Reporting From The War Room, It’s Kaitlyn Ross

An exclusive SOP production, compliments of CapTon’s Kaitlyn Ross, who reports from the War Room where Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo and LG-elect Bob Duffy will be sworn in just over three weeks from now.

(They’re going to have to do something about the acoustics before Jan. 1, although maybe more bodies in there will take care of all that echoing).

Kaitlyn also spoke to NYPIRG’s Blair Horner about the scaled-down nature of Cuomo’s inauguration ceremony, which Horner (who used to work for Cuomo at the AG’s office, heading up Project Sunlight) said he thinks “makes perfect sense, given the economic climate the state is in.”

The War Room, which is officially known as the Governor’s Reception Room, was redecorated and repainted during then-Gov. George Pataki’s first term.

Cuomo’s ‘Small’ Inauguration Plans Revealed

With just over two weeks to go before he formally takes the reins from outgoing Gov. David Paterson, Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo has revealed his inauguration plans, and, as expected, they are decidedly low-key in an effort to underscore his message of fiscal austerity.

The events include: a private swearing-in at the Executive Mansion on New Year’s Eve, a working executive staff meeting early on New Year’s Day, a small inauguration ceremony in the Governor’s Reception Room in the state Capitol and a public receiving line at the Executive Mansion.

“This is not a time for the grand and expensive celebrations of the recent past,” Cuomo said (taking what I interpret as a bit of a shot at his predecessors, including former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who held an historic outdoor celebration on his Day One).

“It is the time to return dignity, integrity, and performance to state government and begin making real progress for the people of this great state. That means we go to work on the very first day with a focus on renewing New Yorkers’ faith in government.”

Governor-elect Cuomo and Lt. Governor-elect Duffy will be sworn-in at a small ceremony on January 1 in the Governor’s Reception Room (also known as the War Room) in the state Capitol attended by their families, staff and members of the press.

Comptroller-elect Tom DiNapoli and AG-elect Eric Schneiderman will also be sworn in at the ceremony, although both have opted to hold inauguration events later in the month to avoid conflicting with Shabbat.

Cuomo’s camp said it consulted political and religious leaders – including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is an Orthodox Jew – and received their blessings to go ahead with the Saturday swearing in.

Cuomo’s inaugural message will be two-fold: “It’s time to make the government work and to commence a new era of openness in government, bringing people back to participate in state government once again.” (A recent Siena poll found most New Yorkers feel he should focus on fiscal issues in this speech).

After the inaugural ceremony, Cuomo will host an open house at the mansionwhere New Yorkers will be welcomed to meet him, LG-elect Bob Duffy and their families. (No mention of whether first girlfriend Sandra Lee will be on hand).

Details – including how to RSVP for the receiving line – follow after the jump. Like Paterson and Spitzer, Cuomo is holding a lottery for tickets to the public executive mansion event. There’s now an inauguration Website.

More >

Appellate Court Dismisses Johnson Suit In 7th SD

Here’s the decision by four appellate court judges – two Democrats and two Republicans – dismissing Sen. Craig Johnson’s appeal of a Dec. 4 ruling of State Supreme Court Justice Ira Warshawsky that handed the 7th SD race to Republican Jack Martins.

Newsday’s Dan Janison writes:

The panel paved the way for a further appeal by Sen. Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington) – declared the loser by 451 votes – to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals. But it wasn’t immediately clear whether Johnson will do so or finally concede to Mineola’s GOP Mayor Jack Martins.

…This was the first key case of its kind taken up since those new optical-scan ballot machines replaced lever devices in New York. It draws a first legal line on when in the state’s procedures paper ballots can or should be checked against the results tabulated by the machines.

Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif released the following statement:

” This bipartisan panel of judges sent a clear message that there are no legal grounds for such an appeal, and that the business of government should continue.”

“This contest has gone on long enough, and now that every vote has been counted, Craig Johnson should do the right thing and allow for a smooth and orderly transition. Now that two judicial entities have definitively ruled that Martins is the winner and that nothing will change that result, it’s time to move on.”

“For our democracy to flourish, contested elections must always give way to governing. Our new Senate Republican majority is 32-strong and we’re ready to work with the Governor-elect and every member of the State legislature to do the people’s business.”


CPI Gives Laid Off State Workers A Break

The state Public Integrity Commission just released an opinion intended to make it easier for state workers targeted for layoffs to seek new jobs.

The PIC has decided that the 30-day recusal period set forth in a 2006 opinion does not apply to state officers or employees who have been targeted for layoffs or to anyone who may opt for bumping, relocation or layoff, because their position is being eliminated.

