NYSUT’s March Madness: Which Benefit Should Win The Dance?

From the Morning Memo:

The statewide teachers this week is launching its own version of March Madness: a tournament for members to vote on which benefit they believe is the best of union membership.

The bracket challenge is part of an effort by the New York State United Teachers union to highlight membership benefits in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Janus case that enabled public workers to opt out of paying dues, but retain the benefits of membership like collective bargaining.

“Even after the Janus decision, wealthy union busters have had their bubble burst by the strength of the labor movement,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “NYSUT members have said no to the anti-union madness and are sticking with their union. We will continue providing them the slam-dunk benefits that strengthen our entire labor team across New York.”

Members can to choose from benefits like “professional development” or “secure retirement” and “quality health care” in a tournament-like bracket.

Voting begins on Monday and continues through the conclusion of the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

Siena Poll: NYers Say Amazon Cancellation Bad For State, Blame Cast On AOC

Amazon’s decision to pull the plug on a planned expansion in Long Island City was bad for New York with many pointing the finger at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, according to a majority of voters polled by Siena College.

The poll released Monday morning found voters across the state, 67 percent to 21 percent, believe the cancelled deal was a bad development for the state. Most voters, 61 percent to 30 percent, back the project, which would have linked $3 billion in tax credits to up to 25,000 jobs.

A plurality of voters, 38 percent, put the blame on the scuttled deal on Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman Bronx Democrat who was among the proposal’s vocal opponents.

Fallout from the cancelled project has reverberated in state government over the last month, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo blaming Democrats in the state Senate for opposing the plan and nominating a critic of it, Sen. Mike Gianaris, to a board that had vetoed power over the tax incentives.

Cuomo has blamed the opposition from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which had sought to unionize workers at Amazon’s Whole Foods grocery stores.

While the deal’s demise was seen as a boost for progressive grassroots advocacy groups, 56 percent of liberal voters polled said the episode was bad for the state as well as 69 percent of union households, 64 percent of New York City voters, and 63 percent of Democratic voters.

Cuomo has publicly appealed to the company to reconsider its decision, but it’s unlikely at this point Amazon will do so, he’s said. The governor has also raised concerns the episode is attributing to the perception New York is a poor place to do business.

And the poll found 67 percent of voters, including 53 percent of Democratic voters, believe it is “getting harder” to do business in New York.

The poll comes in the middle of an increasingly fraught budget season in Albany, with Cuomo and Democratic state lawmakers feuding over spending in the negotiations.

The poll found broad support for Cuomo’s push to make the state’s cap on property taxes a permanent measure, 59 percent to 25 percent.

More than half of voters, 53 percent, back ending cash bail for those who face misdemeanor or non-violent felony charges.

Fifty-three percent of voters also back the legalization of marijuana in New York while 43 percent do not.

Cuomo has said both the cash bail and tax cap provision must be included in a final budget agreement, but has become increasingly skeptical an agreement on marijuana legalization can be reached by the March 31 deadline.

Sixty-one percent of voters oppose and 34 percent support extending access to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. The issue has split Democrats, with 49 percent supporting it and 45 percent opposing the measure.

At the same time, the vast majority of voters — 79 percent to 18 percent — want parents to be required to vaccinate their children against diseases like measles regardless of their parents’ religious beliefs.

Most voters, 51 percent to 28 percent, believe the concerns of upstate New York are being ignored by state officials. That includes 73 percent of upstate voters.

Cuomo’s favorability rating remains under water at 46 percent to 48 percent, but is a slight improvement from a 43 percent to 50 percent split in February.

The poll of 700 registered voters in New York was conducted from March 10 through March 14. It has a margin of error of 4.2 percentage points.

SNY0319 Crosstabs 031819 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public events or interviews yet scheduled.

The state Legislature is in session, and two weeks remain until the April 1 budget deadline.

At 9 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul announces Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative funding, University at Buffalo, Educational Opportunity Center, 555 Ellicott St., Buffalo.

At 9:30 a.m., the state Senate Agriculture Committee meets, Room 816, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

At 10 a.m., the NYC Council Committee on Small Business meets, Committee Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., the NYC Council Committee on Health meets, Council Chambers, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., Cuomo makes a criminal safety announcement, The Mission Society, 646 Malcolm X Blvd., Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., “The Brian Lehrer Show” features NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, WNYC.

At 11 a.m., the state Senate Mental Health and Disabilities Committee meets, Room 124, state Capitol, Manhattan.

