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/hiram-monserrate 2017-10-24T02:06:28+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Mass Mailer Loophole Gives State Legislators Advantage in City Council Races 2017-08-29T04:00:00+00:00 2017-08-29T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7163:mass-mailer-loophole-gives-state-legislators-advantage-in-city-council-races Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/ortiz_mailer_crop.png" alt="ortiz mailer crop" width="600" height="342" /></p> <p>The top of Assemblymember Felix Ortiz's recent constituent mailer</p> <hr /> <p>Members of the New York State Legislature have a key resource at their disposal to communicate with their constituents: mass mailers. Both the Senate and Assembly allow lawmakers to send public communications through different media -- chiefly employed in the form of direct printed newsletters and mailers -- to inform residents of their districts about recent legislation or special events, or to alert them of emergencies, and more. While these mailers are subject to certain restrictions in the run up to an election, differences between state rules and city regulations mean that state legislators running for City Council have a distinct advantage over their opponents at the local level.</p> <p>In at least three City Council races where sitting state Assemblymembers are candidates, separate complaints have been filed with the city Campaign Finance Board alleging that each of them has violated prohibitions against using government-funded mass mailers within a mandated 90-day communication blackout period before the September 12 primary. Copies of the complaints were provided to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The rules governing mass mailers are adopted by each legislative chamber, but they differ from the <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/PDF/guidance/restrictions_on_resources.pdf">rules and guidelines</a> established by the New York City Campaign Finance Board, which oversees expenditure by campaigns in the city. Each set of rules establishes ‘blackout’ periods ahead of an election, during which communications funded through government resources are prohibited unless they meet certain exceptions.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/law/charter/prohibitions-on-the-use-of-government-funds-and-resources/">New York City Charter</a> states that “public servants” may not use government funds or resources for mass mailers within 90 days of a primary or general election. (The law also prohibits officials from appearing in government-funded advertisements in an election year.)</p> <p>There are certain exceptions, for instance allowing one mailer to be sent out within 21 days of the passage of the city’s budget, and permitting communications required by law or those necessary for public safety or health emergencies, among others.</p> <p>For City Council candidates currently working for New York City -- including incumbent Council members and even community board members -- the CFB blackout period began June 15, roughly three months before the September 12 primary.</p> <p>But since the City Charter only applies to “all officials, officers and employees of the city,” state officials and legislators are out of reach of those provisions and prohibitions. The <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/Rules/?sec=r5#s10">state Assembly’s</a> blackout period, in comparison, is only 30 days before a local, special or primary election and 60 days before the general. This effectively allows state legislators to use their offices to promote their image and build greater name recognition, enhancing the already-significant power of incumbency and giving them an additional leg up over their opponents who would have to rely on campaign funds to communicate with voters.</p> <p>“It’s a clear loophole,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, a government reform organization. “The problem is that city law is always subordinate to state law. So the CFB cannot tell a state legislator what they can or cannot do.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/ortiz_mailer_crop.png" alt="ortiz mailer crop" width="250" height="142" style="margin-right: 8px; float: left;" />In District 38, incumbent Democratic City Council Member Carlos Menchaca is facing a slew of challengers, including sitting Assemblymember Felix Ortiz. A complaint filed with the CFB earlier this month alleged that Ortiz had violated the CFB’s blackout provisions by sending out four mailers from his government office over the summer. But these mailers, a regular function of state legislative offices, are exempt from the CFB’s purview.</p> <p>“Part of Felix’s job as an Assemblyman is to inform his constituents, whether he’s running for office or not,” said Robinson Iglesias, Ortiz’s campaign treasurer. “He has been in full compliance with the CFB and he will continue to do so.”</p> <p>“For sure, it’s unfair. For sure, it’s an advantage,” said Kaehny of the loophole. “It hasn’t been effectively exploited until now. The reality is, an incumbent already has an advantage in name identity. Using their mail privileges helps reinforce that name identity...This is a real unfairness under the law.”</p> <p>Assemblymember Mark Gjonaj, the frontrunner for the District 13 seat being vacated by Council Member James Vacca, similarly sent out a legislative update to his constituents at the end of June.</p> <p>Of Gjonaj’s four opponents in the Democratic primary, John Doyle has been his most vociferous critic and lodged objections with the CFB over potential violations regarding mass mailers and government-sponsored communications. When informed that the communications were largely permitted under the Assembly’s rules, Doyle directed his ire at both the state Legislature and Gjonaj. “We have a culture of corruption in Albany that allows this,” Doyle said in a phone interview. “This is the state Legislature that can’t seem to pass comprehensive campaign finance reform.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/gjonaj_mailer_crop.jpg" alt="gjonaj mailer crop" width="250" height="242" style="margin-right: 8px; float: left;" />Doyle also insisted that Gjonaj has ample campaign resources at his disposal to get his message out and should have eschewed the Legislature’s mass mailing resources. “He’s against public funds to augment the voice of ordinary citizens,” Doyle said, referring to Gjonaj’s decision to not participate in the CFB’s public matching funds program, “but he has no problem using public funds when it supports his interests.”</p> <p>Gjonaj’s campaign spokesperson Jennifer Blatus pushed back against Doyle’s complaint. “Let's be clear, there was no unfair advantage in the District 13 council race,” Blatus said in an email. “This is another ridiculous attempt by John Doyle to distract voters and continue his negative and divisive campaign.” Insisting that the CFB allows elected officials to conduct ordinary communications with constituents, she added, “In the final days of this election, while Mr. Doyle continues to complain over the experience Mark Gjonaj brings to this race, our campaign remains focused on the issues at hand, which is quality of life, public safety, education and transportation.”</p> <p>In District 21, where Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland is stepping down at the end of her current term, two Democrats are facing off in the primary: Assemblymember Francisco Moya and Hiram Monserrate, a disgraced former state Senator and Council member who is attempting a comeback after a checkered recent past that includes separate criminal convictions on fraud and assault charges.</p> <p>Monserrate claims that Moya misused government resources to send mass email blasts within the 90-day period, including references to events Moya attended outside his district. Moya’s Assembly district overlaps with parts of Council District 21 but excludes large sections. “Moya is a liar and a fraud,” Monserrate said in a statement. “He lies about where he lives. And now we know he's committing fraud by using tax-dollars illegally to campaign.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/moya_mailer_crop.jpg" alt="moya mailer crop" width="250" height="169" style="margin-right: 8px; float: left;" />In a written response to the CFB on Monserrate’s complaint, Moya noted, correctly, that “as an Assemblymember my mail cut off deadline is different than sitting City electeds.” In a statement to Gotham Gazette, Moya had harsher words for his opponent. “My opponent is a convicted felon who has zero credibility on this or any other issue in the campaign,” he said. “He is using these baseless claims to attack my record of public service, and direct attention away from his corrupt, violent history. These charges have been easily refuted by my campaign, and simply bear no resemblance to the facts.”</p> <p>Moya went on to criticize Monserrate for his own misuse of taxpayer funds. “The questions voters are asking are, ‘Hiram, where is our money that you stole and how can we ever trust you again?’”