Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/andrew-cuomo 2018-06-25T13:34:00+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Pointing to Deficiencies, Victims Call for Changes to State’s New Sexual Harassment Policies 2018-06-24T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-24T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7764:pointing-to-deficiencies-victims-call-for-changes-to-state-s-new-sexual-harassment-policies Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/gov-cuomo-bill-clinton-electoral.jpg" alt="gov cuomo bill clinton electoral" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo via the Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The problem of sexual harassment in New York state politics is systemic and plaguing young women beginning their careers, according to a group fighting to change the culture and the laws around the issue. And, they argue that recently adopted state measures to fight the scourge are insufficient, despite being touted by Governor Andrew Cuomo as “the best in the nation.”</p> <p>The seven women of The Sexual Harassment Working Group -- all of whom have been personally affected by sexual harassment while working for lawmakers in the New York State Legislature -- have consulted a handful of advocacy and legal groups, and called upon their own experiences and expertise, to put together a detailed report with recommendations for ways to better protect women working in government.</p> <p>“We wonder why there aren’t women in higher office, we wonder why women are so underrepesented in our legislature and in all levels of our government. And this is a big part of why: It does not feel safe to work in government if you’re a woman,” co-author Eliyanna Kaiser, a one-time chief of staff to former Assemblymember Micah Kellner, said during an event in Manhattan on June 19. Kaiser was not herself directly a victim of sexual harassment, but instead reported to the former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver that Kellner had been sending inappropriate messages to one of his staffers, which led to initial inaction, attacks against Kaiser, and, eventually, Kellner’s ouster from the state Legislature.</p> <p>Also on the panel were working group members and co-authors Danielle Bennett, former administrative assistant to Kellner who reported his harassment to Kaiser; Leah Hebert, former chief of staff to the late, disgraced Assemblymember Vito Lopez; Tori Burhans Kelly, former legislative aide to Lopez; Rita Pasarell, former legislative counsel and deputy chief of staff to Lopez; Erica Vladimer, former education policy analyst and counsel for the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC); and Elizabeth Crothers, former legislative aide in the New York State Assembly who publicly accused Assembly lawyer Michael Boxley of rape in 2003, two years after the alleged incident and when another victim of Boxley’s came forward. The discussion was moderated by political consultant and columnist Alexis Grenell, who has helped bring to light victims’ experiences as well as the insufficient responses from government officials.</p> <p>The stories of these women run together in a horror plot that involves countless obstacles to reporting, near-dismissal, and a reluctance to investigate from those in charge, as well as forcibly implemented nondisclosure agreements that hinder the complainant's chances of reemployment and their ability to warn others.</p> <p>“I agreed not to file a civil suit in exchange for [him to get] a HIV test,” Crothers said, adding the “loss of anonymity” after going public “follows you.”</p> <p>“I really didn’t think there was another way out aside from suicide,” said Hebert, who was one of the first women to complain about Lopez groping and harassing female staffers, of her experience.</p> <p>“These things that are happening are not the product of an individual harasser, they’re not mistakes,” Pasarell, another complainant against Lopez, added. “It’s massive, it’s systemic, and whenever I hear a new person coming out I say, ‘hey remember us, remember this happened to us in 2012?’”</p> <p>It’s a cycle that exploits women and protects men who behave abhorrently and, as Grenell pointed out, it’s a reality yet unchanged by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s <a href="https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/politics/albany/2018/04/02/does-new-yorks-new-sexual-harassment-laws-go-far-enough/478703002/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">claims</a> that New York has the “strongest and most comprehensive anti-sexual harassment protections in the nation” following the recent budget, wherein the anti-harassment legislation was passed. Grenell compared the governor’s statement to the “mission accomplished sign” former President George W. Bush stood in front of during 2003 remarks about the war in Iraq, only two months after the U.S. first invaded.</p> <p>The Working Group is calling for Cuomo to hold public hearings to listen to victims of sexual harassment -- as its members demanded before the policies were decided by all-male leadership with little apparent regard for the opinions of victims. The group’s <a href="https://www.harassmentfreealbany.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Harassment-Free Albany</a> website states: “New York State has not held a state hearing on sexual harassment since Governor Mario Cuomo [Andrew Cuomo’s father] created a Sexual Harassment Task Force in 1992.”</p> <p>The reporting system has no transparency for complainants, limited uniformity, and an obvious lack of objectivity, the panel urges. For example, when Vladimer, who this January publicly accused now-Deputy Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein of kissing her forcibly and against her will outside a bar in 2015, was asked where her case is at now, she said she has no idea.</p> <p>“Your guess is as good as mine,” Vladimer told event attendees on Tuesday. “[It’s with] the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics [JCOPE], which under some very vague executive law somehow has the authority to investigate sexual harassment claims. There are no experts on this commission and the commissioners who vote to decide whether or not there is wrongdoing are all appointed by elected officials.” They are also <a href="https://www.jcope.ny.gov/commissioners" target="_blank" rel="noopener">almost all men</a>, with one woman in 14 commissioners.</p> <p>“I don’t know where my investigation is and I think that’s one of the biggest things we’ve talked about is that there is no transparency and I know, and have been told, I don’t have a right to know where my investigation’s going,” Vladimer added.</p> <p>When Vladimer went public, Klein immediately denied the allegations, and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said the Senate would not investigate given no formal complaint had been lodged with its internal staff. Klein himself asked JCOPE to investigate, but other than Klein indicating an investigation had commenced, there is little information to go by.</p> <p>In the lead-up to the new state budget, Cuomo had called for sweeping anti-sexual harassment policies, including greater resources for and <a href="https://www.wivb.com/news/local-news/governor-cuomo-delivers-his-state-of-the-state-address/1083202760" target="_blank" rel="noopener">transparency</a> in JCOPE investigations. While Cuomo pushed through some measures, those JCOPE recommendations were not among what was passed into law.</p> <p>The same Klein accused of sexually harassing Vladimer was one of the three other elected men, and no elected women, who assisted Cuomo in deciding the sexual harassment legislation this March, ahead of the annual budget. According to the <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=S07507&amp;term=2017&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Actions=Y&amp;Committee&amp;nbspVotes=Y&amp;Floor&amp;nbspVotes=Y&amp;Memo=Y&amp;Text=Y&amp;LFIN=Y" target="_blank" rel="noopener">budget</a>, there are five measures designed to address sexual harassment in state politics -- as the governor’s office puts it, to “further build upon his 2018 Women’s Agenda for New York.”</p> <p>In a press release announcing highlights of the new budget in March, Cuomo said, "We put into place the strongest and most comprehensive anti-sexual harassment protections in the nation, ending once and for all the secrecy and coercive practices that have enabled this unacceptable behavior for far too long.”</p> <p>Under the new legislation, all employers working with the state, including vendors and contractors, must implement a written policy addressing sexual harassment prevention and provide prevention training to all employees. This is an extension of a previously-existing law to include contracted workers, and means that employers may now be held liable for the sexual harassment of non-employees if the employer knew, or should have known, of the harassment and failed to take action. It does not, however, address the ambiguity around employees of elected officials.</p> <p>The Sexual Harassment Working Group is recommending the definition of “employee” be changed to clearly include employees of elected and appointed officials, and that the New York State Human Rights Law should stipulate elected officials are also considered “employers.”</p> <p>“Our recommendation is to specify employees as everybody -- essentially someone for hire -- this is how the labor law defines it and we just want every worker to have the same protection, including staff of elected officials,” Pasarell told Tuesday night’s event.</p> <p>In the new legislation, New York employers are prohibited from requiring mandatory arbitration of claims of workplace sexual harassment, except where inconsistent with federal law, and this will come into effect in July.</p> <p>Any officers and employees of the state or any public entity who is subject to a final judgement of personal liability in cases of sexual harassment will have to reimburse the state for the award given to the complainant, however the Sexual Harassment Working Group points out this is only applicable for cases determined by a judge, not necessarily to those settled out of court.</p> <p>Cuomo’s legislation also states no employer has the authority to include or agree to include in any settlement a nondisclosure agreement, unless the condition of confidentiality is the complainant’s preference. And, notably, a model sexual harassment guidance document and a sexual harassment prevention policy is to be created with the Division of Human Right by October -- meaning a key portion of the new policy is not yet written.</p> <p>“This year, Governor Cuomo signed the strongest anti-sexual harassment policy in the country,” Dani Lever, press secretary for Cuomo, told Gotham Gazette in a statement. “It closed gaping loopholes that entrapped women in toxic workplaces, extended protections to contracted workers, and strengthened rules that prevent companies from shirking their responsibility to root out bad actors—instead of sweeping problems under-the-rug.”</p> <p>On the surface, all measures included in the<a href="https://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/press/2018/pr-enactfy19.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> enacted budget</a> appear to go a long way towards exactly what the governor is promising but, according to the panel of women who’ve experienced sexual harassment in state politics first-hand, there are some areas of ambiguity that impede the path to reporting and justice for potential victims.</p> <p>First, the budget hasn’t defined “sexual harassment” and the way the issue is currently treated under state law leaves much room for interpretation. The Sexual Harassment Working Group recommends adding “sex and gender” to the list of classes protected from discrimination in the New York State Constitution, to offer another level of protection for all New Yorkers, including victims. And the authors suggest the current standard for behavior to qualify as sexual harassment in state law -- that it must be “severe or pervasive” -- be changed to mirror the recent changes to New York City law, where the standard for discrimination and harassment reads simply that the person is treated “less well.”</p> <p>“When you’re talking about standards in law, the ‘litigative itch,’ as they call it, is all in these terms,” Kaiser said. “People are always going to bicker about the actual event that happened. We’d prefer that bickering to be asking, ‘didn’t he treat her less well?’ Rather than, ‘was it severe and pervasive?’”</p> <p>The working group is also calling for an independent body to oversee all discrimination harassment policy enforcement. At the moment, JCOPE members are appointed by state elected officials. Of the 14 members, three are appointed by the Temporary President of the Senate, three are appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly, one is appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate, one is appointed by the Minority Leader of the Assembly, and six are appointed by the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor.</p> <p>Many of the stories from the women in The Sexual Harassment Working Group involve some level of disbelief from those charged with investigating their reports of sexual harassment. In Crothers’ case, it wasn’t only disbelief, it was outright protection of her alleged attacker.</p> <p>“Before it came out in the press and when I met with the speaker [Sheldon Silver], I didn’t feel he didn’t believe me, he just said ‘well I won’t let him go out to bars anymore and my first priority is protecting the institution,’” Crothers said at the panel event. Silver resigned as speaker in 2015 after being arrested on federal corruption charges, and long after being accused of facilitating former Assemblymember Lopez’s harassment of 33 women who were on his staff. The panelists believe this culture of cover-up and protection will continue unless there is an independent body appointed to investigate, and determine, reports of sexual misconduct in Albany.</p> <p>It’s the Lopez example that best shows the need for further restrictions around the use of nondisclosure agreements, beyond what is outlined in the new legislation. Three of the women in the working group, who were on the panel, ultimately signed nondisclosure agreements after accusing the former Assembly member of sexual harassment and groping. They said they didn’t want a nondisclosure agreement -- it wasn’t implemented to protect their privacy -- but it was offered to them as a ‘take it or leave it’ measure.</p> <p>“We wanted an investigation, we asked multiple times for an investigation,” Hebert said. Hebert’s name went public, despite her having signed a nondisclosure agreement, when reports from other victims were published by the media ahead of Lopez’s resignation in 2013. Instead of an investigation, Hebert said she, along with Kelly and Pasarell, were made to sign nondisclosure agreements and were told Lopez would go through sexual harassment prevention training.</p> <p>“The NDA, it wasn’t just that...we couldn’t speak to anyone,” Hebert said. “It was, at first, $10,000 in liquidated damages if we broke it for every occurence, and it would happen with a mediator behind closed doors so no one would know they were enforcing the agreement. And it also contained a provision that we could never apply to the Assembly again.” This last measure effectively limiting their opportunities to work in state government, and the fine making it impossible for the complainants to explain their circumstances to future employers, file for unemployment benefits, or warn others or the Human Rights Division of Lopez’s behavior.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>They pushed back on their exclusion from the Assembly and the response was, “we could never apply to Lopez’s office again, which was fine, but they increased our liquidated damages cost to $20,000,” Hebert said.</p> <p>Pasarell, another of Lopez’s victims, said the anti-sexual harassment legislation in the budget regarding nondisclosure agreements -- that they can only be used in cases where the complainant consents -- can too easily be twisted to benefit the harasser.</p> <p>“The way they phrased the new law is for the complainant to have a nondisclosure agreement, it’s got to be the complainant’s preference. In our case we saw repeatedly how the Assembly portrayed it as if it was our preference when it absolutely was not,” she said. “The nondisclosure agreement came to us very late in the game and it was ‘take it or leave it.’”</p> <p>Women reporting sexual harassment will be better assisted, The Sexual Harassment Working Group argues, if the Legislature provides greater protection against victim coercion into signing nondisclosure agreements. The group also recommends the law allow for individual liability, so harassers can be targeted without taking the Legislature or State to arbitration or court. And, in cases where complainants do want a nondisclosure agreement for confidentiality reasons, there should be a “Sunshine in Litigation” law to prevent serial harassers (who’ve offended at least once prior) from re-offending. “Limited information would be shared but a pattern of harassment would be outed,” Pasarell said.</p> <p>The way to change the culture of sexual harassment and exploitation is through changing the law, The Sexual Harassment Working Group maintains, and the way to do that is through consulting with victims, advocacy groups, and others, including lawmakers -- a process much more extensive than how Cuomo and legislative leaders, all men, went about it.</p> <p>In response to The Sexual Harassment Working Group’s report, Cuomo’s team said it will review the recommendations but gave no indication of whether or not they will consider holding or pushing for a public hearing on the issue.</p> <p>“No woman should ever be violated, let alone in the workplace—period. And that’s why Governor Cuomo has championed measures that hold employers accountable for ensuring a hospitable workplace,” Lever, Cuomo’s press secretary, told Gotham Gazette. “The ‘Me Too’ movement has caused an awakening in our society, and while we’ve taken positive concrete steps in New York, we need to continue to see progress in our state and across the country. We look forward to reviewing these recommendations and continuing this important work.”</p> <p>

