

Nnaemeka most recently served as the director of emerging organizing and leadership at the Center for Popular Democracy.

She is succeeding Bill Lipton, who is taking a national role with the group.

She formally takes the post on Jan. 1 and takes on the job as the party faces a potential challenge in securing ballot access next year following the recommendations of the public financing commission that could make it harder for the WFP to qualify for the ballot after the 2020 election.

“The progressive movement in New York is delivering massive wins for working people — and I’m honored to lead the Working Families’ Party as we continue to build people power here in my home state,” Nnaemeka said in a statement.

“In the past two years alone, the Working Families Party helped flip the State Senate, built the conditions that led to landmark rent laws, historic climate legislation, and protections for immigrants, and drove the national conversation around decarceral prosecutors. And in the years to come, we’ll be laser-focused on expanding these wins and building up the progressive coalition of grassroots leaders that make up the New York Working Families Party.”

Rensselaer County Clerk Expects Ruling On Green Light Lawsuit Next Week

Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola’s lawsuit against a state law allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses got a boost this week from the Trump administration.

Merola has been a prominent opponent of the long-controversial proposal that he hopes will be blocked in court. ​

“The fact that we’re going to be issuing licenses to people who are here illegally, with documentation that we never looked at before, can’t authenticate, I don’t see how we can do it,” Merola said.

Merola’s legal challenge got the backing this week from the Trump administration and the Department of Justice, which said Uva legal brief the law is flawed.

“I think it’s a game-changer,” he said. “The fact that the Department of Justice sees what we see in this law has got to be big for both of us.”

Democratic supporters of the law expect it will be upheld.

“People will be able to move on and get ready for a system that promotes safety and accountability because people will have insurance and the license the ability to drive,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said.

Meanwhile Merola says he won’t allow anyone he suspects is in the country illegally to apply for a driver’s license and he plans to alert ICE if they try.

“If someone comes in here and they’re here illegally,” Merola said. “I’m just not going to deal with that. They can drive down to Albany and they can make do with that.”

The law is set to take effect on Dec. 14; Merola expects a decision from the court sometime next week.

Are New York’s Senate Republicans Depressed?

The following post was written by Susan Arbetter:

On a recent Friday afternoon I was catching up with one of the reporters who cover the state Capitol and we got to talking about the Senate Republicans.

Where the hell are they, he asked.

He had a point.

The leadership of the Senate minority has been unusually quiet this fall. It’s as if they are stuck in stage 4 of Kubler-Ross’ timeline of grief.

If the cause is depression, the timing is lousy.

First, all of their seats are up for re-election next year. As of today, seven incumbents including Senator Michael Ranzenhofer have announced they would be resigning, retiring or gunning for new positions.

In the world of political campaigning, that’s bad news; it means the GOP will have to pour money into seats they thought were safe.

The second reason this apparent abdication of responsibility by the Senate Republicans is ill-timed, is that there is plenty of fodder for outrage in Albany, real or manufactured, around Gov. Cuomo’s alleged meddling in an ethics board’s decision-making. Again.

Whether Cuomo is guilty or not of having had an inappropriate conversation with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie over a JCOPE vote isn’t the point.

The point is, that the minority party plays an important role in a democracy, and the Senate Republicans appear to be missing from the current state of play.

Thomas Jefferson ensured that, at the federal level, institutional procedures guarantee the political minority the opportunity to meaningfully participate in the legislative process. Certainly those rules apply in New York, too, whether or not the legislature is in session?

Put another way, former Congressman Robert Walker once said “the chief job of the minority party is to become the majority.”

To be sure, not all Republicans have been silent.

After the Times Union broke the JCOPE news, GOP Chair Nick Langworthy issued a press release calling the Governor’s alleged sway over the ethics board “unconscionable”.

And Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-Geneva) has again called for the creation of a new ethics panel in the New York Daily News.

Kolb also told the New York Post, “This was never a serious investigation; in fact, it has the appearance of a cover-up.”

