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 2019-01-20T23:43:04+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Commission Recommends Pay Increases and Ethics Reforms for State Legislators 2018-12-06T05:00:00+00:00 2018-12-06T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8125-commission-recommends-pay-increases-and-ethics-reforms-for-state-legislators Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/senatechamberalbany2.jpg" alt="senatechamberalbany2" /></p> <p>(Photo via Wiki Commons)</p> <hr /> <p>Statewide elected officials, legislators and agency heads are slated to get pay raises next year following recommendations issued Thursday by a four-member panel that was created in this year’s state budget.</p> <p>The New York State Compensation Committee voted on Thursday to raise the salaries of legislators for the first time in nearly twenty years, as well as for the four statewide offices and for executive agency commissioners. The committee will publicly release a report and deliver it to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature on Monday outlining their binding recommendations on phasing in the salary increases over three years, accompanied by certain ethics reform measures. The raises will go into effect by January 1 unless the state legislature meets and rejects them.</p> <p>The committee -- which included State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, former State Comptroller and SUNY Board Chair Carl McCall, and former New York City Comptroller and CUNY Board Chair Bill Thompson -- was created in the state budget to determine an appropriate raise for legislators, based on cost of living and on salaries for legislators in other states. The current base pay for state legislators stands at $79,500 and has remained unchanged since 1999.</p> <p>Per the panel’s unanimous recommendations, salaries for legislators will be raised to $130,000 by 2021, with lawmakers set to receive $110,000 in 2019 and $120,000 in 2020. The commission also recommended limiting outside income for legislators to 15 percent of their salary, in line with the rules for members of Congress, and the elimination of committee stipends -- commonly referred to as lulus -- for all but the top leadership in both legislative chambers.</p> <p>“I think in looking at the fact that they haven’t had a raise in twenty years...when you talk about the issues of fairness, it is not the right thing,” Thompson said, arguing that the idea that legislators only work part-time is a mischaracterization due to their in-district work. The limits on outside income will take effect in 2020, because, according to McCall, legislators would need time to disengage from their outside income-generating activities and could not do so right away.</p> <p>The panel also endorsed raising the governor’s salary to $250,000 by 2021, up from the current $179,000. The lieutenant governor, attorney general, and state comptroller, each of whom currently make $151,000, will see their pay rise to $210,000 salary by 2021. DiNapoli recused himself from that vote.</p> <p>The pay raise committee was originally meant to be chaired by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, but DiFiore announced in May that she would not serve because she believed a judge determining legislative pay was unconstitutional. The broader constitutionality of the committee has also been challenged, as it is still unclear whether a pay raise can be authorized by outside officials or if it must be approved by the legislature. The panel members, however, insisted that their recommendations are enforceable for all their proposals except the raises for the governor and lieutenant governor, which must be approved by a joint resolution of the legislature. They also maintained that tying the raises to an outside income limitation and curbing committee stipends was within their authority, which could potentially invite legal challenges going forward.</p> <p>When the salary raises are fully implemented by 2021, New York will surpass California and have the highest-paid governor and legislature in the nation. McCall noted that coupling the pay increase with outside income limitations would also quell the discontent New Yorkers feel about giving raises to a legislature that has long been marred by scandal and corruption. “We really have to make sure that we send the signals to the public about how serious they are about doing their job and doing it well,” McCall said.</p> <p>For executive agency heads, the panel proposed four classes of salary, a decrease from the current six, which will be assigned depending on the agency. By 2021, commissioners in the top class will make $220,000 and commissioners in the bottom class will make $170,000.</p> <p>Legislative leaders have expressed support for the panel’s recommendations. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins announced her support for the measure on Thursday, hours before the meeting, while also concurrently declaring support for ethics reform. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie testified to the Commission last week in favor of the raise, noting that legislators have financial strains similar to their constituents. “They too must finance college loans, meet the cost of child care, and provide for the wellbeing of elderly parents and loved ones at home,” Heastie said. He further argued that, because so many legislators live in the expensive New York City metro area, a pay raise was warranted to more adequately reflect the high cost of living here.</p> <p>The New York Public Interest Research Group, which advocates for government reform, was skeptical of the panel’s recommendations, pushing for a more comprehensive set of “corruption-busting” reforms. “While we agree that the Congressional model is appropriate to regulate legislators’ outside income, advancing a reform in this area alone is inadequate,” said NYPIRG’s Blair Horner, in a statement. “We note that the ethical problems that have plagued the state have not been limited to the legislative branch. Given the stunning pay-to-play scandals that have rocked government, reforms in that area must be addressed. Failure to do so highlights the inadequacy of the reform package.”</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/senatechamberalbany2.jpg" alt="senatechamberalbany2" /></p> <p>(Photo via Wiki Commons)</p> <hr /> <p>Statewide elected officials, legislators and agency heads are slated to get pay raises next year following recommendations issued Thursday by a four-member panel that was created in this year’s state budget.</p> <p>The New York State Compensation Committee voted on Thursday to raise the salaries of legislators for the first time in nearly twenty years, as well as for the four statewide offices and for executive agency commissioners. The committee will publicly release a report and deliver it to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature on Monday outlining their binding recommendations on phasing in the salary increases over three years, accompanied by certain ethics reform measures. The raises will go into effect by January 1 unless the state legislature meets and rejects them.</p> <p>The committee -- which included State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, former State Comptroller and SUNY Board Chair Carl McCall, and former New York City Comptroller and CUNY Board Chair Bill Thompson -- was created in the state budget to determine an appropriate raise for legislators, based on cost of living and on salaries for legislators in other states. The current base pay for state legislators stands at $79,500 and has remained unchanged since 1999.</p> <p>Per the panel’s unanimous recommendations, salaries for legislators will be raised to $130,000 by 2021, with lawmakers set to receive $110,000 in 2019 and $120,000 in 2020. The commission also recommended limiting outside income for legislators to 15 percent of their salary, in line with the rules for members of Congress, and the elimination of committee stipends -- commonly referred to as lulus -- for all but the top leadership in both legislative chambers.</p> <p>“I think in looking at the fact that they haven’t had a raise in twenty years...when you talk about the issues of fairness, it is not the right thing,” Thompson said, arguing that the idea that legislators only work part-time is a mischaracterization due to their in-district work. The limits on outside income will take effect in 2020, because, according to McCall, legislators would need time to disengage from their outside income-generating activities and could not do so right away.</p> <p>The panel also endorsed raising the governor’s salary to $250,000 by 2021, up from the current $179,000. The lieutenant governor, attorney general, and state comptroller, each of whom currently make $151,000, will see their pay rise to $210,000 salary by 2021. DiNapoli recused himself from that vote.</p> <p>The pay raise committee was originally meant to be chaired by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, but DiFiore announced in May that she would not serve because she believed a judge determining legislative pay was unconstitutional. The broader constitutionality of the committee has also been challenged, as it is still unclear whether a pay raise can be authorized by outside officials or if it must be approved by the legislature. The panel members, however, insisted that their recommendations are enforceable for all their proposals except the raises for the governor and lieutenant governor, which must be approved by a joint resolution of the legislature. They also maintained that tying the raises to an outside income limitation and curbing committee stipends was within their authority, which could potentially invite legal challenges going forward.</p> <p>When the salary raises are fully implemented by 2021, New York will surpass California and have the highest-paid governor and legislature in the nation. McCall noted that coupling the pay increase with outside income limitations would also quell the discontent New Yorkers feel about giving raises to a legislature that has long been marred by scandal and corruption. “We really have to make sure that we send the signals to the public about how serious they are about doing their job and doing it well,” McCall said.</p> <p>For executive agency heads, the panel proposed four classes of salary, a decrease from the current six, which will be assigned depending on the agency. By 2021, commissioners in the top class will make $220,000 and commissioners in the bottom class will make $170,000.</p> <p>Legislative leaders have expressed support for the panel’s recommendations. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins announced her support for the measure on Thursday, hours before the meeting, while also concurrently declaring support for ethics reform. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie testified to the Commission last week in favor of the raise, noting that legislators have financial strains similar to their constituents. “They too must finance college loans, meet the cost of child care, and provide for the wellbeing of elderly parents and loved ones at home,” Heastie said. He further argued that, because so many legislators live in the expensive New York City metro area, a pay raise was warranted to more adequately reflect the high cost of living here.</p> <p>The New York Public Interest Research Group, which advocates for government reform, was skeptical of the panel’s recommendations, pushing for a more comprehensive set of “corruption-busting” reforms. “While we agree that the Congressional model is appropriate to regulate legislators’ outside income, advancing a reform in this area alone is inadequate,” said NYPIRG’s Blair Horner, in a statement. “We note that the ethical problems that have plagued the state have not been limited to the legislative branch. Given the stunning pay-to-play scandals that have rocked government, reforms in that area must be addressed. Failure to do so highlights the inadequacy of the reform package.”</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
As Democratic Senate Becomes Reality, Unclear How Hard Assembly Majority Will Push Prior Agenda 2018-11-25T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-25T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8083-as-democratic-senate-becomes-reality-unclear-how-hard-assembly-majority-will-push-prior-agenda Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/how-hard-push.jpg" alt="how hard push" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (photo via the Governor's office}</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>As New York lurches out of election season and looks to what issues the state legislative session in 2019 could tackle, the Assembly is in an unfamiliar position as something more than a purgatory for progressive priorities. For years, the lower house of the Legislature was a place where progressive goals like criminal justice and voting reforms, the DREAM Act, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, the New York Health Act, and the Climate and Communities Protection Act could reliably be passed thanks to a huge Democratic majority. And every time those bills passed the Assembly, the state Senate, controlled by either Republicans or an alliance of Republicans and breakaway Democrats, would almost always keep the companion legislation in committee, far from a floor vote.</p> <p>But with Democrats about to take control of the state Senate in addition to the governor’s mansion, the Assembly will in 2019 have a chance to actually see bills they’ve passed every year get a real debate in Albany. And advocates and activists are waiting expectantly for just that scenario to happen, their sense of urgency heightened in the Trump era, which led their efforts to help flip the state Senate so it is no longer a roadblock.</p> <p>While the state Senate Democrats will not be in the same political universe as the outgoing Republican majority, the conference will still need to sort out its priorities, including how those of some of its tax-averse suburban and upstate members, who’ll need to win re-election in 2020, align with the city-dominated Assembly. One-party rule may not be the rubber stamp <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8009-senate-republicans-leave-molinaro-out-of-only-hope-messaging" target="_blank" rel="noopener">that Republicans warned it would be</a> during the election, especially as the new state Senate majority will have to get its footing under a dominating and fairly moderate governor. Cuomo also <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7969-cuomo-begins-push-to-flip-state-senate-and-house-of-representatives" target="_blank" rel="noopener">campaigned for</a> the newly-elected state Senators from Long Island, as well as the Hudson Valley’s Peter Harckham and Brooklyn’s Andrew Gounardes, which in theory, and his own telling, gives him some sway over them that may counteract the influence of grassroots activists who worked to elect a Democratic Senate.</p> <p>By appearances, a wave of progressive legislation bursting out of Albany and washing over New York would be an expected natural occurrence. Democrats are in possession of a supermajority in the Assembly and Senate, one whose membership stretches from Suffolk County to upstate and western New York and whose new members did not shy away from embracing far-left progressive priorities like single-payer healthcare. Carl Heastie, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/07/upshot/ranking-carl-heastie-by-ideological-score.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">once found to be one of the most liberal legislators in all of America</a>, remains the Assembly Speaker, and Democrats have a 106-43 advantage in the chamber. One significant question now hanging over state government: how hard left will the Assembly push?</p> <p>Their long-sought situation in the Legislature leaves progressive activists like Jonathan Westin, the executive director of economic justice organization New York Communities for Change, feeling hopeful for the session to come. “I think the Assembly has been committed to a lot of progressive legislation for a long time and we expect them to continue to do that,” Westin told Gotham Gazette. “A lot of the grassroots base is ready to push but at the same time we feel pretty confident that the Assembly is gonna go forward and pass a lot of these bills.”</p> <p>In his first year as speaker, Heastie <a href="https://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2015/02/ny_state_assembly_speaker_carl_heasties_priorities_minimum_wage_higher_ed_housin.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">laid out a series of now-familiar priorities</a> for the 2015 Assembly Democrats. Passing the DREAM Act, raising the state’s minimum wage, reforming the state’s rent laws in a more tenant-friendly direction. While the DREAM Act has still not come to the floor of the state Senate <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/18/nyregion/new-york-senate-rejects-measure-to-give-illegal-immigrants-state-tuition-aid.html?ref=nyregion&amp;_r=0&amp;gwh=CCC9DCBD03DC8F8F09DB489A0951BB32&amp;gwt=regi" target="_blank" rel="noopener">since a failed 2014 vote</a> and the state’s rent stabilization laws <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2015/06/accord-reached-on-421-a-program-rent-law-renewal-023406" target="_blank" rel="noopener">were renewed but not drastically changed</a> in 2015, progressives did see a victory when Cuomo prioritized and pushed through the Republican Senate <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-new-york-minimumwage/new-yorks-cuomo-signs-two-tier-minimum-wage-law-in-push-for-state-wide-15-hour-idUSKCN0X11Y1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a $15 minimum wage program of sorts in 2016</a>.</p> <p>Heastie used the 2018 legislative session to <a href="https://nyassembly.gov/Press/files/20180205.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">again push for the DREAM Act</a> to become law, and also <a href="https://assembly.state.ny.us/Press/files/20180515.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">highlighted Assembly legislation</a> to alter a suite of rent regulations essential to hundreds of thousands of units of affordable housing in New York City. Assembly Democrats also passed the New York Health Act, which would institute single-payer health care, <a href="https://nyassembly.gov/Press/files/20180614.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">for the fourth straight year in 2018</a>, <a href="https://assembly.state.ny.us/Press/files/20180507a.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">GENDA for the tenth straight year</a>, major climate change fighting legislation (the CCPA) <a href="http://www.nyrenews.org/news/2018/6/21/cuomo-senate-punt-again-on-climate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">for the third straight year</a>, and the Reproductive Health Act , which would codify Roe v. Wade into state law, <a href="https://nyassembly.gov/Press/files/20180313d.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">for the fifth straight year</a>.</p> <p>What’s different about the upcoming legislative session is not only have Democrats captured the state Senate, but a good chunk of the new legislators going to Albany are staunch progressive voices who were sent to office by furious left-wing organizing both old and new.</p> <p>Democrats like Zellnor Myrie and Jessica Ramos made things like major overhauls of the rent laws and repeal of the Urstadt Law, which keeps New York City from setting its own rent-stabilization laws, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/RamosforStateSenate/videos/landlord-loopholes-we-must-close-in-order-to-protect-renters-%EF%B8%8F-mcis%EF%B8%8F-vacancy-dec/222969148397305/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">centerpieces</a> of their insurgent state Senate <a href="https://zellnorforstatesenate.com/platform/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">campaigns</a>. In the Hudson Valley, newly-elected Senators Harckham and Jen Metzger both embraced the New York Health Act as feasible and worthwhile, and DREAM Act-supporting activists from Make the Road Action, the immigrant and working class advocacy organization, <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/campaigns-elections/will-democratic-volunteers-help-swing-state-senate.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">helped power</a> Long Island state Senator John Brooks and state Senator-elect Jim Gaughran to their swing-district wins.</p> <p>On the other hand, there are already <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-senate-democrats-seddio-jacobs-schaffer-zellner-20181111-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">powerful figures in the party suggesting</a> that long-sought leftist priorities are toxic outside of New York City, leadership in the Legislature will have to tamp down enthusiasm for any bills that might raise taxes, and Cuomo said in an interview that he thinks something like single-payer health care <a href="https://twitter.com/DaveCoIon/status/1063105886745444353" target="_blank" rel="noopener">will get bottled up by the governing processes</a> that separate campaign rhetoric from reality.</p> <p>Incoming Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins herself said “We’re not coming in there to raise people’s taxes,” <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8071-max-murphy-podcast-senate-democratic-leader-andrea-stewart-cousins-election-aftermath" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in an interview on WBAI’s Max &amp; Murphy</a>. But she did also lay out priorities for the conference to start, naming things like reproductive rights, the Child Victims Act, and said, “I’m sure that will be able to do something about that early on” when it comes to instituting early voting in New York.</p> <p>In the Assembly, Heastie sent out a list of priorities just after the election, a mashup of specific socially liberal and more vague fiscally liberal policies that are familiar to many. Called out by name for passage are the Child Victims Act, the Reproductive Health Act, banning gun bump stocks, speedy trial reform, and electoral &nbsp;and campaign finance reforms like no-fault absentee voting, closing the LLC loophole, and early voting.</p> <p>But while the speaker wrote that New Yorkers “deserve a healthcare system that guarantees coverage for all,” there’s no mention of the New York Health Act or the state-run single-payer system it would create. No specifics are listed for the rent reforms while Heastie states “The Assembly Majority is ready to pass legislation to extend and strengthen programs that protect low and middle income tenants to keep them from being priced out of their homes and communities,” (though Heastie <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/policy/housing/democrats-control-state-senate-real-estate-fears-worst.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reportedly told a pair of real estate representatives</a> at the Somos conference that vacancy decontrol and preferential rent are history) and the DREAM Act is nowhere to be found, nor a mention of any environmental policy (<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8028-climate-change-and-what-to-do-about-it-largely-missing-from-governor-s-race" target="_blank" rel="noopener">though that isn’t a total aberration</a>). Heastie's office declined an interview request, pointing Gotham Gazette to the speaker's post-election missive.</p> <p>And even though some of the more famous liberal priorities aren’t mentioned by name, the focus on electoral reform appears to be a place where the base and the Assembly line up perfectly, with the upcoming Senate majority and Cuomo apparently in the same mindset, too, though the details will need to be hammered out.</p> <p>Working Families Party political director Bill Lipton told Gotham Gazette that he doesn’t expect the Assembly’s “long, progressive history” to change under Carl Heastie and a new Albany order, and that he’s happy to see people willing to tackle electoral issues.</p> <p>“We can't repair the damage unless we face head on the contradiction of financing election campaigns with wealthy donors who want tax cuts, contracts and loopholes for themselves,” Lipton wrote to Gotham Gazette in a statement. “The result both nationally and here in New York has been disastrous,” Lipton wrote, while highlighting <a href="https://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?default_fld=&amp;bn=A9281&amp;term=2015&amp;Memo=Y" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a small-donor matching funds program</a> that he hopes the state institutes now that there’s a Democratic trifecta. Campaign finance reform is something Cuomo has long-pledged support for, not moved through the Republican Senate, and promised to deliver with a fully Democratic Legislature.</p> <p>Westin also endorsed a starting focus on electoral reform: “the one thing that's been in common in New York is the influence of real estate money and we have to clean it up once and for all. Carl and the Assembly have a real opportunity to do that, and I think is one of the biggest things that needs to happen quickly,” he said.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a>There is some reason for progressives to have concerns in the Assembly though, according to Sean McElwee, the co-founder of progressive think tank Data for Progress. While McElwee pointed to the progressive wave that elected a large piece of the Democrats’ state Senate majority, that energetic mandate wasn’t seen in Assembly elections. “In the Assembly you've basically had a bunch of Democrats who were like the [Republican] House of Representatives under Obama. They kept passing an Obamacare repeal, and once it was time to pass it for real, there were some cold feet. I worry about that dynamic with the Assembly. When I've talked to the New York Renews coalition about the CCPA, they've said silently, ‘Yeah we're gonna have real problems in the Assembly when it comes time to pass this,’ and the same for Medicare for All advocates.”</p> <p>It’s not an out-of-hand fear for progressives, who can look to neighboring New Jersey and the fact that legislators <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/nj-democrats-loved-the-idea-of-taxing-the-rich---until-they-actually-could-do-it/2018/05/23/259e55c8-5d4f-11e8-a4a4-c070ef53f315_story.html?noredirect=on&amp;utm_term=.e8773c33c162" target="_blank" rel="noopener">backed away from pledges to tax the rich</a> and <a href="https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/new-jersey/2018/10/22/nj-lawmakers-miss-october-deadline-vote-legal-weed/1731485002/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">didn’t get a slam dunk on legalizing recreational marijuana</a> despite Democrats having total control of the government.</p> <p>But those activists who powered the anti-IDC candidates and Long Island Democrats to victories aren’t planning on sitting on their hands. “We may see some Assemblypeople who previously voted for some things be hesitant about putting their votes behind them,” Mia Pearlman, the co-founder of progressive grassroots organization True Blue New York, told Gotham Gazette. “So if it comes to that, we fully plan to be lobbying in Albany and on the ground in the district of any elected representative who we feel can be swayed, needs to be swayed, needs support, needs pressure to vote for legislation that we're supporting.” Pearlman did say that even though there might be some hesitant members, she felt that there were also plenty of members of the Assembly who were ready to get to work on passing the bills that had died in the Senate in past years.</p> <p>While Pearlman echoed the call to tackle an issue like electoral reform early on, she also said she and her allies very much expect the Assembly to make reasonable progress on the other bills that have been stymied in previous years. On something like the New York Health Act, for instance, she said that while the bill doesn’t have to be passed for the sake of being passed, she wants to see an actual debate move forward on it to find the best way possible to provide universal comprehensive healthcare coverage, a line of thinking that aligned with Harckham’s call for hearings and passing a bill by the end of his first two-year term.</p> <p>“The idea that it's somehow a victory for the Assembly to have such a big majority solely so they can say ‘Yay we have a majority’ is sort of absurd,” Pearlman said. “The purpose of having a big majority is to actually do something with it, to pass legislation, not just pat ourselves on the back and say ‘Look how many members we have.’ So we expect after all these years of waiting that they'll use that majority to write legislation and get things done.”</p> <p>The Assembly could, in theory, pass the existing version of all of the bottled up left-leaning bills that haven’t made it out of the state Senate for years, and put the onus on the new Senate, as well as the governor. But it seems needlessly adversarial for the Assembly to get off on that kind of footing with a more ideologically similar Senate conference, which in all likelihood they’ll need in negotiations with a governor more prone to triangulation, political centrism, and describing his <a href="https://www.thedailybeast.com/andrew-cuomo-wont-stop-lying-now-to-cynthia-nixon-he-admits-it" target="_blank" rel="noopener">progressive opponents</a> as “<a href="https://www.dailyfreeman.com/news/cuomo-coasts-in-ny-dem-primary-for-governor-lt-gov/article_b2905a1f-e322-5b84-9a5c-7bedf633934c.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">dreamers not doers</a>” than he’s known for bold leftism.</p> <p>The new situation in Albany is also an opportunity for government to work differently, Pearlman suggested, opening things up and making it more transparent, especially during the budget season. “We don't have to have three men in a room or two men and a woman in the room, that is not written in our state constitution that the budget has to be written at the last possible minute behind closed doors,” Pearlman said. “What we're hoping is that the conference leaders will look at the process of how things are done in Albany and demand they're done in a more transparent and more equitable and better way.”</p> <p>At the moment though, Stewart-Cousins doesn’t seem keen on blowing up the process, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8085-andrea-stewart-cousins-on-taking-the-senate-reins-the-democratic-agenda-getting-inside-the-room" target="_blank" rel="noopener">as she told Max &amp; Murphy</a>, “I’m interested to see how this thing really works as well. I’m sure I’ll have a lot of opinions once I’ve actually been part of it,” in response to whether she plans to make the budget process more transparent.</p> <p>Cuomo also campaigned on keeping state spending tethered to the (<a href="https://cbcny.org/research/when-2-percent-isnt-2-percent" target="_blank" rel="noopener">somewhat rhetorical</a>) two percent cap he instituted during his first term, and has <a href="https://twitter.com/ZackFinkNews/status/1064553822717190145" target="_blank" rel="noopener">flatly said</a> an additional tax on high-earners to raise revenue for the MTA will not be happening, even speaking for the Legislature before the next session has started. So as for what might make it through the budget, McElwee said he predicts progressives can get “one big budget-buster” through the process each year, and if he had to play favorites, he’d pick the Climate and Communities Protection Act. “For me and I think a lot of millennials, climate change is the biggest existential threat we change. And I think a policy that can mitigate that while also creating jobs and infrastructure would be a sort of progressive model for the county,” he said.</p> <p>But ultimately, progressive activists say they aren’t taking anything for granted, even as people talk about the Democratic majority in the state Senate as a permanent one. “Politics is all about waves and momentum, and if you don't capitalize on the momentum you never know where you're gonna end up in the future,” Westin told Gotham Gazette. “I think our belief is we need to pass all the priorities this cycle, as you see even on the federal level and clearly in the state too, you never know what the next configuration is going to look like, and we don't want to waste this opportunity.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>