At 11:30 a.m., Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy and grassroots trail groups brief the media on planning, funding, and policies needed to grow New York’s multi-use trail network and extend access to the Empire State Trail, Million Dollar Staircase, Albany.

Also at 11:30 a.m., Senior officials from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority make an announcement, MTA HQ, 2 Broadway, 20th Fl. Board Room, Manhattan.

At noon, state Sens. Ramos, Gianaris, Gounardes, Rivera and Salazar rally with mock subway and bus and distribute sardines pressing the legislature to pass congestion pricing in the upcoming state budget, outside Assembly Chamber, third floor, state Capitol, Albany.

At 1 p.m., the NYC Council Committee on Oversight and Investigations meets jointly with the Committee on Economic Development, Committee Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 1 p.m., the NYC Council Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions meets, 250 Broadway, 16th floor, Manhattan.

At 3 p.m., the state Senate is in session, Senate Chambers, state Capitol, Albany.

At 4:30 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will hold public hearings and sign three pieces of legislation, Blue Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 4:30 p.m., Hochul joins Rep. Carolyn Maloney in a call to action on the Equal Rights Amendment, Lower East Side Girls Club, 402 E. 8th St., Manhattan.

At 5:30 p.m., Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and the Queens Borough Board vote on the fiscal year 2020 budget priorities and on disposition of a city-owned property, Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens Blvd., Queens.

At 6 p.m., Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer speaks on a disruptive technologists’ panel about artificial intelligence and smart machines, Microsoft, 11 Times Square, sixth floor, Manhattan.

Also at 6 p.m, the NYC Council Charter Revision Commission meets, Council Chambers, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 6:30 p.m., Hochul discusses women’s equality at Pace University Law School’s Honoring Women in the Law Event, Pace University, Elisabeth Haub School of Law, 78 N. Broadway, White Plains.

At 7 p.m., Long Island Rep. Thomas Suozzi holds a town hall meeting, Temple Beth-El, 5 Old Mill Road, Great Neck.

Also at 7 p.m., de Blasio appears on NY1’s “Inside City Hall,” in a pre-taped interview.

Also at 7 p.m., NYC Councilman Eric Ulrich leads a protest on poor homeless prevention strategy, in front of Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Steven Banks’ home, Sherman Street between 10th and 11th Avenues, Brooklyn.


New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today she would announce new gun laws within days, after 50 people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said there’s no link between President Trump and the New Zealand shooter, a white supremacist who spouted anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia authorized a secret campaign to silence dissenters — which included the surveillance, kidnapping, detention and torture of Saudi citizens — over a year before the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

With a record number of female candidates running for president, some male Democratic contenders are signaling that a woman will be on their 2020 ticket — just not at the top.

On the campaign trail in Iowa, 2020 candidate Beto O’Rourke sought to clarify his “I’m just born to be in it” comments on the cover of Vanity Fair, which have garnered criticism, telling reporters that he’s “certainly” not born to hold the presidency, but that he believes public service is his calling.

General Motors said yesterday evening the issue of the fate of factories set for closure “will be resolved” with the United Auto Workers union, after Trump pressed its CEO to reopen its Ohio plant.

Federal transportation watchdogs are probing whether aviation safety regulators were too quick to approve Boeing’s 737 MAX models.

The US military is reportedly readying plans to keep 1,000 American forces in Syria – a development that comes three months after Trump announced he wanted a full withdrawal.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio surprised many two years ago when he broadened his push to address income inequality by promising to create 100,000 jobs in 10 years that would pay $50,000 or more per year. Now, it’s unclear how many jobs have been created because the city isn’t keeping track.

Only 20 people showed up to hear de Blasio speak in New Hampshire yesterday as he flirts with a 2020 run, including the 14 people on the panel and just six in the audience. There were also about six reporters on hand.

While in New Hampshire, de Blasio criticized Barack Obama, saying the former president’s early days in office were “a lost window.”

It appears Frank Cali, a reputed leader of the Gambino crime family who was gunned down outside his Staten Island home last week, may have been the victim of an angry young man with a gun and a grudge, but apparently no mob ties.

The suspect in the slaying of Cali, Anthony Comello, 24, will waive extradition from New Jersey so he can fight the allegations against him, his lawyer said.

Several fault lines have emerged among New York’s Democratic leaders with two weeks to go before the state budget deadline.

The NYC real estate industry is blasting Albany’s support of the pied-a-terre tax on high value second homes, saying it would send well-heeled buyers searching elsewhere.

