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Judge Sets June 26 Primary
January 27th, 2012

If there wasn’t enough going on regarding redistricting this week the whole sordid affair got a kick in the pants thanks to U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe who has ruled that unless that state takes legislative action all of New York’s future federal non-presidential primaries will be held on the fourth Tuesday of June. Groups in favor of independent redistricting have been concerned for months that Gov. Andrew Cuomo might not want to veto LATFOR’s district lines because it could send things into chaos right before a possible Spring primary. That Spring primary is now a reality barring any action from the legislature. If the legislature does not act New York will have three primary dates: the June primary for House and Senate races, the April Republican Presidential Primary and the September Senate and Assembly Primary.

Sharpe wrote:

“Notwithstanding any current state law or administrative procedure to the contrary, New York shall conduct its 2012 non-presidential federal primary election on a date no later than 35 days prior to the 45-day advance deadline set by the MOVE Act for transmitting ballots to the States military and overseas voters, i.e., at least 80 days before the November 6, 2012 federal general election. In 2012, that date shall be June 26, 2012.

In subsequent even-numbered years, New Yorks non-presidential federal primary date shall be the fourth Tuesday of June, unless and until New York enacts legislation resetting the non-presidential federal primary election for a date that complies fully with all UOCAVA requirements, and is approved by this court.”

Notwithstanding any current state law or administrative procedure to the contrary, New York shall conduct its 2012 non-presidential federal primary election on a date no later than 35 days prior to the 45-day advance deadline set by the MOVE Act for transmitting ballots to the States military and overseas voters, i.e., at least 80 days before the November 6, 2012 federal general election. In 2012, that date shall be June 26, 2012.
In subsequent even-numbered years, New Yorks non-presidential federal primary date shall be the fourth Tuesday of June, unless and until New York enacts legislation resetting the non-presidential federal primary election for a date that complies fully with all UOCAVA requirements, and is approved by this court.
By on January 27, 2012, 4:53 pm
In category: Albany,Demographics,Eye on Albany,Law | 8 Comments »

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Williams Criticizes Bloomberg's Defense of Browne
January 27th, 2012

“There is no logical basis for Mayor Bloomberg’s defense of Deputy Commissioner Browne’s job performance. Based on the facts, he cannot have been both honest and competent in his handling of “The Third Jihad” and its aftermath. He lied to the public on multiple occasions and his actions deepened the divide between the NYPD and the New York City community, which harms our ability to best police and protect our city.
If this was the first error in judgment Deputy Commissioner Browne had made, it would be excusable. Sadly, it is not, and the public record shows this without dispute. In just the last six months, he has been caught in lies ranging from phantom punches and elbows to fake excuses about pepper spraying at Occupy Wall Street. There is even evidence that suggests that Deputy Commissioner Browne may have lied under oath about his involvement in a 2004 Critical Mass ride. You can have your doubts about whether any one of these incidents has been truly justified, but you cannot look at the entirety of his record and claim that the man in charge of public information hasn’t been engaged in a campaign of overt misinformation or complete incompetency. This behavior would not be accepted by any other city agency, and it certainly should not be accepted by the NYPD or the city’s taxpayers that afford him his six-figure salary.
Police accountability seems to be treated as a dirty term, if not a non-starter, for Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly, but the calls from New Yorkers get more intense every day. If they will not recognize the problems festering within the NYPD, then we need an independent oversight committee and/or the intervention of the Justice Department to do it for them. The City Council must also use whatever resources it has at its disposal to get real answers. As chair of the Oversight and Investigations Committee, I am eager to be a part of that effort which is greatly needed and long overdue.”

Councilman Jumaane Williams is blasting Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his defense of New York Police Department Commissioner Paul Browne’s job performance following revelations about the Third Jihad anti-Muslim propaganda video screened by the NYPD. Bloomberg described Browne as, ”honest and as competent as anybody in the business of representing the city and giving out information”.