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by Dave Colon, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/how-hard-push.jpg" alt="how hard push" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (photo via the Governor's office}</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>As New York lurches out of election season and looks to what issues the state legislative session in 2019 could tackle, the Assembly is in an unfamiliar position as something more than a purgatory for progressive priorities. For years, the lower house of the Legislature was a place where progressive goals like criminal justice and voting reforms, the DREAM Act, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, the New York Health Act, and the Climate and Communities Protection Act could reliably be passed thanks to a huge Democratic majority. And every time those bills passed the Assembly, the state Senate, controlled by either Republicans or an alliance of Republicans and breakaway Democrats, would almost always keep the companion legislation in committee, far from a floor vote.</p> <p>But with Democrats about to take control of the state Senate in addition to the governor’s mansion, the Assembly will in 2019 have a chance to actually see bills they’ve passed every year get a real debate in Albany. And advocates and activists are waiting expectantly for just that scenario to happen, their sense of urgency heightened in the Trump era, which led their efforts to help flip the state Senate so it is no longer a roadblock.</p> <p>While the state Senate Democrats will not be in the same political universe as the outgoing Republican majority, the conference will still need to sort out its priorities, including how those of some of its tax-averse suburban and upstate members, who’ll need to win re-election in 2020, align with the city-dominated Assembly. One-party rule may not be the rubber stamp <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8009-senate-republicans-leave-molinaro-out-of-only-hope-messaging" target="_blank" rel="noopener">that Republicans warned it would be</a> during the election, especially as the new state Senate majority will have to get its footing under a dominating and fairly moderate governor. Cuomo also <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7969-cuomo-begins-push-to-flip-state-senate-and-house-of-representatives" target="_blank" rel="noopener">campaigned for</a> the newly-elected state Senators from Long Island, as well as the Hudson Valley’s Peter Harckham and Brooklyn’s Andrew Gounardes, which in theory, and his own telling, gives him some sway over them that may counteract the influence of grassroots activists who worked to elect a Democratic Senate.</p> <p>By appearances, a wave of progressive legislation bursting out of Albany and washing over New York would be an expected natural occurrence. Democrats are in possession of a supermajority in the Assembly and Senate, one whose membership stretches from Suffolk County to upstate and western New York and whose new members did not shy away from embracing far-left progressive priorities like single-payer healthcare. Carl Heastie, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/07/upshot/ranking-carl-heastie-by-ideological-score.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">once found to be one of the most liberal legislators in all of America</a>, remains the Assembly Speaker, and Democrats have a 106-43 advantage in the chamber. One significant question now hanging over state government: how hard left will the Assembly push?</p> <p>Their long-sought situation in the Legislature leaves progressive activists like Jonathan Westin, the executive director of economic justice organization New York Communities for Change, feeling hopeful for the session to come. “I think the Assembly has been committed to a lot of progressive legislation for a long time and we expect them to continue to do that,” Westin told Gotham Gazette. “A lot of the grassroots base is ready to push but at the same time we feel pretty confident that the Assembly is gonna go forward and pass a lot of these bills.”</p> <p>In his first year as speaker, Heastie <a href="https://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2015/02/ny_state_assembly_speaker_carl_heasties_priorities_minimum_wage_higher_ed_housin.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">laid out a series of now-familiar priorities</a> for the 2015 Assembly Democrats. Passing the DREAM Act, raising the state’s minimum wage, reforming the state’s rent laws in a more tenant-friendly direction. While the DREAM Act has still not come to the floor of the state Senate <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/18/nyregion/new-york-senate-rejects-measure-to-give-illegal-immigrants-state-tuition-aid.html?ref=nyregion&amp;_r=0&amp;gwh=CCC9DCBD03DC8F8F09DB489A0951BB32&amp;gwt=regi" target="_blank" rel="noopener">since a failed 2014 vote</a> and the state’s rent stabilization laws <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2015/06/accord-reached-on-421-a-program-rent-law-renewal-023406" target="_blank" rel="noopener">were renewed but not drastically changed</a> in 2015, progressives did see a victory when Cuomo prioritized and pushed through the Republican Senate <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-new-york-minimumwage/new-yorks-cuomo-signs-two-tier-minimum-wage-law-in-push-for-state-wide-15-hour-idUSKCN0X11Y1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a $15 minimum wage program of sorts in 2016</a>.</p> <p>Heastie used the 2018 legislative session to <a href="https://nyassembly.gov/Press/files/20180205.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">again push for the DREAM Act</a> to become law, and also <a href="https://assembly.state.ny.us/Press/files/20180515.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">highlighted Assembly legislation</a> to alter a suite of rent regulations essential to hundreds of thousands of units of affordable housing in New York City. Assembly Democrats also passed the New York Health Act, which would institute single-payer health care, <a href="https://nyassembly.gov/Press/files/20180614.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">for the fourth straight year in 2018</a>, <a href="https://assembly.state.ny.us/Press/files/20180507a.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">GENDA for the tenth straight year</a>, major climate change fighting legislation (the CCPA) <a href="http://www.nyrenews.org/news/2018/6/21/cuomo-senate-punt-again-on-climate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">for the third straight year</a>, and the Reproductive Health Act , which would codify Roe v. Wade into state law, <a href="https://nyassembly.gov/Press/files/20180313d.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">for the fifth straight year</a>.</p> <p>What’s different about the upcoming legislative session is not only have Democrats captured the state Senate, but a good chunk of the new legislators going to Albany are staunch progressive voices who were sent to office by furious left-wing organizing both old and new.</p> <p>Democrats like Zellnor Myrie and Jessica Ramos made things like major overhauls of the rent laws and repeal of the Urstadt Law, which keeps New York City from setting its own rent-stabilization laws, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/RamosforStateSenate/videos/landlord-loopholes-we-must-close-in-order-to-protect-renters-%EF%B8%8F-mcis%EF%B8%8F-vacancy-dec/222969148397305/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">centerpieces</a> of their insurgent state Senate <a href="https://zellnorforstatesenate.com/platform/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">campaigns</a>. In the Hudson Valley, newly-elected Senators Harckham and Jen Metzger both embraced the New York Health Act as feasible and worthwhile, and DREAM Act-supporting activists from Make the Road Action, the immigrant and working class advocacy organization, <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/campaigns-elections/will-democratic-volunteers-help-swing-state-senate.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">helped power</a> Long Island state Senator John Brooks and state Senator-elect Jim Gaughran to their swing-district wins.</p> <p>On the other hand, there are already <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-senate-democrats-seddio-jacobs-schaffer-zellner-20181111-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">powerful figures in the party suggesting</a> that long-sought leftist priorities are toxic outside of New York City, leadership in the Legislature will have to tamp down enthusiasm for any bills that might raise taxes, and Cuomo said in an interview that he thinks something like single-payer health care <a href="https://twitter.com/DaveCoIon/status/1063105886745444353" target="_blank" rel="noopener">will get bottled up by the governing processes</a> that separate campaign rhetoric from reality.</p> <p>Incoming Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins herself said “We’re not coming in there to raise people’s taxes,” <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8071-max-murphy-podcast-senate-democratic-leader-andrea-stewart-cousins-election-aftermath" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in an interview on WBAI’s Max &amp; Murphy</a>. But she did also lay out priorities for the conference to start, naming things like reproductive rights, the Child Victims Act, and said, “I’m sure that will be able to do something about that early on” when it comes to instituting early voting in New York.</p> <p>In the Assembly, Heastie sent out a list of priorities just after the election, a mashup of specific socially liberal and more vague fiscally liberal policies that are familiar to many. Called out by name for passage are the Child Victims Act, the Reproductive Health Act, banning gun bump stocks, speedy trial reform, and electoral &nbsp;and campaign finance reforms like no-fault absentee voting, closing the LLC loophole, and early voting.</p> <p>But while the speaker wrote that New Yorkers “deserve a healthcare system that guarantees coverage for all,” there’s no mention of the New York Health Act or the state-run single-payer system it would create. No specifics are listed for the rent reforms while Heastie states “The Assembly Majority is ready to pass legislation to extend and strengthen programs that protect low and middle income tenants to keep them from being priced out of their homes and communities,” (though Heastie <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/policy/housing/democrats-control-state-senate-real-estate-fears-worst.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reportedly told a pair of real estate representatives</a> at the Somos conference that vacancy decontrol and preferential rent are history) and the DREAM Act is nowhere to be found, nor a mention of any environmental policy (<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8028-climate-change-and-what-to-do-about-it-largely-missing-from-governor-s-race" target="_blank" rel="noopener">though that isn’t a total aberration</a>). Heastie's office declined an interview request, pointing Gotham Gazette to the speaker's post-election missive.</p> <p>And even though some of the more famous liberal priorities aren’t mentioned by name, the focus on electoral reform appears to be a place where the base and the Assembly line up perfectly, with the upcoming Senate majority and Cuomo apparently in the same mindset, too, though the details will need to be hammered out.</p> <p>Working Families Party political director Bill Lipton told Gotham Gazette that he doesn’t expect the Assembly’s “long, progressive history” to change under Carl Heastie and a new Albany order, and that he’s happy to see people willing to tackle electoral issues.</p> <p>“We can't repair the damage unless we face head on the contradiction of financing election campaigns with wealthy donors who want tax cuts, contracts and loopholes for themselves,” Lipton wrote to Gotham Gazette in a statement. “The result both nationally and here in New York has been disastrous,” Lipton wrote, while highlighting <a href="https://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?default_fld=&amp;bn=A9281&amp;term=2015&amp;Memo=Y" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a small-donor matching funds program</a> that he hopes the state institutes now that there’s a Democratic trifecta. Campaign finance reform is something Cuomo has long-pledged support for, not moved through the Republican Senate, and promised to deliver with a fully Democratic Legislature.</p> <p>Westin also endorsed a starting focus on electoral reform: “the one thing that's been in common in New York is the influence of real estate money and we have to clean it up once and for all. Carl and the Assembly have a real opportunity to do that, and I think is one of the biggest things that needs to happen quickly,” he said.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a>There is some reason for progressives to have concerns in the Assembly though, according to Sean McElwee, the co-founder of progressive think tank Data for Progress. While McElwee pointed to the progressive wave that elected a large piece of the Democrats’ state Senate majority, that energetic mandate wasn’t seen in Assembly elections. “In the Assembly you've basically had a bunch of Democrats who were like the [Republican] House of Representatives under Obama. They kept passing an Obamacare repeal, and once it was time to pass it for real, there were some cold feet. I worry about that dynamic with the Assembly. When I've talked to the New York Renews coalition about the CCPA, they've said silently, ‘Yeah we're gonna have real problems in the Assembly when it comes time to pass this,’ and the same for Medicare for All advocates.”</p> <p>It’s not an out-of-hand fear for progressives, who can look to neighboring New Jersey and the fact that legislators <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/nj-democrats-loved-the-idea-of-taxing-the-rich---until-they-actually-could-do-it/2018/05/23/259e55c8-5d4f-11e8-a4a4-c070ef53f315_story.html?noredirect=on&amp;utm_term=.e8773c33c162" target="_blank" rel="noopener">backed away from pledges to tax the rich</a> and <a href="https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/new-jersey/2018/10/22/nj-lawmakers-miss-october-deadline-vote-legal-weed/1731485002/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">didn’t get a slam dunk on legalizing recreational marijuana</a> despite Democrats having total control of the government.</p> <p>But those activists who powered the anti-IDC candidates and Long Island Democrats to victories aren’t planning on sitting on their hands. “We may see some Assemblypeople who previously voted for some things be hesitant about putting their votes behind them,” Mia Pearlman, the co-founder of progressive grassroots organization True Blue New York, told Gotham Gazette. “So if it comes to that, we fully plan to be lobbying in Albany and on the ground in the district of any elected representative who we feel can be swayed, needs to be swayed, needs support, needs pressure to vote for legislation that we're supporting.” Pearlman did say that even though there might be some hesitant members, she felt that there were also plenty of members of the Assembly who were ready to get to work on passing the bills that had died in the Senate in past years.</p> <p>While Pearlman echoed the call to tackle an issue like electoral reform early on, she also said she and her allies very much expect the Assembly to make reasonable progress on the other bills that have been stymied in previous years. On something like the New York Health Act, for instance, she said that while the bill doesn’t have to be passed for the sake of being passed, she wants to see an actual debate move forward on it to find the best way possible to provide universal comprehensive healthcare coverage, a line of thinking that aligned with Harckham’s call for hearings and passing a bill by the end of his first two-year term.</p> <p>“The idea that it's somehow a victory for the Assembly to have such a big majority solely so they can say ‘Yay we have a majority’ is sort of absurd,” Pearlman said. “The purpose of having a big majority is to actually do something with it, to pass legislation, not just pat ourselves on the back and say ‘Look how many members we have.’ So we expect after all these years of waiting that they'll use that majority to write legislation and get things done.”</p> <p>The Assembly could, in theory, pass the existing version of all of the bottled up left-leaning bills that haven’t made it out of the state Senate for years, and put the onus on the new Senate, as well as the governor. But it seems needlessly adversarial for the Assembly to get off on that kind of footing with a more ideologically similar Senate conference, which in all likelihood they’ll need in negotiations with a governor more prone to triangulation, political centrism, and describing his <a href="https://www.thedailybeast.com/andrew-cuomo-wont-stop-lying-now-to-cynthia-nixon-he-admits-it" target="_blank" rel="noopener">progressive opponents</a> as “<a href="https://www.dailyfreeman.com/news/cuomo-coasts-in-ny-dem-primary-for-governor-lt-gov/article_b2905a1f-e322-5b84-9a5c-7bedf633934c.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">dreamers not doers</a>” than he’s known for bold leftism.</p> <p>The new situation in Albany is also an opportunity for government to work differently, Pearlman suggested, opening things up and making it more transparent, especially during the budget season. “We don't have to have three men in a room or two men and a woman in the room, that is not written in our state constitution that the budget has to be written at the last possible minute behind closed doors,” Pearlman said. “What we're hoping is that the conference leaders will look at the process of how things are done in Albany and demand they're done in a more transparent and more equitable and better way.”</p> <p>At the moment though, Stewart-Cousins doesn’t seem keen on blowing up the process, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8085-andrea-stewart-cousins-on-taking-the-senate-reins-the-democratic-agenda-getting-inside-the-room" target="_blank" rel="noopener">as she told Max &amp; Murphy</a>, “I’m interested to see how this thing really works as well. I’m sure I’ll have a lot of opinions once I’ve actually been part of it,” in response to whether she plans to make the budget process more transparent.</p> <p>Cuomo also campaigned on keeping state spending tethered to the (<a href="https://cbcny.org/research/when-2-percent-isnt-2-percent" target="_blank" rel="noopener">somewhat rhetorical</a>) two percent cap he instituted during his first term, and has <a href="https://twitter.com/ZackFinkNews/status/1064553822717190145" target="_blank" rel="noopener">flatly said</a> an additional tax on high-earners to raise revenue for the MTA will not be happening, even speaking for the Legislature before the next session has started. So as for what might make it through the budget, McElwee said he predicts progressives can get “one big budget-buster” through the process each year, and if he had to play favorites, he’d pick the Climate and Communities Protection Act. “For me and I think a lot of millennials, climate change is the biggest existential threat we change. And I think a policy that can mitigate that while also creating jobs and infrastructure would be a sort of progressive model for the county,” he said.</p> <p>But ultimately, progressive activists say they aren’t taking anything for granted, even as people talk about the Democratic majority in the state Senate as a permanent one. “Politics is all about waves and momentum, and if you don't capitalize on the momentum you never know where you're gonna end up in the future,” Westin told Gotham Gazette. “I think our belief is we need to pass all the priorities this cycle, as you see even on the federal level and clearly in the state too, you never know what the next configuration is going to look like, and we don't want to waste this opportunity.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>

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by Dave Colon, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Amazon’s Recent New York Campaign Contributions Mostly to Members of Congress 2018-11-18T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-18T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8082-amazon-s-recent-new-york-campaign-contributions-mostly-to-members-of-congress Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/cuomo_jeffries.jpg" alt="cuomo jeffries" width="600" height="419" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo &amp; Rep. Jeffries (photo via Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Before Amazon announced the placement of one of its next satellite “headquarters” in Queens, drawing mixed reactions from local lawmakers and significant overall pushback, the company’s campaign finance footprint in New York shows it was spreading its money around to many New York politicians, mostly those at the federal level.</p> <p>Eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York City, all Democrats, who signed a now <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">infamous letter</a> last year to compel Amazon to consider the city, received more than $26,000 in total campaign contributions from Amazon from the beginning of 2017 to October 2018, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings, with four of the members receiving $7,500 of that total before signing the letter.</p> <p>Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, whose district includes part of Queens, received $8,000 total from Amazon in four separate contributions to his campaign since 2017, including $1,500 before he had signed the letter and $6,500 afterward, a time period that coincided with Jeffries’ recent reelection to the House, though he did not face serious opposition. Jeffries’ office did not respond to a request for comment for this story, but he said in a <a href="https://twitter.com/jiveDurkey/status/1062405232620175360" target="_blank" rel="noopener">statement to Cheddar</a> that the deal “will supercharge New York City’s reputation as the single best place to do business in America.”</p> <p>Brooklyn Rep. Yvette Clarke received $5,000 <a href="https://www.fec.gov/data/receipts/?two_year_transaction_period=2018&amp;data_type=processed&amp;committee_id=C00398941&amp;committee_id=C00415331&amp;contributor_name=amazon&amp;min_date=01/01/2017&amp;max_date=11/15/2018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">from Amazon</a>, half before signing the letter and half since -- Clarke did face a tough primary challenge this year, narrowly defeating Adem Bunkeddeko before cruising to victory in the general. In a <a href="https://www.nycedc.com/press-release/citywide-leaders-applaud-announcement-amazon-s-new-headquarters-long-island-city" target="_blank" rel="noopener">statement</a> for the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) that was sent to members of the media upon the Amazon announcement, Clarke said, “Amazon’s decision to locate a headquarters in New York City is a testament to the strength of our technology sector.”</p> <p>Other letter signees who received Amazon contributions include Rep. Eliot Engel, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (whose district includes Long Island City), Rep. Gregory Meeks, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, and Rep. Adriano Espaillat, all of the five boroughs. Maloney called for a fair “public review” of the deal in a <a href="https://www.politico.com/story/2018/11/14/amazon-new-headquarters-reaction-foxconn-scott-walker-966375" target="_blank" rel="noopener">statement to Politico</a>, arguing that “[a] beneficial deal will withstand public scrutiny.”</p> <p>Upon the announcement of the deal to bring Amazon to New York City, Espaillat issued a statement of praise, saying in a tweet, “Welcome to New York City, @Amazon. We have the best &amp; brightest technologically skilled workforce that is ready &amp; willing to work &amp; invest in our community &amp; help our economy continue to grow,” while Velazquez issued a statement criticizing the process and outcome, <a href="https://twitter.com/NydiaVelazquez/status/1063161109778173952" target="_blank" rel="noopener">saying</a>, “Many New Yorkers, myself included, are concerned by the enormous incentives this package extends to Amazon.”</p> <p>Rep. Joe Crowley of the Bronx and Queens received $2,500 from Amazon before he signed the letter, according to FEC filings. He lost his seat in an upset to now Congressional Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has been a strident critic of the Amazon deal. The democratic-socialist <a href="https://twitter.com/Ocasio2018/status/1062203458227503104" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tweeted</a> that she finds the deal “extremely concerning,” arguing that the money for tax breaks for Amazon could be better spent on the “crumbling” subway and disenfranchised communities.</p> <p>It’s unclear if any of the members of Congress played a role in the negotiation process, which was apparently led by Cuomo, along with de Blasio and members of their two teams -- those involved apparently signed non-disclosure agreements at Amazon’s insistence. Members of Congress’ support or opposition, however, can play a crucial role in the overall atmosphere around such a deal and the public perception thereof. For the most part, Amazon is more concerned with federal regulations and nationwide tax policy, evident from its campaign funding patterns. Data from <a href="https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/pacgot.php?cycle=2018&amp;cmte=C00360354" target="_blank" rel="noopener">OpenSecrets.org </a>shows that Amazon gave about $1.17 million to federal candidate campaigns in 2018 alone, 52% of which went to Republicans and 48% to Democrats.</p> <p>Amazon has also given some campaign contributions at the local level, including $1,000 to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s campaign committee in January of this year, according to state election records. Heastie did not respond to a request for comment, but the Bronx Democrat&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/15/nyregion/amazon-queens-opponents.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told the New York Times</a> in a statement that “this deal has the potential to more than pay for itself.” He added that, “Of course we take our role in approving aspects of this deal very seriously and we will be closely reviewing it.”</p> <p>The only other local lawmaker whose campaign funds Amazon added to was Republican state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who received $1,000 in January, according to state election records.</p> <p>New York City and State have agreed to roughly <a href="https://www.lohud.com/story/news/politics/albany/2018/11/13/new-york-amazon-incentives-billion/1986979002/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">$3 billion</a> in financial incentives to Amazon to settle in Long Island City, including tax breaks and rebates mostly from existing economic development programs that would be applicable to other companies, as well as a roughly $500 million capital grant from the state that is discretionary. The deal is based on a pledge by Amazon to create 25,000 new jobs in the city over 10 years, at an average salary of $150,000 per year. Some of the incentives are directly tied to those jobs coming to fruition. The company may also qualify for new federal tax savings.</p> <p>Critics have cried foul about a secretive process with virtually no public input before a deal was struck (there will be some before everything is finalized) and that there are billions of dollars of incentives going to one of the wealthiest companies in the world. A number of elected officials did praise the deal, including U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York, the Democratic Senate minority leader. Schumer received a total of $10,000 from Amazon in three separate contributions to his campaign committee in 2015 ahead of his reelection the following year, according to <a href="https://www.fec.gov/data/receipts/?two_year_transaction_period=2016&amp;data_type=processed&amp;committee_id=C00346312&amp;contributor_name=amazon&amp;min_date=01/01/2015&amp;max_date=12/31/2016" target="_blank" rel="noopener">FEC filings</a>. He has not received any funds from Amazon since his 2016 reelection.</p> <p>Some of the criticism towards the Amazon deal is tied more broadly to Cuomo’s economic development programs and their incentives for companies to relocate or create jobs. Flanagan, whose 2018 campaign got the relatively minor boost from Amazon, <a href="https://wnyt.com/politics/state-senate-majority-leader-john-flanagan-gov-andrew-cuomo-amazon-deal/5145114/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">criticized</a> Cuomo for giving handouts rather than working to improve New York’s overall economic climate. Flanagan’s majority conference, which is handing over the reins next year to Democrats who flipped the chamber on Election Day, has signed off on budgets that have included Cuomo’s programs.</p> <p>Amazon, a trillion dollar-company, spent $110,000 lobbying the state Assembly, Senate, and executive branch on bills related to taxation and regulation of internet companies from the beginning of 2017 to October of 2018, according to state lobbying records. JCOPE (the Joint Commission on Public Ethics) lists Amazon lobbying activities as only related to “internet/online sales &amp; related issues,” but specific bills lobbied on include the <a href="https://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=t&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A9844&amp;term=2017&amp;Summary=Y" target="_blank" rel="noopener">establishment</a> of a task force to study an internet marketplace tax and bills that propose to regulate voice-recognition technology.</p> <p>The company also spent over $120,000 lobbying New York City government in the last two years for participation in their cloud computing services, according to city lobbying records.</p> <p>The records do not show lobbying related to the new headquarters in Queens. That process appears to have been removed from official lobbying and instead part of the competition Amazon announced, wherein it received hundreds of pitches from governments and coalitions around the country. There are no records of Amazon donating to the campaigns of either Cuomo or de Blasio.</p> <p>Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO and one of the wealthiest people in the world, said in a <a href="https://blog.aboutamazon.com/company-news/amazon-selects-new-york-city-and-northern-virginia-for-new-headquarters" target="_blank" rel="noopener">statement</a> on the day of the announcement that the new “headquarters” split between New York and Virginia “will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come. The team did a great job selecting these sites, and we look forward to becoming an even bigger part of these communities.”</p> <p>Hiring for the new offices is scheduled to begin in 2019, according to Amazon. Governor Cuomo has said that the new office campus and related employment will generate more than $27 billion in tax revenue over the next 25 years.</p> <p>

