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/moreland-commission 2017-10-20T19:48:42+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Skelos Conviction Greeted With Calls for Immediate Action on Reform 2015-12-11T19:56:40+00:00 2015-12-11T19:56:40+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6032:skelos-conviction-greeted-with-calls-for-immediate-action-on-reform Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/7030330743_91185c603e_z.jpg" alt="Skelos Silver Cuomo 2012" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Dean Skelos in 2012, via The Governor's Office on flickr&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>Sen. Dean Skelos and his son Adam Skelos were convicted on eight federal corruption charges Friday. They were found guilty of a scheme where Dean Skelos used his power as Senate Majority Leader to influence companies to employ or pay his son. The conviction comes only a week after that of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on charges that he illegally used his influence for financial gain of $4 million.</p> <p>The convictions speak to a larger campaign by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whose office brought the cases against both Silver and Skelos, to change the culture in Albany that enables lawmakers to hold outside jobs while influencing major policy decisions and a campaign finance system that allows companies to pour unlimited funds into campaign accounts. The juries in both cases return verdicts within only a few days.</p> <p>"The swift convictions of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos beg an important question – how many prosecutions will it take before Albany gives the people of New York the honest government they deserve?" asked Bharara in a statement following the conviction.</p> <p>Skelos loses his Senate seat with his conviction. He and his son both face 130 years in prison. Skelos becomes the fifth legislative leader to leave office under ethics troubles since 2000 and is the thirty-third legislator forced to leave office due to criminal or ethical misconduct since then.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5710-dean-skelos-thwarted-reform-and-maintained-power-despite-the-odds" target="_blank">Throughout his time as leader</a> Skelos became known as a cutthroat politician, willing to make extraordinary deals to keep himself in power.</p> <p>Skelos inherited the Majority Leader mantle from the legally troubled and retiring Sen. Joseph Bruno in 2008. In 2009, Republicans were thrust into the minority but Skelos schemed to correct that annoyance. He concocted a deal with Democratic Sens. Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate and created a new ruling coalition with himself as Majority Leader and Espada as Temporary President. The deal eventually fell apart but Democrats lost their majority during the next election cycle thanks to a Republican campaign that focused on "Democratic Dysfunction."</p> <p>Skelos successfully fought off a major push by reformers for independent redistricting that many thought would thrust Republicans permanently into the minority and when Democrats eventually won a numerical majority again in 2012, Skelos cut another deal. Sen. Jeff Klein and the Independent Democratic Conference partnered with Republicans giving them the majority and Klein the title of co-leader along with a hefty helping of pork and staff funding.</p> <p>Adam Skelos was caught on wiretap scolding his father, Dean, for allowing Klein to keep his position when Republicans won an outright majority in 2014. Dean assured his son that Klein had no real power. "I'm going to control everything. He's going to get very little. Believe me. Very little. Everybody's going to know," Dean told Adam. He then pointed out the real objective of the exercise was to "Keep [Democrats] separate and fighting and hating each other. That's what's worked for the last six years. Keeping them at each other's throats."</p> <p>Senate Republicans allowed votes on a number of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's major issues during his tenure as Majority Leader including same-sex marriage and the SAFE Act. He cut also cut deals with Cuomo and Silver on a number of incremental reform packages that included the formation of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, an agency regarded almost universally as dysfunctional and impotent.</p> <p>Skelos' conviction brought a tidal wave of calls for reform from good government groups and reform-minded electeds. Many <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6014-will-silver-conviction-be-tipping-point-for-real-reform" target="_blank">repeated their post-Silver conviction call</a> for Cuomo to call for a special session on ethics reform.</p> <p>Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union said that for Cuomo "not to call now for special legislative session is to aid and abet the rampant corruption in Albany."</p> <p>"Inaction speaks louder than words," wrote Blair Horner of The New York Public Interest Research Group in a statement. "Failure by Governor Cuomo to convene a special session on ethics and inaction by the legislature can only be understood as a defense of Albany's status quo."</p> <p>Cuomo is under increasing pressure to act on ethics as he shuttered the Moreland Commission that was investigating legislative misconduct in a 2014 deal with Silver and Skelos--a deal that greatly angered Bharara and appears to have sparked a federal investigation.</p> <p>Cuomo issued a statement putting the onus on the legislature, but indicating he plans to push for reforms:</p> <p>"There can be no tolerance for those who use, and seek to use, public service for private gain. The justice system worked today. However, more must be done and will be pursued as part of my legislative agenda. The convictions of former Speaker Silver and former Majority Leader Skelos should be a wakeup call for the Legislature and it must stop standing in the way of needed reforms."</p> <p>Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan issued a statement saying that he wants to act "swiftly and completely" to restore the public trust. Last year Flanagan successfully blocked any action reforming the LLC loophole that allows corporations to make unlimited campaign contributions.