Prior to this move, employees who knew they were about to lose their jobs had to wait 30 days from the date of their termination until they could seek a new job with anyone who had a pending issue at their old agency.

This change of heart was the result of a request by the DEC (where layoffs is a hot-button issue and led to the firing of former Commissioner Pete Grannis) which argued the 30-day recusal period created an untenable situation for workers who expect to lose their taxpayer-funded jobs.


Dear Valued Employee…Please Resign

Here’s a copy of the letter sent yesterday by Gov. David Paterson’s top aide, Larry Schwartz, that requested undated resignation letters by the end of the week from some 2,500 political appointees to “give the incoming administration maximum flexibility in assembling personnel and to ensure an orderly transition.”

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Joseph Sano, executive director of the Organization of Management Confidential Employees, told the TU’s Jim Odato the governor’s move is “unusual and strange,” adding: “So, what else is new?”

The letter went to so-called “at-will” employees, some of whom have fixed terms. Also, there’s a question as to whether an open-ended resignation would be legally binding.

Those still working for Paterson in the executive chamber on the second floor of the Capitol – including Schwartz, who has a good relationship with the governor-elect and has been working as a sort of liaison between the incoming and outgoing administrations – are not being required to tender their resignations, a spokeswoman for the governor told the TU.

This copy of the letter is a little hard to read, but it notes that top political appointees “serve at the pleasure of the governor.” Anyone interested in keeping their job is encouraged to contact the appointments office so the information can be forwarded on to the transition team.

It also provides a helpful sample of a resignation letter – “for your convenience” just in case anyone gets struck with a massive case of writer’s block while signing their own death warrant.

Cuomo ‘Pleased’ To Have Espada Nabbed On His Watch

Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo is taking personal satisfaction from the fact that he was able to indict outgoing Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. on criminal charges prior to leaving the state attorney general’s office, but also insisted the timing is merely coincidental.

Cuomo rejected Espada’s past allegations that his cases against the Bronx Democrat have been politically motivated. He insisted his office has been “more aggressive than any attorney general’s office in modern political history in pursuing public integrity cases.”

The timing is the timing,” Cuomo told reporters during a conference call shortly after news broke of the indictments of Espada and his son, Pedro G.

“We’ve been working on this case for years. This case predated anything that had to do with the Senate coup…We brought the civil case when we had the civil case and the indictment comes down when we have the indictment.”

“I frankly am pleased personally that the indictment came down while I was still in the job. But that was just circumstantial, and we bring a case when we have a case. Period.”

Cuomo later said he felt he “couldn’t leave this office on a better note.”

Espada Indictment

More >

Cuomo Seeks Rabbinical Clearance For Shabbat Swearing-In

It appears Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo will not be following the lead of state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who has decided to delay his inauguration to avoid holding the festivities on a Saturday and conflicting with Shabbat.

“We have consulted with Jewish leaders, both political and religious – including Speaker Silver – who have not raised an objection to holding the inauguration on January 1,” said Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto. “We will announce the details of the inauguration at the appropriate time.”

No word yet on whether Silver, who is an Orthodox Jew, would actually attend the inauguration if it’s held on Saturday. (I guess he could if he stays near the Capitol, assuming that’s where it’s held, and then walks over after morning services…although it really would technically be work).

DiNapoli is erring on the side of caution here, which makes sense, since Silver has long been his champion, and was instrumental in landing the former Long Island assemblyman his job after Alan Hevesi resigned.

So far, there has been zero in the way of details about the inauguration, other than the fact that, according to Fred Dicker’s source, the ceremony will be “small,” “austere” and “very economical” in keeping with Cuomo’s fiscally conservative message.

For the sake of comparison, at this time in 2006, we were already well aware of then-Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer’s plan to hold a so-called “people’s inaugural” that was held outdoors for the first time in the state’s history.

Spitzer paid for the celebration, which included a concert featuring James “I’m a Steamroller, Baby” Taylor, with some of the $5.5 million left in his campaign kitty. (Cuomo has just shy of $5 million worth of leftover political cash, but he’s saving it to battle the public employee unions).

At the time, AG-elect Andrew Cuomo joked after learning Spitzer’s inauguration would be held outside that he might show up late to catch the tail end of the speech the then-governor-elect suggested might clock in at 45 minutes.

The World According To Pedro Espada (Updated)

Now we know why outgoing Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. couldn’t make it to Albany for either the extraordinary session called by Gov. David Paterson and the (failed) NYC OTB session called by Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson.