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by Jake Shore for Gotham Gazette
  

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/cuomo_jeffries.jpg" alt="cuomo jeffries" width="600" height="419" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo &amp; Rep. Jeffries (photo via Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Before Amazon announced the placement of one of its next satellite “headquarters” in Queens, drawing mixed reactions from local lawmakers and significant overall pushback, the company’s campaign finance footprint in New York shows it was spreading its money around to many New York politicians, mostly those at the federal level.</p> <p>Eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York City, all Democrats, who signed a now <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">infamous letter</a> last year to compel Amazon to consider the city, received more than $26,000 in total campaign contributions from Amazon from the beginning of 2017 to October 2018, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings, with four of the members receiving $7,500 of that total before signing the letter.</p> <p>Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, whose district includes part of Queens, received $8,000 total from Amazon in four separate contributions to his campaign since 2017, including $1,500 before he had signed the letter and $6,500 afterward, a time period that coincided with Jeffries’ recent reelection to the House, though he did not face serious opposition. Jeffries’ office did not respond to a request for comment for this story, but he said in a <a href="https://twitter.com/jiveDurkey/status/1062405232620175360" target="_blank" rel="noopener">statement to Cheddar</a> that the deal “will supercharge New York City’s reputation as the single best place to do business in America.”</p> <p>Brooklyn Rep. Yvette Clarke received $5,000 <a href="https://www.fec.gov/data/receipts/?two_year_transaction_period=2018&amp;data_type=processed&amp;committee_id=C00398941&amp;committee_id=C00415331&amp;contributor_name=amazon&amp;min_date=01/01/2017&amp;max_date=11/15/2018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">from Amazon</a>, half before signing the letter and half since -- Clarke did face a tough primary challenge this year, narrowly defeating Adem Bunkeddeko before cruising to victory in the general. In a <a href="https://www.nycedc.com/press-release/citywide-leaders-applaud-announcement-amazon-s-new-headquarters-long-island-city" target="_blank" rel="noopener">statement</a> for the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) that was sent to members of the media upon the Amazon announcement, Clarke said, “Amazon’s decision to locate a headquarters in New York City is a testament to the strength of our technology sector.”</p> <p>Other letter signees who received Amazon contributions include Rep. Eliot Engel, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (whose district includes Long Island City), Rep. Gregory Meeks, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, and Rep. Adriano Espaillat, all of the five boroughs. Maloney called for a fair “public review” of the deal in a <a href="https://www.politico.com/story/2018/11/14/amazon-new-headquarters-reaction-foxconn-scott-walker-966375" target="_blank" rel="noopener">statement to Politico</a>, arguing that “[a] beneficial deal will withstand public scrutiny.”</p> <p>Upon the announcement of the deal to bring Amazon to New York City, Espaillat issued a statement of praise, saying in a tweet, “Welcome to New York City, @Amazon. We have the best &amp; brightest technologically skilled workforce that is ready &amp; willing to work &amp; invest in our community &amp; help our economy continue to grow,” while Velazquez issued a statement criticizing the process and outcome, <a href="https://twitter.com/NydiaVelazquez/status/1063161109778173952" target="_blank" rel="noopener">saying</a>, “Many New Yorkers, myself included, are concerned by the enormous incentives this package extends to Amazon.”</p> <p>Rep. Joe Crowley of the Bronx and Queens received $2,500 from Amazon before he signed the letter, according to FEC filings. He lost his seat in an upset to now Congressional Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has been a strident critic of the Amazon deal. The democratic-socialist <a href="https://twitter.com/Ocasio2018/status/1062203458227503104" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tweeted</a> that she finds the deal “extremely concerning,” arguing that the money for tax breaks for Amazon could be better spent on the “crumbling” subway and disenfranchised communities.</p> <p>It’s unclear if any of the members of Congress played a role in the negotiation process, which was apparently led by Cuomo, along with de Blasio and members of their two teams -- those involved apparently signed non-disclosure agreements at Amazon’s insistence. Members of Congress’ support or opposition, however, can play a crucial role in the overall atmosphere around such a deal and the public perception thereof. For the most part, Amazon is more concerned with federal regulations and nationwide tax policy, evident from its campaign funding patterns. Data from <a href="https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/pacgot.php?cycle=2018&amp;cmte=C00360354" target="_blank" rel="noopener">OpenSecrets.org </a>shows that Amazon gave about $1.17 million to federal candidate campaigns in 2018 alone, 52% of which went to Republicans and 48% to Democrats.</p> <p>Amazon has also given some campaign contributions at the local level, including $1,000 to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s campaign committee in January of this year, according to state election records. Heastie did not respond to a request for comment, but the Bronx Democrat&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/15/nyregion/amazon-queens-opponents.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told the New York Times</a> in a statement that “this deal has the potential to more than pay for itself.” He added that, “Of course we take our role in approving aspects of this deal very seriously and we will be closely reviewing it.”</p> <p>The only other local lawmaker whose campaign funds Amazon added to was Republican state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who received $1,000 in January, according to state election records.</p> <p>New York City and State have agreed to roughly <a href="https://www.lohud.com/story/news/politics/albany/2018/11/13/new-york-amazon-incentives-billion/1986979002/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">$3 billion</a> in financial incentives to Amazon to settle in Long Island City, including tax breaks and rebates mostly from existing economic development programs that would be applicable to other companies, as well as a roughly $500 million capital grant from the state that is discretionary. The deal is based on a pledge by Amazon to create 25,000 new jobs in the city over 10 years, at an average salary of $150,000 per year. Some of the incentives are directly tied to those jobs coming to fruition. The company may also qualify for new federal tax savings.</p> <p>Critics have cried foul about a secretive process with virtually no public input before a deal was struck (there will be some before everything is finalized) and that there are billions of dollars of incentives going to one of the wealthiest companies in the world. A number of elected officials did praise the deal, including U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York, the Democratic Senate minority leader. Schumer received a total of $10,000 from Amazon in three separate contributions to his campaign committee in 2015 ahead of his reelection the following year, according to <a href="https://www.fec.gov/data/receipts/?two_year_transaction_period=2016&amp;data_type=processed&amp;committee_id=C00346312&amp;contributor_name=amazon&amp;min_date=01/01/2015&amp;max_date=12/31/2016" target="_blank" rel="noopener">FEC filings</a>. He has not received any funds from Amazon since his 2016 reelection.</p> <p>Some of the criticism towards the Amazon deal is tied more broadly to Cuomo’s economic development programs and their incentives for companies to relocate or create jobs. Flanagan, whose 2018 campaign got the relatively minor boost from Amazon, <a href="https://wnyt.com/politics/state-senate-majority-leader-john-flanagan-gov-andrew-cuomo-amazon-deal/5145114/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">criticized</a> Cuomo for giving handouts rather than working to improve New York’s overall economic climate. Flanagan’s majority conference, which is handing over the reins next year to Democrats who flipped the chamber on Election Day, has signed off on budgets that have included Cuomo’s programs.</p> <p>Amazon, a trillion dollar-company, spent $110,000 lobbying the state Assembly, Senate, and executive branch on bills related to taxation and regulation of internet companies from the beginning of 2017 to October of 2018, according to state lobbying records. JCOPE (the Joint Commission on Public Ethics) lists Amazon lobbying activities as only related to “internet/online sales &amp; related issues,” but specific bills lobbied on include the <a href="https://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=t&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A9844&amp;term=2017&amp;Summary=Y" target="_blank" rel="noopener">establishment</a> of a task force to study an internet marketplace tax and bills that propose to regulate voice-recognition technology.</p> <p>The company also spent over $120,000 lobbying New York City government in the last two years for participation in their cloud computing services, according to city lobbying records.</p> <p>The records do not show lobbying related to the new headquarters in Queens. That process appears to have been removed from official lobbying and instead part of the competition Amazon announced, wherein it received hundreds of pitches from governments and coalitions around the country. There are no records of Amazon donating to the campaigns of either Cuomo or de Blasio.</p> <p>Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO and one of the wealthiest people in the world, said in a <a href="https://blog.aboutamazon.com/company-news/amazon-selects-new-york-city-and-northern-virginia-for-new-headquarters" target="_blank" rel="noopener">statement</a> on the day of the announcement that the new “headquarters” split between New York and Virginia “will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come. The team did a great job selecting these sites, and we look forward to becoming an even bigger part of these communities.”</p> <p>Hiring for the new offices is scheduled to begin in 2019, according to Amazon. Governor Cuomo has said that the new office campus and related employment will generate more than $27 billion in tax revenue over the next 25 years.</p> <p>

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by Jake Shore for Gotham Gazette
  

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</p>
Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Taking the Senate Reins, the Democratic Agenda & Getting Inside 'The Room' 2018-11-18T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-18T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8085-andrea-stewart-cousins-on-taking-the-senate-reins-the-democratic-agenda-getting-inside-the-room Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/stewart-cousins-senate.jpg" alt="stewart cousins senate" width="600" /></p> <p>Andrea Stewart-Cousins (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>After the election results from earlier this month, Andrea Stewart-Cousins is set to become majority leader of the state Senate and, beginning in January, to preside over the chamber as it works with Democrats in charge of the Assembly and Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat headed into his third term, to address a long-delayed liberal agenda. Stewart-Cousins, who represents parts of Westchester, will become the first woman and first woman of color to lead a legislative chamber in New York.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8071-max-murphy-podcast-senate-democratic-leader-andrea-stewart-cousins-election-aftermath" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Appearing on the Max &amp; Murphy program on WBAI radio</a>, Stewart-Cousins discussed her approach to leading the Senate, outlined a few priorities for the upcoming session, explained some ways in which Democrats will differ from Republican who have led the upper chamber, and commented on becoming one of three people who will be in “the room,” ultimately making major decisions about the state budget and legislation along with Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.</p> <p>When asked, Stewart-Cousins mostly demurred about what issues would be at the top of the Senate agenda, saying that, especially with 15 new members in her roughly 40-member majority conference, senators would first need to meet and discuss how they will approach the upcoming legislative session.</p> <p>“I have avoided that ‘my first hundred days will look like this’ and ‘this is the batting order,’” Stewart-Cousins said, repeating the terms of the question from one of the hosts. “Because I think the first and foremost thing we’re going to do is [create] the type of conference and senators that people have frankly been voting for again and again and not been getting.”</p> <p>However, some policies she did mention were those that had already been set as first-order-of-business and seemingly non-controversial among virtually all Democrats: early voting, the Child Victims Act, and the Reproductive Health Act. These are among many policies Stewart-Cousins said “have not been able to move under Republican leadership for so many years” that Democrats plan to get to.</p> <p>Stewart-Cousins noted that she has faith in the new members of the Senate, some of whom are part of a younger and more progressive movement that successfully claimed many of the seats formerly held by members of the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group that had formed a coalition with the Republicans, at times giving them the seats for a majority. While these new members certainly won’t cut deals with Republicans, they still may not be on the same page with more senior members of the body, perhaps pushing for different, more progressive priorities like single-payer health care.</p> <p>“We have 15 brand new members and we have to make sure everyone is up to speed,” Stewart-Cousins said. “I am so impressed with every single one of them that I have no doubt that the leadership they will provide, along with my current members, will be absolutely outstanding.”</p> <p>Stewart-Cousins was also hesitant to name specifics when asked what legislation she sees as being tougher to pass, suggesting with a laugh that there could be conflict about anything and everything.</p> <p>“I almost want to say all of the above because, you know, we’re Democrats,” she said with a chuckle. “I think everyone agrees on the outcomes we want, it’s just how to get there.”</p> <p>Stewart-Cousins stressed her belief that Democratic takeover of the Senate is a major step forward for the state, as rather than having to debate over why policies that, for example, raise the minimum wage or ensure access to quality affordable healthcare, are necessary, the new Democrat supermajority will only have to decide on how to best design said policies.</p> <p>“We’re not starting at convincing people that these things are important,” she said. “Now we’re starting a conversation where we understand [what] the objectives are.”</p> <p>“Guess what, we’ll have a conference that is willing to acknowledge climate change and therefore, work towards ensuring our planet’s future,” she continued.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a>While expectations are high about addressing climate change, criminal justice reform, gun control, voting and campaign finance reform, tightening rent regulations, and more, there have been concerns that if Democrats were to flip the Senate and full control of state government that taxes would go up in order for the new regime to pay for all its new programs. But, during the campaign and since, Stewart-Cousins and others in her incoming majority have said they have no plans to raise taxes, an approach in line with Cuomo’s, but not necessarily Assembly Democrats.</p> <p>Asked on Max &amp; Murphy if she is indeed committed to not raising taxes, Stewart-Cousins reiterated her stance, and pointed to the federal tax reforms passed in late 2017 that are likely to negatively affect many New Yorkers due to the new cap and local and state deductions from federal tax obligations.</p> <p>“We are not coming in there to raise people’s taxes,” Stewart-Cousins said. “We understand that New York is a big state and we understand that we need to make sure that it is affordable. I’m personally concerned about the impact of this federal tax bill on the New York taxpayers, and I think most people in our position are.”</p> <p>Taxpayers will find out if Democrats stay true to their promise in their first big test: the next state budget, which Stewart-Cousins and her conference will have significant influence on, as the new Senate majority leader negotiates with Cuomo and Heastie. As the first woman to lead a legislative majority, she will be entering that negotiating room that has been male-dominated. When asked what that may mean, Stewart-Cousins said it shows progress made and more to do.</p> <p>“I think it means that people see that once again another glass ceiling, marble ceiling, whatever you want to call it, has been broken,” she said. “We make certain assumptions about how far we’ve come, and we have in many ways, but I think everyday we’re also being reminded that there is more ground that has to be covered more ceilings to break.”</p> <p>When asked if she has any plans on how to change the backroom process that often leads to major budget and legislative agreements that are voted on with virtually no public review, Stewart-Cousins said she couldn’t yet say.</p> <p>“It’d be impossible to say, because I’ve never been in it,” she said, pausing to laugh. “I’m interested to see how this thing really works as well. I’m sure I’ll have a lot of opinions once I’ve actually been part of it.”</p> <p>When it comes to those outside the Democratic conference, Stewart-Cousins said that she has not spoken to any Republicans who want to switch conferences, but would be happy to meet with Senator Simcha Felder, a Democrat who previously gave Republicans a one-seat majority in the Senate, about his role in the upcoming session. She said Felder had reached out and they would set something up, though he is not expected to command any special perks as he had from Republicans for helping give them the majority.</p> <p>Of the former IDC members who kept their seats, Senators Diane Savino and David Carlucci, Stewart-Cousins said they have been and continue to be part of the Democratic conference, which they returned to in an April deal reached by Governor Andrew Cuomo.</p> <p>[Listen to the full conversation: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8071-max-murphy-podcast-senate-democratic-leader-andrea-stewart-cousins-election-aftermath" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Max &amp; Murphy</a>&nbsp;Nov. 14, 2018]</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>

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by Victor Porcelli, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/stewart-cousins-senate.jpg" alt="stewart cousins senate" width="600" /></p> <p>Andrea Stewart-Cousins (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>After the election results from earlier this month, Andrea Stewart-Cousins is set to become majority leader of the state Senate and, beginning in January, to preside over the chamber as it works with Democrats in charge of the Assembly and Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat headed into his third term, to address a long-delayed liberal agenda. Stewart-Cousins, who represents parts of Westchester, will become the first woman and first woman of color to lead a legislative chamber in New York.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8071-max-murphy-podcast-senate-democratic-leader-andrea-stewart-cousins-election-aftermath" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Appearing on the Max &amp; Murphy program on WBAI radio</a>, Stewart-Cousins discussed her approach to leading the Senate, outlined a few priorities for the upcoming session, explained some ways in which Democrats will differ from Republican who have led the upper chamber, and commented on becoming one of three people who will be in “the room,” ultimately making major decisions about the state budget and legislation along with Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.</p> <p>When asked, Stewart-Cousins mostly demurred about what issues would be at the top of the Senate agenda, saying that, especially with 15 new members in her roughly 40-member majority conference, senators would first need to meet and discuss how they will approach the upcoming legislative session.</p> <p>“I have avoided that ‘my first hundred days will look like this’ and ‘this is the batting order,’” Stewart-Cousins said, repeating the terms of the question from one of the hosts. “Because I think the first and foremost thing we’re going to do is [create] the type of conference and senators that people have frankly been voting for again and again and not been getting.”</p> <p>However, some policies she did mention were those that had already been set as first-order-of-business and seemingly non-controversial among virtually all Democrats: early voting, the Child Victims Act, and the Reproductive Health Act. These are among many policies Stewart-Cousins said “have not been able to move under Republican leadership for so many years” that Democrats plan to get to.</p> <p>Stewart-Cousins noted that she has faith in the new members of the Senate, some of whom are part of a younger and more progressive movement that successfully claimed many of the seats formerly held by members of the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group that had formed a coalition with the Republicans, at times giving them the seats for a majority. While these new members certainly won’t cut deals with Republicans, they still may not be on the same page with more senior members of the body, perhaps pushing for different, more progressive priorities like single-payer health care.</p> <p>“We have 15 brand new members and we have to make sure everyone is up to speed,” Stewart-Cousins said. “I am so impressed with every single one of them that I have no doubt that the leadership they will provide, along with my current members, will be absolutely outstanding.”</p> <p>Stewart-Cousins was also hesitant to name specifics when asked what legislation she sees as being tougher to pass, suggesting with a laugh that there could be conflict about anything and everything.</p> <p>“I almost want to say all of the above because, you know, we’re Democrats,” she said with a chuckle. “I think everyone agrees on the outcomes we want, it’s just how to get there.”</p> <p>Stewart-Cousins stressed her belief that Democratic takeover of the Senate is a major step forward for the state, as rather than having to debate over why policies that, for example, raise the minimum wage or ensure access to quality affordable healthcare, are necessary, the new Democrat supermajority will only have to decide on how to best design said policies.</p> <p>“We’re not starting at convincing people that these things are important,” she said. “Now we’re starting a conversation where we understand [what] the objectives are.”</p> <p>“Guess what, we’ll have a conference that is willing to acknowledge climate change and therefore, work towards ensuring our planet’s future,” she continued.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a>While expectations are high about addressing climate change, criminal justice reform, gun control, voting and campaign finance reform, tightening rent regulations, and more, there have been concerns that if Democrats were to flip the Senate and full control of state government that taxes would go up in order for the new regime to pay for all its new programs. But, during the campaign and since, Stewart-Cousins and others in her incoming majority have said they have no plans to raise taxes, an approach in line with Cuomo’s, but not necessarily Assembly Democrats.</p> <p>Asked on Max &amp; Murphy if she is indeed committed to not raising taxes, Stewart-Cousins reiterated her stance, and pointed to the federal tax reforms passed in late 2017 that are likely to negatively affect many New Yorkers due to the new cap and local and state deductions from federal tax obligations.</p> <p>“We are not coming in there to raise people’s taxes,” Stewart-Cousins said. “We understand that New York is a big state and we understand that we need to make sure that it is affordable. I’m personally concerned about the impact of this federal tax bill on the New York taxpayers, and I think most people in our position are.”</p> <p>Taxpayers will find out if Democrats stay true to their promise in their first big test: the next state budget, which Stewart-Cousins and her conference will have significant influence on, as the new Senate majority leader negotiates with Cuomo and Heastie. As the first woman to lead a legislative majority, she will be entering that negotiating room that has been male-dominated. When asked what that may mean, Stewart-Cousins said it shows progress made and more to do.</p> <p>“I think it means that people see that once again another glass ceiling, marble ceiling, whatever you want to call it, has been broken,” she said. “We make certain assumptions about how far we’ve come, and we have in many ways, but I think everyday we’re also being reminded that there is more ground that has to be covered more ceilings to break.”</p> <p>When asked if she has any plans on how to change the backroom process that often leads to major budget and legislative agreements that are voted on with virtually no public review, Stewart-Cousins said she couldn’t yet say.</p> <p>“It’d be impossible to say, because I’ve never been in it,” she said, pausing to laugh. “I’m interested to see how this thing really works as well. I’m sure I’ll have a lot of opinions once I’ve actually been part of it.”</p> <p>When it comes to those outside the Democratic conference, Stewart-Cousins said that she has not spoken to any Republicans who want to switch conferences, but would be happy to meet with Senator Simcha Felder, a Democrat who previously gave Republicans a one-seat majority in the Senate, about his role in the upcoming session. She said Felder had reached out and they would set something up, though he is not expected to command any special perks as he had from Republicans for helping give them the majority.</p> <p>Of the former IDC members who kept their seats, Senators Diane Savino and David Carlucci, Stewart-Cousins said they have been and continue to be part of the Democratic conference, which they returned to in an April deal reached by Governor Andrew Cuomo.</p> <p>[Listen to the full conversation: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8071-max-murphy-podcast-senate-democratic-leader-andrea-stewart-cousins-election-aftermath" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Max &amp; Murphy</a>&nbsp;Nov. 14, 2018]</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>