Williams strongly disagrees with that assessment. He has called for Browne’s resignation and issued this statement:

“There is no logical basis for Mayor Bloomberg’s defense of Deputy Commissioner Browne’s job performance. Based on the facts, he cannot have been both honest and competent in his handling of “The Third Jihad” and its aftermath. He lied to the public on multiple occasions and his actions deepened the divide between the NYPD and the New York City community, which harms our ability to best police and protect our city.

If this was the first error in judgment Deputy Commissioner Browne had made, it would be excusable. Sadly, it is not, and the public record shows this without dispute. In just the last six months, he has been caught in lies ranging from phantom punches and elbows to fake excuses about pepper spraying at Occupy Wall Street. There is even evidence that suggests that Deputy Commissioner Browne may have lied under oath about his involvement in a 2004 Critical Mass ride. You can have your doubts about whether any one of these incidents has been truly justified, but you cannot look at the entirety of his record and claim that the man in charge of public information hasn’t been engaged in a campaign of overt misinformation or complete incompetency. This behavior would not be accepted by any other city agency, and it certainly should not be accepted by the NYPD or the city’s taxpayers that afford him his six-figure salary. Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 27, 2012, 12:52 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety | 2 Comments »

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McEneny:Cuomo Was the Hold up
January 27th, 2012

LATFOR co chair Assemblyman Jack McEneny told Liz Benjamin of State of Politics last night that LATFOR delayed releasing its lines yesterday by the request of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

You can get the full interview and event timeline over at State of Politics.

As Liz points out–Cuomo spoke to the press earlier in the day and insisted he hand’t seen the lines and was not ready to comment. After the lines were released Cuomo’s spokesperson issued a statement saying that “At first glance,” the Governor would likely veto the lines.

Cuomo has seemingly done his best to avoid actually saying he will veto the lines this year.

Cuomo, when pressed, did state numerous times last year that he would veto unfair lines but he has yet to make a firm public statement this year–redistricting was absolutely absent from his delivered State of the State remarks. It looks like the back-room wrangling for more significant redistricting reform and a constitutional amendment will continue. Meanwhile the public will get a chance to weigh in on LATFOR’s lines at a series of public hearings. The first hearing will take place in Albany on Monday at 10:30 a.m., on Tuesday LATFOR will be in the Bronx and Wednesday in Brooklyn. Check out the full schedule here.

By on January 27, 2012, 10:21 am
In category: Albany,Demographics,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on McEneny:Cuomo Was the Hold up

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McEneny Defends LATFOR
January 26th, 2012

Albany Assemblyman Jack McEneny, who also happens to co-chair LATFOR, issued a statement defending the maps issued today. Maps that the New York Public Interest Research Group called the most gerrymandered in recent history. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he would veto these lines if they stay as they are.

Here is McEneny’s statement:

“The Assembly plan released today by the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) is the culmination of a months-long process to reshape New Yorks electoral map based on shifts in population that have occurred over the last decade. Our proposal is responsive to the many individuals across the state who offered oral or written testimony to the Task Force.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 26, 2012, 5:09 pm
In category: Albany,Demographics,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Cuomo Would Veto Lines
January 26th, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s spokesperson Josh Vlasto says that lines released by LATFOR today are unacceptable.

At first glance, these lines are simply unacceptable and would be vetoed by the Governor. We need a better process and product.

Earlier today Cuomo said he would let the process “play out” but apparently the Governor did not like something he saw in these lines.

By on January 26, 2012, 4:45 pm
In category: Albany,Demographics,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Dadey Responds to LATFOR's Maps
January 26th, 2012

Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, says he still wants Gov. Andrew Cuomo to veto LATFOR’s district lines, “If fairer lines are not created for 2012 and there is no structural reform.” Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation the sister organization to Citizens Union. Senate Democrats were taken aback by Dadey’s recent interview with Jimmy Vielkind of the Times Union where it seemed Dadey was giving Cuomo room not to veto the lines. Dadey told Vielkind: “A veto is no guarantee that there will be fairer lines for 2012, and we wouldnt get any structural reform, he said. Weve always wanted the governor to use his veto threat to achieve reform, not to have these lines go into court. What does that get us at the end of the day? It doesnt get us what we want structural reform.

