Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/1855 Sun, 22 Oct 2017 17:43:04 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Under Clouds, Cuomo Launches State of the State Tour with New Proposals http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6704:under-clouds-cuomo-launches-state-of-the-state-tour-with-new-proposals http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6704:under-clouds-cuomo-launches-state-of-the-state-tour-with-new-proposals Cuomo speech Albany

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (photo: Governor's Office on flickr)


Heading into a three-day, six-stop tour across the state, Governor Andrew Cuomo has formally released ten planks of his 2017 State of the State agenda. Through public events and press releases, Cuomo has announced a variety of proposals under the banner “excelsior, ever upward.”

Cuomo’s State of the State junket comes as he’s feuding with state legislators and with the backdrop of a major corruption scandal in his administration, particularly his economic development programming. The second-term Democratic governor saw top aides, associates, and donors indicted last year on corruption charges including bribery and bid-rigging.

Now, in a break with decades of tradition, instead of giving one speech to the Legislature in Albany, Cuomo decided to tour New York giving his assessment of the state of the state and outline proposals that will set the stage for upcoming negotiations with the state Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, and the Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats. It is not clear how much tension between Cuomo and state lawmakers over a failed pay raise commission and special legislative session led to his decision to take the State of the State on the road this year.

"By definition, these regional addresses are designed to communicate directly with the citizens of New York, not legislators,” said Rich Azzopardi, a Cuomo spokesperson. “Our goal has always been to bring the issues to the people, to develop the public support, and then have it communicated to the elected representatives."

The governor is expected to tailor each speech to the region where he gives it, with some overarching themes and highlights that apply across the state. He’ll speak in New York City and Buffalo on Monday; Westchester and Long Island on Tuesday; and Syracuse and Albany on Wednesday. Cuomo is also due to release his Executive Budget by January 17. In past years, Cuomo has combined a State of the State address and budget outline into one speech.

Local officials may be present at the various speeches this week, but the top legislative leaders -- Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate President John Flanagan -- have said they won’t be attending. The Legislature is in session Monday and Tuesday in Albany, making it difficult for Heastie and Flanagan to appear at the Cuomo speech closest to their respective homes: New York City for Heastie and Long Island for Flanagan. (Mayor Bill de Blasio is among those who will attend Monday’s speech in New York City.)

Cuomo’s ten proposals thus far include initiatives to enhance public college tuition assistance; a revamp of John F. Kennedy Airport; a child care tax credit for parents; efforts to guard against cyber attacks; “protecting seniors from financial exploitation and foreclosure”; “banning bad actors from the financial services industry”; enhancing wage theft enforcement; encouraging electric vehicle use; modernizing voting; and closing the Indian Point power plant.

Reports started surfacing last week, first in The New York Times, that Cuomo had reached a deal to close the power plant in Westchester, which supplies a good deal of power to New York City. On Monday morning, the governor's office made it official in a press release just ahead of Cuomo's New York City speech.

An eleventh plank, a plan for legalizing and regulating app-based ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, has not been officially announced by the governor, but was reported over the weekend by The USA Today Network. Legalizing such car services outside of New York City, where they already function legally, was debated last year in Albany, but no deal was struck. The USA Today report indicates Cuomo will detail his ride-hailing proposal in Buffalo on Monday.

The governor is also expected to address several other issues, including government ethics. Cuomo attempted to convince state legislators to pass limits on their outside income and other reforms in exchange for a pay raise, but a deal fell apart last month as a special session was considered. It is not clear what Cuomo may propose on ethics, but in recent years he has expressed support for campaign finance reform, including a public-matching system and closure of the LLC loophole; term limits for legislators; and more.

As Cuomo offers government ethics reform, some legislators and watchdogs want to know what he will support in terms of reforming the types of processes that may have encouraged and/or hidden the alleged corruption exposed last year by the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. There are calls for changes to contract procurement and budgeting, including restoring oversight powers stripped from the state Comptroller.

Cuomo’s focus on economic development, especially in Buffalo, has been one of the most controversial aspects of his tenure. He has promised new economic development announcements this year, and is likely to outline regional specifics this week.

Much of Cuomo’s attention -- and a lot of state money -- has been dedicated to infrastructure projects, such as a new Tappan Zee bridge, airport renovations, a new Penn Station, Long Island Railroad expansion, and more. Cuomo’s State of the State speeches are likely to have a heavy focus on infrastructure.

As the governor continues to outline his proposals, conflict with state legislators looms large. In order to pass most of what he is proposing, Cuomo will need to compromise with legislators. The parties must agree on a fiscal year 2017-2018 budget by April 1. Budget agreements often include new policies. What does not get done through the budget often moves to negotiation during the rest of the legislative session, which runs until mid-June. Along with corruption in his orbit and problems with state lawmakers, a third cloud hanging over Cuomo's speeches and budget is the impending administration of Donald Trump, with Republican control of both houses of Congress. It is unclear how much federal policies could affect New York, but Cuomo is likely to outline ways in which his administration will protect New Yorkers from threats out of D.C.