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by Victor Porcelli, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Agenda 2019: Major Policy Tests Ahead for State and City 2018-11-08T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-08T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8061-agenda-2019-major-policy-tests-ahead-for-state-and-city Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cuomo_asc_nydems.jpg" alt="cuomo stewart-cousins democrats" width="600" height="387" /></p> <p>Byron Brown, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Andrew Cuomo (photo: NY Democratic State Party)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is the opening story in a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project: AGENDA 2019<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>The voting machines are back in storage, the “Vote Here” signs are gone, and politics in New York have entered the interregnum between Election Day and the start of the new term in Albany, when a newly-Democratic State Senate and a re-elected Democratic Assembly majority and Democratic governor will begin to set the direction of the Empire State in 2019 -- while a new Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives vies with a Republican U.S. Senate and President Trump over where and how to steer the nation.</p> <p>The rhetoric, posturing, and proposals of the campaign will give way to the rhetoric and posturing -- and, ultimately, policymaking -- of government. It’s too early to know how the new balances of power will play out, but some of the newly powerful or electorally emboldened are already giving indications of some of their priorities, which, in combination with campaign trail promises, form the outline of what to expect in Albany in the year ahead. Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have quickly provided a sense of what they plan to tackle first and what might be on the backburner as the state governing session begins in January.</p> <p>“I did better than I had done in my previous election which is normally unheard of,” Cuomo said the day after the election, on WVOX radio, “but we also won the Senate, which is very important and I worked very hard to make that happen, which it allows me to get all sorts of things done that we haven’t done before.”</p> <p>As is always the case, so much of what happens in the state capital will impact New York City, and though there were no elections for city-level positions this year, those who live and work in the city have a great deal at stake as the new state government takes shape. Mayor Bill de Blasio and others are already laying out their priorities for 2019 in Albany, where the mayor and other city Democrats hope the atmosphere will be more friendly toward the five boroughs than in the past.</p> <p>“[T]he fact that we not only have a Democratic majority in the State Senate but a resounding Democratic majority is going to allow for a host of progress for this state and going to allow some really important initiatives to finally be acted on that we’ve been waiting for, for years and in some cases decades,” de Blasio said on Wednesday. “Most especially reform to our election process, campaign finance reform, finally getting a solution for the MTA. Huge changes could come from the fact that we now have a strong, clear Democratic majority in the State Senate.”</p> <p>Still, much will happen at the city level in the year ahead that is not necessarily a product of Albany decision-making. Even as he seeks legislative and funding changes in the state capital, de Blasio has city challenges to address, programs to implement, and major decisions to make. There is a Charter Revision Commission exploring sweeping changes to how city government operates, and there will be a handful of elections in the city, starting with a special election for Public Advocate, likely in February.</p> <p>There will be a great deal at stake in 2019. Advocates, organizers, strategists, and elected and appointed officials have already provided a long list of topics and decisions that will come to the fore next year. So City Limits, Gotham Gazette, and other partners are teaming up over the next eight weeks to explore major policy issues where action is expected over the next 12 months.</p> <p>Each week we will bring you an in-depth look at one issue area with comprehensive reporting, broadcast interviews, opinion columns, and other features to provide insight into the policies, politics, and people involved and set the stage for what will be an incredibly important year in New York City, New York State, and national politics.</p> <p>First, an overview of what’s on hand.</p> <p><strong>Albany</strong><br /> The story begins in Albany. The 2019 landscape in the state capital will be unlike anything seen in roughly a decade: full Democratic control of the executive and legislative branches. This time around is likely to be far more functional than last, when the Senate Democratic conference quickly devolved into chaos and a weak governor was unable to keep his party-mates from disgracing themselves (several of those involved have served time in jail) and bringing legislative business to a long halt.</p> <p>In 2019, Cuomo enters a third term with wind at his back, major infrastructure projects in motion, and a long to-do list; while Democratic majorities in the Assembly and Senate finally get the opportunity they’ve been waiting for to pass an agenda repeatedly stalled by Republicans in the upper chamber.</p> <p>The questions that hang over this new arrangement include to what extent various Democrats with varied priorities are able to agree upon an order of operation and the specific details of policies they’ve championed but never actually had the power to pass into law without compromising with Republicans. Expected Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and others have already given indication of what they see as the top priorities with widespread agreement.</p> <p>Cuomo, who has appeared mostly happy with a split Legislature, now faces the challenge of dictating terms to legislative majorities that may want to move faster and further left than he’s comfortable with, though Democrats also know that the next legislative elections are now less than two years away and their members from swing suburban districts need to be especially careful with ‘pocketbook’ issues. Taxpayers across the state will soon be adjusting to the full new reality of federal tax reforms, which capped state and local deductions and are of great concern to suburban homeowners. Plus, the state’s current “millionaires tax” is set to expire in 2019 and Cuomo hasn’t yet indicated his stance on renewing it, even as he faces upcoming budget deficits.</p> <p>“I am a suburban legislator,” Stewart-Cousins of Westchester <a href="https://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/state-senate-turnover-1.23031265" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told Long Island-based Newsday</a>. “I am very proud that New Yorkers have elected many great suburban legislators to take their place in the Senate Democratic Majority.”</p> <p>Cuomo has been clear that he plans to continue the fiscal restraint and center-left governance of his first two terms. At the same time, he’s poised to push through many significant policies his critics have blamed him for not delivering, while addressing the twin crises of his second term: the failing New York City subways and the corruption that has continued to plague state government, recently in the governor’s own inner circle.</p> <p>Cuomo wants to keep state spending increases to roughly two percent annually, to keep an annual cap on property tax growth everywhere outside New York City, and to take steps to mitigate the effects of federal tax reform, especially the new cap on state and local deductions. But he also has a lengthy professed agenda for 2019 and his larger third term, including voting reform, additional gun control regulations, the Child Victims Act, codifying Roe v. Wade abortion protections into state law, the Dream Act, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), and more. For the most part, the policy agenda Cuomo has laid out, which is noticeably light on new spending, should not be a heavy lift in either house of the Legislature with both under Democratic control.</p> <p>There may very well be areas of conflict, however, even if legislators stay away from raising taxes or pursuing policies like single-payer health care that Cuomo has thrown cold water on. These include government ethics and campaign finance reform, funding the MTA, rent regulations, education funding, charter schools, criminal justice reform, and others. How to move the state ahead in combating climate change may also be a source of disagreement in terms of degree.</p> <p>The governor knows he must -- and has promised to -- move ahead with congestion pricing for Manhattan travel as part of funding the MTA and the Fast Forward subway modernization plan that is ballparked at around $35 billion. It’s unclear where the rest of the needed money will come from, though Cuomo has already indicated he expects the New York City government to kick in more (de Blasio continues to call for an additional tax on high-earners, which Cuomo has mocked). The governor even got several Senate candidates on Long Island to sign a pledge that they’d squeeze the city for more transit money -- not the only episode of the fall campaign to raise the possibility that Cuomo is readying to continue to hold sway over policy-making in Albany no matter how other pieces may shift.</p> <p>The governor is also frustrated with hearing about his failures on government ethics and campaign finance reform, and will likely look to put that talk to bed by the time a new state budget is passed at the end of March. The details of any such deals will be closely examined for whether they truly advance the causes of good government and provide the best possible circumstances for both preventing and punishing corruption.</p> <p>A major unknown is whether some of the newly elected State Senate Democrats, especially those on Long Island, will feel more beholden to Cuomo than to the conference itself, and help him restrain the larger group. On the other hand, it is unclear how the new group of state senators who defeated members of what was the Independent Democratic Conference, some of whom cross-endorsed with Cynthia Nixon in her challenge to Cuomo, will approach the governor and raising their voices within the Senate majority.</p> <p>During a Wednesday appearance <a href="http://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/buffalo/capital-tonight-interviews/2018/11/08/senate-democrats-flip-majority-#" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on Spectrum’s Capitol Tonight</a>, Stewart-Cousins was asked about unifying her new conference and finding agreement. “So people understand that there’s a lot of great hope in our ascension to power,” she said, “and in order to really fulfill those hopes, we have to move as a body. That means we’re going to have to find ways to get to the desired end...We must consider that it is one New York, but there are a lot of different places, a lot of different regions and areas and needs and interests, and if we do our job right we will be able to manage and take care of all of it.”</p> <p>Democrats in the state Assembly, which is dominated by New York City members and led by Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx, may be itching to enact an agenda they have repeatedly passed that has not had Cuomo’s full support and that is not necessarily the same agenda as the new Senate Democratic majority. Assembly Democrats have spent years passing one-house bills and budgets advancing progressive priorities, including things like single-payer health care, higher taxes on top earners, tighter rent regulations, and sweeping criminal justice reforms.</p> <p>Still, there is much that Democrats in the Assembly, Senate, and governor’s mansion agree on and will all-but-certainly find common ground to pass, starting with a handful of policies that Cuomo, Stewart-Cousins, and Heastie have already mentioned since the election results came in: voting reform, women’s reproductive choice, gun control, and more.</p> <p>“There have been measures that I could not get done with a Republican Senate and I believe they were short-sighted,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “...And I worked so hard for a Democratic Senate, because these are pieces that I believe are essential to really move this state forward.”</p> <p>“We need ethics reform and there's no reason not to pass it,” he continued, mentioning making legislative positions full-time with no outside income, campaign finance reform (including closure of the LLC loophole), and voting reform, including early voting.</p> <p>“The women's right to choose has to be protected,” Cuomo said, referring to the Reproductive Health Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade into state law. He also mentioned the Dream Act, “gun safety” legislation, which would likely include a “red flag bill” to remove guns from the homes of potentially troubled young people and extending the background check wait time from three to ten days.</p> <p>All of the issues listed by Cuomo are ones that Stewart-Cousins, members of her conference, and Heastie have mentioned in the first days after the election as top priorities.</p> <p>While Cuomo appears ready to knock down any criticism that he is not a ‘real Democrat’ and create additional buzz around a possible presidential run, he always wants to move on his terms. A deal-maker who leverages his counterparts, the governor has clearly been sizing up the new dynamics he’s facing ahead of the state budget session that will kick off in January with his State of the State speech and Executive Budget presentation. Discussing the facts that he received the most votes of any governor ever and won this year by a bigger margin than in 2014, Cuomo said Wednesday that it “helps practically in governmentally when you have a larger mandate electorally, the other elected officials know you’ve literally come into government with a stronger hand, and having a larger victory helps you governmentally, I believe that.”</p> <p>And even as Cuomo has pledged to serve another four-year term and there are very serious questions about his viability as a presidential candidate, he has regularly stoked the flames and after another resounding electoral victory, may be poised to flirt even more explicitly with a run for president.</p> <p>One possibility is that Cuomo focuses intently on moving an aggressive progressive agenda through in the first few months of the Albany year, then takes his new list of accomplishments to a few of the necessary stops on a presidential exploration tour, such as New Hampshire.</p> <p>Another uncertainty for the year ahead is exactly how Attorney General-elect Letitia James approaches her new role. James, a Democrat who is currently the New York City public advocate, will vacate that position and take charge of a vast and immensely powerful legal office. She has promised to continue the aggressive approach the office of attorney general has taken to President Trump, his administration and his other enterprises, while also taking on criminal justice reform in New York and working to root out public corruption, among other aspects of the role she has said she will embrace. In the face of skepticism about her closeness to Cuomo and other Democrats, James has promised to be an independent voice and to pursue wrongdoing wherever it may be.</p> <p>There is no speculating that much of New York City’s policy agenda depends on legislative action in Albany. Speedy trial and bail reform legislation seen as vital to the effort to close Rikers island jails will be a top priority for progressives in the capital and City Hall. And the renewal of rent regulations presents a major opportunity to reduce the displacement pressures that dog de Blasio’s rezoning and development plans. There is almost guaranteed to be city-state tension in 2019 over funding the MTA, among other policy and budget issues.</p> <p>Asked the day after the election about his top priorities for the Albany year ahead, de Blasio said, “One: strengthen rent regulations, protect affordable housing. Two: fix the MTA, provide a permanent funding source for our subways and buses. Three: continue our progress on education funding and on having the power to keep fixing our schools.”</p> <p><strong>New York City</strong><br /> Under normal circumstances, 2019 would be a quiet year in city politics—an off-year between the 2018 statewide elections and the presidential race in 2020, with municipal elections a full two years off in 2021.</p> <p>But circumstances are not normal. A a citywide official is leaving her office vacant, a veteran district attorney is retiring, and big decisions on everything from charter revision to jail-siting and neighborhood rezoning are due.</p> <p>As is always the case in the years after statewide elections, three district attorney races are on the docket in the city. All five of the city’s sitting district attorneys are Democrats. Incumbent Darcel Clark in the Bronx, who was elected in 2015 with 80 percent of the vote, is unlikely to be threatened. Staten Island's Michael McMahon won his post in 2015 with 55 percent of the vote, and could face a more competitive re-election contest. But the Queens DA's race is shaping up to be the most dramatic affair, with incumbent Richard Brown—who ran uncontested in '15 and has held his post since '91—likely to step down and a roster of well-known names (City Council Member Rory Lancman, former Council Member Peter Vallone, Jr., Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, State Senator Michael Gianaris) in the mix of declared or potential candidates.</p> <p>Letitia James' victory in the race for attorney general means there'll be a special election to fill the post of public advocate. Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane Williams, fresh off his campaign for lieutenant governor, and Bronx Assembly Member Michael Blake are already in the mix for that post, along with a couple of others like Nomiki Konst and David Eisenbach, and a host of other names are considered possible candidates.</p> <p>The special election to select an interim public advocate will be a nonpartisan affair held in early 2019; the winner of that could then face a primary in September before a general election in November 2019 to decide who serves the remainder of James' term. Worth noting: If someone currently in elected office wins the special election for public advocate, there will need to be another election to fill the slot the winner vacates. It could be a very special year.</p> <p>Also expected to be on the ballot next November: the proposals from the City Council's 2019 charter revision commission. The hearings and meetings (and behind the scenes machinations) that will shape those proposals will be a significant story to watch in the city next year, because the changes on the table next November could be the most significant in 30 years. Already, the commission has been asked to consider ambitious alterations to how the city does budgeting and land-use planning.</p> <p>Critical housing policy decisions will come throughout the year. The city's "Where We Live NYC" fair-housing planning process—a landmark examination of whether city housing programs have reduced or exacerbated segregation—is supposed to wrap up by the fall of 2019. A decision could come in the lawsuits over the fairness of the community preference policy and the property-tax system, and the property-tax reform commission empaneled by de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson is holding its final first-wave meetings in later November and December and could issue a report soon—with whatever plan emerges subject to intense debate, as well as legislation at both the city and state levels.</p> <p>Major neighborhood rezonings of Bushwick, Gowanus, and Bay Street are likely, with action on Long Island City and the Southern Boulevard area of the Bronx also possible. And the Council and mayor will render decisions on the plans to build new jails to replace the facilities on Rikers Island.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the NYCHA settlement with federal authorities awaits approval—and NYCHA families await another winter and the potential for heat and hot-water problems. The federal criminal investigation of NYCHA and its decision-makers is not over and could produce more news, and some housing advocates will bring more pressure on the mayor to build new senior housing on NYCHA land rather than market-rate units. De Blasio may name a permanent head of NYCHA, or keep the interim leader, Stan Brezenoff, in place. The city will also be looking to Washington for more funding help for public housing, and may put forward a revamped long-term plan for NYCHA that accelerates the pace of development on under-utilized NYCHA land as a way to bring in revenue.</p> <p>2019 is the year when the hit from the Trump tax plan's capping of federal income tax deductions for state and local taxes will start to affect high earners—and it will be interesting to see if that encourages calls to rein in spending during the city's budget process. As one business advocate notes, "Only a relatively small number of high earners have to relocate to lower tax states for NYC to suffer major revenue losses." People in the top 1 percent – those in the 38,000 households making more than $713,000—earned about 35 percent of the city's income and contributed roughly 44 percent of total income-tax revenue in 2016. But keeping budget growth modest will be challenging, with the MTA, NYCHA, and the public hospital system in need of major investment.</p> <p>The city's ability to implement the Fair Fares Metrocard subsidy program will be tested, and bus riders should get a glimpse of the newly redesigned bus routes coming under the MTA's Fast Forward plan. The rollout of the school desegregation effort in District 15 will continue as New Yorkers get more of a sense of whether and how Richard Carranza will put his stamp on the school system.</p> <p>The x-factor in all these stories is how much power Bill de Blasio will have to shape these critical policy decisions, all of which will help sculpt his legacy.</p> <p>The mayor did little to define a second-term agenda before he was re-elected in a landslide a year ago, and he's not done much to fill in those blanks over the past 12 months. His signature policy idea of 2018, the democracy initiative, has not had an auspicious start, though de Blasio did see the three ballot proposals from his charter revision commission approved by voters on Election Day. While the mayor has made substantive policy moves, on cybersecurity and guns for instance, they have been drowned out by a torrent of dreadful headlines about NYCHA, his school renewal plan, his beef with the Department of Investigations commissioner, and, of course, the "agent of the city" emails.</p> <p>Some of that static is merely what comes with the territory of a second term in one of the toughest jobs in the country. But de Blasio's unusually acrimonious relationship with the press, his feud with a governor who was just resoundingly elected for a third time, the rise of a less-cooperative City Council and the pre-2021 positioning that is already taking place among his partners in government could combine to irreversibly weaken the mayor years before he ought to look like a lame duck. While that might sound like good news to those who dislike de Blasio, the fact is the city's interests in Albany or Washington depend on there being a strong figure in City Hall. Other players might claim some spotlight and gain some juice, but Bill de Blasio is alone at New York City's helm for another 1,150 days. That would be a long time to be adrift.</p> <p><strong>Washington, D.C.</strong><br /> And then there’s Washington. The new Democratic House could move a legislative agenda to try to limit the impact of the limitations on SALT deductions, support infrastructure spending, shore up the Affordable Care Act, and take steps to thwart the president’s harshest moves on immigration -- all of which would have direct impact on New York City and State. But with Republicans maintaining control of the Senate and the White House, Democrats will not be able to move anything through Congress without major compromise. It’s unclear who will lead the House Democrats or what their strategy over the next year will be: seeking a deal with centrist Republicans, or even with the mercurial president himself, to create new policy, or instead maintaining a more combative posture until the 2020 presidential election resets the country.</p> <p>The Iowa caucus, after all, is only 15 months away.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is the opening story in a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project: AGENDA 2019<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max of Gotham Gazette &amp; Jarrett Murphy of City Limits. Part of "Agenda 2019," a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project to get New Yorkers ready for the political year ahead.</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/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="Agenda 2019" width="600" height="302" /></p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cuomo_asc_nydems.jpg" alt="cuomo stewart-cousins democrats" width="600" height="387" /></p> <p>Byron Brown, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Andrew Cuomo (photo: NY Democratic State Party)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is the opening story in a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project: AGENDA 2019<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>The voting machines are back in storage, the “Vote Here” signs are gone, and politics in New York have entered the interregnum between Election Day and the start of the new term in Albany, when a newly-Democratic State Senate and a re-elected Democratic Assembly majority and Democratic governor will begin to set the direction of the Empire State in 2019 -- while a new Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives vies with a Republican U.S. Senate and President Trump over where and how to steer the nation.</p> <p>The rhetoric, posturing, and proposals of the campaign will give way to the rhetoric and posturing -- and, ultimately, policymaking -- of government. It’s too early to know how the new balances of power will play out, but some of the newly powerful or electorally emboldened are already giving indications of some of their priorities, which, in combination with campaign trail promises, form the outline of what to expect in Albany in the year ahead. Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have quickly provided a sense of what they plan to tackle first and what might be on the backburner as the state governing session begins in January.</p> <p>“I did better than I had done in my previous election which is normally unheard of,” Cuomo said the day after the election, on WVOX radio, “but we also won the Senate, which is very important and I worked very hard to make that happen, which it allows me to get all sorts of things done that we haven’t done before.”</p> <p>As is always the case, so much of what happens in the state capital will impact New York City, and though there were no elections for city-level positions this year, those who live and work in the city have a great deal at stake as the new state government takes shape. Mayor Bill de Blasio and others are already laying out their priorities for 2019 in Albany, where the mayor and other city Democrats hope the atmosphere will be more friendly toward the five boroughs than in the past.</p> <p>“[T]he fact that we not only have a Democratic majority in the State Senate but a resounding Democratic majority is going to allow for a host of progress for this state and going to allow some really important initiatives to finally be acted on that we’ve been waiting for, for years and in some cases decades,” de Blasio said on Wednesday. “Most especially reform to our election process, campaign finance reform, finally getting a solution for the MTA. Huge changes could come from the fact that we now have a strong, clear Democratic majority in the State Senate.”