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Con Ed lockout on hold thanks to power of Cuomo, storms
July 26th, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has faced some criticism for not getting involved in the Con Edison labor dispute earlier — but better late than never.

With storms on the horizion, Cuomo announced today that he has convinced both sides to have “necessary personnel” return to work for the sake of public safety.

“At my request and in the interest of the safety of New Yorkers, Con Ed and Local 1-2 have agreed that the necessary personnel will immediately return to work to prepare for the possibility of an approaching storm and will remain on the job for the duration of any emergency and any following repairs,” Cuomo said in a statement.

This follows a letter he sent yesterday asking for the state to oversee meetings between labor and management.

By on July 26, 2012, 1:40 pm
In category: Albany,Crime & Safety,Eye on Albany,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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NYPIRG provides look at Cuomo's top donors
July 16th, 2012

With all the campaign filings pouring in over the weekend perhaps the most scrutinized has been those of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. A little scrutiny never hurt anyone; so here is the New York Public Interest Research Group’s breakdown of Cuomo’s top donors. See anything interesting, let us know.

Cuomo’s Top Donors

By on July 16, 2012, 2:49 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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Independent Democrats donate to Dem challenger
July 16th, 2012

I reported earlier this year that Albany County legislator Shawn Morse, the man challenging Senate Democrats’ deputy minority leader Sen. Neil Breslin, had been in talks with the Independent Democratic Conference.

Today filings reveal that the IDC and its leader, state Sen. Jeff Klein, are ready to put their money where their mouths are when it comes to challenging incumbent Democrats. The IDC donated $9,300 to Morse and Klein donated $9,300 from his campaign war chest.

“It’s really nothing personal about Neil,” Klein told Fred Dicker on Talk 1300 AM earlier today. “This is about growing the IDC. There’s no secret that we want to add members.”

Breslin issued a news release attacking his challenger and Klein.

“My opponent has taken a significant sum of money from Republican backed Senator Jeff Klein.”
“How can the residents of our communities trust an individual who claims he is working for them when he is, in fact, taking money from Republicans whose main focus is protecting the wealthy on the backs of New York’s struggling working families? When it comes to voting in the Senate, who will he be beholden to? This is a man who changes his party affiliation at will for personal political gain.”

“My opponent has taken a significant sum of money from Republican backed Senator Jeff Klein,” he said. “How can the residents of our communities trust an individual who claims he is working for them when he is, in fact, taking money from Republicans whose main focus is protecting the wealthy on the backs of New York’s struggling working families? When it comes to voting in the Senate, who will he be beholden to? This is a man who changes his party affiliation at will for personal political gain.”

By on July 16, 2012, 2:33 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 3 Comments »

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New front in battle for state Senate
July 13th, 2012

Eighty-two-year-old Republican state Sen. Owen Johnson has indicated he will not seek reelection this year, throwing into doubt the balance of power in the Senate.

Democratic County Legislator Ricardo Montano will now face whomever the GOP establishment picks over weekend meetings, according to Newsday.

Last time around in the legislative soap opera, Senate Democrats looked to be positioned well to pick up and defend seats on Long Island until, well, they blew it in a pretty ugly way.

Democrats face an uphill battle this year as Republicans control the Senate 33-29 and also appear to have the loyalty of the Independent Senate Democrats, who have toyed with running incumbent Democrats in the primary and have met with at least one primary challenger to a long-term incumbent Democrat.

By on July 13, 2012, 12:21 pm
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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AP: BOE can change election night counting process
July 13th, 2012

The Associated Press is reporting that the city Board of Elections has received a legal opinion from the State Board of Elections that would allow them to change their election night closing procedures without actually changing the law.

As we reported earlier this week, the city BOE is considering changing its procedures so that it can use electronic data from voting machines when polls close to tally unofficial vote counts rather than using the current process that involves using scissors, tape, and calculators and requires BOE staffers to count votes by hand late into the night.

Recent elections, including the Congressional contest between Rep. Charles Rangel and State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, have seen election night totals come in drastically different from the eventual official count. Elected officials like Councilwoman Gale Brewer and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh want to change the process to avoid a further corrosion of public trust in the election process.

As we reported yesterday, Brewer will be holding a Council hearing on August 8 to look into the recent problems at the BOE.

