Albany

Parker Unplugged

The video of today’s Finance Committee meeting at which Sen. Kevin Parker lost it is now up on the Senate Website.

The questioning by Sen. John DeFrancisco of Power Authority nominee Mark O’Luck starts at about the 20-minute mark. Parker, who is speaking off camera, starts yelling at DeFrancisco roughly one minute later, saying: “You are totally out of order! You are out of order!…How dare you!”

Sen. Carl Kruger, the committee chairman, tries in vain to get Parker to calm down and then shouts: “You’re out of order…Why don’t you step outside?”

Parker retorts: “Why doesn’t everybody step outside?..You’re allowing somebody to treat an appointee of the governor in a very disrespectful way.”

Kruger shoots back: “You’re disrespecting me as the chairman. I ruled you out of order. One more outburst like that, and I’ll ask you to be removed.”

Parker: “OK, then get somebody to remove me. Bring people though.

Kruger: “And I’ll ignore that remark.”

Parker (leaving): “Good.”

I haven’t yet managed to get in touch with Parker, but he described this incident to DP’s Celeste Katz as a “heated exchange,” adding: “We’re all prone to hyperbole.”

Paterson Tries To Break Budget Logjam, Threatens Furloughs

With the state budget now 27 days late, Gov. David Paterson today pleaded with the Legislature to pretty please give an up-or-down passage to his proposal – enhanced with an additional $620 million worth of cuts and revenue to cover a deficit gap that has opened since his Feb. 9 budget amendments.

“I will take responsibility for this budget,” Paterson said. “I will take responsibility for these decisions and the viability of this budget’s addressing the difficult economic times that we face.”

“…Time is of the essence,” the governor continued. “All of us need to be aware that the quicker we pass this budget the sooner and faster we can begin to recover from our economic situation.”

To cut $620 million, Paterson is calling for – among other things – reducing member items, eliminating the reimbursement for Timothy’s Law, reducing TAP assistance for religious institutions and delaying the Capitol roof project.
More >

Parker Pops Off (Updated)

Sen. Kevin Parker, who has a history of anger management issues, had a meltdown today during a Finance Committee hearing, accusing one of his white Republican colleagues of racism as he was questioning an African-American Power Authority nominee.

Sen. Carl Marcellino, who is a member of the Finance Committee, called Parker’s outburst “totally inappropriate,” and said he intends to “speak to Kevin personally” about his behavior.

Marcellino, a Long Island Republican, said Parker grew angry at the way Sen. John DeFrancisco, a Syracuse Republican, was questioning Mark O’Luck, who has been nominated by Gov. David Paterson to serve as a member of the Power Authority board.

At issue were comments O’Luck made on the Times’ City Room blog in February 2009, in which he said that if government programs that benefit businesses owned by women and minorities weren’t around “white men and the connected would have access to nearly 100% of all city, state, and federal government dollars spent.”

Parker apparently found this line of questioning offensive, and made it clear by pounding on the table, according to Marcellino. At one point, things got so heated that Finance Committee Chairman Carl Kruger, who, like Parker, is a Brooklyn Democrat, told Parker he would have to be removed from the room if he didn’t calm down.
More >

Housing Advocates: ‘Espada Is A Coward!’

Capital Tonight’s Kaitlyn Ross just sent this quick-and-dirty video of housing advocates protesting quite vociferously outside Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr.’s Capitol office, yelling for him to resign and also calling him a coward for refusing to come out and talk to them.

According to Ross, there are some 200 people in Albany from Housing Here and Now, a pro-tenants group that is pushing for reform of rent regulations and believes Espada, who chairs the Housing Committee, has been blocking key legislation and is too pro-landlord.

“Espada is a coward,” said one of the protestors, Joseph Ferdinand. “He’s sitting in his office and won’t even come out to speak to us. He needs to resign now or we will vote him out soon enough.”

Chauffeurgate II

Is there no end to the corruption in Albany?

State Inspector General Joseph Fisch just released a report that found Lee Kyriacou, the Spitzer-era former executive director of the New York State Office of Real Property Services misused state staff for his private business, including booking a family vacation to California, driving his daughter to school and conducting a real estate search for his wife.

Kyriacou also refused to charge his vacation or sick time, claiming he was “reachable” when out of the office. ORPS oversees the local administration of real property assessments and has seven offices across the state.

Kyriacou resigned in December 2009. The IG’s investigation was well underway at the time, although he made no mention of the probe when he announced his departure to the ORPS staff.

Fisch found Kyriacou repeatedly had his executive assistant, Mary Beth Cimino, complete his personal tasks while she was on the clock.
More >

Greg Ball, Insider Out

Assemblyman Greg Ball has a new Web video he hopes to get up onto the air within the next few days that portrays him as a maverick Albany outsider in his bid for the seat Sen. Vincent Leibell is vacating to run for Putnam County executive.

Ball initially planned to challenge Rep. John Hall in NY-19, but then switched races and announced a challenge to Leibell before the veteran senator had indicated his own political plans.

The outspoken and often controversial assemblyman is no favorite of his fellow Republicans.

Some in the Senate chamber have openly expressed a desire to prevent him from joining their ranks. Sen. Tom Libous, who heads the SRCC, has said Ball has “some serious issues” and is supporting Somers Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy in the GOP primary.