***
by Caitlin Bishop, Gotham Gazette
@caitybishop  @GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/gov-cuomo-bill-clinton-electoral.jpg" alt="gov cuomo bill clinton electoral" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo via the Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The problem of sexual harassment in New York state politics is systemic and plaguing young women beginning their careers, according to a group fighting to change the culture and the laws around the issue. And, they argue that recently adopted state measures to fight the scourge are insufficient, despite being touted by Governor Andrew Cuomo as “the best in the nation.”</p> <p>The seven women of The Sexual Harassment Working Group -- all of whom have been personally affected by sexual harassment while working for lawmakers in the New York State Legislature -- have consulted a handful of advocacy and legal groups, and called upon their own experiences and expertise, to put together a detailed report with recommendations for ways to better protect women working in government.</p> <p>“We wonder why there aren’t women in higher office, we wonder why women are so underrepesented in our legislature and in all levels of our government. And this is a big part of why: It does not feel safe to work in government if you’re a woman,” co-author Eliyanna Kaiser, a one-time chief of staff to former Assemblymember Micah Kellner, said during an event in Manhattan on June 19. Kaiser was not herself directly a victim of sexual harassment, but instead reported to the former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver that Kellner had been sending inappropriate messages to one of his staffers, which led to initial inaction, attacks against Kaiser, and, eventually, Kellner’s ouster from the state Legislature.</p> <p>Also on the panel were working group members and co-authors Danielle Bennett, former administrative assistant to Kellner who reported his harassment to Kaiser; Leah Hebert, former chief of staff to the late, disgraced Assemblymember Vito Lopez; Tori Burhans Kelly, former legislative aide to Lopez; Rita Pasarell, former legislative counsel and deputy chief of staff to Lopez; Erica Vladimer, former education policy analyst and counsel for the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC); and Elizabeth Crothers, former legislative aide in the New York State Assembly who publicly accused Assembly lawyer Michael Boxley of rape in 2003, two years after the alleged incident and when another victim of Boxley’s came forward. The discussion was moderated by political consultant and columnist Alexis Grenell, who has helped bring to light victims’ experiences as well as the insufficient responses from government officials.</p> <p>The stories of these women run together in a horror plot that involves countless obstacles to reporting, near-dismissal, and a reluctance to investigate from those in charge, as well as forcibly implemented nondisclosure agreements that hinder the complainant's chances of reemployment and their ability to warn others.</p> <p>“I agreed not to file a civil suit in exchange for [him to get] a HIV test,” Crothers said, adding the “loss of anonymity” after going public “follows you.”</p> <p>“I really didn’t think there was another way out aside from suicide,” said Hebert, who was one of the first women to complain about Lopez groping and harassing female staffers, of her experience.</p> <p>“These things that are happening are not the product of an individual harasser, they’re not mistakes,” Pasarell, another complainant against Lopez, added. “It’s massive, it’s systemic, and whenever I hear a new person coming out I say, ‘hey remember us, remember this happened to us in 2012?’”</p> <p>It’s a cycle that exploits women and protects men who behave abhorrently and, as Grenell pointed out, it’s a reality yet unchanged by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s <a href="https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/politics/albany/2018/04/02/does-new-yorks-new-sexual-harassment-laws-go-far-enough/478703002/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">claims</a> that New York has the “strongest and most comprehensive anti-sexual harassment protections in the nation” following the recent budget, wherein the anti-harassment legislation was passed. Grenell compared the governor’s statement to the “mission accomplished sign” former President George W. Bush stood in front of during 2003 remarks about the war in Iraq, only two months after the U.S. first invaded.</p> <p>The Working Group is calling for Cuomo to hold public hearings to listen to victims of sexual harassment -- as its members demanded before the policies were decided by all-male leadership with little apparent regard for the opinions of victims. The group’s <a href="https://www.harassmentfreealbany.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Harassment-Free Albany</a> website states: “New York State has not held a state hearing on sexual harassment since Governor Mario Cuomo [Andrew Cuomo’s father] created a Sexual Harassment Task Force in 1992.”</p> <p>The reporting system has no transparency for complainants, limited uniformity, and an obvious lack of objectivity, the panel urges. For example, when Vladimer, who this January publicly accused now-Deputy Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein of kissing her forcibly and against her will outside a bar in 2015, was asked where her case is at now, she said she has no idea.</p> <p>“Your guess is as good as mine,” Vladimer told event attendees on Tuesday. “[It’s with] the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics [JCOPE], which under some very vague executive law somehow has the authority to investigate sexual harassment claims. There are no experts on this commission and the commissioners who vote to decide whether or not there is wrongdoing are all appointed by elected officials.” They are also <a href="https://www.jcope.ny.gov/commissioners" target="_blank" rel="noopener">almost all men</a>, with one woman in 14 commissioners.</p> <p>“I don’t know where my investigation is and I think that’s one of the biggest things we’ve talked about is that there is no transparency and I know, and have been told, I don’t have a right to know where my investigation’s going,” Vladimer added.</p> <p>When Vladimer went public, Klein immediately denied the allegations, and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said the Senate would not investigate given no formal complaint had been lodged with its internal staff. Klein himself asked JCOPE to investigate, but other than Klein indicating an investigation had commenced, there is little information to go by.</p> <p>In the lead-up to the new state budget, Cuomo had called for sweeping anti-sexual harassment policies, including greater resources for and <a href="https://www.wivb.com/news/local-news/governor-cuomo-delivers-his-state-of-the-state-address/1083202760" target="_blank" rel="noopener">transparency</a> in JCOPE investigations. While Cuomo pushed through some measures, those JCOPE recommendations were not among what was passed into law.</p> <p>The same Klein accused of sexually harassing Vladimer was one of the three other elected men, and no elected women, who assisted Cuomo in deciding the sexual harassment legislation this March, ahead of the annual budget. According to the <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=S07507&amp;term=2017&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Actions=Y&amp;Committee&amp;nbspVotes=Y&amp;Floor&amp;nbspVotes=Y&amp;Memo=Y&amp;Text=Y&amp;LFIN=Y" target="_blank" rel="noopener">budget</a>, there are five measures designed to address sexual harassment in state politics -- as the governor’s office puts it, to “further build upon his 2018 Women’s Agenda for New York.”</p> <p>In a press release announcing highlights of the new budget in March, Cuomo said, "We put into place the strongest and most comprehensive anti-sexual harassment protections in the nation, ending once and for all the secrecy and coercive practices that have enabled this unacceptable behavior for far too long.”</p> <p>Under the new legislation, all employers working with the state, including vendors and contractors, must implement a written policy addressing sexual harassment prevention and provide prevention training to all employees. This is an extension of a previously-existing law to include contracted workers, and means that employers may now be held liable for the sexual harassment of non-employees if the employer knew, or should have known, of the harassment and failed to take action. It does not, however, address the ambiguity around employees of elected officials.</p> <p>The Sexual Harassment Working Group is recommending the definition of “employee” be changed to clearly include employees of elected and appointed officials, and that the New York State Human Rights Law should stipulate elected officials are also considered “employers.”</p> <p>“Our recommendation is to specify employees as everybody -- essentially someone for hire -- this is how the labor law defines it and we just want every worker to have the same protection, including staff of elected officials,” Pasarell told Tuesday night’s event.</p> <p>In the new legislation, New York employers are prohibited from requiring mandatory arbitration of claims of workplace sexual harassment, except where inconsistent with federal law, and this will come into effect in July.</p> <p>Any officers and employees of the state or any public entity who is subject to a final judgement of personal liability in cases of sexual harassment will have to reimburse the state for the award given to the complainant, however the Sexual Harassment Working Group points out this is only applicable for cases determined by a judge, not necessarily to those settled out of court.</p> <p>Cuomo’s legislation also states no employer has the authority to include or agree to include in any settlement a nondisclosure agreement, unless the condition of confidentiality is the complainant’s preference. And, notably, a model sexual harassment guidance document and a sexual harassment prevention policy is to be created with the Division of Human Right by October -- meaning a key portion of the new policy is not yet written.</p> <p>“This year, Governor Cuomo signed the strongest anti-sexual harassment policy in the country,” Dani Lever, press secretary for Cuomo, told Gotham Gazette in a statement. “It closed gaping loopholes that entrapped women in toxic workplaces, extended protections to contracted workers, and strengthened rules that prevent companies from shirking their responsibility to root out bad actors—instead of sweeping problems under-the-rug.”</p> <p>On the surface, all measures included in the<a href="https://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/press/2018/pr-enactfy19.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> enacted budget</a> appear to go a long way towards exactly what the governor is promising but, according to the panel of women who’ve experienced sexual harassment in state politics first-hand, there are some areas of ambiguity that impede the path to reporting and justice for potential victims.</p> <p>First, the budget hasn’t defined “sexual harassment” and the way the issue is currently treated under state law leaves much room for interpretation. The Sexual Harassment Working Group recommends adding “sex and gender” to the list of classes protected from discrimination in the New York State Constitution, to offer another level of protection for all New Yorkers, including victims. And the authors suggest the current standard for behavior to qualify as sexual harassment in state law -- that it must be “severe or pervasive” -- be changed to mirror the recent changes to New York City law, where the standard for discrimination and harassment reads simply that the person is treated “less well.”</p> <p>“When you’re talking about standards in law, the ‘litigative itch,’ as they call it, is all in these terms,” Kaiser said. “People are always going to bicker about the actual event that happened. We’d prefer that bickering to be asking, ‘didn’t he treat her less well?’ Rather than, ‘was it severe and pervasive?’”</p> <p>The working group is also calling for an independent body to oversee all discrimination harassment policy enforcement. At the moment, JCOPE members are appointed by state elected officials. Of the 14 members, three are appointed by the Temporary President of the Senate, three are appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly, one is appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate, one is appointed by the Minority Leader of the Assembly, and six are appointed by the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor.</p> <p>Many of the stories from the women in The Sexual Harassment Working Group involve some level of disbelief from those charged with investigating their reports of sexual harassment. In Crothers’ case, it wasn’t only disbelief, it was outright protection of her alleged attacker.</p> <p>“Before it came out in the press and when I met with the speaker [Sheldon Silver], I didn’t feel he didn’t believe me, he just said ‘well I won’t let him go out to bars anymore and my first priority is protecting the institution,’” Crothers said at the panel event. Silver resigned as speaker in 2015 after being arrested on federal corruption charges, and long after being accused of facilitating former Assemblymember Lopez’s harassment of 33 women who were on his staff. The panelists believe this culture of cover-up and protection will continue unless there is an independent body appointed to investigate, and determine, reports of sexual misconduct in Albany.</p> <p>It’s the Lopez example that best shows the need for further restrictions around the use of nondisclosure agreements, beyond what is outlined in the new legislation. Three of the women in the working group, who were on the panel, ultimately signed nondisclosure agreements after accusing the former Assembly member of sexual harassment and groping. They said they didn’t want a nondisclosure agreement -- it wasn’t implemented to protect their privacy -- but it was offered to them as a ‘take it or leave it’ measure.</p> <p>“We wanted an investigation, we asked multiple times for an investigation,” Hebert said. Hebert’s name went public, despite her having signed a nondisclosure agreement, when reports from other victims were published by the media ahead of Lopez’s resignation in 2013. Instead of an investigation, Hebert said she, along with Kelly and Pasarell, were made to sign nondisclosure agreements and were told Lopez would go through sexual harassment prevention training.</p> <p>“The NDA, it wasn’t just that...we couldn’t speak to anyone,” Hebert said. “It was, at first, $10,000 in liquidated damages if we broke it for every occurence, and it would happen with a mediator behind closed doors so no one would know they were enforcing the agreement. And it also contained a provision that we could never apply to the Assembly again.” This last measure effectively limiting their opportunities to work in state government, and the fine making it impossible for the complainants to explain their circumstances to future employers, file for unemployment benefits, or warn others or the Human Rights Division of Lopez’s behavior.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>They pushed back on their exclusion from the Assembly and the response was, “we could never apply to Lopez’s office again, which was fine, but they increased our liquidated damages cost to $20,000,” Hebert said.</p> <p>Pasarell, another of Lopez’s victims, said the anti-sexual harassment legislation in the budget regarding nondisclosure agreements -- that they can only be used in cases where the complainant consents -- can too easily be twisted to benefit the harasser.</p> <p>“The way they phrased the new law is for the complainant to have a nondisclosure agreement, it’s got to be the complainant’s preference. In our case we saw repeatedly how the Assembly portrayed it as if it was our preference when it absolutely was not,” she said. “The nondisclosure agreement came to us very late in the game and it was ‘take it or leave it.’”</p> <p>Women reporting sexual harassment will be better assisted, The Sexual Harassment Working Group argues, if the Legislature provides greater protection against victim coercion into signing nondisclosure agreements. The group also recommends the law allow for individual liability, so harassers can be targeted without taking the Legislature or State to arbitration or court. And, in cases where complainants do want a nondisclosure agreement for confidentiality reasons, there should be a “Sunshine in Litigation” law to prevent serial harassers (who’ve offended at least once prior) from re-offending. “Limited information would be shared but a pattern of harassment would be outed,” Pasarell said.</p> <p>The way to change the culture of sexual harassment and exploitation is through changing the law, The Sexual Harassment Working Group maintains, and the way to do that is through consulting with victims, advocacy groups, and others, including lawmakers -- a process much more extensive than how Cuomo and legislative leaders, all men, went about it.</p> <p>In response to The Sexual Harassment Working Group’s report, Cuomo’s team said it will review the recommendations but gave no indication of whether or not they will consider holding or pushing for a public hearing on the issue.</p> <p>“No woman should ever be violated, let alone in the workplace—period. And that’s why Governor Cuomo has championed measures that hold employers accountable for ensuring a hospitable workplace,” Lever, Cuomo’s press secretary, told Gotham Gazette. “The ‘Me Too’ movement has caused an awakening in our society, and while we’ve taken positive concrete steps in New York, we need to continue to see progress in our state and across the country. We look forward to reviewing these recommendations and continuing this important work.”</p> <p>