Perhaps I missed it, but I can’t find anything from Senator Minority Leader John Flanagan, and a couple of emails to his spokesperson haven’t been answered.

Granted the GOP may have a lot to be depressed about in New York State: They are losing net enrollment. They lost their majority in the State Senate. They have less money and clout than they used to have.

Personally I understand how frustrating it can be when someone who knows nothing about depression says, “Hey, just snap out of it”. It’s not at all helpful. But this was: A therapist once recommended that I “simply go through the motions” until my “mojo” returned.

Along with some pharmaceutical help, it worked.

Minus the Prozac, I think that’s good advice for the Senate minority, too.

Don’t New Yorkers deserve more than a 1-party system?

Republicans Depart State Senate

Sen. Betty Little on Thursday became the latest Republican lawmaker to announce retirement plans for 2020.

In doing so, Little added to the growing exodus of Republicans from the chamber: Sen. George Amedore will not seek re-election to a district drawn with him in mind in 2012, Sen. Bob Antonacci is leaving for a central New York judgeship at the end of the month ending a half-term tenure, Sen. Cathy Young resigned earlier this year after losing a leadership vote.

Two Republicans in the Senate, Chris Jacobs and Robert Ortt, are running for an open congressional seat in western New York.

The reasons why these lawmakers are departing are varied. Some represent districts Democrats have a shot at flipping, some are safe Republican seats.

But the bottom line: It’s not fun being in the minority in Albany. You can’t control the flow of legislation, you don’t get the choice office space, you have less money.

Being in the political wilderness in the Capitol is not an inducement for sticking around.

Contractors Association Says Marijuana, Gambling Revenue Should Go Toward Roads

From the Morning Memo:

A contractors industry group is calling for New York lawmakers to dedicate revenue from sports betting and legalized cannabis to road and other infrastructure improvements.

Sports betting — currently allowed on-site in the state’s commercial casinos — is estimated to generate $75 million, while the legalization of retail cannabis would send $300 million to the state.

The Long Island Contractors’ Association wants the money put toward roads and bridges that are in need of repair.

“Through the leadership of legislators who are sponsoring these bills, we believe we can establish a positive impact by dedicating new funds towards an important need; the aging and crumbling bridge and highway infrastructure in the State of New York,” said Marc Herbst, an executive with the group. “Specifically, families on Long Island depend on safe roads, highways and bridges.”

The group is expected to present its proposal to the Assembly Transportation Committee later on Friday in a public hearing on infrastructure improvement.

Lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the 2019 legislative session did not agree on a plan that would set up a taxing and retail system for legalized marijuana in New York. Lawmakers and Cuomo broadly agreed revenue raised from the proposal should benefit communities affected by stringent drug laws.

The measure is expected to be under debate again when the 2020 session begins next month.

Here And Now

Good morning and TGIF! Here’s the news.

Happening today:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with nothing public planned.

At 7:40 a.m., Mayor de Blasio is live on MSNBC.

At 10 a.m., Mayor de Blasio is live on WNYC.

Also at 10 a.m., the Assembly Transportation Committee will meet for a public hearing. Hearing Room B, Legislative Office Building, 198 State St., Albany.


If you have ever ordered an Uber or a Lyft on your phone, or had someone deliver you food through an app, you have participated in what’s known as the gig economy. Now, state lawmakers want to bolster labor rights for those workers.

Republican Sen. Betty Little will not seek re-election in 2020 and will retire after serving more than two decades in Albany.

Before the Green Light Law, which allows undocumented immigrants to get licenses, officially takes effect later this month, Erie County Clerk Kearns said he will post signs with the ICE tip line number on every customer service window of every local bureau.

Rep. Tom Reed says he does not back the debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine sought to interfere in the 2016 election as spread by Republican allies of President Trump.

Farmers are begging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to block New York City from banning foie gras.

New York City is owed millions of dollars in parking fees by diplomats and other out-of-town drivers.