Several issues that have been at play over the last couple of years appear on the docket again this year, including ride-hailing, ethics and campaign finance reform, but also raising the age of adult criminal responsibility -- New York is one of just two states in the country that still treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. How lawyers for those who cannot afford them are funded will also be a focus -- Cuomo was criticized for vetoing a bill that would have had the state pick up expenses by localities for providing indigent criminal defense.

Electoral reform may be taking on new urgency this year after 2016 showed significant problems with the ways New York approaches voting, including holding three different primaries and restrictive registration and voting rules.

Over the weekend, Cuomo’s office announced several of the nine initial State of the State planks in a flurry of Sunday press releases. Cuomo’s call for voting reform, including instituting early voting and same-day voter registration, were hailed by many who have long-criticized New York for being far behind in access to the ballot, including Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Calling the set of proposals "The Democracy Project," Cuomo said in a statement, “Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. This past election shined a bright light on the deficiencies of New York's antiquated election laws and the artificial barriers they create that prevent and discourage voters from exercising this sacred right. These proposals will modernize and open up our election system, making it easier for more voters to participate in the process and helping to make a more fair, more just and more representative New York for all."

Meanwhile, as Cuomo tours the state he will be met with opposition from state Republican Chair Ed Cox, who will hold press conferences outside the governor’s speeches.

Cox, who regularly calls Cuomo a “political thug” on his Twitter account, said in a statement to Gotham Gazette that he wants to see the governor move to reform the state’s tax code to benefit the middle class and small businesses, including lowering taxes, regulatory reform, and a move away from the types of economic development contests that Cuomo has been fond of.

“Unfortunately for the taxpayers of New York, the Governor has done a much better job at giving grand political speeches than he has in delivering on what's necessary to turn this state around,” said Cox. “We continue to have the most people fleeing a state, the highest taxes and the worst business climate in the nation, and this Governor has a laundry list of busted economic development projects and a corrupt administration. He can run from the legislators at the capital, but he can't hide from his failures."

Cox’s fellow Republican, Senate Majority Leader Flanagan outlined similar priorities for the GOP in his introductory remarks this past week when the two houses of the Legislature met for the first time this year. Flanagan focused on jobs and the economic environment of the state.

“I listen carefully to my colleagues on whether it’s college affordability, or raise the age, or things like that,” Flanagan said on the Senate floor. “What people need are jobs. We need jobs more than anything else.” Saying that the state must do more on job creation and that New York tax policy is not working, Flanagan said, “I already see people talking about raising taxes this year already, coming out of the gate! We should talk about how we should come up with a better tax policy, a better regulatory environment, a better business structure...”

Flanagan was referring to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who in his opening remarks called for renewing and expanding the state’s millionaire’s tax, which is on the verge of expiration. In his opening remarks, which help establish his chamber’s priorities and the agenda for negotiations with Flanagan and Cuomo, Heastie stressed the need to protect New Yorkers’ human rights and health insurance in the face of potential threats from the incoming Trump administration. He said New York must codify Roe v. Wade into law, a proposal that has been debated in Albany for several years.

Heastie also discussed “strengthening our schools and making college more affordable and accessible.” He called for the Dream Act and praised Cuomo’s proposal to make public colleges tuition-free for lower and middle class students. Heastie also called for investments into transportation and water infrastructure, job training, affordable housing, fighting climate change, and more.

“The state has more millionaires today than ever before,” Heastie said, “and we are renewing our call for a progressive tax structure that supports funding for initiatives that are critical to our families...our plan would create new income tax rates for those earning over $1 million a year. It also would increase the Earned Income Tax Credit to give low-income families a helping hand.”

Heastie is, of course, Mayor de Blasio's chief ally in Albany. De Blasio, who will be attending Cuomo's Monday morning speech in New York City, is cautiously awaiting Cuomo's proposals and budget. The ongoing feud between Cuomo and de Blasio continues to put the city at risk. Last year, Cuomo attempted hundreds of millions of dollars in CUNY and Medicaid cost shifts to New York City that Heastie helped beat back when the state budget was finalized.

 Asked about what he was looking for this year, de Blasio said he's taking a wait-and-see approach. "I don’t want speculate," the mayor told members of the media last week. "You know, the Governor will be coming out with a budget...That’s when we’ll get a first look at the numerical reality." De Blasio has said Cuomo's proposal for more public college tuition-relief is a great one, but he wants to see how it will be paid for.

When Gotham Gazette asked the mayor if he was doing anything differently this year to avoid being surprised by Cuomo like he was last year, de Blasio smirked.