</p> <p>Still, much will happen at the city level in the year ahead that is not necessarily a product of Albany decision-making. Even as he seeks legislative and funding changes in the state capital, de Blasio has city challenges to address, programs to implement, and major decisions to make. There is a Charter Revision Commission exploring sweeping changes to how city government operates, and there will be a handful of elections in the city, starting with a special election for Public Advocate, likely in February.</p> <p>There will be a great deal at stake in 2019. Advocates, organizers, strategists, and elected and appointed officials have already provided a long list of topics and decisions that will come to the fore next year. So City Limits, Gotham Gazette, and other partners are teaming up over the next eight weeks to explore major policy issues where action is expected over the next 12 months.</p> <p>Each week we will bring you an in-depth look at one issue area with comprehensive reporting, broadcast interviews, opinion columns, and other features to provide insight into the policies, politics, and people involved and set the stage for what will be an incredibly important year in New York City, New York State, and national politics.</p> <p>First, an overview of what’s on hand.</p> <p><strong>Albany</strong><br /> The story begins in Albany. The 2019 landscape in the state capital will be unlike anything seen in roughly a decade: full Democratic control of the executive and legislative branches. This time around is likely to be far more functional than last, when the Senate Democratic conference quickly devolved into chaos and a weak governor was unable to keep his party-mates from disgracing themselves (several of those involved have served time in jail) and bringing legislative business to a long halt.</p> <p>In 2019, Cuomo enters a third term with wind at his back, major infrastructure projects in motion, and a long to-do list; while Democratic majorities in the Assembly and Senate finally get the opportunity they’ve been waiting for to pass an agenda repeatedly stalled by Republicans in the upper chamber.</p> <p>The questions that hang over this new arrangement include to what extent various Democrats with varied priorities are able to agree upon an order of operation and the specific details of policies they’ve championed but never actually had the power to pass into law without compromising with Republicans. Expected Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and others have already given indication of what they see as the top priorities with widespread agreement.</p> <p>Cuomo, who has appeared mostly happy with a split Legislature, now faces the challenge of dictating terms to legislative majorities that may want to move faster and further left than he’s comfortable with, though Democrats also know that the next legislative elections are now less than two years away and their members from swing suburban districts need to be especially careful with ‘pocketbook’ issues. Taxpayers across the state will soon be adjusting to the full new reality of federal tax reforms, which capped state and local deductions and are of great concern to suburban homeowners. Plus, the state’s current “millionaires tax” is set to expire in 2019 and Cuomo hasn’t yet indicated his stance on renewing it, even as he faces upcoming budget deficits.</p> <p>“I am a suburban legislator,” Stewart-Cousins of Westchester <a href="https://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/state-senate-turnover-1.23031265" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told Long Island-based Newsday</a>. “I am very proud that New Yorkers have elected many great suburban legislators to take their place in the Senate Democratic Majority.”</p> <p>Cuomo has been clear that he plans to continue the fiscal restraint and center-left governance of his first two terms. At the same time, he’s poised to push through many significant policies his critics have blamed him for not delivering, while addressing the twin crises of his second term: the failing New York City subways and the corruption that has continued to plague state government, recently in the governor’s own inner circle.</p> <p>Cuomo wants to keep state spending increases to roughly two percent annually, to keep an annual cap on property tax growth everywhere outside New York City, and to take steps to mitigate the effects of federal tax reform, especially the new cap on state and local deductions. But he also has a lengthy professed agenda for 2019 and his larger third term, including voting reform, additional gun control regulations, the Child Victims Act, codifying Roe v. Wade abortion protections into state law, the Dream Act, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), and more. For the most part, the policy agenda Cuomo has laid out, which is noticeably light on new spending, should not be a heavy lift in either house of the Legislature with both under Democratic control.</p> <p>There may very well be areas of conflict, however, even if legislators stay away from raising taxes or pursuing policies like single-payer health care that Cuomo has thrown cold water on. These include government ethics and campaign finance reform, funding the MTA, rent regulations, education funding, charter schools, criminal justice reform, and others. How to move the state ahead in combating climate change may also be a source of disagreement in terms of degree.</p> <p>The governor knows he must -- and has promised to -- move ahead with congestion pricing for Manhattan travel as part of funding the MTA and the Fast Forward subway modernization plan that is ballparked at around $35 billion. It’s unclear where the rest of the needed money will come from, though Cuomo has already indicated he expects the New York City government to kick in more (de Blasio continues to call for an additional tax on high-earners, which Cuomo has mocked). The governor even got several Senate candidates on Long Island to sign a pledge that they’d squeeze the city for more transit money -- not the only episode of the fall campaign to raise the possibility that Cuomo is readying to continue to hold sway over policy-making in Albany no matter how other pieces may shift.</p> <p>The governor is also frustrated with hearing about his failures on government ethics and campaign finance reform, and will likely look to put that talk to bed by the time a new state budget is passed at the end of March. The details of any such deals will be closely examined for whether they truly advance the causes of good government and provide the best possible circumstances for both preventing and punishing corruption.</p> <p>A major unknown is whether some of the newly elected State Senate Democrats, especially those on Long Island, will feel more beholden to Cuomo than to the conference itself, and help him restrain the larger group. On the other hand, it is unclear how the new group of state senators who defeated members of what was the Independent Democratic Conference, some of whom cross-endorsed with Cynthia Nixon in her challenge to Cuomo, will approach the governor and raising their voices within the Senate majority.</p> <p>During a Wednesday appearance <a href="http://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/buffalo/capital-tonight-interviews/2018/11/08/senate-democrats-flip-majority-#" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on Spectrum’s Capitol Tonight</a>, Stewart-Cousins was asked about unifying her new conference and finding agreement. “So people understand that there’s a lot of great hope in our ascension to power,” she said, “and in order to really fulfill those hopes, we have to move as a body. That means we’re going to have to find ways to get to the desired end...We must consider that it is one New York, but there are a lot of different places, a lot of different regions and areas and needs and interests, and if we do our job right we will be able to manage and take care of all of it.”</p> <p>Democrats in the state Assembly, which is dominated by New York City members and led by Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx, may be itching to enact an agenda they have repeatedly passed that has not had Cuomo’s full support and that is not necessarily the same agenda as the new Senate Democratic majority. Assembly Democrats have spent years passing one-house bills and budgets advancing progressive priorities, including things like single-payer health care, higher taxes on top earners, tighter rent regulations, and sweeping criminal justice reforms.</p> <p>Still, there is much that Democrats in the Assembly, Senate, and governor’s mansion agree on and will all-but-certainly find common ground to pass, starting with a handful of policies that Cuomo, Stewart-Cousins, and Heastie have already mentioned since the election results came in: voting reform, women’s reproductive choice, gun control, and more.</p> <p>“There have been measures that I could not get done with a Republican Senate and I believe they were short-sighted,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “...And I worked so hard for a Democratic Senate, because these are pieces that I believe are essential to really move this state forward.”</p> <p>“We need ethics reform and there's no reason not to pass it,” he continued, mentioning making legislative positions full-time with no outside income, campaign finance reform (including closure of the LLC loophole), and voting reform, including early voting.</p> <p>“The women's right to choose has to be protected,” Cuomo said, referring to the Reproductive Health Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade into state law. He also mentioned the Dream Act, “gun safety” legislation, which would likely include a “red flag bill” to remove guns from the homes of potentially troubled young people and extending the background check wait time from three to ten days.</p> <p>All of the issues listed by Cuomo are ones that Stewart-Cousins, members of her conference, and Heastie have mentioned in the first days after the election as top priorities.</p> <p>While Cuomo appears ready to knock down any criticism that he is not a ‘real Democrat’ and create additional buzz around a possible presidential run, he always wants to move on his terms. A deal-maker who leverages his counterparts, the governor has clearly been sizing up the new dynamics he’s facing ahead of the state budget session that will kick off in January with his State of the State speech and Executive Budget presentation. Discussing the facts that he received the most votes of any governor ever and won this year by a bigger margin than in 2014, Cuomo said Wednesday that it “helps practically in governmentally when you have a larger mandate electorally, the other elected officials know you’ve literally come into government with a stronger hand, and having a larger victory helps you governmentally, I believe that.”</p> <p>And even as Cuomo has pledged to serve another four-year term and there are very serious questions about his viability as a presidential candidate, he has regularly stoked the flames and after another resounding electoral victory, may be poised to flirt even more explicitly with a run for president.</p> <p>One possibility is that Cuomo focuses intently on moving an aggressive progressive agenda through in the first few months of the Albany year, then takes his new list of accomplishments to a few of the necessary stops on a presidential exploration tour, such as New Hampshire.</p> <p>Another uncertainty for the year ahead is exactly how Attorney General-elect Letitia James approaches her new role. James, a Democrat who is currently the New York City public advocate, will vacate that position and take charge of a vast and immensely powerful legal office. She has promised to continue the aggressive approach the office of attorney general has taken to President Trump, his administration and his other enterprises, while also taking on criminal justice reform in New York and working to root out public corruption, among other aspects of the role she has said she will embrace. In the face of skepticism about her closeness to Cuomo and other Democrats, James has promised to be an independent voice and to pursue wrongdoing wherever it may be.</p> <p>There is no speculating that much of New York City’s policy agenda depends on legislative action in Albany. Speedy trial and bail reform legislation seen as vital to the effort to close Rikers island jails will be a top priority for progressives in the capital and City Hall. And the renewal of rent regulations presents a major opportunity to reduce the displacement pressures that dog de Blasio’s rezoning and development plans. There is almost guaranteed to be city-state tension in 2019 over funding the MTA, among other policy and budget issues.</p> <p>Asked the day after the election about his top priorities for the Albany year ahead, de Blasio said, “One: strengthen rent regulations, protect affordable housing. Two: fix the MTA, provide a permanent funding source for our subways and buses. Three: continue our progress on education funding and on having the power to keep fixing our schools.”</p> <p><strong>New York City</strong><br /> Under normal circumstances, 2019 would be a quiet year in city politics—an off-year between the 2018 statewide elections and the presidential race in 2020, with municipal elections a full two years off in 2021.</p> <p>But circumstances are not normal. A a citywide official is leaving her office vacant, a veteran district attorney is retiring, and big decisions on everything from charter revision to jail-siting and neighborhood rezoning are due.</p> <p>As is always the case in the years after statewide elections, three district attorney races are on the docket in the city. All five of the city’s sitting district attorneys are Democrats. Incumbent Darcel Clark in the Bronx, who was elected in 2015 with 80 percent of the vote, is unlikely to be threatened. Staten Island's Michael McMahon won his post in 2015 with 55 percent of the vote, and could face a more competitive re-election contest. But the Queens DA's race is shaping up to be the most dramatic affair, with incumbent Richard Brown—who ran uncontested in '15 and has held his post since '91—likely to step down and a roster of well-known names (City Council Member Rory Lancman, former Council Member Peter Vallone, Jr., Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, State Senator Michael Gianaris) in the mix of declared or potential candidates.</p> <p>Letitia James' victory in the race for attorney general means there'll be a special election to fill the post of public advocate. Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane Williams, fresh off his campaign for lieutenant governor, and Bronx Assembly Member Michael Blake are already in the mix for that post, along with a couple of others like Nomiki Konst and David Eisenbach, and a host of other names are considered possible candidates.</p> <p>The special election to select an interim public advocate will be a nonpartisan affair held in early 2019; the winner of that could then face a primary in September before a general election in November 2019 to decide who serves the remainder of James' term. Worth noting: If someone currently in elected office wins the special election for public advocate, there will need to be another election to fill the slot the winner vacates. It could be a very special year.</p> <p>Also expected to be on the ballot next November: the proposals from the City Council's 2019 charter revision commission. The hearings and meetings (and behind the scenes machinations) that will shape those proposals will be a significant story to watch in the city next year, because the changes on the table next November could be the most significant in 30 years. Already, the commission has been asked to consider ambitious alterations to how the city does budgeting and land-use planning.</p> <p>Critical housing policy decisions will come throughout the year. The city's "Where We Live NYC" fair-housing planning process—a landmark examination of whether city housing programs have reduced or exacerbated segregation—is supposed to wrap up by the fall of 2019. A decision could come in the lawsuits over the fairness of the community preference policy and the property-tax system, and the property-tax reform commission empaneled by de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson is holding its final first-wave meetings in later November and December and could issue a report soon—with whatever plan emerges subject to intense debate, as well as legislation at both the city and state levels.</p> <p>Major neighborhood rezonings of Bushwick, Gowanus, and Bay Street are likely, with action on Long Island City and the Southern Boulevard area of the Bronx also possible. And the Council and mayor will render decisions on the plans to build new jails to replace the facilities on Rikers Island.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the NYCHA settlement with federal authorities awaits approval—and NYCHA families await another winter and the potential for heat and hot-water problems. The federal criminal investigation of NYCHA and its decision-makers is not over and could produce more news, and some housing advocates will bring more pressure on the mayor to build new senior housing on NYCHA land rather than market-rate units. De Blasio may name a permanent head of NYCHA, or keep the interim leader, Stan Brezenoff, in place. The city will also be looking to Washington for more funding help for public housing, and may put forward a revamped long-term plan for NYCHA that accelerates the pace of development on under-utilized NYCHA land as a way to bring in revenue.</p> <p>2019 is the year when the hit from the Trump tax plan's capping of federal income tax deductions for state and local taxes will start to affect high earners—and it will be interesting to see if that encourages calls to rein in spending during the city's budget process. As one business advocate notes, "Only a relatively small number of high earners have to relocate to lower tax states for NYC to suffer major revenue losses." People in the top 1 percent – those in the 38,000 households making more than $713,000—earned about 35 percent of the city's income and contributed roughly 44 percent of total income-tax revenue in 2016. But keeping budget growth modest will be challenging, with the MTA, NYCHA, and the public hospital system in need of major investment.</p> <p>The city's ability to implement the Fair Fares Metrocard subsidy program will be tested, and bus riders should get a glimpse of the newly redesigned bus routes coming under the MTA's Fast Forward plan. The rollout of the school desegregation effort in District 15 will continue as New Yorkers get more of a sense of whether and how Richard Carranza will put his stamp on the school system.</p> <p>The x-factor in all these stories is how much power Bill de Blasio will have to shape these critical policy decisions, all of which will help sculpt his legacy.</p> <p>The mayor did little to define a second-term agenda before he was re-elected in a landslide a year ago, and he's not done much to fill in those blanks over the past 12 months. His signature policy idea of 2018, the democracy initiative, has not had an auspicious start, though de Blasio did see the three ballot proposals from his charter revision commission approved by voters on Election Day. While the mayor has made substantive policy moves, on cybersecurity and guns for instance, they have been drowned out by a torrent of dreadful headlines about NYCHA, his school renewal plan, his beef with the Department of Investigations commissioner, and, of course, the "agent of the city" emails.</p> <p>Some of that static is merely what comes with the territory of a second term in one of the toughest jobs in the country. But de Blasio's unusually acrimonious relationship with the press, his feud with a governor who was just resoundingly elected for a third time, the rise of a less-cooperative City Council and the pre-2021 positioning that is already taking place among his partners in government could combine to irreversibly weaken the mayor years before he ought to look like a lame duck. While that might sound like good news to those who dislike de Blasio, the fact is the city's interests in Albany or Washington depend on there being a strong figure in City Hall. Other players might claim some spotlight and gain some juice, but Bill de Blasio is alone at New York City's helm for another 1,150 days. That would be a long time to be adrift.</p> <p><strong>Washington, D.C.</strong><br /> And then there’s Washington. The new Democratic House could move a legislative agenda to try to limit the impact of the limitations on SALT deductions, support infrastructure spending, shore up the Affordable Care Act, and take steps to thwart the president’s harshest moves on immigration -- all of which would have direct impact on New York City and State. But with Republicans maintaining control of the Senate and the White House, Democrats will not be able to move anything through Congress without major compromise. It’s unclear who will lead the House Democrats or what their strategy over the next year will be: seeking a deal with centrist Republicans, or even with the mercurial president himself, to create new policy, or instead maintaining a more combative posture until the 2020 presidential election resets the country.</p> <p>The Iowa caucus, after all, is only 15 months away.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is the opening story in a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project: AGENDA 2019<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max of Gotham Gazette &amp; Jarrett Murphy of City Limits. Part of "Agenda 2019," a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project to get New Yorkers ready for the political year ahead.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="Agenda 2019" width="600" height="302" /></p>
'Speaker Heastie PAC' Gives to James for AG, Skoufis for Senate 2018-10-16T04:00:00+00:00 2018-10-16T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7997-speaker-heastie-pac-gives-to-james-for-ag-skoufis-for-senate Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/heastie-w-cuomo-and-morelle.jpg" alt="heastie w cuomo and morelle" width="600" /></p> <p>Speaker Heastie, with Gov. Cuomo and Assemblymember Morelle (Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s eponymous political action committee has continued to donate to Democrats in competitive races this year, recently making new contributions to Public Advocate Letitia James’ attorney general campaign and Assembly Member James Skoufis’ bid for State Senate. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The latest campaign finance filings with the State Board of Elections showed that Speaker Heastie PAC spent about $26,000 between September 21 and October 2, including $10,000 each to James and to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee -- as speaker, Heastie is honorary chair of the DACC and he has donated $55,000 in total through his PAC, which has raised its money mostly from a variety of special interests. The PAC gave Skoufis’ campaign a $5,000 contribution -- it has sent Skoufis $12,250 overall as he seeks to move from Heastie’s conference to the upper chamber as part of the Democrats’ attempt to win control of the Senate and thus both houses of the Legislature.</p> <p>Since its creation in January, Heastie’s PAC has raised $326,100 <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7886-heastie-pac-brings-in-big-money-from-special-interests-starts-spending-on-candidates" target="_blank" rel="noopener">from a combination</a> of other PACs, limited liability companies, and individuals, and has doled out just over $303,000 to several Assembly members running for reelection, candidates for State Senate, Democratic clubs in the Bronx, home to Heastie’s Assembly district and where he is intricately involved in the county Democratic Party, and to James, who is seeking to ascend from a citywide to a statewide official and become the state’s top legal officer.</p> <p>James’ campaign is also being supported by much of the rest of the Democratic establishment in the state, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, while she is facing questions about her independence from figures like Heastie and Cuomo, and whether she would effectively work to root out government corruption as attorney general.</p> <p>Heastie has donated a total of $31,000 to James’ campaign, which has raised more than $2.5 million and spent over $2 million so far, including during a hard-fought four-way Democrtic primary. She had about $384,000 in cash on hand as of her most recent filing, while raising more money for the home stretch before Election Day. James’ Republican opponent, Keith Wofford, is a lawyer at an international corporate firm and a first-time candidate for elected office. He has raised more than $1.6 million for his run and spent almost $1.4 million. He had about $400,000 remaining with three weeks left in the race, while also working to bring in more in order to spend it.</p> <p>With Heastie assured to be reelected to another two-year term -- he is not facing a challenger -- and with Democrats overwhelmingly represented in the Assembly, his PAC has focused part of its efforts on the State Senate, where Republicans hold a one-seat majority, in an effort to regain control of the legislative chamber. Cuomo and the State Democratic Committee are spearheading that effort with a $2 million infusion of cash.</p> <p>As of the last filing, Heastie’s PAC did not show any new fundraising and had about $23,000 left to dish out.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/heastie-w-cuomo-and-morelle.jpg" alt="heastie w cuomo and morelle" width="600" /></p> <p>Speaker Heastie, with Gov. Cuomo and Assemblymember Morelle (Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s eponymous political action committee has continued to donate to Democrats in competitive races this year, recently making new contributions to Public Advocate Letitia James’ attorney general campaign and Assembly Member James Skoufis’ bid for State Senate. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The latest campaign finance filings with the State Board of Elections showed that Speaker Heastie PAC spent about $26,000 between September 21 and October 2, including $10,000 each to James and to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee -- as speaker, Heastie is honorary chair of the DACC and he has donated $55,000 in total through his PAC, which has raised its money mostly from a variety of special interests. The PAC gave Skoufis’ campaign a $5,000 contribution -- it has sent Skoufis $12,250 overall as he seeks to move from Heastie’s conference to the upper chamber as part of the Democrats’ attempt to win control of the Senate and thus both houses of the Legislature.</p> <p>Since its creation in January, Heastie’s PAC has raised $326,100 <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7886-heastie-pac-brings-in-big-money-from-special-interests-starts-spending-on-candidates" target="_blank" rel="noopener">from a combination</a> of other PACs, limited liability companies, and individuals, and has doled out just over $303,000 to several Assembly members running for reelection, candidates for State Senate, Democratic clubs in the Bronx, home to Heastie’s Assembly district and where he is intricately involved in the county Democratic Party, and to James, who is seeking to ascend from a citywide to a statewide official and become the state’s top legal officer.</p> <p>James’ campaign is also being supported by much of the rest of the Democratic establishment in the state, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, while she is facing questions about her independence from figures like Heastie and Cuomo, and whether she would effectively work to root out government corruption as attorney general.</p> <p>Heastie has donated a total of $31,000 to James’ campaign, which has raised more than $2.5 million and spent over $2 million so far, including during a hard-fought four-way Democrtic primary. She had about $384,000 in cash on hand as of her most recent filing, while raising more money for the home stretch before Election Day. James’ Republican opponent, Keith Wofford, is a lawyer at an international corporate firm and a first-time candidate for elected office. He has raised more than $1.6 million for his run and spent almost $1.4 million. He had about $400,000 remaining with three weeks left in the race, while also working to bring in more in order to spend it.</p> <p>With Heastie assured to be reelected to another two-year term -- he is not facing a challenger -- and with Democrats overwhelmingly represented in the Assembly, his PAC has focused part of its efforts on the State Senate, where Republicans hold a one-seat majority, in an effort to regain control of the legislative chamber. Cuomo and the State Democratic Committee are spearheading that effort with a $2 million infusion of cash.</p> <p>As of the last filing, Heastie’s PAC did not show any new fundraising and had about $23,000 left to dish out.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