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by Caitlin Bishop, Gotham Gazette
@caitybishop  @GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Without the Federal Government But With New York, Puerto Rico Endures 2018-06-22T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-22T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7763:without-the-federal-government-but-with-new-york-puerto-rico-endures Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/gov-puertorican-day.jpg" alt="gov puertorican day" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo via the Governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Loíza is a town on the northeastern coast of Puerto Rico, home to almost 30,000 American citizens. For 72 hours last September, as Hurricane Maria ravaged the island and other territories in the Caribbean, Loíza and all of its residents became isolated from the outside world when the three main roads that connect this medium-sized town to the rest of the island became impassable.&nbsp;</p> <p>The challenges that residents of Loíza faced and continue to deal with are not only emblematic of the lack of resources invested in rebuilding efforts and the crumbling economy hindering the island's recovery, but also of the resilience and resourcefulness of the Puerto Rican people.&nbsp;</p> <p>Last March, I returned to my native Puerto Rico to see the impact of the disaster firsthand. I visited six different towns across the island, including Loíza, and with a great deal of frustration and heartbreak, I confirmed what I had feared: the inadequate and anemic responses from the federal government and the island’s central administration have left almost 3 million Puerto Ricans on the island and their local governments to fend for themselves. &nbsp;</p> <p>Thousands, especially those in low-income communities, continue to suffer from unreliable electricity and water systems, food and resource shortages, and serious mental and physical health emergencies. Considering this, it should come as no surprise that the real number of storm-related fatalities is closer to 4,600 souls, according to a recent Harvard University&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMsa1803972" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a>, as opposed to the 64 official deaths counted by the U.S. government. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>While the trip was disheartening in many ways, it was also inspiring and hopeful. I met several mayors, nonprofit organizations, scholars, labor leaders, and dedicated individuals whose steadfast leadership in helping Puerto Rico recover has been nothing short of heroic. Together, they have slowly built an important grassroots recovery movement that has made significant progress despite minimal resources.&nbsp;</p> <p>For instance,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.tallersalud.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Taller Salud</a>, a Loíza-based nonprofit organization seeking to ensure the physical and emotional well-being of low-income women and girls, saw its mission transform out of necessity, becoming a critical emergency response provider giving out life-saving assistance to thousands.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>To put it plainly, Puerto Ricans do not need or want charity. What they need is our support to further invest in those leaders and communities working tirelessly to implement innovative visions and projects locally. They want to maintain full agency over how their hometowns and infrastructure are rebuilt. We do not need to tell them or show them how to survive or thrive -- what we need to do is augment their ability to do what they have already been doing.</p> <p>Many states and cities across the mainland United States have stepped up to provide support in the face of the failed response by our federal government. I am proud to say that New York has done this and in spades.</p> <p>Our State and City governments, along with elected officials across all levels of government, local nonprofit organizations, civic leaders, and many New Yorkers launched an extremely dynamic relief effort, which continues to this day. From millions of dollars in monetary donations, to collecting tons of essential items, to sending highly qualified emergency responders, medical staff, and expert personnel to help rebuild the island’s decayed infrastructure, New York has led by example as to how to coordinate a comprehensive relief response and empower the Puerto Rican people to take the lead in its recovery efforts.</p> <p>During a recent meeting of Governor Cuomo’s New York Stands with Puerto Rico Rebuilding and Reconstructing Committee, I joined my fellow committee members and Governor Cuomo’s administration to identify a list of priorities and recommendations to help facilitate Puerto Rico’s rebuilding efforts.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/01-29-14_rivera-hs-_009.jpg" alt="01 29 14 rivera hs 009" width="92" height="92" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />My list of recommendations focuses on counseling and mental health services, access to higher education, employment assistance, accessibility of clean water, and promotion of green energy infrastructure.&nbsp;</p> <p>As a result of the recent committee meeting, I penned a <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/gustavo-rivera/senator-rivera-and-members-senate-democratic-conference-call" target="_blank" rel="noopener">letter</a> with members of the Senate Democratic Conference urging SUNY and CUNY to extend their in-state tuition credit program. This program aims to ensure that Puerto Rican and U.S. Virgin Islands students who relocated to New York are able to continue their higher education for the next academic year. Last week, SUNY extended the program and CUNY is expected to do the same imminently.</p> <p>Puerto Ricans have not only seen their lives completely torn apart by a natural disaster, but also by the criminal inaction of our federal government. While the road to recovery will be long and filled with challenges, the spirit of my fellow Boricuas remains intact. At a time of such darkness, the clarity of their ideas and their commitment to rebuilding is worthy of support. The goal of the diaspora, and all who seek to help, must be to empower our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters to transform and improve their neighborhoods and towns as they see fit. The storm and this administration have dealt a painful blow to Puerto Rico, but the island and Puerto Ricans endure.</p> <p>***<br /> Gustavo Rivera is a state senator representing part of the Bronx and a native of Puerto Rico. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/NYSenatorRivera" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@NYSenatorRivera</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/gov-puertorican-day.jpg" alt="gov puertorican day" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo via the Governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Loíza is a town on the northeastern coast of Puerto Rico, home to almost 30,000 American citizens. For 72 hours last September, as Hurricane Maria ravaged the island and other territories in the Caribbean, Loíza and all of its residents became isolated from the outside world when the three main roads that connect this medium-sized town to the rest of the island became impassable.&nbsp;</p> <p>The challenges that residents of Loíza faced and continue to deal with are not only emblematic of the lack of resources invested in rebuilding efforts and the crumbling economy hindering the island's recovery, but also of the resilience and resourcefulness of the Puerto Rican people.&nbsp;</p> <p>Last March, I returned to my native Puerto Rico to see the impact of the disaster firsthand. I visited six different towns across the island, including Loíza, and with a great deal of frustration and heartbreak, I confirmed what I had feared: the inadequate and anemic responses from the federal government and the island’s central administration have left almost 3 million Puerto Ricans on the island and their local governments to fend for themselves. &nbsp;</p> <p>Thousands, especially those in low-income communities, continue to suffer from unreliable electricity and water systems, food and resource shortages, and serious mental and physical health emergencies. Considering this, it should come as no surprise that the real number of storm-related fatalities is closer to 4,600 souls, according to a recent Harvard University&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMsa1803972" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a>, as opposed to the 64 official deaths counted by the U.S. government. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>While the trip was disheartening in many ways, it was also inspiring and hopeful. I met several mayors, nonprofit organizations, scholars, labor leaders, and dedicated individuals whose steadfast leadership in helping Puerto Rico recover has been nothing short of heroic. Together, they have slowly built an important grassroots recovery movement that has made significant progress despite minimal resources.&nbsp;</p> <p>For instance,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.tallersalud.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Taller Salud</a>, a Loíza-based nonprofit organization seeking to ensure the physical and emotional well-being of low-income women and girls, saw its mission transform out of necessity, becoming a critical emergency response provider giving out life-saving assistance to thousands.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>To put it plainly, Puerto Ricans do not need or want charity. What they need is our support to further invest in those leaders and communities working tirelessly to implement innovative visions and projects locally. They want to maintain full agency over how their hometowns and infrastructure are rebuilt. We do not need to tell them or show them how to survive or thrive -- what we need to do is augment their ability to do what they have already been doing.</p> <p>Many states and cities across the mainland United States have stepped up to provide support in the face of the failed response by our federal government. I am proud to say that New York has done this and in spades.</p> <p>Our State and City governments, along with elected officials across all levels of government, local nonprofit organizations, civic leaders, and many New Yorkers launched an extremely dynamic relief effort, which continues to this day. From millions of dollars in monetary donations, to collecting tons of essential items, to sending highly qualified emergency responders, medical staff, and expert personnel to help rebuild the island’s decayed infrastructure, New York has led by example as to how to coordinate a comprehensive relief response and empower the Puerto Rican people to take the lead in its recovery efforts.</p> <p>During a recent meeting of Governor Cuomo’s New York Stands with Puerto Rico Rebuilding and Reconstructing Committee, I joined my fellow committee members and Governor Cuomo’s administration to identify a list of priorities and recommendations to help facilitate Puerto Rico’s rebuilding efforts.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/01-29-14_rivera-hs-_009.jpg" alt="01 29 14 rivera hs 009" width="92" height="92" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />My list of recommendations focuses on counseling and mental health services, access to higher education, employment assistance, accessibility of clean water, and promotion of green energy infrastructure.&nbsp;</p> <p>As a result of the recent committee meeting, I penned a <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/gustavo-rivera/senator-rivera-and-members-senate-democratic-conference-call" target="_blank" rel="noopener">letter</a> with members of the Senate Democratic Conference urging SUNY and CUNY to extend their in-state tuition credit program. This program aims to ensure that Puerto Rican and U.S. Virgin Islands students who relocated to New York are able to continue their higher education for the next academic year. Last week, SUNY extended the program and CUNY is expected to do the same imminently.</p> <p>Puerto Ricans have not only seen their lives completely torn apart by a natural disaster, but also by the criminal inaction of our federal government. While the road to recovery will be long and filled with challenges, the spirit of my fellow Boricuas remains intact. At a time of such darkness, the clarity of their ideas and their commitment to rebuilding is worthy of support. The goal of the diaspora, and all who seek to help, must be to empower our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters to transform and improve their neighborhoods and towns as they see fit. The storm and this administration have dealt a painful blow to Puerto Rico, but the island and Puerto Ricans endure.</p> <p>***<br /> Gustavo Rivera is a state senator representing part of the Bronx and a native of Puerto Rico. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/NYSenatorRivera" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@NYSenatorRivera</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
What Did and Did Not Move at End of State Legislative Session 2018-06-21T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-21T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7761:what-did-and-did-not-move-at-end-of-state-legislative-session Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27726813697_d8e9582eec_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo gun safety press conference" width="600" height="373" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo holds a press conference (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>A particularly dysfunctional, even for New York, state legislative session came to a halt on Wednesday with little movement on most of the major issues animating state government. The reunification of the Independent Democratic Conference and the mainline Senate Democrats led to business slowing to a drip in the Senate after the passage of the state budget; things became particularly impaired after one Republican senator, Tom Croci, was recalled to active military duty, leaving the chamber with no working majority and a paralysis of legislative business on anything controversial, and at times even on the mundane.</p> <p>Even as the Democrat-dominated Assembly passed a wide variety of legislation, there appeared to be little appetite for the annual package of compromise legislation, in part, it seems, due to election year considerations. Every seat in both houses of the Legislature is on the ballot this fall, as well as the four statewide positions of governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, and attorney general.</p> <p>Perhaps the most significant item to break through the Albany morass was the approval of the Airtrain LaGuardia project, and the simultaneous approval of the use of eminent domain to build it. Otherwise, there was no movement on major issues such as ethics reform, criminal justice reform, teacher evaluations, and the renewal of speed cameras near New York City schools, among other more contentious issues where no agreements were reached among Assembly and Senate leaders and Governor Andrew Cuomo.</p> <p>Even as lawmakers left Albany for the end of the scheduled session, presumably done with legislative business for the rest of the calendar year, there was some talk of a special session in the coming weeks or months in order to address a small number of issues, like the speed cameras.</p> <p>But as of now, the session is over and there are no concrete plans for legislators to be called back to the Capitol. A look at some of the highlights of what did and (mostly) did not move as the legislative session ended.</p> <p><em><strong>What awaits the governor’s pen</strong></em></p> <p><strong>Airtrain LaGuardia</strong><br />The Assembly and Senate passed a <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/a11158">bill</a> that would authorize the Airtrain LaGuardia project to bring a rail link to LaGuardia Airport, and would also authorize the state to <a href="https://ny.curbed.com/2018/6/20/17480896/laguardia-airtrain-port-authority-queens-construction">acquire property</a> in Queens via eminent domain for use in that project. The bill further stated the expected route that the rail link would take. The bill passed the Assembly on Monday 134-1, with new Manhattan Assemblymember Harvey Epstein the sole dissenter; it passed the Senate 52-8 on Wednesday, with seven city Democrats and one upstate Republican, Joseph Robach, voting against.</p> <p>Fixing up LaGuardia, the only major airport in the region without a direct rail link, has become something of a calling for Cuomo, a Queens native, throughout his tenure, so he is almost certain to sign the bill into law. Cuomo has <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-port-authority-takes-important-next-step-laguardia-airtrain">championed</a> the Airtrain LaGuardia project, saying that his program is “transforming LaGuardia into a world-class transportation gateway.” Cuomo has also helmed the construction of a <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-start-construction-deltas-4-billion-new-facilities-laguardia">new terminal</a> at LaGuardia for Delta Airlines.</p> <p>But community groups in the Queens neighborhoods surrounding the airport have been steadfast in their opposition to the project, which they believe will negatively impact their quality of life with little upside for community members. Transit advocates, meanwhile, contend that the funds used on the construction of the Airtrain can be put to better use. On Thursday, opponents <a href="https://twitter.com/StreetsblogNYC/status/1009822075492630528">protested</a> the Airtrain’s approval at the governor’s office. Meanwhile, Queens civic organizations have floated a <a href="https://secure3.convio.net/river/site/SPageNavigator/AirTrain_Petition.html">petition</a> demanding an environmental impact statement for the project.</p> <p><strong>Prosecutorial Accountability Office</strong><br />The Senate passed <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/john-defrancisco/state-senate-passes-bill-would-establish-prosecutorial">a bill</a> last week to establish a “State Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct,” an eleven-member body consisting of appointees of the governor, Legislature, and chief judge. The commission would investigate prosecutorial misconduct and, if warranted, discipline prosecutors found guilty of wrongdoing. The Assembly passed the <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/Press/files/20180619a.php">bill</a> on Tuesday. It’s not immediately clear if Cuomo will sign it.</p> <p>The Assembly noted that the past few years have seen several “high profile exonerations of people who were wrongfully convicted of serious crimes in New York State.” Such wrongful convictions are not always the result of an accident: prosecutors <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/08/nyregion/rule-would-push-prosecutors-to-release-evidence-favorable-to-defense.html">have been known</a> to withhold or even tamper with evidence that could potentially exonerate a defendant. As such, district attorneys have historically opposed legislation forcing them to turn over all evidence in the discovery phase of the legal process.</p> <p>Prosecutors have also come under suspicion in recent years due to their close working relations with police, and the potentially related and frequent lack of charges for officers accused of wrongdoing. In 2015, Governor Cuomo empowered the New York Attorney General to act as a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6778-while-cuomo-s-special-prosecutor-order-continues-calls-for-permanency-remain">special prosecutor</a> in cases when officers are involved in the death of unarmed civilians.</p> <p>The Assembly noted that the measure has been endorsed by Human Rights Watch. It was championed in the Senate by retiring Senator John DeFrancisco, a Syracuse-area Republican.</p> <p><strong>Feminine hygiene products for inmates</strong><br />The Senate, on June 12, passed a bill to provide free menstrual products, such as tampons or pads, to inmates at state and local correctional facilities. The bill passed <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/S8821/amendment/A">59-2</a>, with Republicans Pamela Helming and Robert Ortt dissenting. The bill passed the Assembly later that same day <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A00588&amp;term=2017&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Actions=Y&amp;Floor%26nbspVotes=Y">142-1</a>, with Republican Christopher Friend dissenting, and awaits the likely signature of the governor, who signaled his <a href="http://observer.com/2018/01/new-york-feminine-hygiene-products/">support</a> in January. The Assembly had earlier passed the bill in June of last year and January of this year, but it failed in the Senate.</p> <p>In 2016, New York City required that women be provided free menstrual products in all city correctional facilities, as well as schools and homeless shelters. The federal government did the same for its prisons last summer. But as of 2017, according to the <a href="http://rooseveltinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/621-1.pdf">Roosevelt Institute</a>, women in New York State prisons were provided only 10 free pads per month, “which is far below the recommended amount of 20 per monthly cycle.”</p> <p>Otherwise, inmates must purchase tampons or pads from the prison commissary; <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/articles/roxanne-j-persaud/senator-roxanne-j-persaud-sponsors-bill-provide-feminine-hygiene">according to Senator Roxanne Persaud</a>, at the Taconic State Correctional Facility, “one tampon costs 24 cents. The average female inmate makes approximately 17 cents per hour. Thus, female inmates must spend their week's earnings to purchase a 20-count box of tampons, which still may be insufficient for many women whose periods last up to seven days.”</p> <p>There are also dozens of other, non-controversial bills that both houses passed that will head to Cuomo’s desk.</p> <p><em><strong>What failed to pass the Legislature (a partial list)</strong></em></p> <p><strong>Speed cameras</strong><br />The Legislature failed to renew and expand the city’s program to use speed cameras around schools, eliciting anger from Mayor Bill de Blasio and other local elected officials and advocates, as well as the governor. De Blasio, who said the inaction was a “massive failure of leadership” by Senate Republicans, called on the Legislature to return for a special session to renew the program.</p> <p>“The State Assembly majority has shown the way with their expansion bill,” de Blasio said in a statement. “Senate Republicans haven't done their job until they pass the bill, which has majority support. Our families now need the Governor to do all he can to aid its passage and sign it into law. The Senate must return next week to keep our children safe.”</p> <p>Governor Cuomo also criticized the Senate, saying on a press conference call Thursday that he “pushed the Legislature very hard” on the speed camera issue. Like the mayor, the governor said that the Legislature should convene a special session, before the beginning of the school year in September, to renew the camera program.</p> <p>The renewal and expansion of the program, meant to increase road safety around schools and discourage reckless driving, was passed by the Assembly and had the support of a majority of senators, but was nevertheless held up by the Senate’s Republican leadership. Senator Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who caucuses with the Republicans said he would agree to support the measure as long as it was tied to increasing the presence of police at all city schools; the Democrats were not in favor. A Senate GOP spokesperson said that Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Mayor de Blasio did little to come to a compromise on the speed camera issue.</p> <p>A somewhat related bill proposed by Senator Marty Golden of Brooklyn, which would place new signage in school zones to prevent reckless driving but would not renew the camera program, resulted in a <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/s1634/amendment/b">rare failed floor vote</a> in the Senate. The measure lost 30-28 on party lines (a bill needs 32 votes to pass), with Republicans plus Felder voting in favor and Democrats voting against, signaling their refusal to settle for anything short of the cameras.</p> <p><strong>Education</strong><br />Amid the hullabaloo over Mayor de Blasio’s new push to reform the specialized high school admission process, including controversially eliminating the entrance exam, the Assembly and Senate declared that a vote on abolishing the test would not take place this year. Governor Cuomo dismissed de Blasio’s proposal, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said that he would not schedule a vote before engaging in discussions on the proposal with relevant parties.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the Assembly in May passed a bill that would decouple student scores on state standardized tests with teacher evaluations, a controversial issue over the course of several years that appeared on its way to some finality. The Senate passed the measure as well, but tied it to an increase in the cap on charter schools, to 560 charters to be allowed in the state. Heastie referred to that aspect of the Senate bill as “cyanide” for the anti-charter Assembly Democrats, and the teacher evaluation reform did not move through Albany by the end of the session.</p> <p><strong>Child Victims Act</strong><br />Once again, the Child Victims Act failed to pass through the Legislature before the end of the session. The legislation, which would extend the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse and create a “lookback window” of one year for victims of abuse to sue their abusers, has the support of Governor Cuomo and has repeatedly passed the Assembly, but has stalled in the Senate, where Republicans have again proposed their own version of a bill on the topic that Democrats call overly watered down.</p> <p><strong>Ethics reform and good government</strong><br />Government ethics reform achieved no ground again in Albany this year. Governor Cuomo and the Assembly, during the budget process, proposed closing the LLC loophole in campaign finance and creating a statewide public campaign financing system similar to that of New York City; the Senate rejected these measures and they did not appear in the budget. As in previous years, the Assembly and governor did not prioritize the measures in post-budget legislative activity.</p> <p>The Senate, in May, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7666-furthering-split-from-cuomo-senate-passes-reform-bills">passed</a> a good government reform package that, among other things, would create a searchable database of state economic development contracts, return certain procurement oversight powers to the state comptroller, and ban executive appointees from donating to the executive’s political campaigns. These measures, which were not supported by Cuomo, were not taken up by the Assembly, though the majority there has supported the “database of deals” and restoration of comptroller powers in the past.</p> <p><strong>Criminal justice reform</strong><br />The Assembly passed several criminal justice reforms this session, including some that were in its budget proposal but failed to make it into the enacted legislation. Many had been supported by Governor Cuomo. These include an elimination of cash bail in most instances, and reform of the state’s poorly-regarded discovery laws. The Assembly also passed bills to seal low-level marijuana conviction records and to reduce the use of solitary confinement in state jails and prisons. None of these bills were passed by the Senate.</p> <p><strong>Healthcare</strong><br />The Assembly passed the New York Health Act, which would establish a single-payer healthcare system in New York State. The Senate did not take up the bill, and the governor has been ambiguous on whether or not he supports it.