The state Department of Health reported the flu is now prevalent in New York.

A report found a racial and socioeconomic divide in access to early intervention services.

The New York Times profiles the rise and fall of the “taxi king” of New York.

Military suicides have surged to a five-year record according to a report by the Department of Defense. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Wednesday called a Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee hearing on the growing problem.

The leadership of the Transport Workers Union (TWU) formally approved a new labor contract for its nearly 37,000 members at the MTA after months of often tense talks.

Mayor de Blasio said he backed the hiring by NYCHA of a police officer convicted in the infamous brutality case.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka has been a progressive ally of Mayor de Blasio but it seems their relationship has soured. Earlier this week, Baraka filed a federal lawsuit over an assistance program that’s placed more than a thousand homeless New Yorkers in rentals in Newark. Thursday, de Blasio hit back.

A review of a New York City-run homeless program found vermin and no heat in the facilities.

Sideshow “freaks” at Coney Island were at City Hall on Thursday to protest rising rents in the amusement park neighborhood.

A Brooklyn city councilman is calling for protective barriers at every bus stop.

The director of the mental health program ThriveNYC is downplaying the poor retention rate of its staff.

Mike Bloomberg was sent to City Hall through Staten Island — voters in the borough helped him get his start. So not even two weeks into his presidential campaign, the mayor came back Wednesday night.

Jay Kriegel died Thursday after a lifetime of making an impact in media, politics and real estate here in the city.

In Queens, parents are bristling at the proposed diversity plan for the school district.

Amazon is closing in on a deal for a new delivery hub in Queens.

Dozens rallied to protest proposed layoffs in the Rochester City School District, ahead of Thursday evening’s school board meeting.

Bishop Scharfenberger was introduced Wednesday as the apostolic administrator for the Diocese of Buffalo, and held a conference call with area priests.

In national news:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is asking House Democrats to proceed with drafting articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

In an address on Thursday morning, Pelosi said Democrats have “no choice” but to move forward with impeachment.

An impeachment vote by the House of Representatives could come as early as just before Christmas.

Records show President Trump is often on the phone on an unsecured line that is vulnerable to eavesdropping.

As they push back against impeachment, the Trump administration is disputing the details of call logs from Rudy Giuliani.

Both Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren are dropping in a new 2020 poll.

Biden got into an angry exchange with a voter in Iowa over his son being employed by a gas company in Ukraine.

Rival campaigns are seeing an opportunity in the failed presidential bid of Sen. Kamala Harris when it comes to picking up key support in the primary.

From the editorial pages:

The Times Union says it’s time for a federal paid family leave law.

The Buffalo News points to a bill in the state Legislature providing reimbursement to school districts for transportation safety costs as a worthy idea.

The New York Post raises concerns with New York City’s juvenile justice reform program.

The Daily News says the new contract with the transport workers union with the MTA falls short for straphangers.

From the sports pages:

There’s plenty of blame to go around for the disaster that is the Knicks season.

NY-17: Westchester County Clerk Endorses Buchwald

Democratic congressional candidate David Buchwald on Thursday received the first countywide endorsement in the crowded party primary for the 17th House district.

Westchester County Clerk Tim Odoni backed Buchwald’s bid for the seat being vacated by Rep. Nita Lowey.

“I am excited to endorse David Buchwald as he runs for Congress,” Idoni said. “Throughout his career, David has worked hard to build relationships across the community and has been a leader we could count on at the state level to fight to hold Trump accountable, to protect women’s healthcare, to pass laws to reduce gun violence, and to promote ethics in government. He’s the advocate we need in Congress.”

Buchwald, a member of the state Assembly, is part of a field of more than a half-dozen candidates seeking the Democratic nod for the district.

“I am proud to have County Clerk Idoni’s support. He has devoted his life to serving Westchester County, and he has been a conscientious and effective leader for us,” Buchwald said.

“Together, we have worked to promote electronic recordkeeping that saves taxpayers millions of dollars. I am running for Congress to fight for an end to gun violence, protect women’s reproductive rights, restore the SALT deduction, and advocate for our Democratic values.”