</p> <p>Klein, Skelos' former partner in governing, issued a similar statement: "Today's conviction of Dean Skelos should be a call to arms for Albany and the people who serve in government," said Klein.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5710-dean-skelos-thwarted-reform-and-maintained-power-despite-the-odds" target="_blank">How Dean Skelos Thwarted Reform and Maintained Power, Despite the Odds</a>]</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/7030330743_91185c603e_z.jpg" alt="Skelos Silver Cuomo 2012" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Dean Skelos in 2012, via The Governor's Office on flickr&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>Sen. Dean Skelos and his son Adam Skelos were convicted on eight federal corruption charges Friday. They were found guilty of a scheme where Dean Skelos used his power as Senate Majority Leader to influence companies to employ or pay his son. The conviction comes only a week after that of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on charges that he illegally used his influence for financial gain of $4 million.</p> <p>The convictions speak to a larger campaign by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whose office brought the cases against both Silver and Skelos, to change the culture in Albany that enables lawmakers to hold outside jobs while influencing major policy decisions and a campaign finance system that allows companies to pour unlimited funds into campaign accounts. The juries in both cases return verdicts within only a few days.</p> <p>"The swift convictions of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos beg an important question – how many prosecutions will it take before Albany gives the people of New York the honest government they deserve?" asked Bharara in a statement following the conviction.</p> <p>Skelos loses his Senate seat with his conviction. He and his son both face 130 years in prison. Skelos becomes the fifth legislative leader to leave office under ethics troubles since 2000 and is the thirty-third legislator forced to leave office due to criminal or ethical misconduct since then.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5710-dean-skelos-thwarted-reform-and-maintained-power-despite-the-odds" target="_blank">Throughout his time as leader</a> Skelos became known as a cutthroat politician, willing to make extraordinary deals to keep himself in power.</p> <p>Skelos inherited the Majority Leader mantle from the legally troubled and retiring Sen. Joseph Bruno in 2008. In 2009, Republicans were thrust into the minority but Skelos schemed to correct that annoyance. He concocted a deal with Democratic Sens. Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate and created a new ruling coalition with himself as Majority Leader and Espada as Temporary President. The deal eventually fell apart but Democrats lost their majority during the next election cycle thanks to a Republican campaign that focused on "Democratic Dysfunction."</p> <p>Skelos successfully fought off a major push by reformers for independent redistricting that many thought would thrust Republicans permanently into the minority and when Democrats eventually won a numerical majority again in 2012, Skelos cut another deal. Sen. Jeff Klein and the Independent Democratic Conference partnered with Republicans giving them the majority and Klein the title of co-leader along with a hefty helping of pork and staff funding.</p> <p>Adam Skelos was caught on wiretap scolding his father, Dean, for allowing Klein to keep his position when Republicans won an outright majority in 2014. Dean assured his son that Klein had no real power. "I'm going to control everything. He's going to get very little. Believe me. Very little. Everybody's going to know," Dean told Adam. He then pointed out the real objective of the exercise was to "Keep [Democrats] separate and fighting and hating each other. That's what's worked for the last six years. Keeping them at each other's throats."</p> <p>Senate Republicans allowed votes on a number of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's major issues during his tenure as Majority Leader including same-sex marriage and the SAFE Act. He cut also cut deals with Cuomo and Silver on a number of incremental reform packages that included the formation of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, an agency regarded almost universally as dysfunctional and impotent.</p> <p>Skelos' conviction brought a tidal wave of calls for reform from good government groups and reform-minded electeds. Many <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6014-will-silver-conviction-be-tipping-point-for-real-reform" target="_blank">repeated their post-Silver conviction call</a> for Cuomo to call for a special session on ethics reform.</p> <p>Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union said that for Cuomo "not to call now for special legislative session is to aid and abet the rampant corruption in Albany."</p> <p>"Inaction speaks louder than words," wrote Blair Horner of The New York Public Interest Research Group in a statement. "Failure by Governor Cuomo to convene a special session on ethics and inaction by the legislature can only be understood as a defense of Albany's status quo."</p> <p>Cuomo is under increasing pressure to act on ethics as he shuttered the Moreland Commission that was investigating legislative misconduct in a 2014 deal with Silver and Skelos--a deal that greatly angered Bharara and appears to have sparked a federal investigation.</p> <p>Cuomo issued a statement putting the onus on the legislature, but indicating he plans to push for reforms:</p> <p>"There can be no tolerance for those who use, and seek to use, public service for private gain. The justice system worked today. However, more must be done and will be pursued as part of my legislative agenda. The convictions of former Speaker Silver and former Majority Leader Skelos should be a wakeup call for the Legislature and it must stop standing in the way of needed reforms."