Dadey told me: “I stand by what I said to Jimmy, but we expect if fairer lines are not created for 2012 and there is no structural reform the Governor should keep his veto promise. Citizens Union has always been about structural reform.”

The structural reform would likely be a constitutional amendment for the 2022 redistricting process. I asked Dadey if he would settle for one over the other–just improved 2012 lines or just structural reform and he had this to say:

“I cant imagine a scenario where we dont get changes in 2012 and structural changes. They go hand in hand.”

Dadey made it clear that he is not happy with LATFOR’s proposed lines.

“What is clear is these maps are gerrymandered. That is what we get when legislators are left to draw their own districts. It makes the case of why we need permanent change and why the Governor should use his veto promise to get fair lines.”

Dadey said the Senate’s lines were particularly offensive.

“It is just abhorrent that somehow four Democratic incumbents are being forced into districts in interest of creating opportunity minority districts when nothing has changed on Long Island to create a minority opportunity district.”

By on January 26, 2012, 4:30 pm
In category: Albany,Demographics,Eye on Albany | 5 Comments »

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UFO or 63rd Senate Seat?
January 26th, 2012

The 63rd Senate seat created by Senate Republicans looks uncannily to me like the evil Reaper spaceship from the popular Mass Effect video game series. It sweeps down from Montgomery County slices away half of Sen. Neil Breslin’s Albany County district, swallows Green County and its tentacles stab into the top of Ulster.

But I suppose that is a rather insignificant observation when you look at what New York Public Interest Group’s Bill Mahoney has to say about the proposed maps as a whole.He says, the Senate’s maps are, “clearly the most gerrymandered lines in recent New York History.” He provided this statement and statistical breakdown to back up his claim. Check it out. Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 26, 2012, 4:09 pm
In category: Albany,Demographics,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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LATFOR's Maps Are Out
January 26th, 2012

LATFOR has posted their proposed district lines for 2012. Both the Assembly and Senate maps are available here.

Senate Republicans have issued a statement defending their lines and the 63rd Senate District their maps create. Of the 63rd seat the statement says:

” The plan adds a 63rd Senate seat, as required by the formulas under Article III of the State Constitution. That seat is located in the Capital Region and Upper Hudson Valley, which experienced the largest percentage increase of population growth in the state since the 2000 U.S. census.” This seat is the one that Assemblyman George Amedore is expected to run for.

The statement calls the process by which the lines were created, ” open and transparent.”

Here is the full statement from Senate Republicans: Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 26, 2012, 2:18 pm
In category: Albany,Demographics,Eye on Albany | 8 Comments »

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Waiting on The Lines
January 26th, 2012

All week LATFOR members have told the press that they should expect the new district lines any day now. In fact Assemblyman Jack McEneny has given a time and date a few times only to have the lines not be made public. The most recent expectation is that the lines will be revealed at 2 p.m..

Assembly members reportedly were emailed their lines late last night. It is unclear when Senate Republicans will reveal their maps. Some details have leaked out and it looks like the maps could be majorly disruptive to a number of upstate incumbents including Sen. Neil Breslin, Assemblymen Bob Reilly and Jim Tedisco. The Times Union reported that Breslin’s district could be cut in half to create the 63rd Senate seat in an effort to allow Republican Assemblyman (and reality TV star) George Amedore to run for the Senate. Breslin predicted to the Gazette late last year that the lines would be decided in a court battle and that the Giants would win the Super Bowl.