Inspired by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset primary victory over Rep. Joe Crowley last year, NYC Councilman Ritchie Torres plans to take on veteran Bronx Rep. José Serrano in the 2020 Democratic primary in the adjoining 15th District.

A penthouse development plan that would have cut off access to NYC’s “Big Ben,” which is an historic landmark, is delayed and the clock is at the center of a court fight, just as a wave of anger is rising against the rich, and the privileges they claim.

Last fall Gov. Andrew Cuomo was unhappy with the cleanliness of two MTA road tunnels, sending officials scrambling to devise a plan to more thoroughly wash the tubes and revealing how the governor wields significant power over senior agency leadership and even some of the most mundane details of its operations.

A dirty dozen transit deviants are driving NYC subway sex crimes through the roof with their refusal to stay away, arrest after arrest, leaving the cops who are tasked with policing them frustrated by the lack of a more permanent solution.

More >

The Weekend That Was

The mosque shootings have vaulted New Zealand into what could be a divisive political battle over gun control in the country, where an extraordinary number of people own weapons, with few restrictions.

The man accused of carrying out the worst mass murder in New Zealand’s modern history, one that left 49 people dead and more than 40 others wounded at two mosques in Christchurch, was identified in court documents on Saturday as Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28.

Tarrant, an Australian citizen, was charged with one count of murder, and more were expected to come. Three others were detained by the police, though one was released hours later. An 18-year-old local man was charged with “intent to excite hostility or ill-will,” but court officials would not elaborate.

Donald Trump Jr. defended Chelsea Clinton after the former first daughter was blasted by NYU students who blamed her tweet for the New Zealand mosque attacks.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is getting lambasted online for immediately condemning “thoughts and prayers” in the wake of the New Zealand mosque massacre that left at least 49 worshipers dead.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand officially launched her 2020 presidential run with a video released Sunday morning entitled: “Brave Wins.

The video ends with an invitation to join Gillibrand at the Trump International Hotel on March 24, where she plans to deliver “her positive, brave vision of restoring America’s moral integrity straight to President Trump’s doorstep,” her campaign said in an announcement accompanying the video.

While some candidates have shied away from making the president a centerpiece of their campaigns, the location of the speech signals that Gillibrand has no such hesitation. She has voted against Trump’s nominees at a faster clip than any other senator — a talking point for her on the campaign trail.

Gillibrand, 52, had already been campaigning in key states that hold early primary contests. She has struggled to see her polling numbers increase in the wake of her initial announcement, a benefit some of her other opponents enjoyed after starting their campaigns.

Former Vice President Joe Biden briefly, and accidently, announced he’s running for president during a speech in Dover, Del., on Saturday night — but then quickly walked it back.

Trump gave House Republicans the green light to vote for the public release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, he tweeted Saturday, while dismissing the Democratic measure as a “game” that “doesn’t matter.”

Investigators at the crash site of the doomed Ethiopian Airlines flight have found new evidence that points to another connection to the earlier disaster involving the same Boeing jet.

In their search to present themselves as the antidote to the Trump administration, a raft of Democratic presidential hopefuls are targeting Vice President Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian and comparatively sedate figure who has showcased the president’s hard-line policies to the rest of world with a smile.

The University of California, Berkeley has joined the growing list of universities tied to the sweeping college admissions scandal — as a former Canadian football player allegedly paid someone to take the SATs for his sons, one of whom was on the school’s rowing team.

The NYT: “Public financing of state elections is the best way to clean up New York’s state capital.” (The paper takes Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to task for backing away from prior support for the idea).

Proponents of including a public campaign finance program in the state budget are whipping votes among Democratic lawmakers in advance of the March 31st deadline for a deal on the state’s $174 billion spending plan.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the upstart Bronx-born politician who upended 10-term Rep. Joe Crowley in the June 2018 primary before breezing past Republican contender Anthony Pappas in the general election, is polling with lower favorability ratings than Trump.

Ocasio-Cortez recalled how her public-school teachers thought she needed “remedial education” because she had grown up speaking Spanish at home.

Trump attacked the late Sen. John McCain Saturday over recently revealed evidence that the Arizona lawmaker helped push Russia-collusion rumors in the weeks after Trump’s election.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio traveled to the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state of New Hampshire this weekend, but refused to answer questions about whether he’s planning to run in 2020.

A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration broke the law by denying a path to a green card for abused, abandoned and neglected young illegal immigrants in New York state.

More >


As expected, President Donald Trump vetoed a congressional resolution that rescinded his national emergency declaration at the U.S. Mexico border, wielding the power for the first time in his presidency to save a top priority.