"I appreciate the courtesy of your question," the mayor said. "That was not lack of communication with him and his team, that was a conscious decision not to give us the information until the last moment. So, we are communicating all the time – the two teams. We’ll see if there’s any surprises this year."

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note: this article has been updated with additional details and comments.

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Under Clouds, Cuomo Launches State of the State Tour with New Proposals Sun, 08 Jan 2017 05:00:00 +0000
New Yorkers, Including the Presidential Nominees, Head to the National Party Conventions http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6439:new-yorkers-including-the-presidential-nominees-head-to-the-national-party-conventions http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6439:new-yorkers-including-the-presidential-nominees-head-to-the-national-party-conventions RNC banner

The RNC approaches (image via @GOPconvention)


The next two weeks will see the formal nominations of the two major party candidates in the contest to succeed Barack Obama as President of The United States. First, this week, Republicans are expected to nominate Donald J. Trump, who on Saturday morning introduced Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate. On Saturday, Trump promised “we’re going to have an incredible convention.” The theme of the convention is "Make America Great Again," which has been Trump's campaign slogan.

All eyes will be on Cleveland Monday through Thursday as the Republicans convene, with New York delegates front and center at the convention given that the presumptive nominee calls the Empire State home. Americans are also bracing for protests and many are hoping that there is no violence outside or inside Quicken Loans Arena.

The same goes for Philadelphia, where the following week, that of July 25, the Democrats are set to name Hillary Clinton their nominee for President.

Clinton also calls New York home, and there are many New York angles to the upcoming Republican and Democratic national conventions. These include the delegations traveling to Cleveland and Philadelphia, which for the Democrats will include both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, among many other high-profile New Yorkers.

Aside from officially nominating their presidential and vice-presidential candidates, the conventions will also see formal adoption of the official party policy platforms. These decisions are being made by the thousands of delegates from across the country who attend each convention - an assortment of current and former elected officials, prominent party members, activists, businesspeople, and others - in part as dictated by the voting that occurred in each state.

As the Republican convention kicks off, it appears that any last-ditch efforts from within the party to keep Trump from the nomination have been scuttled. The speakers list for the convention fit with Trump’s campaign as an anti-establishment outsider and is largely devoid of major party figures - there will be no appearance by prior presidential candidate Mitt Romney, former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, or a variety of Republican governors, senators, and others who are prominent in the party. Home-state Governor John Kasich, of Ohio, one of Trump’s rivals for the nomination, is not scheduled to be part of the proceedings.

There will be a full slate of speakers, of course, including Trump’s four adult children, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Gov. Chris Christie, Senator Ted Cruz, Gov. Scott Walker, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, GOP Chair Reince Priebus, and others. Pence will be the headline speaker on Wednesday night, while Trump will give the convention's final words on Thursday evening.

With some time still before the Democratic convention, the big news everyone is waiting for is Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential nominee. Many are calling Virginia Senator Tim Kaine the frontrunner, but nothing official has been announced. Unlike Trump’s convention, Clinton’s will feature a ‘who’s who’ of major party names - Democratic National Convention speakers will include President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and others. Like Trump, Clinton will see her adult child, Chelsea, speak.

As the conventions kick off there is much to watch for over the next two weeks; they also signal the start to the final three-and-a-half months of the campaign, leading to Election Day on November 8: the final stretch of speeches, platforms, polls, ads, debates, and more.

Here’s what New Yorkers need to know and should be watching for as the national conventions arrive:

REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION, July 18-21

When and Where is the RNC?
The 2016 Republican National Convention (RNC) will be held July 18-21 (Monday-Thursday) in Cleveland, Ohio at the Quicken Loans Arena. After a tough and controversial primary season, the RNC is an opportunity for more party healing and unity. In the lead up, most discussion of a coup to replace Trump with another nominee has quieted. Trump said on Saturday that one reason he chose Pence as his running mate is “party unity.”

Trump, who has been a media and reality TV star, told the Washington Post that he intends to put his own “showbiz” spin on the convention’s proceedings, though the official list of speakers is looking lighter on sports and entertainment legends than at one time thought.

Who Are the Delegates?
Though the exact process varies by state party rules, delegates to the RNC generally fall within three categories. Each state gets ten at-large delegates, plus delegates awarded based on that state’s Republican electoral success in the past (for instance, having a Republican Governor). Each state is allocated delegates based on congressional districts and each state’s Republican National Committeeman, Committeewoman, and State Chair all attend as delegates.

Following this formula, New York will have a total of 95 delegates, including 27 from New York City, 54 from around the rest of the state, and 14 at-large. In a change of long-time state party rules, New York’s GOP delegates this year were selected by the State Republican Committee and several mini-committees for each of New York’s twenty-seven congressional districts, rather than having many determined by the presidential candidates on the ballot. The switch was intended to reward long-time party loyalists over the candidates’ friends and family, who were often favored in the past, according to Syracuse.com.

