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/carl-heastie 2017-11-23T00:11:03+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Departure of Assembly Ethics Official Prompts Calls for Broader Reforms 2017-11-02T04:00:00+00:00 2017-11-02T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7294:departure-of-assembly-ethics-official-prompts-calls-for-broader-reforms Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/36651878000_a15510bf8a_z.jpg" alt="Carl Heastie Assembly" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Carl Heastie (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>When ethics expert Jane Feldman’s departure from the New York State Assembly, and her appraisal of the experience as “as waste of money,” was <a href="http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Former-top-Assembly-ethics-official-Position-a-12296842.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first reported</a> by the Times Union last week, many saw it as another blow to reform efforts in Albany.</p> <p>Feldman <a href="http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Former-top-Assembly-ethics-official-Position-a-12296842.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">told the outlet</a> she she “didn’t do anything” and called her hiring as executive director of the Office of Ethics and Compliance in September 2015 a “P.R. move.” The office itself, according to Feldman, was a windowless space on the ninth floor of the Legislative Office Building with airflow problems that had been carved out of a larger conference room.</p> <p>Two years ago, the office was created by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie as part of the newly-selected speaker’s larger commitment to introduce more ethics and transparency measures to the 150-seat chamber. Promises were made, in part, to appease critics frustrated by the backroom speakership appointment process, and to signal a new era after that of infamous former Speaker Sheldon Silver.</p> <p>Heastie, a representative of the Bronx, created <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6229-assembly-announces-internal-reform-plan-to-mixed-reviews" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a working group</a> on rules reform, led by Assemblymembers Brian Kavanagh, of Manhattan, and Gary Pretlow, of Mount Vernon, and vowed to choose an “independent” advisor who could offer guidance to members and offer suggestions for improving Assembly processes. Feldman, who previously headed the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission for six years, was chosen by a six-person team following a nationwide search, and was seen as a fresh and independent perspective, someone from outside Albany’s long-standing and secretive power structures.</p> <p>But during her two years in Albany, Feldman says she rarely spoke to Heastie and found even members who were interested in reforming the Albany process rebuffed her suggestions.</p> <p>"There are so many things that are so entrenched,” said Feldman, in an interview with Gotham Gazette. “There are a lot of good members who I think want to see ethics reforms, but when I would tell them how other states do things, the attitude was, 'well, that would never work here.'"</p> <p>Heastie’s office chalked up her experience to a misunderstanding about the job description, saying in a statement, “there was a disconnect between our expectations for the office and this individual’s view of her responsibilities.”</p> <p>But good government watchdogs say the larger problem is that no in-house advisor could make much of a dent in Albany’s ways, including how the legislative houses operate, the loophole-riddled campaign finance system, an opaque budget negotiation process, and flawed oversight structures.</p> <p>“Internal oversight is sort of an oxymoron,” said New York Public Interest Group’s Blair Horner. “The fundamental problem is you can’t really self-regulate when it comes to ethics. It’s like self-policing. An honor system only works for the honorable.”</p> <p>While it might have been helpful to have a person for members to go to for advice, Feldman’s described duties essentially duplicated the role of the Legislative Ethic Commission (LEC), a bi-partisan entity comprised of senators, Assembly members, and outside experts that provides advice to lawmakers on outside income, fundraising, and other conflict of interest queries. In at least one instance, this created a conflict, when the LEC offered one lawmaker different advice than Feldman did about whether the lawmaker could accept a speaking engagement, Feldman told the Times Union.</p> <p>It would be difficult to reconcile the two interpretations of the law given that opinions produced by the LEC are not made available to the public, and even Feldman said she could not access them. Legislative ethics advisory bodies in other states all make their opinions available to the public, and some of them even tweet out their opinions, she noted.</p> <p>Even the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), which acts in an advisory role for the executive branch, and its predecessor agencies have made opinions public and publishes a bulk of information online.</p> <p>By many accounts, the Assembly has become more democratic under Heastie. The majority Democratic conference is consulted more frequently during budget negotiations, leadership opportunities are created for new members, and more hearings for legislation are held. Silver’s extremely intense grip on power has been loosened by his successor. But these strides are “infinitesimally small compared to the needs of the state, which is for radical overhaul of ethics oversight in New York,” according to Horner. “To have an office in the Assembly -- even if it doesn’t have any windows -- to sort of generate recommendations and answers to people’s questions is sort of in the chicken soup category. It doesn’t deal with the cancer of corruption that has plagued the Capitol.”</p> <p>John Kaehny, executive director of ReInvent Albany, said that the biggest problem plaguing state government is its rampant pay-to-play culture. But while the overwhelmingly Democratic Assembly has repeatedly passed legislation that would curb the notorious LLC loophole, which allows wealthy interests to attempt to influence lawmakers with virtually unlimited campaign donations, the bill has been blocked from consideration in the Republican-controlled Senate. Other efforts at campaign finance reform, including instituting lower caps on individual donations and a public-matching system, have also stalled.</p> <p>“If it were up to the Assembly, they would probably pass a New York City-style small donor matching campaign finance system, but that’s not the law, and they have to exist within a system that is really corrupt and just a complete swamp of money,” said Kaehny. “So the question of what exactly Jane Feldman was supposed to do is a little elusive.”</p> <p>When Heastie announced a 2016 ethics reform package -- which included a bill limiting outside income for lawmakers and closure of the LLC loophole -- Feldman said she learned about it viewing the roll-out on T.V., and it became obvious that the job was not as she felt it had been described to her during interviews with the search committee and with the Speaker.</p> <p>In a statement, Heastie spokesperson Mike Whyland said, “the office was created as a training and expertise resource for members and staff and independent of the Speaker’s office. It was never meant as a position that would craft policy and take part in negotiations, something that would obviously compromise the independent nature of the office. This is an independent, bipartisan office that serves both the majority and the minority and thus has no responsibilities to negotiate laws.”</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to Heastie's own press release, the Feldman was supposed to be involved in "reviewing best practices in legislative ethics to make recommendations for improvements."&nbsp;</span></p> <p>But Feldman said the Assembly was resistant to changes as small as publicizing on its website the times that it would go into legislative session. She said she was told that the parties go into conference so it was impossible to predict. “To me this is kind of archaic, but the way members learned what time session would be, is they would get a phone call that said ‘session is going to be at 11.’”</p> <p>“I was told many times by people that I saw my job as much more important than it was intended to be,” said Feldman.</p> <p>In 2015, good government groups sent a series of proposals to Kavanaugh and Pretlow for how the Assembly rules could be improved. The letter, signed by Common Cause, Citizens Union, NYPIRG, ReInvent Albany, and the Brennan Center for Justice, recommended that rank-and-file members be able to independently bring legislation with majority support to the floor -- even over objection of leadership -- that allocation of resources be more equitably distributed among members, as well as other transparency and efficiency measures.</p> <p>“There was resistance to our recommendations, because they didn’t like anything that encroaches on the power of the speaker,” said Horner. “They did make some changes, but I still think there’s a long way to go.”</p> <p>The working group was criticized for not holding any public hearings and for failing to include input from members of the minority conference, but it did produce a lengthy list of <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/Press/20160317/recommendations20160317.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommendations</a>. The fixes were technological and procedural, with an eye on more transparency and communication, such as ensuring wi-fi service throughout the Assembly chamber, increased use of text alerts for staff and members, improvements to the Assembly legislation database, and livestreaming more committee meetings. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6229-assembly-announces-internal-reform-plan-to-mixed-reviews" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">There were</a> a handful of notable changes to the committee process, such as one that would allow all members five opportunities to force a bill to be voted on in committee.</p> <p>“I think there were 90 suggestions that we made, some of them take a longer time than others to be addressed, and most of them were accepted by the speaker,” said Pretlow.</p> <p>But helping to craft the Assembly’s internal rules reform also, apparently, did not fall under Feldman’s purview. Pretlow said Feldman was not at all involved, adding that he did not interact with her during her time in Albany. Feldman, in an email, clarified that the working group met and had decided on recommendations shortly before she arrived in Albany.</p> <p>Whyland did not respond to a request for comment on whether any candidates have emerged to replace Feldman or whether the role would be redefined, but he told the Times Union that the Assembly is looking to fill her former post with "someone who understands New York law, truly grasps the serious responsibilities of the office and its independent and bipartisan nature, and is willing to carry out its mission in full."</p> <p><em>Clarification: The article has been updated to indicate that decisions about rules reform in the Assembly were made prior to Feldman's arrival.</em></p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/36651878000_a15510bf8a_z.jpg" alt="Carl Heastie Assembly" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Carl Heastie (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>When ethics expert Jane Feldman’s departure from the New York State Assembly, and her appraisal of the experience as “as waste of money,” was <a href="http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Former-top-Assembly-ethics-official-Position-a-12296842.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first reported</a> by the Times Union last week, many saw it as another blow to reform efforts in Albany.</p> <p>Feldman <a href="http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Former-top-Assembly-ethics-official-Position-a-12296842.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">told the outlet</a> she she “didn’t do anything” and called her hiring as executive director of the Office of Ethics and Compliance in September 2015 a “P.R. move.” The office itself, according to Feldman, was a windowless space on the ninth floor of the Legislative Office Building with airflow problems that had been carved out of a larger conference room.</p> <p>Two years ago, the office was created by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie as part of the newly-selected speaker’s larger commitment to introduce more ethics and transparency measures to the 150-seat chamber. Promises were made, in part, to appease critics frustrated by the backroom speakership appointment process, and to signal a new era after that of infamous former Speaker Sheldon Silver.</p> <p>Heastie, a representative of the Bronx, created <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6229-assembly-announces-internal-reform-plan-to-mixed-reviews" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a working group</a> on rules reform, led by Assemblymembers Brian Kavanagh, of Manhattan, and Gary Pretlow, of Mount Vernon, and vowed to choose an “independent” advisor who could offer guidance to members and offer suggestions for improving Assembly processes. Feldman, who previously headed the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission for six years, was chosen by a six-person team following a nationwide search, and was seen as a fresh and independent perspective, someone from outside Albany’s long-standing and secretive power structures.</p> <p>But during her two years in Albany, Feldman says she rarely spoke to Heastie and found even members who were interested in reforming the Albany process rebuffed her suggestions.</p> <p>"There are so many things that are so entrenched,” said Feldman, in an interview with Gotham Gazette. “There are a lot of good members who I think want to see ethics reforms, but when I would tell them how other states do things, the attitude was, 'well, that would never work here.'"</p> <p>Heastie’s office chalked up her experience to a misunderstanding about the job description, saying in a statement, “there was a disconnect between our expectations for the office and this individual’s view of her responsibilities.”</p> <p>But good government watchdogs say the larger problem is that no in-house advisor could make much of a dent in Albany’s ways, including how the legislative houses operate, the loophole-riddled campaign finance system, an opaque budget negotiation process, and flawed oversight structures.</p> <p>“Internal oversight is sort of an oxymoron,” said New York Public Interest Group’s Blair Horner. “The fundamental problem is you can’t really self-regulate when it comes to ethics. It’s like self-policing. An honor system only works for the honorable.”</p> <p>While it might have been helpful to have a person for members to go to for advice, Feldman’s described duties essentially duplicated the role of the Legislative Ethic Commission (LEC), a bi-partisan entity comprised of senators, Assembly members, and outside experts that provides advice to lawmakers on outside income, fundraising, and other conflict of interest queries. In at least one instance, this created a conflict, when the LEC offered one lawmaker different advice than Feldman did about whether the lawmaker could accept a speaking engagement, Feldman told the Times Union.</p> <p>It would be difficult to reconcile the two interpretations of the law given that opinions produced by the LEC are not made available to the public, and even Feldman said she could not access them. Legislative ethics advisory bodies in other states all make their opinions available to the public, and some of them even tweet out their opinions, she noted.</p> <p>Even the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), which acts in an advisory role for the executive branch, and its predecessor agencies have made opinions public and publishes a bulk of information online.</p> <p>By many accounts, the Assembly has become more democratic under Heastie. The majority Democratic conference is consulted more frequently during budget negotiations, leadership opportunities are created for new members, and more hearings for legislation are held. Silver’s extremely intense grip on power has been loosened by his successor. But these strides are “infinitesimally small compared to the needs of the state, which is for radical overhaul of ethics oversight in New York,” according to Horner. “To have an office in the Assembly -- even if it doesn’t have any windows -- to sort of generate recommendations and answers to people’s questions is sort of in the chicken soup category. It doesn’t deal with the cancer of corruption that has plagued the Capitol.”</p> <p>John Kaehny, executive director of ReInvent Albany, said that the biggest problem plaguing state government is its rampant pay-to-play culture. But while the overwhelmingly Democratic Assembly has repeatedly passed legislation that would curb the notorious LLC loophole, which allows wealthy interests to attempt to influence lawmakers with virtually unlimited campaign donations, the bill has been blocked from consideration in the Republican-controlled Senate. Other efforts at campaign finance reform, including instituting lower caps on individual donations and a public-matching system, have also stalled.</p> <p>“If it were up to the Assembly, they would probably pass a New York City-style small donor matching campaign finance system, but that’s not the law, and they have to exist within a system that is really corrupt and just a complete swamp of money,” said Kaehny. “So the question of what exactly Jane Feldman was supposed to do is a little elusive.”</p> <p>When Heastie announced a 2016 ethics reform package -- which included a bill limiting outside income for lawmakers and closure of the LLC loophole -- Feldman said she learned about it viewing the roll-out on T.V., and it became obvious that the job was not as she felt it had been described to her during interviews with the search committee and with the Speaker.</p> <p>In a statement, Heastie spokesperson Mike Whyland said, “the office was created as a training and expertise resource for members and staff and independent of the Speaker’s office. It was never meant as a position that would craft policy and take part in negotiations, something that would obviously compromise the independent nature of the office. This is an independent, bipartisan office that serves both the majority and the minority and thus has no responsibilities to negotiate laws.”</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to Heastie's own press release, the Feldman was supposed to be involved in "reviewing best practices in legislative ethics to make recommendations for improvements."&nbsp;</span></p> <p>But Feldman said the Assembly was resistant to changes as small as publicizing on its website the times that it would go into legislative session. She said she was told that the parties go into conference so it was impossible to predict. “To me this is kind of archaic, but the way members learned what time session would be, is they would get a phone call that said ‘session is going to be at 11.’”</p> <p>“I was told many times by people that I saw my job as much more important than it was intended to be,” said Feldman.</p> <p>In 2015, good government groups sent a series of proposals to Kavanaugh and Pretlow for how the Assembly rules could be improved. The letter, signed by Common Cause, Citizens Union, NYPIRG, ReInvent Albany, and the Brennan Center for Justice, recommended that rank-and-file members be able to independently bring legislation with majority support to the floor -- even over objection of leadership -- that allocation of resources be more equitably distributed among members, as well as other transparency and efficiency measures.</p> <p>“There was resistance to our recommendations, because they didn’t like anything that encroaches on the power of the speaker,” said Horner. “They did make some changes, but I still think there’s a long way to go.”</p> <p>The working group was criticized for not holding any public hearings and for failing to include input from members of the minority conference, but it did produce a lengthy list of <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/Press/20160317/recommendations20160317.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommendations</a>. The fixes were technological and procedural, with an eye on more transparency and communication, such as ensuring wi-fi service throughout the Assembly chamber, increased use of text alerts for staff and members, improvements to the Assembly legislation database, and livestreaming more committee meetings. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6229-assembly-announces-internal-reform-plan-to-mixed-reviews" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">There were</a> a handful of notable changes to the committee process, such as one that would allow all members five opportunities to force a bill to be voted on in committee.</p> <p>“I think there were 90 suggestions that we made, some of them take a longer time than others to be addressed, and most of them were accepted by the speaker,” said Pretlow.</p> <p>But helping to craft the Assembly’s internal rules reform also, apparently, did not fall under Feldman’s purview. Pretlow said Feldman was not at all involved, adding that he did not interact with her during her time in Albany. Feldman, in an email, clarified that the working group met and had decided on recommendations shortly before she arrived in Albany.</p> <p>Whyland did not respond to a request for comment on whether any candidates have emerged to replace Feldman or whether the role would be redefined, but he told the Times Union that the Assembly is looking to fill her former post with "someone who understands New York law, truly grasps the serious responsibilities of the office and its independent and bipartisan nature, and is willing to carry out its mission in full."</p> <p><em>Clarification: The article has been updated to indicate that decisions about rules reform in the Assembly were made prior to Feldman's arrival.