Officials said that one man in his late 20s had been charged with murder in connection with the New Zealand mosque shootings, and that two explosive devices were found attached to a vehicle that they had stopped.

New York State Police and the NYPD have ramped up security outside mosques and Muslim community centers following the New Zealand shooting spree that claimed 49 lives.

A person claiming responsibility for the mass shootings at a pair of mosques in New Zealand described himself as a “regular white man” in a 74-page manifesto, which is also full of anti-immigrant rhetoric and an examination of his far-right ideologies.

New Zealand is re-examining its gun laws — namely those surrounding military-style rifles and high-capacity magazines – in the wake of the shootings.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ripped into the NRA after the New Zealand attacks, writing on Twitter: “What good are your thoughts & prayers when they don’t even keep the pews safe?”

Former Democratic Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourkewho officially announced his 2020 presidential bid yesterday, responded to Trump’s mocking of his hand movements by suggesting that voters are seeking “to rise above the pettiness” in political discourse.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is in New Hampshire again today and tomorrow, and then will be taking her 2020 presidential campaign back to Iowa.

Top members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are calling on the Department of Homeland Security inspector general and the FBI to investigate the Trump Organization’s hiring of undocumented workers and allegations of mistreatment.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders cut his head on a glass shower door this morning and received seven stitches, his campaign announced. But the 2020 candidate was given a “clean bill of health” and will attend all of his previously scheduled campaign events over the next couple days.

In state government, Joseph Percoco had many official and unofficial titles over the years. Right-hand man to Gov. Andrew Cuomo was the constant. This morning, Percoco got a new title: Inmate Number 78132-054.

Fifty-one women and young girls are suing the United States Olympic Committee, for failing to prevent sexual abuse by former coaches and national team doctor Larry Nassar, who is in prison for sexually abusing underage gymnasts.

In an extremely rare act of bi-partisanship, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is joining New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez in justly calling on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the Trump administration’s nuclear negotiations with Saudi Arabia after reports found that senior White House officials pushed for the sale of nuclear technology to the oil-rich nation.

Workers rights advocates say the Cuomo administration is dragging its feet on tipped wage reform.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio says that in theory, his and the governor’s congestion pricing plan should not force outer borough commuters to pay a toll twice, but said ultimately that decision will need to be made by the state Legislature.

De Blasio made an unannounced visit to participate in a discussion about anti-Semitism hosted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, as group commonly known as AIPAC comes under scrutiny within the Democratic Party.

During an appearance on MSNBC, de Blasio implied that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ high-profile affair was a factor in the e-tailer’s decision last month not to move forward with a planned campus in Queens.

Nassau County will pay more than $5.4 million to a nonprofit housing developer to settle a 14-year-old lawsuit charging the county with discriminating against minorities by not offering housing opportunities to people with low and moderate incomes.

With hundreds of jobs on the line and less than three weeks left until a contract expires, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling on Alcoa and the New York Power Authority to finalize an agreement that would keep Alcoa in Massena.

The man accused of mailing pipe bombs to critics of Trump is expected to plead guilty next week in federal court in Manhattan, the court’s docket shows.

A Hudson Valley teen is trying to put the “Tappan Zee” name back on the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, and was recently honored by the Tappantown Historical Society for his efforts.

Republicans Call For Farm Labor Hearings

A pair of Republican state lawmakers on Friday called for hearings to discuss a bill that would create new labor laws and protections for farm workers.

The measure would bargain collectively, grant them disabilitiy and unemployment benefits and set an eight-hour workday.

But the bill has long been opposed by entities like the New York Farm Bureau, which worries the requirements would further cripple struggling farms in the state.

Sen. Tom O’Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie wrote the legislation’s “profound consequences” need to be discussed in statewide hearings.

“We urge you to schedule hearings across every agricultural region of New York State,” they wrote in the letter. “Every voice that deserves to be heard should have the chance to provide direct input: every farmer, Wevery fruit and vegetable grower, every agribusiness, small business owners, representatives of the hospitality and tourism industry, local government officials, community leaders, and all others for whom the Act stands as a threat to short- and long-term quality, strength, and sustainability.”

The bill’s Senate sponsor, Democratic Sen. Jessica Ramos, has said she plans to visit farms and meet with farm workers to discuss the legislation.

Advocates Want Lawmakers On The Record For Public Campaign Financing

A campaign that is pushing for the public financing of elections in New York is launching a new effort to track support of the issue from state lawmakers.