The Republican announcement could be tied to negotiations with Gov. Andrew Cuomo about a constitutional amendment to institute non partisan redistricting for the next go around–in ten years. One has to wonder if they have waited til Thursday to release the lines, why they wouldn’t just wait until Friday. Friday is always the preferred day to bury unpleasant news.

Sen. Liz Krueger is getting tired of waiting and wants to know what all the secrecy is about. She released this statement: “All this week we’ve seen leaks, rumors, and a tiny trickle of information, some good, some bad, and some very, very ugly. What the public hasn’t seen is the map, even though we all know it exists. Why the holdup? It’s deliberate. The Republicans have been keeping the public in the dark, trying to manage expectations instead of letting New Yorkers see what they’ve cooked up and judge it for what it is.”

By on January 26, 2012, 1:22 pm
In category: Albany,Demographics,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Krueger Sees Good News For Seniors in Cuomo's Budget
January 20th, 2012

Despite the cutbacks and trimming contained in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget there are areas where some folks are finding happy surprises. Sen. Liz Krueger is particularly pleased that the Governor’s budget maintains Title XX funding for senior centers at its current level and leaves other funding for senior programs untouched.

“Massive proposals cutting support for New York’s senior centers have become a grim tradition of the budget process in recent years. I applaud Gov. Cuomo for changing that this week. While I am still evaluating the full executive budget proposal, I am thrilled to see Gov. Cuomo’s plan maintains Title XX funding for senior centers at its current level and preserves a number of other important senior assistance programs,” said Krueger

“Despite the difficult economy, we cannot balance New York’s budget on the backs of the most vulnerable among us. Senior centers are a vital support for the older adults in our communities, and I applaud Gov. Cuomo’s action on this. Hopefully this marks the end of an ugly, annual tradition of threatening support for seniors.”

By on January 20, 2012, 1:05 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Social Services | Comments Off on Krueger Sees Good News For Seniors in Cuomo's Budget

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Cuomo: Carrots and Sticks for Schools
January 17th, 2012

Two weeks after he signaled his intention to focus on education, Gov. Andrew Cuomo today filled in some of the details and inserted himself squarely in the dispute over teacher evaluation.

In his budget address Cuomo confirmed that, as announced previously, the state would up its aid to districts by 4.1 percent or $805 million next year for a total of about $20 billion.

Unlike last budget year — when the governor cut spending across the board regardless of a district’s needs — the increase would be weighted toward higher needs areas. These parts of the state will receive 76 percent of the hike and 69 percent of all school aid, according to Cuomo’s Budget Briefing Book.This means New York City stands to gets almost $6.4 billion next year, an increase of 2.6 percent over the approximately $6.2 billion it is getting this year.

Districts also would be able to compete for some $200 million in special state grants, under a New York version of the federal Race to the Top program.

The Road to the Money

But Cuomo put a big condition on all the additional money. To get it, districts will have to come up with a new evaluation system for teachers.

Details after the jump.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 17, 2012, 5:23 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Education,Eye on Albany,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 1 Comment »

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Cuomo Raises BIG! Bigger Than Spitzer Big!
January 17th, 2012

Bill Mahoney, New York Public Interest Research Group’s numbers guru has been churning through the most recent fundraising filings and boy has he come up with some interesting facts.

“Governor Cuomo has raised nearly twice as much in his first full year in office as former Governor Spitzer did,” Mahoney writes. (Bill’s cash raising comparison is after the jump.)

Not only did Cuomo raise gigantic but the Committee to Save New York, the group of business and real estate interests formed to back Cuomo’s policies has set records with their fundraising.