</em></p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Top City Electeds Skip Letter Wooing Amazon 2017-10-19T04:00:00+00:00 2017-10-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7266:top-city-electeds-skip-letter-wooing-amazon Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/wtc-orange-amazon-via-edc.jpg" alt="wtc orange amazon via edc" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>One World Trade Center lit up orange for Amazon (photo via NYC EDC)</p> <hr /> <p>New York is laying out the red carpet to entice online retail giant Amazon to locate its new corporate headquarters in the state. Governor Andrew Cuomo promised a slew of incentives to support four official proposals from different regions that were submitted to the company on Wednesday, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio lit up the city in orange at night as a fawning branding appeal.</p> <p>New York City’s own <a href="https://www.dropbox.com/s/omgt5ywmgzundkv/Amazon%20Deck%20for%20Press%20-%2010.18.2017.pdf?dl=0&amp;utm_source=Press+Release&amp;utm_campaign=5db591fe9c-2017_10_18_NYC_Submits_Amazon_Proposal_PA&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_b804b7ba34-5db591fe9c-102476565" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bid</a> -- which included four possible business districts -- was backed by about 70 elected officials that represent the city, including members of Congress, state Senators and Assembly members, City Council members, borough presidents, and Public Advocate Letitia James. But at least four notable elected officials were conspicuously absent from the letter of support sent by the mayor’s office to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.</p> <p>Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, of the Bronx, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, and City Council Members Corey Johnson and Donovan Richards, both contenders to become the next Speaker of the City Council, did not sign on to the letter.</p> <p>“No city embodies the American traditions of innovation and creativity quite like New York City,” <a href="https://www.dropbox.com/s/fa1bvw2m82molqv/Amazon%20Elected%20Letter.pdf?dl=0&amp;utm_source=Press+Release&amp;utm_campaign=5db591fe9c-2017_10_18_NYC_Submits_Amazon_Proposal_PA&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_b804b7ba34-5db591fe9c-102476565" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the letter</a> reads. “It has transformed from a Dutch settlement, to the nation’s first capital, to a booming industrial center. It became a port of hope for millions of immigrants looking for a better life, and a model for urban revitalization. From Broadway, the Bronx Zoo and the Brooklyn Bridge, to Citi Field and the shores of Staten Island, New York City is a place where history is made every day. Our tradition of reinvention matches yours, and we invite you to join us in writing our next chapters together.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for Stringer declined to comment. Multiple messages and emails sent to spokespeople for Heastie were not returned.</p> <p>“We’re excited about the prospect of new businesses coming to New York City,” said Jordan Gibbons, a spokesperson for Council Member Richards, “but before we support the plan, we need more information about job standards and impact on local businesses.”</p> <p>Council Member Johnson wrote in a text that he “didn’t sign on to [the] letter because I have concerns about Amazon’s labor record but also recognize 50K jobs would be good for the city.” &nbsp;</p> <p>As Johnson noted, Amazon’s second headquarters is expected to create 50,000 jobs and bring in roughly $5 billion in investment. One of the proposed areas for Amazon’s headquarters, Midtown West, falls in Johnson’s Manhattan district. City Council members representing other proposed sites for the headquarters signed on to the letter.</p> <p>Amazon’s announcement and request for proposals triggered a mad dash by dozens of cities across the country to lure the multi-billion-dollar company. To bolster their bids, some cities and states have promised enormous tax breaks while others have pledged infrastructure investments around a potential Amazon campus. Most have hedged their bets on being able to provide the optimum balance of tech talent, affordable and ample real estate, and an appealing quality of life. One municipality in Georgia even went so far as to <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2017/10/03/city-aims-name-new-town-company-amazon-georgia/727765001/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">propose</a> creating an entirely new city named for the online retailer.</p> <p>Short of naming a new business district after Amazon, New York City’s pitch includes all those aspects. Culled from more than two dozen proposals from across the five boroughs, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, in collaboration with the Empire State Development Corporation, decided on four city areas that met Amazon’s criteria -- Midtown West, Long Island City, Lower Manhattan, and the Brooklyn Tech Triangle. The city is banking on many factors, including its pool of 2.3 million residents who hold a bachelor’s degree and above -- a number higher than the combined comparable workforce of Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.</p> <p>The city has 296,000 workers in the tech industry and is growing rapidly in sectors of the economy where Amazon is diversifying, including media, advertising, fashion, and manufacturing.</p> <p>And the city is already an attractive destination for Amazon, which has a distribution and fulfillment center, corporate offices and retail space in the city with plans to expand in Manhattan. Amazon’s website says it has 1,000 employees in New York, plus seasonal additions around the winter holidays.</p> <p>An EDC spokesperson said the city cast a wide net seeking support for the proposal. “Considering how hard it is to get New Yorkers to agree on anything, the fact that we got so many signatures in such a short time was pretty impressive and overwhelming,” the spokesperson said, expressing optimism that New York would outmatch other cities with its bid.</p> <p>Asked at an unrelated Thursday news conference about his pursuit of Amazon when he has been opposed to Walmart opening in the city, de Blasio called it “apples and oranges.” “Amazon, there are some issues that need to be addressed with labor, there’s no two ways about it. But, at the same time, this is a company talking about potentially fundamentally changing the economy in New York City. Adding 50,000 jobs is a game-changer. And it’s something we need and we need more high-quality jobs for the people of New York City. So we can work on those labor issues and I’m happy to work on those labor issues, but no, I’m convinced that Amazon will be a net gain for New York City, unquestionably.”</p> <p>Responding to Johnson’s concerns, the EDC spokesperson said that Amazon’s presence in New York would afford the city an opportunity to engage directly with the firm and “work with them to advance our shared values.” Pointing out that it was premature to evaluate a deal that hasn’t yet been approved, the spokesperson said the city would be able to negotiate down the line to add guarantees to ensure the number of jobs created, salary levels and that jobs go to New Yorkers. “It’s pretty clear to us that they want to build the headquarters with the community, not in the community,” the spokesperson said.</p> <p>“It’s puzzling, I don’t know why you’d want to turn down a shot at 50,000 good-paying jobs,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future, when asked why leaders like Stringer, Heastie, and Johnson would not sign on. He conceded that concerns about corporate subsidies are valid, but that the Amazon opportunity is too good to pass up. “It’s a big win for New York City if we can get it.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/wtc-orange-amazon-via-edc.jpg" alt="wtc orange amazon via edc" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>One World Trade Center lit up orange for Amazon (photo via NYC EDC)</p> <hr /> <p>New York is laying out the red carpet to entice online retail giant Amazon to locate its new corporate headquarters in the state. Governor Andrew Cuomo promised a slew of incentives to support four official proposals from different regions that were submitted to the company on Wednesday, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio lit up the city in orange at night as a fawning branding appeal.</p> <p>New York City’s own <a href="https://www.dropbox.com/s/omgt5ywmgzundkv/Amazon%20Deck%20for%20Press%20-%2010.18.2017.pdf?dl=0&amp;utm_source=Press+Release&amp;utm_campaign=5db591fe9c-2017_10_18_NYC_Submits_Amazon_Proposal_PA&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_b804b7ba34-5db591fe9c-102476565" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bid</a> -- which included four possible business districts -- was backed by about 70 elected officials that represent the city, including members of Congress, state Senators and Assembly members, City Council members, borough presidents, and Public Advocate Letitia James. But at least four notable elected officials were conspicuously absent from the letter of support sent by the mayor’s office to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.</p> <p>Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, of the Bronx, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, and City Council Members Corey Johnson and Donovan Richards, both contenders to become the next Speaker of the City Council, did not sign on to the letter.</p> <p>“No city embodies the American traditions of innovation and creativity quite like New York City,” <a href="https://www.dropbox.com/s/fa1bvw2m82molqv/Amazon%20Elected%20Letter.pdf?dl=0&amp;utm_source=Press+Release&amp;utm_campaign=5db591fe9c-2017_10_18_NYC_Submits_Amazon_Proposal_PA&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_b804b7ba34-5db591fe9c-102476565" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the letter</a> reads. “It has transformed from a Dutch settlement, to the nation’s first capital, to a booming industrial center. It became a port of hope for millions of immigrants looking for a better life, and a model for urban revitalization. From Broadway, the Bronx Zoo and the Brooklyn Bridge, to Citi Field and the shores of Staten Island, New York City is a place where history is made every day. Our tradition of reinvention matches yours, and we invite you to join us in writing our next chapters together.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for Stringer declined to comment. Multiple messages and emails sent to spokespeople for Heastie were not returned.</p> <p>“We’re excited about the prospect of new businesses coming to New York City,” said Jordan Gibbons, a spokesperson for Council Member Richards, “but before we support the plan, we need more information about job standards and impact on local businesses.”</p> <p>Council Member Johnson wrote in a text that he “didn’t sign on to [the] letter because I have concerns about Amazon’s labor record but also recognize 50K jobs would be good for the city.” &nbsp;</p> <p>As Johnson noted, Amazon’s second headquarters is expected to create 50,000 jobs and bring in roughly $5 billion in investment. One of the proposed areas for Amazon’s headquarters, Midtown West, falls in Johnson’s Manhattan district. City Council members representing other proposed sites for the headquarters signed on to the letter.</p> <p>Amazon’s announcement and request for proposals triggered a mad dash by dozens of cities across the country to lure the multi-billion-dollar company. To bolster their bids, some cities and states have promised enormous tax breaks while others have pledged infrastructure investments around a potential Amazon campus. Most have hedged their bets on being able to provide the optimum balance of tech talent, affordable and ample real estate, and an appealing quality of life. One municipality in Georgia even went so far as to <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2017/10/03/city-aims-name-new-town-company-amazon-georgia/727765001/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">propose</a> creating an entirely new city named for the online retailer.</p> <p>Short of naming a new business district after Amazon, New York City’s pitch includes all those aspects. Culled from more than two dozen proposals from across the five boroughs, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, in collaboration with the Empire State Development Corporation, decided on four city areas that met Amazon’s criteria -- Midtown West, Long Island City, Lower Manhattan, and the Brooklyn Tech Triangle. The city is banking on many factors, including its pool of 2.3 million residents who hold a bachelor’s degree and above -- a number higher than the combined comparable workforce of Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.</p> <p>The city has 296,000 workers in the tech industry and is growing rapidly in sectors of the economy where Amazon is diversifying, including media, advertising, fashion, and manufacturing.</p> <p>And the city is already an attractive destination for Amazon, which has a distribution and fulfillment center, corporate offices and retail space in the city with plans to expand in Manhattan. Amazon’s website says it has 1,000 employees in New York, plus seasonal additions around the winter holidays.</p> <p>An EDC spokesperson said the city cast a wide net seeking support for the proposal. “Considering how hard it is to get New Yorkers to agree on anything, the fact that we got so many signatures in such a short time was pretty impressive and overwhelming,” the spokesperson said, expressing optimism that New York would outmatch other cities with its bid.</p> <p>Asked at an unrelated Thursday news conference about his pursuit of Amazon when he has been opposed to Walmart opening in the city, de Blasio called it “apples and oranges.” “Amazon, there are some issues that need to be addressed with labor, there’s no two ways about it. But, at the same time, this is a company talking about potentially fundamentally changing the economy in New York City. Adding 50,000 jobs is a game-changer. And it’s something we need and we need more high-quality jobs for the people of New York City. So we can work on those labor issues and I’m happy to work on those labor issues, but no, I’m convinced that Amazon will be a net gain for New York City, unquestionably.”</p> <p>Responding to Johnson’s concerns, the EDC spokesperson said that Amazon’s presence in New York would afford the city an opportunity to engage directly with the firm and “work with them to advance our shared values.” Pointing out that it was premature to evaluate a deal that hasn’t yet been approved, the spokesperson said the city would be able to negotiate down the line to add guarantees to ensure the number of jobs created, salary levels and that jobs go to New Yorkers. “It’s pretty clear to us that they want to build the headquarters with the community, not in the community,” the spokesperson said.</p> <p>“It’s puzzling, I don’t know why you’d want to turn down a shot at 50,000 good-paying jobs,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future, when asked why leaders like Stringer, Heastie, and Johnson would not sign on. He conceded that concerns about corporate subsidies are valid, but that the Amazon opportunity is too good to pass up. “It’s a big win for New York City if we can get it.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
New York's Top Democrats Rally Against Obamacare Repeal Bill 2017-07-18T01:15:06+00:00 2017-07-18T01:15:06+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7069:cuomo-and-schneiderman-pledge-lawsuit-against-obamacare-repeal-bill Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/35598816530_8312988792_z.jpg" alt="35598816530 8312988792 z" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Governor Cuomo at Monday's healthcare rally (photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>At a packed auditorium at Mount Sinai Hospital Monday afternoon, four of the state’s top elected Democrats united in a show of force to rally against a common enemy: the Republican-led U.S. Senate’s bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare.</p> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio banded together on Monday, pledging to take legal action should the Senate pass the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the bill that would replace former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare legislation. The Senate proposal would slash federal Medicaid funding, curtail the program’s expansion, and eliminate tax credits for individuals to purchase insurance on the open market, among other things.</p> <p>(Although a procedural vote on the bill was meant to be delayed until after the return of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who is recovering from surgery to remove a blood clot above his left eye, the bill seemed dead on arrival when two more Republican Senators <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/17/politics/health-care-motion-to-proceed-jerry-moran-mike-lee/index.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">said Monday night that they would oppose it</a>.)</p> <p>“We're going to pay three times more to take care of the people in the emergency rooms than we would have paid if we'd actually given them healthcare,” said Cuomo of the Senate proposal, kicking off the rally.</p> <p>Schneiderman, following Cuomo’s lead, promised that if the BCRA passed, “I will go to court to challenge it. I will sue the Trump administration.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7035-focused-on-fighting-trump-schneiderman-looks-away-from-albany-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Focused on Fighting Trump, is Schneiderman Looking Away from Albany Reform?</a>]</p> <p>Cuomo blamed a rising “ultraconservative ideology” in Washington D.C. for ensuring that Senate Republicans were “not talking about changing health care for all americans, they're talking about changing healthcare for poor americans.” He reserved particular derision for the Faso-Collins amendment, an addition to the Senate bill from upstate GOP Reps. John Faso and Chris Collins that would move Medicaid costs from the counties to the state, calling it an “old-fashioned con game.”</p> <p>The amendment, which Faso and Collins hope will reduce local property taxes, would explicitly only apply in the state of New York and has not been a focus of the national conversation around the Congress’ attempts to overturn Obamacare. But it has become a central flashpoint in New York as state officials balk at a provision that would cut $2.3 billion in federal funding if the state fails to pick up the Medicaid tab. Schneiderman, who called the whole bill “unconstitutional,” went so far as to single out that provision and referred to Collins and Faso as “two people who supposedly represent New York.”</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio made no mention of the amendment, but instead focused on the unity displayed by elected officials, labor, and business. The mayor himself has repeatedly butted heads with the governor in the past and has seldom been seen at public events with him. The mayor said that the majority of Americans rejected the healthcare bill, and “what's happening in the USA today is spitting in the face of that majority.” On Monday, the mayor urged New Yorkers to spread the message across the country, telling their friends to call their senators. “We all know where those swing votes are,” he said.</p> <p>The four Democrats also warned of threats to state hospitals should the Republican bill pass, with Heastie asserting that New York has the “greatest healthcare delivery system in the nation, and to punish us because we deliver the best healthcare is unconscionable.”</p> <p>He echoed the governor, who had raised the spectre of “bankrupt hospitals” and 1.2 million healthcare jobs being jeopardized in the state. “It means 20 percent of the state economy that is healthcare would be devastated if these cuts went through,” Cuomo said.</p> <p>Monday’s rally was purportedly the launch of a renewed push to defeat the unpopular Senate bill, which already seems to be on its last legs. Schneiderman called the effort a coalition that would be led by the governor over the coming weeks with the intent of “sending this disgusting, anti-health bill on a one-way trip to the trash heap of history.”</p> <p>

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by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/35598816530_8312988792_z.jpg" alt="35598816530 8312988792 z" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Governor Cuomo at Monday's healthcare rally (photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>At a packed auditorium at Mount Sinai Hospital Monday afternoon, four of the state’s top elected Democrats united in a show of force to rally against a common enemy: the Republican-led U.S. Senate’s bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare.</p> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio banded together on Monday, pledging to take legal action should the Senate pass the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the bill that would replace former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare legislation. The Senate proposal would slash federal Medicaid funding, curtail the program’s expansion, and eliminate tax credits for individuals to purchase insurance on the open market, among other things.</p> <p>(Although a procedural vote on the bill was meant to be delayed until after the return of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who is recovering from surgery to remove a blood clot above his left eye, the bill seemed dead on arrival when two more Republican Senators <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/17/politics/health-care-motion-to-proceed-jerry-moran-mike-lee/index.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">said Monday night that they would oppose it</a>.)</p> <p>“We're going to pay three times more to take care of the people in the emergency rooms than we would have paid if we'd actually given them healthcare,” said Cuomo of the Senate proposal, kicking off the rally.</p> <p>Schneiderman, following Cuomo’s lead, promised that if the BCRA passed, “I will go to court to challenge it. I will sue the Trump administration.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7035-focused-on-fighting-trump-schneiderman-looks-away-from-albany-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Focused on Fighting Trump, is Schneiderman Looking Away from Albany Reform?</a>]</p> <p>Cuomo blamed a rising “ultraconservative ideology” in Washington D.C. for ensuring that Senate Republicans were “not talking about changing health care for all americans, they're talking about changing healthcare for poor americans.” He reserved particular derision for the Faso-Collins amendment, an addition to the Senate bill from upstate GOP Reps. John Faso and Chris Collins that would move Medicaid costs from the counties to the state, calling it an “old-fashioned con game.”</p> <p>The amendment, which Faso and Collins hope will reduce local property taxes, would explicitly only apply in the state of New York and has not been a focus of the national conversation around the Congress’ attempts to overturn Obamacare. But it has become a central flashpoint in New York as state officials balk at a provision that would cut $2.3 billion in federal funding if the state fails to pick up the Medicaid tab. Schneiderman, who called the whole bill “unconstitutional,” went so far as to single out that provision and referred to Collins and Faso as “two people who supposedly represent New York.”</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio made no mention of the amendment, but instead focused on the unity displayed by elected officials, labor, and business. The mayor himself has repeatedly butted heads with the governor in the past and has seldom been seen at public events with him. The mayor said that the majority of Americans rejected the healthcare bill, and “what's happening in the USA today is spitting in the face of that majority.” On Monday, the mayor urged New Yorkers to spread the message across the country, telling their friends to call their senators. “We all know where those swing votes are,” he said.</p> <p>The four Democrats also warned of threats to state hospitals should the Republican bill pass, with Heastie asserting that New York has the “greatest healthcare delivery system in the nation, and to punish us because we deliver the best healthcare is unconscionable.”</p> <p>He echoed the governor, who had raised the spectre of “bankrupt hospitals” and 1.2 million healthcare jobs being jeopardized in the state. “It means 20 percent of the state economy that is healthcare would be devastated if these cuts went through,” Cuomo said.</p> <p>Monday’s rally was purportedly the launch of a renewed push to defeat the unpopular Senate bill, which already seems to be on its last legs. Schneiderman called the effort a coalition that would be led by the governor over the coming weeks with the intent of “sending this disgusting, anti-health bill on a one-way trip to the trash heap of history.”</p> <p>