'Speaker Heastie PAC' Brings in Big Money from Special Interests, Starts Giving to Candidates 2018-08-23T04:00:00+00:00 2018-08-23T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7886-heastie-pac-brings-in-big-money-from-special-interests-starts-spending-on-candidates Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/heastie_morelle_via_joemorelle.jpg" alt="heastie morelle assembly" width="600" height="478" /></p> <p>Carl Heastie, right, with Joe Morelle (photo: @JoeMorelle)</p> <hr /> <p>New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who rose to lead the chamber following the fall from grace of his predecessor, Sheldon Silver, on charges of corruption, has been in at least one way <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20180529/POLITICS/180529916/convicted-assembly-speaker-sheldon-silver-still-has-430k-in-pac-and-is-spending" target="_blank" rel="noopener">followed</a> in Silver’s footsteps by establishing a political action committee, which he is using to support allies in this year’s state elections. &nbsp;</p> <p>Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, is in no danger of being unseated himself as he seeks another two-year term in the Assembly, but Democrats are hoping to flip enough seats to take control of the upper house of the state Legislature, the state Senate. Heastie’s political committee, titled “Speaker Heastie PAC,” was registered in January and has raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars. Thus far, those funds have gone to fellow Assembly members seeking reelection, two state Senators, and local Democratic clubs and county committees. A few of the contributions also suggest that Heastie hopes to influence the political sphere beyond the legislative branch and the State of New York.</p> <p>Since January, the PAC has raised a total of $318,600 and spent about $254,000, leaving a balance of about $65,000, according to mid-August <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov:8080/plsql_browser/getfiler2_loaddates" target="_blank" rel="noopener">campaign finance filings</a> with the state Board of Elections. The largest donors to Heastie’s PAC have significant dealings with the Assembly, broader Legislature, and state government in general.</p> <p>The PAC received large donations from several prominent labor unions and PACs representing legal professionals, real estate, law enforcement, and other industries.</p> <p>Three PACs -- 32BJ United ADF, affiliated with the property services workers union; Charter Communications PAC, which represents the communications company of the same name; and Law PAC of New York, affiliated with the New York State Trial Lawyers Association -- each gave $25,000 to Heastie’s PAC. The state teachers union, New York State United Teachers, donated $22,500. “Speaker Heastie is a true champion for public education,” said NYSUT spokesperson Carl Korn. “New York's public schools and colleges -- and the students who attend them -- are better off thanks to his steadfast leadership. We are proud to offer him our support.”</p> <p>Among other donors were political committees associated with the Corrections Officers Benevolent Association, the Real Estate Board of New York, the Hotel Trades Council, the New York Gaming Association, the Transit Workers Union, the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Communications Workers of America, to name a few. Even billionaire supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis, a prominent Republican donor who has also given to many Democrats in the past, gave a $5,000 contribution to the PAC.</p> <p>Heastie has been generous in distributing the money he has raised so far.</p> <p>His PAC has contributed $21,000 to the Attorney General campaign of New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, whom Heastie <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2018/05/heastie-endorses-james-for-ag/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">endorsed</a> soon after she announced her campaign in May. James has also been endorsed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Democratic Party, leading to criticism from opponents that she is too connected to the party establishment to be a necessarily independent and effective attorney general, especially as it relates to investigated and rooting out public corruption.</p> <p>“The Speaker supports candidates he believes in and who share his values,” a Heastie spokesperson told Gotham Gazette in a brief email.</p> <p>A 32BJ union spokesperson said in an email that the union donated to Heastie to push for more Democratic seats in the state Senate. “We have always supported efforts to make New York a progressive state,” the spokesperson said. “This includes having a Democrat-led Senate. Heastie’s PAC is focused on flipping the Senate to the Democrats, so this effort is another step to ensure a truly blue New York.”</p> <p>But so far Heastie’s PAC hasn’t spent much along those lines. Heastie did direct $11,000 to the state Senate campaign of Shelley Mayer, who successfully ran in an April special election to replace George Latimer, who stepped down after being elected Westchester county executive. But other than that and a $7,000 contribution to state Senator Jamaal Bailey, a close Heastie friend, the PAC has steered clear of state Senate races, particularly those in districts represented by members of the former Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group of eight Democrats who caucused with Republicans for more than seven years and recently returned to the mainline Democratic conference, or swing districts around the state.</p> <p>Responding to this fact in a subsequent email, the 32BJ spokesperson said, “It’s early in the election cycle and we expect that the focus on many of the Senate races will happen after the primaries. Our contribution is intended to help in Senate races.”</p> <p>Primary elections, including the challenges to the eight former IDC members, will take place September 13. Heastie signed on to the unity agreement brokered by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is facing his own spirited primary from Cynthia Nixon but is not wanting for funds, whereby he pledged not to support primaries against sitting Democrats. The former leader of the IDC, Senator Jeff Klein, represents part of Heastie’s native Bronx.</p> <p>As a representative from the Bronx, it isn’t necessarily surprising that Heastie also chose to contribute $10,000 from his PAC to Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, even though she is not up for reelection until next year. Clark sailed through the election in 2015 after being nominated for the position in a controversial move by the Bronx Democratic County Committee -- which Heastie used to chair and is still influential with -- when her predecessor Robert Johnson dropped out after winning the Democratic primary to accept a nomination for a state judgeship offered by the county party leadership.</p> <p>Heastie’s PAC also gave $40,000 to the Bronx Democratic County Committee (one of the four $10,000 donations seems to have been mislabelled as given to Bronx County PAC, which doesn’t exist but was listed with the same address.) Heastie’s PAC also directed $35,000 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee, of which Heastie is the honorary chair as speaker. &nbsp;</p> <p>All 150 seats in the overwhelmingly Democratic state Assembly are on the ballot this year and several members of the Democratic conference benefited from the speaker’s largesse. Chief among them was Ari Espinal, the first-term incumbent from Queens facing <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7805-assembly-race-poses-another-test-for-queens-machine" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a competitive challenge</a> from Catalina Cruz, a “dreamer” running on a progressive platform. Heastie’s PAC gave Espinal $5,400 for her reelection.</p> <p>Additionally, Assemblymember James Skoufis got $4,750 from the PAC; Assemblymembers Carmen Arroyo, Carmen De La Rosa, Al Taylor, and Jeffrion Aubry each received $4,400; Assemblymember Latoya Joyner received $2,000; and Assemblymembers Nathalia Fernandez, Kimberly Jean-Pierre, and Harvey Epstein each got a $1,000 contribution.</p> <p>An Bronx Assembly candidate, Karines Reyes, got a $2,000 contribution. Reyes is running for an open seat left vacant after Luis Sepulveda was elected to the state Senate in the April special election.</p> <p>The PAC donated $1,000 to the congressional campaign of Anthony Brindisi, a Democrat attempting to unseat Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney in New York’s 22nd district upstate. Another $1,000 went to Assemblymember Joe Morelle, who is running for Congress in the 25th district against Republican Jim Maxwell. The seat has been vacant since the death of Rep. Louise Slaughter, a Democrat, in March. Morelle is a close friend of Heastie’s and is the Assembly majority leader.</p> <p>Heastie also made another early donation to a candidate in New York City, doling out $4,784 to Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., the first candidate to officially declare he is running for mayor in 2021, when Mayor Bill de Blasio is term-limited out of office. Diaz Jr. has just over $600,000 in <a href="https://www.nyccfb.info/VSApps/WebForm_Finance_Summary.aspx?as_election_cycle=2017&amp;sm=press_12&amp;sm=press_12" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cash on hand</a> already for the campaign. &nbsp;</p> <p>But Heastie’s contributions also leave the borders of the state. His PAC donated $1,000 to Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for Georgia governor. If elected, Abrams stands to be the first African-American woman elected governor of any state in the country.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Brachfeld contributed to this story.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/heastie_morelle_via_joemorelle.jpg" alt="heastie morelle assembly" width="600" height="478" /></p> <p>Carl Heastie, right, with Joe Morelle (photo: @JoeMorelle)</p> <hr /> <p>New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who rose to lead the chamber following the fall from grace of his predecessor, Sheldon Silver, on charges of corruption, has been in at least one way <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20180529/POLITICS/180529916/convicted-assembly-speaker-sheldon-silver-still-has-430k-in-pac-and-is-spending" target="_blank" rel="noopener">followed</a> in Silver’s footsteps by establishing a political action committee, which he is using to support allies in this year’s state elections. &nbsp;</p> <p>Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, is in no danger of being unseated himself as he seeks another two-year term in the Assembly, but Democrats are hoping to flip enough seats to take control of the upper house of the state Legislature, the state Senate. Heastie’s political committee, titled “Speaker Heastie PAC,” was registered in January and has raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars. Thus far, those funds have gone to fellow Assembly members seeking reelection, two state Senators, and local Democratic clubs and county committees. A few of the contributions also suggest that Heastie hopes to influence the political sphere beyond the legislative branch and the State of New York.</p> <p>Since January, the PAC has raised a total of $318,600 and spent about $254,000, leaving a balance of about $65,000, according to mid-August <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov:8080/plsql_browser/getfiler2_loaddates" target="_blank" rel="noopener">campaign finance filings</a> with the state Board of Elections. The largest donors to Heastie’s PAC have significant dealings with the Assembly, broader Legislature, and state government in general.</p> <p>The PAC received large donations from several prominent labor unions and PACs representing legal professionals, real estate, law enforcement, and other industries.</p> <p>Three PACs -- 32BJ United ADF, affiliated with the property services workers union; Charter Communications PAC, which represents the communications company of the same name; and Law PAC of New York, affiliated with the New York State Trial Lawyers Association -- each gave $25,000 to Heastie’s PAC. The state teachers union, New York State United Teachers, donated $22,500. “Speaker Heastie is a true champion for public education,” said NYSUT spokesperson Carl Korn. “New York's public schools and colleges -- and the students who attend them -- are better off thanks to his steadfast leadership. We are proud to offer him our support.”</p> <p>Among other donors were political committees associated with the Corrections Officers Benevolent Association, the Real Estate Board of New York, the Hotel Trades Council, the New York Gaming Association, the Transit Workers Union, the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Communications Workers of America, to name a few. Even billionaire supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis, a prominent Republican donor who has also given to many Democrats in the past, gave a $5,000 contribution to the PAC.</p> <p>Heastie has been generous in distributing the money he has raised so far.</p> <p>His PAC has contributed $21,000 to the Attorney General campaign of New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, whom Heastie <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2018/05/heastie-endorses-james-for-ag/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">endorsed</a> soon after she announced her campaign in May. James has also been endorsed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Democratic Party, leading to criticism from opponents that she is too connected to the party establishment to be a necessarily independent and effective attorney general, especially as it relates to investigated and rooting out public corruption.</p> <p>“The Speaker supports candidates he believes in and who share his values,” a Heastie spokesperson told Gotham Gazette in a brief email.</p> <p>A 32BJ union spokesperson said in an email that the union donated to Heastie to push for more Democratic seats in the state Senate. “We have always supported efforts to make New York a progressive state,” the spokesperson said. “This includes having a Democrat-led Senate. Heastie’s PAC is focused on flipping the Senate to the Democrats, so this effort is another step to ensure a truly blue New York.”</p> <p>But so far Heastie’s PAC hasn’t spent much along those lines. Heastie did direct $11,000 to the state Senate campaign of Shelley Mayer, who successfully ran in an April special election to replace George Latimer, who stepped down after being elected Westchester county executive. But other than that and a $7,000 contribution to state Senator Jamaal Bailey, a close Heastie friend, the PAC has steered clear of state Senate races, particularly those in districts represented by members of the former Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group of eight Democrats who caucused with Republicans for more than seven years and recently returned to the mainline Democratic conference, or swing districts around the state.</p> <p>Responding to this fact in a subsequent email, the 32BJ spokesperson said, “It’s early in the election cycle and we expect that the focus on many of the Senate races will happen after the primaries. Our contribution is intended to help in Senate races.”</p> <p>Primary elections, including the challenges to the eight former IDC members, will take place September 13. Heastie signed on to the unity agreement brokered by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is facing his own spirited primary from Cynthia Nixon but is not wanting for funds, whereby he pledged not to support primaries against sitting Democrats. The former leader of the IDC, Senator Jeff Klein, represents part of Heastie’s native Bronx.</p> <p>As a representative from the Bronx, it isn’t necessarily surprising that Heastie also chose to contribute $10,000 from his PAC to Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, even though she is not up for reelection until next year. Clark sailed through the election in 2015 after being nominated for the position in a controversial move by the Bronx Democratic County Committee -- which Heastie used to chair and is still influential with -- when her predecessor Robert Johnson dropped out after winning the Democratic primary to accept a nomination for a state judgeship offered by the county party leadership.</p> <p>Heastie’s PAC also gave $40,000 to the Bronx Democratic County Committee (one of the four $10,000 donations seems to have been mislabelled as given to Bronx County PAC, which doesn’t exist but was listed with the same address.) Heastie’s PAC also directed $35,000 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee, of which Heastie is the honorary chair as speaker. &nbsp;</p> <p>All 150 seats in the overwhelmingly Democratic state Assembly are on the ballot this year and several members of the Democratic conference benefited from the speaker’s largesse. Chief among them was Ari Espinal, the first-term incumbent from Queens facing <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7805-assembly-race-poses-another-test-for-queens-machine" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a competitive challenge</a> from Catalina Cruz, a “dreamer” running on a progressive platform. Heastie’s PAC gave Espinal $5,400 for her reelection.</p> <p>Additionally, Assemblymember James Skoufis got $4,750 from the PAC; Assemblymembers Carmen Arroyo, Carmen De La Rosa, Al Taylor, and Jeffrion Aubry each received $4,400; Assemblymember Latoya Joyner received $2,000; and Assemblymembers Nathalia Fernandez, Kimberly Jean-Pierre, and Harvey Epstein each got a $1,000 contribution.</p> <p>An Bronx Assembly candidate, Karines Reyes, got a $2,000 contribution. Reyes is running for an open seat left vacant after Luis Sepulveda was elected to the state Senate in the April special election.</p> <p>The PAC donated $1,000 to the congressional campaign of Anthony Brindisi, a Democrat attempting to unseat Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney in New York’s 22nd district upstate. Another $1,000 went to Assemblymember Joe Morelle, who is running for Congress in the 25th district against Republican Jim Maxwell. The seat has been vacant since the death of Rep. Louise Slaughter, a Democrat, in March. Morelle is a close friend of Heastie’s and is the Assembly majority leader.</p> <p>Heastie also made another early donation to a candidate in New York City, doling out $4,784 to Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., the first candidate to officially declare he is running for mayor in 2021, when Mayor Bill de Blasio is term-limited out of office. Diaz Jr. has just over $600,000 in <a href="https://www.nyccfb.info/VSApps/WebForm_Finance_Summary.aspx?as_election_cycle=2017&amp;sm=press_12&amp;sm=press_12" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cash on hand</a> already for the campaign. &nbsp;</p> <p>But Heastie’s contributions also leave the borders of the state. His PAC donated $1,000 to Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for Georgia governor. If elected, Abrams stands to be the first African-American woman elected governor of any state in the country.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Brachfeld contributed to this story.</p>
State Board of Elections Curtails Power of Enforcement Counsel 2018-08-08T04:00:00+00:00 2018-08-08T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7852-state-board-of-elections-curtails-power-of-enforcement-counsel Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/gov-and-cuomo-coughlin-votes.jpg" alt="gov and cuomo coughlin votes" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(Photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)</p> <hr /> <p>The State Board of Elections voted on Wednesday to hobble the subpoena powers of Chief Enforcement Counsel Risa Sugarman, dealing a significant blow to one of the state’s only election law watchdogs.</p> <p>The new rules, which were voted on by the board at a commissioners’ meeting in Albany, would require Sugarman to obtain permission from the board members (two Democrats, two Republicans) for each subpoena she plans to issue in a probe, and for the “circumstances of the investigation” to be divulged to the members. Previously, the board approved Sugarman’s ability to make subpoenas in probes, but she was given latitude to make individual subpoenas within a probe.</p> <p>The new rule also requires that Sugarman provide regular reports to the board members detailing metrics related to her investigations, and for investigations to be limited to six-month timeframes. Sugarman is the first and only person to hold the relatively new position at the board.</p> <p>She has, in the past, criticized the proposed rule changes as being designed to hobble the powers given to her in 2014, after Governor Andrew Cuomo and Legislature passed a law designed to depoliticize the BOE’s enforcement process.</p> <p>"These amendments would allow the politically partisan commissioners of the SBOE to impose their own political will on the independent chief enforcement counsel's investigations," Sugarman said in a June letter to the board, <a href="https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Sugarman-blasts-rules-that-would-hobble-her-13037942.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">obtained by the Albany Times-Union</a>.</p> <p>The final vote on the measure was 3-1 in favor, with Democratic appointee Andrew Spano dissenting. Before the vote, Sugarman provided sharply critical testimony wherein she accused the board members of attempting to hobble a crucial state watchdog.</p> <p>“By your vote today, you will send a message,” she said, saying that a “yes” vote would stand for partisan intervention into independent oversight, while a “no” vote would stand for “fair and complete investigations.” Sugarman said that the rescission of unmitigated subpoena power, as well as reporting requirements and a six-month timeframe for investigations, would hobble the enforcement counsel’s ability to fairly investigate campaign finance violations.</p> <p>Sugarman claimed that the regulations would slow the pace of investigations by requiring approval of subpoenas by the BOE, and would hinder the independence of the investigation by needing approval from partisan appointees. In effect, the commissioners, not the enforcement counsel, would “control the course and content of an investigation,” she said.</p> <p>Sugarman brought up supporters of her fight against the new regulations: seven state residents who submitted public comment, gubernatorial candidate and former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, the Office of the New York Attorney General, good government groups Reinvent Albany and Rochester for All, five members of the former Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, three District Attorneys, and attorney Milton Williams.</p> <p>“Gutting the Enforcement Counsel’s authority and independence will only serve to encourage more corruption in New York,” Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a statement. “Our partnership with a strong, independent Enforcement Counsel has allowed us to hold public officials to account for breaking campaign finance laws and cheating New Yorkers. With today’s vote, that work is jeopardized by potential political interference in law enforcement investigations.”</p> <p>Governor Cuomo, too, opposed the new regulations, expressing his opinion just before the board meeting, though it had been sought for weeks.</p> <p>“‎We reviewed these draft regulations and believe they are unnecessary and ‎could harm the operations and the independence of the enforcement counsel's office,” Cuomo spokesperson Tyrone Stevens said in a statement on Wednesday morning. “We don't support their adoption and, believe that today's vote should be delayed and members should go back to the drawing board to address these concerns. The Democratic members of the Board of Elections have been informed of our stance."</p> <p>Spokespeople for Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan did not respond to requests for comment.</p> <p>The enforcement counsel was created to independently deliberate election law violations, instead of leaving the job to the partisan board of elections. After Cuomo faced intense controversy for his shuttering of the Moreland Commission, interpreted by many as a reaction to investigations into his administration or people close to him, he and legislative leaders Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos (both now convicted of public corruption) fostered the creation of the enforcement counsel as a compromise.</p> <p>Regardless, the members of the board criticized Sugarman, saying that her office was inadequately enforcing campaign finance law. Douglas Kellner, the Democratic co-chair of the board, said that enforcement had “effectively stopped” since 2014, the year the enforcement counsel was created, in the areas of deficiencies and non-filings of campaign finance disclosures.</p> <p>Kellner and other board members said that despite thousands of referrals to Sugarman, only a few dozen hearings had been commenced.</p> <p>“It’s beyond me why there has not been public outrage at the fact that this has happened,” Kellner said, singling out good government groups for a lack of criticism. Kellner said that he had spoken to good government groups who were in support of the new rule, but did not say which ones.</p> <p>"I think it's pretty clear that I'm fed up with the current process of the enforcement unit,” Kellner said. “I call upon people in the good government groups...to look at the numbers. Look at the numbers of non-filers, and to how enforcement counsel has handled those non-filers."</p> <p>One of those government reform groups, Reinvent Albany, issued a statement Wednesday expressing opposition to “the sections of the proposed rules which create new&nbsp;procedures for the chief enforcement counsel to issue subpoenas to persons and&nbsp;committees being investigated for violations of Election or other laws.”</p> <p>“We believe these procedures will slow or terminate important investigations of alleged violations of Election Law,” the statement continues. “The Board should not seek to undercut the independence of the chief enforcement counsel, who has investigated types of cases not previously taken on by the Election Law enforcement unit of the Board.”</p> <p>Reinvent Albany supports, however, “the sections related to reporting enforcement activity but believe reporting should be made public and expanded to include all aspects of compliance and</p> <p>enforcement by the State and county boards of election. The Board currently does not report much, if any, compliance and enforcement activity to the general public, and it should do so as is done by other state agencies while respecting the rights of the accused.”</p> <p>Republican co-chair Peter Kosinski said that the six-month timetable was necessary in order for voters to know who they were voting for, and whether they had not committed election law violations; Sugarman had earlier said that the timeframe was “arbitrary.”</p> <p>However, Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe, who submitted testimony against the new rule, said in an <a href="https://www.lohud.com/story/opinion/contributors/2018/07/19/rockland-da-zugibe-stands-up-ny-independent-counsel-risa-sugarman/800832002/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">op-ed</a> for loHud in July that board members had admitted in 2013 to only undertaking a single probe in the preceding four years. According to the <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/download/AnnualReport2015.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2015 Board of Elections annual report</a>, Sugarman received board authorization to seek subpoenas in 19 probes in 2015, with nine cases being referred for possible prosecution. The <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/download/AnnualReport2017.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2017 report</a> noted that Sugarman had received subpoena authorization in four cases and referred one for prosecution.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/download/AnnualReport2013.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2013 annual report</a>, before the enforcement counsel position was created, lists no subpoenas or prosecutions.</p> <p>The board also voted on Wednesday to implement new regulations on political advertising on social media platforms, rules that follow <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7623-cuomo-touts-political-ad-transparency-law-as-other-reforms-languish" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the adoption of a new law passed in this year’s state budget</a>. The new rules will ban foreign entities from purchasing digital ads on social media platforms, and will require ad buyers to register an independent expenditure committee; the board will require that IE’s name be displayed prominently on the ad, as having paid for it.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/gov-and-cuomo-coughlin-votes.jpg" alt="gov and cuomo coughlin votes" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(Photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)</p> <hr /> <p>The State Board of Elections voted on Wednesday to hobble the subpoena powers of Chief Enforcement Counsel Risa Sugarman, dealing a significant blow to one of the state’s only election law watchdogs.</p> <p>The new rules, which were voted on by the board at a commissioners’ meeting in Albany, would require Sugarman to obtain permission from the board members (two Democrats, two Republicans) for each subpoena she plans to issue in a probe, and for the “circumstances of the investigation” to be divulged to the members. Previously, the board approved Sugarman’s ability to make subpoenas in probes, but she was given latitude to make individual subpoenas within a probe.</p> <p>The new rule also requires that Sugarman provide regular reports to the board members detailing metrics related to her investigations, and for investigations to be limited to six-month timeframes. Sugarman is the first and only person to hold the relatively new position at the board.