</p> <p>The Reproductive Health Act, which would codify the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision into New York state law, passed the Assembly in March but, once again, did not make it through the state Senate. The RHA was involved in last month’s <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/30/nyregion/albany-dysfunction-legislature-stalemate.html">chaos</a> in the Senate: Democrats introduced the RHA and the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, which would codify the requirement of insurance companies to provide free contraception as part of their plans, as amendments to an uncontroversial Republican bill regarding concussions.</p> <p>When Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul intended to break a tie to pass the amendments, the Senate majority instead tabled all legislative matters that day.</p> <p><strong>Guns and school safety</strong><br />In the wake of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, Governor Cuomo launched a renewed push for additional gun control. His marquee item, a “red flag” bill that would allow school staff to petition judges to remove guns from certain students’ homes, passed the assembly last week. The Senate, however, pushed Felder’s school safety measures that would place armed guards or police officers at every school in the state. The measures pushed by Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans were both unpalatable to the other, leading to inaction on the gun control front.</p> <p><strong>Miscellaneous</strong><br />There was no agreement on legalizing sports gambling in New York, a potential new practice and revenue source for the state after a recent Supreme Court ruling allowed states to adopt it. While the Senate appeared ready to make a deal, the Assembly balked.</p> <p>The Senate on Wednesday voted to declare baseball as the official sport of New York State, and to rename the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge (formerly the Tappan Zee Bridge) as the Mario M. Cuomo Tappan Zee Bridge. Neither were taken up by the Assembly.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27726813697_d8e9582eec_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo gun safety press conference" width="600" height="373" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo holds a press conference (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>A particularly dysfunctional, even for New York, state legislative session came to a halt on Wednesday with little movement on most of the major issues animating state government. The reunification of the Independent Democratic Conference and the mainline Senate Democrats led to business slowing to a drip in the Senate after the passage of the state budget; things became particularly impaired after one Republican senator, Tom Croci, was recalled to active military duty, leaving the chamber with no working majority and a paralysis of legislative business on anything controversial, and at times even on the mundane.</p> <p>Even as the Democrat-dominated Assembly passed a wide variety of legislation, there appeared to be little appetite for the annual package of compromise legislation, in part, it seems, due to election year considerations. Every seat in both houses of the Legislature is on the ballot this fall, as well as the four statewide positions of governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, and attorney general.</p> <p>Perhaps the most significant item to break through the Albany morass was the approval of the Airtrain LaGuardia project, and the simultaneous approval of the use of eminent domain to build it. Otherwise, there was no movement on major issues such as ethics reform, criminal justice reform, teacher evaluations, and the renewal of speed cameras near New York City schools, among other more contentious issues where no agreements were reached among Assembly and Senate leaders and Governor Andrew Cuomo.</p> <p>Even as lawmakers left Albany for the end of the scheduled session, presumably done with legislative business for the rest of the calendar year, there was some talk of a special session in the coming weeks or months in order to address a small number of issues, like the speed cameras.</p> <p>But as of now, the session is over and there are no concrete plans for legislators to be called back to the Capitol. A look at some of the highlights of what did and (mostly) did not move as the legislative session ended.</p> <p><em><strong>What awaits the governor’s pen</strong></em></p> <p><strong>Airtrain LaGuardia</strong><br />The Assembly and Senate passed a <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/a11158">bill</a> that would authorize the Airtrain LaGuardia project to bring a rail link to LaGuardia Airport, and would also authorize the state to <a href="https://ny.curbed.com/2018/6/20/17480896/laguardia-airtrain-port-authority-queens-construction">acquire property</a> in Queens via eminent domain for use in that project. The bill further stated the expected route that the rail link would take. The bill passed the Assembly on Monday 134-1, with new Manhattan Assemblymember Harvey Epstein the sole dissenter; it passed the Senate 52-8 on Wednesday, with seven city Democrats and one upstate Republican, Joseph Robach, voting against.</p> <p>Fixing up LaGuardia, the only major airport in the region without a direct rail link, has become something of a calling for Cuomo, a Queens native, throughout his tenure, so he is almost certain to sign the bill into law. Cuomo has <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-port-authority-takes-important-next-step-laguardia-airtrain">championed</a> the Airtrain LaGuardia project, saying that his program is “transforming LaGuardia into a world-class transportation gateway.” Cuomo has also helmed the construction of a <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-start-construction-deltas-4-billion-new-facilities-laguardia">new terminal</a> at LaGuardia for Delta Airlines.</p> <p>But community groups in the Queens neighborhoods surrounding the airport have been steadfast in their opposition to the project, which they believe will negatively impact their quality of life with little upside for community members. Transit advocates, meanwhile, contend that the funds used on the construction of the Airtrain can be put to better use. On Thursday, opponents <a href="https://twitter.com/StreetsblogNYC/status/1009822075492630528">protested</a> the Airtrain’s approval at the governor’s office. Meanwhile, Queens civic organizations have floated a <a href="https://secure3.convio.net/river/site/SPageNavigator/AirTrain_Petition.html">petition</a> demanding an environmental impact statement for the project.</p> <p><strong>Prosecutorial Accountability Office</strong><br />The Senate passed <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/john-defrancisco/state-senate-passes-bill-would-establish-prosecutorial">a bill</a> last week to establish a “State Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct,” an eleven-member body consisting of appointees of the governor, Legislature, and chief judge. The commission would investigate prosecutorial misconduct and, if warranted, discipline prosecutors found guilty of wrongdoing. The Assembly passed the <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/Press/files/20180619a.php">bill</a> on Tuesday. It’s not immediately clear if Cuomo will sign it.</p> <p>The Assembly noted that the past few years have seen several “high profile exonerations of people who were wrongfully convicted of serious crimes in New York State.” Such wrongful convictions are not always the result of an accident: prosecutors <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/08/nyregion/rule-would-push-prosecutors-to-release-evidence-favorable-to-defense.html">have been known</a> to withhold or even tamper with evidence that could potentially exonerate a defendant. As such, district attorneys have historically opposed legislation forcing them to turn over all evidence in the discovery phase of the legal process.</p> <p>Prosecutors have also come under suspicion in recent years due to their close working relations with police, and the potentially related and frequent lack of charges for officers accused of wrongdoing. In 2015, Governor Cuomo empowered the New York Attorney General to act as a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6778-while-cuomo-s-special-prosecutor-order-continues-calls-for-permanency-remain">special prosecutor</a> in cases when officers are involved in the death of unarmed civilians.</p> <p>The Assembly noted that the measure has been endorsed by Human Rights Watch. It was championed in the Senate by retiring Senator John DeFrancisco, a Syracuse-area Republican.</p> <p><strong>Feminine hygiene products for inmates</strong><br />The Senate, on June 12, passed a bill to provide free menstrual products, such as tampons or pads, to inmates at state and local correctional facilities. The bill passed <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/S8821/amendment/A">59-2</a>, with Republicans Pamela Helming and Robert Ortt dissenting. The bill passed the Assembly later that same day <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A00588&amp;term=2017&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Actions=Y&amp;Floor%26nbspVotes=Y">142-1</a>, with Republican Christopher Friend dissenting, and awaits the likely signature of the governor, who signaled his <a href="http://observer.com/2018/01/new-york-feminine-hygiene-products/">support</a> in January. The Assembly had earlier passed the bill in June of last year and January of this year, but it failed in the Senate.</p> <p>In 2016, New York City required that women be provided free menstrual products in all city correctional facilities, as well as schools and homeless shelters. The federal government did the same for its prisons last summer. But as of 2017, according to the <a href="http://rooseveltinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/621-1.pdf">Roosevelt Institute</a>, women in New York State prisons were provided only 10 free pads per month, “which is far below the recommended amount of 20 per monthly cycle.”</p> <p>Otherwise, inmates must purchase tampons or pads from the prison commissary; <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/articles/roxanne-j-persaud/senator-roxanne-j-persaud-sponsors-bill-provide-feminine-hygiene">according to Senator Roxanne Persaud</a>, at the Taconic State Correctional Facility, “one tampon costs 24 cents. The average female inmate makes approximately 17 cents per hour. Thus, female inmates must spend their week's earnings to purchase a 20-count box of tampons, which still may be insufficient for many women whose periods last up to seven days.”</p> <p>There are also dozens of other, non-controversial bills that both houses passed that will head to Cuomo’s desk.</p> <p><em><strong>What failed to pass the Legislature (a partial list)</strong></em></p> <p><strong>Speed cameras</strong><br />The Legislature failed to renew and expand the city’s program to use speed cameras around schools, eliciting anger from Mayor Bill de Blasio and other local elected officials and advocates, as well as the governor. De Blasio, who said the inaction was a “massive failure of leadership” by Senate Republicans, called on the Legislature to return for a special session to renew the program.</p> <p>“The State Assembly majority has shown the way with their expansion bill,” de Blasio said in a statement. “Senate Republicans haven't done their job until they pass the bill, which has majority support. Our families now need the Governor to do all he can to aid its passage and sign it into law. The Senate must return next week to keep our children safe.”</p> <p>Governor Cuomo also criticized the Senate, saying on a press conference call Thursday that he “pushed the Legislature very hard” on the speed camera issue. Like the mayor, the governor said that the Legislature should convene a special session, before the beginning of the school year in September, to renew the camera program.</p> <p>The renewal and expansion of the program, meant to increase road safety around schools and discourage reckless driving, was passed by the Assembly and had the support of a majority of senators, but was nevertheless held up by the Senate’s Republican leadership. Senator Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who caucuses with the Republicans said he would agree to support the measure as long as it was tied to increasing the presence of police at all city schools; the Democrats were not in favor. A Senate GOP spokesperson said that Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Mayor de Blasio did little to come to a compromise on the speed camera issue.</p> <p>A somewhat related bill proposed by Senator Marty Golden of Brooklyn, which would place new signage in school zones to prevent reckless driving but would not renew the camera program, resulted in a <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/s1634/amendment/b">rare failed floor vote</a> in the Senate. The measure lost 30-28 on party lines (a bill needs 32 votes to pass), with Republicans plus Felder voting in favor and Democrats voting against, signaling their refusal to settle for anything short of the cameras.</p> <p><strong>Education</strong><br />Amid the hullabaloo over Mayor de Blasio’s new push to reform the specialized high school admission process, including controversially eliminating the entrance exam, the Assembly and Senate declared that a vote on abolishing the test would not take place this year. Governor Cuomo dismissed de Blasio’s proposal, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said that he would not schedule a vote before engaging in discussions on the proposal with relevant parties.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the Assembly in May passed a bill that would decouple student scores on state standardized tests with teacher evaluations, a controversial issue over the course of several years that appeared on its way to some finality. The Senate passed the measure as well, but tied it to an increase in the cap on charter schools, to 560 charters to be allowed in the state. Heastie referred to that aspect of the Senate bill as “cyanide” for the anti-charter Assembly Democrats, and the teacher evaluation reform did not move through Albany by the end of the session.</p> <p><strong>Child Victims Act</strong><br />Once again, the Child Victims Act failed to pass through the Legislature before the end of the session. The legislation, which would extend the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse and create a “lookback window” of one year for victims of abuse to sue their abusers, has the support of Governor Cuomo and has repeatedly passed the Assembly, but has stalled in the Senate, where Republicans have again proposed their own version of a bill on the topic that Democrats call overly watered down.</p> <p><strong>Ethics reform and good government</strong><br />Government ethics reform achieved no ground again in Albany this year. Governor Cuomo and the Assembly, during the budget process, proposed closing the LLC loophole in campaign finance and creating a statewide public campaign financing system similar to that of New York City; the Senate rejected these measures and they did not appear in the budget. As in previous years, the Assembly and governor did not prioritize the measures in post-budget legislative activity.</p> <p>The Senate, in May, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7666-furthering-split-from-cuomo-senate-passes-reform-bills">passed</a> a good government reform package that, among other things, would create a searchable database of state economic development contracts, return certain procurement oversight powers to the state comptroller, and ban executive appointees from donating to the executive’s political campaigns. These measures, which were not supported by Cuomo, were not taken up by the Assembly, though the majority there has supported the “database of deals” and restoration of comptroller powers in the past.</p> <p><strong>Criminal justice reform</strong><br />The Assembly passed several criminal justice reforms this session, including some that were in its budget proposal but failed to make it into the enacted legislation. Many had been supported by Governor Cuomo. These include an elimination of cash bail in most instances, and reform of the state’s poorly-regarded discovery laws. The Assembly also passed bills to seal low-level marijuana conviction records and to reduce the use of solitary confinement in state jails and prisons. None of these bills were passed by the Senate.</p> <p><strong>Healthcare</strong><br />The Assembly passed the New York Health Act, which would establish a single-payer healthcare system in New York State. The Senate did not take up the bill, and the governor has been ambiguous on whether or not he supports it.</p> <p>The Reproductive Health Act, which would codify the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision into New York state law, passed the Assembly in March but, once again, did not make it through the state Senate. The RHA was involved in last month’s <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/30/nyregion/albany-dysfunction-legislature-stalemate.html">chaos</a> in the Senate: Democrats introduced the RHA and the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, which would codify the requirement of insurance companies to provide free contraception as part of their plans, as amendments to an uncontroversial Republican bill regarding concussions.</p> <p>When Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul intended to break a tie to pass the amendments, the Senate majority instead tabled all legislative matters that day.</p> <p><strong>Guns and school safety</strong><br />In the wake of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, Governor Cuomo launched a renewed push for additional gun control. His marquee item, a “red flag” bill that would allow school staff to petition judges to remove guns from certain students’ homes, passed the assembly last week. The Senate, however, pushed Felder’s school safety measures that would place armed guards or police officers at every school in the state. The measures pushed by Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans were both unpalatable to the other, leading to inaction on the gun control front.</p> <p><strong>Miscellaneous</strong><br />There was no agreement on legalizing sports gambling in New York, a potential new practice and revenue source for the state after a recent Supreme Court ruling allowed states to adopt it. While the Senate appeared ready to make a deal, the Assembly balked.</p> <p>The Senate on Wednesday voted to declare baseball as the official sport of New York State, and to rename the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge (formerly the Tappan Zee Bridge) as the Mario M. Cuomo Tappan Zee Bridge. Neither were taken up by the Assembly.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Democratic Unity and the ‘Value’ of Primaries 2018-06-18T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-18T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7745:andrea-stewart-cousins-on-democratic-unity-and-the-value-of-primaries Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/andrea-stewart-cousins-sk-gg2.jpg" alt="andrea stewart cousins sk gg2" width="600" height="314" /></p> <p>Andrea Stewart-Cousins at the state party convention (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>While policies to prevent and punish sexual harassment were being decided in Albany during state budget negotiations earlier this year, four men led the closed-door talks: Governor Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and the leader of the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference Jeff Klein. Even as female aides had some level of participation, there was a great deal of scrutiny of the absence of Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the leader of the Democratic minority in state Senate, especially given that Cuomo’s office had indicated she would be included.</p> <p>“You would’ve thought you would’ve been able to get in a room and at least let her say something,” Stewart-Cousins said of her own situation during a recent episode of the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7707-max-murphy-podcast-senate-democratic-leader-andrea-stewart-cousins" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy podcast</a> from Gotham Gazette and City Limits. “Never happened.”</p> <p>Stewart-Cousins called it a feature of “an institution that has institutionalized a lot of stuff,” and said that “breaking those norms are really, really difficult things to do.”</p> <p>But breaking established ways of doing things is something of a pattern for Stewart-Cousins, who is both the first woman and the first African-American woman to be elected as the state Senate minority leader. Now, after post-budget reconciliation between the mainline Democrats she leads and Klein’s IDC, Stewart-Cousins is also in position to become the first woman and woman of color to be the majority leader of the Senate, depending on the results of the fall elections. They are elections she is becoming increasingly involved with, she indicated on the podcast, connecting the upcoming attempts to flip seats from Republican to Democrat as part of a “blue wave” sweeping the nation.</p> <p>Stewart-Cousins’ frame for viewing the elections and potential Democratic majority in the Senate, and thus the Legislature given the party’s stranglehold on the Assembly, is the recent Senate reunification, pushing her, it seems, to be more forgiving, take the long-view, and look ahead, not back.</p> <p>Exclusion<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/28/nyregion/albany-sex-harassment-stewart-cousins.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> from the anti-sexual harassment talks</a> – and the state budget discussions in general – may be a thorny issue, but not one that poses a major point of contention between Stewart-Cousins and her colleagues.</p> <p>“It goes back to the basic tenet: a house divided against itself can’t stand,” Stewart-Cousins said in response to a question of her possible frustrations with elements of the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/nyregion/new-york-state-senate-democrats.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">unity deal that was struck among her, Klein and Cuomo in April</a>, and whether she trusts Klein. “How are we gonna do this?...I’m not gonna be sitting there having people somehow undermine the efforts that we have to be a team. That’s always been the case.”</p> <p>There are still challenges to the notion of a unified Democratic front: each of the eight former members of the IDC is facing a primary challenge, and while the Democratic establishment has agreed to mutual support, a number of grassroots groups and a handful of elected officials are backing the challengers.</p> <p>On the podcast, Stewart-Cousins emphasized that she has endorsed all incumbent Democratic senators, including those who were formerly part of the IDC, “so that people are very, very clear where I stand,” she said in response to a question of whether or not she would tell fellow party members to drop their support for the challengers. “I think that in and of itself sends a message.”</p> <p>While she did not call primaries a bad thing, Stewart-Cousins further emphasized the importance of moving past former divisions in order for the party to function. “I think that’s over,” she said of the Senate Democratic division, “and it’s up to me...to give the kind of support and respect that I should be giving as the leader and as a colleague, and I believe that we set that tone,” she said. “There’s nobody coming in feeling less than, unworthy. There’s no recriminations.”</p> <p>In response to a question of whether Cuomo – who has long been criticized for encouraging or at least tolerating the IDC’s existence – could have brokered such a unity deal earlier on, and thus possibly prevented the handicapped progress on key issues for the Democratic Party, Stewart-Cousins said, “Like I always say, he did make it happen....I don’t think he was terribly concerned about the situation because as far as we he was concerned, maybe it was manageable. I think it’s gotten to the point where it was looking unmanageable because of all the different factors, so he asserted himself.”</p> <p>If the Democrats are able to obtain majority control of the state Senate in November, a policy agenda including action on immigration, climate change, voting and elections, campaign financing, reproductive rights, and more may move. Stewart-Cousins referenced pieces like the Child Victims Act and the Dream Act stagnating in the currently Republican-controlled state Senate. Additionally, Republican senators recently blocked Democrats’ attempts to see voting on the Reproductive Health Act and the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Care Act – two pieces of legislation that would, respectively, enshrine in New York law the same reproductive rights under the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling and mandate accessibility to birth control medication – when Democrats attempted to push them through late last month.</p> <p>“There’s so many things that we could do in addition to, obviously, the things that we’re bringing up today,” Stewart-Cousins said.</p> <p>For their part, Senate Republicans often seek to ‘warn’ New Yorkers of what full Democratic control of state government could bring. “The New York City politicians who think it will be easy to flip the State Senate and impose their radical agenda on the people of New York should take heed,” said Senate spokesperson Scott Reif, in an April statement. “Our Majority represents the checks and balances, and the real accountability that hardworking taxpayers need and deserve. &nbsp;Without us it’s one party rule, higher taxes, runaway spending and New Yorkers will be less safe.”</p> <p>Democrats first need to contend with reconciling the different wings within their own party, a division apparent in the challengers to former IDC members and to Cuomo. Stewart-Cousins has unique perspective, representing Senate District 35, an area that includes towns like Yonkers, White Plains, and Scarsdale, with a wide variety of Democrats and plenty of Republicans and party unaffiliated voters.</p> <p>Asked which wing of the party she identifies with, Stewart-Cousins deemphasized the ostensible differences in her party. “I’ve been able to, I think, gain a perspective that a lot of people don’t have as it relates to governing,” she said, referring to her unique position as the first Democratic leader representing a district outside New York City in a hundred years. “Everybody pretty much wants the same thing. It’s not different. It’s how you deliver these things or how you’re able to characterize these things or how you react is really where the differences lie.”</p> <p>On the question of primaries, like that Governor Cuomo is facing, Stewart-Cousins took a different approach from some others, like Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “I certainly have no problem with the fact that there’s a primary going on,” she said, responding to a question of whether or not the gubernatorial candidacy of challenger Cynthia Nixon is emblematic of the Democratic Party being a ‘house divided.’ “The conversations about the vision for New York and who should lead it are valuable,” she added.</p> <p>For now, at least, Stewart-Cousins maintains a face of smiling unity toward Klein, who serves as her deputy, and the rest of the Democratic Party.</p> <p>Asked if there’s a chance that party members pull another IDC-esque ploy in the coming years, Stewart-Cousins said, “The environment has changed and that’s why I think this unity works, because we’ve been to the other side. We know what that looks like, and I don’t know if anybody needs or wants to go back there again.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Listen: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7707-max-murphy-podcast-senate-democratic-leader-andrea-stewart-cousins" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins</a>]</p> <p>