“New lobby filings indicate that the Committee to Save New York spent $2,130,792 in November and December. This brings their annual total up to $11,898,400, the fifth highest total in modern New York history,” writes Mahoney

Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 17, 2012, 4:26 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Anti-Frackers Encouraged By Cuomo Budget
January 17th, 2012

The New York State Water Rangers, a group of environmental organizations that oppose hydraulic fracturing, are encouraged that Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not include revenue from hydrofracking in his budget, or add money for increased staff to process fracking permits. Here is their statement:

“Governor Cuomo has clearly taken his foot off the gas pedal and appears to be taking to heart the states obligation to conduct a thorough environmental review before deciding whether to proceed with industrial gas development by means of fracking in New York. By not including industry-exaggerated fracking revenue or ramping up agency staff to process drilling permits, the Governor’s budget proposal signals that hes not rushing to judgment and is giving the Department of Environmental Conservation the time necessary to review and respond to the more than 40,000 comments the agency has received on the state’s fracking proposals.

The New York Water Rangers are encouraged by the executive budget proposal and Governor Cuomo’s recent statements on fracking, which demonstrate he’s adopted a more responsible approach to considering the issue.”

By on January 17, 2012, 3:46 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany | 3 Comments »

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Bloomberg and Quinn on Cuomo's Budget
January 17th, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn have major praise for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2012-2013 fiscal year budget. This is the strongest state budget that New York City has seen in a long time. With this new budget, Governor Cuomo is establishing a stronger financial basis for a more vibrant and healthy New York,” Quinn said in a statement.

Governor Cuomo put forward a budget that demonstrates a bold commitment to tackle some of the toughest challenges facing our great state. He has my strong support,” said Bloomberg in a statement.

Bloomberg hasn’t had the smoothest relationship with Cuomo so far but the Mayor is especially pleased with Cuomo’s plans for mandate relief and pension reform.

The Governors push for mandate relief and pension reform could save the City billions in the long term,” Bloomberg’s statement continues. “New York City spends more than $8 billion annually more than 12 percent of our budget on pension costs, more than we spend on the operating budgets for the Police, Fire and Sanitation Departments combined. Without a new pension tier, which will not diminish the retirement benefits of a single current employee, taxpayers will continue to spend more and more on pension costs, leaving less and less for public education, public safety, job creation, affordable housing and other critical services.

Here are Quinn’s and Bloomberg’s full statements: Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 17, 2012, 3:40 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Economy,Education,Eye on Albany,Work and Labor | 3 Comments »

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Budget Highlights From Cuomo's Office
January 17th, 2012

Here is the general budget overview sent out by the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo is still delivering his remarks and you can watch them here.

Highlights of the plan include:

Closing the current budget gap with no new taxes, fees or gimmicks, and including zero growth in State agency spending;
Eliminating automatic spending inflators and implementing reforms throughout the budget to ensure that spending increases for service providers reflect performance and actual cost;
Allocating $1.3 billion in State investment designed to spur a total of $25 billion from other sources to launch and accelerate major infrastructure projects and create thousands of jobs;
Creating a plan for the State to take over 100% of the costs of Medicaid growth that will be phased in over three years, saving local governments $1.2 billion over the next five years;
Creating a pension reform plan that will save State taxpayers and local governments outside New York City $83 billion, and will save New York City $30 billion over the next 30 years; and
Increasing school aid by $805 million, including $250 million linked to improved academic performance and management efficiency, and implementation of an enhanced teacher evaluation process.

Due to the structural reforms enacted in last year’s budget as well as the reforms proposed in this budget, the budget gap in 2013-14 is projected at $715 million. That is the lowest “first out-year” budget gap in two decades. The Executive Budget recommendations cut the projected four-year deficit by more than half, from $16.4 billion to $7.4 billion.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 17, 2012, 2:27 pm
In category: Albany,Economy,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Budget Highlights From Cuomo's Office

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Alliance For Quality Education Commends Cuomo
January 17th, 2012

The Alliance for Quality Education issued this statement on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget:

School Aid and Competitive Grants
“We commend Governor Cuomo for restoring $805 million in school aid; these funds will help students throughout the state. The exact distribution of these funds and how much is prioritized to high need and average need school districts will take a few days to evaluate. We are greatly concerned that almost one-third of these funds could be distributed based on competition between school districts which has the potential to create a system of educational winners and losers among our students. It is important to note that last year the state moved backwards on its commitment to quality education by enacting huge classroom cuts that resulted in larger class sizes and narrowing of the curriculum. Students need the budget to focus on restoring these classroom cuts for all, not only for those whose schools win at a competition.