</p> <p>She has, in the past, criticized the proposed rule changes as being designed to hobble the powers given to her in 2014, after Governor Andrew Cuomo and Legislature passed a law designed to depoliticize the BOE’s enforcement process.</p> <p>"These amendments would allow the politically partisan commissioners of the SBOE to impose their own political will on the independent chief enforcement counsel's investigations," Sugarman said in a June letter to the board, <a href="https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Sugarman-blasts-rules-that-would-hobble-her-13037942.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">obtained by the Albany Times-Union</a>.</p> <p>The final vote on the measure was 3-1 in favor, with Democratic appointee Andrew Spano dissenting. Before the vote, Sugarman provided sharply critical testimony wherein she accused the board members of attempting to hobble a crucial state watchdog.</p> <p>“By your vote today, you will send a message,” she said, saying that a “yes” vote would stand for partisan intervention into independent oversight, while a “no” vote would stand for “fair and complete investigations.” Sugarman said that the rescission of unmitigated subpoena power, as well as reporting requirements and a six-month timeframe for investigations, would hobble the enforcement counsel’s ability to fairly investigate campaign finance violations.</p> <p>Sugarman claimed that the regulations would slow the pace of investigations by requiring approval of subpoenas by the BOE, and would hinder the independence of the investigation by needing approval from partisan appointees. In effect, the commissioners, not the enforcement counsel, would “control the course and content of an investigation,” she said.</p> <p>Sugarman brought up supporters of her fight against the new regulations: seven state residents who submitted public comment, gubernatorial candidate and former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, the Office of the New York Attorney General, good government groups Reinvent Albany and Rochester for All, five members of the former Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, three District Attorneys, and attorney Milton Williams.</p> <p>“Gutting the Enforcement Counsel’s authority and independence will only serve to encourage more corruption in New York,” Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a statement. “Our partnership with a strong, independent Enforcement Counsel has allowed us to hold public officials to account for breaking campaign finance laws and cheating New Yorkers. With today’s vote, that work is jeopardized by potential political interference in law enforcement investigations.”</p> <p>Governor Cuomo, too, opposed the new regulations, expressing his opinion just before the board meeting, though it had been sought for weeks.</p> <p>“‎We reviewed these draft regulations and believe they are unnecessary and ‎could harm the operations and the independence of the enforcement counsel's office,” Cuomo spokesperson Tyrone Stevens said in a statement on Wednesday morning. “We don't support their adoption and, believe that today's vote should be delayed and members should go back to the drawing board to address these concerns. The Democratic members of the Board of Elections have been informed of our stance."</p> <p>Spokespeople for Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan did not respond to requests for comment.</p> <p>The enforcement counsel was created to independently deliberate election law violations, instead of leaving the job to the partisan board of elections. After Cuomo faced intense controversy for his shuttering of the Moreland Commission, interpreted by many as a reaction to investigations into his administration or people close to him, he and legislative leaders Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos (both now convicted of public corruption) fostered the creation of the enforcement counsel as a compromise.</p> <p>Regardless, the members of the board criticized Sugarman, saying that her office was inadequately enforcing campaign finance law. Douglas Kellner, the Democratic co-chair of the board, said that enforcement had “effectively stopped” since 2014, the year the enforcement counsel was created, in the areas of deficiencies and non-filings of campaign finance disclosures.</p> <p>Kellner and other board members said that despite thousands of referrals to Sugarman, only a few dozen hearings had been commenced.</p> <p>“It’s beyond me why there has not been public outrage at the fact that this has happened,” Kellner said, singling out good government groups for a lack of criticism. Kellner said that he had spoken to good government groups who were in support of the new rule, but did not say which ones.</p> <p>"I think it's pretty clear that I'm fed up with the current process of the enforcement unit,” Kellner said. “I call upon people in the good government groups...to look at the numbers. Look at the numbers of non-filers, and to how enforcement counsel has handled those non-filers."</p> <p>One of those government reform groups, Reinvent Albany, issued a statement Wednesday expressing opposition to “the sections of the proposed rules which create new&nbsp;procedures for the chief enforcement counsel to issue subpoenas to persons and&nbsp;committees being investigated for violations of Election or other laws.”</p> <p>“We believe these procedures will slow or terminate important investigations of alleged violations of Election Law,” the statement continues. “The Board should not seek to undercut the independence of the chief enforcement counsel, who has investigated types of cases not previously taken on by the Election Law enforcement unit of the Board.”</p> <p>Reinvent Albany supports, however, “the sections related to reporting enforcement activity but believe reporting should be made public and expanded to include all aspects of compliance and</p> <p>enforcement by the State and county boards of election. The Board currently does not report much, if any, compliance and enforcement activity to the general public, and it should do so as is done by other state agencies while respecting the rights of the accused.”</p> <p>Republican co-chair Peter Kosinski said that the six-month timetable was necessary in order for voters to know who they were voting for, and whether they had not committed election law violations; Sugarman had earlier said that the timeframe was “arbitrary.”</p> <p>However, Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe, who submitted testimony against the new rule, said in an <a href="https://www.lohud.com/story/opinion/contributors/2018/07/19/rockland-da-zugibe-stands-up-ny-independent-counsel-risa-sugarman/800832002/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">op-ed</a> for loHud in July that board members had admitted in 2013 to only undertaking a single probe in the preceding four years. According to the <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/download/AnnualReport2015.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2015 Board of Elections annual report</a>, Sugarman received board authorization to seek subpoenas in 19 probes in 2015, with nine cases being referred for possible prosecution. The <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/download/AnnualReport2017.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2017 report</a> noted that Sugarman had received subpoena authorization in four cases and referred one for prosecution.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/download/AnnualReport2013.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2013 annual report</a>, before the enforcement counsel position was created, lists no subpoenas or prosecutions.</p> <p>The board also voted on Wednesday to implement new regulations on political advertising on social media platforms, rules that follow <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7623-cuomo-touts-political-ad-transparency-law-as-other-reforms-languish" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the adoption of a new law passed in this year’s state budget</a>. The new rules will ban foreign entities from purchasing digital ads on social media platforms, and will require ad buyers to register an independent expenditure committee; the board will require that IE’s name be displayed prominently on the ad, as having paid for it.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Attention Shifts to Assembly Hesitation on Accountability Bills Opposed by Cuomo 2018-06-06T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-06T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7718-attention-shifts-to-assembly-hesitation-on-accountability-bills-opposed-by-cuomo Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/govcuomo-speakerheastie.jpg" alt="govcuomo speakerheastie" width="600" height="429" /></p> <p>Speaker Heastie, left, and Governor Cuomo (photo via the Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Amid open conflict with Governor Andrew Cuomo, a second-term Democrat, the Republican-controlled state Senate recently passed a package of bills aimed at shedding light on taxpayer-funded economic development projects, among other reform measures. The move helped reignite attention on the legislation and put pressure on the Democrat-led Assembly to pass bills it has previously supported.</p> <p>The legislation includes the Procurement Integrity Act, which would restore the state comptroller’s power to review contracts before they are officially awarded, and the “database of deals” bill, which would create a public catalogue of economic development awards and their results. Such grants run into hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds, though they are often largely hidden from the public and have been at the center of recent corruption charges.</p> <p>Assembly support for the measures was strong enough that earlier this year they were included in the chamber’s one-house budget, as they were in the Senate’s, though they were not included in the enacted state budget after negotiations among the Assembly, Senate, and governor.</p> <p>Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie praised the Procurement Integrity Act last year, <a href="http://wxxinews.org/post/lawmakers-voice-hope-reform-economic-development-contracts" target="_blank" rel="noopener">saying,</a> “Another set of eyes will make people feel better that, yes, things are done correctly.”</p> <p>However, the bill hasn’t made it out of the Assembly’s Government Operations Committee -- even though the committee’s chair, Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Democrat from Buffalo, is the very lawmaker sponsoring the legislation. The bill has 37 co-sponsors in the 150-seat Assembly.</p> <p>And as the June 20 scheduled end of legislative session approaches, the “database of deals” bill is stalled in the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Democrat Helene Weinstein of Brooklyn. That bill has 34 co-sponsors.</p> <p>The reason for the hold-up? Advocates for the legislation are pointing at Cuomo, and his influence over Heastie.</p> <p>“The speaker is jamming the bills because the governor wants him to,” said John Kaehny, executive director of government watchdog Reinvent Albany. “If those bills went to the floor of the Assembly, they would pass overwhelmingly.”</p> <p>Assemblymember Robin Schimminger, a Democrat and main sponsor of the “database of deals” bill, echoed Kaehny’s comments.</p> <p>“The governor does not want this bill moved,” the Buffalo-area representative told Gotham Gazette. “The question is, do Chair Weinstein and Speaker Heastie -- are they going to do the right thing or are they going to roll over and not move?”</p> <p>Weinstein’s, Peoples-Stokes’, and Heastie’s offices did not respond to requests for comment. Questions around the bills, and whether Heastie and Assembly Democrats are willing to cross Cuomo, come as Democrats have a relatively recent “unity” pledge and coordinated campaign effort ahead of the fall elections.</p> <p>The economic transparency legislation is seen by many as essential after corruption indictments centering on some of the governor’s most vaunted development programs.</p> <p>Federal indictments in 2016 depicted a “pay-to-play” culture in which members of Cuomo’s inner circle received bribes or other perks in exchange for lucrative state contracts and special treatment meted out to developers in secret. Longtime Cuomo government aide and campaign manager Joseph Percoco <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7539-joseph-percoco-former-top-cuomo-aide-convicted-on-3-felony-counts" target="_blank" rel="noopener">was convicted</a> of fraud and soliciting bribes in March. Former SUNY Polytechnic President Alain Kaloyeros <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7558-post-percoco-conviction-kaloyeros-trial-likely-to-further-stain-cuomo-administration" target="_blank" rel="noopener">heads to trial</a> later this month for allegedly helping rig multimillion-dollar contracts.</p> <p>Both the Procurement Integrity Act (<a href="http://nyassembly.gov/leg/?term=2017&amp;bn=S03984" target="_blank" rel="noopener">S.3984</a>/<a href="http://nyassembly.gov/leg/?bn=A06355&amp;term=2017" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A.6355</a>) and “database of deals” bill (<a href="http://nyassembly.gov/leg/?bn=S06613&amp;term=2017" target="_blank" rel="noopener">S.6613</a>/<a href="http://nyassembly.gov/leg/?bn=A08175&amp;term=2017" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A.8175</a>) aim to address perceived flaws in how Cuomo has overseen funding allocations. The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment for this article. Cuomo has in the past dismissed calls to restore the comptroller’s pre-clearance authority on the applicable state-funded contracts, which was stripped from the office during Cuomo’s first years as governor.</p> <p>The projects Kaloyeros helped oversee, including a $750-million solar panel factory in Buffalo, were tied to SUNY Polytechnic. While Kaloyeros was allegedly scheming to reward developers who had donated to Cuomo’s re-election campaign, the state comptroller had no insight into the process; the governor and legislative leaders took away his power to pre-audit all state contracts over $250,000, including for SUNY- and CUNY-affiliated non-profits, in 2011 and 2012.</p> <p>The Procurement Integrity Act, introduced by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, would restore that power.</p> <p>"One of the reasons why folks thought they could get away with something is that they knew nobody was really looking, other than the people on the inside who turned out to be benefiting from this," DiNapoli <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7709-little-appetite-in-albany-to-address-state-budget-flaws-identified-by-comptroller" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told Syracuse.com</a> last month.</p> <p>The bill would also authorize the comptroller to approve SUNY Research Foundation contracts valued at over $1 million and would bar state-affiliated nonprofits from doling out contracts unless explicitly authorized by law. Such non-profits are at the center of the Percoco and Kaloyeros cases, with an entity called the Fort Schuyler Management Corporation awarding allegedly rigged bids.</p> <p>Last year, Cuomo’s counsel told Gotham Gazette the clean-contracting legislation “does not address the issue.”</p> <p>“The proposed legislation…is both burdensome and duplicative,” Alphonso David said. “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>Still, basic information about the taxpayer-funded programs that Kaloyeros helped oversee, along with numerous other public-private projects, is not available to the public. The governor’s office publishes vague information about projects like the Computer Chip Commercialization Center in Utica, which has been variously described as generating <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-danfoss-establish-new-manufacturing-operations-utica" target="_blank" rel="noopener">300</a> to <a href="http://www.ftsmc.org/utica/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">1,500</a> jobs and entailing investments from $100 million to $1.5 billion.</p> <p>The “database of deals” would aim to fill in holes in public knowledge of such projects. It would list every taxpayer subsidy that corporations receive along with the number of jobs created and cost per job to taxpayers.</p> <p>The Senate passed the “database” bill and the Procurement Integrity Act by votes of 62-0 and 60-2, respectively, on May 9. They were part of 11 total reform bills widely viewed as a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7666-furthering-split-from-cuomo-senate-passes-reform-bills" target="_blank" rel="noopener">snub to Cuomo</a>, who fell out with the Senate’s Republican leadership amid <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/nyregion/new-york-state-senate-democrats.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">political maneuvering</a> in April.</p> <p>“Because [Cuomo] went to war with the the Senate GOP, [Senate Majority Leader John] Flanagan put them up for a vote and -- no surprise to anybody -- they passed overwhelmingly,” Kaehny observed.</p> <p>“It is imperative that the public trusts the actions of their public officials, especially when it comes to spending the people’s money,” Flanagan, of Long Island, said in a <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/john-j-flanagan/senate-passes-historic-package-good-government-reforms-will" target="_blank" rel="noopener">statement</a> after the reform bills were approved. “This extensive package would help fix many of the issues that lead to corruption and the misuse of taxpayer funds.” While pressure from the Senate GOP is unlikely to sway Cuomo, recent weeks have seen the governor change his stance on a variety of issues in the face of the Democratic primary challenge from Cynthia Nixon. Observers have noted she’s pushed him left on policy like <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2018/04/12/marijuana-legalization-push-new-york-state-how-andrew-cuomo-has-responded" target="_blank" rel="noopener">legalizing marijuana</a>.</p> <p>But while the actor and activist-turned-candidate has slammed Cuomo on corruption scandals in general, she is yet to make a cause of transparency and accountability reform legislation in particular.</p> <p><a href="https://soundcloud.com/user-18109193/06-04-18-cpseg3" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Speaking on The Capitol Pressroom</a> radio show on Monday, DiNapoli, a Democrat, voiced skepticism that the bills will pass the Assembly this session. Even if the Assembly approves the legislation, one of them -- the “database of deals” bill -- varies slightly from the Senate version and would have to be reconciled in conference.</p> <p>“I’m the forever optimist, but it seems that the end of session is getting very bogged down and work’s not happening,” DiNapoli told host Susan Arbetter.</p> <p>“My optimism is somewhat tempered by the seeming stalemate,” the comptroller added, referring to drama in the Senate. “At least, that’s how we ended last week. Let’s hope this week turns out a little differently.”</p> <p>A number of advocacy and watchdog groups are organizing a final push for the “database of deals” and clean-contracting legislation, including a rally calling on Heastie to advance the bills on Thursday in Albany. Participants include Reinvent Albany, as well as Citizens Union, Common Cause NY, &nbsp;League of Women Voters NYS, New York Public Interest Group (NYPRIG), and a variety of progressive advocacy organizations, such as Fiscal Policy Institute.</p> <p>“There are many steps we should be taking, but the time is running out,” Assemblymember Schimminger said.</p> <p>

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by Shant Shahrigianh, Gotham Gazette
      

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/govcuomo-speakerheastie.jpg" alt="govcuomo speakerheastie" width="600" height="429" /></p> <p>Speaker Heastie, left, and Governor Cuomo (photo via the Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Amid open conflict with Governor Andrew Cuomo, a second-term Democrat, the Republican-controlled state Senate recently passed a package of bills aimed at shedding light on taxpayer-funded economic development projects, among other reform measures. The move helped reignite attention on the legislation and put pressure on the Democrat-led Assembly to pass bills it has previously supported.</p> <p>The legislation includes the Procurement Integrity Act, which would restore the state comptroller’s power to review contracts before they are officially awarded, and the “database of deals” bill, which would create a public catalogue of economic development awards and their results. Such grants run into hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds, though they are often largely hidden from the public and have been at the center of recent corruption charges.</p> <p>Assembly support for the measures was strong enough that earlier this year they were included in the chamber’s one-house budget, as they were in the Senate’s, though they were not included in the enacted state budget after negotiations among the Assembly, Senate, and governor.</p> <p>Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie praised the Procurement Integrity Act last year, <a href="http://wxxinews.org/post/lawmakers-voice-hope-reform-economic-development-contracts" target="_blank" rel="noopener">saying,</a> “Another set of eyes will make people feel better that, yes, things are done correctly.”</p> <p>However, the bill hasn’t made it out of the Assembly’s Government Operations Committee -- even though the committee’s chair, Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Democrat from Buffalo, is the very lawmaker sponsoring the legislation. The bill has 37 co-sponsors in the 150-seat Assembly.</p> <p>And as the June 20 scheduled end of legislative session approaches, the “database of deals” bill is stalled in the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Democrat Helene Weinstein of Brooklyn. That bill has 34 co-sponsors.</p> <p>The reason for the hold-up? Advocates for the legislation are pointing at Cuomo, and his influence over Heastie.</p> <p>“The speaker is jamming the bills because the governor wants him to,” said John Kaehny, executive director of government watchdog Reinvent Albany. “If those bills went to the floor of the Assembly, they would pass overwhelmingly.”</p> <p>Assemblymember Robin Schimminger, a Democrat and main sponsor of the “database of deals” bill, echoed Kaehny’s comments.</p> <p>“The governor does not want this bill moved,” the Buffalo-area representative told Gotham Gazette. “The question is, do Chair Weinstein and Speaker Heastie -- are they going to do the right thing or are they going to roll over and not move?”</p> <p>Weinstein’s, Peoples-Stokes’, and Heastie’s offices did not respond to requests for comment. Questions around the bills, and whether Heastie and Assembly Democrats are willing to cross Cuomo, come as Democrats have a relatively recent “unity” pledge and coordinated campaign effort ahead of the fall elections.</p> <p>The economic transparency legislation is seen by many as essential after corruption indictments centering on some of the governor’s most vaunted development programs.</p> <p>Federal indictments in 2016 depicted a “pay-to-play” culture in which members of Cuomo’s inner circle received bribes or other perks in exchange for lucrative state contracts and special treatment meted out to developers in secret. Longtime Cuomo government aide and campaign manager Joseph Percoco <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7539-joseph-percoco-former-top-cuomo-aide-convicted-on-3-felony-counts" target="_blank" rel="noopener">was convicted</a> of fraud and soliciting bribes in March. Former SUNY Polytechnic President Alain Kaloyeros <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7558-post-percoco-conviction-kaloyeros-trial-likely-to-further-stain-cuomo-administration" target="_blank" rel="noopener">heads to trial</a> later this month for allegedly helping rig multimillion-dollar contracts.</p> <p>Both the Procurement Integrity Act (<a href="http://nyassembly.gov/leg/?term=2017&amp;bn=S03984" target="_blank" rel="noopener">S.3984</a>/<a href="http://nyassembly.gov/leg/?bn=A06355&amp;term=2017" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A.6355</a>) and “database of deals” bill (<a href="http://nyassembly.gov/leg/?bn=S06613&amp;term=2017" target="_blank" rel="noopener">S.6613</a>/<a href="http://nyassembly.gov/leg/?bn=A08175&amp;term=2017" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A.8175</a>) aim to address perceived flaws in how Cuomo has overseen funding allocations. The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment for this article. Cuomo has in the past dismissed calls to restore the comptroller’s pre-clearance authority on the applicable state-funded contracts, which was stripped from the office during Cuomo’s first years as governor.</p> <p>The projects Kaloyeros helped oversee, including a $750-million solar panel factory in Buffalo, were tied to SUNY Polytechnic. While Kaloyeros was allegedly scheming to reward developers who had donated to Cuomo’s re-election campaign, the state comptroller had no insight into the process; the governor and legislative leaders took away his power to pre-audit all state contracts over $250,000, including for SUNY- and CUNY-affiliated non-profits, in 2011 and 2012.</p> <p>The Procurement Integrity Act, introduced by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, would restore that power.</p> <p>"One of the reasons why folks thought they could get away with something is that they knew nobody was really looking, other than the people on the inside who turned out to be benefiting from this," DiNapoli <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7709-little-appetite-in-albany-to-address-state-budget-flaws-identified-by-comptroller" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told Syracuse.com</a> last month.</p> <p>The bill would also authorize the comptroller to approve SUNY Research Foundation contracts valued at over $1 million and would bar state-affiliated nonprofits from doling out contracts unless explicitly authorized by law. Such non-profits are at the center of the Percoco and Kaloyeros cases, with an entity called the Fort Schuyler Management Corporation awarding allegedly rigged bids.</p> <p>Last year, Cuomo’s counsel told Gotham Gazette the clean-contracting legislation “does not address the issue.”</p> <p>“The proposed legislation…is both burdensome and duplicative,” Alphonso David said. “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>Still, basic information about the taxpayer-funded programs that Kaloyeros helped oversee, along with numerous other public-private projects, is not available to the public. The governor’s office publishes vague information about projects like the Computer Chip Commercialization Center in Utica, which has been variously described as generating <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-danfoss-establish-new-manufacturing-operations-utica" target="_blank" rel="noopener">300</a> to <a href="http://www.ftsmc.org/utica/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">1,500</a> jobs and entailing investments from $100 million to $1.5 billion.</p> <p>The “database of deals” would aim to fill in holes in public knowledge of such projects. It would list every taxpayer subsidy that corporations receive along with the number of jobs created and cost per job to taxpayers.</p> <p>The Senate passed the “database” bill and the Procurement Integrity Act by votes of 62-0 and 60-2, respectively, on May 9. They were part of 11 total reform bills widely viewed as a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7666-furthering-split-from-cuomo-senate-passes-reform-bills" target="_blank" rel="noopener">snub to Cuomo</a>, who fell out with the Senate’s Republican leadership amid <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/nyregion/new-york-state-senate-democrats.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">political maneuvering</a> in April.</p> <p>“Because [Cuomo] went to war with the the Senate GOP, [Senate Majority Leader John] Flanagan put them up for a vote and -- no surprise to anybody -- they passed overwhelmingly,” Kaehny observed.</p> <p>“It is imperative that the public trusts the actions of their public officials, especially when it comes to spending the people’s money,” Flanagan, of Long Island, said in a <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/john-j-flanagan/senate-passes-historic-package-good-government-reforms-will" target="_blank" rel="noopener">statement</a> after the reform bills were approved. “This extensive package would help fix many of the issues that lead to corruption and the misuse of taxpayer funds.” While pressure from the Senate GOP is unlikely to sway Cuomo, recent weeks have seen the governor change his stance on a variety of issues in the face of the Democratic primary challenge from Cynthia Nixon. Observers have noted she’s pushed him left on policy like <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2018/04/12/marijuana-legalization-push-new-york-state-how-andrew-cuomo-has-responded" target="_blank" rel="noopener">legalizing marijuana</a>.</p> <p>But while the actor and activist-turned-candidate has slammed Cuomo on corruption scandals in general, she is yet to make a cause of transparency and accountability reform legislation in particular.</p> <p><a href="https://soundcloud.com/user-18109193/06-04-18-cpseg3" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Speaking on The Capitol Pressroom</a> radio show on Monday, DiNapoli, a Democrat, voiced skepticism that the bills will pass the Assembly this session. Even if the Assembly approves the legislation, one of them -- the “database of deals” bill -- varies slightly from the Senate version and would have to be reconciled in conference.</p> <p>“I’m the forever optimist, but it seems that the end of session is getting very bogged down and work’s not happening,” DiNapoli told host Susan Arbetter.</p> <p>“My optimism is somewhat tempered by the seeming stalemate,” the comptroller added, referring to drama in the Senate. “At least, that’s how we ended last week. Let’s hope this week turns out a little differently.”</p> <p>A number of advocacy and watchdog groups are organizing a final push for the “database of deals” and clean-contracting legislation, including a rally calling on Heastie to advance the bills on Thursday in Albany. Participants include Reinvent Albany, as well as Citizens Union, Common Cause NY, &nbsp;League of Women Voters NYS, New York Public Interest Group (NYPRIG), and a variety of progressive advocacy organizations, such as Fiscal Policy Institute.</p> <p>“There are many steps we should be taking, but the time is running out,” Assemblymember Schimminger said.</p> <p>

