Nick Reisman

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Kim Urges Democratic Field To Embrace Student Debt Cancellation

Assemblyman Ron Kim on Tuesday in a statement urged Democrats running for president to back an effort to cancel student loan debt.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren this week unveiled a plan that would do so. Kim, a Democrat from Queens, has back legislation that would enable student loan debt cancellation on the state level.

Kim’s state-level bill would enable local governments as well as the state to purchase the debate and write it down.

“For months, I have pushed our federal government to take student debt cancellation seriously. Instead of continuing the status quo, a failing higher education market that puts millions of Americans in a lifetime of debt, I introduced legislation that would allow local and state governments to buy, write down, and cancel student debt,” Kim said.

“The federal government must also quell this crisis by not underwriting any more bad loans to private colleges, and revert back to funding tuition-free public colleges. Lastly, Congress must eliminate decades of bad laws that forbid student loan borrowers from discharging their debt through bankruptcy.”

Cuomo’s Plea For Experience

The rapid pace of change in the world has remade both the political-media industrial complex.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t really like what he sees.

Cuomo on Monday night published a Washington Post op/ed in the form of a Socratic conversation: “35 questions Americans should ask themselves this election season.”

The bulk of the questions are really rhetorical laments — “11. When did we lose our confidence?” and “22. When did we decide compromise was a bad word?”

Taken together, it’s a longtime officeholder’s plea to take stock of how the political conversation is conducted in the country. And it’s a plea for elevating experience over flash.

This is both tied in with Cuomo’s support for ex-Vice President Joe Biden — arguably the only forthcoming candidate in the Democratic field the governor considers to be something of a peer — and his criticism of the media.

“He has the experience, he has the personality, he has the values,” Cuomo said in an interview on WAMC. “I think he can bring a sense of confidence. I think they can rely on him and they believe he can rely on him.”

He added, “We’re going to get in an airplane and go for a flight. It would be nice if the pilot actually flew a plane before.”

Cuomo in a radio interview decried the “sad” state of The New York Times, which last week reported New York City Transit President Andy Byford was upset and had considered quitting. Byford is not on the verge of leaving his job, but the two men had not spoken for weeks. Cuomo didn’t think this was news.

“What is that? It’s not even a tabloid story,” Cuomo said in an interview on WAMC.

“I think they have sell newspapers. I think that is the way of the world. I think that is symptomatic of our political system now. You have less public trust in newspapers, in politicians, and I think we have seen the degradation of the political system that is frightening.”

The reward for politicians running for office these days is to say something outrageous and get the attention they crave in the media. And the press obliges — something Cuomo said led to President Trump’s election.

“They need the drama, and they need the clicks, and they need the headline and that fuels the polarization of people and the emotion over intellect,” he said.

Hours earlier, President Trump once again on Twitter blasted The Times as well. But the criticisms from the two Queens natives is seemingly coming from different places. Trump wants fealty. Cuomo probably does, too, but also some acknowledgement of the past as more than just prologue.

The press corps that covers Cuomo has become younger and less experienced over the years as institutional knowledge has been whittled away due to the changing economics of the news business. Only a handful of reporters at the Capitol covered the last three term governor, Republican George Pataki, and very few covered his father, the late Mario Cuomo.

Cuomo is now the nation’s longest serving governor, having first been elected in 2010, a starkly different political environment. He’s been in public life since the 1980s, passing through eras dominated by Reagnomics, Clintonite triangulation and the Democratic wilderness years of the second Bush administration.

In other words, it’s a career that spans multiple political eras. And he’s trying tell the country he’s picked up some info along the way.

Cuomo Is Sticking With Biden

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in an interview on CNN Tuesday said he continues to believe former Vice President Joe Biden has the best chance of unseating President Donald Trump next year.

Biden is reportedly due to enter the race for the Democratic nomination in the coming days.

But the former vice president’s behavior toward women — touching, hugging and kissing without permission — has come under scrutiny in recent weeks as he prepares to start his third campaign for the presidency.

Cuomo in the interview on CNN was not asked about the allegations against Biden, but maintained the former vice president “has the personality for the moment” to defeat Trump.

“I think he has the best chance of defeating President Trump, which is the main goal here,” Cuomo said. “I think he can unify the Democratic Party and, again, focus on the goal, the goal is defeating President Trump and Joe Biden is in the best position to do that.”

Cuomo, re-elected to a third term last year, has not made any public moves toward launching a campaign for the White House himself.

Cuomo Says He Opposes Granting Inmates The Right To Vote

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a television interview on Tuesday said he opposes Vermont Sen. Bernie Sander’s proposal that inmates be allowed to vote while incarcerated.

Sanders, who is mounting his second bid for the Democratic nomination for president, said at a CNN town hall event on Monday that the right to vote is “inherent” and becomes a “slippery slope” once its denied.

But Cuomo, who has worked with Sanders on issues like college tuition and the minimum wage increase, broke with him on the issue.