5 GOP Lawmakers Receive Perfect Score From Conservative Party

The state Conservative Party rankings released Thursday gave 100 percent ratings to five Republican lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly.

Sens. Daphne Jordan, Tom O’Mara, Robert Ortt each received a 100 percent score from the party, as did Assemblyman David DiPietro and Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor.

The party assessed support and opposition to a series of key issues and bills on the economy, crime, health, education and abortion.

“We believe that it is necessary to keep the public informed of key votes and let the taxpayers be aware of how elected officials spend our hard-earned money. Every bill is considered, and then we narrow the number to give voters a fair assessment of what transpires in Albany,” said Gerard Kassar, the party’s state chairman.

“A review of the bills used this year will show New Yorkers how out of touch the legislature is with the average citizen; many are costly and others will show how they help New Yorkers.”

Betty Little Becomes Latest Senate GOP Retirement

Republican Sen. Betty Little, a longtime fixture in North Country politics, will not seek re-election to the state Senate seat she has held since 2002, she announced on Thursday.

“Although it is very difficult for me to contemplate stepping away from the public service that I love so much, it’s time,” Little said during her announcement Thursday in Glens Falls. “Being able to do this work for so many years has been the greatest honor. I’ve not taken one moment of it for granted.”

Little is the second Republican lawmaker within the last week in the Senate to announce plans to not run again next year. Republican Sen. George Amedore last week said he will retire from the chamber after representing a Mohawk and Hudson Valley Senate district since 2015.

Little is a widely respected lawmaker in Albany among Republicans and Democrats alike.

“The senator was always willing to explain her position and seek opportunities to work together, even when we didn’t always agree,” said William Janeway, the executive director of the Adirondack Council.

Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro also praised her, calling her a “wonderful individual” and among the “dignified voices in Albany.”

“While her demeanor, strength, and grace will be missed in the Capitol, she has more than earned this next chapter of her life,” he said. “Thank you senator.”

At Fundraiser, Cuomo Speaks Of Lessons Learned After 2002

Like a lot of supremely confident people at his level of politics, Gov. Andrew Cuomo isn’t one to dwell on failure.

But at his birthday fundraiser at the Essex House in New York City on Wednesday evening, Cuomo spoke about his failed bid for Democratic primary nomination for governor in 2002, as well as his late father’s re-election loss in 1994.

“My father lost election in 1994. We think back and say, ‘Oh, Mario Cuomo was so great.’ Yeah, he lost an election in 1994,” Cuomo told donors at the event.

“For a number of years we sat around and commiserated about our loss. They say a political loss — don’t take it personally. It’s not personal. No, it’s personal. It’s your name on the ballot, they say I don’t like that name.”

Mario Cuomo’s loss in 1994 was an especially personal one for the governor’s family. Andrew Cuomo has in the past blamed himself, in part, for not being fully involved in the campaign as he was working for President Bill Clinton’s administration at the time.

“My father would replay the game tape over and over and over again and go back through what we could have done, what we should have done,” Cuomo said.

Andrew Cuomo sought to avenge his father’s loss in 2002 to unseat Republican Gov. George Pataki. He ultimately suspended his campaign against Carl McCall for the party’s nomination. He would win a comeback race in 2006 for attorney general. He was elected governor in 2010 and in his third term.

The lesson learned: Voters want elected leaders who can get things done, Cuomo said, which has been a touchstone for him in office.

“The common refrain was we would be bolder and we would work harder to make real tangible change in real peoples’ lives,” Cuomo said.

The governor rattled off a series of accomplishments in the address, ranging from gun control, college tuition, fighting AIDs, gender equality, abortion rights and infrastructure improvements.

“Government has gotten timid. It’s gotten incremental. And it’s become incompetent and people have lost confidence in government’s ability to help them,” he said. “The challenge for the progressive movement today is to make people believe that again.”