Brewer has supported a Kavanagh-sponsored bill in the Assembly that would have allowed the BOE to use electronic data. The measure passed the Assembly but failed in the Senate; now it looks like the board can move ahead with the change in process without any official legislation.

By on July 13, 2012, 9:05 am
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law | 1 Comment »

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Council to hold hearing on Board of Elections bungling
July 12th, 2012

While at least one member of the Board of Election wants an apology for the criticism they and their staff faced for their handling of the results of the recent Democratic Congressional primary between U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel and state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, the board is still facing major scrutiny from elected officials.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced today that Councilwoman Gale Brewer, chair of the Governmental Operations Committee, will be holding a hearing on the BOE on August 8 to examine how to prevent future delays and mishaps.

The Board of Elections inability to accurately tally and report the results of last months Congressional primary in a timely manner threatens the credibility of the democratic process,” Quinn said in a statement. “The problems that came to light on election night raise serious concerns about the integrity of our citys elections that must be addressed. New Yorkers must be able to trust that when they cast a valid ballot, their vote will be counted accurately.”

Brewer, who has been pushing a bill by Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh that would allow the board to tally votes on election night with electronic data taken from voting machines rather than by hand, is anxious to see issues at the BOE addressed.

As anyone who has read a newspaper editorial over the past few weeks is well aware, the June 26 primary was rife with allegations of mistakes and improprieties,” she said in a statement. “I take very seriously any and all claims of malfeasance and voter disenfranchisement.”

The Board of Elections inability to accurately tally and report the results of last months Congressional primary in a timely manner threatens the credibility of the democratic process.
The problems that came to light on election night raise serious concerns about the integrity of our Citys elections that must be addressed. New Yorkers must be able to trust that when they cast a valid ballot, their vote will be counted accurately.
By on July 12, 2012, 1:55 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Governing | 4 Comments »

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Sanders responds to Kelly's defense of stop-and-frisk
July 11th, 2012

Seventy seven people have been shot in the city between July 2nd through the 8th of this month. Addressing the violence, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters yesterday: “There doesnt seem to be any major community response. Many of them will speak out about stop-and-frisk [but are] shockingly silent when it comes to the level of violence right in their own communities.”

His statement has unsurprisingly raised the ire of a number of community leaders.

Count Councilman James Sanders as one of those outraged by Kelly’s comments.

Commissioner Kelly seems to be speaking out of both sides of his mouth asking why there is no outrage over existing gun violence and then championing a policy that has failed to prevent it. Put simply, if stop-and-frisk was working, gun violence would be going down, not up. Our communities would be safer, not more dangerous. And people would feel more willing to engage their local precincts in community action against violence criminals, not afraid for their own civil liberties when approached by police.

Sen. Eric Adams told the NY Post that Kelly “basically said black elected officials dont care about the safety of their community.

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

By on July 11, 2012, 3:27 pm
In category: Crime & Safety | 2 Comments »

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Cuomo issues few 'messages of necessity' this session
July 2nd, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo only issued five messages of necessity this past legislative session, compared to the 29 he issued the year before and the 57 Gov. David Paterson issued in 2010. We bring you these numbers thanks to a legislative session breakdown by Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Messages of necessity can be issued by a governor to allow a bill to be voted on before it reaches its normally required three day aging period. That period is in place in some part to allow proper vetting, debate and public disclosure of legislation. However, in Albany, major legislative deals have been pushed through late at night before anyone can actually examine them thanks to messages of necessity issued by governor.

Cuomo was criticized for issuing such messages during a late-nightblitzkrieg of legislation in March that saw the passage of a new pension tier, DNA database legislation and the extremely controversial district lines.

Along with the reduced number of messages of necessity was a markedly reduced number of passed pieces of legislation. There were only 571 pieces of legislation passed by both houses this legislative session — that is less than the 588 passed in 2009 when the Senate was paralyzed by a coup. It is the lowest number in recent memory. Mahoney provides numbers dating back to 1995 and this year is resoundingly the lowest.

Mahoney notes that, the report ”…does not draw conclusions on the substance of bills or a particular legislators impact, or the overall legislative output, since legislative ‘productivity’ is more complicated and subjective than simple numbers. However, we believe that these are one of the many parts of the discussion about the activity of the Legislature and individual legislators.”