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by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated.&nbsp;</p>
De Blasio Made a Charter School Deal, But Isn’t Interested in Talking About It 2017-07-09T04:00:00+00:00 2017-07-09T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7054:de-blasio-made-a-charter-school-deal-but-isn-t-interested-in-talking-about-it Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/35616994065_a58e625813_z.jpg" alt="de blasio mayoral control event" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio at City Hall, June 29 (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio negotiated a deal to extend mayoral control of city schools in exchange for a set of administrative actions benefitting charter schools. When the mayor celebrated the extension of mayoral control -- which was due to expire at the end of June, but was extended June 29 -- he did not release the details of the charter-friendly promises he was making to Republican state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, and their charter sector allies.</p> <p>The Democratic mayor said at press conferences on both June 29 and June 30 that the details, all non-legislative, were still being finalized and that when they were ready they would be shared. When Gotham Gazette asked the mayor if he wasn’t participating in the type of secretive backroom dealing he’s criticized Albany lawmakers for, he said it was different because the details still weren’t final.</p> <p>The Wall Street Journal <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/mayoral-control-deal-will-allow-more-charter-schools-in-new-york-city-1499303669?utm_source=Master+Mailing+List&amp;utm_campaign=e3652fb6c2-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_07_06&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_23e3b96952-e3652fb6c2-75489945" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reported</a> one key detail late Wednesday night and the mayor’s press office only released the six-point agenda upon subequent requests from news outlets, many of which, including Gotham Gazette, made that inquiry on Thursday. In other words, there was no formal announcement, no press release emailed widely to reporters and editors and posted to the city’s website.</p> <p>De Blasio also said at the end of June that once the details were public he’d take questions about them, but he left town for Germany Thursday night without doing so. When the mayor called in for his weekly Friday appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show, <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/askthemayor-g20-summit" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the segment</a> was dominated by the surprise Germany trip, which the mayor took in order to speak at a rally outside the G20 summit of world leaders, the recent killing of an NYPD officer, and homelessness.</p> <p>In one sense, de Blasio successfully avoided talking about a charter school-friendly agreement that, while expedient to win two more years of mayoral control, he is not excited about. De Blasio is a long-time charter school foe, though tensions have cooled over the past two years, and is closely aligned with teachers unions, which see the largely non-unionized charter sector as an existential threat. The mayor’s antipathy toward charter schools has been at the forefront of his challenges to win a long-term extension of mayoral control given the strong support for charters from Cuomo and the Republican-controlled state Senate. The third major entity involved in the Albany decision-making, Assembly Democrats, are even more anti-charter than de Blasio.</p> <p>The charter school package de Blasio agreed to includes changes around rent reimbursements from the city to charter schools and school space utilization for charters, as well as MetroCard subsidies to some charter students and, most notably, an agreement that about 22 charter schools no longer operating can be replaced without an increase in the current cap on charters in the city. That cap was the key point of contention in negotiations among stakeholders in Albany, with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie refusing to accept any increase in the cap. Instead, de Blasio agreed to a de facto increase.</p> <p>According to City Hall, the changes will cost about $10 million per year, including about $7 million to increase charter school space reimbursement from 20% to 30%, which is already included in the budget, and $3 million for MetroCards for charter students who need transportation before busing begins each school year. It’s too early to tell if there will be any additional costs to the city related to the 20-plus “zombie” charters that are non-operational and now available to replacement through the charter authorization process, a City Hall spokesperson said.</p> <p>It’s no surprise that City Hall did not send out a press release announcing the details of the deal or that the mayor didn’t make himself available to discuss them. At the same time, given de Blasio’s challenges in Albany, especially with regard to Senate Republicans and Cuomo, who both receive significant funding from wealthy charter school supporters, the mayor has sought to avoid charter-related conflict over the last two years. In 2014, de Blasio received a major setback through state legislation guaranteeing charter schools either space in public school buildings or rent reimbursements, some of which the city would have to pay.</p> <p>In a statement, de Blasio spokesperson Freddi Goldstein said, “The charter sector is an important partner in our mission to deliver an excellent education to every child in New York City. Through the debate over mayoral control, we identified a few common-sense areas where we could better work together to ensure all 1.1 million school children have a chance to succeed.”</p> <p>There are currently 216 charter schools operating in New York City, with 23 slots left under the existing cap, according to the New York City Charter School Center, and 22 defunct charters would be open to replacement under the new agreement. Meaning, without a change to the law in Albany, there is room for 45 new charter schools in New York City.</p> <p>When a deal extending mayoral control of city schools was voted through a special session of the state Legislature on June 29, de Blasio called a City Hall press conference to celebrate. “Well, we have very good news for the children of New York City and for the parents of New York City,” de Blasio said. “Mayoral control of education has been extended for the next two years. This is a hugely important moment.”</p> <p>In the question-and-answer session that followed the mayor’s brief remarks, Gotham Gazette asked how raising the charter school cap had been dropped from the negotiations. Senate Republicans had tied extending mayoral control to an increase in the cap. De Blasio credited Heastie, who had been steadfast about not agreeing to raise the cap, and said “eventually I think that logic pervaded in many ways.” He did not mention his side deal.</p> <p>Asked then by Gotham Gazette if it was simply that Senate Republicans backed down, de Blasio said, “I won't speak for any of the parties.” He said that he had had a lot of productive conversation with Sen. Flanagan and, among other points, added, “I think we found some real common ground in terms of the ability to work together on specific ideas.”</p> <p>When a reporter from The New York Times later followed up, asking if there were any side agreements related to charter schools, de Blasio finally admitted there was. “There were a lot of conversations about a set of issues related to charters, that we believe could be handled administratively,” he said. “Those ideas are being crystallized into a final form. There's still some finishing touches to put on. There will be an upcoming announcement on that.”</p> <p>Asked to elaborate, de Blasio said he wasn’t ready “to go into the specifics, because I want to respect that all the parties have to finish the final touches, as I said, but again, very productive conversations about things where we could work together.”</p> <p>He added: “I thought a number of the issues that were raised were perfectly fair, you know, were respectful of what the city was trying to do overall, in terms of education, were not onerous. There were ways we could work together, and that was part of what I think energized this process, was the more we talked about actual substance. When I said, ‘Well, wait a minute. We could work together on that. Let's see if we can solve that.’ The speaker was very clear about not wanting to address those issues legislatively, which I, again, think was a fair approach, given the sanctity of mayoral control of education. That didn't mean we couldn't look at other ways to address the issue, so again, I believe you'll see, very soon, some final outcomes on that.”</p> <p>The next day, during another press conference exchange, de Blasio told Gotham Gazette, “Of course I’ll explain them when everything is finished, which I think will be quite soon. Again, there’s a lot of parties to this process, and I’m being very transparent about the fact that we talked about some real important issues related to charters. We came to some specific understandings, details still being worked out. Of course it’ll be published. And then, you’ll have at it. You’ll have every opportunity to make questions. But I have to emphasize, and this was important to what Speaker Heastie said in the beginning: It is not a legislative action, it was not something that had to be approved by the Senate and the Assembly formally. This is me deciding, as Mayor of New York City, with my administrative capacity, that there were some things we could do that would address some outstanding concerns of charters and I thought they were fair. But as soon as it’s cooked, as soon as it’s finalized, yes, everything will be public and then we’ll happily take questions on it.”</p> <p>It is apparent that Heastie’s ability to say he did not give in legislatively on any benefits for charter schools is important to the speaker and many of his members, who are closely aligned with and funded by the teachers unions.</p> <p>In statements following the release of the charter-related promises from the city, Flanagan celebrated and Heastie distanced.</p> <p>According to Flanagan, whose office emailed his statement to its entire press list, the “announcement by Mayor de Blasio is an important step forward for charter school students and for their families, as well as for the 50,000 children now on waiting lists for a seat inside a charter school. They are clamoring for a chance at success, and together we have provided them with a better opportunity to achieve their goals, to succeed and to get ahead. I thank the Mayor for his openness in addressing this important issue and for demonstrating his support for both children who are currently in a charter school and those who would like to be.”</p> <p>The statement from Heastie’s office, on the other hand, emphasized that the Assembly had not given an inch on charter schools. “As for charter schools, the Speaker was not an active participant in any discussions or negotiations,” said a Heastie spokesperson. “He said from the beginning the Assembly Majority would not trade anything regarding charter schools for mayoral control. Mayor de Blasio and the city's Department of Education have the right to make decisions of their choosing in regards to the administration of charter schools that do not require any legislative action.”</p> <p>When Gotham Gazette asked de Blasio’s office when the mayor had meant when on June 29 he said "as soon as it’s finalized, yes, everything will be public and then we’ll happily take questions on it," his spokesperson emailed back to say, “At his next public event, same as always.”</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/35616994065_a58e625813_z.jpg" alt="de blasio mayoral control event" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio at City Hall, June 29 (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio negotiated a deal to extend mayoral control of city schools in exchange for a set of administrative actions benefitting charter schools. When the mayor celebrated the extension of mayoral control -- which was due to expire at the end of June, but was extended June 29 -- he did not release the details of the charter-friendly promises he was making to Republican state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, and their charter sector allies.</p> <p>The Democratic mayor said at press conferences on both June 29 and June 30 that the details, all non-legislative, were still being finalized and that when they were ready they would be shared. When Gotham Gazette asked the mayor if he wasn’t participating in the type of secretive backroom dealing he’s criticized Albany lawmakers for, he said it was different because the details still weren’t final.</p> <p>The Wall Street Journal <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/mayoral-control-deal-will-allow-more-charter-schools-in-new-york-city-1499303669?utm_source=Master+Mailing+List&amp;utm_campaign=e3652fb6c2-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_07_06&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_23e3b96952-e3652fb6c2-75489945" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reported</a> one key detail late Wednesday night and the mayor’s press office only released the six-point agenda upon subequent requests from news outlets, many of which, including Gotham Gazette, made that inquiry on Thursday. In other words, there was no formal announcement, no press release emailed widely to reporters and editors and posted to the city’s website.</p> <p>De Blasio also said at the end of June that once the details were public he’d take questions about them, but he left town for Germany Thursday night without doing so. When the mayor called in for his weekly Friday appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show, <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/askthemayor-g20-summit" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the segment</a> was dominated by the surprise Germany trip, which the mayor took in order to speak at a rally outside the G20 summit of world leaders, the recent killing of an NYPD officer, and homelessness.</p> <p>In one sense, de Blasio successfully avoided talking about a charter school-friendly agreement that, while expedient to win two more years of mayoral control, he is not excited about. De Blasio is a long-time charter school foe, though tensions have cooled over the past two years, and is closely aligned with teachers unions, which see the largely non-unionized charter sector as an existential threat. The mayor’s antipathy toward charter schools has been at the forefront of his challenges to win a long-term extension of mayoral control given the strong support for charters from Cuomo and the Republican-controlled state Senate. The third major entity involved in the Albany decision-making, Assembly Democrats, are even more anti-charter than de Blasio.</p> <p>The charter school package de Blasio agreed to includes changes around rent reimbursements from the city to charter schools and school space utilization for charters, as well as MetroCard subsidies to some charter students and, most notably, an agreement that about 22 charter schools no longer operating can be replaced without an increase in the current cap on charters in the city. That cap was the key point of contention in negotiations among stakeholders in Albany, with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie refusing to accept any increase in the cap. Instead, de Blasio agreed to a de facto increase.</p> <p>According to City Hall, the changes will cost about $10 million per year, including about $7 million to increase charter school space reimbursement from 20% to 30%, which is already included in the budget, and $3 million for MetroCards for charter students who need transportation before busing begins each school year. It’s too early to tell if there will be any additional costs to the city related to the 20-plus “zombie” charters that are non-operational and now available to replacement through the charter authorization process, a City Hall spokesperson said.</p> <p>It’s no surprise that City Hall did not send out a press release announcing the details of the deal or that the mayor didn’t make himself available to discuss them. At the same time, given de Blasio’s challenges in Albany, especially with regard to Senate Republicans and Cuomo, who both receive significant funding from wealthy charter school supporters, the mayor has sought to avoid charter-related conflict over the last two years. In 2014, de Blasio received a major setback through state legislation guaranteeing charter schools either space in public school buildings or rent reimbursements, some of which the city would have to pay.</p> <p>In a statement, de Blasio spokesperson Freddi Goldstein said, “The charter sector is an important partner in our mission to deliver an excellent education to every child in New York City. Through the debate over mayoral control, we identified a few common-sense areas where we could better work together to ensure all 1.1 million school children have a chance to succeed.”</p> <p>There are currently 216 charter schools operating in New York City, with 23 slots left under the existing cap, according to the New York City Charter School Center, and 22 defunct charters would be open to replacement under the new agreement. Meaning, without a change to the law in Albany, there is room for 45 new charter schools in New York City.</p> <p>When a deal extending mayoral control of city schools was voted through a special session of the state Legislature on June 29, de Blasio called a City Hall press conference to celebrate. “Well, we have very good news for the children of New York City and for the parents of New York City,” de Blasio said. “Mayoral control of education has been extended for the next two years. This is a hugely important moment.”</p> <p>In the question-and-answer session that followed the mayor’s brief remarks, Gotham Gazette asked how raising the charter school cap had been dropped from the negotiations. Senate Republicans had tied extending mayoral control to an increase in the cap. De Blasio credited Heastie, who had been steadfast about not agreeing to raise the cap, and said “eventually I think that logic pervaded in many ways.” He did not mention his side deal.</p> <p>Asked then by Gotham Gazette if it was simply that Senate Republicans backed down, de Blasio said, “I won't speak for any of the parties.” He said that he had had a lot of productive conversation with Sen. Flanagan and, among other points, added, “I think we found some real common ground in terms of the ability to work together on specific ideas.”</p> <p>When a reporter from The New York Times later followed up, asking if there were any side agreements related to charter schools, de Blasio finally admitted there was. “There were a lot of conversations about a set of issues related to charters, that we believe could be handled administratively,” he said. “Those ideas are being crystallized into a final form. There's still some finishing touches to put on. There will be an upcoming announcement on that.”</p> <p>Asked to elaborate, de Blasio said he wasn’t ready “to go into the specifics, because I want to respect that all the parties have to finish the final touches, as I said, but again, very productive conversations about things where we could work together.”</p> <p>He added: “I thought a number of the issues that were raised were perfectly fair, you know, were respectful of what the city was trying to do overall, in terms of education, were not onerous. There were ways we could work together, and that was part of what I think energized this process, was the more we talked about actual substance. When I said, ‘Well, wait a minute. We could work together on that. Let's see if we can solve that.’ The speaker was very clear about not wanting to address those issues legislatively, which I, again, think was a fair approach, given the sanctity of mayoral control of education. That didn't mean we couldn't look at other ways to address the issue, so again, I believe you'll see, very soon, some final outcomes on that.”