</p> <p>The CFB and the City are mostly powerless to bridge the gap in the law. “Obviously we provide extensive guidance on how candidates should handle constituent communications in the days leading up to an election, It’s certainly something we monitor,” said Matt Sollars, a CFB spokesperson.</p> <p>Reinvent Albany’s Kaehny says closing the loophole would require the state Legislature to take action, “which it seems very unlikely to do.” In the absence of legislation, he said, “The best thing CFB could do is keep track and include as much information in their post-election report to note how much of a problem it is and bring attention to that.”</p> <p>The CFB issues a comprehensive report after each city election that includes numerous recommendations on improving the campaign finance and election system. Many of the recommendations from their 2013 report were passed into law by the City Council.</p> <p>Two other state Legislators are also running for “open” City Council seats, though no apparent complaints have been lodged against either. Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez, who has also sent out mass mailers from his office, is running for the District 8 seat currently held by term-limited Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; and in District 18, state Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., famous for his constituent e-blasts, which have continued apace, is vying for the seat being vacated by term-limited Council Member Annabel Palma.</p> <p>Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, another good government group, conceded that the CFB has no authority over the state and insisted that the Legislature should increase its own communication blackout periods to undo the advantage that accrues to lawmakers.</p> <p>“Legislators wouldn’t send [mailers] out if they didn’t think it will bolster public good will,” Horner said, adding that perhaps it will fall to voters to ensure a level standard. “I think it’s fair for the public to urge state elected officials running for City Council to follow the same rules,” he said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/ortiz_mailer_crop.png" alt="ortiz mailer crop" width="600" height="342" /></p> <p>The top of Assemblymember Felix Ortiz's recent constituent mailer</p> <hr /> <p>Members of the New York State Legislature have a key resource at their disposal to communicate with their constituents: mass mailers. Both the Senate and Assembly allow lawmakers to send public communications through different media -- chiefly employed in the form of direct printed newsletters and mailers -- to inform residents of their districts about recent legislation or special events, or to alert them of emergencies, and more. While these mailers are subject to certain restrictions in the run up to an election, differences between state rules and city regulations mean that state legislators running for City Council have a distinct advantage over their opponents at the local level.</p> <p>In at least three City Council races where sitting state Assemblymembers are candidates, separate complaints have been filed with the city Campaign Finance Board alleging that each of them has violated prohibitions against using government-funded mass mailers within a mandated 90-day communication blackout period before the September 12 primary. Copies of the complaints were provided to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The rules governing mass mailers are adopted by each legislative chamber, but they differ from the <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/PDF/guidance/restrictions_on_resources.pdf">rules and guidelines</a> established by the New York City Campaign Finance Board, which oversees expenditure by campaigns in the city. Each set of rules establishes ‘blackout’ periods ahead of an election, during which communications funded through government resources are prohibited unless they meet certain exceptions.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/law/charter/prohibitions-on-the-use-of-government-funds-and-resources/">New York City Charter</a> states that “public servants” may not use government funds or resources for mass mailers within 90 days of a primary or general election. (The law also prohibits officials from appearing in government-funded advertisements in an election year.)</p> <p>There are certain exceptions, for instance allowing one mailer to be sent out within 21 days of the passage of the city’s budget, and permitting communications required by law or those necessary for public safety or health emergencies, among others.</p> <p>For City Council candidates currently working for New York City -- including incumbent Council members and even community board members -- the CFB blackout period began June 15, roughly three months before the September 12 primary.</p> <p>But since the City Charter only applies to “all officials, officers and employees of the city,” state officials and legislators are out of reach of those provisions and prohibitions. The <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/Rules/?sec=r5#s10">state Assembly’s</a> blackout period, in comparison, is only 30 days before a local, special or primary election and 60 days before the general. This effectively allows state legislators to use their offices to promote their image and build greater name recognition, enhancing the already-significant power of incumbency and giving them an additional leg up over their opponents who would have to rely on campaign funds to communicate with voters.</p> <p>“It’s a clear loophole,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, a government reform organization. “The problem is that city law is always subordinate to state law. So the CFB cannot tell a state legislator what they can or cannot do.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/ortiz_mailer_crop.png" alt="ortiz mailer crop" width="250" height="142" style="margin-right: 8px; float: left;" />In District 38, incumbent Democratic City Council Member Carlos Menchaca is facing a slew of challengers, including sitting Assemblymember Felix Ortiz. A complaint filed with the CFB earlier this month alleged that Ortiz had violated the CFB’s blackout provisions by sending out four mailers from his government office over the summer. But these mailers, a regular function of state legislative offices, are exempt from the CFB’s purview.</p> <p>“Part of Felix’s job as an Assemblyman is to inform his constituents, whether he’s running for office or not,” said Robinson Iglesias, Ortiz’s campaign treasurer. “He has been in full compliance with the CFB and he will continue to do so.”</p> <p>“For sure, it’s unfair. For sure, it’s an advantage,” said Kaehny of the loophole. “It hasn’t been effectively exploited until now. The reality is, an incumbent already has an advantage in name identity. Using their mail privileges helps reinforce that name identity...This is a real unfairness under the law.”</p> <p>Assemblymember Mark Gjonaj, the frontrunner for the District 13 seat being vacated by Council Member James Vacca, similarly sent out a legislative update to his constituents at the end of June.</p> <p>Of Gjonaj’s four opponents in the Democratic primary, John Doyle has been his most vociferous critic and lodged objections with the CFB over potential violations regarding mass mailers and government-sponsored communications. When informed that the communications were largely permitted under the Assembly’s rules, Doyle directed his ire at both the state Legislature and Gjonaj. “We have a culture of corruption in Albany that allows this,” Doyle said in a phone interview. “This is the state Legislature that can’t seem to pass comprehensive campaign finance reform.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/gjonaj_mailer_crop.jpg" alt="gjonaj mailer crop" width="250" height="242" style="margin-right: 8px; float: left;" />Doyle also insisted that Gjonaj has ample campaign resources at his disposal to get his message out and should have eschewed the Legislature’s mass mailing resources. “He’s against public funds to augment the voice of ordinary citizens,” Doyle said, referring to Gjonaj’s decision to not participate in the CFB’s public matching funds program, “but he has no problem using public funds when it supports his interests.”</p> <p>Gjonaj’s campaign spokesperson Jennifer Blatus pushed back against Doyle’s complaint. “Let's be clear, there was no unfair advantage in the District 13 council race,” Blatus said in an email. “This is another ridiculous attempt by John Doyle to distract voters and continue his negative and divisive campaign.” Insisting that the CFB allows elected officials to conduct ordinary communications with constituents, she added, “In the final days of this election, while Mr. Doyle continues to complain over the experience Mark Gjonaj brings to this race, our campaign remains focused on the issues at hand, which is quality of life, public safety, education and transportation.”</p> <p>In District 21, where Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland is stepping down at the end of her current term, two Democrats are facing off in the primary: Assemblymember Francisco Moya and Hiram Monserrate, a disgraced former state Senator and Council member who is attempting a comeback after a checkered recent past that includes separate criminal convictions on fraud and assault charges.