He was too busy writing a report tallying up his many accomplishments over the past two years.

Said report – the first of its kind, according to Espada – includes a “Dear Resident of New York State” letter.

In it, the Bronx Democrat says it has been his “honor to serve” as majority leader over the past two years (he makes no mention of the fact that he won’t be returning, following his defeat in the September primary by Senator-elect Gustavo Rivera).

“While it is impossible to list all of the achievements, it summarizes the highlights of my work on your behalf during 2009-2010,” Espada wrote.

In the report’s executive summary Espada says he and his colleagues “on both sides of the aisle…made history by implementing momentous, unprecedented reform in the New York State Senate.”

“The road was long and difficult at every turn,” Espada continued. “But through a bipartisan effort, rules changes were adopted that strengthened the committee process, increased transparency and disclosure to give the public greater insight into legislative proceedings, and placed term limits on the length of time legislative leaders and committee chairs can serve, among other reform initiatives.”

“Of course, reform never comes easy. But we overcame the obstacles of these unprecedented
tumultuous economic times and strong resistance to change (after all, the status quo had been in
place for over 40 years).”

I believe he’s talking about the 2009 Senate coup here, and, as usual, is continuing to spin that insurrection and the 31-day stalemate that followed as a positive development that somehow improved state government rather than deadlocking it.

I’m not quite sure what else to say about this, other than…happy reading! (It’s worth noting, by the way, that the senator takes credit for everything under the sun, including the “Stop the Sag” campaign, which was unquestionably Sen. Eric Adams’ baby).

UPDATE: A Senate Democratic official said the following: “This document was entirely produced by Senator Espada’s office without the knowledge or involvement of the conference. There are no plans to print this at the taxpayers expense.”


Local Officials Seek More Control

NYCOM members are lobbying Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo for more power over their own destinies, arguing his plan for a 2 percent property tax cap won’t succeed unless its accompanied by other local reforms – from a public sector-wide wage freeze to an overhaul of the pension system.

NYCOM’s Mayoral Task Force on Mandate and Property Tax Relief released a report that basically argues “you can’t cap what you can’t control,” which the organization’s president, Jamestown Mayor Teresi, explained thusly”

“In other words, a property tax cap will certainly fail if it is not preceded bysignificant mandate relief, exclusions for those costs (i.e., pensions and healthi nsurance) that will continue to rise rapidly even after enactment of mandate relief, and maintenance of an equitable state revenue sharing program.”

NYCOM argues its members need to be allowed more leeway in collective bargaining and management of their respective workforces.

That point was also made during a CapTon roundtable discussion last week with Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who said they’d like to see the provision of the Taylor Law lifted that prevents them from negotiating pension benefits with local unions.

CapCon’s Rick Karlin has more….and here’s the report:

MRTF Report Final

The Return Of St. Lawrence? (Updated)

Perhaps that short-lived long-shot LG run by Ramapo Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence wasn’t so quixotic after all?

LoHud, Rockland is reporting that St. Lawrence might be up for a job with the incoming Cuomo administration – perhaps as Motor Vehicles commissioner.

Interestingly, that move would have a domino effect that could benefit someone whose name is a blast from the past: Former Assemblyman Ryan Karben, who departed Albany under a cloud (and with a not-so-subtle push from the speaker).

Apparently Karben, who lost his gig as Spring Valley village attorney not so long ago, recently relocated into the district of Ilan Schoeberger, the county legislator who would be poised to move up if St. Lawrence departs.

St. Lawrence, who raised campaign cash for Cuomo, quickly ended his LG run at the Democratic convention in Rye after the news broke that the then-gubernatorial candidate had tapped Rochester Mayor Bob Duffy as his running mate.

(It took another contender, Bill Samuels, a little longer to come around. But he eventually did, deciding instead to focus his efforts on pushing reform and ousting Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. through his New Roosevelt Initiative).

I haven’t managed to reach St. Lawrence, who is apparently out of his office at a meeting, but when asked by a Journal News reporter whether he might soon be heading to Albany, he smiled and replied: “No comment.”

UPDATE: Well, that speculation was short-lived. I just got off the phone with St. Lawrence, and he told me he has not been offered jobs with the state, adding: “I’d tell you if I did.” He has, however, been approached and asked about his interest level in serving.

His response is that he is “absolutely not” leaving his local post, adding: “That’s not my intention; I’m not trying to be coy.”

“I made it very clear to them I want to help the Cuomo administration in any way, but I want to continue to be the supervisor…I have a big town, I have a lot of work to do here. I want to work with the Cuomo administration to help my town.”