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by Shant Shahrigianh, Gotham Gazette
      

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
Democratic Establishment Embraces Cuomo as Pragmatic Progressive 2018-05-24T04:00:00+00:00 2018-05-24T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7691-democratic-establishment-embraces-cuomo-as-pragmatic-progressive Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cuomo_and_ticket_at_convention.jpg" alt="cuomo and ticket at convention" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>James, Cuomo, Hochul, DiNapoli (photo: @andrewcuomo)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo emerged triumphant and emboldened from the State Democratic Party’s nominating convention on Long Island, with the party’s designation in hand and embraced by top national Democrats and elected party representatives from across the state. The governor basked in the support of centrist establishment figures like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Joe Biden, while they and much of the rest of the convention sought to frame Cuomo as a progressive standard bearer who represents the values of a Democratic Party that continues to move leftward. <br /> <br />Cuomo and others framed the two-term incumbent as a progressive who gets things done, a trailblazer who doesn’t just talk, but has real accomplishments and is actually a unifying figure for the party -- though he is again being challenged from his left in this year’s primary as discontent from the progressive wing has reached a fever pitch. That fever was not particularly evident at the state party convention, however.</p> <p>“We are about to embark on the most consequential campaign in our lifetime,” Cuomo declared in his acceptance speech on Thursday, framing his reelection amid Democratic efforts to retake the state Senate and U.S. House, with several swing districts in New York. “We are at a political crossroads and our decisions and actions are going to define the soul of this state and the soul of this nation.”</p> <p>Cuomo’s coronation comes at a time when progressives are incensed with his centrism and triangulation with Republicans, and are pushing to elect a “true blue” Democrat to the governorship, personified in this case by Cynthia Nixon. But Cuomo’s supporters have warned of the dangers of liberal absolutism, as Democrats seek to retain what control they have over state and federal branches of government while also unseating Republicans in an age of Trumpism. The stakes are high for both parties, and some question whether Democratic infighting does any good while Republicans control the presidency, both houses of Congress, and many state legislatures (New York’s is split, with one house controlled by each party).</p> <p>The Democratic State Committee had already concluded its nominations on Wednesday, leaving party members free to glad-hand and pat each other on the back as they sang the praises of Cuomo and other top party officials. Cuomo won the party designation with 95 percent of the state committee vote, a resounding victory over upstart challenger Nixon, who did appear at the convention as her campaign launched a blistering effort to paint Cuomo as in bed with Republicans. She continued to criticize him as a fake Democrat whose governing style smacks of expediency rather than sincerity.</p> <p>The party also designated as its official nominees incumbents Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli for another term each, and selected New York City Public Advocate Letitia James as the designated candidate for attorney general to replace Eric Schneiderman, who recently resigned after facing allegations of physical abuse by four women. Hochul is facing a primary challenge from New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams, while James is facing Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout and Leecia Eve, a former Cuomo and Clinton aide, in the primary.</p> <p>Given how the state committee voted, Nixon, Williams, Teachout, and Eve will all have to collect petition signatures to get on the primary ballot. Nixon and Williams have the backing of the liberal Working Families Party, but may eschew its ballot line for the general election if they are unsuccessful in the Democratic primary. The WFP has said it wants to give its attorney general ballot line to either James or Teachout, depending on who wins the Democratic primary.</p> <p>Though there was much party business and some controversy, the convention went mostly smoothly for Cuomo, who was the unequivocal star.</p> <p>While Cuomo has indeed governed from the center, he was held up as a paragon of pragmatic progressivism at the convention, in line with the image he has sought to craft for himself in recent months, if not years. Before he spoke to the convention, Cuomo was lauded on Wednesday by Clinton and on Thursday by Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez and by Biden, who has a long-standing friendship with Cuomo, as a leader who has ushered in transformative change and created a model of governance that Democrats across the nation should envy, and emulate.</p> <p>Marriage equality? Cuomo made it happen in New York and helped launch the nation on the path to full realization. Gun control? Cuomo moved quickly after the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre to ban the military-type assault weapons that have been used in many school and other mass shootings since. College tuition? Cuomo made it free for many middle-class students. A $15 minimum wage? Cuomo put a program in place. Paid family leave? Again, Cuomo.</p> <p>In a lofty and lengthy address, filled with anecdotal life lessons, Biden waxed eloquent about the values of the Democratic Party, of American cultural exceptionalism, of the middle class American dream, as he inveighed against the Republican Party’s “phony populism” and “fake nationalism” that threaten to undermine them all. He spoke of his deeply personal ties to the Cuomo family, and of his and the governor’s shared interest in muscle cars (both of them own vintage Corvettes, he noted).</p> <p>He proudly touted Cuomo’s record. “Andrew Cuomo has never backed away from his progressive principles, not one single time,” he said to applause.</p> <p>Perez, occasionally peppering his speech with Spanish, said Cuomo and his running mate Hochul were “charter members of the accomplishments wing of the Democratic Party.”</p> <p>“What I’ve grown to love about Andrew Cuomo is he understands that governance isn’t about speechifying,” Perez said. “It’s about making a real difference in people’s lives,” he said. “New Yorkers don’t want rhetoric, they want results. That’s what Andrew Cuomo has delivered.”</p> <p>To an audience filled with many union workers, Perez hailed Cuomo’s support of labor unions and the state’s immense success in creating jobs under his tenure. And he drew a contrast between the governor and “this other New Yorker in Washington that’s giving a bad name to New York values,” though he stopped short of saying the name Trump.</p> <p>State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, of the Bronx, commended the governor for managing to pass ambitious policies despite Republican control of the state Senate. “When you have a quarterback that’s a winning quarterback on a winning team, there’s no reason to change,” he said in his endorsement of the governor. And Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Democratic minority leader, credited him with reuniting the fractured Senate Democratic conference, setting her up to eventually become the state’s first woman and woman of color to lead a legislative house if the party wins additional Senate seats in the elections this fall. “We can do this and we will make history by finally putting a woman in the room,” she declared.</p> <p>All those Democrats, and the governor himself, put Cuomo on a large pedestal, as a leader who could forge a new path for the Democratic Party and whose administration was an exemplar for other states. The State Democratic Party, as is the case with its national counterpart, is counting on a blue wave that has been building across the nation since Trump’s election. Cuomo has trained his attention, and the state party’s resources, at flipping the state Senate and replacing Congressional Republicans with Democrats.</p> <p>Cuomo welcomed the responsibility, insisting that the nation has its eyes turned to New York. “Our challenge is twofold. First, we must continue to move our state forward as the progressive capital of America because that’s what we are,” he said. “And at the same time, we must overcome the current national extreme conservative movement that is threatening this nation.”</p> <p>Although he claimed he never appreciated his father’s self-proclaimed title of “pragmatic progressive,” Andrew Cuomo made no effort to distance himself from its definition: “We deliver practical progress for people in need,” he said.</p> <p>Taking an expansive look at the Democratic Party, Cuomo said working- and middle-class voters had abandoned the party out of despair in 2016, and that the party must return to its roots. “No more platitudes, no more posturing, no more delay, no more incompetence, no more hypotheticals, no more hyperbole,” he said. “They want action. They want results and they want actions and results now. They don’t want pontification from an ivory tower.”</p> <p>Cuomo's criticism of the Democratic Party and assertion that it had lost the election to Trump struck some as awkward, even insulting, given that Clinton -- the party's 2016 presidential nominee -- had praised and endorsed him the day before.</p> <p>The convention also marked how far Cuomo has shifted in the last two years under the Trump presidency and, significantly, in the last few weeks under a deluge of criticism from a left-leaning progressive wing galvanized by Nixon’s candidacy.</p> <p>For a time after Trump’s election, Cuomo refused to say “Trump” even as he criticized the federal government or “Washington.” In his speech on Thursday, he said the president’s name 18 times. “Today the Albany Republicans all carry the Trump doctrine,” he said. “They all drank the Trump, Ryan, McConnell Kool-Aid and their radical assault is draconian and all-encompassing...They think America was great when women were subordinate and when minorities were disenfranchised, and when the big private market corporations ruled the land and when labor was voiceless. That’s the America they want to take us back to. And we are not going back, ever.”</p> <p>Cuomo did little to tamp down the rumors that he is considering a presidential run ahead of the 2020 election, something that his opponents from the left and the right have criticized him for.</p> <p>Marc Molinaro, the gubernatorial candidate to Cuomo’s right as the Republican nominee, did not escape Cuomo’s scathing critiques either. “The Republicans in this state put on the top of their ticket a Trump mini-me. He's anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ, anti-gun safety, anti-immigration, anti-education equity, and pro-Trump's New York tax increase. All he is is a banner carrier for the extreme conservative movement,” Cuomo said, incorrectly characterizing some stances by Molinaro, who has opposed the federal tax reform and has said he did not vote for Trump for president.</p> <p>But Cuomo did name Molinaro or Nixon, whose campaign sent out “fact check” emails as the governor spoke, contrasting his rhetoric with his record as they framed it. Notably, Cuomo pledged in his speech to “start a new movement of education funding equity” to ensure that public schools receive the resources they need to provide a sound education to all students. It’s a cause that Nixon has championed for nearly 20 years, largely placing blame for insufficient education funding on the governor, who has repeatedly shifted the way he talks about education funding.</p> <p>"The Governor's attempt to reset his campaign this week failed," said Nixon campaign spokesperson Lauren Hitt in a statement on Thursday. “His highly choreographed convention inflamed old divisions, and provided a series of bizarre, tone-deaf moments. Simply put, the Governor did little to push back on the growing realization among New Yorkers that he has more much in common with his wealthy Republican donors than Democrats.”</p> <p>For Democratic State Committee members, Cuomo had successfully grasped the title of progressive. Several members, enthused about a strong and diverse statewide ticket, seemed almost offended that anyone would challenge their champion.</p> <p>“I think we put together a great ticket, I like the diversity of it,” said Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who holds the dual role of state Assemblymember and Democratic State committee member from Assembly District 141. “I think it’s important that the ticket looks more like the electorate,” she said, in apparent reference to the fact that James is an African-American woman, whom Cuomo has backed for the attorney general position, as well as Hochul’s presence on the ticket.</p> <p>“I do take some exception to people always questioning what has happened when most of the progressive things we’ve done in the state have not been done in the rest of the country,” she added.</p> <p>Andre Waldron, a committee member from Nassau County, said Cuomo’s speech was a “home run” and that the convention was “phenomenal.”</p> <p>“I think this time we’ve come out even more inclusive, having all groups represented,” said Louis Goldstein, who said he has been a state committee member from the Bronx since 1970. “I love the fact that we have a female, who happens to be black, as our candidate for attorney general. I think we’re moving in the correct direction.”</p> <p>As with others, Goldstein expressed reservations about Nixon’s candidacy. “She’s a good actress. I compare her as being our quote-unquote Trump, as far as no government experience, she really does not know how to politically get things done,” he said.</p> <p>Mary Gault, a Dutchess County committee member, said the party has a “wonderful team” on the ticket. “Andrew Cuomo, I believe, he did so much good for this state over his eight years. Kathy Hochul...she’s terrific too. And of course, I’ve got a New York pension, [and] Tom DiNapoli, he watches out for us.”</p> <p>Gault said she didn’t give Nixon consideration, though her own county committee is very progressive. “The way she speaks, perfect! I would vote for her in a minute,” she said, “but she doesn’t have the skill set and she doesn’t tell us how she’s going to do it. She’s not a viable candidate, but her platform is perfect.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cuomo_and_ticket_at_convention.jpg" alt="cuomo and ticket at convention" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>James, Cuomo, Hochul, DiNapoli (photo: @andrewcuomo)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo emerged triumphant and emboldened from the State Democratic Party’s nominating convention on Long Island, with the party’s designation in hand and embraced by top national Democrats and elected party representatives from across the state. The governor basked in the support of centrist establishment figures like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Joe Biden, while they and much of the rest of the convention sought to frame Cuomo as a progressive standard bearer who represents the values of a Democratic Party that continues to move leftward. <br /> <br />Cuomo and others framed the two-term incumbent as a progressive who gets things done, a trailblazer who doesn’t just talk, but has real accomplishments and is actually a unifying figure for the party -- though he is again being challenged from his left in this year’s primary as discontent from the progressive wing has reached a fever pitch. That fever was not particularly evident at the state party convention, however.</p> <p>“We are about to embark on the most consequential campaign in our lifetime,” Cuomo declared in his acceptance speech on Thursday, framing his reelection amid Democratic efforts to retake the state Senate and U.S. House, with several swing districts in New York. “We are at a political crossroads and our decisions and actions are going to define the soul of this state and the soul of this nation.”</p> <p>Cuomo’s coronation comes at a time when progressives are incensed with his centrism and triangulation with Republicans, and are pushing to elect a “true blue” Democrat to the governorship, personified in this case by Cynthia Nixon. But Cuomo’s supporters have warned of the dangers of liberal absolutism, as Democrats seek to retain what control they have over state and federal branches of government while also unseating Republicans in an age of Trumpism. The stakes are high for both parties, and some question whether Democratic infighting does any good while Republicans control the presidency, both houses of Congress, and many state legislatures (New York’s is split, with one house controlled by each party).</p> <p>The Democratic State Committee had already concluded its nominations on Wednesday, leaving party members free to glad-hand and pat each other on the back as they sang the praises of Cuomo and other top party officials. Cuomo won the party designation with 95 percent of the state committee vote, a resounding victory over upstart challenger Nixon, who did appear at the convention as her campaign launched a blistering effort to paint Cuomo as in bed with Republicans. She continued to criticize him as a fake Democrat whose governing style smacks of expediency rather than sincerity.</p> <p>The party also designated as its official nominees incumbents Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli for another term each, and selected New York City Public Advocate Letitia James as the designated candidate for attorney general to replace Eric Schneiderman, who recently resigned after facing allegations of physical abuse by four women. Hochul is facing a primary challenge from New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams, while James is facing Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout and Leecia Eve, a former Cuomo and Clinton aide, in the primary.</p> <p>Given how the state committee voted, Nixon, Williams, Teachout, and Eve will all have to collect petition signatures to get on the primary ballot. Nixon and Williams have the backing of the liberal Working Families Party, but may eschew its ballot line for the general election if they are unsuccessful in the Democratic primary. The WFP has said it wants to give its attorney general ballot line to either James or Teachout, depending on who wins the Democratic primary.</p> <p>Though there was much party business and some controversy, the convention went mostly smoothly for Cuomo, who was the unequivocal star.</p> <p>While Cuomo has indeed governed from the center, he was held up as a paragon of pragmatic progressivism at the convention, in line with the image he has sought to craft for himself in recent months, if not years. Before he spoke to the convention, Cuomo was lauded on Wednesday by Clinton and on Thursday by Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez and by Biden, who has a long-standing friendship with Cuomo, as a leader who has ushered in transformative change and created a model of governance that Democrats across the nation should envy, and emulate.</p> <p>Marriage equality? Cuomo made it happen in New York and helped launch the nation on the path to full realization. Gun control? Cuomo moved quickly after the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre to ban the military-type assault weapons that have been used in many school and other mass shootings since. College tuition? Cuomo made it free for many middle-class students. A $15 minimum wage? Cuomo put a program in place. Paid family leave? Again, Cuomo.</p> <p>In a lofty and lengthy address, filled with anecdotal life lessons, Biden waxed eloquent about the values of the Democratic Party, of American cultural exceptionalism, of the middle class American dream, as he inveighed against the Republican Party’s “phony populism” and “fake nationalism” that threaten to undermine them all. He spoke of his deeply personal ties to the Cuomo family, and of his and the governor’s shared interest in muscle cars (both of them own vintage Corvettes, he noted).</p> <p>He proudly touted Cuomo’s record. “Andrew Cuomo has never backed away from his progressive principles, not one single time,” he said to applause.</p> <p>Perez, occasionally peppering his speech with Spanish, said Cuomo and his running mate Hochul were “charter members of the accomplishments wing of the Democratic Party.”</p> <p>“What I’ve grown to love about Andrew Cuomo is he understands that governance isn’t about speechifying,” Perez said. “It’s about making a real difference in people’s lives,” he said. “New Yorkers don’t want rhetoric, they want results. That’s what Andrew Cuomo has delivered.”</p> <p>To an audience filled with many union workers, Perez hailed Cuomo’s support of labor unions and the state’s immense success in creating jobs under his tenure. And he drew a contrast between the governor and “this other New Yorker in Washington that’s giving a bad name to New York values,” though he stopped short of saying the name Trump.</p> <p>State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, of the Bronx, commended the governor for managing to pass ambitious policies despite Republican control of the state Senate. “When you have a quarterback that’s a winning quarterback on a winning team, there’s no reason to change,” he said in his endorsement of the governor. And Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Democratic minority leader, credited him with reuniting the fractured Senate Democratic conference, setting her up to eventually become the state’s first woman and woman of color to lead a legislative house if the party wins additional Senate seats in the elections this fall. “We can do this and we will make history by finally putting a woman in the room,” she declared.</p> <p>All those Democrats, and the governor himself, put Cuomo on a large pedestal, as a leader who could forge a new path for the Democratic Party and whose administration was an exemplar for other states. The State Democratic Party, as is the case with its national counterpart, is counting on a blue wave that has been building across the nation since Trump’s election. Cuomo has trained his attention, and the state party’s resources, at flipping the state Senate and replacing Congressional Republicans with Democrats.</p> <p>Cuomo welcomed the responsibility, insisting that the nation has its eyes turned to New York. “Our challenge is twofold. First, we must continue to move our state forward as the progressive capital of America because that’s what we are,” he said. “And at the same time, we must overcome the current national extreme conservative movement that is threatening this nation.”</p> <p>Although he claimed he never appreciated his father’s self-proclaimed title of “pragmatic progressive,” Andrew Cuomo made no effort to distance himself from its definition: “We deliver practical progress for people in need,” he said.</p> <p>Taking an expansive look at the Democratic Party, Cuomo said working- and middle-class voters had abandoned the party out of despair in 2016, and that the party must return to its roots. “No more platitudes, no more posturing, no more delay, no more incompetence, no more hypotheticals, no more hyperbole,” he said. “They want action. They want results and they want actions and results now. They don’t want pontification from an ivory tower.”</p> <p>Cuomo's criticism of the Democratic Party and assertion that it had lost the election to Trump struck some as awkward, even insulting, given that Clinton -- the party's 2016 presidential nominee -- had praised and endorsed him the day before.</p> <p>The convention also marked how far Cuomo has shifted in the last two years under the Trump presidency and, significantly, in the last few weeks under a deluge of criticism from a left-leaning progressive wing galvanized by Nixon’s candidacy.</p> <p>For a time after Trump’s election, Cuomo refused to say “Trump” even as he criticized the federal government or “Washington.” In his speech on Thursday, he said the president’s name 18 times. “Today the Albany Republicans all carry the Trump doctrine,” he said. “They all drank the Trump, Ryan, McConnell Kool-Aid and their radical assault is draconian and all-encompassing...They think America was great when women were subordinate and when minorities were disenfranchised, and when the big private market corporations ruled the land and when labor was voiceless. That’s the America they want to take us back to. And we are not going back, ever.”</p> <p>Cuomo did little to tamp down the rumors that he is considering a presidential run ahead of the 2020 election, something that his opponents from the left and the right have criticized him for.</p> <p>Marc Molinaro, the gubernatorial candidate to Cuomo’s right as the Republican nominee, did not escape Cuomo’s scathing critiques either. “The Republicans in this state put on the top of their ticket a Trump mini-me. He's anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ, anti-gun safety, anti-immigration, anti-education equity, and pro-Trump's New York tax increase. All he is is a banner carrier for the extreme conservative movement,” Cuomo said, incorrectly characterizing some stances by Molinaro, who has opposed the federal tax reform and has said he did not vote for Trump for president.</p> <p>But Cuomo did name Molinaro or Nixon, whose campaign sent out “fact check” emails as the governor spoke, contrasting his rhetoric with his record as they framed it. Notably, Cuomo pledged in his speech to “start a new movement of education funding equity” to ensure that public schools receive the resources they need to provide a sound education to all students. It’s a cause that Nixon has championed for nearly 20 years, largely placing blame for insufficient education funding on the governor, who has repeatedly shifted the way he talks about education funding.</p> <p>"The Governor's attempt to reset his campaign this week failed," said Nixon campaign spokesperson Lauren Hitt in a statement on Thursday. “His highly choreographed convention inflamed old divisions, and provided a series of bizarre, tone-deaf moments. Simply put, the Governor did little to push back on the growing realization among New Yorkers that he has more much in common with his wealthy Republican donors than Democrats.”</p> <p>For Democratic State Committee members, Cuomo had successfully grasped the title of progressive. Several members, enthused about a strong and diverse statewide ticket, seemed almost offended that anyone would challenge their champion.</p> <p>“I think we put together a great ticket, I like the diversity of it,” said Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who holds the dual role of state Assemblymember and Democratic State committee member from Assembly District 141. “I think it’s important that the ticket looks more like the electorate,” she said, in apparent reference to the fact that James is an African-American woman, whom Cuomo has backed for the attorney general position, as well as Hochul’s presence on the ticket.</p> <p>“I do take some exception to people always questioning what has happened when most of the progressive things we’ve done in the state have not been done in the rest of the country,” she added.</p> <p>Andre Waldron, a committee member from Nassau County, said Cuomo’s speech was a “home run” and that the convention was “phenomenal.”</p> <p>“I think this time we’ve come out even more inclusive, having all groups represented,” said Louis Goldstein, who said he has been a state committee member from the Bronx since 1970. “I love the fact that we have a female, who happens to be black, as our candidate for attorney general. I think we’re moving in the correct direction.”</p> <p>As with others, Goldstein expressed reservations about Nixon’s candidacy. “She’s a good actress. I compare her as being our quote-unquote Trump, as far as no government experience, she really does not know how to politically get things done,” he said.</p> <p>Mary Gault, a Dutchess County committee member, said the party has a “wonderful team” on the ticket. “Andrew Cuomo, I believe, he did so much good for this state over his eight years. Kathy Hochul...she’s terrific too. And of course, I’ve got a New York pension, [and] Tom DiNapoli, he watches out for us.”</p> <p>Gault said she didn’t give Nixon consideration, though her own county committee is very progressive. “The way she speaks, perfect! I would vote for her in a minute,” she said, “but she doesn’t have the skill set and she doesn’t tell us how she’s going to do it. She’s not a viable candidate, but her platform is perfect.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>