“You are in prison for a felony, you’re paying your debt to society. I don’t think you should have a right to vote and participate as a full citizen,” Cuomo said in an interview on CNN’s New Day.

“Once you pay your debt to society, you’re out, you’re on parole, you’re being assimilated back into society, fine, then you have a right to vote. But I totally disagree with Bernie Sanders.”

Cuomo and state lawmakers have in recent weeks sought to advance a series of criminal justice law changes, such as curtailing cash bail for misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges. The state next year is moving forward with the closure of up to three prison facilities as well.

Cuomo last year approved an executive order extending voting rights to people on parole.

Cuomo Says Mueller Report Raises ‘A Legitimate Case’ For Impeachment

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in an interview on CNN Tuesday morning said the report into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election raises a “legitimate case” for impeaching President Donald Trump.

A redacted version of the report, released last week by the Department of Justice, determined the president’s campaign did not coordinate with Russia in a documented effort to sway the election. But at the same time, the report detailed efforts by Trump while in office to thwart the investigation, led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Ultimately, Mueller could not conclude if Trump obstructed justice, leaving the question up to Congress.

“It does raise very real questions and it does raise a legitimate case that should be considered for impeachment,” Cuomo said when asked if the House of Representatives should move forward with impeachment proceedings. “Whether or not the Democrats go down that road is a different question.”

Cuomo derided U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s public interpretation of the report, calling it “unusual as a matter of process.”

“I think he was deceptive with the American people,” Cuomo said. “I think he put the president’s best spin on the report.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a conference call with Democratic lawmakers on Monday sought to tap the brakes on impeachment, pointing to congressional inquiries that are currently underway.

An impeachment push would be backed by the Democratic base, but some in the party worry the effort would backfire and help embolden Republicans ahead of the 2020 election.

Enviros Want Faster Siting Process For Renewable Projects

From the Morning Memo:

A coalition of environmental groups this week released a letter to the Public Service Commission urging New York officials to hasten the siting process to build solar, wind and other renewable energy projects around the state.

“The climate challenges we face demand immediate action,” the groups wrote in the letter. “New York’s clean energy goals are laudable, but if the regulatory process is too lengthy and arduous, it will be difficult if not impossible to meet them.”

Signing on to the letter are groups that represent a range of environmental interests around the state, including Audubon New York, Catskill Mountainkeeper, the New York League of Conservation Voters, among others.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is backing an effort that would transition the state to 100 percent carbon-neutral energy sources by 2040. Much that goal would be achieved through the construction of major wind and solar energy projects, but environmental groups as well as some for-profit businesses have raised concerns over the red taped involved in getting those efforts off the ground.

In the letter, the coalition writes that speeding up the regulatory process for approving the projects can be done in a way that would both minimize environmental hazards and allowing a siting process to go forward.

siting letter 4-22-2019_ (1) by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Maryland’s O’Malley Endorses 311 In Suffolk

From the Morning Memo:

The pending 311 information system in Suffolk County has won the backing of Democratic former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

The non-emergency alternative line debuted in Baltimore in 311, where O’Malley was then the mayor.

Suffolk County’s system is set to go live next month. The number is meant to provide information for residents by having a government contact to call that is not an emergency line and can reduce congestion for 911 call centers.

“There is a revolution going in American government today and it is being led by well-run counties and cities,” O’Malley said in a statement.

“It’s all about performance and delivery, treating citizens as customers, getting things done with greater efficiency and greater accountability. It’s really the heart of civic trust for municipalities to serve as the laboratories of innovation and 311 has become the gold standard for data-driven results. I commend Suffolk County Executive Bellone for embracing this model and it is my sincere hope that other counties in New York follow his lead.”

Suffolk County’s 311 system has won the backing of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Michael Balboni, a former top official in the state’s Homeland Security office.

On Earth Day, Cuomo Touts Bag Ban

Gov. Andrew Cuomo ceremonially signed into law restrictions on single-use plastic bags as well as a 5-cent surcharge on paper bags as a recognition for both Earth Day, but also as some local governments and environmental groups are seeking to go even further.

The approval of the ban, part of the state budget agreement last month, is the culmination of a push by lawmakers at both the state level as well as in local governments, to curtail the use of plastic bags, long seen as a source of air, ground and water pollution.

The fee on paper bags will go toward the Environmental Protection Fund as well as locally run reusable bag programs for county governments that opt in. The ban itself will take effect next March.

Taken together, the ban and fee is perhaps the most major shifts the state government is making for everyday consumers in the state to aid the environment since restrictions on pesticides were approved in the last century.

“So the banning of plastic bags has been something that we have fought for years, literally,” Cuomo said at one of two stops on Monday on Long Island and in Kingston.