The Fair Elections Campaign on Friday announced its plan to track legislative sentiment on the issue after Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie last week said there were not yet enough votes in his conference to bring the issue to the floor.

“There are nearly 90 Assembly Members on the record in support of small donor matching. If they don’t deliver comprehensive legislation in the budget, that means a fair number of Assembly Members were elected with these reform credentials, but are backing off now at the height of demand for change,” said Dave Palmer, Fair Elections for New York campaign manager.

“Elected officials are entitled to change their minds from time to time when new information becomes available, but Albany’s money in politics problem has only gotten worse, and the solutions they’ve always supported remain the same.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said a public financing program for elections should be included in a final budget agreement, which is due at the end of the month. Cuomo has also called for lower contribution caps and a ban on corporate donations.

The Assembly has approved public financing legislation in the past, but lawmakers have raised issues with how New York City administers and regulates its own system.

A statewide public financing pilot program was attempted in the 2014 comptroller’s race. Democratic incumbent Tom DiNapoli did not participate in the program, citing what he said was haste in assembling the legislation. His Republican opponent, Bob Antonacci, did attempt to gain public matching funds, but failed to reach the needed donor level.

NRCC Targets 4 NY Dems Over Impeachment Split

The race for 2020 is already well underway, and not only when it comes to the White House. The political machines on both sides of the congressional aisle are already ramping up and taking aim at their respective targets in the next election cycle.

The NRCC today announced a series of digital ads running in 55 target districts across the nation that highlight the division in the Democratic Party over the question of whether to pursue an effort to impeach President Donald Trump.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said this week in an interview with the Washington Post Magazine that she is not in favor of impeachment because it’s too divisive, and, in her opinion, the president is “not worth it.”

This put the speaker at odds with more activist/progressive members of her conference, though the man in charge of the chamber’s Judiciary Committee, New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, has also said he doesn’t want to make any moves in the impeachment direction unless there’s substantial Republican support to do so.

The NRCC has seized on this issue, pressuring marginal members to pick a side, or, as the committee’s chairman, Tom Emmer, put it in a press release:

“The socialist Democrats in Congress need to definitively state if they will stand up to the baseless attempts to impeach our president or if they will once again roll over for the extremists running their caucus.”

In New York, the ads, which will be running through the recess week while members are home in their districts, are directed at four members, three of whom are freshmen: Reps. Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), Antonio Delgado (NY-19), Max Rose (NY-11) and Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18).

Here’s the Delgado ad, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, the script doesn’t differ.

NYPIRG: 125 Fundraisers Being Held During Budget Season

As state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo negotiate a $175 billion spending plan, elected officials in Albany are also holding fundraisers.

The New York Public Interest Research Group found 125 fundraising events are being held in and around the city of Albany between January and early April — typically the time lawmakers and the governor discuss how spending money that can effect a variety of special interests in the state.

The Albany fundraisers include events for individual candidates, political action committees and the campaign arms of legislative conferences.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a fundraiser himself in New York City at the St. Regis Hotel on Thursday evening, The New York Post reported.

Cuomo this year has proposed lowering contribution limits for elected offices and a ban on corporate contributions. He also wants a system of publicly financed campaigns.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie last week said he’s supportive of public financing for elections, but some members have raised concerns and the measure is yet to gain the needed majority of the Democratic conference to gain a floor vote.

Albany Money Machine 3.15.19 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Cuomo Issues Pardon To Immigrant Facing Deportation

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday issued a pardon to an immigrant facing deportation and currently being held at a correctional facility in New Jersey.

Cuomo’s pardon was issued to Baba Sillah of the Bronx, who traveled to the U.S. at the age of 22. He is married to a U.S. citizen and has five children. He entered the country as a visit and was not allowed to work to sell clothing without a license. He has been charged with several misdemeanors and violations.

He has worked as a porter for 15 years and paid taxes, Cuomo’s office said.

“While President Trump is obsessed with building walls to keep immigrants out, the New York family knows that its diversity is our strength,” Cuomo said. “Compassion and justice is the Empire State way and Mr. Sillah is a father of five who deserves to remain with his family.”

Sillah was detained in January after appearing for a routine appointment with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. His deportation for February was stayed after an emergency application was made to a federal district court.

With the pardon, Sillah will be able to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility to prevent his removal.

“We commend Governor Cuomo for issuing a pardon and showing immigration authorities what we know, that Baba Sillah is a hardworking New Yorker who belongs back with his family,” said 32BJ President Hector Figueroa. “We will continue to support him and his family until he is returned home to his wife and kids who depend on him.”