</p> <p>Monserrate claims that Moya misused government resources to send mass email blasts within the 90-day period, including references to events Moya attended outside his district. Moya’s Assembly district overlaps with parts of Council District 21 but excludes large sections. “Moya is a liar and a fraud,” Monserrate said in a statement. “He lies about where he lives. And now we know he's committing fraud by using tax-dollars illegally to campaign.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/moya_mailer_crop.jpg" alt="moya mailer crop" width="250" height="169" style="margin-right: 8px; float: left;" />In a written response to the CFB on Monserrate’s complaint, Moya noted, correctly, that “as an Assemblymember my mail cut off deadline is different than sitting City electeds.” In a statement to Gotham Gazette, Moya had harsher words for his opponent. “My opponent is a convicted felon who has zero credibility on this or any other issue in the campaign,” he said. “He is using these baseless claims to attack my record of public service, and direct attention away from his corrupt, violent history. These charges have been easily refuted by my campaign, and simply bear no resemblance to the facts.”</p> <p>Moya went on to criticize Monserrate for his own misuse of taxpayer funds. “The questions voters are asking are, ‘Hiram, where is our money that you stole and how can we ever trust you again?’”</p> <p>The CFB and the City are mostly powerless to bridge the gap in the law. “Obviously we provide extensive guidance on how candidates should handle constituent communications in the days leading up to an election, It’s certainly something we monitor,” said Matt Sollars, a CFB spokesperson.</p> <p>Reinvent Albany’s Kaehny says closing the loophole would require the state Legislature to take action, “which it seems very unlikely to do.” In the absence of legislation, he said, “The best thing CFB could do is keep track and include as much information in their post-election report to note how much of a problem it is and bring attention to that.”</p> <p>The CFB issues a comprehensive report after each city election that includes numerous recommendations on improving the campaign finance and election system. Many of the recommendations from their 2013 report were passed into law by the City Council.</p> <p>Two other state Legislators are also running for “open” City Council seats, though no apparent complaints have been lodged against either. Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez, who has also sent out mass mailers from his office, is running for the District 8 seat currently held by term-limited Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; and in District 18, state Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., famous for his constituent e-blasts, which have continued apace, is vying for the seat being vacated by term-limited Council Member Annabel Palma.</p> <p>Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, another good government group, conceded that the CFB has no authority over the state and insisted that the Legislature should increase its own communication blackout periods to undo the advantage that accrues to lawmakers.</p> <p>“Legislators wouldn’t send [mailers] out if they didn’t think it will bolster public good will,” Horner said, adding that perhaps it will fall to voters to ensure a level standard. “I think it’s fair for the public to urge state elected officials running for City Council to follow the same rules,” he said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Hiram Monserrate Has No Place in Elected Office 2017-08-11T00:10:40+00:00 2017-08-11T00:10:40+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7120:hiram-monserrate-has-no-place-in-elected-office Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/nydia_moya_via_ydanis_crop.jpg" alt="nydia moya via ydanis crop" width="600" height="430" /></p> <p>Rep. Velázquez, the author, rallying for Moya for Council (photo: @ydanis)</p> <hr /> <p>Elections send messages.</p> <p>You don't have to look any farther than the victory of Donald Trump to see that electing a racist, misogynistic demagogue helps to normalize abhorrent behaviors in the eyes of some Americans. That may be why, as the Southern Poverty Law Center reports, our country saw 1,094 bias incidents in the first 34 days after the November election.</p> <p>If the president advocates for violence against opponents and unabashedly sexualizes and demeans women, then how can we effectively combat these dangerous practices?</p> <p>The same can be said for our local elections. While there is far less media coverage of who runs for our local city and state offices, the implications are arguably just as great. Your local City Council member or state senator is often your most important local advocate. They work to bring resources to your district and manage problems that arise -- and they host park cleanups, sponsors holiday toy giveaways, and hand out merit certificates at your child's local school.</p> <p>In fact, for many of our youngest New Yorkers, these most local elected officials are the first and most enduring images of a politician that they will have in their lives.</p> <p>That's why I refuse to stand by and watch as corrupt former official Hiram Monserrate plots his reentry into New York politics with a run for the 21st City Council District in Queens.</p> <p>For those who don't know, Hiram Monserrate is a former Council member and state senator who was ejected from the Legislature for slashing his fiancée in the face and, to cover his actions, drove her over an hour to the hospital avoiding Elmhurst Hospital only blocks away. Additionally, in 2012 Monserrate was sentenced in federal prison for stealing tens of thousands of dollars in public funds.</p> <p>He has a history of violent outbursts and altercations that should immediately disqualify him from office. If that isn't enough, he also helped orchestrate the State Senate coup that handed power over to Republicans and doomed countless pieces of truly progressive legislation from becoming law, from the Dream Act to enshrining the protections of Roe v. Wade into New York law.</p> <p>Thankfully, there is another choice in this election: State Assembly Member Francisco Moya.</p> <p>I am proud to support Francisco for City Council. Not only have I known Francisco since he was a staffer in my Congressional office, but I have had the chance to watch him grow into a leader on countless issues in Albany.</p> <p>Where Hiram Monserrate's collusion set our progressive goals back, Francisco Moya moved them all the more forward. Francisco sponsored and championed the Dream Act, so that all New York students, regardless of immigration status, could have access to affordable higher education. He stood up to the real estate industry to secure needed affordable housing for our city. Most of all, he fought time and again for policies like paid family leave and $15 minimum wage that strengthen families and ensure that they have the resources to lead healthier, more prosperous lives.</p> <p>This is why countless unions, advocacy groups, and elected officials at all levels of government have joined me in supporting Francisco's candidacy. I know that they share my belief in Francisco's ability to bring his unparalleled leadership to City Hall, just as I know that they are deeply afraid of what Hiram Monserrate would do in that same Council seat.</p> <p>Let's be clear: Monserrate comes nowhere near Moya in terms of community supporters, positive accomplishments, or campaign funds raised. His electoral track record is even worse. Since 2010, Monserrate lost three straight elections and hasn't won a Democratic primary since 2005. In this sense, Moya has the clear advantage going into the September 12 vote, but nothing can be taken for granted.</p> <p>We shouldn't forget that many people wrote off Donald Trump. It was assumed that a thrice-married, fraud-tainted reality star with a trail of sexual assault accusations would never be president, and yet here we are. We must not be this complacent again in the face of a corrupt abuser like Hiram Monserrate with a criminal record looking to secure a prestigious job in city government.</p> <p>Electing Hiram Monserrate would send the message that it’s OK to steal taxpayer money. Electing Hiram Monserrate would send the message that abusing your partner is OK and can be explained away by a momentary lapse in judgement. This is deeply troubling, especially as so many struggle with the wounds of domestic abuse and sexual assault.</p> <p>After all, this is New York and the world is watching. Our city overwhelming rejected Trump and his politics of hate and abuse at the ballot box. Even today, we continue to send the message that our city is place of diversity, tolerance and equality. Will the voters of the 21st City Council District send the message that Hiram Monserrate doesn't reflect our values, as they did with Trump? I certainly hope so.