Jessica Proud, spokesperson for the State Republican Party, considers the new delegate selection process a welcome shift from a “top-down” to “bottom-up” approach.

“It's considered a coveted role to be a delegate,” she said in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette, “so this was a way to help reward the people that have really been the stalwarts of the party, helping to elect our candidates and grow our party every year. They were really pleased with it.”

Currently, 89 of New York’s delegates are pledged to Trump, while 6 remain bound to Kasich (who won Manhattan), though the Ohio governor officially suspended his campaign on May 4.

The New York Angle
“In a lot of ways, New York was the catalyst to help Trump seal in the nomination,” Proud recalls.

“It was the first time he had gotten over 50 percent of the vote, and then right after that was Indiana, and then Cruz and Kasich both dropped out,” Proud said. “So it all came together in New York; he won every demographic. It was the first time he really proved that he could go outside a larger box than he had in previous primaries and caucuses.”

Trump came out of New York’s April 19 primary with a large lead over Kasich and Cruz and the writing was all but on the wall. While Kasich did squeak out New York County (aka Manhattan), Trump dominated the rest of the state, winning 60.4 percent of the total vote.

This success, plus Trump’s extensive New York networks, both personal and professional, means this year’s RNC will be dominated by New Yorkers.

At-large delegates include Chair of the state GOP Ed Cox, state party Finance Chair Arcadio Casillas, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, and Wendy Long, who is challenging Senator Charles Schumer in November.

On Friday, Cox released a statement praising Trump’s choice of Pence as a running mate, saying, in part, that "Mr. Trump has once again demonstrated the leadership skills required to make the changes necessary to put America on the right track."

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani has been publicly backing Trump and is set to speak at the convention. He is a delegate to the convention, pledged to Kasich. City Council Member Joseph Borelli, of Staten Island, is a Trump delegate. Borelli has been a frequent Trump surrogate on TV for many months. He travelled to Ohio with his successor in the state Assembly, Ron Castorina, and former Council Member Vincent Ignizio.

Other prominent GOP delegates include Alfonse D’Amato, former U.S. Senator; Carl Paladino, honorary co-chair of Trump’s New York campaign and 2010 gubernatorial candidate; Tom Dadey, first vice chairman of the state GOP and co-chair of Trump’s New York campaign; and state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan - several other state senators will be in attendance: Golden, DeFrancisco, O’Mara, Croci, though DeFrancisco is the only delegate among them (he is pledged to Kasich). Assembly members Kolb and DiPietro are delegates. Assembly Member Bill Nojay, an upstate Republican who in the past played a significant role in attempting to push Trump to run for New York Governor and helped lay the groundwork for Trump’s presidential bid, will not be attending.

New York State Senators are hoping to maintain or expand their slim majority through the November elections and Trump’s candidacy may pose challenging for some candidates running in more moderate districts.

Rubye Wright will also attend to vote for Trump - at 94 years of age, she is the oldest delegate heading to the convention, according to amNewYork. A Harlem native and lifelong Republican, Wright has attended every national convention except one since 1968. A complete listing of New York GOP delegates can be found on Ballotpedia.

According to the New York Post, the State GOP has considered offering Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., the ceremonial role of announcing New York’s 95 delegate votes. Trump Jr. will be attending the convention as one of Manhattan’s high-profile district delegates, and has been actively involved in his father’s campaign. Convention organizers may also position Trump Jr.’s announcement so that the New York delegation’s votes send Trump over the majority threshold to secure the nomination. Both details have yet to be confirmed.

“We certainly would love to have him in that role,” Proud said of Trump Jr., who will speak at the convention, “but the logistics are being worked out between the campaign and the State Committee.”

New York City’s only Republican member of its House of Representatives delegation, Daniel Donovan, will attend the convention. In an interview with the Staten Island Advance, Donovan said, "It's going to be exciting for our state.” Looking ahead to November, he said, "Traditionally, Republicans don't win New York, but we have a New Yorker as the Republican nominee for the first time in a very long time."

Role of the Delegates
Unlike the Democratic Party’s superdelegates, most of the 2,472 delegates at the RNC are technically bound to vote for a certain candidate. According to the Associated Press, only 95 delegates are unbound and can vote for whomever they choose. Trump amassed 1,542 pledged delegates, which puts him over the majority threshold of 1,237 to secure the nomination. According to Adele Malpass, chair of the Manhattan Republican Party and a New York congressional district delegate, Trump’s nomination is nothing short of guaranteed; “We're having an infomercial kind of convention, not a brokered convention. Everyone's going as a Trump delegate.”

With calls for a “Dump Trump” movement subsiding, the 112-member Convention Rules Committee finished its business without changing things to aid the naming of a different nominee. At least a few opposing Trump may continue fighting. "Whether you supported Donald Trump along the way or not: He. Is. Our. Nominee," said RNC Rules Committee Chairman Bruce Ash on Tuesday, according to CNN.