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by Chelsey Sanchez, Gotham Gazette
@chelseynsanchez  @GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/andrea-stewart-cousins-sk-gg2.jpg" alt="andrea stewart cousins sk gg2" width="600" height="314" /></p> <p>Andrea Stewart-Cousins at the state party convention (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>While policies to prevent and punish sexual harassment were being decided in Albany during state budget negotiations earlier this year, four men led the closed-door talks: Governor Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and the leader of the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference Jeff Klein. Even as female aides had some level of participation, there was a great deal of scrutiny of the absence of Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the leader of the Democratic minority in state Senate, especially given that Cuomo’s office had indicated she would be included.</p> <p>“You would’ve thought you would’ve been able to get in a room and at least let her say something,” Stewart-Cousins said of her own situation during a recent episode of the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7707-max-murphy-podcast-senate-democratic-leader-andrea-stewart-cousins" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy podcast</a> from Gotham Gazette and City Limits. “Never happened.”</p> <p>Stewart-Cousins called it a feature of “an institution that has institutionalized a lot of stuff,” and said that “breaking those norms are really, really difficult things to do.”</p> <p>But breaking established ways of doing things is something of a pattern for Stewart-Cousins, who is both the first woman and the first African-American woman to be elected as the state Senate minority leader. Now, after post-budget reconciliation between the mainline Democrats she leads and Klein’s IDC, Stewart-Cousins is also in position to become the first woman and woman of color to be the majority leader of the Senate, depending on the results of the fall elections. They are elections she is becoming increasingly involved with, she indicated on the podcast, connecting the upcoming attempts to flip seats from Republican to Democrat as part of a “blue wave” sweeping the nation.</p> <p>Stewart-Cousins’ frame for viewing the elections and potential Democratic majority in the Senate, and thus the Legislature given the party’s stranglehold on the Assembly, is the recent Senate reunification, pushing her, it seems, to be more forgiving, take the long-view, and look ahead, not back.</p> <p>Exclusion<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/28/nyregion/albany-sex-harassment-stewart-cousins.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> from the anti-sexual harassment talks</a> – and the state budget discussions in general – may be a thorny issue, but not one that poses a major point of contention between Stewart-Cousins and her colleagues.</p> <p>“It goes back to the basic tenet: a house divided against itself can’t stand,” Stewart-Cousins said in response to a question of her possible frustrations with elements of the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/nyregion/new-york-state-senate-democrats.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">unity deal that was struck among her, Klein and Cuomo in April</a>, and whether she trusts Klein. “How are we gonna do this?...I’m not gonna be sitting there having people somehow undermine the efforts that we have to be a team. That’s always been the case.”</p> <p>There are still challenges to the notion of a unified Democratic front: each of the eight former members of the IDC is facing a primary challenge, and while the Democratic establishment has agreed to mutual support, a number of grassroots groups and a handful of elected officials are backing the challengers.</p> <p>On the podcast, Stewart-Cousins emphasized that she has endorsed all incumbent Democratic senators, including those who were formerly part of the IDC, “so that people are very, very clear where I stand,” she said in response to a question of whether or not she would tell fellow party members to drop their support for the challengers. “I think that in and of itself sends a message.”</p> <p>While she did not call primaries a bad thing, Stewart-Cousins further emphasized the importance of moving past former divisions in order for the party to function. “I think that’s over,” she said of the Senate Democratic division, “and it’s up to me...to give the kind of support and respect that I should be giving as the leader and as a colleague, and I believe that we set that tone,” she said. “There’s nobody coming in feeling less than, unworthy. There’s no recriminations.”</p> <p>In response to a question of whether Cuomo – who has long been criticized for encouraging or at least tolerating the IDC’s existence – could have brokered such a unity deal earlier on, and thus possibly prevented the handicapped progress on key issues for the Democratic Party, Stewart-Cousins said, “Like I always say, he did make it happen....I don’t think he was terribly concerned about the situation because as far as we he was concerned, maybe it was manageable. I think it’s gotten to the point where it was looking unmanageable because of all the different factors, so he asserted himself.”</p> <p>If the Democrats are able to obtain majority control of the state Senate in November, a policy agenda including action on immigration, climate change, voting and elections, campaign financing, reproductive rights, and more may move. Stewart-Cousins referenced pieces like the Child Victims Act and the Dream Act stagnating in the currently Republican-controlled state Senate. Additionally, Republican senators recently blocked Democrats’ attempts to see voting on the Reproductive Health Act and the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Care Act – two pieces of legislation that would, respectively, enshrine in New York law the same reproductive rights under the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling and mandate accessibility to birth control medication – when Democrats attempted to push them through late last month.</p> <p>“There’s so many things that we could do in addition to, obviously, the things that we’re bringing up today,” Stewart-Cousins said.</p> <p>For their part, Senate Republicans often seek to ‘warn’ New Yorkers of what full Democratic control of state government could bring. “The New York City politicians who think it will be easy to flip the State Senate and impose their radical agenda on the people of New York should take heed,” said Senate spokesperson Scott Reif, in an April statement. “Our Majority represents the checks and balances, and the real accountability that hardworking taxpayers need and deserve. &nbsp;Without us it’s one party rule, higher taxes, runaway spending and New Yorkers will be less safe.”</p> <p>Democrats first need to contend with reconciling the different wings within their own party, a division apparent in the challengers to former IDC members and to Cuomo. Stewart-Cousins has unique perspective, representing Senate District 35, an area that includes towns like Yonkers, White Plains, and Scarsdale, with a wide variety of Democrats and plenty of Republicans and party unaffiliated voters.</p> <p>Asked which wing of the party she identifies with, Stewart-Cousins deemphasized the ostensible differences in her party. “I’ve been able to, I think, gain a perspective that a lot of people don’t have as it relates to governing,” she said, referring to her unique position as the first Democratic leader representing a district outside New York City in a hundred years. “Everybody pretty much wants the same thing. It’s not different. It’s how you deliver these things or how you’re able to characterize these things or how you react is really where the differences lie.”</p> <p>On the question of primaries, like that Governor Cuomo is facing, Stewart-Cousins took a different approach from some others, like Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “I certainly have no problem with the fact that there’s a primary going on,” she said, responding to a question of whether or not the gubernatorial candidacy of challenger Cynthia Nixon is emblematic of the Democratic Party being a ‘house divided.’ “The conversations about the vision for New York and who should lead it are valuable,” she added.</p> <p>For now, at least, Stewart-Cousins maintains a face of smiling unity toward Klein, who serves as her deputy, and the rest of the Democratic Party.</p> <p>Asked if there’s a chance that party members pull another IDC-esque ploy in the coming years, Stewart-Cousins said, “The environment has changed and that’s why I think this unity works, because we’ve been to the other side. We know what that looks like, and I don’t know if anybody needs or wants to go back there again.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Listen: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7707-max-murphy-podcast-senate-democratic-leader-andrea-stewart-cousins" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Chelsey Sanchez, Gotham Gazette
@chelseynsanchez  @GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Citing Broken Cuomo Promises, Nixon Unveils Campaign Finance Reform Plan 2018-06-18T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-18T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7746:citing-broken-cuomo-promises-nixon-unveils-campaign-finance-reform-plan Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cyn-nixon-cam-fin-plan-unveils.jpg" alt="cyn nixon cam fin plan unveils" width="600" height="423" /></p> <p>Cynthia Nixon outside Tweed Courthouse (photo: Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>Standing on the steps of the Tweed Courthouse in Manhattan, a symbol of corruption in New York government, Andrew Cuomo launched his run for governor eight years ago last month, vowing to clean up the rot in Albany. On Monday -- as the corruption trial of a close ally to the two-term governor began in federal court -- Cynthia Nixon, the actor and activist and Democratic primary challenger to Cuomo, stood at the same spot to criticize the governor’s broken promise and to propose a far-reaching plan to fight the graft and corruption that she says has become further entrenched under Cuomo’s tenure.</p> <p>“Instead of taking on corruption in the state capital, Andrew Cuomo’s administration has taken it to new heights,” Nixon said at an afternoon news conference. “Cuomo’s two terms in office have been a greatest-hits reel of dysfunction, corruption, and pay-to-play politics. If Washington is a swamp, then Albany under Andrew Cuomo is a cesspool.”</p> <p>Taking aim at the “legalized bribery” rampant in the state’s election system, Nixon proposed “Government by the People,” a 15-page plan to promote public financing of elections, close loopholes in state campaign finance laws, reduce pay-to-play in state contracting, and shore up independent ethics oversight of state government.</p> <p>The plan also details many conflicts and corruption scandals that have emerged from Cuomo’s administration and political campaigns in recent years, while the announcement coincided with the start of the corruption trial of Alain Kaloyeros, the former SUNY Polytechnic Institute president who was charged with rigging state contracts under Cuomo’s signature Buffalo Billion economic revitalization program. Prominent real estate developers who are major Cuomo campaign donors are also charged in the scheme.</p> <p>Nixon critiqued the “networks of vast wealth” and power that she said are necessary to run for office in New York and that historically shut out women and people of color. “Too many of the people in power, and the donors who keep them there, don’t want things to change,” she said, insisting that she can herald reforms as an “outsider” to Albany. New York is known to have porous campaign finance laws, which allow large individual and corporate contributions to candidates, alongside loopholes that effectively do away with those limits for entities that created multiple limited liability companies, each of which can give up to the individual corporate limit. There are also no “doing business” limits that would place restrictions on entities with or seeking government contracts.</p> <p>By exploiting the current rules, Cuomo has raised many tens of millions of dollars over his handful of statewide campaigns, including his now third consecutive gubernatorial run. At the same time, the governor has expressed support for campaign finance reform, but seen almost no changes move through the Legislature. A pilot campaign finance program with public matching <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7428-four-years-later-2014-state-campaign-finance-pilot-all-but-forgotten" target="_blank" rel="noopener">was passed in 2014, but quickly fizzled</a>. In a statement, Abbey Fashouer, a spokesperson for Cuomo's campaign, claimed credit for the reforms that Nixon proposed. "We thank Ms. Nixon for her support for our reforms. Unlike others who claim to be good Democrats, the governor is 100 percent focused on flipping the State Senate to pass these important reforms to increase government transparency and accountability,” Fashouer said. &nbsp;</p> <p>Nixon’s plan envisions phasing in a voluntary statewide public financing system for elections, largely resembling the current program administered in New York City by the Campaign Finance Board, where small-dollar donations are incentivized with public matching funds. Some of Nixon’s ideas are nearly identical, proposing a 6-to-1 match for campaign donations up to $175 or a greater match of 9-to-1 for donations below $50.</p> <p>Nixon proposed similar thresholds to qualify for public funds as those used in the city, including a minimum amount raised from a minimum number of contributors. Under her plan, for instance, a candidate for governor would have to raise at least $500,000 from a minimum of 5,000 contributors who gave at least $10. The plan proposes similar thresholds, with lower amounts, for the posts of lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, state Senate, and Assembly.</p> <p>The plan also brings individual contribution limits for all state offices in line with the $2,700 limit for members of Congress, for each of the primary and general elections. It would also require candidates to participate in a debate and return unspent public funds after satisfying a campaign’s liabilities.</p> <p>Nixon proposes creating a new agency called the “Fair Elections Board,” with enforcement powers, to administer the program, with a seven-member board appointed by the governor, comptroller, attorney general, and each of the four legislative major-party conference leaders. The entire program would cost between $100 and $160 million for each four-year cycle, the plan estimates, and would be paid for by a “New York State Fair Elections Fund” with several funding sources.</p> <p>Nixon also reiterated proposals that she has voiced over the last few months while pitching herself as the progressive alternative to Cuomo’s centrist politics. She said she would ban campaign contributions from companies or individuals who hold or are actively seeking state contracts. She has insisted that the state should do away with the so-called LLC loophole that allows limited liability companies with opaque ownership to donate virtually unlimited funds to candidates. She also said she would ban donations from political appointees, an apparent reference to a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/24/nyregion/cuomo-fund-raising-ethics-appointees.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York Times expose</a> showing that Cuomo has loosely interpreted an executive order limiting donations that the governor can receive from appointees or their family members.</p> <p>Throughout her campaign, Nixon has derided Cuomo’s reliance on wealthy donors -- over years the governor has raised more than $30 million in campaign cash available to his current campaign while Nixon has raised a little more than $1 million during her few months in the race -- and insists that his policies on everything from affordable housing to criminal justice are driven by fealty to those contributors. “When candidates have to start their campaigns from day one by asking the wealthy for contributions...the culture of pay-to-play becomes inescapable,” she said.</p> <p>The upstart candidate’s plan would give more teeth to state watchdogs to fight corruption. Nixon promised to dissolve the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics -- which many have criticized for being beholden to the governor and generally ineffective -- and said she would empanel a new independent Moreland Commission to tackle corruption unlike the one convened and abruptly disbanded by Cuomo in his first term.</p> <p>She also proposed giving the attorney general a “standing referral” to investigate corruption on an ongoing basis, something Cuomo called for during his time as AG but has not granted his successors in the post -- and said she would restore the comptroller’s oversight powers over various state contracts that was stripped by Cuomo and the Legislature in 2011. She said she would sign a “database of deals” bill that was recently passed by the Republican-led state Senate but has been held up by the Democrat-controlled Assembly.</p> <p>Recent polls have shown that New Yorkers have jaded views of their state government, but also that Cuomo is in relatively strong position with less than three months until the Democratic primary. Nixon argued Monday that voters do care about honest government, though corruption is not generally seen as a winning focus issue, taking a back seat to “kitchen table” or “pocketbook” issues like jobs, education, and health care. Nixon did recently release her campaign platform on education, her top issue area of focus.</p> <p>She also presented her campaign finance reform platform the same day that former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, a Democrat, announced she would run for governor this year as an independent, creating her own ballot line. Asked about Miner's candidacy, Nixon said that she is focused on winning the Democratic primary and understands Miner is running in the general election. She also called Miner "more of a moderate" and referred to herself as "definitely part of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party."</p> <p>Nixon wasn’t the only candidate to use the Kaloyeros trial as the backdrop to pounce on the governor’s record. On Monday morning, outside federal district court just around the corner, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, the Republican nominee for governor, and his lieutenant governor running mate, Julie Killian, called out the governor for enabling Kaloyeros’ corruption.</p> <p>“Every instance of corruption and corruption charges being brought against individuals around New York’s corrupted government is about enabling and benefitting a governor who has consumed an obscene amount of campaign contributions,” Molinaro said.</p> <p>Zephyr Teachout, who unsuccessfully challenged Cuomo in the 2014 Democratic primary and is now running for attorney general, also held a separate news conference outside the court. The Kaloyeros trial, she said, highlights the need for an independent attorney general willing to challenge the state’s top elected official and root out graft. “When people break the law in New York state, even if they are powerful people, it is the job of the attorney general to make sure that justice is done,” she said.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated with comment from a Cuomo campaign spokesperson.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cyn-nixon-cam-fin-plan-unveils.jpg" alt="cyn nixon cam fin plan unveils" width="600" height="423" /></p> <p>Cynthia Nixon outside Tweed Courthouse (photo: Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>Standing on the steps of the Tweed Courthouse in Manhattan, a symbol of corruption in New York government, Andrew Cuomo launched his run for governor eight years ago last month, vowing to clean up the rot in Albany. On Monday -- as the corruption trial of a close ally to the two-term governor began in federal court -- Cynthia Nixon, the actor and activist and Democratic primary challenger to Cuomo, stood at the same spot to criticize the governor’s broken promise and to propose a far-reaching plan to fight the graft and corruption that she says has become further entrenched under Cuomo’s tenure.</p> <p>“Instead of taking on corruption in the state capital, Andrew Cuomo’s administration has taken it to new heights,” Nixon said at an afternoon news conference. “Cuomo’s two terms in office have been a greatest-hits reel of dysfunction, corruption, and pay-to-play politics. If Washington is a swamp, then Albany under Andrew Cuomo is a cesspool.”</p> <p>Taking aim at the “legalized bribery” rampant in the state’s election system, Nixon proposed “Government by the People,” a 15-page plan to promote public financing of elections, close loopholes in state campaign finance laws, reduce pay-to-play in state contracting, and shore up independent ethics oversight of state government.</p> <p>The plan also details many conflicts and corruption scandals that have emerged from Cuomo’s administration and political campaigns in recent years, while the announcement coincided with the start of the corruption trial of Alain Kaloyeros, the former SUNY Polytechnic Institute president who was charged with rigging state contracts under Cuomo’s signature Buffalo Billion economic revitalization program. Prominent real estate developers who are major Cuomo campaign donors are also charged in the scheme.</p> <p>Nixon critiqued the “networks of vast wealth” and power that she said are necessary to run for office in New York and that historically shut out women and people of color. “Too many of the people in power, and the donors who keep them there, don’t want things to change,” she said, insisting that she can herald reforms as an “outsider” to Albany. New York is known to have porous campaign finance laws, which allow large individual and corporate contributions to candidates, alongside loopholes that effectively do away with those limits for entities that created multiple limited liability companies, each of which can give up to the individual corporate limit. There are also no “doing business” limits that would place restrictions on entities with or seeking government contracts.</p> <p>By exploiting the current rules, Cuomo has raised many tens of millions of dollars over his handful of statewide campaigns, including his now third consecutive gubernatorial run. At the same time, the governor has expressed support for campaign finance reform, but seen almost no changes move through the Legislature. A pilot campaign finance program with public matching <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7428-four-years-later-2014-state-campaign-finance-pilot-all-but-forgotten" target="_blank" rel="noopener">was passed in 2014, but quickly fizzled</a>. In a statement, Abbey Fashouer, a spokesperson for Cuomo's campaign, claimed credit for the reforms that Nixon proposed. "We thank Ms. Nixon for her support for our reforms. Unlike others who claim to be good Democrats, the governor is 100 percent focused on flipping the State Senate to pass these important reforms to increase government transparency and accountability,” Fashouer said. &nbsp;</p> <p>Nixon’s plan envisions phasing in a voluntary statewide public financing system for elections, largely resembling the current program administered in New York City by the Campaign Finance Board, where small-dollar donations are incentivized with public matching funds. Some of Nixon’s ideas are nearly identical, proposing a 6-to-1 match for campaign donations up to $175 or a greater match of 9-to-1 for donations below $50.</p> <p>Nixon proposed similar thresholds to qualify for public funds as those used in the city, including a minimum amount raised from a minimum number of contributors. Under her plan, for instance, a candidate for governor would have to raise at least $500,000 from a minimum of 5,000 contributors who gave at least $10. The plan proposes similar thresholds, with lower amounts, for the posts of lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, state Senate, and Assembly.</p> <p>The plan also brings individual contribution limits for all state offices in line with the $2,700 limit for members of Congress, for each of the primary and general elections. It would also require candidates to participate in a debate and return unspent public funds after satisfying a campaign’s liabilities.</p> <p>Nixon proposes creating a new agency called the “Fair Elections Board,” with enforcement powers, to administer the program, with a seven-member board appointed by the governor, comptroller, attorney general, and each of the four legislative major-party conference leaders. The entire program would cost between $100 and $160 million for each four-year cycle, the plan estimates, and would be paid for by a “New York State Fair Elections Fund” with several funding sources.</p> <p>Nixon also reiterated proposals that she has voiced over the last few months while pitching herself as the progressive alternative to Cuomo’s centrist politics. She said she would ban campaign contributions from companies or individuals who hold or are actively seeking state contracts. She has insisted that the state should do away with the so-called LLC loophole that allows limited liability companies with opaque ownership to donate virtually unlimited funds to candidates. She also said she would ban donations from political appointees, an apparent reference to a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/24/nyregion/cuomo-fund-raising-ethics-appointees.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York Times expose</a> showing that Cuomo has loosely interpreted an executive order limiting donations that the governor can receive from appointees or their family members.</p> <p>Throughout her campaign, Nixon has derided Cuomo’s reliance on wealthy donors -- over years the governor has raised more than $30 million in campaign cash available to his current campaign while Nixon has raised a little more than $1 million during her few months in the race -- and insists that his policies on everything from affordable housing to criminal justice are driven by fealty to those contributors. “When candidates have to start their campaigns from day one by asking the wealthy for contributions...the culture of pay-to-play becomes inescapable,” she said.</p> <p>The upstart candidate’s plan would give more teeth to state watchdogs to fight corruption. Nixon promised to dissolve the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics -- which many have criticized for being beholden to the governor and generally ineffective -- and said she would empanel a new independent Moreland Commission to tackle corruption unlike the one convened and abruptly disbanded by Cuomo in his first term.</p> <p>She also proposed giving the attorney general a “standing referral” to investigate corruption on an ongoing basis, something Cuomo called for during his time as AG but has not granted his successors in the post -- and said she would restore the comptroller’s oversight powers over various state contracts that was stripped by Cuomo and the Legislature in 2011. She said she would sign a “database of deals” bill that was recently passed by the Republican-led state Senate but has been held up by the Democrat-controlled Assembly.</p> <p>Recent polls have shown that New Yorkers have jaded views of their state government, but also that Cuomo is in relatively strong position with less than three months until the Democratic primary. Nixon argued Monday that voters do care about honest government, though corruption is not generally seen as a winning focus issue, taking a back seat to “kitchen table” or “pocketbook” issues like jobs, education, and health care. Nixon did recently release her campaign platform on education, her top issue area of focus.</p> <p>She also presented her campaign finance reform platform the same day that former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, a Democrat, announced she would run for governor this year as an independent, creating her own ballot line. Asked about Miner's candidacy, Nixon said that she is focused on winning the Democratic primary and understands Miner is running in the general election. She also called Miner "more of a moderate" and referred to herself as "definitely part of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party."</p> <p>Nixon wasn’t the only candidate to use the Kaloyeros trial as the backdrop to pounce on the governor’s record. On Monday morning, outside federal district court just around the corner, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, the Republican nominee for governor, and his lieutenant governor running mate, Julie Killian, called out the governor for enabling Kaloyeros’ corruption.</p> <p>“Every instance of corruption and corruption charges being brought against individuals around New York’s corrupted government is about enabling and benefitting a governor who has consumed an obscene amount of campaign contributions,” Molinaro said.</p> <p>Zephyr Teachout, who unsuccessfully challenged Cuomo in the 2014 Democratic primary and is now running for attorney general, also held a separate news conference outside the court. The Kaloyeros trial, she said, highlights the need for an independent attorney general willing to challenge the state’s top elected official and root out graft. “When people break the law in New York state, even if they are powerful people, it is the job of the attorney general to make sure that justice is done,” she said.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated with comment from a Cuomo campaign spokesperson.&nbsp;</p>
Buffalo Billion Trial Begins with Differing Portraits of Former SUNY Poly Mastermind 2018-06-18T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-18T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7747:buffalo-billion-trial-begins-with-differing-portraits-of-former-suny-poly-mastermind Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cuomo-and-kaloyeros-walking.jpg" alt="cuomo and kaloyeros walking" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo &amp; Alain Kaloyeros (photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Lawyers presented starkly different portraits of Alain Kaloyeros, the former head of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, in opening statements of his corruption trial at federal court in Manhattan on Monday. Critics say the case -- and the related trial of Joseph Percoco, a longtime aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo found guilty in March of taking bribes -- show the governor’s multimillion-dollar economic development projects were fundamentally corrupt.</p> <p>Kaloyeros rigged bids for development projects to avoid losing his job, expand his influence, and gain a promotion, Assistant U.S Attorney David Zhou argued.</p> <p>“Kaloyeros decided that the rules didn’t apply to him, so he cheated and he lied to get the results he wanted,” the prosecutor said as Kaloyeros, sporting a blue suit and stubbly beard, sat at the front of the courtroom.</p> <p>On the contrary, defense lawyer Reid Weingarten sought to depict Kaloyeros as a visionary who had personal flaws but committed no crimes.</p> <p>“In truth, he’s not a saint. He’s a very, very complicated guy,” Weingarten said, adding that Kaloyeros, a physicist, had “wrought miracles” launching major tech projects in Albany. “What this case is about is the desire of Governor Cuomo to bring [Kaloyeros’] miracle to upstate New York.”</p> <p>Federal prosecutors say Kaloyeros schemed to make sure a nonprofit charged with overseeing a huge swath of Cuomo’s development projects favored companies run by major Cuomo donors -- Louis Ciminelli of Buffalo-based LPCiminelli, along with Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi of Syracuse-based COR Development. The executives, who are on trial alongside Kaloyeros, have also pleaded not guilty to fraud charges; Gerardi is also accused of lying to FBI agents. Cuomo is not accused of criminal wrongdoing, but critics say that the Democratic governor knowingly presided over programs with insufficient checks and transparency, pushing through state funding, stripping the Comptroller of audit powers, and empowering Kaloyeros and others to run wild while his campaign coffers filled.</p> <p>The prosecution’s case appears to hinge in large part on emails between Kaloyeros and the developers that allegedly show they conspired to rig the bids starting in 2013. LPCiminelli won a contract for a solar panel factory in Buffalo, as part of the governor’s Buffalo Billion program, the cost of which eventually rose to $750 million; while COR Development won contracts for a $90 million manufacturing plant and $15 million film studio, the latter of which the state recently <a href="https://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2018/06/onondaga_county_poised_to_take_struggling_cny_film_hub_from_ny_state.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">sold for $1</a> after years of floundering.</p> <p>Prosecutors say Kaloyeros ensured inclusion of measures like requiring the winner of the Buffalo request-for-proposals (RFP) to have 50 years of experience in an effort to ensure LPCiminelli would be the only company to even qualify to bid. In one email, he allegedly promised to “fine tune the development requirements” to guarantee only LPCiminelli could win, Zhou said on Monday.</p> <p>However, Weingarten argued that emails between Kaloyeros and his client were perfectly legal.</p> <p>He said for a nonprofit like the one doling out the upstate development grants, called Fort Schuyler Management Corporation, “the procurements can be any way you want them to be.” Weinstein added that the RFPs in the Kaloyeros case followed all procurement rules set by the federal government, Albany, and SUNY, which helped oversee the projects.</p> <p>While Zhou highlighted Kaloyeros’ use of his personal email address instead of his SUNY account -- instructing one of his alleged collaborators, “please gmail, not email” -- Weinstein seemed to shrug off the matter.</p> <p>It's "almost a sport in New York State government to put things on your private email so reporters can't get them,” the defense lawyer said.</p> <p>Monday’s opening statements suggested the role of Todd Howe will be another turning point in the case.</p> <p>Kaloyeros hired Howe, an Albany lobbyist and longtime member of Cuomo’s inner circle, to help work on the development projects -- and, prosecutors say, maintain friendly ties with Cuomo. Howe made a plea deal with the government, but is not expected to testify in the Kaloyeros case after he was arrested on new charges in the middle of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7539-joseph-percoco-former-top-cuomo-aide-convicted-on-3-felony-counts" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the Percoco trial</a>, where he was the government’s star witness.</p> <p>Prosecutors say Howe helped Kaloyeros transform a SUNY college for nanotechnology into the sprawling SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany, where Kaloyeros launched an array of ambitious public-private tech partnerships in addition to the LPCiminelli and COR Development projects.</p> <p>“Kaloyeros developed a strong relationship with the governor’s office after he hired a lobbyist named Todd Howe for SUNY,” Zhou said. “Howe was the key to the governor’s office.”</p> <p>Weingarten and the other defendants’ lawyers assailed Howe’s credibility. “He was a master criminal,” Weingarten said of Howe. “He deceived virtually every relevant person in this courtroom.”</p> <p>Lawyers for Aiello, Ciminelli and Gerardi echoed Weingarten’s lines of reasoning. Discussing Aiello and Ciminelli, Aiello’s attorney Steve Coffey said they “hardly knew each other in 2013.”</p> <p>“What they have in common is they’re developers. And they’re Italian,” though he said no more about their heritage.</p> <p>Cuomo previously said Percoco, who was found guilty of taking bribes in exchange for preferential treatment for developers, was like a brother. And the Kaloyeros trial centers on the governor’s most vaunted development programs -- Cuomo regularly heaped praise on Kaloyeros and ensured that he had a great deal of power. But prosecutors have not implicated Cuomo in any of the alleged crimes.</p> <p>However, his political opponents were quick to link him with the Kaloyeros trial on Monday.</p> <p>Cuomo’s Democratic primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, referenced the trial repeatedly <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7746-citing-broken-cuomo-promises-nixon-unveils-campaign-finance-reform-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener">as she unveiled a campaign finance reform agenda</a> from the steps of the Tweed Courthouse, where Cuomo had promised eight years ago to clean up state government.</p> <p>“Despite others’ attempts to politicize, the US Attorney and Judge have repeatedly said that campaign contributions were not unlawful and were not part of the alleged criminality,” Cuomo campaign spokesperson Abbey Fashouer said in an emailed statement.</p> <p>“Cuomo has enabled individuals who think that they must peddle influence and peddle resources and sell out New Yorkers to the highest bidder,” Marc Molinaro, the Republican nominee for governor, said outside the federal courthouse during a morning press conference.</p> <p>Zephyr Teachout, who previously ran against Cuomo for governor and is now running for attorney general, spoke to reporters just ahead of Molinaro.</p> <p>“This trial illustrates that we have an underlying corruption and ethics emergency in New York State,” she said. “This trial shows the ways in which corruption impacts people’s lives.”</p> <p>Asked for comment on the trial, the campaign of New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, who is also running for state attorney general but is aligned with Cuomo, issued a statement touting James’ past anti-corruption work.</p> <p>“Any act of corruption in government betrays the people of the state of New York and cannot be tolerated,” James spokesperson Delaney Kempner said in the statement. “As Attorney General, Tish will deploy the full arsenal of weapons at her disposal to fight corruption and will never shy away from tackling illegal behavior in government.” The statement did not directly address the Kaloyeros case.</p> <p>