</p> <p>***<br />Rep. Nydia Velázquez represents New York’s 7th Congressional District, which includes parts of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ReElectNydia" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@ReElectNydia</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/nydia_moya_via_ydanis_crop.jpg" alt="nydia moya via ydanis crop" width="600" height="430" /></p> <p>Rep. Velázquez, the author, rallying for Moya for Council (photo: @ydanis)</p> <hr /> <p>Elections send messages.</p> <p>You don't have to look any farther than the victory of Donald Trump to see that electing a racist, misogynistic demagogue helps to normalize abhorrent behaviors in the eyes of some Americans. That may be why, as the Southern Poverty Law Center reports, our country saw 1,094 bias incidents in the first 34 days after the November election.</p> <p>If the president advocates for violence against opponents and unabashedly sexualizes and demeans women, then how can we effectively combat these dangerous practices?</p> <p>The same can be said for our local elections. While there is far less media coverage of who runs for our local city and state offices, the implications are arguably just as great. Your local City Council member or state senator is often your most important local advocate. They work to bring resources to your district and manage problems that arise -- and they host park cleanups, sponsors holiday toy giveaways, and hand out merit certificates at your child's local school.</p> <p>In fact, for many of our youngest New Yorkers, these most local elected officials are the first and most enduring images of a politician that they will have in their lives.</p> <p>That's why I refuse to stand by and watch as corrupt former official Hiram Monserrate plots his reentry into New York politics with a run for the 21st City Council District in Queens.</p> <p>For those who don't know, Hiram Monserrate is a former Council member and state senator who was ejected from the Legislature for slashing his fiancée in the face and, to cover his actions, drove her over an hour to the hospital avoiding Elmhurst Hospital only blocks away. Additionally, in 2012 Monserrate was sentenced in federal prison for stealing tens of thousands of dollars in public funds.</p> <p>He has a history of violent outbursts and altercations that should immediately disqualify him from office. If that isn't enough, he also helped orchestrate the State Senate coup that handed power over to Republicans and doomed countless pieces of truly progressive legislation from becoming law, from the Dream Act to enshrining the protections of Roe v. Wade into New York law.</p> <p>Thankfully, there is another choice in this election: State Assembly Member Francisco Moya.</p> <p>I am proud to support Francisco for City Council. Not only have I known Francisco since he was a staffer in my Congressional office, but I have had the chance to watch him grow into a leader on countless issues in Albany.</p> <p>Where Hiram Monserrate's collusion set our progressive goals back, Francisco Moya moved them all the more forward. Francisco sponsored and championed the Dream Act, so that all New York students, regardless of immigration status, could have access to affordable higher education. He stood up to the real estate industry to secure needed affordable housing for our city. Most of all, he fought time and again for policies like paid family leave and $15 minimum wage that strengthen families and ensure that they have the resources to lead healthier, more prosperous lives.</p> <p>This is why countless unions, advocacy groups, and elected officials at all levels of government have joined me in supporting Francisco's candidacy. I know that they share my belief in Francisco's ability to bring his unparalleled leadership to City Hall, just as I know that they are deeply afraid of what Hiram Monserrate would do in that same Council seat.</p> <p>Let's be clear: Monserrate comes nowhere near Moya in terms of community supporters, positive accomplishments, or campaign funds raised. His electoral track record is even worse. Since 2010, Monserrate lost three straight elections and hasn't won a Democratic primary since 2005. In this sense, Moya has the clear advantage going into the September 12 vote, but nothing can be taken for granted.</p> <p>We shouldn't forget that many people wrote off Donald Trump. It was assumed that a thrice-married, fraud-tainted reality star with a trail of sexual assault accusations would never be president, and yet here we are. We must not be this complacent again in the face of a corrupt abuser like Hiram Monserrate with a criminal record looking to secure a prestigious job in city government.</p> <p>Electing Hiram Monserrate would send the message that it’s OK to steal taxpayer money. Electing Hiram Monserrate would send the message that abusing your partner is OK and can be explained away by a momentary lapse in judgement. This is deeply troubling, especially as so many struggle with the wounds of domestic abuse and sexual assault.</p> <p>After all, this is New York and the world is watching. Our city overwhelming rejected Trump and his politics of hate and abuse at the ballot box. Even today, we continue to send the message that our city is place of diversity, tolerance and equality. Will the voters of the 21st City Council District send the message that Hiram Monserrate doesn't reflect our values, as they did with Trump? I certainly hope so.</p> <p>***<br />Rep. Nydia Velázquez represents New York’s 7th Congressional District, which includes parts of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ReElectNydia" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@ReElectNydia</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
Queens Council Primary Pits Assembly Member Versus Disgraced Former Rep 2017-08-02T04:00:00+00:00 2017-08-02T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7105:queens-council-primary-pits-assembly-member-versus-disgraced-former-rep Ben Max <p>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/10173747_10153118229311322_3724478101330474029_n.jpg" alt="Francisco Moya City Council" width="600" height="459" /></p> <p>Francisco Moya (photo via Moya's Facebook)</p> <hr /> <p>Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, City Council Member for District 21 in Queens and chair of the powerful finance committee, shook up city politics in June when she announced she would not be running for re-election. Now, with her seat up for grabs and several potential candidates removed from the ballot by the Board of Elections, there is a dramatic head-to-head Democratic primary matchup to fill the City Council seat.</p> <p>The contest is between State Assemblymember Francisco Moya and Hiram Monserrate, a former City Council member and state senator who spent time in prison after being convicted on fraud charges. This, after he was expelled from the Senate after slashing his girlfriend’s face.</p> <p>Moya has quickly secured the backing of the Queens Democratic Party establishment and many labor unions and advocacy groups, but Monserrate has strong name recognition in the district, which includes Corona, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights.</p> <p>Key issues in the race include Monserrate’s history, as well as Moya’s work in Albany, and district issues like affordable housing, development -- especially in Willets Point, education, small businesses, and opportunities and protections for immigrant communities.</p> <p>“For the last seven years, I have worked tirelessly in Albany to stand up for working families in Corona, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and across this city,” Moya said in a campaign statement. “I have seen the challenges we face in providing a quality public school education to our children, encouraging the small businesses that drive economic growth in Queens, and standing up for the rights of immigrants, women and members of the LGBTQ community at a time of mass deportations, fear and Donald Trump.”</p> <p>Moya has unsuccessfully pushed the Dream Act in Albany, legislation that would expand state college tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants and their children. The Council district has a very large immigrant population and many Spanish speakers.</p> <p>As of the mid-July <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/searchabledb/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">campaign finance filings</a>, Moya had raised $111,473 for his campaign. He has received endorsements from unions including 32BJ SEIU, 1199 SEIU, the Hotel Trades Council (NYHTC AFL-CIO), and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). He has also been endorsed by Public Advocate Letitia James and the Queens Democratic Party, led by Congressional Rep. Joe Crowley.</p> <p>In comparison, Monserrate had raised only about $30,000. Bertha Lewis, the president of the Black Institute and the Black Leadership Action Coalition (BLAC), a non-profit organization that works to shape public policy, <a href="http://gothamist.com/2017/06/22/hiram_monserrate.