</p> <p>The next day, during another press conference exchange, de Blasio told Gotham Gazette, “Of course I’ll explain them when everything is finished, which I think will be quite soon. Again, there’s a lot of parties to this process, and I’m being very transparent about the fact that we talked about some real important issues related to charters. We came to some specific understandings, details still being worked out. Of course it’ll be published. And then, you’ll have at it. You’ll have every opportunity to make questions. But I have to emphasize, and this was important to what Speaker Heastie said in the beginning: It is not a legislative action, it was not something that had to be approved by the Senate and the Assembly formally. This is me deciding, as Mayor of New York City, with my administrative capacity, that there were some things we could do that would address some outstanding concerns of charters and I thought they were fair. But as soon as it’s cooked, as soon as it’s finalized, yes, everything will be public and then we’ll happily take questions on it.”</p> <p>It is apparent that Heastie’s ability to say he did not give in legislatively on any benefits for charter schools is important to the speaker and many of his members, who are closely aligned with and funded by the teachers unions.</p> <p>In statements following the release of the charter-related promises from the city, Flanagan celebrated and Heastie distanced.</p> <p>According to Flanagan, whose office emailed his statement to its entire press list, the “announcement by Mayor de Blasio is an important step forward for charter school students and for their families, as well as for the 50,000 children now on waiting lists for a seat inside a charter school. They are clamoring for a chance at success, and together we have provided them with a better opportunity to achieve their goals, to succeed and to get ahead. I thank the Mayor for his openness in addressing this important issue and for demonstrating his support for both children who are currently in a charter school and those who would like to be.”</p> <p>The statement from Heastie’s office, on the other hand, emphasized that the Assembly had not given an inch on charter schools. “As for charter schools, the Speaker was not an active participant in any discussions or negotiations,” said a Heastie spokesperson. “He said from the beginning the Assembly Majority would not trade anything regarding charter schools for mayoral control. Mayor de Blasio and the city's Department of Education have the right to make decisions of their choosing in regards to the administration of charter schools that do not require any legislative action.”</p> <p>When Gotham Gazette asked de Blasio’s office when the mayor had meant when on June 29 he said "as soon as it’s finalized, yes, everything will be public and then we’ll happily take questions on it," his spokesperson emailed back to say, “At his next public event, same as always.”</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Powerful Assembly Post May Be Vacant Sooner Than Expected 2017-07-04T04:00:00+00:00 2017-07-04T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7046:powerful-assembly-chair-position-may-be-vacant-sooner-than-expected Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/farrell_assembly_floor.jpg" alt="farrell assembly floor" width="600" height="379" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Herman Farrell (<a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Herman-D-Farrell-Jr" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">photo</a>: The Assembly)</p> <hr /> <p>When Assemblymember Herman “Denny” Farrell, who heads the chamber’s Ways and Means Committee, announced he would not seek reelection next year, it set off a murmur about who might succeed him in the powerful -- and lucrative -- committee post.<br /><br />Farrell, a Democrat elected to the Assembly in 1974 and the third longest serving member of the body, is known for his diplomacy and good natured bantering with Republicans and Democrats alike during budget hearings and on the Assembly floor.<br /><br />Well-liked among his peers and beloved in his community, Farrell -- who represents Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood -- was recognized by the Legislature last week, when it voted to rename Upper Manhattan’s Riverbank State Park after him <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7042-mayoral-control-extended-in-special-session-with-usual-albany-process" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as part of a special legislative session</a> dealing with mayoral control over schools.<br /><br />Governor Andrew Cuomo also honored the Assembly member at a breakfast at the Executive Mansion on June 20, speaking in eulogistic terms of Farrell’s time in the Assembly and as former chair to both the Manhattan and State Democratic Parties.<br /><br />“Denny also taught me politics was the means to the end, and that was getting into government to achieve power…not power you would use personally, not power to take care of some donors, to take care of some unions, to take care of the political complex — power to do good things for your people and for your community,” Cuomo said, according to a recording of his remarks <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2017/06/20/cuomo-honors-denny-farrell-who-rose-above-political-bullshit-112900" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">obtained by Politico New York</a>. “Government is about accomplishing things for people and making their life better. Everything else is bull----.”<br /><br />While Farrell’s current two-year term is set to officially end at the end of 2018, the grand farewell he received in Albany and other indicators have signalled to many in Harlem that he plans to resign before January, when the Legislature is next due back in the capital. The move would virtually ensure the party nomination of his chief of staff, Rev. Al Taylor, in a special election, according one Harlem insider who spoke to Gotham Gazette on the condition of anonymity. For special elections to the state Legislature, the borough party committees name the party representative on the ballot.<br /><br />“His departure is something that a lot of people Uptown are talking about. Farrell is putting a lot of his energy and political assets into his chief of staff, Al Taylor. Wherever Denny is, Al is nearby,” the insider said, noting that the Assembly office’s most recent quarterly newsletter featured Taylor more than Farrell. “All the signs point to Farrell's resignation being imminent.”<br /><br />In addition to Taylor, Juan Rosa, a former City Council staffer and community activist, is considering a run for the seat, according to multiple people familiar with the district. <br /><br />Farrell, who did not return a request for comment, has not confirmed any plan to vacate his Assembly seat before January 2019, when his term would officially end.<br /><br />If Farrell does indeed leave before the end of the year, not only would Taylor have the inside track to the Assembly, but Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie would name a new Ways and Means chair, the top Assembly budget post below the Speaker, before the next budget season in Albany -- a move that would likely prompt a series of new committee chair appointments throughout the Assembly for the 2018 session.<br /><br />“When you make one change, you make 30 changes. That is always the part that outsiders don’t understand,” said former Assemblymember Richard Brodsky. “Part of the calculus that any Speaker makes is not just how to fill that position, but how it will affect the entire food chain.”<br /><br />As capital watchers have noted Farrell’s imminent departure, it has also become apparent that several female legislators are in line for the committee leadership job -- a post no woman has ever held before.<br /><br />While new leadership appointments are made every year by the Speaker, the Ways and Means chairship is arguably the most powerful and well-paid committee position in the Assembly. It is also arguably the most challenging, as the committee is tasked with budget hearing leadership and examining any legislation considered by the body that has a fiscal component.<br /><br />The position comes with a significant stipend. On top of the standard $79,500 legislative salary, the Ways and Means chair earns $34,000, on par only with the $34,500 stipend received by the Assembly Majority Leader, currently Joseph Morelle, of Monroe County. Other committees, such as Codes and Education, may deliberate over a comparably high volume of bills, but come with a stipend of $18,000 each. The Ways and Means chair also has access to a significantly larger staff than any other chair in the Assembly.<br /><br />Geography and seniority have long played a role in who is selected for both leading Ways and Means and other top committees. For Ways and Means, other factors typically considered include knowledge of the budget process, diplomacy, ability to get along with Republicans in both legislative houses, and the stamina to sit through many hours of annual budget hearings. <br /><br />The longest serving member of the Assembly is Richard Gottfried, of Manhattan, who is followed by Assemblymember Joseph Lentol, of Brooklyn. Gottfried, who has headed the Assembly Health Committee for more than 30 years, told Gotham Gazette he has expressed to Heastie and previous speakers that he is not interested in leading Ways and Means.<br /><br />“I almost can't imagine how lucky I am to have had this job; it is just about a dream position for me,” Gottfried said of leading the Health Committee. “I love being able to focus on health policy and consider myself enormously happy to have this job.” <br /><br />He noted that the Speaker must ultimately assess the person’s ability to speak on behalf of the Assembly majority's view of the budget and be someone who can represent the diverse views of the Democratic Conference. <br /><br />“The speaker has to be concerned with, among other things, maintaining the solidarity and cohesion of the Democratic Majority because there are always a lot of forces eager to pick us apart,” said Gottfried, who is currently focussed on trying to see single-payer health care passed in New York.<br /><br />An obvious choice for Heastie might be Lentol, the second most senior member of the Assembly, who has held his seat since 1972 and has served as chair of the critical Committee on Codes since 1992. Lentol <a href="http://observer.com/2015/01/lentol-laments-assembly-culture-that-made-him-drop-speaker-bid/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">competed</a> against Heastie in the race to replace former Speaker Sheldon Silver in 2015, as did Assemblymember Catherine Nolan, of Queens, the sixth longest serving Assembly member. Lentol did not return a request for comment on whether he was interested in the Ways and Means position.<br /><br />Assemblymember Robin Schimminger, who represents a swing district encompassing Niagara and Erie Counties, follows Lentol and Farrell in seniority, but his district geography and more moderate place on the political spectrum could rule him out for such an influential position in the New York City-focussed conference. <br /><br />While women have historically been underrepresented in the Legislature, including in leadership positions, for the first time in history, several are in the mix for the Ways and Means post, including Nolan, who was first elected in 1984, Assemblymember Helene Weinstein, of Brooklyn, who is the fifth longest serving member of the Assembly, having been elected in 1980, and others.<br /><br />Weinstein chairs the highly technical Judiciary Committee and Nolan heads the Education Committee.<br /><br />Between Weinstein and Nolan on the seniority list are Brooklyn Assemblymember Dov Hikind and Assemblymember David Gantt, of Rochester.<br /><br />Female Assemblymembers Vivian Cook, of Queens; Earlene Hooper, of Nassau County; and Deborah Glick, of Manhattan, also rank among the 15 longest serving lawmakers in the 150-seat chamber. Glick has the distinction of being New York's <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1991/01/13/nyregion/first-openly-gay-legislator-brings-a-full-agenda-to-albany.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first openly gay person elected to the state Legislature</a>. She has been outspoken on a range of progressive issues and chairs the important Higher Education Committee. <br /><br />Seniority withstanding, Heastie has made an effort to provide leadership opportunities to newer members in a way his predecessors did not, according to members of the Assembly who spoke to Gotham Gazette.<br /><br />“I think we have noticed that under this leadership [Speaker Heastie] has managed to bring a few new members, who have only been here a few months, to be chairmen of committees and subcommittees. It has never happened before. You know, it took me 20 years to get a chairmanship myself,” said Brooklyn Assemblymember Félix W. Ortiz, who chairs the Cities Committee and serves as Assistant Speaker.<br /><br />He may also consider factors like gender, race, political beliefs, and other elements of diversity in making his decision.<br /><br />“Geography used to matter, but once you open up that door of identity, lots of people walk in. The Assembly is blessed with about 15 people whose seniority and talent and experience is considerable, it’s going to be hard for [Speaker Heastie] to make a bad choice,” said former Assemblymember Brodsky, who chaired both the Committee on Environmental Conservation and the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions during his nearly three decades in Albany.<br /><br />A spokesperson for Heastie did not return a request for comment, nor did the offices of Assembly Members Nolan, Weinstein, Lentol, and Schimminger.</p> <p>Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the location of Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle's district.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/farrell_assembly_floor.jpg" alt="farrell assembly floor" width="600" height="379" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Herman Farrell (<a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Herman-D-Farrell-Jr" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">photo</a>: The Assembly)</p> <hr /> <p>When Assemblymember Herman “Denny” Farrell, who heads the chamber’s Ways and Means Committee, announced he would not seek reelection next year, it set off a murmur about who might succeed him in the powerful -- and lucrative -- committee post.<br /><br />Farrell, a Democrat elected to the Assembly in 1974 and the third longest serving member of the body, is known for his diplomacy and good natured bantering with Republicans and Democrats alike during budget hearings and on the Assembly floor.<br /><br />Well-liked among his peers and beloved in his community, Farrell -- who represents Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood -- was recognized by the Legislature last week, when it voted to rename Upper Manhattan’s Riverbank State Park after him <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7042-mayoral-control-extended-in-special-session-with-usual-albany-process" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as part of a special legislative session</a> dealing with mayoral control over schools.<br /><br />Governor Andrew Cuomo also honored the Assembly member at a breakfast at the Executive Mansion on June 20, speaking in eulogistic terms of Farrell’s time in the Assembly and as former chair to both the Manhattan and State Democratic Parties.<br /><br />“Denny also taught me politics was the means to the end, and that was getting into government to achieve power…not power you would use personally, not power to take care of some donors, to take care of some unions, to take care of the political complex — power to do good things for your people and for your community,” Cuomo said, according to a recording of his remarks <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2017/06/20/cuomo-honors-denny-farrell-who-rose-above-political-bullshit-112900" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">obtained by Politico New York</a>. “Government is about accomplishing things for people and making their life better. Everything else is bull----.”<br /><br />While Farrell’s current two-year term is set to officially end at the end of 2018, the grand farewell he received in Albany and other indicators have signalled to many in Harlem that he plans to resign before January, when the Legislature is next due back in the capital. The move would virtually ensure the party nomination of his chief of staff, Rev. Al Taylor, in a special election, according one Harlem insider who spoke to Gotham Gazette on the condition of anonymity. For special elections to the state Legislature, the borough party committees name the party representative on the ballot.<br /><br />“His departure is something that a lot of people Uptown are talking about. Farrell is putting a lot of his energy and political assets into his chief of staff, Al Taylor. Wherever Denny is, Al is nearby,” the insider said, noting that the Assembly office’s most recent quarterly newsletter featured Taylor more than Farrell. “All the signs point to Farrell's resignation being imminent.”<br /><br />In addition to Taylor, Juan Rosa, a former City Council staffer and community activist, is considering a run for the seat, according to multiple people familiar with the district. <br /><br />Farrell, who did not return a request for comment, has not confirmed any plan to vacate his Assembly seat before January 2019, when his term would officially end.<br /><br />If Farrell does indeed leave before the end of the year, not only would Taylor have the inside track to the Assembly, but Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie would name a new Ways and Means chair, the top Assembly budget post below the Speaker, before the next budget season in Albany -- a move that would likely prompt a series of new committee chair appointments throughout the Assembly for the 2018 session.<br /><br />“When you make one change, you make 30 changes. That is always the part that outsiders don’t understand,” said former Assemblymember Richard Brodsky. “Part of the calculus that any Speaker makes is not just how to fill that position, but how it will affect the entire food chain.”<br /><br />As capital watchers have noted Farrell’s imminent departure, it has also become apparent that several female legislators are in line for the committee leadership job -- a post no woman has ever held before.<br /><br />While new leadership appointments are made every year by the Speaker, the Ways and Means chairship is arguably the most powerful and well-paid committee position in the Assembly. It is also arguably the most challenging, as the committee is tasked with budget hearing leadership and examining any legislation considered by the body that has a fiscal component.<br /><br />The position comes with a significant stipend. On top of the standard $79,500 legislative salary, the Ways and Means chair earns $34,000, on par only with the $34,500 stipend received by the Assembly Majority Leader, currently Joseph Morelle, of Monroe County. Other committees, such as Codes and Education, may deliberate over a comparably high volume of bills, but come with a stipend of $18,000 each. The Ways and Means chair also has access to a significantly larger staff than any other chair in the Assembly.<br /><br />Geography and seniority have long played a role in who is selected for both leading Ways and Means and other top committees. For Ways and Means, other factors typically considered include knowledge of the budget process, diplomacy, ability to get along with Republicans in both legislative houses, and the stamina to sit through many hours of annual budget hearings. <br /><br />The longest serving member of the Assembly is Richard Gottfried, of Manhattan, who is followed by Assemblymember Joseph Lentol, of Brooklyn. Gottfried, who has headed the Assembly Health Committee for more than 30 years, told Gotham Gazette he has expressed to Heastie and previous speakers that he is not interested in leading Ways and Means.<br /><br />“I almost can't imagine how lucky I am to have had this job; it is just about a dream position for me,” Gottfried said of leading the Health Committee. “I love being able to focus on health policy and consider myself enormously happy to have this job.” <br /><br />He noted that the Speaker must ultimately assess the person’s ability to speak on behalf of the Assembly majority's view of the budget and be someone who can represent the diverse views of the Democratic Conference. <br /><br />“The speaker has to be concerned with, among other things, maintaining the solidarity and cohesion of the Democratic Majority because there are always a lot of forces eager to pick us apart,” said Gottfried, who is currently focussed on trying to see single-payer health care passed in New York.<br /><br />An obvious choice for Heastie might be Lentol, the second most senior member of the Assembly, who has held his seat since 1972 and has served as chair of the critical Committee on Codes since 1992. Lentol <a href="http://observer.com/2015/01/lentol-laments-assembly-culture-that-made-him-drop-speaker-bid/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">competed</a> against Heastie in the race to replace former Speaker Sheldon Silver in 2015, as did Assemblymember Catherine Nolan, of Queens, the sixth longest serving Assembly member. Lentol did not return a request for comment on whether he was interested in the Ways and Means position.<br /><br />Assemblymember Robin Schimminger, who represents a swing district encompassing Niagara and Erie Counties, follows Lentol and Farrell in seniority, but his district geography and more moderate place on the political spectrum could rule him out for such an influential position in the New York City-focussed conference. <br /><br />While women have historically been underrepresented in the Legislature, including in leadership positions, for the first time in history, several are in the mix for the Ways and Means post, including Nolan, who was first elected in 1984, Assemblymember Helene Weinstein, of Brooklyn, who is the fifth longest serving member of the Assembly, having been elected in 1980, and others.<br /><br />Weinstein chairs the highly technical Judiciary Committee and Nolan heads the Education Committee.<br /><br />Between Weinstein and Nolan on the seniority list are Brooklyn Assemblymember Dov Hikind and Assemblymember David Gantt, of Rochester.