***
by Shant Shahrigianh, Gotham Gazette
      

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cuomo-and-kaloyeros-walking.jpg" alt="cuomo and kaloyeros walking" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo &amp; Alain Kaloyeros (photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Lawyers presented starkly different portraits of Alain Kaloyeros, the former head of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, in opening statements of his corruption trial at federal court in Manhattan on Monday. Critics say the case -- and the related trial of Joseph Percoco, a longtime aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo found guilty in March of taking bribes -- show the governor’s multimillion-dollar economic development projects were fundamentally corrupt.</p> <p>Kaloyeros rigged bids for development projects to avoid losing his job, expand his influence, and gain a promotion, Assistant U.S Attorney David Zhou argued.</p> <p>“Kaloyeros decided that the rules didn’t apply to him, so he cheated and he lied to get the results he wanted,” the prosecutor said as Kaloyeros, sporting a blue suit and stubbly beard, sat at the front of the courtroom.</p> <p>On the contrary, defense lawyer Reid Weingarten sought to depict Kaloyeros as a visionary who had personal flaws but committed no crimes.</p> <p>“In truth, he’s not a saint. He’s a very, very complicated guy,” Weingarten said, adding that Kaloyeros, a physicist, had “wrought miracles” launching major tech projects in Albany. “What this case is about is the desire of Governor Cuomo to bring [Kaloyeros’] miracle to upstate New York.”</p> <p>Federal prosecutors say Kaloyeros schemed to make sure a nonprofit charged with overseeing a huge swath of Cuomo’s development projects favored companies run by major Cuomo donors -- Louis Ciminelli of Buffalo-based LPCiminelli, along with Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi of Syracuse-based COR Development. The executives, who are on trial alongside Kaloyeros, have also pleaded not guilty to fraud charges; Gerardi is also accused of lying to FBI agents. Cuomo is not accused of criminal wrongdoing, but critics say that the Democratic governor knowingly presided over programs with insufficient checks and transparency, pushing through state funding, stripping the Comptroller of audit powers, and empowering Kaloyeros and others to run wild while his campaign coffers filled.</p> <p>The prosecution’s case appears to hinge in large part on emails between Kaloyeros and the developers that allegedly show they conspired to rig the bids starting in 2013. LPCiminelli won a contract for a solar panel factory in Buffalo, as part of the governor’s Buffalo Billion program, the cost of which eventually rose to $750 million; while COR Development won contracts for a $90 million manufacturing plant and $15 million film studio, the latter of which the state recently <a href="https://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2018/06/onondaga_county_poised_to_take_struggling_cny_film_hub_from_ny_state.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">sold for $1</a> after years of floundering.</p> <p>Prosecutors say Kaloyeros ensured inclusion of measures like requiring the winner of the Buffalo request-for-proposals (RFP) to have 50 years of experience in an effort to ensure LPCiminelli would be the only company to even qualify to bid. In one email, he allegedly promised to “fine tune the development requirements” to guarantee only LPCiminelli could win, Zhou said on Monday.</p> <p>However, Weingarten argued that emails between Kaloyeros and his client were perfectly legal.</p> <p>He said for a nonprofit like the one doling out the upstate development grants, called Fort Schuyler Management Corporation, “the procurements can be any way you want them to be.” Weinstein added that the RFPs in the Kaloyeros case followed all procurement rules set by the federal government, Albany, and SUNY, which helped oversee the projects.</p> <p>While Zhou highlighted Kaloyeros’ use of his personal email address instead of his SUNY account -- instructing one of his alleged collaborators, “please gmail, not email” -- Weinstein seemed to shrug off the matter.</p> <p>It's "almost a sport in New York State government to put things on your private email so reporters can't get them,” the defense lawyer said.</p> <p>Monday’s opening statements suggested the role of Todd Howe will be another turning point in the case.</p> <p>Kaloyeros hired Howe, an Albany lobbyist and longtime member of Cuomo’s inner circle, to help work on the development projects -- and, prosecutors say, maintain friendly ties with Cuomo. Howe made a plea deal with the government, but is not expected to testify in the Kaloyeros case after he was arrested on new charges in the middle of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7539-joseph-percoco-former-top-cuomo-aide-convicted-on-3-felony-counts" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the Percoco trial</a>, where he was the government’s star witness.</p> <p>Prosecutors say Howe helped Kaloyeros transform a SUNY college for nanotechnology into the sprawling SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany, where Kaloyeros launched an array of ambitious public-private tech partnerships in addition to the LPCiminelli and COR Development projects.</p> <p>“Kaloyeros developed a strong relationship with the governor’s office after he hired a lobbyist named Todd Howe for SUNY,” Zhou said. “Howe was the key to the governor’s office.”</p> <p>Weingarten and the other defendants’ lawyers assailed Howe’s credibility. “He was a master criminal,” Weingarten said of Howe. “He deceived virtually every relevant person in this courtroom.”</p> <p>Lawyers for Aiello, Ciminelli and Gerardi echoed Weingarten’s lines of reasoning. Discussing Aiello and Ciminelli, Aiello’s attorney Steve Coffey said they “hardly knew each other in 2013.”</p> <p>“What they have in common is they’re developers. And they’re Italian,” though he said no more about their heritage.</p> <p>Cuomo previously said Percoco, who was found guilty of taking bribes in exchange for preferential treatment for developers, was like a brother. And the Kaloyeros trial centers on the governor’s most vaunted development programs -- Cuomo regularly heaped praise on Kaloyeros and ensured that he had a great deal of power. But prosecutors have not implicated Cuomo in any of the alleged crimes.</p> <p>However, his political opponents were quick to link him with the Kaloyeros trial on Monday.</p> <p>Cuomo’s Democratic primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, referenced the trial repeatedly <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7746-citing-broken-cuomo-promises-nixon-unveils-campaign-finance-reform-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener">as she unveiled a campaign finance reform agenda</a> from the steps of the Tweed Courthouse, where Cuomo had promised eight years ago to clean up state government.</p> <p>“Despite others’ attempts to politicize, the US Attorney and Judge have repeatedly said that campaign contributions were not unlawful and were not part of the alleged criminality,” Cuomo campaign spokesperson Abbey Fashouer said in an emailed statement.</p> <p>“Cuomo has enabled individuals who think that they must peddle influence and peddle resources and sell out New Yorkers to the highest bidder,” Marc Molinaro, the Republican nominee for governor, said outside the federal courthouse during a morning press conference.</p> <p>Zephyr Teachout, who previously ran against Cuomo for governor and is now running for attorney general, spoke to reporters just ahead of Molinaro.</p> <p>“This trial illustrates that we have an underlying corruption and ethics emergency in New York State,” she said. “This trial shows the ways in which corruption impacts people’s lives.”</p> <p>Asked for comment on the trial, the campaign of New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, who is also running for state attorney general but is aligned with Cuomo, issued a statement touting James’ past anti-corruption work.</p> <p>“Any act of corruption in government betrays the people of the state of New York and cannot be tolerated,” James spokesperson Delaney Kempner said in the statement. “As Attorney General, Tish will deploy the full arsenal of weapons at her disposal to fight corruption and will never shy away from tackling illegal behavior in government.” The statement did not directly address the Kaloyeros case.</p> <p>

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by Shant Shahrigianh, Gotham Gazette
      

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</p>
On Taxes, the MTA and More, Molinaro Discusses Developing Campaign Platform 2018-06-14T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-14T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7740:on-taxes-the-mta-and-more-molinaro-discusses-developing-campaign-platform Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/molinaro_launch.jpg" alt="marc molinaro launch" width="600" height="403" /></p> <p>Marc Molinaro (photo: Ben Max/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>Ask Marc Molinaro about nearly anything, and the Republican nominee for governor will likely bring the conversation back to property taxes and affordability.</p> <p>“My focus, ultimately, will be to drive down costs on middle class New Yorkers,” he said in a Wednesday interview with Gotham Gazette. “That focus, again, has to be on property taxes because New York, unlike every other state in America, forces more of its state spending on property taxpayers. Property taxpayers -- small tax base; large, acute burden on individuals with no respect to their ability to pay.”</p> <p>Molinaro, currently Dutchess county executive, has repeatedly sounded the theme since <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7583-max-murphy-podcast-molinaro-launches-campaign-for-governor" target="_blank" rel="noopener">formally launching</a> his bid for governor April 2. While he has largely spoken in sweeping generalities -- promising “bold” proposals to come during his nomination acceptance speech at the May 23 state GOP convention -- details are starting to emerge.</p> <p>Molinaro said that in addition to making the state’s 2-percent cap on annual property tax increases permanent, he would seek to phase out the so-called “millionaires tax” if elected. The income tax rate for the top bracket -- which includes individuals making $1 million or more and couples earning $2 million or more per year -- went from 6.85 to 8.82 percent in 2009, and has been extended by Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and a Legislature where each house is controlled by one of the two major parties.</p> <p>“I would seek to have it expire over time,” Molinaro said of the millionaires tax. “I do think that there’s a way to make taxation in the state a bit more respectful of those who can’t afford it.”</p> <p>He said he will release a detailed tax plan in the coming months. While Molinaro, like many other New York Republicans, has opposed the new, GOP-led federal tax overhaul because of its cap on local deductions, he has said New York must now work even harder to bring down the tax burden on its residents. He has also stressed that the state must reduce its burdens on localities -- often in the form of unfunded mandates -- so that counties, cities, towns, and villages can lower their taxes.</p> <p>Molinaro, 42, has spent his entire career in politics, including terms as a member of the state Assembly and as mayor of Tivoli, where he became the youngest mayor in the country at age 19. He’s claiming the mantle of a regular New Yorker who gets the working and middle classes, comparing himself favorably to Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon, each of whom has much more wealth and fame. Molinaro’s tendency to talk at length about poor and struggling families in personal terms occasionally makes him sound more like a progressive Democrat than a fiscally conservative Republican.</p> <p>“As a kid, I grew up on food stamps. I’m very sensitive to how the state treats those who are on the lower end of the income scale, living maybe in poverty or subsidized housing,” he said. During his nomination acceptance speech he raised his voice in declaring the he would “not concede compassion to anyone.”</p> <p>He has made the state’s struggling dairy industry something of a focus. <a href="https://patch.com/new-york/midhudsonvalley/dutchess-co-protects-farms-through-manageable-growth-partnership" target="_blank" rel="noopener">He allocated</a> $651,781 of Dutchess County’s 2017 budget to protecting two farms there. He has been <a href="http://www.suncommunitynews.com/articles/the-sun/molinaro-seeking-cuomo%E2%80%99s-job-steps-out-in-north-country-debu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">photographed</a> hanging out in stables and often tweets about dairy. “Dairy day. I love dairy day. I miss dairy day. I should come back to Albany for dairy day,” <a href="https://twitter.com/marcmolinaro/status/1004418463803363328" target="_blank" rel="noopener">he posted</a> on Twitter earlier this month, in lighthearted fashion, while he has <a href="https://twitter.com/marcmolinaro/status/965233189038981121" target="_blank" rel="noopener">also tweeted</a> about serious policy to help dairy farmers survive, such as through reducing regulations and taxes.</p> <p>On the state’s minimum wage law, Molinaro voiced opposition to the recent increases. In 2016, Cuomo and state legislators reached a deal raising New York City’s minimum wage to $15 by the end of this year, with slower hikes in other parts of the state.</p> <p>The Republican candidate, who also has the Conservative and Reform Party nominations, said he opposed the deal at the time and thinks the minimum wage “should be indexed to ebb and flow with the cost of living.”</p> <p>“I also don’t necessarily agree that an unelected board of individuals should be able to establish statewide policy,” he added, in reference to the wage board that Cuomo had empaneled to help him craft the policy before he pushed it through the legislative process. “Those are decisions that ought to be made by citizens and their representatives.”</p> <p>Asked whether he thought the state’s minimum wage should be lowered given broad economic growth, Molinaro replied with a laugh, “I’m not going to go there.”</p> <p>The MTA is another area where Molinaro said he will roll out detailed proposals.</p> <p>He said his priorities would be “depoliticizing” the authority’s board by giving members the power to fire the chair, currently Joe Lhota, along with conducting a thorough review of the MTA’s assets and creating a “road map” to improve service.</p> <p>“Like Joe Lhota or not, the governor has too much influence,” Molinaro said, nodding to the fact that the governor nominates the MTA board chair, as Cuomo did with Lhota. “Far too many decisions are made without input from the MTA board…I would absolutely want to empower the MTA board to be able to fire the head of the MTA.”</p> <p>Molinaro’s county includes the far reaches of the MTA transit system, and he is one of the executives empowered to jointly appoint an MTA board member. He often says that Dutchess is where “upstate meets downstate” and has joined the chorus of candidates and others criticizing Cuomo’s management of the MTA, especially the New York City subway system.</p> <p>Molinaro did not comment, when asked, on MTA NYC Transit President Andy Byford’s new plan to fix service. He mostly spoke in broad terms about the MTA’s problems -- decrying its “ineffectiveness and erosion” -- but singled out service for people with disabilities as a priority.</p> <p>“The fact is that if you are living with a disability or particular challenges -- special needs -- we don’t have adequate access, and that needs to be a priority regardless of where you live,” Molinaro said.</p> <p>That belief connects to an initiative Molinaro launched in Dutchess -- which he made a point to again emphasize during the interview -- to improve services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The program, called ThinkDIFFERENTLY, has featured events connecting people with disabilities with service providers and aims to help them develop job and life skills.</p> <p>Molinaro said the program -- which has caught on in dozens of other localities -- would provide a paradigm for how he approaches disabilities as governor. Molinaro, whose daughter is autistic, often cites his experience as a father when discussing the issue.</p> <p>“Whether it’s making the investments necessary to break down physical barriers -- making subway stops and platforms accessible -- or it’s saying to job creators, you need to do more to encourage employment for those living with disabilities or welcome those with special needs as consumers,” he said, “we need to educate and then we need to ensure that the system is easier to navigate.”</p> <p>As might be expected for a relatively unknown Republican challenging a two-term Democratic governor in New York, Molinaro has trailed Cuomo in early polls. A <a href="https://www2.siena.edu/news-events/article/cuomo-leads-molinaro-by-19-points-among-likely-voters" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Siena College poll</a> released Wednesday, about five-and-a-half months before Election Day, showed Cuomo ahead of Molinaro 56-37, though the numbers showed an improving trend for Molinaro in the hypothetical matchup and the poll was celebrated by his campaign, which noted he is in better position than Republican challenger Rob Astorino was four years ago at the same time.</p> <p>Like Democratic primary challenger Nixon, who also trails Cuomo in the polls, Molinaro has tried to put a dent in the governor’s numbers by tying him to corruption. Both challengers have pointed to the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7539-joseph-percoco-former-top-cuomo-aide-convicted-on-3-felony-counts" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recent conviction</a> of longtime Cuomo lieutenant Joseph Percoco and the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7558-post-percoco-conviction-kaloyeros-trial-likely-to-further-stain-cuomo-administration" target="_blank" rel="noopener">upcoming federal trial</a> of Alain Kaloyeros, the former president of SUNY Polytechnic Institute who oversaw some of Cuomo’s most ambitious development projects.</p> <p>Those cases center upon proven and alleged abuses within the governor’s multimillion-dollar economic development programs, and the Percoco trial showed the former Cuomo government aide and campaign manager regularly using his executive chamber office while on leave to run the governor’s 2014 reelection campaign. Molinaro has put forth a variety of government ethics and campaign finance reform proposals thus far, some of which Cuomo has professed support for but not passed. The GOP nominee has said he would seek pay-for-play, or doing-business, campaign finance restrictions on entities seeking or holding state contracts, term limits for statewide elected officials and state legislators, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7611-molinaro-outlines-initial-ethics-and-campaign-finance-reform-agenda" target="_blank" rel="noopener">and other changes to make government more honest and open</a>.</p> <p>Molinaro said the trials not only show issues of corruption under Cuomo’s nose, but that the governor’s approach to economic development is fundamentally flawed.</p> <p>“I don’t believe the government should take taxpayer money and give it to private interests,” he said. “I don’t believe in cutting checks as if New Yorkers are [Cuomo’s] personal ATM. It’s not fair, it’s not appropriate and he doesn’t seem to know the difference between right and wrong.”</p> <p>Asked how he would encourage statewide economic growth if he ended Cuomo’s development programs, Molinaro again pointed to tax cuts and lowering the cost of living.</p> <p>“Drive down costs, make it easier for businesses to thrive,” he said. “That’s how you grow an environment that people can achieve greater success -- not by pickpocketing New Yorkers and giving it to political contributors.” Molinaro did not offer specifics.</p> <p>He said that if elected, he would take a selective approach to Cuomo’s legacy, though he shied away from detailing what he would seek to undo. “My perspective is everything gets evaluated -- everything,” he said.</p> <p>Molinaro did not answer a question about Cuomo’s gun control measures, including an expanded ban of assault weapons, known as the SAFE Act. While the governor has frequently touted the legislation as one of his main achievements, and New York City residents largely support it, it is considered highly unpopular upstate.</p> <p>In a January interview, more than a month before the school massacre in Parkland, Florida and the movement it spurred, Molinaro <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7581-in-run-for-governor-marc-molinaro-will-make-a-character-argument" target="_blank" rel="noopener">had told Gotham Gazette</a>, “Frankly, I do have concerns with how aggressive this governor has been. I think in some ways irresponsibly ignoring those that do support, as I do, the Second Amendment and forcing legislation without having the kind of local robust conversation necessary. I believe the constitution is as it’s written.”</p> <p>The Cuomo campaign has seized on some of Molinaro’s more conservative positions, like on gun rights and his 2011 vote against marriage equality as a member of the Assembly, the passage of which is a top Cuomo resume item. Molinaro has said he has evolved on the issue. The governor’s campaign has branded him a Trump mini-me, though Molinaro has said he did not vote for the Republican president in the 2016 election.</p> <p>In the Wednesday interview with Gotham Gazette, Molinaro did not list any other issue areas where he plans to roll out policy plans, though during his convention speech he appeared to promise a series.</p> <p>Asked how, if elected governor, he would work with the state Legislature -- this fall, Democrats are likely to maintain their Assembly majority and Republicans are fighting against losing the Senate -- Molinaro said he would try to make the lawmaking process more inclusive.</p> <p>He promised to end Albany’s “three men in a room” culture in which the governor and legislative leaders decide the budget and other important issues behind closed doors.</p> <p>“I think the government can reach into the legislature and local communities to identify great thinkers, people who are engaged in trying to solve problems irrespective of party, and engage them,” Molinaro said. “That breaks down the power structure that has paralyzed state government.”</p> <p>

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by Shant Shahrigianh, Gotham Gazette
      