Delegates at the convention must vote on the party’s official policy platform. Members of the Platform Committee finished the draft platform while Trump himself took a hands-off approach, according to the New York Times, which cites discrepancies between the conservative language of the Republican platform and Trump’s more moderate views on issues such as LGBT rights.

According to the Times, moderate Republicans pushing for amendments to be made “secured enough signatures on Tuesday to demand a vote on their proposals from all 2,475 delegates,” so there may be some concessions made on the convention floor Monday before the final vote.

See You in Cleveland
For all aspects of the convention, New York will be front and center. “There'll be a big spotlight on us,” Proud noted, referring to the New York delegation as a whole.

“New York is already prominently featured, but the fact that our nominee is from the state really adds a whole other level of excitement and anticipation. It's definitely evidenced by the volume of requests that the state party has had of people wanting to attend. We've had way more requests than tickets that were given to us. The downside is you can't accommodate everyone, but from a party standpoint, it’s very encouraging that so many people wanted to be there and that people are very excited.”

DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION, July 25-28

When and Where is the DNC?
The Democratic National Convention will take place July 25-28 (Monday through Thursday) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Though Brooklyn was seriously considered to host the convention amid a strong push from Mayor Bill de Blasio and others, Philadelphia won the honor.

How are the Delegates Allocated?
There are three types of delegates for the Democrats: pledged delegates, who petitioned in order to get on the ballot and become a delegate, and are legally bound to support a particular candidate; at-large delegates, chosen by the state Democratic Party, who pledge to vote for a particular candidate; and unpledged delegates, otherwise known as superdelegates, who are prominent party leaders not bound to any candidate. There are 345 representatives of the New York State Democratic Party heading to the convention, according to the party.

There is no drama expected at the Democratic convention in terms of delegate allocation as Bernie Sanders has conceded and endorsed Hillary Clinton, so the types of delegates are unlikely to be a factor.

As more signs were pointing to a Clinton win by a solid margin, she won her home state of New York on April 19. Throughout the race, Clinton accumulated an overwhelming majority of the superdelegates, known party insiders always supportive of her over Sanders, who has not been an establishment Democrat. This led to some of the calls from Sanders and his supporters of a ‘rigged system.’

The Democratic Party Platform
Sanders and his supporters, plus the national Democratic tilt leftward, have had a significant influence on the party platform being adopted this year -- progressive influence throughout the primary season as well as recent, more explicit demands. Two issues are emblematic: calling for a $15 per hour minimum wage and standing against capital punishment in all circumstances. The party platform has stepped to the ideological left of Clinton, who has spoken in favor of a $12 federal minimum wage (with states going higher per their judgement) and capital punishment for certain crimes.

Dr. David Birdsell, a professor and dean at Baruch College, does not believe that Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton is enough to dissipate all of the tension within the Democratic Party.

“The Sanders endorsement – and he did use the word ‘endorse’ – of Clinton will go a long way toward reducing contention and controversy in Philadelphia,” Birdsell said in an interview. “[However,] there will still be some tension; Hillary Clinton is too polarizing a figure to expect an entirely smooth process. But chances are good at this point that Democrats will come together and unite for the fall campaign - barring further repercussions from the FBI’s decision not to prosecute [Clinton, regarding her email scandal], but that’s a general election problem, not a convention problem.”

Birdsell also believes that the concessions that the Democratic Party has made will be the only ones for a while.

“I suspect the concessions made to date are the end of the story, at least through the convention. Could there be a rear-guard effort to get TPP language in the platform? Yes, but given the deep affront that would pose to the sitting President, who is and will remain through November the Party’s principal asset, I think anything public highly unlikely.”

The New York Angle
Basil Smikle, executive director of the New York State Democratic Committee, is excited about the amendments to the party’s platform. Smikle sees them as an expansion of New York values to the rest of the nation. “I think New York has been in this conversation and led it for a long time,” he said.

“I think the state and the party has had a tremendous impact on the platform itself, and going to the convention with the leadership of the Governor is certainly carrying the work that Hillary Clinton has done for New York and the Senate, and what she's been able to accomplish and discuss on the campaign trail,” Smikle continued. “Those are New York values, and we are thankful that they've been able to influence other states, other delegates, and certainly the platform itself."

The Democrats released only the headline speakers as of Sunday, July 17, which includes the top-level names mentioned earlier: both Obamas, Bill and Chelsea Clinton, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders. It is unclear whether Gov. Cuomo or Mayor de Blasio will have a speaking role.

Smikle, a Cuomo appointee, confirmed that Cuomo has not yet been selected to speak at the convention. “We haven't gotten a schedule of speakers from the DNC yet, so that may still be discussed by the folks at the DNC at this point...I would love for [Cuomo] to have a speaking role. I hope he does."