</p> <p>Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan issued a statement saying that he wants to act "swiftly and completely" to restore the public trust. Last year Flanagan successfully blocked any action reforming the LLC loophole that allows corporations to make unlimited campaign contributions.</p> <p>Klein, Skelos' former partner in governing, issued a similar statement: "Today's conviction of Dean Skelos should be a call to arms for Albany and the people who serve in government," said Klein.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5710-dean-skelos-thwarted-reform-and-maintained-power-despite-the-odds" target="_blank">How Dean Skelos Thwarted Reform and Maintained Power, Despite the Odds</a>]</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p> Tenant Activists Trace Road to Corruption Trials, Eye Elusive Reform 2015-12-11T02:23:25+00:00 2015-12-11T02:23:25+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6029:tenant-activists-trace-road-to-corruption-trials-eye-elusive-reform Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/rent_protest_albany.jpg" alt="rent protest albany" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Tenants sit-in at the Albany capitol</p> <hr /> <p>"It's just surreal," said Jaron Benjamin a week after the conviction of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and on the day of closing arguments in the federal corruption case against former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, knowing that those cases may have been bolstered by work he did years ago in the fight to strengthen the state's rent laws.</p> <p>In the span of less than a year Benjamin went from issuing a report exposing the connections among the real estate industry, holes in New York's campaign finance laws, and major legislation to seeing his work used by the Moreland Commission, only to see Gov. Andrew Cuomo unceremoniously shutter the anti-corruption panel.</p> <p>Then came the 2015 indictments of Silver and Skelos that many expected would scare Albany into enacting serious reform. But no transformative action has come, leaving Benjamin and other advocates to wonder what kind of impact their work actually had.</p> <p>"There is still part of me that thinks surely the people charged with enforcing the laws must have known this type of activity was going on," said Benjamin referring to the SIlver and Skelos cases, especially in terms of the involvement of the real estate industry. "Seeing all of this play out has made me question what is pay-for-play and what is business as usual. It's all been blurred, and being involved in Moreland and the 421-a fight made me question what exactly is unethical and what's illegal."</p> <p>In 2013 Benjamin was looking for a way to get people's attention. Then director of The Metropolitan Council on Housing, he needed a way to get regular New Yorkers interested in the backroom dealing that he saw as having continually allowed the real estate industry power to weaken rent laws every time they were up for renewal.</p> <p>"We knew we had to start preparing then for the 2015 rent law renewal and I said, 'I want an issue that kind of encapsulates all the talking points, captures the outrage of big real estate's buying power in Albany, something that would rile people up,'" Benjamin told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p><a href="https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/4752272/billionaire-subsidies-v2.pdf" target="_blank">The report</a> The Met Council released on June 5, 2013, focused on the influence of real estate moguls, like the now infamous Leonard Litwin, and their ability to flood politicians' campaign coffers with cash, subverting campaign finance limits by using the also infamous LLC loophole.</p> <p>Three years later, looking back, some advocates feel that the report was a turning point for Albany. But things didn't change the way Benjamin and his allies might have expected.</p> <p>After the report drew the interest of Moreland Commission staff in their investigation of legislative corruption that was later picked up by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, both former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Majority Leader Dean Skelos were indicted on federal corruption charges brought by Bharara's office. The Met Council report and the federal charges exposed what many see as the undue influence of the real estate industry on New York State lawmakers and industry leaders' willingness to lavish lawmakers with cash legally and illegally to get what they want.</p> <p>And yet, with Silver convicted and the Skelos case before a jury, the state legislature and Gov. Cuomo have yet to act to change the system. Cuomo has been the biggest beneficiary of Glenwood Management's largesse, with his campaign accounts receiving over $1 million in donations over the years through many LLCs. Glenwood also <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/11/8583785/glenwood-holdings-gave-half-million-secretive-cuomo-backers" target="_blank">gave half a million dollars</a> to Cuomo's Committee to Save New York.</p> <p>In fact, even after Silver and Skelos were indicted and their relationships with Litwin's Glenwood Corp. revealed, Cuomo and new legislative leaders delivered a blow to tenant groups by enacting what many see as a real-estate-friendly renewal of the rent laws, deflecting pressure from advocates and Mayor Bill de Blasio.</p> <p>Michael McKee, treasurer of Tenants PAC, who has been involved in fighting for stronger rent laws in Albany for decades, said he hopes the convictions jolt Albany into action, but he is dubious that it will happen because the indictments weren't exactly shocking to him. "We knew Shelly had sold us out; he sold us out three times," McKee said of Silver, who was touted by many others as the protector of all things progressive in the state legislature. "We knew Skelos was owned by real estate lock, stock, and barrel. We didn't know the details, but it wasn't a surprise."