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recently endorsed</a> Monserrate, reportedly due to his policy position on Willets Point, which he wants to transform into affordable housing (he attempted to move a deal on Willets Point the last time he was in the Council, <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2017/08/02/after-doing-time-for-corruption-hiram-monserrate-is-back-and-running-for-city-council/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to the Village Voice</a>). <br /><br />Willets Point is an area known for its industrial sites that has been undergoing redevelopment since 2011. Many of the auto-shops and small businesses in the area have been shut down and are to be replaced by a hotel, a convention center, a large parking lot, a mall, and a number of housing units. The plan has faced criticism and multiple lawsuits for killing local businesses and failing to provide adequate affordable housing. In June, the New York Supreme Court <a href="https://www.nycourts.gov/ctapps/Decisions/2017/Jun17/54opn17-Decision.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ruled</a> that the proposed construction of the mall could not be built on city parkland. The future of the area is unclear.</p> <p>Both Monserrate and Moya have expressed opposition against the redevelopment plan and have called for the Willets Point land in question to be turned into affordable housing.</p> <p>“I look forward to continuing the tremendous efforts of Council Member Ferreras-Copeland, and fighting for the progressive values that define our city,” Moya said in his campaign statement. “We know all too well how corruption and a lack of accountability can harm our community, and the last thing we need is to follow Council Member Ferreras-Copeland's tenure with the kind of failed leadership of the past.”</p> <p>His reference to corruption was clearly aimed at Monserrate, who was removed from the state Senate in 2010 for his fraud conviction over misusing city funds for his Senate campaign. There is also <a href="http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Security-Video-Played-in-Monserrate-Assault-Trial-60297527.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">video footage</a> of Monserrate dragging his girlfriend by her hair through his apartment building in 2008.</p> <p>Ferreras-Copeland, the outgoing Council member, served as chief of staff to Monserrate in the past, but came to distance herself from him, and the two became embroiled in controversy as Monserrate appeared to seek revenge. Moya previously defeated Monserrate in the 2010 primary for the District 59 Assembly seat. Monserrate also recently lost a 2016 <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160914/corona/hiram-monserrate-loses-by-only-57-votes-comeback-bid-for-district-leader" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">district leader race</a>.</p> <p>In a statement to Gotham Gazette regarding why he decided to attempt another comeback in elected politics, Monserrate said, “My decision to run stems from one very simple thing: I love my community and district. My love for my community led me to serve as city councilman and state senator and it compels me to run for City Council once again. Our community faces difficult challenges and these challenges require strong and proven leadership.”</p> <p>When previously asked about the controversy surrounding his assault charges, Monserrate said in a <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2017/05/16/hiram-monserrate-announces-run-for-city-council.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NY1 interview</a>, “My mistakes are now in my past, several years ago. I have moved on.”</p> <p>While Moya has received a variety of endorsements from elected officials and groups, there has not been a large show of force against Monserrate, with elected officials denouncing his candidacy. City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement that Monserrate “has absolutely no business running for City Council” and called him “violent” and “corrupt.”</p> <p>Cristina Furlong, an activist and the founder of a community organization called Make Queens Safer that aims to secure neighborhood streets, attempted to run in the primary as well, but her ballot signatures were ruled invalid on August 1. She had told Gotham Gazette that Monserrate “has an unrealistic platform. He’s running on the idea that we can fix Willets Point to make it affordable housing, and I think that people who are committed voters who are going to turn out on September 12 need to understand what’s realistic for our district.”</p> <p>Furlong said, “I’m not a career politician” and that an outsider’s voice was important. She recognized the challenge of raising money for a competitive race against Moya and Monserrate.</p> <p>Both Moya and Monserrate have stated they want to bring 100 percent affordable housing to Willets Point. Moya has said 33 percent of the units should be made affordable for low-income individuals making $25,000 or less. He has suggested forming a community advisory council to give residents a say in its development. Moya is also calling for greater funding for renovations at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and the creation of a “World’s Borough Market” modeled after the Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side and La Marqueta in East Harlem, which he says would support local vendors and businesses. Of all of the businesses in the area, he would like 65 percent of them to be owned by women or minorities.</p> <p>Monserrate has not put forward a campaign policy agenda. His <a href="http://hirammonserrate.net/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">website</a> touts “a lifetime of service and delivering for our community,” and past accomplishments.</p> <p>Walking around Corona in late July, you would not necessarily know there is a contested election just a few weeks away. Aziz, who has managed Dream Pizza, a local pizzeria, for almost 30 years, spoke with Gotham Gazette about the issues he sees in the community. He said, “Everything is too expensive, especially rent and the taxes. Everybody complains about it. Business is not like it used to be.” Aziz said he is also concerned with the availability of good jobs. He didn’t indicate he was aware of the City Council election in September until prompted by Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Sam, who runs Game Star Communication, Inc., a local video game and electronics store also located in District 21, echoed similar sentiments, and said, “Small businesses are dying now. Internet business has hurt us a lot. The internet prices are sometimes lower than my prices, but they [online businesses] aren’t paying rent or property tax. They don’t have to pay employees like we do.”</p> <p>Sam then paused, clicked his tongue, and said, “What are we going to do? We have to go vote.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[For more on this contest, read <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2017/08/02/after-doing-time-for-corruption-hiram-monserrate-is-back-and-running-for-city-council/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ross Barkan’s story on the race in the Village Voice</a>]</p> <p> </p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/10173747_10153118229311322_3724478101330474029_n.jpg" alt="Francisco Moya City Council" width="600" height="459" /></p> <p>Francisco Moya (photo via Moya's Facebook)</p> <hr /> <p>Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, City Council Member for District 21 in Queens and chair of the powerful finance committee, shook up city politics in June when she announced she would not be running for re-election. Now, with her seat up for grabs and several potential candidates removed from the ballot by the Board of Elections, there is a dramatic head-to-head Democratic primary matchup to fill the City Council seat.</p> <p>The contest is between State Assemblymember Francisco Moya and Hiram Monserrate, a former City Council member and state senator who spent time in prison after being convicted on fraud charges. This, after he was expelled from the Senate after slashing his girlfriend’s face.</p> <p>Moya has quickly secured the backing of the Queens Democratic Party establishment and many labor unions and advocacy groups, but Monserrate has strong name recognition in the district, which includes Corona, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights.</p> <p>Key issues in the race include Monserrate’s history, as well as Moya’s work in Albany, and district issues like affordable housing, development -- especially in Willets Point, education, small businesses, and opportunities and protections for immigrant communities.</p> <p>“For the last seven years, I have worked tirelessly in Albany to stand up for working families in Corona, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and across this city,” Moya said in a campaign statement. “I have seen the challenges we face in providing a quality public school education to our children, encouraging the small businesses that drive economic growth in Queens, and standing up for the rights of immigrants, women and members of the LGBTQ community at a time of mass deportations, fear and Donald Trump.”