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/molinaro_launch.jpg" alt="marc molinaro launch" width="600" height="403" /></p> <p>Marc Molinaro (photo: Ben Max/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>Ask Marc Molinaro about nearly anything, and the Republican nominee for governor will likely bring the conversation back to property taxes and affordability.</p> <p>“My focus, ultimately, will be to drive down costs on middle class New Yorkers,” he said in a Wednesday interview with Gotham Gazette. “That focus, again, has to be on property taxes because New York, unlike every other state in America, forces more of its state spending on property taxpayers. Property taxpayers -- small tax base; large, acute burden on individuals with no respect to their ability to pay.”</p> <p>Molinaro, currently Dutchess county executive, has repeatedly sounded the theme since <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7583-max-murphy-podcast-molinaro-launches-campaign-for-governor" target="_blank" rel="noopener">formally launching</a> his bid for governor April 2. While he has largely spoken in sweeping generalities -- promising “bold” proposals to come during his nomination acceptance speech at the May 23 state GOP convention -- details are starting to emerge.</p> <p>Molinaro said that in addition to making the state’s 2-percent cap on annual property tax increases permanent, he would seek to phase out the so-called “millionaires tax” if elected. The income tax rate for the top bracket -- which includes individuals making $1 million or more and couples earning $2 million or more per year -- went from 6.85 to 8.82 percent in 2009, and has been extended by Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and a Legislature where each house is controlled by one of the two major parties.</p> <p>“I would seek to have it expire over time,” Molinaro said of the millionaires tax. “I do think that there’s a way to make taxation in the state a bit more respectful of those who can’t afford it.”</p> <p>He said he will release a detailed tax plan in the coming months. While Molinaro, like many other New York Republicans, has opposed the new, GOP-led federal tax overhaul because of its cap on local deductions, he has said New York must now work even harder to bring down the tax burden on its residents. He has also stressed that the state must reduce its burdens on localities -- often in the form of unfunded mandates -- so that counties, cities, towns, and villages can lower their taxes.</p> <p>Molinaro, 42, has spent his entire career in politics, including terms as a member of the state Assembly and as mayor of Tivoli, where he became the youngest mayor in the country at age 19. He’s claiming the mantle of a regular New Yorker who gets the working and middle classes, comparing himself favorably to Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon, each of whom has much more wealth and fame. Molinaro’s tendency to talk at length about poor and struggling families in personal terms occasionally makes him sound more like a progressive Democrat than a fiscally conservative Republican.</p> <p>“As a kid, I grew up on food stamps. I’m very sensitive to how the state treats those who are on the lower end of the income scale, living maybe in poverty or subsidized housing,” he said. During his nomination acceptance speech he raised his voice in declaring the he would “not concede compassion to anyone.”</p> <p>He has made the state’s struggling dairy industry something of a focus. <a href="https://patch.com/new-york/midhudsonvalley/dutchess-co-protects-farms-through-manageable-growth-partnership" target="_blank" rel="noopener">He allocated</a> $651,781 of Dutchess County’s 2017 budget to protecting two farms there. He has been <a href="http://www.suncommunitynews.com/articles/the-sun/molinaro-seeking-cuomo%E2%80%99s-job-steps-out-in-north-country-debu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">photographed</a> hanging out in stables and often tweets about dairy. “Dairy day. I love dairy day. I miss dairy day. I should come back to Albany for dairy day,” <a href="https://twitter.com/marcmolinaro/status/1004418463803363328" target="_blank" rel="noopener">he posted</a> on Twitter earlier this month, in lighthearted fashion, while he has <a href="https://twitter.com/marcmolinaro/status/965233189038981121" target="_blank" rel="noopener">also tweeted</a> about serious policy to help dairy farmers survive, such as through reducing regulations and taxes.</p> <p>On the state’s minimum wage law, Molinaro voiced opposition to the recent increases. In 2016, Cuomo and state legislators reached a deal raising New York City’s minimum wage to $15 by the end of this year, with slower hikes in other parts of the state.</p> <p>The Republican candidate, who also has the Conservative and Reform Party nominations, said he opposed the deal at the time and thinks the minimum wage “should be indexed to ebb and flow with the cost of living.”</p> <p>“I also don’t necessarily agree that an unelected board of individuals should be able to establish statewide policy,” he added, in reference to the wage board that Cuomo had empaneled to help him craft the policy before he pushed it through the legislative process. “Those are decisions that ought to be made by citizens and their representatives.”</p> <p>Asked whether he thought the state’s minimum wage should be lowered given broad economic growth, Molinaro replied with a laugh, “I’m not going to go there.”</p> <p>The MTA is another area where Molinaro said he will roll out detailed proposals.</p> <p>He said his priorities would be “depoliticizing” the authority’s board by giving members the power to fire the chair, currently Joe Lhota, along with conducting a thorough review of the MTA’s assets and creating a “road map” to improve service.</p> <p>“Like Joe Lhota or not, the governor has too much influence,” Molinaro said, nodding to the fact that the governor nominates the MTA board chair, as Cuomo did with Lhota. “Far too many decisions are made without input from the MTA board…I would absolutely want to empower the MTA board to be able to fire the head of the MTA.”</p> <p>Molinaro’s county includes the far reaches of the MTA transit system, and he is one of the executives empowered to jointly appoint an MTA board member. He often says that Dutchess is where “upstate meets downstate” and has joined the chorus of candidates and others criticizing Cuomo’s management of the MTA, especially the New York City subway system.</p> <p>Molinaro did not comment, when asked, on MTA NYC Transit President Andy Byford’s new plan to fix service. He mostly spoke in broad terms about the MTA’s problems -- decrying its “ineffectiveness and erosion” -- but singled out service for people with disabilities as a priority.</p> <p>“The fact is that if you are living with a disability or particular challenges -- special needs -- we don’t have adequate access, and that needs to be a priority regardless of where you live,” Molinaro said.</p> <p>That belief connects to an initiative Molinaro launched in Dutchess -- which he made a point to again emphasize during the interview -- to improve services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The program, called ThinkDIFFERENTLY, has featured events connecting people with disabilities with service providers and aims to help them develop job and life skills.</p> <p>Molinaro said the program -- which has caught on in dozens of other localities -- would provide a paradigm for how he approaches disabilities as governor. Molinaro, whose daughter is autistic, often cites his experience as a father when discussing the issue.</p> <p>“Whether it’s making the investments necessary to break down physical barriers -- making subway stops and platforms accessible -- or it’s saying to job creators, you need to do more to encourage employment for those living with disabilities or welcome those with special needs as consumers,” he said, “we need to educate and then we need to ensure that the system is easier to navigate.”</p> <p>As might be expected for a relatively unknown Republican challenging a two-term Democratic governor in New York, Molinaro has trailed Cuomo in early polls. A <a href="https://www2.siena.edu/news-events/article/cuomo-leads-molinaro-by-19-points-among-likely-voters" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Siena College poll</a> released Wednesday, about five-and-a-half months before Election Day, showed Cuomo ahead of Molinaro 56-37, though the numbers showed an improving trend for Molinaro in the hypothetical matchup and the poll was celebrated by his campaign, which noted he is in better position than Republican challenger Rob Astorino was four years ago at the same time.</p> <p>Like Democratic primary challenger Nixon, who also trails Cuomo in the polls, Molinaro has tried to put a dent in the governor’s numbers by tying him to corruption. Both challengers have pointed to the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7539-joseph-percoco-former-top-cuomo-aide-convicted-on-3-felony-counts" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recent conviction</a> of longtime Cuomo lieutenant Joseph Percoco and the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7558-post-percoco-conviction-kaloyeros-trial-likely-to-further-stain-cuomo-administration" target="_blank" rel="noopener">upcoming federal trial</a> of Alain Kaloyeros, the former president of SUNY Polytechnic Institute who oversaw some of Cuomo’s most ambitious development projects.</p> <p>Those cases center upon proven and alleged abuses within the governor’s multimillion-dollar economic development programs, and the Percoco trial showed the former Cuomo government aide and campaign manager regularly using his executive chamber office while on leave to run the governor’s 2014 reelection campaign. Molinaro has put forth a variety of government ethics and campaign finance reform proposals thus far, some of which Cuomo has professed support for but not passed. The GOP nominee has said he would seek pay-for-play, or doing-business, campaign finance restrictions on entities seeking or holding state contracts, term limits for statewide elected officials and state legislators, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7611-molinaro-outlines-initial-ethics-and-campaign-finance-reform-agenda" target="_blank" rel="noopener">and other changes to make government more honest and open</a>.</p> <p>Molinaro said the trials not only show issues of corruption under Cuomo’s nose, but that the governor’s approach to economic development is fundamentally flawed.</p> <p>“I don’t believe the government should take taxpayer money and give it to private interests,” he said. “I don’t believe in cutting checks as if New Yorkers are [Cuomo’s] personal ATM. It’s not fair, it’s not appropriate and he doesn’t seem to know the difference between right and wrong.”</p> <p>Asked how he would encourage statewide economic growth if he ended Cuomo’s development programs, Molinaro again pointed to tax cuts and lowering the cost of living.</p> <p>“Drive down costs, make it easier for businesses to thrive,” he said. “That’s how you grow an environment that people can achieve greater success -- not by pickpocketing New Yorkers and giving it to political contributors.” Molinaro did not offer specifics.</p> <p>He said that if elected, he would take a selective approach to Cuomo’s legacy, though he shied away from detailing what he would seek to undo. “My perspective is everything gets evaluated -- everything,” he said.</p> <p>Molinaro did not answer a question about Cuomo’s gun control measures, including an expanded ban of assault weapons, known as the SAFE Act. While the governor has frequently touted the legislation as one of his main achievements, and New York City residents largely support it, it is considered highly unpopular upstate.</p> <p>In a January interview, more than a month before the school massacre in Parkland, Florida and the movement it spurred, Molinaro <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7581-in-run-for-governor-marc-molinaro-will-make-a-character-argument" target="_blank" rel="noopener">had told Gotham Gazette</a>, “Frankly, I do have concerns with how aggressive this governor has been. I think in some ways irresponsibly ignoring those that do support, as I do, the Second Amendment and forcing legislation without having the kind of local robust conversation necessary. I believe the constitution is as it’s written.”</p> <p>The Cuomo campaign has seized on some of Molinaro’s more conservative positions, like on gun rights and his 2011 vote against marriage equality as a member of the Assembly, the passage of which is a top Cuomo resume item. Molinaro has said he has evolved on the issue. The governor’s campaign has branded him a Trump mini-me, though Molinaro has said he did not vote for the Republican president in the 2016 election.</p> <p>In the Wednesday interview with Gotham Gazette, Molinaro did not list any other issue areas where he plans to roll out policy plans, though during his convention speech he appeared to promise a series.</p> <p>Asked how, if elected governor, he would work with the state Legislature -- this fall, Democrats are likely to maintain their Assembly majority and Republicans are fighting against losing the Senate -- Molinaro said he would try to make the lawmaking process more inclusive.</p> <p>He promised to end Albany’s “three men in a room” culture in which the governor and legislative leaders decide the budget and other important issues behind closed doors.</p> <p>“I think the government can reach into the legislature and local communities to identify great thinkers, people who are engaged in trying to solve problems irrespective of party, and engage them,” Molinaro said. “That breaks down the power structure that has paralyzed state government.”</p> <p>

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by Shant Shahrigianh, Gotham Gazette
      

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul 2018-06-14T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-14T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7737:max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-kathy-hochul Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/max-murphy-housing.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p><strong>June 14, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/kathy-hochul-277.jpg" alt="kathy hochul 277" width="137" height="210" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Kathy Hochul is in the fourth year of her first term as lieutenant governor, and, running alongside Governor Andrew Cuomo, seeking another term this fall. She's facing a primary challenge, however, from City Council Member Jumaane Williams. As she runs for reelection (the lieutenant governor and governor run separately in the primary but as a ticket in the general election), Hochul is touting the strength of her record as part of the Cuomo administration. She joined the podcast to discuss her background, the administration's work, especially in economic development, which she has a significant role in, the revitalization of Buffalo, which is in the congressional district she briefly represented in the House of Representatives, and much more.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/458464395&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/max-murphy-housing.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p><strong>June 14, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/kathy-hochul-277.jpg" alt="kathy hochul 277" width="137" height="210" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Kathy Hochul is in the fourth year of her first term as lieutenant governor, and, running alongside Governor Andrew Cuomo, seeking another term this fall. She's facing a primary challenge, however, from City Council Member Jumaane Williams. As she runs for reelection (the lieutenant governor and governor run separately in the primary but as a ticket in the general election), Hochul is touting the strength of her record as part of the Cuomo administration. She joined the podcast to discuss her background, the administration's work, especially in economic development, which she has a significant role in, the revitalization of Buffalo, which is in the congressional district she briefly represented in the House of Representatives, and much more.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/458464395&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Why Cynthia Nixon Will Lose 2018-06-14T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-14T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7738:why-cynthia-nixon-will-lose Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/govcu-5million.jpg" alt="govcu 5million" width="600" height="437" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: Mike Groll/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>One thing is evident when considering the electoral dynamics in New York, and when taking into account recent polling on the gubernatorial race: the path to victory leads through black and Latino communities and Governor Andrew Cuomo has a major leg up.</p> <p>The most recent <a href="https://www2.siena.edu/assets/files/news/SNY0618_Crosstabs.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Siena College poll</a> indicates that among Latinos and African-Americans Cuomo is winning by significant margins. Among African-Americans polled, the governor receives a whopping 74% of the vote and among Latinos he’s at a significant 69% (support among both groups has increased since Siena’s last poll). Together, black and Latino New Yorkers account for 42% of the entire Democratic primary electorate, according to my calculations. Given these numbers, it is no wonder that Cynthia Nixon is attempting to make inroads into these communities, though seemingly less so in Latino communities than black communities.</p> <p>Unfortunately for Nixon, the numbers are just not there. While Siena’s polling shows the governor above the 70% mark among communities of color, the reality is that the governor’s support is likely to be higher than that.</p> <p>Here’s why: Siena’s own numbers indicate that 9% of the statewide overall electorate is African-American and 8% is Latino -- the poll is of likely general election voters, with Democrats asked to weigh in on the primary. But that is a significant undercount of the actual reality in a Democratic primary. According to data provided by L2, a national voter data company, 18% of the New York Democratic primary electorate is Latino and 22% black. So, the 74% support among African-Americans in Siena’s polling, and 69% support among Latinos for Cuomo, will be a bigger deal than anticipated when factoring in actual turnout in the primary.</p> <p>Beyond the numbers, the governor can lay claim to a host of accomplishments that he can say have positively impacted communities of color. From paid family leave to an increase in the minimum wage; a tuition-free college program to the allocation of $10 million to a defense fund for immigrants facing the Trump administration’s backlash, Cuomo has made a mark for himself particularly among people of color. And the governor a couple of months ago issued an executive order that will help grant the right to vote to most parolees, another constituency dominated by African-Americans and Latinos. Black and Latino communities will ultimately judge whether the governor’s actions have truly benefited them.</p> <p>When considering these accomplishments, it is no wonder why Governor Cuomo’s favorability remains high among Latino and black New Yorkers. With more than 40% of the primary vote coming from these two key voting blocs, and considering his high favorability ratings among them, Cuomo should move to the general election fairly easily.</p> <p>***<br /> Eli Valentin is a Democratic consultant and pastor of the Iglesia Evangelica Bautista in New York City. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/elivalentinNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@EliValentinNY</a>.</p> <p>

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/govcu-5million.jpg" alt="govcu 5million" width="600" height="437" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: Mike Groll/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>One thing is evident when considering the electoral dynamics in New York, and when taking into account recent polling on the gubernatorial race: the path to victory leads through black and Latino communities and Governor Andrew Cuomo has a major leg up.</p> <p>The most recent <a href="https://www2.siena.edu/assets/files/news/SNY0618_Crosstabs.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Siena College poll</a> indicates that among Latinos and African-Americans Cuomo is winning by significant margins. Among African-Americans polled, the governor receives a whopping 74% of the vote and among Latinos he’s at a significant 69% (support among both groups has increased since Siena’s last poll). Together, black and Latino New Yorkers account for 42% of the entire Democratic primary electorate, according to my calculations. Given these numbers, it is no wonder that Cynthia Nixon is attempting to make inroads into these communities, though seemingly less so in Latino communities than black communities.</p> <p>Unfortunately for Nixon, the numbers are just not there. While Siena’s polling shows the governor above the 70% mark among communities of color, the reality is that the governor’s support is likely to be higher than that.</p> <p>Here’s why: Siena’s own numbers indicate that 9% of the statewide overall electorate is African-American and 8% is Latino -- the poll is of likely general election voters, with Democrats asked to weigh in on the primary. But that is a significant undercount of the actual reality in a Democratic primary. According to data provided by L2, a national voter data company, 18% of the New York Democratic primary electorate is Latino and 22% black. So, the 74% support among African-Americans in Siena’s polling, and 69% support among Latinos for Cuomo, will be a bigger deal than anticipated when factoring in actual turnout in the primary.</p> <p>Beyond the numbers, the governor can lay claim to a host of accomplishments that he can say have positively impacted communities of color. From paid family leave to an increase in the minimum wage; a tuition-free college program to the allocation of $10 million to a defense fund for immigrants facing the Trump administration’s backlash, Cuomo has made a mark for himself particularly among people of color. And the governor a couple of months ago issued an executive order that will help grant the right to vote to most parolees, another constituency dominated by African-Americans and Latinos. Black and Latino communities will ultimately judge whether the governor’s actions have truly benefited them.</p> <p>When considering these accomplishments, it is no wonder why Governor Cuomo’s favorability remains high among Latino and black New Yorkers. With more than 40% of the primary vote coming from these two key voting blocs, and considering his high favorability ratings among them, Cuomo should move to the general election fairly easily.</p> <p>***<br /> Eli Valentin is a Democratic consultant and pastor of the Iglesia Evangelica Bautista in New York City. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/elivalentinNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@EliValentinNY</a>.</p> <p>