</p> <p>Neither Benjamin nor McKee were surprised that Silver was receiving <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5561-leonard-litwins-political-donations-the-full-picture" target="_blank">payments from Glenwood Management</a>, or that members of Glenwood were helping Skelos' son land no-show jobs. The details were new to them, but the idea that legislative leadership and Glenwood were intimately connected was not at all revelatory. Neither was Skelos' declaration on a wiretapped phone call that he was weakening Senate Democrats by awarding Sen. Jeff Klein and the Independent Democratic Conference token power.</p> <p>Despite his doubts about active efforts at change, McKee acknowledges that the Albany reform conversation has changed since the Silver and Skelos indictments. The LLC loophole is <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5684-left-out-of-ethics-deal-llc-loophole-faces-renewed-scrutiny" target="_blank">now a major issue</a>, with increasing pressure from good government groups, newspaper <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/21/opinion/new-yorks-big-money-loophole.html" target="_blank">editorial boards</a> and reform-minded <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/15/nyregion/bipartisan-group-sues-to-close-new-yorks-corporate-donation-loophole.html" target="_blank">lawmakers</a> - like state Senator Daniel Squadron, who, along with colleagues and other allies, just released <a href="http://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/articles/daniel-l-squadron/senator-squadron-assembmembers-kavanagh-simon-citizen-action" target="_blank">a report on the loophole</a>.</p> <p>"It is very gratifying that people are paying attention now," said McKee (pictured below). "They ought to be properly shocked. It's just breathtaking, but some of this corruption is illegal and some of it is still perfectly legal."</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/mike_mckee_arrested_albany.jpg" alt="mike mckee arrested albany" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" width="350" height="196" /></p> <p>In June 2013 McKee and Benjamin weren't starry-eyed, but there was a feeling they might spur action in Albany. That month, Met Council released <a href="https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/4752272/billionaire-subsidies-v2.pdf" target="_blank">its report</a> titled, "Tax Breaks For Millionaires: How the Campaign Finance System Failed New Yorkers and Helped Luxury Developers." That report examined how a small group of real estate interests used loopholes in the state's campaign finance law to funnel tremendous amounts of cash to politicians in exchange for support of the 421-a tax rebate program, which benefits developers of luxury apartment buildings.</p> <p>The hope of all hopes was that perhaps public outrage would move lawmakers to close the LLC loophole, "maybe level the playing field so we would have a shot against the real estate industry. At the time we knew that Leonard Litwin was a poster child for the LLC loophole," Benjamin told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Two years later Litwin's name would hang over Albany like a tropical depression, deals with Glenwood potential portals to the U.S. Attorney's office.</p> <p>The report made waves, gaining the attention of the editorial pages <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/21/opinion/new-yorks-big-money-loophole.html" target="_blank">of The New York Times</a> and New York Daily News, and garnering support of liberal activist groups across the state.</p> <p>Their hope for actual change was stoked when, in July of 2013, Cuomo empanelled The Moreland Commission to investigate public corruption. The commission held public hearings and appeared to be moving to a predetermined outcome. One day Benjamin was approached by commission staffers who wanted research information and addresses for real estate groups they planned to subpoena. "It really seemed like the Moreland staff took it seriously, but then the subpoenas got held back."</p> <p>The Governor's Office put the brakes on those subpoenas, which <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/23/nyregion/governor-andrew-cuomo-and-the-short-life-of-the-moreland-commission.html" target="_blank">may be</a> an ongoing topic of federal investigation itself.</p> <p>Benjamin's hopes were stoked again after U.S. Attorney Bharara took over the commission's files. "But there was no immediate action, so I thought 'OK, it was worth a try,'" Benjamin recalls.</p> <p>Now VP of community mobilization at Housing Works, Benjamin watched as the indictments rolled in - indictments that were spurred in part by the very issues he tried to highlight in 2013. It wasn't the change he expected. "I would never celebrate someone else's misfortune, but I am enormously proud of the work I did at the Council and I do feel some of that work did help clean up Albany."</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/jaron_benjamin.jpg" alt="jaron benjamin" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" width="350" height="263" /></p> <p>Benjamin (pictured above) says he sees indications that both new legislative leaders are more interested in listening to their members and willing to meet with groups that aren't the biggest donors. "It could be that they are both new, but it seems like they are both listening more and their doors are open," he said of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican.</p> <p>McKee isn't holding his breath for sweeping legislative reforms spurred by the Silver conviction and Skelos trial. "I wish I could say the crap that came out about Shelly and Skelos is enough to get the governor and legislature to do something real on election reform and ethics, but left to their own devices they are going to pass some Mickey-Mouse bill that tinkers around the edges," he said. McKee hopes public outrage will move the politicians to enact real reforms.</p> <p>Years of frustration appear to have led McKee to conclude that tenants have one real shot left to influence policy in Albany, and that is the 2016 elections.</p> <p>He told Gotham Gazette that he is dropping all of his lobbying commitments to focus on recruiting and promoting Democratic Senate candidates for 2016, despite disappointments he has had with Democrats in both the Assembly and Senate. He believes the presidential election year offers as ripe an opportunity as Democrats will ever get to seize the Senate, and after that it will be too late for the next rent-law renewal. "I consider next year do-or-die. If we don't do it now we won't do it two years later."