“But think about it. It is a minor inconvenience. We can provide bags that are reusable. When you go to the store you use the reusable bag, and you bring it home. That’s it. Well, then I have to remember to bring the reusable bag. Yes, like you have to remember to go to the store, and you have to remember to bring your keys, and you have to remember to find a way to get there, and you have to bring your wallet or your purse to pay, and don’t forget the phone because you can’t go anywhere without the phone. So yes, you have to remember to bring the reusable bag.”

The statewide ban was not always a sure thing, however.

New York City approved a fee on plastic bags, seen by some Democrats in Albany as a regressive tax on poor shoppers. Ultimately the Legislature voted to overturn the fee and Cuomo appointed a commission to study the issue.

The end result: The single-use plastic bag ban, plus the paper bag fee, along with programs for reusable bags.

Some lawmakers want to go further, however: Assemblywoman Pat Fahy has introduced legislation that would include restaurants in the plastic bag ban.

And in Suffolk County, officials there on Monday signed into law restrictions on plastic straws in restaurants as well as a ban on the use of Sytrofoam.

Those actions may get more attention in the next year or as early as the next few weeks when lawmakers return from their spring break.

“We are borrowing it from our children,” Cuomo said. “And our responsibility as parents, as citizens, is to leave this place better, safer, cleaner than we found it. And we have a long way to go before we can say we’ve left them a state, a country, a planet that is safer and cleaner than the one we inherited. But New York will lead the way.”

State Budget Approved Boost In Pay For State Police

The state budget didn’t just authorize pay raises for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers.

State lawmakers last month approved and Cuomo signed into law 2-percent pay raises for the State Police over a five-year period.

The salary increases for the State Police were part of contractually negotiated hikes for all ranks from trainee grade troopers, sergeants, lieutenants, captains to majors.

Officers and troopers alike will see their pay increased in the coming years.

For trainee, entry-level troopers, their pay will grow from $56,174, retroactive to April 1, 2018 to $59,612 by 2022.

On the other end of the pay scale, majors living outside of the New York City area will see their salaries grow from $148,321 to $160,547 by 2022.

Salaries for State Police officers vary on their locations within the state.

The budget included a resolution authorizing pay raises for Cuomo and Hochul. In the coming years, the governor’s salary will grow to $250,000 by 2021. The lieutenant governor’s salary will reach $220,000. The future phased-in hikes are tied to the passage of budgets by the start of the state’s fiscal year, April 1.

State lawmakers are also in line for pay raises that are due to top out $130,000 in the coming years.

For Some House Candidates, A Hope That Second Time’s The Charm

The 2018 general election was only six months ago. But now multiple former candidates are launching or considering second bids for office.

“I think in the last election we did everything in our power to fight him,” said Nate McMurray, the Democrat who unsuccessfully challenge Republican Chris Collins last year.

“He fought dirty against us. He did everything he could to undermine who I am. I’ll be perfectly frank, I want another chance to fight against him. I want to be the guy who removes him from his post and removes him from western New York.”

Collins is still under indictment for insider trading, but continues to represent a deeply Republican House district in western New York. McMurray says the campaign boosted his visibility as he considers another campaign.

“No one knew who I was when I first started to run last year,” McMurray said. “We built a lot of good build and you learn a lot the first time. When you come that close, we feel confident we can defeat this.”

And McMurray could soon join an increasingly long list of former candidates already launching second campaigns this year.

Democrat Tedra Cobb announced she plans to once again challenge Republican Elise Stefanik in the North Country. Democrat Tracy Mitrano wants to again face off against Republican Tom Reed in the Southern Tier. Republican former U.S. Senate candidate Chele Farley has started to raise money to challenge Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney in the Hudson Valley. Democrat Perry Gershon is considering another challenge to Rep. Lee Zeldin.

Republican former Rep. Michael Grimm, who failed in a primary bid last year to retake his Staten Island House seat, is eyeing another run against incumbent Democrat Max Rose.

But he may face Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, who ran for New York City mayor against Bill de Blasio in 2015.

Just last week, in central New York, Dana Blater launched her second bid to oust Republican John Katko for a Syracuse-area House seat.

“We are going to build on that and we’re going to give central and western New Yorkers somebody who can get the job done,” Balter told reporters.

Balter said she learned a lot from her first campaign — including to not necessarily count on support from national Democrats.

“My focus is not on the D-triple-C or any other national organization I’m thrilled to have their support, I hope they all jump in,” she said. “But what I’m focused on are the people of central New York.”

For many candidates the outcome could be different in 2020, when President Donald Trump will once again be at the top of the ticket for Republicans.

“I take it as a sign that these candidates think that 2020 is going to be another good Democrat year in New York so Democrats ought to take some comfort that these candidates don’t feel, ‘Oh, I took my shot I lost,” said Bruce Gyory, an adjunct professor at SUNY Albany who advised several gubernatorial administrations.

And running again can be helpful for both name recognition and having a campaign apparatus already in place.

“I think it actually helps you because of the name recognition and your being ring-wise,” Gyory said. “You know, the second time you run a race, there’s just things you know.”