Here’s the script of Ball’s spot. He’s standing in front of a very nice house and calls himself a “blue-collar guy.” I’m not sure the $79,500 base pay qualifies an unmarried guy with no dependents as working-class, but I’ll leave that up to you.

“My name is Greg Ball. A former Air Force captain. I’m a blue-collar guy with bills to pay – just like you. I’m running for New York State Senate. I want to shake up Albany and take back New York. But the insiders in Albany are already running a negative campaign, and this is why: (Clip from Ball denouncing his colleagues during the state comptroller debate in 2007. Incompetence in this chamber. This is the most dysfunctional Legislature in the United States of Ameria”). As your senator, I’ll represent you, not them. I look forward to meeting you, and I hope to have your support.”

Silver Defends Ravitch

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver sure is doing a lot of defending of fellow Democrats these days (provided, that is, they are not attacking the Legislature).

Fresh off his chastisement of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, whose comments slamming AG Andrew Cuomo the speaker called “inappropriate,” Silver today stepped up on behalf of his longtime friend and ally, LG Richard Ravitch.

Asked about Gov. David Paterson’s New York Times OpEd that slammed the Legislature for daring to consider borrowing to help close the budget deficit, (something Ravitch has proposed as long as it also includes reforms), Silver told NY1’s Erin Billups:

“I really don’t understand this shift in position since the governor announced he was assigning Lt. Gov. Ravitch this duty and he came out, presented a plan, and the governor, the day before Lt. Gov. Ravitch came to our conference, told our conference that the Lt. Gov. would be there to explain his plan to us. So it is a little peculiar.”

Silver vs. Koch, The Extended Version

ICYMI: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver took some verbal jabs at Ed Koch yesterday over the former mayor’s latest reform-Albany effort.

Koch fired back at his fellow Manhattan Democrat, suggesting his new PAC, New York Uprising, and its focus on independent redistricting, has the speaker worried about potentially losing his grip on power in Albany.

An attenuated version of this war of words appeared at the bottom of my DN column today. There was actually quite a bit more to the exchange.

While allowing that Koch is “entitled to do what he wants” as a citizen, Silver called the ex-mayor’s sudden interest in a-political redistricting “strange,” adding:

“All of the years he never did anything about it when the Republicans controlled the Senate. He never did anything about it when it involved reapportionment of the City Council. He never did anything about independence, suddenly he thinks about independence.”

Asked what he thought might be motivating Koch, Silver answered: “I have no idea maybe it’s because he represents the landlords of New York. That’s who that firm he’s holding his press conferences in represents.”
More >

DiNapoli Drops Ramirez

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has severed ties with the MirRam Group, home to powerhouse Latino lobbyist/consultant Roberto Ramirez, due to the firm’s potential role in AG Andrew Cuomo’s pay-to-play pension fund probe.

dinapolilit

DiNapoli’s campaign manager, Mark Benoit, confirmed the comptroller has decided to part ways with MirRam, sending me the following statement last night:

“In light of the Attorney General’s recent announcement and out of an abundance of caution, DiNapoli 2010 and the MirRam Group have decided to discontinue our consulting agreement, effective immediately.”

An unnamed MirRam representative was present at the April 5, 2007 meeting that Cuomo’s office acknowledged is of interest in its ongoing investigation. Also at the get-together was someone from Global Strategy Group, which recently settled with Cuomo for $2 million.

Cuomo has already made it clear he’s not thrilled with DiNapoli and would like to see the sole trusteeship of the state pension fund ended in favor of a board oversight system, which would dramatically undercut the power of the comptroller’s office. It’s smart for DiNapoli to try to minimize any potential areas of criticism for Cuomo – and that explains this MirRam move.
More >

Alequin Uncovers Espada’s Sushi Secrets

Gadfly blogger Rafael Martinez-Alequin posted this priceless video of his interview with the owner of a two Westchester County sushi restaurants where Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. is alleged to have dropped $20,000 on meals that he billed to his Bronx nonprofit.

The owner of Red Plum and Toyo Sushi, Peter Chen, said Espada was one of his best customers, calling him a “classy guy,” “a gentleman” and a “moderate” tipper.

Chen also went out of his way to stress that he doesn’t have a personal relationship with the embattled lawmaker – other than to provide him with his regular sushi fix. He said he expects all the coverage of the Espada mess to be good for business.

Chen said the meals delivered to the Mamaroneck home were generally for two – the senator and his wife – which lends further credence to AG Andrew Cuomo’s suggestion that Espada does not, in fact, live in his Bronx district (no matter what the court might have said about that in the past).

The residency question is a particularly touchy one for Espada – so much so that he walked off the set last week when grilled by Ch. 2’s Marcia Kramer, who has done quite a bit of work on the subject of where the senator actually hangs his hat.

An extra wrinkle in connection with this video: Alequin used to work for the man Espada ousted in the 2008 primary, former Sen. Efrain Gonzalez (who has himself been convicted on corruption charges), and is embroiled in a legal fight with Espada’s son, Alejandro, who is accused of pushing the elderly blogger and breaking his camera during a campaign rally.