</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/rent_protest_albany.jpg" alt="rent protest albany" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Tenants sit-in at the Albany capitol</p> <hr /> <p>"It's just surreal," said Jaron Benjamin a week after the conviction of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and on the day of closing arguments in the federal corruption case against former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, knowing that those cases may have been bolstered by work he did years ago in the fight to strengthen the state's rent laws.</p> <p>In the span of less than a year Benjamin went from issuing a report exposing the connections among the real estate industry, holes in New York's campaign finance laws, and major legislation to seeing his work used by the Moreland Commission, only to see Gov. Andrew Cuomo unceremoniously shutter the anti-corruption panel.</p> <p>Then came the 2015 indictments of Silver and Skelos that many expected would scare Albany into enacting serious reform. But no transformative action has come, leaving Benjamin and other advocates to wonder what kind of impact their work actually had.</p> <p>"There is still part of me that thinks surely the people charged with enforcing the laws must have known this type of activity was going on," said Benjamin referring to the SIlver and Skelos cases, especially in terms of the involvement of the real estate industry. "Seeing all of this play out has made me question what is pay-for-play and what is business as usual. It's all been blurred, and being involved in Moreland and the 421-a fight made me question what exactly is unethical and what's illegal."</p> <p>In 2013 Benjamin was looking for a way to get people's attention. Then director of The Metropolitan Council on Housing, he needed a way to get regular New Yorkers interested in the backroom dealing that he saw as having continually allowed the real estate industry power to weaken rent laws every time they were up for renewal.</p> <p>"We knew we had to start preparing then for the 2015 rent law renewal and I said, 'I want an issue that kind of encapsulates all the talking points, captures the outrage of big real estate's buying power in Albany, something that would rile people up,'" Benjamin told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p><a href="https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/4752272/billionaire-subsidies-v2.pdf" target="_blank">The report</a> The Met Council released on June 5, 2013, focused on the influence of real estate moguls, like the now infamous Leonard Litwin, and their ability to flood politicians' campaign coffers with cash, subverting campaign finance limits by using the also infamous LLC loophole.</p> <p>Three years later, looking back, some advocates feel that the report was a turning point for Albany. But things didn't change the way Benjamin and his allies might have expected.</p> <p>After the report drew the interest of Moreland Commission staff in their investigation of legislative corruption that was later picked up by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, both former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Majority Leader Dean Skelos were indicted on federal corruption charges brought by Bharara's office. The Met Council report and the federal charges exposed what many see as the undue influence of the real estate industry on New York State lawmakers and industry leaders' willingness to lavish lawmakers with cash legally and illegally to get what they want.</p> <p>And yet, with Silver convicted and the Skelos case before a jury, the state legislature and Gov. Cuomo have yet to act to change the system. Cuomo has been the biggest beneficiary of Glenwood Management's largesse, with his campaign accounts receiving over $1 million in donations over the years through many LLCs. Glenwood also <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/11/8583785/glenwood-holdings-gave-half-million-secretive-cuomo-backers" target="_blank">gave half a million dollars</a> to Cuomo's Committee to Save New York.</p> <p>In fact, even after Silver and Skelos were indicted and their relationships with Litwin's Glenwood Corp. revealed, Cuomo and new legislative leaders delivered a blow to tenant groups by enacting what many see as a real-estate-friendly renewal of the rent laws, deflecting pressure from advocates and Mayor Bill de Blasio.</p> <p>Michael McKee, treasurer of Tenants PAC, who has been involved in fighting for stronger rent laws in Albany for decades, said he hopes the convictions jolt Albany into action, but he is dubious that it will happen because the indictments weren't exactly shocking to him. "We knew Shelly had sold us out; he sold us out three times," McKee said of Silver, who was touted by many others as the protector of all things progressive in the state legislature. "We knew Skelos was owned by real estate lock, stock, and barrel. We didn't know the details, but it wasn't a surprise."</p> <p>Neither Benjamin nor McKee were surprised that Silver was receiving <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5561-leonard-litwins-political-donations-the-full-picture" target="_blank">payments from Glenwood Management</a>, or that members of Glenwood were helping Skelos' son land no-show jobs. The details were new to them, but the idea that legislative leadership and Glenwood were intimately connected was not at all revelatory. Neither was Skelos' declaration on a wiretapped phone call that he was weakening Senate Democrats by awarding Sen. Jeff Klein and the Independent Democratic Conference token power.