“I’m sure I’ll have some role, but I’m also sure it’s not about me,” Cuomo said in late June, according to New York State of Politics.

Cuomo has been selected to chair New York state’s delegation at the DNC - a choice that caused Sanders supporters to protest. Delegates backing Sanders have refused to recognize Cuomo’s authority as the chair, and have said they will “file a legal challenge to the nomination of Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the chair of New York’s delegation.” It’s unclear if this controversy has subsided in the wake of Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton and the approach of the convention itself.

Other notable New York Democratic superdelegates include former President Clinton, Senators Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Mayor de Blasio. De Blasio said on Wednesday that nothing around his speaking role had been decided. The same was true for City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who has been a frequent Clinton surrogate and campaigner this election season and will be part of the delegation to Philadelphia.

Other members of the New York Democratic delegation include Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, much of the state’s Democratic House delegation; City Council Members Jumaane Williams, Rafael Espinal, and Richie Torres, Public Advocate Letitia James, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

According to Smikle, this year’s delegation “brings a tremendous sense of pride for us as New Yorkers.” He cited work New York leaders have done to move progressive policy and their impact on national politics.

“I think what New York broadly and the delegation specifically brings is that a lot of what's in the platform has been discussed and implemented in New York for quite some time, so I do think members of our delegation have had an incredible impact,” he said.

A complete list of the 345 New York DNC delegation is available here, courtesy of the State Democratic Committee.

See You in Philadelphia
Asked on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show if he was attending the DNC, Mayor de Blasio said on June 29, “Of course. I’m a delegate, and I’m looking forward to going there and voting for Hillary.”

***
by Amanda Sherwin and Rebecca Oh
@GothamGazette

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New Yorkers, Including the Presidential Nominees, Head to the National Party Conventions Sun, 17 Jul 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Cuomo’s 2016 Wins Shaped by Progressive Forces, Electoral Lessons http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6274:cuomo-s-2016-wins-shaped-by-progressive-forces-electoral-lessons http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6274:cuomo-s-2016-wins-shaped-by-progressive-forces-electoral-lessons cuomo clinton et al celebrate

Gov. Cuomo celebrates new progressie policies (photo: Don Pollard, Governor's Office)


Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched himself onto the national political stage this month by orchestrating a budget deal that made New York the first state to pass a $15 minimum wage and a paid family leave program. With Vice President Joe Biden at his side the governor pushed family leave; weeks later, Cuomo signed the package of “economic justice” legislation at a celebratory rally with Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton. He was subsequently congratulated by President Obama.

All the while, labor union members cheered the governor who had, finally, made their agenda his.

Unlike other major policy wins from earlier in his tenure that sprung the governor into the national spotlight, like marriage equality and gun control, the minimum wage and family leave bills speak directly to socioeconomic issues that some of the state’s liberal base felt Cuomo, a Democrat, had been insensitive to. Cuomo had indeed rejected as flights of fancy those very policies only months before announcing campaigns to support them, first saying that they would be non-starters with Republicans controlling one house of the Legislature, then pursuing them with the intensity Cuomo has given to his must-wins.

Cuomo’s path to his moment as progressive trailblazer on economic issues was a winding one, mystifying some, including those calling political opportunism, while others point to the influence of four powerful figures: Mayor Bill de Blasio, gubernatorial challenger Zephyr Teachout, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, and Democratic voters who could deliver the governor a third term in 2018.

On the way to a second term, Cuomo found himself in positions generally foreign to him: out-leveraged and outworked. First, Cuomo was humbled by the Working Families Party as it sought a 2014 alternative to a governor many of its members felt had betrayed their union members and progressive mission. Aided by de Blasio and making promises many now feel he did not intend to keep, Cuomo convinced the WFP to call off its third party challenge from Fordham Law Professor Zephyr Teachout.

But then, the unknown, liberal Teachout, took Cuomo on in the Democratic primary, where the incumbent governor lost 30 counties and took home only 60 percent of the vote. Cuomo entered term two significantly weakened.

For Cuomo, known for crippling his rivals and bullying major organizations into submission, these were positions he never wanted to be in again.

It's a situation that insiders, pundits, and elected officials see as having given birth to the 2016 political environment in which Cuomo would fully embrace the Fight for $15 minimum wage campaign and launch his own paid family leave push, invoking the name of his recently deceased father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, in both efforts. Cuomo traveled the state in an RV plastered with the Fight for $15 slogan, picking up the mantle of an effort led by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and its labor and liberal allies that Cuomo has often distanced himself from on economic issues.

“The original policy rests with de Blasio,” said Douglas Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College, of a liberal agenda. “The timing coincides with Teachout. But it leads to the governor deciding to tack left.”

Critics, even some supporters, see the governor’s leftward lurch as evidence of political opportunism.