<br /><br />Female Assemblymembers Vivian Cook, of Queens; Earlene Hooper, of Nassau County; and Deborah Glick, of Manhattan, also rank among the 15 longest serving lawmakers in the 150-seat chamber. Glick has the distinction of being New York's <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1991/01/13/nyregion/first-openly-gay-legislator-brings-a-full-agenda-to-albany.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first openly gay person elected to the state Legislature</a>. She has been outspoken on a range of progressive issues and chairs the important Higher Education Committee. <br /><br />Seniority withstanding, Heastie has made an effort to provide leadership opportunities to newer members in a way his predecessors did not, according to members of the Assembly who spoke to Gotham Gazette.<br /><br />“I think we have noticed that under this leadership [Speaker Heastie] has managed to bring a few new members, who have only been here a few months, to be chairmen of committees and subcommittees. It has never happened before. You know, it took me 20 years to get a chairmanship myself,” said Brooklyn Assemblymember Félix W. Ortiz, who chairs the Cities Committee and serves as Assistant Speaker.<br /><br />He may also consider factors like gender, race, political beliefs, and other elements of diversity in making his decision.<br /><br />“Geography used to matter, but once you open up that door of identity, lots of people walk in. The Assembly is blessed with about 15 people whose seniority and talent and experience is considerable, it’s going to be hard for [Speaker Heastie] to make a bad choice,” said former Assemblymember Brodsky, who chaired both the Committee on Environmental Conservation and the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions during his nearly three decades in Albany.<br /><br />A spokesperson for Heastie did not return a request for comment, nor did the offices of Assembly Members Nolan, Weinstein, Lentol, and Schimminger.</p> <p>Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the location of Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle's district.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Mayoral Control Extended in Special Session with Usual Albany Process 2017-06-29T04:00:00+00:00 2017-06-29T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7042:mayoral-control-extended-in-special-session-with-usual-albany-process Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/35486744541_357b0411fe_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo special session" width="600" height="405" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo on Thursday (photo: Philip Kamrass/Governor’s Office)</p> <hr /> <p>To prevent the impending lapse of mayoral control over New York City schools, the state Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo passed a two-year extension Thursday as part of a larger omnibus bill, which included a pension enhancement for certain uniformed workers, special recognition for former Governor Mario Cuomo, and several benefits for upstate areas.</p> <p>A special session was called Wednesday by Gov. Cuomo specifically to address mayoral leadership over city schools, which was set to expire June 30, and a small number of other matters, but the ensuing discussion produced a more sprawling legislation package, according to Cuomo. The final deal included a three-year extension of local taxes, $55 million in Lake Ontario flood relief funding, and the renaming of the new Tappan Zee Bridge after the governor’s late father.</p> <p>According to Cuomo, who held a press conference Thursday afternoon at the Capitol to celebrate what was accomplished, he and legislative leaders arrived at a compromise centered on extending mayoral control ahead of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7037-how-the-mayoral-control-special-session-works" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">his calling the special session</a>. Once legislators returned to the capital, the negotiations were opened up more broadly, and a larger tentative deal was reached at around 8:30 p.m Wednesday night. That agreement followed a day of meetings behind closed doors, during which rank-and-file lawmakers, journalists, and the larger public were largely left on the sidelines. The Assembly voted to pass the omnibus bill <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2017/06/28/state-lawmakers-settle-on-bill-renewing-mayoral-control-tax-extenders-113137?mc_cid=b88135fdf7&amp;mc_eid=7ede0c8078" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at around 1 a.m. on Thursday</a>, while the Senate passed the bill after some internal rankling at around 2 .p.m.</p> <p>The opaque nature of the discussions, as well as the expense of keeping lawmakers in Albany at a cost of more than $30,000 -- though not all lawmakers take per diems and estimates vary -- drew criticism from lawmakers across party lines, including Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, who along with her fellow Senate Democrats urged their colleagues on the GOP side to move the bill along Thursday. </p> <p>“Another day and another example of dysfunction in the Senate,” Stewart Cousins said at a press conference outside the Senate GOP conference room. “The GOP/IDC inability to finish this session is an embarrassment. We need to stop wasting taxpayers’ money and do our jobs. The Senate Democrats are ready to vote for this package of legislation immediately. Let's go to the floor.”</p> <p>Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who was adamant during the legislative session that the lifting of the charter school cap in New York City not be included in the final bill, commended the governor and his colleagues in the Legislature for passing a comprehensive bill that would prevent disruption in the management of city schools.</p> <p>“I am proud of the efforts of Assembly members on both sides of the aisle who worked extremely hard to craft a consensus on the many pressing issues our state faces,” said Heastie, who got his way on the charter school cap, in a statement. “Working with Governor Cuomo, our successes include a two-year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools, giving our educational system stability and allowing our school children to thrive.</p> <p>During his press conference in the Capitol’s Red Room, Cuomo ceremoniously signed the mayoral control portion of the legislative package and said he had anticipated the special session would only address mayoral control and legislation enhancing pension benefits for certain city police officers and firefighters, known as the “three-quarters bill.” However, several Senate Republicans from Upstate saw the bill as too New York City-centric.</p> <p>“The agreement was to come back and do mayoral control and the three-quarters bill. When we came back, the Assembly was fine with it,” Cuomo told reporters. “My understanding is, in the conference, the Senate said ‘We also want to do the sales tax extenders. And by the way, it’s not just the sales tax extenders,’ they said, ‘We also want do something on Vernon Downs’...That is what we were trying to avoid. Once you start to expand the wish list, it gets much, much harder to get to an agreement.”</p> <p>Offering a reason for the delay in legislative voting, Cuomo also celebrated how much got done in the end.</p> <p>The final bill offers a tax bailout to Vernon Downs, an Upstate racetrack, in order to prevent its closure and retain 300 well-paying jobs in the region; provides for critical transportation needs in Westchester County; and includes passage of a proposed constitutional amendment to aid communities in the Adirondack Mountains with infrastructure projects. In addition to the renaming of the Tappan Zee, the Legislature voted to rename Riverbank State Park in Manhattan in honor of retiring Assemblymember Denny Farrell, who was first elected to the Assembly in 1974.</p> <p>Flanagan also touted the package, saying in a Thursday statement saying that the omnibus bill "resolves a number of outstanding state issues" after "Senate Republicans were able to put together a more comprehensive package that meets the needs of taxpayers, students, and families throughout our entire state." Flanagan also indicated that there were provisions related to protecting charter schools, something Mayor de Blasio stated would be announced in the coming days as administrative, not legislative, matters.</p> <p>There was no legislative action regarding the MTA, which Cuomo had declared was in a state of emergency on Thursday morning at an event in New York City. At that event Cuomo did pledge an additional $1 billion to the MTA in next year’s budget.</p> <p>As had become evident when the budget was passed in April and through the end of the legislative session last week, no government ethics or election reforms made it through Albany this year. Two other top priorities of Mayor de Blasio’s -- design-build authority and additional speed cameras for school zones -- were also left on the chopping block.</p> <p>Still, at his own news conference on Thursday afternoon, de Blasio said he was very pleased with the outcome, especially on mayoral control. The mayor expressed relief that with the first two-year extension of his term, he would not need an Albany vote next year to keep control of the school system. What the mayor does need, however, is the approval of voters this fall when he seeks reelection.</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>with reporting by Ben Max</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/35486744541_357b0411fe_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo special session" width="600" height="405" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo on Thursday (photo: Philip Kamrass/Governor’s Office)</p> <hr /> <p>To prevent the impending lapse of mayoral control over New York City schools, the state Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo passed a two-year extension Thursday as part of a larger omnibus bill, which included a pension enhancement for certain uniformed workers, special recognition for former Governor Mario Cuomo, and several benefits for upstate areas.</p> <p>A special session was called Wednesday by Gov. Cuomo specifically to address mayoral leadership over city schools, which was set to expire June 30, and a small number of other matters, but the ensuing discussion produced a more sprawling legislation package, according to Cuomo. The final deal included a three-year extension of local taxes, $55 million in Lake Ontario flood relief funding, and the renaming of the new Tappan Zee Bridge after the governor’s late father.</p> <p>According to Cuomo, who held a press conference Thursday afternoon at the Capitol to celebrate what was accomplished, he and legislative leaders arrived at a compromise centered on extending mayoral control ahead of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7037-how-the-mayoral-control-special-session-works" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">his calling the special session</a>. Once legislators returned to the capital, the negotiations were opened up more broadly, and a larger tentative deal was reached at around 8:30 p.m Wednesday night. That agreement followed a day of meetings behind closed doors, during which rank-and-file lawmakers, journalists, and the larger public were largely left on the sidelines. The Assembly voted to pass the omnibus bill <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2017/06/28/state-lawmakers-settle-on-bill-renewing-mayoral-control-tax-extenders-113137?mc_cid=b88135fdf7&amp;mc_eid=7ede0c8078" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at around 1 a.m. on Thursday</a>, while the Senate passed the bill after some internal rankling at around 2 .p.m.</p> <p>The opaque nature of the discussions, as well as the expense of keeping lawmakers in Albany at a cost of more than $30,000 -- though not all lawmakers take per diems and estimates vary -- drew criticism from lawmakers across party lines, including Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, who along with her fellow Senate Democrats urged their colleagues on the GOP side to move the bill along Thursday. </p> <p>“Another day and another example of dysfunction in the Senate,” Stewart Cousins said at a press conference outside the Senate GOP conference room. “The GOP/IDC inability to finish this session is an embarrassment. We need to stop wasting taxpayers’ money and do our jobs. The Senate Democrats are ready to vote for this package of legislation immediately. Let's go to the floor.”</p> <p>Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who was adamant during the legislative session that the lifting of the charter school cap in New York City not be included in the final bill, commended the governor and his colleagues in the Legislature for passing a comprehensive bill that would prevent disruption in the management of city schools.</p> <p>“I am proud of the efforts of Assembly members on both sides of the aisle who worked extremely hard to craft a consensus on the many pressing issues our state faces,” said Heastie, who got his way on the charter school cap, in a statement. “Working with Governor Cuomo, our successes include a two-year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools, giving our educational system stability and allowing our school children to thrive.</p> <p>During his press conference in the Capitol’s Red Room, Cuomo ceremoniously signed the mayoral control portion of the legislative package and said he had anticipated the special session would only address mayoral control and legislation enhancing pension benefits for certain city police officers and firefighters, known as the “three-quarters bill.” However, several Senate Republicans from Upstate saw the bill as too New York City-centric.</p> <p>“The agreement was to come back and do mayoral control and the three-quarters bill. When we came back, the Assembly was fine with it,” Cuomo told reporters. “My understanding is, in the conference, the Senate said ‘We also want to do the sales tax extenders. And by the way, it’s not just the sales tax extenders,’ they said, ‘We also want do something on Vernon Downs’...That is what we were trying to avoid. Once you start to expand the wish list, it gets much, much harder to get to an agreement.”</p> <p>Offering a reason for the delay in legislative voting, Cuomo also celebrated how much got done in the end.</p> <p>The final bill offers a tax bailout to Vernon Downs, an Upstate racetrack, in order to prevent its closure and retain 300 well-paying jobs in the region; provides for critical transportation needs in Westchester County; and includes passage of a proposed constitutional amendment to aid communities in the Adirondack Mountains with infrastructure projects. In addition to the renaming of the Tappan Zee, the Legislature voted to rename Riverbank State Park in Manhattan in honor of retiring Assemblymember Denny Farrell, who was first elected to the Assembly in 1974.</p> <p>Flanagan also touted the package, saying in a Thursday statement saying that the omnibus bill "resolves a number of outstanding state issues" after "Senate Republicans were able to put together a more comprehensive package that meets the needs of taxpayers, students, and families throughout our entire state." Flanagan also indicated that there were provisions related to protecting charter schools, something Mayor de Blasio stated would be announced in the coming days as administrative, not legislative, matters.</p> <p>There was no legislative action regarding the MTA, which Cuomo had declared was in a state of emergency on Thursday morning at an event in New York City. At that event Cuomo did pledge an additional $1 billion to the MTA in next year’s budget.</p> <p>As had become evident when the budget was passed in April and through the end of the legislative session last week, no government ethics or election reforms made it through Albany this year. Two other top priorities of Mayor de Blasio’s -- design-build authority and additional speed cameras for school zones -- were also left on the chopping block.</p> <p>Still, at his own news conference on Thursday afternoon, de Blasio said he was very pleased with the outcome, especially on mayoral control. The mayor expressed relief that with the first two-year extension of his term, he would not need an Albany vote next year to keep control of the school system. What the mayor does need, however, is the approval of voters this fall when he seeks reelection.</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>with reporting by Ben Max</p>
How The Mayoral Control ‘Special Session’ Works 2017-06-27T04:00:00+00:00 2017-06-27T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7037:how-the-mayoral-control-special-session-works Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/31605403862_edfcf4f2f8_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio desk Albany" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo:&nbsp;Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>To prevent the lapse of mayoral control over New York City schools, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday called an “extraordinary session” of the state Legislature to convene on Wednesday at 1p.m. in Albany. Often referred to as a “special session,” details of how the day will unfold -- especially what legislation will pass -- are still unclear.</p> <p>Currently, the session has been called for just one day, with the only named purpose the extension of authority granted to the New York City Mayor, currently Bill de Blasio, to run the city schools. But, as of Tuesday evening, there is no specific bill on the table and Cuomo’s proclamation leaves the discussion open to “such other subjects” he “may recommend.”</p> <p>"The Governor is calling an extraordinary legislative session for Wednesday, June 28 to take up the issue of Mayoral Control. The Governor has discussed the extraordinary session with the legislative leaders,” said Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, in a statement.</p> <p>The failure to reach a deal by the end of the week would lurch the educational system for 1.1 million city schoolchildren into uncertainty, and the process would commence to revert school governance back to the Board of Education and local school boards -- which, while in power, were frequently charged with inefficiency and corruption.</p> <p>Like most educational experts, Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie have all expressed support for mayoral control and believe that the old school board system was worse. But, the GOP-controlled Senate want to tie an extension to an increase in the cap on charter schools in New York City. The Assembly wants a clean extender of mayoral control, but did tie it to other local extenders in the form of expiring tax rates that also have widespread support.</p> <p>On Wednesday, the three men will meet again try to break the impasse over the issue, and perhaps negotiate other policies, while reporters try to glean some insight into the negotiations. After breaking last Wednesday night at the end of the scheduled legislative year without deals on mayoral control, local tax extenders, or several other high-profile items, legislators, some of them on vacation, are being called back to the capital to handle unfinished business.</p> <p>A majority is needed in both houses for the session to commence, and it is the responsibility of the legislative leaders to compel their members to return to the Capitol, according to Cuomo’s office.</p> <p>According to Albany lore, the executive can call in state troopers to force lawmakers back to the Capitol for a special session. This myth, cited by several legislative staffers, does not appear in the state constitution. <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/resolutions/2017/r4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Senate rules</a>&nbsp;do require a quorum, or 60 percent of members to be present for any motions or resolutions, and empower those present to send the Sergeant at Arms to bring absent senators back from their districts if necessary. In post-session remarks this past Thursday, Cuomo did jokingly reference constituents using force to send their local legislators back to Albany to finish their business.</p> <p><strong>While special sessions are sometimes intended to tackle a single topic,</strong> <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/26/nyregion/cuomo-special-session-city-schools.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The New York Times reported</a> that the governor may be offering the Senate GOP approval of a bill to increase accidental disability pensions for firefighters, police officers, and other city employees in exchange for a sign-off on one year of mayoral control without charter school provisions attached. This has opened the door to lawmakers and interest groups who want to see other bills considered in renewed negotiations.</p> <p>Also caught in the crossfire, is a standard two-year extension dozens of local and county taxes. If it lapses, counties could face a $1.8 billion collective hole in their budgets, according to the New York State Association of Counties. Like with mayoral control, virtually all the major stakeholders believe in an extension, but disagree on the details of a deal.</p> <p>Now NYSAC<a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/06/nysac-give-permanent-sales-tax-authority-to-counties/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> is calling</a> for the Legislature to tackle legislation that would permanently allow county governments to extend their sales tax rates every two years.</p> <p>Senator Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat, wants the special session to include action on New York City’s rapidly deteriorating subway system, following a particularly dramatic derailment incident Tuesday morning, which left dozens of straphangers injured. Just before the end of the scheduled session Gianaris had put forth a new proposal for a temporary dedicated revenue stream to infuse cash into the MTA.</p> <p>“With the state legislature likely to return to Albany soon to address outstanding issues, fixing the MTA should be a top priority. When they return, the Governor and members of the legislature should not leave the Capitol until a solution to the MTA crisis is enacted,” wrote Gianaris in <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/petitions/michael-gianaris/dont-leave-albany-without-fixing-mta-support-better-trains-better-cities" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a petition</a> for lawmakers to consider his bill to establish a dedicated funding stream for emergency maintenance and repairs.