</p> <p>Despite his doubts about active efforts at change, McKee acknowledges that the Albany reform conversation has changed since the Silver and Skelos indictments. The LLC loophole is <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5684-left-out-of-ethics-deal-llc-loophole-faces-renewed-scrutiny" target="_blank">now a major issue</a>, with increasing pressure from good government groups, newspaper <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/21/opinion/new-yorks-big-money-loophole.html" target="_blank">editorial boards</a> and reform-minded <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/15/nyregion/bipartisan-group-sues-to-close-new-yorks-corporate-donation-loophole.html" target="_blank">lawmakers</a> - like state Senator Daniel Squadron, who, along with colleagues and other allies, just released <a href="http://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/articles/daniel-l-squadron/senator-squadron-assembmembers-kavanagh-simon-citizen-action" target="_blank">a report on the loophole</a>.</p> <p>"It is very gratifying that people are paying attention now," said McKee (pictured below). "They ought to be properly shocked. It's just breathtaking, but some of this corruption is illegal and some of it is still perfectly legal."</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/mike_mckee_arrested_albany.jpg" alt="mike mckee arrested albany" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" width="350" height="196" /></p> <p>In June 2013 McKee and Benjamin weren't starry-eyed, but there was a feeling they might spur action in Albany. That month, Met Council released <a href="https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/4752272/billionaire-subsidies-v2.pdf" target="_blank">its report</a> titled, "Tax Breaks For Millionaires: How the Campaign Finance System Failed New Yorkers and Helped Luxury Developers." That report examined how a small group of real estate interests used loopholes in the state's campaign finance law to funnel tremendous amounts of cash to politicians in exchange for support of the 421-a tax rebate program, which benefits developers of luxury apartment buildings.</p> <p>The hope of all hopes was that perhaps public outrage would move lawmakers to close the LLC loophole, "maybe level the playing field so we would have a shot against the real estate industry. At the time we knew that Leonard Litwin was a poster child for the LLC loophole," Benjamin told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Two years later Litwin's name would hang over Albany like a tropical depression, deals with Glenwood potential portals to the U.S. Attorney's office.</p> <p>The report made waves, gaining the attention of the editorial pages <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/21/opinion/new-yorks-big-money-loophole.html" target="_blank">of The New York Times</a> and New York Daily News, and garnering support of liberal activist groups across the state.</p> <p>Their hope for actual change was stoked when, in July of 2013, Cuomo empanelled The Moreland Commission to investigate public corruption. The commission held public hearings and appeared to be moving to a predetermined outcome. One day Benjamin was approached by commission staffers who wanted research information and addresses for real estate groups they planned to subpoena. "It really seemed like the Moreland staff took it seriously, but then the subpoenas got held back."</p> <p>The Governor's Office put the brakes on those subpoenas, which <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/23/nyregion/governor-andrew-cuomo-and-the-short-life-of-the-moreland-commission.html" target="_blank">may be</a> an ongoing topic of federal investigation itself.</p> <p>Benjamin's hopes were stoked again after U.S. Attorney Bharara took over the commission's files. "But there was no immediate action, so I thought 'OK, it was worth a try,'" Benjamin recalls.</p> <p>Now VP of community mobilization at Housing Works, Benjamin watched as the indictments rolled in - indictments that were spurred in part by the very issues he tried to highlight in 2013. It wasn't the change he expected. "I would never celebrate someone else's misfortune, but I am enormously proud of the work I did at the Council and I do feel some of that work did help clean up Albany."</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/jaron_benjamin.jpg" alt="jaron benjamin" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" width="350" height="263" /></p> <p>Benjamin (pictured above) says he sees indications that both new legislative leaders are more interested in listening to their members and willing to meet with groups that aren't the biggest donors. "It could be that they are both new, but it seems like they are both listening more and their doors are open," he said of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican.</p> <p>McKee isn't holding his breath for sweeping legislative reforms spurred by the Silver conviction and Skelos trial. "I wish I could say the crap that came out about Shelly and Skelos is enough to get the governor and legislature to do something real on election reform and ethics, but left to their own devices they are going to pass some Mickey-Mouse bill that tinkers around the edges," he said. McKee hopes public outrage will move the politicians to enact real reforms.</p> <p>Years of frustration appear to have led McKee to conclude that tenants have one real shot left to influence policy in Albany, and that is the 2016 elections.</p> <p>He told Gotham Gazette that he is dropping all of his lobbying commitments to focus on recruiting and promoting Democratic Senate candidates for 2016, despite disappointments he has had with Democrats in both the Assembly and Senate. He believes the presidential election year offers as ripe an opportunity as Democrats will ever get to seize the Senate, and after that it will be too late for the next rent-law renewal. "I consider next year do-or-die. If we don't do it now we won't do it two years later."</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p> Did Bill De Blasio's Tirade Help Andrew Cuomo Get His Groove Back? 2015-09-13T05:00:00+00:00 2015-09-13T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5886:did-bill-de-blasios-tirade-help-andrew-cuomo-get-his-groove-back Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/21369805421_5d9c67dec4_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo labor day parade" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo at the Labor Day parade (photo: The Governor's Office <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/page2" target="_blank">via flickr</a>)</span></p> <hr /> <p>On Thursday Governor Andrew Cuomo, joined by Vice President Joe Biden, held a rally to announce a campaign to make New York the first state in the nation with a $15-per-hour minimum wage.