By on July 2, 2012, 11:14 am
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 11 Comments »

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A race brewing in the 22nd
June 28th, 2012

The battle between Republican Sen. Martin Golden and Democratic challenger Andrew Gounardes is on the top watch list for Senate Democrats who are hungry to get back into the majority or at least add a seat or two.

Golden is a logical target for Democrats — he is one of only two remaining Republicans that represent the five boroughs; he is a long-term incumbent; and the Republican majority has used “New York City” as a derogatory term towards Senate Democrats and their issues.

Democrats have had some trouble raising funds and their list of challengers has come together slowly because of the late-in-the-game deal on redistricting, but Goundares has been running hard since he declared in January and the press releases attacking Golden on issues have been coming fast and furious.

Today’s shot across Golden’s bow has to do with bridge toll relief. But housing issues are the hot button in the race at the moment. Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 28, 2012, 4:00 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 10 Comments »

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The housing deal that wasn't
June 21st, 2012

Last night a deal on housing legislation came together between the Assembly and Senate that would have extended the controversial J-51 tax abatement until 2015 without making any changes to it, as well as making changes in the housing code for loft tenants.

The deal looked like it was going to become reality when Gov. Andrew Cuomo said earlier today that he might issue messages of necessity but the governor has seemingly changed his mind and therefore the deal is dead, for now. Of course, anything can happen in Albany: legislators could hang around to pass the bill or return later this year.

Michael McKee of Tenant’s PAC sees that as a good thing. “Its a complete sell out and I am shocked to see some of the Assemblyman who have signed their names to it.” The legislation is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Martin Golden and in the Assembly by Assemblyman Vito Lopez.

Check out our story on J-51 and the tenant community’s mobilization before the elections.

By on June 21, 2012, 8:21 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Housing | Comments Off

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Election night results reporting bill passes Assembly
June 21st, 2012

The Assembly passed member Brian Kavanagh’s Election Night Poll Procedure Act today a bill that would allow the state Board of Elections to use modern techniques and digital data to tally un-official results on election night.

The current process involves time consuming hand counts that produce unreliable results.

Public confidence in our elections is eroded when we cant say with any confidence what the results are until long after the voters have spoken, and when the numbers change as clerical errors are uncovered days after the election, said Kavanagh. This bill will improve the integrity, accuracy and speed of this process and take advantage of the best features of the new voting machines.

The bill’s fate in the Senate was not clear at the time of writing. The bill is sponsored in that chamber by Sen. Martin Golden. The bill may have a good chance of passing both houses. The New York City Council, the office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a number of good government groups are backing it.

By on June 21, 2012, 6:37 pm
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Bloomberg reacts to teacher evaluation bill
June 21st, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he is “disappointed” that the teacher evaluation bill just passed by both houses of the Legislature because it doesn’t meet “full disclosure.”

Bloomberg was lobbying hard for Senate Republicans to block the bill because he wants teacher evaluations to be made available to the public. But the Republican caucus came together today and decided to bring the bill to a vote. It passed with only one nay vote.

Bloomberg pseudo-nemesis Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, issued a statement praising the bill and the legislature.

Bloomberg did take a conciliatory tone in his statement (at least when it came to Cuomo) saying he appreciated the governor’s “insistence that the State Education post school data so that parents can analyze how districts perform.”

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

By on June 21, 2012, 5:59 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 4 Comments »

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Mulgrew praises teacher evaluation bill
June 21st, 2012

United Federation of Teachers head Michael Mulgrew is praising the legislature for putting limits on the release of teacher evaluations. “I want to thank Governor Cuomo, Speaker Silver and Majority Leader Skelos for their leadership in working to strike an appropriate balance — ensuring that parents can have information about their childrens teachers, while helping to prevent the kind of vilification of teachers that resulted from Mayor Bloombergs insistence on releasing the misleading and inaccurate Teacher Data Reports last year.”

Needless to say, Mulgrew and Mayor Michael Bloomberg aren’t on the greatest of terms and the Legislature certainly handed Bloomberg a defeat today.

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

By on June 21, 2012, 2:37 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany | Comments Off

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Cuomo's gamble on teacher evaluations pays off
June 21st, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s teacher evaluation bill has passed the state Senate. Last Friday, with talks seemingly stalled on a bill limiting access to the state’s teacher evaluations, Cuomo rolled the dice. His administration issued a bill late at night that didn’t seem to go far enough for some legislators.