</p> <p><strong>While only the governor sets the agenda for a special session, his power is limited.<br /></strong>Technically, the Legislature never gavels out of session. According to the state constitution, if the Assembly goes dark for four days consecutively, lawmakers cannot reconvene until the following calendar year.</p> <p>So, for more than two decades, every third day, an Assembly member has entered the chamber, and triple-banged the gavel on the podium -- a ritual that keeps the Legislature endlessly in session. This practice is intended to prevent recess appointments by the Governor and also allows any new legislation to age the requisite three days before becoming law.</p> <p>Since the legislative session never really ends, when a special session is called, the Legislature must return to Albany, but can immediately gavel out and go home. Its members can also stay and reconvene to consider legislation of their choosing.</p> <p><strong>The Legislature first turned over control of city schools to the Mayor in 2002.<br /></strong>Previously, they were governed a seven-member Board of Education and 32 elected community school boards. The Board of Education, which had two mayoral appointees and one each from the borough presidents, selected the chancellor. The mayor could also influence the school system through the city budget.</p> <p>Authority to appoint superintendents in elementary and middle schools was stripped from the Board in 1996 due to evidence of corruption and patronage in some school districts. Since this shift test performance and graduation rates dramatically improved at city schools, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/23/nyregion/new-york-school-control.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reports The New York Times</a>.</p> <p><strong>Without clear direction, the session can get expensive.<br /></strong>Compensation, per diem allowances and travel expenses for members can add up, not to mention the cost of additional legislative staff. There are 150 seats in the Assembly and 63 in the Senate. It’s not clear how many legislators will be back to Albany for Wednesday’s session.</p> <p>Legislators are paid a per diem rate of $175, which is to cover hotel and food, plus they <a href="https://www.gsa.gov/portal/category/100120" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are compensated</a> for travel expenses at 55 cents per mile, not including tolls. For a lawmaker from Buffalo, which is approximately 300 miles from Albany, the travel bill tallies up to around $150 each way, for example. There is also a partial per diem rate of $59 when lawmakers do not spend the night.</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note:&nbsp;This article has been updated to clarify how lawmakers are gathered back to the Capitol during a special session.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/31605403862_edfcf4f2f8_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio desk Albany" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo:&nbsp;Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>To prevent the lapse of mayoral control over New York City schools, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday called an “extraordinary session” of the state Legislature to convene on Wednesday at 1p.m. in Albany. Often referred to as a “special session,” details of how the day will unfold -- especially what legislation will pass -- are still unclear.</p> <p>Currently, the session has been called for just one day, with the only named purpose the extension of authority granted to the New York City Mayor, currently Bill de Blasio, to run the city schools. But, as of Tuesday evening, there is no specific bill on the table and Cuomo’s proclamation leaves the discussion open to “such other subjects” he “may recommend.”</p> <p>"The Governor is calling an extraordinary legislative session for Wednesday, June 28 to take up the issue of Mayoral Control. The Governor has discussed the extraordinary session with the legislative leaders,” said Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, in a statement.</p> <p>The failure to reach a deal by the end of the week would lurch the educational system for 1.1 million city schoolchildren into uncertainty, and the process would commence to revert school governance back to the Board of Education and local school boards -- which, while in power, were frequently charged with inefficiency and corruption.</p> <p>Like most educational experts, Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie have all expressed support for mayoral control and believe that the old school board system was worse. But, the GOP-controlled Senate want to tie an extension to an increase in the cap on charter schools in New York City. The Assembly wants a clean extender of mayoral control, but did tie it to other local extenders in the form of expiring tax rates that also have widespread support.</p> <p>On Wednesday, the three men will meet again try to break the impasse over the issue, and perhaps negotiate other policies, while reporters try to glean some insight into the negotiations. After breaking last Wednesday night at the end of the scheduled legislative year without deals on mayoral control, local tax extenders, or several other high-profile items, legislators, some of them on vacation, are being called back to the capital to handle unfinished business.</p> <p>A majority is needed in both houses for the session to commence, and it is the responsibility of the legislative leaders to compel their members to return to the Capitol, according to Cuomo’s office.</p> <p>According to Albany lore, the executive can call in state troopers to force lawmakers back to the Capitol for a special session. This myth, cited by several legislative staffers, does not appear in the state constitution. <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/resolutions/2017/r4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Senate rules</a>&nbsp;do require a quorum, or 60 percent of members to be present for any motions or resolutions, and empower those present to send the Sergeant at Arms to bring absent senators back from their districts if necessary. In post-session remarks this past Thursday, Cuomo did jokingly reference constituents using force to send their local legislators back to Albany to finish their business.</p> <p><strong>While special sessions are sometimes intended to tackle a single topic,</strong> <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/26/nyregion/cuomo-special-session-city-schools.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The New York Times reported</a> that the governor may be offering the Senate GOP approval of a bill to increase accidental disability pensions for firefighters, police officers, and other city employees in exchange for a sign-off on one year of mayoral control without charter school provisions attached. This has opened the door to lawmakers and interest groups who want to see other bills considered in renewed negotiations.</p> <p>Also caught in the crossfire, is a standard two-year extension dozens of local and county taxes. If it lapses, counties could face a $1.8 billion collective hole in their budgets, according to the New York State Association of Counties. Like with mayoral control, virtually all the major stakeholders believe in an extension, but disagree on the details of a deal.</p> <p>Now NYSAC<a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/06/nysac-give-permanent-sales-tax-authority-to-counties/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> is calling</a> for the Legislature to tackle legislation that would permanently allow county governments to extend their sales tax rates every two years.</p> <p>Senator Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat, wants the special session to include action on New York City’s rapidly deteriorating subway system, following a particularly dramatic derailment incident Tuesday morning, which left dozens of straphangers injured. Just before the end of the scheduled session Gianaris had put forth a new proposal for a temporary dedicated revenue stream to infuse cash into the MTA.</p> <p>“With the state legislature likely to return to Albany soon to address outstanding issues, fixing the MTA should be a top priority. When they return, the Governor and members of the legislature should not leave the Capitol until a solution to the MTA crisis is enacted,” wrote Gianaris in <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/petitions/michael-gianaris/dont-leave-albany-without-fixing-mta-support-better-trains-better-cities" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a petition</a> for lawmakers to consider his bill to establish a dedicated funding stream for emergency maintenance and repairs.</p> <p><strong>While only the governor sets the agenda for a special session, his power is limited.<br /></strong>Technically, the Legislature never gavels out of session. According to the state constitution, if the Assembly goes dark for four days consecutively, lawmakers cannot reconvene until the following calendar year.</p> <p>So, for more than two decades, every third day, an Assembly member has entered the chamber, and triple-banged the gavel on the podium -- a ritual that keeps the Legislature endlessly in session. This practice is intended to prevent recess appointments by the Governor and also allows any new legislation to age the requisite three days before becoming law.</p> <p>Since the legislative session never really ends, when a special session is called, the Legislature must return to Albany, but can immediately gavel out and go home. Its members can also stay and reconvene to consider legislation of their choosing.</p> <p><strong>The Legislature first turned over control of city schools to the Mayor in 2002.<br /></strong>Previously, they were governed a seven-member Board of Education and 32 elected community school boards. The Board of Education, which had two mayoral appointees and one each from the borough presidents, selected the chancellor. The mayor could also influence the school system through the city budget.</p> <p>Authority to appoint superintendents in elementary and middle schools was stripped from the Board in 1996 due to evidence of corruption and patronage in some school districts. Since this shift test performance and graduation rates dramatically improved at city schools, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/23/nyregion/new-york-school-control.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reports The New York Times</a>.</p> <p><strong>Without clear direction, the session can get expensive.<br /></strong>Compensation, per diem allowances and travel expenses for members can add up, not to mention the cost of additional legislative staff. There are 150 seats in the Assembly and 63 in the Senate. It’s not clear how many legislators will be back to Albany for Wednesday’s session.</p> <p>Legislators are paid a per diem rate of $175, which is to cover hotel and food, plus they <a href="https://www.gsa.gov/portal/category/100120" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are compensated</a> for travel expenses at 55 cents per mile, not including tolls. For a lawmaker from Buffalo, which is approximately 300 miles from Albany, the travel bill tallies up to around $150 each way, for example. There is also a partial per diem rate of $59 when lawmakers do not spend the night.</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note:&nbsp;This article has been updated to clarify how lawmakers are gathered back to the Capitol during a special session.</p>
Albany on the Penultimate Day of Legislative Session 2017-06-20T04:00:00+00:00 2017-06-20T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7014:albany-on-the-penultimate-day-of-legislative-session Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/albany_capitol.jpg" alt="albany capitol" width="600" height="422" /></p> <p>The Capitol (photo: Ben Max)</p> <hr /> <p>The lobby was packed with lobbyists. The Dunkin Donuts was humming. Food trucks lined the sunny street and appeared to be doing better than average business. Reporters were hungry for any tidbit of news.</p> <p>Assembly members and Senators bounced in and out of their respective chambers, where dozens of bills were voted through with astonishing speed. Negotiations on major pieces of more contentious legislation were held behind closed doors by the four most powerful people in state government, all men.</p> <p>The state Capitol building on the penultimate day of the 2017 legislative session was full of energy and exasperation.</p> <p>“My bill just passed!” one Assembly member exclaimed when she recognized a friendly face. “I have to get back in to vote, my bill is coming up soon,” said a senator optimistic that her legislation was about to move through the chamber. It did.</p> <p>“I haven’t seen the bill,” legislator after legislator told waiting lobbyists looking to bend their ears and garner additional support in last-ditch efforts to see their clients’ legislation pass.</p> <p>“Speed cameras just passed through committee,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio’s transportation commissioner, in the capital to help shepherd through two administration priorities.</p> <p>“I’m just ready to be done,” said another Assembly member. And another. And another.</p> <p>“Yes,” said the Senate majority leader when asked if session would end Wednesday night as scheduled.</p> <p>But, even with somewhere around 36 hours left on the clock, there was a great deal of unresolved business. When Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan told reporters that he was set on session ending Wednesday, he had just emerged from a meeting with other legislative leaders -- Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein -- and Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, at which some of the outstanding, big ticket items were discussed.</p> <p>After that meeting, Klein said he was hopeful the sides would all agree on a two-year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools. When Flanagan came out he declined to put a duration on any extension, saying that negotiations are ongoing. (Mayoral control is set to expire at the end of the month. De Blasio has activated the usual suspects for a push similar to each of the last two years, when he was granted just a one-year extension. City schools Chancellor Carmen Farina was in the Capitol to help the effort, ready to talk to any legislator who wanted to chat, she told reporters.)</p> <p>Flanagan put another major issue off the table completely, though, when he said that the Senate would not be voting on the Child Victims Act, which would allow sexual abuse victims more leeway to bring suits against their abusers and is supported by the Assembly majority and Cuomo.</p> <p>Speaking of the governor, he held a closed-door bill-signing to celebrate passage of legislation raising the age at which one can consent to marriage in New York, in an effort to modernize those regulations and outlaw “child marriage.” Opting to sign the bill without members of the media, Cuomo took no questions on Tuesday.</p> <p>He did, however, announce through press release a new bill to grant the Governor more control over the MTA, an end-of-session move aimed at showing he is thinking about the subway crisis that has earned Cuomo increasing scorn. The governor currently appoints six of the 14 MTA board members and the Chair, giving him de facto control. His proposal would have the Governor nominate eight of 16 board members plus the chair, who would be given a vote, giving the governor a majority of the votes, with nine.</p> <p>The governor’s proposal, which may very well pass with almost no public review, came the day after state Senator Michael Gianaris announced his own MTA rescue plan, a bill that would, in part, institute a three-year “millionaire’s tax” on “those in the MTA region” to fund emergency repairs -- “a temporary surge of dedicated revenue” -- and create an emergency manager position at the MTA.</p> <p>“Somebody had to do something,” Gianaris told Gotham Gazette on Tuesday at the Capitol. “Someone had to get a real conversation going.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/albany_capitol.jpg" alt="albany capitol" width="600" height="422" /></p> <p>The Capitol (photo: Ben Max)</p> <hr /> <p>The lobby was packed with lobbyists. The Dunkin Donuts was humming. Food trucks lined the sunny street and appeared to be doing better than average business. Reporters were hungry for any tidbit of news.</p> <p>Assembly members and Senators bounced in and out of their respective chambers, where dozens of bills were voted through with astonishing speed. Negotiations on major pieces of more contentious legislation were held behind closed doors by the four most powerful people in state government, all men.</p> <p>The state Capitol building on the penultimate day of the 2017 legislative session was full of energy and exasperation.</p> <p>“My bill just passed!” one Assembly member exclaimed when she recognized a friendly face. “I have to get back in to vote, my bill is coming up soon,” said a senator optimistic that her legislation was about to move through the chamber. It did.</p> <p>“I haven’t seen the bill,” legislator after legislator told waiting lobbyists looking to bend their ears and garner additional support in last-ditch efforts to see their clients’ legislation pass.</p> <p>“Speed cameras just passed through committee,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio’s transportation commissioner, in the capital to help shepherd through two administration priorities.</p> <p>“I’m just ready to be done,” said another Assembly member. And another. And another.</p> <p>“Yes,” said the Senate majority leader when asked if session would end Wednesday night as scheduled.</p> <p>But, even with somewhere around 36 hours left on the clock, there was a great deal of unresolved business. When Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan told reporters that he was set on session ending Wednesday, he had just emerged from a meeting with other legislative leaders -- Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein -- and Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, at which some of the outstanding, big ticket items were discussed.</p> <p>After that meeting, Klein said he was hopeful the sides would all agree on a two-year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools. When Flanagan came out he declined to put a duration on any extension, saying that negotiations are ongoing. (Mayoral control is set to expire at the end of the month. De Blasio has activated the usual suspects for a push similar to each of the last two years, when he was granted just a one-year extension. City schools Chancellor Carmen Farina was in the Capitol to help the effort, ready to talk to any legislator who wanted to chat, she told reporters.)</p> <p>Flanagan put another major issue off the table completely, though, when he said that the Senate would not be voting on the Child Victims Act, which would allow sexual abuse victims more leeway to bring suits against their abusers and is supported by the Assembly majority and Cuomo.</p> <p>Speaking of the governor, he held a closed-door bill-signing to celebrate passage of legislation raising the age at which one can consent to marriage in New York, in an effort to modernize those regulations and outlaw “child marriage.” Opting to sign the bill without members of the media, Cuomo took no questions on Tuesday.</p> <p>He did, however, announce through press release a new bill to grant the Governor more control over the MTA, an end-of-session move aimed at showing he is thinking about the subway crisis that has earned Cuomo increasing scorn. The governor currently appoints six of the 14 MTA board members and the Chair, giving him de facto control. His proposal would have the Governor nominate eight of 16 board members plus the chair, who would be given a vote, giving the governor a majority of the votes, with nine.</p> <p>The governor’s proposal, which may very well pass with almost no public review, came the day after state Senator Michael Gianaris announced his own MTA rescue plan, a bill that would, in part, institute a three-year “millionaire’s tax” on “those in the MTA region” to fund emergency repairs -- “a temporary surge of dedicated revenue” -- and create an emergency manager position at the MTA.</p> <p>“Somebody had to do something,” Gianaris told Gotham Gazette on Tuesday at the Capitol. “Someone had to get a real conversation going.”</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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More Than Mayoral Control: De Blasio’s End of Session Priorities 2017-06-19T04:00:00+00:00 2017-06-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7013:more-than-mayoral-control-de-blasio-s-end-of-session-priorities Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/24980864236_5c6038abfd_z_1.jpg" alt="De Blasio Heastie Albany" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio &amp; Heastie (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>It is easy to mistakenly think there is only one thing Mayor Bill de Blasio wants from state lawmakers before they conclude the dwindling legislative session in Albany. Negotiations over an extension of soon-to-expire mayoral control of New York City schools have sucked most of the oxygen from the proverbial room -- though not the room, of ‘three men’ fame, which sat empty for months, until Monday -- leaving little time and attention for de Blasio’s other top priorities needing state action.</p> <p>So it was again on Monday, when de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council members, union representatives, and others rallied at City Hall to, as the mayor put it, call on “the Senate, the Assembly, and the Governor” to “get together and pass mayoral control now!”</p> <p>Like the past two years, when the mayor was granted consecutive one-year extensions, the de Blasio administration has moved allies to hold press conferences, write op-eds, make phone calls, and rally to push for mayoral control. It amounts to a great deal of effort and energy and political capital expended on one policy matter, albeit an extremely important one affecting over 1 million students, their parents, teachers, and others, while the rest of the de Blasio Albany agenda sits somewhat neglected.</p> <p>The mayor does have other priorities for the legislative session scheduled to end Wednesday, and while he has found some time to publicly advocate for a couple of them, his representatives are working relationships in Albany to move several key items.