</p> <p>"So Mr. Vice President, today I announce that I will propose to the New York state legislature not just $15 for fast-food workers, because a fast-food worker deserves $15 an hour, construction workers deserve $15 an hour, and home healthcare aides deserve $15 an hour, and taxi-cab drivers deserve $15 an hour, and every working man and woman in the State of New York deserves $15 an hour as a minimum wage - and we are not going to stop until we get it done!" Cuomo said, his voice rising.</p> <p>It was a triumphant moment for the governor, and for unions and progressive groups who have worked for the last year to get Cuomo on board with a $15 hourly minimum wage. It is being called a major about-face by many watchers, including some who note that Cuomo now supports a policy his rival, Mayor Bill de Blasio, has been pushing for quite some time and that Cuomo had previously dismissed.</p> <p>The move, along with other recent Cuomo plays, is in striking contrast to the Cuomo of last spring, who some confidants and legislators describe as aimless, distracted, and maybe a little bit bored.</p> <p>Now, though, any such perception has dissipated, perhaps in large part thanks to de Blasio's exasperated June tirade against the governor, which came at the end of this year's legislative session. Harsh, damning words from the mayor may have been the challenge Cuomo needed in order to reinvigorate.</p> <p>De Blasio pulled no punches, boldly saying Cuomo had made promises he didn't intend to keep, is vindictive, and backed policies that were harmful to New York City. "And what I believe here is the governor worked with the Senate in some cases to inhibit the work of the Assembly, to inhibit the agenda that New York City put forward," de Blasio told NY1 anchor Errol Louis <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2015/06/30/de-blasio-slams-cuomo-for--lack-of-leadership-.html" target="_blank">in a June interview</a>, before sitting down with City Hall reporters to reiterate his message.</p> <p>Cuomo had used de Blasio as a punching bag for months before de Blasio's explosion, even apparently giving publications blind quotes attacking the mayor. But with the feud spilling out into the open, observers say Cuomo was freed in a way, even given a gift--a political opponent to war with in the open.</p> <p>The mayor's declaration of war was something pundits and sources close to the Cuomo administration say the governor desperately needed. "The governor is at his best when he has someone to duel in the political arena," one Albany insider told Gotham Gazette. "It is also when he is apt to make mistakes, but he comes alive when he is going for the kill."</p> <p>For some Democrats, de Blasio's tirade was a breath of fresh air - someone, they said, had finally called out the bully. Others, including members of the Cuomo administration saw it much differently. They heard it as the younger brother finally crying "Uncle!" because he had no other means of retaliation.</p> <p>Sources within the Cuomo administration say they saw de Blasio's "tantrum" as an admission that he had failed at moving his agenda and was giving up any hope of future success in Albany. That appears to have left an opening for Cuomo to reassert himself on progressive issues - like minimum wage - that de Blasio has staked out.</p> <p>Not very long ago, Cuomo was advocating a plan that would eventually raise the minimum wage to $11.50 in New York City and $10.50 elsewhere in the state. He appeared to scoff at the Assembly's proposal that would have raised the minimum wage across the state to $15 by the end of 2018. "God bless them — shoot for the stars," Cuomo said, dismissively, in March at a stop in Rochester. The governor has repeatedly cited the Republican-controlled state Senate as a place where such progressive proposals go to die.</p> <p>If Cuomo had made a major announcement on a $15 minimum wage a year ago, it would have appeared as though he had been dragged to the position kicking and screaming by The Working Families Party and de Blasio, who <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5085-wfp-cuomo-deal-transactional-politics-full-display" target="_blank">brokered a deal</a> between the two to prevent a WFP-backed primary challenge to Cuomo in the 2014 gubernatorial race.</p> <p>At the time, Cuomo appeared to agree to back the mayor's proposal to allow the city to raise its minimum wage up to 30 percent higher than the state's (as well as other WFP-backed policies and a Democratic takeover of the state Senate). But this year Cuomo presented his own plan, which did not include giving the city a say over its wage, and was still short of what activists on the left were calling for.</p> <p>But now, Cuomo has swooped in to champion the $15 wage, albeit on an extended phase-in timeline that would implement $15 per hour in New York City at the end of 2018 and state-wide in the middle of 2021.</p> <p>Cuomo is notorious for refusing to move on proposals that he won't receive absolute credit for enacting into law. With de Blasio all but slain in Albany after a rough 2015 legislative session, Cuomo was freed to move on minimum wage and other progressive initiatives, knowing he could charge in and pick up the baton that he had knocked out of de Blasio's hands.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Cuomo enjoys the benefits of being de Blasio's enemy, which boosts his standing with conservatives and moderates (and even some liberals) across the state. Cuomo's favorability ratings dropped to all-time lows this summer, but de Blasio's poll numbers are even lower.</p> <p>"I'm not buying de Blasio gave him an overarching focus, because clearly the governor used the mayor for a punching bag from the very beginning of the administration, whether it be on the millionaire's tax or charter schools," said Doug Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College. "It certainly did exacerbate the relationship and gave Cuomo the opportunity to strike out at a perceived tormentor."