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State-Backed, Scandal-Plagued Entities Seek New Chapter 2018-06-12T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-12T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7732:state-backed-scandal-plagued-entities-seek-new-chapter Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/govcuomo-roswell.jpg" alt="govcuomo roswell" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Howard Zemsky, of ESD, in Buffalo (photo via the Governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Alain Kaloyeros, the former head of SUNY Polytechnic Institute heading to trial this month for alleged corruption, was known for his luxury sports cars, self-aggrandizing boasts, and awkward social media posts.</p> <p>The new face of the state’s tech development projects, Doug Grose, strikes a different image: subdued, old-school business executive.</p> <p>Coming after Kaloyeros’ fall from grace and amid twin corruption trials, Grose’s appointment seems aimed at assuring taxpayers that state government is turning a new page when it comes to investing public funds in ambitious research and business ventures.</p> <p>Last month, Grose became president of the Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road management corporations -- the state entities at the center of the Kaloyeros bid-rigging and bribery case. The two nonprofits have doled out state grants and overseen projects spearheaded by Kaloyeros, who was empowered by Governor Andrew Cuomo, and will be merged to form a new organization, called NY CREATES. Grose will be president of that nonprofit body once the ongoing process is complete.</p> <p>Empire State Development, the state’s main economic development agency, partnered with SUNY to form NY CREATES -- or New York Center for Research, Economic Advancement, Technology, Engineering and Science. The new organization filed its certificate of incorporation with the state last month and plans to file for 501(c)3 status, according to an ESD spokesperson. Since shortly after the indictments of Kaloyeros and other top Cuomo aides, associates, and donors, ESD was charged with overseeing the nonprofits associated with SUNY and the governor’s extensive economic development programming. It was a move announced by the governor in response to the scandals involving some of his signature projects.</p> <p>After the November 2016 indictments of Kaloyeros, former Cuomo top aide and campaign manager Joseph Percoco, and others, Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road became synonymous with corruption, leading to the effort to rebrand and reorganize.</p> <p>Fort Schuyler awarded multimillion-dollar contracts that Kaloyeros allegedly helped rig in 2013 so they went to major Cuomo campaign donors. Along with Fuller Road, which was not named in the Kaloyeros indictment, Fort Schuyler has overseen hundreds of millions of dollars in state investment in the governor’s economic development programs, namely the Buffalo Billion. Some of them have been associated with SUNY Polytechnic, an advanced science research institution founded by Kaloyeros, a physicist.</p> <p>As NY CREATES launches and seeks to attract both trust and partners, Grose is seen at ESD and elsewhere as the right person for the job. He insists NY CREATES will bring transparency to the economic development programs under its umbrella. Those range from a <a href="http://www.ftsmc.org/utica/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">$1.5-billion computer chip center in Utica</a> to a sprawling <a href="http://www.frmc.us/statewide-facilities/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">$24-billion nanotechnology complex at SUNY Polytechnic in Albany</a>.</p> <p>“How I want to run this has the elements of a business, with sound fiscal and legal controls and a focus on return on investment,” Grose told Gotham Gazette in an interview.</p> <p>Grose’s long resume includes a stint as executive vice president of NanoTech Resources in 2004. Kaloyeros, who oversaw growth in the nanotech complex at SUNY Polytechnic, was Grose’s boss at the time.</p> <p>“My leadership style is quite different,” Grose said of Kaloyeros. “It’s much more, I’ll say, business-based, and you got rewarded or you got in trouble if you didn’t provide the return on investment made.”</p> <p>Grose, 68, came out of retirement to helm NY CREATES, which he said will pay him $280,000 a year. ESD and SUNY leaders and the former president of Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road, Bob Megna, worked to draft Grose. His job will have a tighter focus than that of Kaloyeros, who made nearly $1 million per year helming all of SUNY Polytechnic.</p> <p>“I didn’t come here, honestly, for financial reasons. I came here because of an allegiance that I have to New York State,” said Grose, who was raised in the Mohawk Valley and earned multiple degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.</p> <p>He previously held numerous roles in the upstate tech industry, often overseeing public-private partnerships.</p> <p>In 1979, he began a more than 20-year-long run at IBM, where he was in charge of chip production at labs in East Fishkill and Vermont, <a href="https://www.timesunion.com/business/article/Return-to-trust-in-tech-school-12891469.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">according to the Times Union</a>. He came back to the company in 2004, helping lay the groundwork for a public-private partnership that has seen IBM establish <a href="https://www.timesunion.com/business/article/SUNY-Poly-signs-new-leases-with-IBM-Research-12711815.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a large lab</a> at SUNY Polytechnic.</p> <p>Grose is also a former CEO of GlobalFoundries, one of the biggest semiconductor makers in the world. It began receiving <a href="https://www.timesunion.com/7day-business/article/GlobalFoundries-may-be-getting-more-NYS-funding-11172783.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">state funds and tax breaks</a> in 2006, under then-Governor George Pataki.</p> <p>Empire State Development touts GlobalFoundries as a success story. The company, which runs <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickmoorhead/2018/02/04/the-u-s-already-has-bleeding-edge-technology-manufacturing-with-globalfoundries-fab-8-in-malta-ny/#3c0d55a923af" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a computer chip lab called Fab 8</a> in Saratoga County, has created 3,500 jobs, according to the Albany-based Center for Economic Growth.</p> <p>Grose has kept a low profile throughout his career. That marks a strong contrast with Kaloyeros, who was was known to <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/5912-alain-kaloyeros-powerful-centerpiece-of-" target="_blank" rel="noopener">speed around Albany</a> in a Ferrari Spider. “Dr. Nano,” as his license plate said, made immature Facebook posts and was known for braggadocio, as the New York Times <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/26/nyregion/public-lives-behind-a-research-center-a-geek-with-great-cars.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">pointed out</a> in 2002. After a Gotham Gazette profile in 2015, spurred by reports that SUNY Polytechnic had been subpoenaed, Kaloyeros offered, then rescinded an interview, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/government/5925-buffalo-billion-boss-offers-cancels-interview-claims-threat-of-jail" target="_blank" rel="noopener">citing the “threat of jail.”</a></p> <p>While Grose sought to distinguish his style from that of Kaloyeros, he also had praise for SUNY Polytechnic’s former leader.</p> <p>“He was a visionary in terms of what he wanted to create and he had big ideas,” Grose said of Kaloyeros. “Many of them came true.”</p> <p>Asked about improving transparency into Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road (and, soon, NY CREATES) projects, Grose noted steps that boards of those organizations took before he came on about a month ago.</p> <p>They voted to voluntarily conform to the state’s Freedom of Information Law in 2016 and 2017. <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A05854&amp;term=2017&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Actions=Y" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A bill</a> ensuring that FOIL applies to agencies like Fort Schuyler has been introduced in the state Assembly, though it is currently stalled in the Governmental Operations Committee.</p> <p>Cuomo, a Democrat, appoints the head of ESD, currently Howard Zemsky. The governor in the past pushed both more funding through Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road and resisted calls to increase transparency and oversight of their projects. He also appears to have a fairly tight grip over what legislation moves through the Democrat-led Assembly. A variety of accountability measures that have passed the Republican-controlled Senate are <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7718-attention-shifts-to-assembly-hesitation-on-accountability-bills-opposed-by-cuomo" target="_blank" rel="noopener">currently stalled</a> in the Assembly.</p> <p>Recent months have seen Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road open their meetings to the public, and they have begun posting <a href="https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKb1tyhvr9_5h-rWuyvC1vQ" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recordings</a> of their <a href="https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeIjOusMd8u2u6h1_pHbD8g" target="_blank" rel="noopener">sessions</a> to YouTube.</p> <p>However, hard numbers about Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road projects remain difficult to come by. Their websites do not detail how much money the state has actually invested in their projects so far, and they don’t show proof of job growth -- the stated goal of the those investments. One bill in the accountability agenda that has not moved through the Assembly is for a “database of deals” that would catalog such spending and its results across all state economic development programming.</p> <p>Grose said NY CREATES will dispel the mystery. He said his approach is to make sure “there is no doubt about what an investment may be for and who’s involved and what the result is.” He did not provide specifics for what that will look like.</p> <p>Asked how much debt projects under Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road have accumulated, Grose said, "I can't give you a sense. I have no context where I would say I've seen it all added up." Asked whether it would be fair to say the projects were facing hundreds of millions in debt, Grose replied, "I think that's an accurate portrayal." He added, "It’s related to building facilities in Albany. It’s basically paying back loans to build Albany campus facilities."</p> <p>Cuomo has been keeping his distance from Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road and is yet to comment on NY CREATES. His office did not respond to requests for comment for this article.</p> <p>Shortly after the criminal complaint against Kaloyeros became public, the governor announced that Empire State Development would assume oversight of all the projects under SUNY Polytechnic’s aegis.</p> <p>"I want the taxpayers of New York to know that every dollar is guarded and guarded professionally,” <a href="https://www.bizjournals.com/albany/news/2016/09/23/suny-polys-ongoing-projects-move-to-esd-control.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cuomo said</a> in announcing the move in September of 2016.</p> <p>However, government watchdogs have decried that change -- and the creation of NY CREATES -- as inadequate. To groups like Reinvent Albany, Cuomo is doing too little, too late.</p> <p>“Ultimately, we would look at NY CREATES as shuffling around the deck chairs on the titanically confusing and corruption-prone apparatus that the state has created to hand out tax dollars,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, which closely tracks state economic development efforts.</p> <p>He noted that Cuomo has blocked the reform legislation that includes a bill to restore the state comptroller’s power to pre-audit state contracts over $250,000 that flow through SUNY-affiliated nonprofits -- a power that was stripped by Cuomo and the Legislature in the governor’s first year in office, 2011. Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has repeatedly said it should be brought back.</p> <p>“Whatever marginal gain comes out of this is going to be so tiny as not to warrant the pixels on the press release that will come from it,” Kaehny said of NY CREATES.</p> <p>ESD argues that NY CREATES is not just a rebrand, but that it represents a new way of doing business that will be more transparent and less conducive to exploitation.</p> <p>Government watchdogs say irrespective of the bureaucracy surrounding development projects, under the status quo, Cuomo ultimately calls the shots.</p> <p>Grose said he will be answerable to the boards of Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road and, later, the board of NY CREATES; ESD is getting a say in who joins the board of the new organization, and Zemsky will serve as an “ex-officio” member. “I also report to the chancellor of SUNY as a direct boss,” Grose said.</p> <p>Grose indicated his vision is at least as ambitious as Kaloyeros’ was -- even if it comes without the boasting.</p> <p>Grose plans to expand the scope of the state’s public-private tech partnerships to include educational institutions outside SUNY Polytechnic -- and even in other states.</p> <p>He said he will continue Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road’s focus on nanotechnology, and seek to further develop its work in photonics, tech dealing with data transfer through light waves.</p> <p>“I haven’t really focused on what’s happened in the last 10 to 12 years,” he said, alluding to the scandals. “My view going forward is to focus on core objectives and develop strong partnerships that have the right agreements that back them up.”</p> <p>

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by Shant Shahrigianh, Gotham Gazette
      

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/govcuomo-roswell.jpg" alt="govcuomo roswell" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Howard Zemsky, of ESD, in Buffalo (photo via the Governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Alain Kaloyeros, the former head of SUNY Polytechnic Institute heading to trial this month for alleged corruption, was known for his luxury sports cars, self-aggrandizing boasts, and awkward social media posts.</p> <p>The new face of the state’s tech development projects, Doug Grose, strikes a different image: subdued, old-school business executive.</p> <p>Coming after Kaloyeros’ fall from grace and amid twin corruption trials, Grose’s appointment seems aimed at assuring taxpayers that state government is turning a new page when it comes to investing public funds in ambitious research and business ventures.</p> <p>Last month, Grose became president of the Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road management corporations -- the state entities at the center of the Kaloyeros bid-rigging and bribery case. The two nonprofits have doled out state grants and overseen projects spearheaded by Kaloyeros, who was empowered by Governor Andrew Cuomo, and will be merged to form a new organization, called NY CREATES. Grose will be president of that nonprofit body once the ongoing process is complete.</p> <p>Empire State Development, the state’s main economic development agency, partnered with SUNY to form NY CREATES -- or New York Center for Research, Economic Advancement, Technology, Engineering and Science. The new organization filed its certificate of incorporation with the state last month and plans to file for 501(c)3 status, according to an ESD spokesperson. Since shortly after the indictments of Kaloyeros and other top Cuomo aides, associates, and donors, ESD was charged with overseeing the nonprofits associated with SUNY and the governor’s extensive economic development programming. It was a move announced by the governor in response to the scandals involving some of his signature projects.</p> <p>After the November 2016 indictments of Kaloyeros, former Cuomo top aide and campaign manager Joseph Percoco, and others, Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road became synonymous with corruption, leading to the effort to rebrand and reorganize.</p> <p>Fort Schuyler awarded multimillion-dollar contracts that Kaloyeros allegedly helped rig in 2013 so they went to major Cuomo campaign donors. Along with Fuller Road, which was not named in the Kaloyeros indictment, Fort Schuyler has overseen hundreds of millions of dollars in state investment in the governor’s economic development programs, namely the Buffalo Billion. Some of them have been associated with SUNY Polytechnic, an advanced science research institution founded by Kaloyeros, a physicist.</p> <p>As NY CREATES launches and seeks to attract both trust and partners, Grose is seen at ESD and elsewhere as the right person for the job. He insists NY CREATES will bring transparency to the economic development programs under its umbrella. Those range from a <a href="http://www.ftsmc.org/utica/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">$1.5-billion computer chip center in Utica</a> to a sprawling <a href="http://www.frmc.us/statewide-facilities/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">$24-billion nanotechnology complex at SUNY Polytechnic in Albany</a>.</p> <p>“How I want to run this has the elements of a business, with sound fiscal and legal controls and a focus on return on investment,” Grose told Gotham Gazette in an interview.</p> <p>Grose’s long resume includes a stint as executive vice president of NanoTech Resources in 2004. Kaloyeros, who oversaw growth in the nanotech complex at SUNY Polytechnic, was Grose’s boss at the time.</p> <p>“My leadership style is quite different,” Grose said of Kaloyeros. “It’s much more, I’ll say, business-based, and you got rewarded or you got in trouble if you didn’t provide the return on investment made.”</p> <p>Grose, 68, came out of retirement to helm NY CREATES, which he said will pay him $280,000 a year. ESD and SUNY leaders and the former president of Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road, Bob Megna, worked to draft Grose. His job will have a tighter focus than that of Kaloyeros, who made nearly $1 million per year helming all of SUNY Polytechnic.</p> <p>“I didn’t come here, honestly, for financial reasons. I came here because of an allegiance that I have to New York State,” said Grose, who was raised in the Mohawk Valley and earned multiple degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.</p> <p>He previously held numerous roles in the upstate tech industry, often overseeing public-private partnerships.</p> <p>In 1979, he began a more than 20-year-long run at IBM, where he was in charge of chip production at labs in East Fishkill and Vermont, <a href="https://www.timesunion.com/business/article/Return-to-trust-in-tech-school-12891469.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">according to the Times Union</a>. He came back to the company in 2004, helping lay the groundwork for a public-private partnership that has seen IBM establish <a href="https://www.timesunion.com/business/article/SUNY-Poly-signs-new-leases-with-IBM-Research-12711815.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a large lab</a> at SUNY Polytechnic.</p> <p>Grose is also a former CEO of GlobalFoundries, one of the biggest semiconductor makers in the world. It began receiving <a href="https://www.timesunion.com/7day-business/article/GlobalFoundries-may-be-getting-more-NYS-funding-11172783.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">state funds and tax breaks</a> in 2006, under then-Governor George Pataki.</p> <p>Empire State Development touts GlobalFoundries as a success story. The company, which runs <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickmoorhead/2018/02/04/the-u-s-already-has-bleeding-edge-technology-manufacturing-with-globalfoundries-fab-8-in-malta-ny/#3c0d55a923af" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a computer chip lab called Fab 8</a> in Saratoga County, has created 3,500 jobs, according to the Albany-based Center for Economic Growth.</p> <p>Grose has kept a low profile throughout his career. That marks a strong contrast with Kaloyeros, who was was known to <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/5912-alain-kaloyeros-powerful-centerpiece-of-" target="_blank" rel="noopener">speed around Albany</a> in a Ferrari Spider. “Dr. Nano,” as his license plate said, made immature Facebook posts and was known for braggadocio, as the New York Times <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/26/nyregion/public-lives-behind-a-research-center-a-geek-with-great-cars.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">pointed out</a> in 2002. After a Gotham Gazette profile in 2015, spurred by reports that SUNY Polytechnic had been subpoenaed, Kaloyeros offered, then rescinded an interview, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/government/5925-buffalo-billion-boss-offers-cancels-interview-claims-threat-of-jail" target="_blank" rel="noopener">citing the “threat of jail.”</a></p> <p>While Grose sought to distinguish his style from that of Kaloyeros, he also had praise for SUNY Polytechnic’s former leader.</p> <p>“He was a visionary in terms of what he wanted to create and he had big ideas,” Grose said of Kaloyeros. “Many of them came true.”</p> <p>Asked about improving transparency into Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road (and, soon, NY CREATES) projects, Grose noted steps that boards of those organizations took before he came on about a month ago.</p> <p>They voted to voluntarily conform to the state’s Freedom of Information Law in 2016 and 2017. <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A05854&amp;term=2017&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Actions=Y" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A bill</a> ensuring that FOIL applies to agencies like Fort Schuyler has been introduced in the state Assembly, though it is currently stalled in the Governmental Operations Committee.</p> <p>Cuomo, a Democrat, appoints the head of ESD, currently Howard Zemsky. The governor in the past pushed both more funding through Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road and resisted calls to increase transparency and oversight of their projects. He also appears to have a fairly tight grip over what legislation moves through the Democrat-led Assembly. A variety of accountability measures that have passed the Republican-controlled Senate are <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7718-attention-shifts-to-assembly-hesitation-on-accountability-bills-opposed-by-cuomo" target="_blank" rel="noopener">currently stalled</a> in the Assembly.</p> <p>Recent months have seen Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road open their meetings to the public, and they have begun posting <a href="https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKb1tyhvr9_5h-rWuyvC1vQ" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recordings</a> of their <a href="https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeIjOusMd8u2u6h1_pHbD8g" target="_blank" rel="noopener">sessions</a> to YouTube.</p> <p>However, hard numbers about Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road projects remain difficult to come by. Their websites do not detail how much money the state has actually invested in their projects so far, and they don’t show proof of job growth -- the stated goal of the those investments. One bill in the accountability agenda that has not moved through the Assembly is for a “database of deals” that would catalog such spending and its results across all state economic development programming.</p> <p>Grose said NY CREATES will dispel the mystery. He said his approach is to make sure “there is no doubt about what an investment may be for and who’s involved and what the result is.” He did not provide specifics for what that will look like.</p> <p>Asked how much debt projects under Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road have accumulated, Grose said, "I can't give you a sense. I have no context where I would say I've seen it all added up." Asked whether it would be fair to say the projects were facing hundreds of millions in debt, Grose replied, "I think that's an accurate portrayal." He added, "It’s related to building facilities in Albany. It’s basically paying back loans to build Albany campus facilities."</p> <p>Cuomo has been keeping his distance from Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road and is yet to comment on NY CREATES. His office did not respond to requests for comment for this article.</p> <p>Shortly after the criminal complaint against Kaloyeros became public, the governor announced that Empire State Development would assume oversight of all the projects under SUNY Polytechnic’s aegis.</p> <p>"I want the taxpayers of New York to know that every dollar is guarded and guarded professionally,” <a href="https://www.bizjournals.com/albany/news/2016/09/23/suny-polys-ongoing-projects-move-to-esd-control.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cuomo said</a> in announcing the move in September of 2016.</p> <p>However, government watchdogs have decried that change -- and the creation of NY CREATES -- as inadequate. To groups like Reinvent Albany, Cuomo is doing too little, too late.</p> <p>“Ultimately, we would look at NY CREATES as shuffling around the deck chairs on the titanically confusing and corruption-prone apparatus that the state has created to hand out tax dollars,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, which closely tracks state economic development efforts.</p> <p>He noted that Cuomo has blocked the reform legislation that includes a bill to restore the state comptroller’s power to pre-audit state contracts over $250,000 that flow through SUNY-affiliated nonprofits -- a power that was stripped by Cuomo and the Legislature in the governor’s first year in office, 2011. Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has repeatedly said it should be brought back.</p> <p>“Whatever marginal gain comes out of this is going to be so tiny as not to warrant the pixels on the press release that will come from it,” Kaehny said of NY CREATES.</p> <p>ESD argues that NY CREATES is not just a rebrand, but that it represents a new way of doing business that will be more transparent and less conducive to exploitation.</p> <p>Government watchdogs say irrespective of the bureaucracy surrounding development projects, under the status quo, Cuomo ultimately calls the shots.</p> <p>Grose said he will be answerable to the boards of Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road and, later, the board of NY CREATES; ESD is getting a say in who joins the board of the new organization, and Zemsky will serve as an “ex-officio” member. “I also report to the chancellor of SUNY as a direct boss,” Grose said.</p> <p>Grose indicated his vision is at least as ambitious as Kaloyeros’ was -- even if it comes without the boasting.</p> <p>Grose plans to expand the scope of the state’s public-private tech partnerships to include educational institutions outside SUNY Polytechnic -- and even in other states.</p> <p>He said he will continue Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road’s focus on nanotechnology, and seek to further develop its work in photonics, tech dealing with data transfer through light waves.</p> <p>“I haven’t really focused on what’s happened in the last 10 to 12 years,” he said, alluding to the scandals. “My view going forward is to focus on core objectives and develop strong partnerships that have the right agreements that back them up.”</p> <p>

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by Shant Shahrigianh, Gotham Gazette
      

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