</p> <p>Those priorities include more school-zone speed cameras, a change to regulations allowing the city to expand contracting with minority- and women-owned businesses, the city being given the authority to use the more efficient “design-build” approach for major capital projects, like an overhaul of part of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and a package of electoral reforms that would make voting easier in New York.</p> <p>While mayoral control is locked in intense political jockeying and electoral reforms are mostly dead on arrival due to opposition from the Republican-controlled state Senate, the de Blasio administration is somewhat optimistic about getting at least some of what it wants on the other three items: design-build, M/WBE contracting, and speed cameras. In each of the three instances, the administration and its allies in the state Legislature have adjusted bills in order to garner more support and, they hope, reach compromise.</p> <p>Albany being Albany, it’s never clear what will get done when the buzzer sounds on a budget or legislative session. Governor Andrew Cuomo has largely been absent from the capital and recently said he doesn’t see much of significance, including an extension of mayoral control, happening this week. Cuomo held his first “leaders meeting” of the session on Monday at the Capitol with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) Leader Jeff Klein, which could be a sign that Cuomo is engaging and ready to broker some deals among the now ‘four men in the room.’</p> <p>De Blasio said Monday at City Hall that he “sat down with the Governor last Wednesday at length” and discussed mayoral control, as well as other topics. When Gotham Gazette asked the mayor for more about what he had said to the governor, de Blasio said, “I asked him to lead. I said we need you to step up and be the one that brings everyone together. We understand there’s differences between the Assembly and the Senate. We understand they’re held by different parties. That’s why we have a Governor.”</p> <p>The next day, the governor <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/06/cuomo-not-optimistic-anything-gets-done-next-week/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">said</a> on a press conference call that “Where we’re at right now, mayoral control does not have the support to pass.” The following day, he said on NY1 television that his guess would be the Legislature reconvenes toward the end of the year to pass emergency tax extenders and gets mayoral control reestablished then. It’s not clear if the governor meant these remarks or if he was just looking to make de Blasio sweat. De Blasio indicated Monday he wasn't sure why Cuomo would characterize the mayoral control situation that way, but that they had not agreed on a public script coming out of their meeting.</p> <p>According to de Blasio administration representatives, a breakthrough on mayoral control, which is being held up by Senate Republicans who want to tie it to an expansion of charter schools, and other big ticket items could pave the way for the annual bevy of deal-making on other things. Cuomo is also supportive of both extending mayoral control and increasing charter schools, whereas the Assembly Democrats are opposed to any expansion of charters.</p> <p>Cuomo does like to make deals, and his involvement in end-of-session negotiations could signal that the annual “big ugly” of last-minute legislation could be bigger and uglier than some may have expected or the governor himself predicted. One caveat is that Cuomo does not have any signature legislation he is pushing, though there are a handful of issues he has weighed in on, including support for a bill to help victims of childhood sexual assault report their abusers.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration has not been resigned to defeat on its priorities, instead continuing to work to leverage relationships, tweak bills, and build support. Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg is heading back to Albany Tuesday for further discussions with legislators about both speed cameras and design-build. (Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina is also heading to Albany Tuesday to advance the mayoral control discussion.) Intergovernmental affairs staff members have been working the halls and offices of the Capitol in order to make sure that support remains strong or grows for key pieces of the de Blasio agenda.</p> <p>When asked if the mayor would be making a journey to Albany this week, a de Blasio spokesperson said the mayor's schedule isn't released in advance. De Blasio is scheduled to hold a town hall meeting Wednesday night in Chinatown at about the same time that final deals might be negotiated in the capital. The mayor said on NY1 Monday night that if Senator Flanagan wanted to talk education policy he would happily take his call or go to Albany to talk with him.</p> <p>While the de Blasio administration has its top five major priorities, there are other items of interest at play, including what the administration believes will be a victory on expanded property tax exemptions for seniors and people with disabilities who own homes. Notably, de Blasio has not mentioned his "mansion tax" proposal lately, and no one from the administration indicated to Gotham Gazette that it is still a top priority, despite the fact that de Blasio made it a focus as state budget negotiations progressed and promised to push for it after a budget deal was announced that did not include the surcharge on large residential real estate transactions that the mayor would use to subsidize affordable housing for senior citizens.</p> <p>Instead, the mayor has spent more time on electoral reform, recently holding two tele-town halls on electoral reform, the second featuring 15,000 participants, the mayor said on the call. There is little optimism, however, that any of the signature proposals like early voting or same-day registration will pass. There is some hope for electronic poll books, but even agreement on instituting that fairly minor advancement, which holds the promise of reducing lines at polling places, appears elusive. The Legislature did already pass reforms to conditions for poll-site workers, creating split shifts in an effort to attract more candidates to the temporary jobs and increase productivity.</p> <p>De Blasio participated in a rally at City Hall calling for more speed cameras in school zones, a piece of his Vision Zero street safety program. The city wants hundreds more cameras after what it says has been a successful prior expansion. The relevant bill has been amended to drastically reduce the number of cameras the city would be able to install, and would allocate 150 new cameras over three years, at 50 per year. The administration and its allies also adjusted other aspects of the bill, like adding signage to alert drivers of the cameras, in order to build support from skeptical legislators.</p> <p>A main force behind the speed camera legislation is State Senator Jose Peralta, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference from Queens. The key, according to a de Blasio administration official, is getting the blessing of the Senate GOP conference’s three New York City-based members: Andrew Lanza, Marty Golden, and Simcha Felder. When the three agree to legislation that affects the city, Majority Leader Flanagan is often deferential, as he has publicly stated.</p> <p>Another IDC member, Senator Marisol Alcantara, of upper Manhattan, is leading the Senate push on the M/WBE legislation, which would allow the city to award larger contracts to M/WBEs without a competitive bidding process. The city threshold would be raised closer to the state allowance (from $35,000 to $150,000). It’s a similar ask to that of design-build.</p> <p>State government has utilized design-build to save time and money on big infrastructure projects and New York City wants similar power to streamline the process by awarding one contract for project design and execution, instead of engaging in separate processes and contracts. While the city would ideally be granted blanket authority, it has narrowed its ask to an initial eight projects, covered in one bill sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Lanza, a Staten Island Republican. Sen. Golden has his own design-build bill that only covers two projects. If the city is granted authority to use design-build, which has a groundswell of support from business and labor leaders, it will probably be for somewhere between the two and eight projects.</p> <p>“Design Build has the potential to save taxpayers millions of dollars and shave years off projects,” said de Blasio spokesperson Freddi Goldstein, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “If the State can use it for amusement parks and ski resorts, we should be able to use it to repair emergency rooms and build NYPD training facilities.”</p> <p>Indeed, Cuomo has repeatedly touted the state’s use of design-build to save time and money, but he has not shepherded through city permission.</p> <p>In the end, much, if not all, of de Blasio’s priorities rely on Cuomo, his antagonist and rival-in-chief. “[T]he Governor, when he puts his mind to something, he can be very, very effective,” de Blasio said Monday.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/24980864236_5c6038abfd_z_1.jpg" alt="De Blasio Heastie Albany" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio &amp; Heastie (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>It is easy to mistakenly think there is only one thing Mayor Bill de Blasio wants from state lawmakers before they conclude the dwindling legislative session in Albany. Negotiations over an extension of soon-to-expire mayoral control of New York City schools have sucked most of the oxygen from the proverbial room -- though not the room, of ‘three men’ fame, which sat empty for months, until Monday -- leaving little time and attention for de Blasio’s other top priorities needing state action.</p> <p>So it was again on Monday, when de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council members, union representatives, and others rallied at City Hall to, as the mayor put it, call on “the Senate, the Assembly, and the Governor” to “get together and pass mayoral control now!”</p> <p>Like the past two years, when the mayor was granted consecutive one-year extensions, the de Blasio administration has moved allies to hold press conferences, write op-eds, make phone calls, and rally to push for mayoral control. It amounts to a great deal of effort and energy and political capital expended on one policy matter, albeit an extremely important one affecting over 1 million students, their parents, teachers, and others, while the rest of the de Blasio Albany agenda sits somewhat neglected.</p> <p>The mayor does have other priorities for the legislative session scheduled to end Wednesday, and while he has found some time to publicly advocate for a couple of them, his representatives are working relationships in Albany to move several key items.</p> <p>Those priorities include more school-zone speed cameras, a change to regulations allowing the city to expand contracting with minority- and women-owned businesses, the city being given the authority to use the more efficient “design-build” approach for major capital projects, like an overhaul of part of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and a package of electoral reforms that would make voting easier in New York.</p> <p>While mayoral control is locked in intense political jockeying and electoral reforms are mostly dead on arrival due to opposition from the Republican-controlled state Senate, the de Blasio administration is somewhat optimistic about getting at least some of what it wants on the other three items: design-build, M/WBE contracting, and speed cameras. In each of the three instances, the administration and its allies in the state Legislature have adjusted bills in order to garner more support and, they hope, reach compromise.</p> <p>Albany being Albany, it’s never clear what will get done when the buzzer sounds on a budget or legislative session. Governor Andrew Cuomo has largely been absent from the capital and recently said he doesn’t see much of significance, including an extension of mayoral control, happening this week. Cuomo held his first “leaders meeting” of the session on Monday at the Capitol with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) Leader Jeff Klein, which could be a sign that Cuomo is engaging and ready to broker some deals among the now ‘four men in the room.’</p> <p>De Blasio said Monday at City Hall that he “sat down with the Governor last Wednesday at length” and discussed mayoral control, as well as other topics. When Gotham Gazette asked the mayor for more about what he had said to the governor, de Blasio said, “I asked him to lead. I said we need you to step up and be the one that brings everyone together. We understand there’s differences between the Assembly and the Senate. We understand they’re held by different parties. That’s why we have a Governor.”</p> <p>The next day, the governor <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/06/cuomo-not-optimistic-anything-gets-done-next-week/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">said</a> on a press conference call that “Where we’re at right now, mayoral control does not have the support to pass.” The following day, he said on NY1 television that his guess would be the Legislature reconvenes toward the end of the year to pass emergency tax extenders and gets mayoral control reestablished then. It’s not clear if the governor meant these remarks or if he was just looking to make de Blasio sweat. De Blasio indicated Monday he wasn't sure why Cuomo would characterize the mayoral control situation that way, but that they had not agreed on a public script coming out of their meeting.</p> <p>According to de Blasio administration representatives, a breakthrough on mayoral control, which is being held up by Senate Republicans who want to tie it to an expansion of charter schools, and other big ticket items could pave the way for the annual bevy of deal-making on other things. Cuomo is also supportive of both extending mayoral control and increasing charter schools, whereas the Assembly Democrats are opposed to any expansion of charters.</p> <p>Cuomo does like to make deals, and his involvement in end-of-session negotiations could signal that the annual “big ugly” of last-minute legislation could be bigger and uglier than some may have expected or the governor himself predicted. One caveat is that Cuomo does not have any signature legislation he is pushing, though there are a handful of issues he has weighed in on, including support for a bill to help victims of childhood sexual assault report their abusers.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration has not been resigned to defeat on its priorities, instead continuing to work to leverage relationships, tweak bills, and build support. Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg is heading back to Albany Tuesday for further discussions with legislators about both speed cameras and design-build. (Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina is also heading to Albany Tuesday to advance the mayoral control discussion.) Intergovernmental affairs staff members have been working the halls and offices of the Capitol in order to make sure that support remains strong or grows for key pieces of the de Blasio agenda.</p> <p>When asked if the mayor would be making a journey to Albany this week, a de Blasio spokesperson said the mayor's schedule isn't released in advance. De Blasio is scheduled to hold a town hall meeting Wednesday night in Chinatown at about the same time that final deals might be negotiated in the capital. The mayor said on NY1 Monday night that if Senator Flanagan wanted to talk education policy he would happily take his call or go to Albany to talk with him.</p> <p>While the de Blasio administration has its top five major priorities, there are other items of interest at play, including what the administration believes will be a victory on expanded property tax exemptions for seniors and people with disabilities who own homes. Notably, de Blasio has not mentioned his "mansion tax" proposal lately, and no one from the administration indicated to Gotham Gazette that it is still a top priority, despite the fact that de Blasio made it a focus as state budget negotiations progressed and promised to push for it after a budget deal was announced that did not include the surcharge on large residential real estate transactions that the mayor would use to subsidize affordable housing for senior citizens.</p> <p>Instead, the mayor has spent more time on electoral reform, recently holding two tele-town halls on electoral reform, the second featuring 15,000 participants, the mayor said on the call. There is little optimism, however, that any of the signature proposals like early voting or same-day registration will pass. There is some hope for electronic poll books, but even agreement on instituting that fairly minor advancement, which holds the promise of reducing lines at polling places, appears elusive. The Legislature did already pass reforms to conditions for poll-site workers, creating split shifts in an effort to attract more candidates to the temporary jobs and increase productivity.</p> <p>De Blasio participated in a rally at City Hall calling for more speed cameras in school zones, a piece of his Vision Zero street safety program. The city wants hundreds more cameras after what it says has been a successful prior expansion. The relevant bill has been amended to drastically reduce the number of cameras the city would be able to install, and would allocate 150 new cameras over three years, at 50 per year. The administration and its allies also adjusted other aspects of the bill, like adding signage to alert drivers of the cameras, in order to build support from skeptical legislators.</p> <p>A main force behind the speed camera legislation is State Senator Jose Peralta, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference from Queens. The key, according to a de Blasio administration official, is getting the blessing of the Senate GOP conference’s three New York City-based members: Andrew Lanza, Marty Golden, and Simcha Felder. When the three agree to legislation that affects the city, Majority Leader Flanagan is often deferential, as he has publicly stated.</p> <p>Another IDC member, Senator Marisol Alcantara, of upper Manhattan, is leading the Senate push on the M/WBE legislation, which would allow the city to award larger contracts to M/WBEs without a competitive bidding process. The city threshold would be raised closer to the state allowance (from $35,000 to $150,000). It’s a similar ask to that of design-build.</p> <p>State government has utilized design-build to save time and money on big infrastructure projects and New York City wants similar power to streamline the process by awarding one contract for project design and execution, instead of engaging in separate processes and contracts. While the city would ideally be granted blanket authority, it has narrowed its ask to an initial eight projects, covered in one bill sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Lanza, a Staten Island Republican. Sen. Golden has his own design-build bill that only covers two projects. If the city is granted authority to use design-build, which has a groundswell of support from business and labor leaders, it will probably be for somewhere between the two and eight projects.</p> <p>“Design Build has the potential to save taxpayers millions of dollars and shave years off projects,” said de Blasio spokesperson Freddi Goldstein, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “If the State can use it for amusement parks and ski resorts, we should be able to use it to repair emergency rooms and build NYPD training facilities.”</p> <p>Indeed, Cuomo has repeatedly touted the state’s use of design-build to save time and money, but he has not shepherded through city permission.</p> <p>In the end, much, if not all, of de Blasio’s priorities rely on Cuomo, his antagonist and rival-in-chief. “[T]he Governor, when he puts his mind to something, he can be very, very effective,” de Blasio said Monday.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