Cost Savings through Centralizing School Bus Purchasing
Governor Cuomo has proposed a new cost savings initiative that would centralize the purchasing of school buses through a single statewide contract. This is the type of cost saving initiative from the state we need to see more of and we commend Governor Cuomo for providing the leadership to advance this type of common sense cost savings solution.

By on January 17, 2012, 2:19 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Ruben Diaz Jr. On Living Wage Deal
January 13th, 2012

Council Speaker Christine Quinn has decided to back a compromise legislation on the living wage that according to the Wall Street Journal would require, “businesses that receive subsidies of $1 million or more will be required to pay their employees $10 an hour with benefits or $11.50 an hour without benefits. But in a compromise, the bill will no longer require the tenants who move in after these projects are completed to also abide by the higher wages.”

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz approves of the deal and he released this statement:

I am extremely happy that we have reached a deal on the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, and that this important bill will finally see a vote in the City Council. The deal we have reached today creates the strongest living wage legislation in the nation, one that will demand that direct recipients of significant taxpayer subsidies will do better by their employees. This will guarantee that happens and marks an important shift in the economic development policy in the City of New York. This bill sends an important message to the business community. Indeed, New York City is open for business, but not at the expense of the taxpayer. Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 13, 2012, 3:25 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy,Work and Labor | 3 Comments »

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UFT Wants Mediation With City
January 13th, 2012

The United Federation of Teachers is holding a press conference at 3:15 p.m today to announce that it asking the state labor board to mediate talks with the city because of the breakdown over teacher evaluation talks and the Mayor’s insistence in his State of the State speech that he will unilaterally move forward with a teacher evaluation system in low performing schools. Here is the full press release:

Teachers Union Asks State to

Order Mediation in Evaluation Talks

UFT seeks order from state labor board that would

force city to take part in mandatory mediation

on new teacher evaluation system

UFT President Michael Mulgrew holds news conference to announce that in the wake of the citys walking out of negotiations on a new teacher evaluation system, the union has filed an impasse petition with the states Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). If PERB finds that an impasse exists, it will appoint a mediator and force the city to participate in attempts to resolve the issue.

WHEN: Friday, January 13, 2012 3: 15 p.m.

WHERE: 52 Broadway, 2nd floor

By on January 13, 2012, 2:51 pm
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Cuomo on Bloomberg's State of the City
January 12th, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg may not be the best of buds but Cuomo found a lot to like in Bloomberg’s State of the City message–especially the parts about education and pension reform. “I commend Mayor Bloomberg for outlining a positive vision for New York City’s future and the most important part of building that future, our students. The State and City’s education system is facing a crisis in accountability and performance. Our continuing pattern of being number one in the nation on spending in education and thirty-eighth in graduation rates hurts our students across the State, including the over 1.1 million public school students in New York City,” said Cuomo in a statement.

Here is the full statement: Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 12, 2012, 5:26 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Gotham City,Governing | 1 Comment »

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Silver Applauds Bloomberg on Minimum Wage
January 12th, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg used his State of the State address to announce his support for an increased minimum wage. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver backs the idea big time and he issued this statement:

“I applaud and thank Mayor Bloomberg for joining our call to increase the minimum wage. As I have said, it is wrong to expect anyone let alone working families to be able to afford the cost of living today and invest in their future on a salary of $7.25 an hour. Increasing the minimum wage would benefit more than 14 percent of our workforce. Mayor Bloombergs commitment to helping the more than 1.2 million low wage workers in New York climb the ladder of financial security is welcome news.”

By on January 12, 2012, 3:26 pm
In category: Albany,Economy,Eye on Albany,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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