But late last night, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said his conference would discuss the bill this morning. Low and behold, the bill came to a vote and passed with little debate and only one dissenting vote from Republican Sen. Andrew Lanza, of Staten Island.

Senate Republicans faced quite a bit of pressure from their financial benefactor Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who wanted Cuomo’s bill to fail so that all teacher evaluations would be public. Teachers’ unions supported Cuomo’s bill, but would have liked more limits on the disclosure.

Cuomo issued this statement of congratulations:

“I applaud the Senate and Assembly for taking up the teacher evaluation disclosure bill. I believe it strikes the right balance between protecting teacher privacy and a parents right to know. I also appreciate all those who participated in this important dialogue over the past few months. The teachers unions made important points and the bill respects their members legitimate right to privacy. I also appreciate the opinion of Mayor Bloomberg and I believe the final bill reflects much of his perspective. I know this was a difficult issue for the Legislature and I applaud their courage and leadership. This bill is the metaphorical cherry on the cake to the end of what I believe is one of the most successful and broad ranging legislative sessions in modern political history. From transformative economic reforms to historic social progress, this session was a magnificent accomplishment for the people of New York State.

By on June 21, 2012, 2:03 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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Cuomo chides Senate Republicans on marijuana bill
June 20th, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo took to the airwaves this morning to criticize Senate Republicans for not backing his plan to reduce charges for carrying small amounts of marijuana.

Cuomo has previously shied away from criticizing legislators he has to negotiate with, especially Senate Republicans, who brought his landmark same-sex marriage bill to a vote. Cuomo’s deal on redistricting also saved Senate Republicans major headaches if not their majority.

But Cuomo was clearly irked his marijuana bill met with resistance. Speaking to Fred Dicker on Talk 1300, Cuomo said he believed that the Conservative Party had influenced Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos into backing away from the bill.

“I think there’s no doubt that the state Senate heard the conservative wing of the party and they’re reacting to it,” Cuomo said. The governor also went further, saying that Conservative values don’t appeal to most New Yorkers. “To the extent the Republican Party is successful, it’s because they are moderate… There is just no place in this state for extreme conservative theory.”

Senate Republicans have been fairly clear that they plan to use their relationship with Cuomo as a campaign tool, while Senate Democrats want to try to put a wedge between Senate Republicans and mainstream Democratic values.

By on June 20, 2012, 1:35 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Cuomo's final offer on teacher evaluations
June 19th, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo made it clear at a 1 p.m. press conference today that he is done negotiating on teacher evaluations. The Cuomo administration introduced a bill late last night that would allow teacher evaluations to be made public but without the teacher’s names.

Thats the bill, the bill is not going to change. Theres not going to be a substitute bill. They act on it or they dont. But theres not going to be changes or discussions at this time,” Cuomo told reporters.

Cuomo issued this statement when his bill was introduced late last night, after negotiations broke down: I am introducing my bill, the Teacher and Principal Evaluation Disclosure Act, for consideration by the Senate and the Assembly. I believe the bill strikes the right balance between a teachers right to privacy and the parents and publics right to know. If the Senate or the Assembly do not agree with this position, we can continue discussions and negotiations, and consider legislation in a future session, as the teacher evaluation system does not become operational until next year. I am sending the bill because I wanted my thoughts and position to be clear and specific in order to further the ongoing public dialogue on this important issue.

The Assembly Majority indicated earlier in the day that they intend to vote on Cuomo’s bill before Thursday. Senate Republicans have indicated they have concerns and are not likely to vote on the bill as it stands.

By on June 19, 2012, 3:06 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Bill banning smoking outside schools awaits Senate vote *Update*
June 18th, 2012

A bill prohibiting smoking 100 feet from the entrances, exits and outdoor areas of private and public elementary or secondary schools passed the Assembly today.

New York State successfully banned smoking indoors to protect all New Yorkers from the harmful side effects of secondhand smoke,” said the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz. “This bill seeks to further protect our youth who are now exposed to secondhand smoke at entrances and exits of their school buildings from unwanted exposure. Smoking is particularly dangerous to children. This bill will help to protect them from the scourge of secondhand smoke.”

Sen. Gustavo Rivera sponsored the bill in the Senate. The legislation is one of several health-oriented measures he has sponsored. Rivera has been focused on improving his own health and looking at how Bronx kids develop habits that are bad for their health.