“He doesn't give a damn about getting people out of poverty,” said Ed Cox, the chair of the New York Republican State Committee. “He cares about his own power. He had to do it to secure his political power, but in the end that kind of governing comes back to bite you.”

Cox is speaking at a time when state Senate Republicans went along with Cuomo’s minimum wage program, albeit a “calibrated” one, as Cuomo called it, where they were able to lengthen and regionalize the phase-in.

Congressional Rep. Chris Gibson, a Republican who has announced an exploratory committee for a 2018 gubernatorial run, also noticed the governor’s very public change of opinion. “You would have to talk to him to understand his motivation, but arguably the most persuasive critic against a $15 minimum wage is Governor Cuomo five minutes ago,” Gibson said.

As Gibson prepares a potential bid to unseat Cuomo, the governor appears to have a clearer picture of the base he needs to withstand such a challenge.

In Spring 2014, heads of the union-backed, left-leaning Working Families Party were ready to hand the powerful incumbent governor their endorsement but they had underestimated rank-and-file party members, activists turned off by what they saw as a fiscally conservative, transactional governor who cozied up to Senate Republicans, tussled with public employees unions, and generally thumbed his nose at the Democratic base.

The governor appeared by video during the WFP convention in late May 2014, acceding to a list of party demands in an endorsement deal brokered by de Blasio. When party members weren’t satisfied Cuomo was forced to follow up with a phone call promising to back a Democratic Senate, a higher minimum wage, and a push to enact the DREAM Act.

Cuomo looked forward to an easy reelection, whether he actually planned to follow through on his pledges to the WFP or not. But Teachout and many in the WFP didn’t get the memo, and the Democratic primary that followed was bruising and embarrassing for Cuomo as his campaign took on a bunker mentality while Teachout worked the base across the state.

“If you needed any more evidence that in New York state leaders of organizations have no control over their followers you just need to look at that situation,” said Kenneth Sherrill, professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College. “The governor thought he was dealing with an interest group and he had won their support, but a lot of their members weren’t happy with the governor and in fact an awful lot of voters shared their view.”

And what was that view exactly? “People’s lives aren’t good and they want them to be better,” said Sherrill, referring to working class voters.

It was a message that Cuomo appeared slow to pick up on - he backed a variety of wage increases but balked at de Blasio’s plan to raise the minimum wage and allow the city to set its own in February of 2014, saying it would be “chaotic” to have different wages across the state. “God bless them — shoot for the stars,” Cuomo said sarcastically in March, 2015, dismissing the Assembly Democrats’ plan to raise the state minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018. During a public cabinet meeting in February, 2015, Cuomo said the Legislature had “no appetite” for paid family leave.

Cuomo ran in 2010 as a leader who could provide competence to a capital that had seen one gubernatorial term split between Eliot Spitzer’s partisan bickering and scandal and David Paterson’s chaotic tenure characterized by a power struggle in the Senate and more scandal. The state was still reeling from the financial crisis and accustomed to late budgets and tax increases. Cuomo used his first term to prove he had a firm hand on the state’s finances and operations, negotiating tough deals with unions, delivering on-time budgets, instituting a property tax cap, and even delivering on socially liberal policy like marriage equality. But pundits say Cuomo missed a sea change in the electorate.

“There's some academic research that indicates legislators misestimate their constituents’ thinking,” said Sherrill. “They tend to believe they are more conservative than they really are. So when confronted with public opinion from their district they are shocked how further left [constituents] really are. I think that’s what happened to the governor. He had no idea public opinion had shifted the way it had - and it was not just the governor. The good politician that he is, he made a wise strategic adjustment.”

Howie Hawkins, who challenged Cuomo on the Green Party line in both 2010 and 2014, said he agrees with Sherrill. “I generally think constituents are more liberal than their representatives think, and I think the poll in this case being the votes in the primary and general elections showed [Cuomo] his mistake.”

Cuomo’s “adjustment” involved a change in agenda and messaging. Suddenly the governor who was known for dismissing the “poetry” of campaigning that his father so embraced took to the stump using lines from his father’s famous speech from the 1984 Democratic National Convention:

“But the hard truth is that not everyone is sharing in this city's splendor and glory. A shining city is perhaps all the President sees from the portico of the White House and the veranda of his ranch, where everyone seems to be doing well. But there's another city; there's another part to the shining the city; the part where some people can't pay their mortgages, and most young people can't afford one; where students can't afford the education they need, and middle-class parents watch the dreams they hold for their children evaporate.”

The younger Cuomo used the speech excerpt in a television campaign for his wage push, leading to the official Mario Cuomo Campaign for Economic Justice, launched by Cuomo and labor leaders. The language and imagery mirrored the “Tale of Two Cities” motif de Blasio used for his 2013 mayoral campaign.