</p> <p>Moya has unsuccessfully pushed the Dream Act in Albany, legislation that would expand state college tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants and their children. The Council district has a very large immigrant population and many Spanish speakers.</p> <p>As of the mid-July <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/searchabledb/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">campaign finance filings</a>, Moya had raised $111,473 for his campaign. He has received endorsements from unions including 32BJ SEIU, 1199 SEIU, the Hotel Trades Council (NYHTC AFL-CIO), and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). He has also been endorsed by Public Advocate Letitia James and the Queens Democratic Party, led by Congressional Rep. Joe Crowley.</p> <p>In comparison, Monserrate had raised only about $30,000. Bertha Lewis, the president of the Black Institute and the Black Leadership Action Coalition (BLAC), a non-profit organization that works to shape public policy, <a href="http://gothamist.com/2017/06/22/hiram_monserrate.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recently endorsed</a> Monserrate, reportedly due to his policy position on Willets Point, which he wants to transform into affordable housing (he attempted to move a deal on Willets Point the last time he was in the Council, <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2017/08/02/after-doing-time-for-corruption-hiram-monserrate-is-back-and-running-for-city-council/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to the Village Voice</a>). <br /><br />Willets Point is an area known for its industrial sites that has been undergoing redevelopment since 2011. Many of the auto-shops and small businesses in the area have been shut down and are to be replaced by a hotel, a convention center, a large parking lot, a mall, and a number of housing units. The plan has faced criticism and multiple lawsuits for killing local businesses and failing to provide adequate affordable housing. In June, the New York Supreme Court <a href="https://www.nycourts.gov/ctapps/Decisions/2017/Jun17/54opn17-Decision.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ruled</a> that the proposed construction of the mall could not be built on city parkland. The future of the area is unclear.</p> <p>Both Monserrate and Moya have expressed opposition against the redevelopment plan and have called for the Willets Point land in question to be turned into affordable housing.</p> <p>“I look forward to continuing the tremendous efforts of Council Member Ferreras-Copeland, and fighting for the progressive values that define our city,” Moya said in his campaign statement. “We know all too well how corruption and a lack of accountability can harm our community, and the last thing we need is to follow Council Member Ferreras-Copeland's tenure with the kind of failed leadership of the past.”</p> <p>His reference to corruption was clearly aimed at Monserrate, who was removed from the state Senate in 2010 for his fraud conviction over misusing city funds for his Senate campaign. There is also <a href="http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Security-Video-Played-in-Monserrate-Assault-Trial-60297527.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">video footage</a> of Monserrate dragging his girlfriend by her hair through his apartment building in 2008.</p> <p>Ferreras-Copeland, the outgoing Council member, served as chief of staff to Monserrate in the past, but came to distance herself from him, and the two became embroiled in controversy as Monserrate appeared to seek revenge. Moya previously defeated Monserrate in the 2010 primary for the District 59 Assembly seat. Monserrate also recently lost a 2016 <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160914/corona/hiram-monserrate-loses-by-only-57-votes-comeback-bid-for-district-leader" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">district leader race</a>.</p> <p>In a statement to Gotham Gazette regarding why he decided to attempt another comeback in elected politics, Monserrate said, “My decision to run stems from one very simple thing: I love my community and district. My love for my community led me to serve as city councilman and state senator and it compels me to run for City Council once again. Our community faces difficult challenges and these challenges require strong and proven leadership.”</p> <p>When previously asked about the controversy surrounding his assault charges, Monserrate said in a <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2017/05/16/hiram-monserrate-announces-run-for-city-council.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NY1 interview</a>, “My mistakes are now in my past, several years ago. I have moved on.”</p> <p>While Moya has received a variety of endorsements from elected officials and groups, there has not been a large show of force against Monserrate, with elected officials denouncing his candidacy. City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement that Monserrate “has absolutely no business running for City Council” and called him “violent” and “corrupt.”</p> <p>Cristina Furlong, an activist and the founder of a community organization called Make Queens Safer that aims to secure neighborhood streets, attempted to run in the primary as well, but her ballot signatures were ruled invalid on August 1. She had told Gotham Gazette that Monserrate “has an unrealistic platform. He’s running on the idea that we can fix Willets Point to make it affordable housing, and I think that people who are committed voters who are going to turn out on September 12 need to understand what’s realistic for our district.”</p> <p>Furlong said, “I’m not a career politician” and that an outsider’s voice was important. She recognized the challenge of raising money for a competitive race against Moya and Monserrate.</p> <p>Both Moya and Monserrate have stated they want to bring 100 percent affordable housing to Willets Point. Moya has said 33 percent of the units should be made affordable for low-income individuals making $25,000 or less. He has suggested forming a community advisory council to give residents a say in its development. Moya is also calling for greater funding for renovations at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and the creation of a “World’s Borough Market” modeled after the Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side and La Marqueta in East Harlem, which he says would support local vendors and businesses. Of all of the businesses in the area, he would like 65 percent of them to be owned by women or minorities.</p> <p>Monserrate has not put forward a campaign policy agenda. His <a href="http://hirammonserrate.net/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">website</a> touts “a lifetime of service and delivering for our community,” and past accomplishments.</p> <p>Walking around Corona in late July, you would not necessarily know there is a contested election just a few weeks away. Aziz, who has managed Dream Pizza, a local pizzeria, for almost 30 years, spoke with Gotham Gazette about the issues he sees in the community. He said, “Everything is too expensive, especially rent and the taxes. Everybody complains about it. Business is not like it used to be.” Aziz said he is also concerned with the availability of good jobs. He didn’t indicate he was aware of the City Council election in September until prompted by Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Sam, who runs Game Star Communication, Inc., a local video game and electronics store also located in District 21, echoed similar sentiments, and said, “Small businesses are dying now. Internet business has hurt us a lot. The internet prices are sometimes lower than my prices, but they [online businesses] aren’t paying rent or property tax. They don’t have to pay employees like we do.”</p> <p>Sam then paused, clicked his tongue, and said, “What are we going to do? We have to go vote.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[For more on this contest, read <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2017/08/02/after-doing-time-for-corruption-hiram-monserrate-is-back-and-running-for-city-council/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ross Barkan’s story on the race in the Village Voice</a>]</p> <p> </p> Albany Lawmakers Putter Past Deadlines, Surprising No One 2015-06-18T23:54:41+00:00 2015-06-18T23:54:41+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5776:albany-lawmakers-putter-past-deadlines-surprising-no-one Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/16661826220_ab418ac175_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Heastie" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Two of the 'three men' (photo: The Governor's Office via flickr)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Albany has a reputation for procrastination. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature seem to meet no sunsetting regulation that impacts millions of people, mandated federal action with millions of dollars at stake, or other serious deadline that is too important for them to skirt. State government loves to push issues right to the edge, pause, and then shove them over the cliff just when everyone is looking.</p> <p>It is a habit so ingrained in capital culture that long-time observers simply expect it. "When they announced the last day of session was a Wednesday I just assumed the actual end would be Friday," said Blair Horner, of the New York Public Interest Research Group, who has witnessed decades of Albany dysfunction.</p> <p>With both houses and the governor having failed to prevent the city's rent laws that govern affordable housing for millions of New Yorkers from expiring, they remain in Albany locked in a more-than familiar routine. Leaders meetings are punctuated by declarations to the press of "No deal yet!" or "See you tomorrow!" The governor's office issues press release after press release about funding grants to various projects and there is an occasional deal announced on an important issue while a host of legislative debates over bills bordering on the absurd take place in chambers - as happened Wednesday in the Senate on a bill that would make the wood frog the state amphibian or with a bill naming an official state dog that was on the Senate's active list on Thursday.</p> <p>Lawmakers expect to continue this routine on Friday and Monday after that, if no deal materializes on rent regulations and a couple of other high profile issues like mayoral control of city schools. Legislators have special incentive to stay and negotiate, not only because of public opinion, but because if they fail to negotiate major policy now, Gov. Cuomo will be able to hammer his preferred policy positions through more easily in the next budget.</p> <p>In Albany, where passing a state budget on time is seen as a work of wonders - and a late budget is labeled on-time because the clocks in the chamber are stopped during voting - many see the current situation as par for the course and think it may the best the state can hope for, especially given current realities. "In many ways this is a really typical end of session," said Horner. "Everyone is waiting while deals are rolled out slowly, negotiations are covered in a shroud of secrecy, and this is an odd numbered year so they are focused on delivering for the political elite rather than the voters."</p> <p>Things could be worse given that the legislative hierarchy was upended by US Attorney Preet Bharara and Cuomo's negotiating team consists of second-term rookies. New conference leaders Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican, have yet to storm away from the negotiating table and taken their conferences home. Cuomo hasn't begun making public threats, beyond saying he would keep the Legislature in town for as long as it takes to reach a deal on the rent laws. But history shows that there isn't much anyone can do to force the sides into a deal and as long as discussions are ongoing, there is still hope issues can be resolved.</p> <p>The Legislature wrapped session fairly neatly over the last 3 years without a big ticket deal - often known as a "big ugly." But in 2011 Cuomo and legislators found themselves in a somewhat similar situation. Rent laws expired while negotiations over hot-button issues like marriage equality were actually resolved. The Legislature stayed in session a few days past the scheduled conclusion, passing simple extenders of the rent laws until they allowed the law to expire for 48 hours. Eventually a deal was struck.</p> <p>Horner and others say it is when both sides stop talking that people really need to worry, because there is no effective recourse. "At the moment, cooler heads are prevailing and they continue to talk," said Horner. Cuomo could call a special session which allows him to force the Legislature to return to Albany to consider a legislative agenda of his choosing, but there is nothing he can do to make them pass bills. "The governor can call them back but it is largely an ineffective executive tool that is mainly used as a torture device rather than a deal-maker. It is used as a weapon to force them to schlep to Albany," said Horner.</p> <p>Former Assembly Member and Senior Demos Fellow Richard Brodsky says that special sessions are "just silly," because "the Legislature can just gavel out of special session and into regular session," without even considering the governor's agenda.</p> <p>Brodsky said it is actually in Cuomo's best interest if end-of-session negotiations fail. He said the governor's considerable budget powers have actually led to this end-of-session stalemate. "Last minute negotiation is a basic tenet of any democracy, from London to Jerusalem," said Brodsky. "What is really going on here is the governor has no incentive to negotiate because he can get whatever he wants in the budget thanks to Silver v. Pataki."</p> <p>The decision in that case prevents the Legislature from altering Cuomo's budget proposals, allowing the branch to only agree or disagree with each entry. This year the result was the adoption of Cuomo's hyper-controversial education plan, free of legislative tinkering. There was, of course, much that the governor attempted to include in the budget that legislators would not agree to and was thus bumped out completely.</p> <p>Brodsky says he expects Cuomo and the Legislature to agree to basic extenders so that Cuomo can put more long-term deals on mayoral control and rent regulations in his budget.</p> <p>Meanwhile, for further head-scratching consider that both houses of the Legislature maintain a technical defense against any gubernatorial special session by staying in regular session even when members aren't actually in Albany to vote on anything. When leadership announces the end of a session week they will unfailingly announce their return date along with the phrase "intervening days being legislative days." The move is designed so that they never technically go out of session and leave themselves open to an official special session called by the governor. Horner says he isn't exactly clear whether the mechanism actually works. If Cuomo were to call the Legislature back it would carry with it the weight of public opinion, regardless of the technicalities.</p> <p>The Legislature has returned outside of normal session voluntarily in the past to address pressing issues. They've reached deals on tax reform under Gov. Cuomo and on anti-terrorism measures after 9/11 under Gov. George Pataki.</p> <p>One reason the current situation may not seem so bad to veterans like Horner is that there was a time when having the Legislature in Albany through the summer was basically the norm. Under Pataki and Gov. David Paterson budgets, due by March 1, were routinely months late.</p> <p>Paterson put his executive power to the test during the 2009 Senate coup where Republicans attempted to seize control of the chamber by aligning with Sens. Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate. Both Democrats and Republicans insisted they controlled the chamber, the stalemate continued for weeks as legal challenges mounted. Paterson issued a special session to address outstanding issues like mayoral control of schools.</p> <p>Legislators returned to Albany facing the threat of having the State Police force them there but Democrats and Republicans refused to enter the Senate chamber at the same time. Nothing got done.</p> <p>Paterson later pressed Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to withhold senators' pay until they got to work. DiNapoli initially resisted but in early July 2009 he began withholding payments despite the lack of any clear legality. The situation was eventually resolved when Paterson filled the vacant lieutenant governor position, which stripped the Senate of some of its power.</p> <p>Horner stresses that the current situation isn't anywhere near the dysfunction of 2009 but that with all the pressure the Legislature faces and tension in the chamber due to Bharara's indictments, things could change for the worse. The situation is already at a point where many policy issues have been swept off the table as almost only the most basic items that have or will soon sunset are being dealt with.</p> <p>"I really couldn't give odds on whether things get settled," said Horner. "This is a unique session. normally muscle memory is that there is radio silence from the governor and leaders as agreements roll out and I think that is what the expectation is now. But there is a giant question mark over whether Albany has the capacity to deal with all the changes it has been through this year."</p> <p>Brodsky, however, said he knows how this movie ends. "I've been saying for months we will get extenders and the governor will put what he wants on these issues in his budget in March. I don't fault the governor, why would he negotiate when he doesn't have to?"</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/16661826220_ab418ac175_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Heastie" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Two of the 'three men' (photo: The Governor's Office via flickr)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Albany has a reputation for procrastination. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature seem to meet no sunsetting regulation that impacts millions of people, mandated federal action with millions of dollars at stake, or other serious deadline that is too important for them to skirt. State government loves to push issues right to the edge, pause, and then shove them over the cliff just when everyone is looking.</p> <p>It is a habit so ingrained in capital culture that long-time observers simply expect it. "When they announced the last day of session was a Wednesday I just assumed the actual end would be Friday," said Blair Horner, of the New York Public Interest Research Group, who has witnessed decades of Albany dysfunction.</p> <p>With both houses and the governor having failed to prevent the city's rent laws that govern affordable housing for millions of New Yorkers from expiring, they remain in Albany locked in a more-than familiar routine. Leaders meetings are punctuated by declarations to the press of "No deal yet!" or "See you tomorrow!" The governor's office issues press release after press release about funding grants to various projects and there is an occasional deal announced on an important issue while a host of legislative debates over bills bordering on the absurd take place in chambers - as happened Wednesday in the Senate on a bill that would make the wood frog the state amphibian or with a bill naming an official state dog that was on the Senate's active list on Thursday.</p> <p>Lawmakers expect to continue this routine on Friday and Monday after that, if no deal materializes on rent regulations and a couple of other high profile issues like mayoral control of city schools. Legislators have special incentive to stay and negotiate, not only because of public opinion, but because if they fail to negotiate major policy now, Gov. Cuomo will be able to hammer his preferred policy positions through more easily in the next budget.</p> <p>In Albany, where passing a state budget on time is seen as a work of wonders - and a late budget is labeled on-time because the clocks in the chamber are stopped during voting - many see the current situation as par for the course and think it may the best the state can hope for, especially given current realities. "In many ways this is a really typical end of session," said Horner. "Everyone is waiting while deals are rolled out slowly, negotiations are covered in a shroud of secrecy, and this is an odd numbered year so they are focused on delivering for the political elite rather than the voters."</p> <p>Things could be worse given that the legislative hierarchy was upended by US Attorney Preet Bharara and Cuomo's negotiating team consists of second-term rookies. New conference leaders Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican, have yet to storm away from the negotiating table and taken their conferences home. Cuomo hasn't begun making public threats, beyond saying he would keep the Legislature in town for as long as it takes to reach a deal on the rent laws. But history shows that there isn't much anyone can do to force the sides into a deal and as long as discussions are ongoing, there is still hope issues can be resolved.</p> <p>The Legislature wrapped session fairly neatly over the last 3 years without a big ticket deal - often known as a "big ugly." But in 2011 Cuomo and legislators found themselves in a somewhat similar situation. Rent laws expired while negotiations over hot-button issues like marriage equality were actually resolved. The Legislature stayed in session a few days past the scheduled conclusion, passing simple extenders of the rent laws until they allowed the law to expire for 48 hours. Eventually a deal was struck.</p> <p>Horner and others say it is when both sides stop talking that people really need to worry, because there is no effective recourse. "At the moment, cooler heads are prevailing and they continue to talk," said Horner. Cuomo could call a special session which allows him to force the Legislature to return to Albany to consider a legislative agenda of his choosing, but there is nothing he can do to make them pass bills. "The governor can call them back but it is largely an ineffective executive tool that is mainly used as a torture device rather than a deal-maker. It is used as a weapon to force them to schlep to Albany," said Horner.</p> <p>Former Assembly Member and Senior Demos Fellow Richard Brodsky says that special sessions are "just silly," because "the Legislature can just gavel out of special session and into regular session," without even considering the governor's agenda.</p> <p>Brodsky said it is actually in Cuomo's best interest if end-of-session negotiations fail. He said the governor's considerable budget powers have actually led to this end-of-session stalemate. "Last minute negotiation is a basic tenet of any democracy, from London to Jerusalem," said Brodsky. "What is really going on here is the governor has no incentive to negotiate because he can get whatever he wants in the budget thanks to Silver v. Pataki."</p> <p>The decision in that case prevents the Legislature from altering Cuomo's budget proposals, allowing the branch to only agree or disagree with each entry. This year the result was the adoption of Cuomo's hyper-controversial education plan, free of legislative tinkering. There was, of course, much that the governor attempted to include in the budget that legislators would not agree to and was thus bumped out completely.</p> <p>Brodsky says he expects Cuomo and the Legislature to agree to basic extenders so that Cuomo can put more long-term deals on mayoral control and rent regulations in his budget.</p> <p>Meanwhile, for further head-scratching consider that both houses of the Legislature maintain a technical defense against any gubernatorial special session by staying in regular session even when members aren't actually in Albany to vote on anything. When leadership announces the end of a session week they will unfailingly announce their return date along with the phrase "intervening days being legislative days." The move is designed so that they never technically go out of session and leave themselves open to an official special session called by the governor. Horner says he isn't exactly clear whether the mechanism actually works. If Cuomo were to call the Legislature back it would carry with it the weight of public opinion, regardless of the technicalities.</p> <p>The Legislature has returned outside of normal session voluntarily in the past to address pressing issues. They've reached deals on tax reform under Gov. Cuomo and on anti-terrorism measures after 9/11 under Gov. George Pataki.</p> <p>One reason the current situation may not seem so bad to veterans like Horner is that there was a time when having the Legislature in Albany through the summer was basically the norm. Under Pataki and Gov. David Paterson budgets, due by March 1, were routinely months late.</p> <p>Paterson put his executive power to the test during the 2009 Senate coup where Republicans attempted to seize control of the chamber by aligning with Sens. Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate. Both Democrats and Republicans insisted they controlled the chamber, the stalemate continued for weeks as legal challenges mounted. Paterson issued a special session to address outstanding issues like mayoral control of schools.</p> <p>Legislators returned to Albany facing the threat of having the State Police force them there but Democrats and Republicans refused to enter the Senate chamber at the same time. Nothing got done.</p> <p>Paterson later pressed Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to withhold senators' pay until they got to work. DiNapoli initially resisted but in early July 2009 he began withholding payments despite the lack of any clear legality. The situation was eventually resolved when Paterson filled the vacant lieutenant governor position, which stripped the Senate of some of its power.</p> <p>Horner stresses that the current situation isn't anywhere near the dysfunction of 2009 but that with all the pressure the Legislature faces and tension in the chamber due to Bharara's indictments, things could change for the worse. The situation is already at a point where many policy issues have been swept off the table as almost only the most basic items that have or will soon sunset are being dealt with.</p> <p>"I really couldn't give odds on whether things get settled," said Horner. "This is a unique session. normally muscle memory is that there is radio silence from the governor and leaders as agreements roll out and I think that is what the expectation is now. But there is a giant question mark over whether Albany has the capacity to deal with all the changes it has been through this year."</p> <p>Brodsky, however, said he knows how this movie ends. "I've been saying for months we will get extenders and the governor will put what he wants on these issues in his budget in March. I don't fault the governor, why would he negotiate when he doesn't have to?"</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p>