He supports Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban on large soda cups. A spokesman for Rivera said on Monday that they hoped the smoking bill would be on the Senate’s active list on Tuesday.

While the bill’s passage was a cinch in the Assembly, Rivera is in the minority in the Senate and it is up to the Majority to bring the bill to a vote.

*The bill was passed by by the Senate last night and awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature*

By on June 18, 2012, 6:41 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Health | 1 Comment »

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CSNY, Cuomo and JCOPE
June 5th, 2012

The New York Times reported today that a lobbying group controlled by major casino interests donated $2 million to a group closely aligned with the governor as he was beginning his push to expand gambling in the state.

New York Gaming Association President James Featherstonhaughtold The Wall Street Journal that it was his understanding that the group aligned with Gov. Andrew Cuomo was “somewhat supportive of the general concept of the expansion of gaming.” Otherwise, he added, they would not have donated to the group, known as the Committee to Save New York.

Spokesmen for Gov. Andrew Cuomo have denied that the governor was influenced by the donations.

Cuomo dedicated a large piece of his State of the State address to a proposed convention center and casino in Queens to be built by Genting, an Asian multinational corporation. Earlier this week, Cuomo announced that his deal with Genting had soured.

The news comes as a number of groups have called for greater disclosure from groups like the one aligned with the governor, known as the CSNY. Cuomo engineered the creation of the uber-powerful lobbying group to protect him from labor attacks during the budget process.

The Joint Committee on Public Ethics, controlled by two Cuomo appointees, is set to discuss its new disclosure requirements for lobbyists this Thursday.

Two advocacy organizations, VOCAL- NY and Community Voices Heard, released a statement today jumping on the revelations in the Times’ article. They have already put in a complaint to JCOPE about the relationship between Cuomo and CSNY, but said theyhave yet to get a response.

“We are seeing a governor that seems to have put his editorial byline, his State of the State, and even the State’s Constitution up for auction, with the most well-connected New Yorkers brokering the sale and the only available watchdog someone who was appointed by the Governor himself,” reads the statement.

The release also notes that Cuomo’s spokesman have changed their responses to stories about Cuomo’s relationship with CSNY — from denying the relationship to now simply saying such a relationship is not “improper.”

By on June 5, 2012, 3:19 pm
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Reaction to Cuomo's marijuana bill
June 4th, 2012

When news broke today that Gov. Andrew Cuomo wanted the Legislature to lower the penalty for possessing 25 grams or less of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a violation, the perception was that he was taking a shot at Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city’s stop-and-frisk program.

But Bloomberg announced his support for the measure along with a host of city-based legislators and groups.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly even attended Cuomo’s news conference to announce the plan.

“This is an issue that disproportionately affects young people they wind up with a permanent stain on their record for something that would otherwise be a violation,” Cuomo said. “The charge makes it more difficult for them to find a job. Together, we are making New York fairer and safer, and ensuring that every New Yorker has access to [a] justice system that doesnt discriminate based on age or color.”

The move seemed targeted at New York City — 94 percent of the more than 500,000 arrests for 25 grams or less of marijuana in the state took place in the five boroughs.

The New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program has been the target of massive criticism because it is said to disproportionately target and result in the convictions of black and Latino youth. Cuomo said that 82 percent of those arrested for carrying marijuana were black and Latino.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 4, 2012, 9:00 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Senate Dems "thank" Cuomo for redistricting help
May 23rd, 2012

New York’s Senate Democrats offered up a video response to last night’s Legislative Correspondent’s show — and it’s a bit of a doozy. The video features Sens. Michael Gianaris, Liz Krueger and Kevin Parker sitting around a speaker phone anxiously waiting to speak to the governor about redistricting. Gianaris happily lays down the law on redistricting to a dial tone after an executive chamber secretary insists the governor is not available. That is when the hijinx start. Former Gov. David Paterson makes an appearance with Errol Louis on NY1’s Wise Guy’s segment. Paterson delivers his patented SNL “NEW JEERRSEY!” line. Check it out.

Cuomo famously changed the standards for what kind of lines would earn a veto while Senate Republicans and Democrats held their breaths. In the end, Cuomo came to a deal with Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats that allowed the Legislature to draw district lines one more time in exchange for a constitutional amendment that will change the process the next time around.

By on May 23, 2012, 10:11 am
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Gotham City | 7 Comments »

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