Hawkins, who told Gotham Gazette he is prepared to run for Governor again depending on the circumstances, said he doesn’t believe Cuomo has changed his general approach to governing. “I think he’s making gestures, but look at the budget - it is still fiscal austerity, especially cities and towns. There are unfunded mandates and lack of aid from the state, and while he has provided more money for education it is less than the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement,” Hawkins said, referring to the 2006 court decision by which New York City is still owed billions according to advocates. “When [Assembly Speaker Carl] Heastie proposed a slightly progressive income tax he just rejected it. So he is not dealing with basic fiscal structure.”

Hawkins said he believes Cuomo’s action on minimum wage and paid family leave will protect Cuomo from a challenge from inside the Democratic Party if the governor runs for a third term in 2018. Hawkins, who performed best in the Capital Region where Cuomo went to war with public worker unions early in his term, said he isn’t so sure the anger is going to be there again in 2018. “I don’t know that people are going to be that upset with him,” he said.

Cuomo’s Republican opposition sees the governor’s support of the $15 minimum wage as a political calculation designed to undercut his Democratic rival, de Blasio, while boosting his national standing. They imagine the governor has sapped de Blasio’s momentum and hopes to use it to land the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention this year, or perhaps even the Vice Presidency or a major cabinet position.

Political analysts call these scenarios unlikely. Cuomo has gone on the record saying he plans to win and serve a third term as Governor, unless, he says, he keels over from a heart attack induced by the Albany press corp. The governor’s office declined to comment for this story.

“In 2010 he understood he had to run as a fiscal conservative,” said Cox, the chair of the New York Republican State Committee. “In 2013 Bill de Blasio wins saying he is the progressive leader of the free world. In 2014 Cuomo’s running in his own primary and he has to beg to get the backing of the Working Families Party and he only gets 60 percent as a sitting Governor in his own party’s primary.”

Cox said that Cuomo slowly began taking on de Blasio’s positions, “just as Mrs. [Hillary] Clinton has done with Bernie Sanders.” And eventually “adopted the SEIU’s ‘Fight for 15’ campaign whole hock” to “avoid insulting his very important constituents in labor.”

Meanwhile, Cox points out that Cuomo made a number of his major policy announcements alongside Vice President Joe Biden, who was very much thought to be a presidential contender at the time.

Cox believes the governor’s minimum wage plan that embraces different phase-ins across the state - in direct contradiction to his previous statement calling such a system “chaotic” - will not only hurt the economy but leave the governor vulnerable to a Republican challenger.

Rep. Gibson, the most likely such challenger at this point, said he would have liked to see a less “politicized process” that tied the wage to inflation and focused on growth across the state. “When my dad was out of work it was devastating,” said Gibson. “People want to work. But I believe this wage increase will prevent people from working. It will kill jobs.”

Noting that a number of counties in his Congressional district border other states, Gibson said he believes businesses will soon flee across the border to avoid new mandates. Asked if he would look to slow the increase of the minimum wage should he be elected, Gibson said, “I need to look at any kind of action like that. I think it’s important to listen and to get the facts.”

There are still some Albany observers who believe Cuomo is looking past re-election and is ready to enter the national scene on the back of his victories on minimum wage and paid family leave. Cuomo has embraced the praise of both Hillary Clinton and President Obama, who commended the passage of paid family leave. “There’s no doubt he has national ambitions, he wants to win with big numbers and not be embarrassed in his primary,” said Sherrill. “So he is relocating himself, perhaps more to his own feelings or maybe not. It is very difficult, especially with [U.S. Attorney] Preet Bharara watching, to satisfy the Senate Republicans he helped elect and his Democratic base.”

Cuomo remains opposed to tax increases - he beat back an Assembly proposal for a new millionaire’s tax, passed a series of tax cuts this year, and is extremely sensitive to the notion that New York has some of the highest taxes in the nation. But Sherrill believes by being on the forefront of a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave the governor is part of a developing national trend that gets big business to pay without actually raising taxes. The paid family leave program also rests upon employee contributions.

“Cuomo, like his father, supported very big liberal policies that don’t cost money - marriage equality, gun control doesn't cost money,” said Sherrill. “He chalks up these kind of wins in an age where you can’t raise taxes.”

“A substantial number of voters want politicians to make their lives better, but they can't raise taxes,” Sherrill continued, explaining the broader political climate. “At some point the sheer number of voters outweighs the people with lots of money. You can't raise taxes, but you can do other things to make the wealthy pay, like raising the minimum wage. However, a lot of programs de Blasio and Cuomo are advocating are in fact ways to get money into people’s hands while raising the cost on the people who refuse to pay taxes,” said Sherrill. “At some point I think the business community just asks for its taxes to be raised because it will be better for them.”

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by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

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Cuomo’s 2016 Wins Shaped by Progressive Forces, Electoral Lessons Tue, 12 Apr 2016 03:52:05 +0000