With Session Ending and Trial Looming, No Legislative Response to Bid-rigging Scandal 2017-06-18T04:00:00+00:00 2017-06-18T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7007:with-session-ending-and-trial-looming-no-legislative-response-to-bid-rigging-scandal Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/24253948132_378146d4bd_z_1.jpg" alt="Cuomo Flanagan Heastie" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Flanagan, Cuomo, Heastie (photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>With just three scheduled days left in the legislative session and the corruption trial of several close associates of Governor Andrew Cuomo for their roles in a bid-rigging scandal scheduled to commence in October, the Legislature has yet to pass any meaningful legislation to prevent such abuses of the procurement process.</p> <p>State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has introduced a comprehensive bill to address the issue, which is the basis for a Senate bill sponsored by Senator John DeFrancisco, a Syracuse Republican, and sister legislation by Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Buffalo Democrat. The legislation would restore authority of the Comptroller to pre-audit all state contracts over $250,000, particularly for SUNY and CUNY affiliated non-profits, a power that was stripped in 2011.</p> <p>That year, Cuomo and legislative leaders (who are now headed to jail) said that the scaling back of oversight was necessary in order to expedite approval for the governor’s signature economic development initiatives. The idea that the Comptroller’s contract review slows down projects is misguided, according to budget watchdogs. The Comptroller has up to 30 days to approve a contract, but on average approves contracts within six days, according to April figures provided by DiNapoli’s office.</p> <p>The absence of an independent oversight body appears to have cleared the way for the massive $800 million bribery scheme that took down close Cuomo associate and friend Joe Percoco, as well as then-SUNY Polytechnic President Alain Kaloyeros, who Cuomo had heaped praise and responsibility on, and several major donors to Cuomo who were awarded large contracts. The alleged scheme was uncovered by the office of then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.</p> <p>More recently, Bart Schwartz, head of Guidepost Solutions LLC, who was hired by Cuomo to probe the contracting process and what might have gone wrong, found significant flaws. In his review of the $417 million awarded to vendors at Buffalo’s SolarCity project and other upstate initiatives, he found that at least $49 million was awarded using a “sloppy process.” The Buffalo News <a href="http://buffalonews.com/2017/06/15/report-cuomo-outlines-states-sloppy-buffalo-billion-billing-process/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first reported</a> the details of Schwartz’s report, which the Cuomo administration had failed to make public, but was obtained through the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). Schwartz was paid as much as $1 million for his investigative work and the Cuomo administration has indicated that it accepted his recommendations for cleaning up contracting processes.</p> <p>While DeFrancisco’s bill has passed the Senate’s finance committee, and the Assembly on Wednesday tweaked its version of the bill to match the Senate’s, legislative leaders offered reserved endorsements of the legislation, and it has yet to be calendared for a floor vote in either house.</p> <p>Both Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie have said they support the restoration of pre-auditing powers to the comptroller’s office, but that they are working towards a “three-way agreement” with the governor before advancing the legislation, which is backed by good government groups and many rank-and-file lawmakers.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the governor has been defiant, saying that the powers should not be returned to the Comptroller. Instead, Cuomo in his 2017 policy book proposed expanding the oversight powers of the state inspector general to include procurement at CUNY and SUNY nonprofits, as well as new inspectors general, appointed by and reporting to the executive branch. In the aftermath of the scandal, Cuomo also vowed to create a chief procurement officer in the executive branch.</p> <p>“The proposed legislation does not address the issue and is both burdensome and duplicative,” said Cuomo’s counsel, Alphonso David, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “The vast majority of these contracts are subject to OSC [Office of the State Comptroller] post-award oversight and these measures only add significant delays and increase costs for New York taxpayers.”</p> <p>David’s statement highlights a key difference between the governor’s proposal and the “clean contracting” legislation backed by the comptroller and government reformers, which emphasizes prevention, making SUNY and CUNY projects subject to the same early scrutiny and standards as other state-funded projects, rather than after-the-fact oversight.</p> <p>“The governor's proposal utterly and totally misses the point because it creates addition inspector generals who are appointed by the governor,” said John Kaehny, executive director of the government reform group ReInvent Albany. “The problem...was bid-rigging; the state contracts were rigged to favor one vendor over the others, and that could have been prevented by independent, pre-contract review.”</p> <p>Representatives from the Reinvent Albany, New York Public Interest Group, League of Women Voters, and Citizens Budget Commission gathered at the Capitol this past Wednesday, with the blessing of other government reform groups, to call on Albany to pass the legislation -- with or without the governor’s support.</p> <p>“If lawmakers are at all serious about addressing the problems that happened with last year’s bid-rigging scandal they need to support prevention of these crime -- and that means independent pre-contract review,” said Kaehny.</p> <p>They noted that the Legislature is granted power to enact legislation without the governor’s support, first by passing it through both houses. If Cuomo does not then sign or veto the bill, it would automatically become law in 10 days. If the governor vetoes it, the Legislature could independently reconvene to override his veto. More than a majority, two-thirds of each house, must vote in favor in order pass legislation rejected by the governor. As a result, veto overrides are rare; <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/27/nyregion/legislature-overrides-most-budget-vetoes-but-pataki-says-he-will.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the last time</a> the Legislature successfully overrode a gubernatorial veto was in 2006, during a tumultuous budget negotiation that took place during the last year of Governor George Pataki’s final term, when legislative leaders went to bat over a property tax rebate and cuts to state university funding.&nbsp;</p> <p>Among those who floated the idea of the Legislature passing the bill without the governor’s support is Senator DeFrancisco, who expressed frustration the procurement reform legislation was not calendared earlier.</p> <p>“I try to advocate for it all the time. I know the governor is apoplectic against it and he’d rather have an inspector general that he can control,” DeFrancisco told reporters at the Capitol on June 12. “Hopefully reason will prevail.”</p> <p>When asked to elaborate on the problems with the governor’s proposal, DeFrancisco said, “What he wanted in the budget was to have an independent inspector general, appointed by him to review his contracts. I don’t think you have to be a lawyer, you just have to be somewhat sane to realize that that’s not a check and balance on anybody. He doesn’t want to lose that control and have that oversight. There’s no other logic why he wouldn’t do it.”</p> <p>Speaker Heastie, in an interview with Gotham Gazette, remained coy about the possibility of passing the legislation and reconvening to override a potential gubernatorial veto.</p> <p>"Those are always options, that are there but again you are asking me what you are going to do on failure, I don’t like to report on failure,“ he said, adding that there is always “the summer” and “next session” to pass legislation.</p> <p>“The end of session is a deadline, but it’s not the end of the world if there is ever a need for us to do anything legislatively. We said we’ll come back if the actions in Washington dictate us to come back,” he said. “If we have to come back, the members will come back."</p> <p>Majority Leader Flanagan expressed only slightly more enthusiasm about the idea of procurement reform. Calling the oversight measure “extraordinarily important,” Flanagan said, “I expect we will have procurement reform before the end of the session, whether it’s [legislation proposed by] Senator DeFrancisco or a variation of that bill, I expect we will move in that direction.”</p> <p>The bill has widespread support in the Legislature; minority leaders say they also support the comptroller-backed proposal, which also ends contracting for non-academic purposes by state-controlled non-profit organizations, and transfers all economic development awards to the the Empire State Development Corporation.</p> <p>However, Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) Leader Senator Jeff Klein struck a different tone Thursday, saying he opposed DeFrancisco’s legislation. The IDC and GOP have a power-sharing alliance in the Senate. Klein said he intends to introduce a new bill this week, which instead of restoring the comptroller’s powers would appoint an independent investigator to look at claims of misconduct. When pressed, he did not clarify how this proposal differed from the governor’s proposal.</p> <p>“Right now the power of the comptroller is post-audit -- so what I would assume is if there is any problem in the procurement process, you’d be able to spot any problem post-audit. Then why would you need to have pre-audit ability?” said Klein. “I think what we need is a downright investigator -- someone who has the power to investigate the contracting process as it moves forward, to make sure there’s no favoritism, to make sure there’s no bribery.”</p> <p>This past week, the bill’s Assembly sponsor, Peoples-Stokes, also expressed second thoughts about how the legislation could slow the approval for contracts for minority- and women-owned businesses that are awarded grants by the state’s Empire State Development Corporation, or impact healthcare organizations like Roswell Park Cancer Institute, a public not-for-profit that would be subject to increased scrutiny.</p> <p>“The last thing we want is processes to slow down their ability to grow...At first blush, it seems like great legislation, when you delve in there’s some things that need to be tweaked,” said Peoples-Stokes. “I’m grateful there’s some lawyers and a team around here that can help me straighten something out. I think what happened in 2011, that maybe we should takes some looks at, but all these other things.”</p> <p>Earlier this year, a month after talks of a long-awaited pay raise for lawmakers turned sour, legislative leaders seemed ready to take a different approach than they are now, vowing to stand up to the executive branch.</p> <p>In January, during his remarks on opening day of the 2017 session, Flanagan urged his fellow lawmakers to stand up to the governor over the economic development programs, which were marred by the alleged bid-rigging scandal and other accountability problems. Urging his fellow legislators to “ask tough questions” on the progress of economic initiatives like Start-Up NY and Regional Economic Development Councils, Flanagan cited the Legislature’s power as a check on the governor.</p> <p>“It’s very simple, the legislative power of the state is vested in the Senate and the Assembly,” Flanagan said in January. “Not the attorney general, not the controller, and not the governor.”</p> <p>In the budget deal passed in April, Cuomo’s signature economic development and infrastructure programs were fully-funded and no new oversight measures were passed.</p> <p><a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/s6613" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Another bill</a>, sponsored by Senator Thomas Croci, a Long Island Republican, would create a searchable “database of deals,” cataloguing all businesses that have been awarded state subsidies -- a system in place in six other states -- has made no headway in the Senate or Assembly.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/24253948132_378146d4bd_z_1.jpg" alt="Cuomo Flanagan Heastie" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Flanagan, Cuomo, Heastie (photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>With just three scheduled days left in the legislative session and the corruption trial of several close associates of Governor Andrew Cuomo for their roles in a bid-rigging scandal scheduled to commence in October, the Legislature has yet to pass any meaningful legislation to prevent such abuses of the procurement process.</p> <p>State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has introduced a comprehensive bill to address the issue, which is the basis for a Senate bill sponsored by Senator John DeFrancisco, a Syracuse Republican, and sister legislation by Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Buffalo Democrat. The legislation would restore authority of the Comptroller to pre-audit all state contracts over $250,000, particularly for SUNY and CUNY affiliated non-profits, a power that was stripped in 2011.</p> <p>That year, Cuomo and legislative leaders (who are now headed to jail) said that the scaling back of oversight was necessary in order to expedite approval for the governor’s signature economic development initiatives. The idea that the Comptroller’s contract review slows down projects is misguided, according to budget watchdogs. The Comptroller has up to 30 days to approve a contract, but on average approves contracts within six days, according to April figures provided by DiNapoli’s office.</p> <p>The absence of an independent oversight body appears to have cleared the way for the massive $800 million bribery scheme that took down close Cuomo associate and friend Joe Percoco, as well as then-SUNY Polytechnic President Alain Kaloyeros, who Cuomo had heaped praise and responsibility on, and several major donors to Cuomo who were awarded large contracts. The alleged scheme was uncovered by the office of then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.</p> <p>More recently, Bart Schwartz, head of Guidepost Solutions LLC, who was hired by Cuomo to probe the contracting process and what might have gone wrong, found significant flaws. In his review of the $417 million awarded to vendors at Buffalo’s SolarCity project and other upstate initiatives, he found that at least $49 million was awarded using a “sloppy process.” The Buffalo News <a href="http://buffalonews.com/2017/06/15/report-cuomo-outlines-states-sloppy-buffalo-billion-billing-process/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first reported</a> the details of Schwartz’s report, which the Cuomo administration had failed to make public, but was obtained through the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). Schwartz was paid as much as $1 million for his investigative work and the Cuomo administration has indicated that it accepted his recommendations for cleaning up contracting processes.</p> <p>While DeFrancisco’s bill has passed the Senate’s finance committee, and the Assembly on Wednesday tweaked its version of the bill to match the Senate’s, legislative leaders offered reserved endorsements of the legislation, and it has yet to be calendared for a floor vote in either house.</p> <p>Both Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie have said they support the restoration of pre-auditing powers to the comptroller’s office, but that they are working towards a “three-way agreement” with the governor before advancing the legislation, which is backed by good government groups and many rank-and-file lawmakers.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the governor has been defiant, saying that the powers should not be returned to the Comptroller. Instead, Cuomo in his 2017 policy book proposed expanding the oversight powers of the state inspector general to include procurement at CUNY and SUNY nonprofits, as well as new inspectors general, appointed by and reporting to the executive branch. In the aftermath of the scandal, Cuomo also vowed to create a chief procurement officer in the executive branch.</p> <p>“The proposed legislation does not address the issue and is both burdensome and duplicative,” said Cuomo’s counsel, Alphonso David, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “The vast majority of these contracts are subject to OSC [Office of the State Comptroller] post-award oversight and these measures only add significant delays and increase costs for New York taxpayers.”</p> <p>David’s statement highlights a key difference between the governor’s proposal and the “clean contracting” legislation backed by the comptroller and government reformers, which emphasizes prevention, making SUNY and CUNY projects subject to the same early scrutiny and standards as other state-funded projects, rather than after-the-fact oversight.</p> <p>“The governor's proposal utterly and totally misses the point because it creates addition inspector generals who are appointed by the governor,” said John Kaehny, executive director of the government reform group ReInvent Albany. “The problem...was bid-rigging; the state contracts were rigged to favor one vendor over the others, and that could have been prevented by independent, pre-contract review.”</p> <p>Representatives from the Reinvent Albany, New York Public Interest Group, League of Women Voters, and Citizens Budget Commission gathered at the Capitol this past Wednesday, with the blessing of other government reform groups, to call on Albany to pass the legislation -- with or without the governor’s support.</p> <p>“If lawmakers are at all serious about addressing the problems that happened with last year’s bid-rigging scandal they need to support prevention of these crime -- and that means independent pre-contract review,” said Kaehny.</p> <p>They noted that the Legislature is granted power to enact legislation without the governor’s support, first by passing it through both houses. If Cuomo does not then sign or veto the bill, it would automatically become law in 10 days. If the governor vetoes it, the Legislature could independently reconvene to override his veto. More than a majority, two-thirds of each house, must vote in favor in order pass legislation rejected by the governor. As a result, veto overrides are rare; <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/27/nyregion/legislature-overrides-most-budget-vetoes-but-pataki-says-he-will.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the last time</a> the Legislature successfully overrode a gubernatorial veto was in 2006, during a tumultuous budget negotiation that took place during the last year of Governor George Pataki’s final term, when legislative leaders went to bat over a property tax rebate and cuts to state university funding.&nbsp;</p> <p>Among those who floated the idea of the Legislature passing the bill without the governor’s support is Senator DeFrancisco, who expressed frustration the procurement reform legislation was not calendared earlier.</p> <p>“I try to advocate for it all the time. I know the governor is apoplectic against it and he’d rather have an inspector general that he can control,” DeFrancisco told reporters at the Capitol on June 12. “Hopefully reason will prevail.”</p> <p>When asked to elaborate on the problems with the governor’s proposal, DeFrancisco said, “What he wanted in the budget was to have an independent inspector general, appointed by him to review his contracts. I don’t think you have to be a lawyer, you just have to be somewhat sane to realize that that’s not a check and balance on anybody. He doesn’t want to lose that control and have that oversight. There’s no other logic why he wouldn’t do it.”</p> <p>Speaker Heastie, in an interview with Gotham Gazette, remained coy about the possibility of passing the legislation and reconvening to override a potential gubernatorial veto.</p> <p>"Those are always options, that are there but again you are asking me what you are going to do on failure, I don’t like to report on failure,“ he said, adding that there is always “the summer” and “next session” to pass legislation.</p> <p>“The end of session is a deadline, but it’s not the end of the world if there is ever a need for us to do anything legislatively. We said we’ll come back if the actions in Washington dictate us to come back,” he said. “If we have to come back, the members will come back."</p> <p>Majority Leader Flanagan expressed only slightly more enthusiasm about the idea of procurement reform. Calling the oversight measure “extraordinarily important,” Flanagan said, “I expect we will have procurement reform before the end of the session, whether it’s [legislation proposed by] Senator DeFrancisco or a variation of that bill, I expect we will move in that direction.”</p> <p>The bill has widespread support in the Legislature; minority leaders say they also support the comptroller-backed proposal, which also ends contracting for non-academic purposes by state-controlled non-profit organizations, and transfers all economic development awards to the the Empire State Development Corporation.</p> <p>However, Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) Leader Senator Jeff Klein struck a different tone Thursday, saying he opposed DeFrancisco’s legislation. The IDC and GOP have a power-sharing alliance in the Senate. Klein said he intends to introduce a new bill this week, which instead of restoring the comptroller’s powers would appoint an independent investigator to look at claims of misconduct. When pressed, he did not clarify how this proposal differed from the governor’s proposal.</p> <p>“Right now the power of the comptroller is post-audit -- so what I would assume is if there is any problem in the procurement process, you’d be able to spot any problem post-audit. Then why would you need to have pre-audit ability?” said Klein. “I think what we need is a downright investigator -- someone who has the power to investigate the contracting process as it moves forward, to make sure there’s no favoritism, to make sure there’s no bribery.”</p> <p>This past week, the bill’s Assembly sponsor, Peoples-Stokes, also expressed second thoughts about how the legislation could slow the approval for contracts for minority- and women-owned businesses that are awarded grants by the state’s Empire State Development Corporation, or impact healthcare organizations like Roswell Park Cancer Institute, a public not-for-profit that would be subject to increased scrutiny.</p> <p>“The last thing we want is processes to slow down their ability to grow...At first blush, it seems like great legislation, when you delve in there’s some things that need to be tweaked,” said Peoples-Stokes. “I’m grateful there’s some lawyers and a team around here that can help me straighten something out. I think what happened in 2011, that maybe we should takes some looks at, but all these other things.”</p> <p>Earlier this year, a month after talks of a long-awaited pay raise for lawmakers turned sour, legislative leaders seemed ready to take a different approach than they are now, vowing to stand up to the executive branch.</p> <p>In January, during his remarks on opening day of the 2017 session, Flanagan urged his fellow lawmakers to stand up to the governor over the economic development programs, which were marred by the alleged bid-rigging scandal and other accountability problems. Urging his fellow legislators to “ask tough questions” on the progress of economic initiatives like Start-Up NY and Regional Economic Development Councils, Flanagan cited the Legislature’s power as a check on the governor.</p> <p>“It’s very simple, the legislative power of the state is vested in the Senate and the Assembly,” Flanagan said in January. “Not the attorney general, not the controller, and not the governor.”</p> <p>In the budget deal passed in April, Cuomo’s signature economic development and infrastructure programs were fully-funded and no new oversight measures were passed.</p> <p><a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/s6613" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Another bill</a>, sponsored by Senator Thomas Croci, a Long Island Republican, would create a searchable “database of deals,” cataloguing all businesses that have been awarded state subsidies -- a system in place in six other states -- has made no headway in the Senate or Assembly.</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>