</p> <p>Cuomo and de Blasio have appeared to go out of their way to avoid each other at public events, though they did speak in person at a September 11th commemoration on Friday. Cuomo has either not invited the mayor to several, like his recent solidarity mission to Puerto Rico, or de Blasio has not appeared interested in attending, like for the governor's announcement of a new LaGuardia Airport.</p> <p>Cuomo has appeared to jab at de Blasio when reporters ask why the two are not meeting at events, which have included several parades. He's also made efforts to strengthen relationships with sometime de Blasio antagonists like Comptroller Scott Stringer and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., and de Blasio ally City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.</p> <p>Last Thursday, Cuomo was honored as "Man of the Year" by the city's largest police union, which is headed by de Blasio nemesis Patrick Lynch. "You deserve to be paid for the job you do," Cuomo told the officers, hinting at their dispute with the city over pay raises. Someone in the back of the room shouted back: "Tell de Blasio!"</p> <p>Cuomo's feud with de Blasio appears to be helping insulate him from backlash he has faced from police unions for signing an executive order giving the Attorney General the ability to act as special prosecutor in cases where police kill unarmed civilians.</p> <p>"De Blasio has served as a foil for the governor with some groups," said Muzzio. "This conflict certainly enhances his influence with certain interests, especially with the Republican-controlled Senate."</p> <p>Cuomo's moves on progressive issues may risk some of his goodwill with Republicans, but nevertheless, the governor has shown a renewed sense of urgency. It is energy that Cuomo has also been putting into efforts not easily labeled as progressive, such as Upstate economic development.</p> <p>Pundits say they feel the Cuomo of the past few months is a stark contrast to the Cuomo of this legislative session, who shied away from public and media appearances for weeks at a time.</p> <p>It's fairly easy to see why Cuomo may have been off his game.</p> <p>His reelection bid was complicated by rebellious progressives and unions who felt Cuomo had delivered more on conservative causes than on Democratic ones. The governor was also reeling from the backlash he faced from shuttering the Moreland Commission. His campaign strategy to ignore his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, might have been more effective if Fordham professor Zephyr Teachout hadn't joined the Democratic primary. Her campaign quickly made Cuomo appear detached from voters, and at times exposed his tendencies as a bully.</p> <p>Cuomo moved from a closer-than-expected election to face the death of his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, and the federal indictments of then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and then-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. He appeared ready to end the legislative session early after securing a number of education reforms that were fought tooth-and-nail by teachers unions (and opposed by de Blasio). But the pressure mounted on the governor to deliver deals on rent regulations, mayoral control of New York City schools, and other big-ticket items, all while the legislature remained in turmoil thanks to their leadership crises.</p> <p>Virtually all of the deals reached were less than desired as far as de Blasio was concerned, with the one-year extension of mayoral control of schools an especially bitter pill - and perhaps the final nudge over the edge.</p> <p>With session over and his legislative opponents out of town, Cuomo leaped into action, issuing an executive order to create a special prosecutor for police killings. This not only ingratiated Cuomo to many on his left, but also brought one of his main rivals - and a natural de Blasio ally - AG Eric Schneiderman, closer to Cuomo's hip.</p> <p>A flurry of executive activity was capped off by the finding of his fast food wage board that workers in the industry should be paid a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Cuomo was lauded by union leaders and progressive elected officials; his achievements made for evidence in the effort to disprove de Blasio's accusations that the governor was hamstringing the progressive agenda.</p> <p>And, they allowed the governor to demonstrate one of his favorite points: that he gets things done regardless of political ideology.</p> <p>On Thursday, de Blasio's office quickly shot out a statement praising Cuomo's decision to advocate a $15 minimum wage but laced with language highlighting that Cuomo is late to the party the mayor's been leading.</p> <p>"Nothing would do more to lift New Yorkers out of poverty and move our economy forward than raising the wage...We welcome the Governor's support for a $15 minimum wage – and New York City stands ready to help make it a reality," de Blasio's statement reads. "We have been doing all we can here in the city: affordable housing, Pre-K for All, increasing and expanding the living wage, and much more. But combating income inequality requires bold action on all levels of government. I urge Albany to act quickly."</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/21369805421_5d9c67dec4_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo labor day parade" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo at the Labor Day parade (photo: The Governor's Office <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/page2" target="_blank">via flickr</a>)</span></p> <hr /> <p>On Thursday Governor Andrew Cuomo, joined by Vice President Joe Biden, held a rally to announce a campaign to make New York the first state in the nation with a $15-per-hour minimum wage.</p> <p>"So Mr. Vice President, today I announce that I will propose to the New York state legislature not just $15 for fast-food workers, because a fast-food worker deserves $15 an hour, construction workers deserve $15 an hour, and home healthcare aides deserve $15 an hour, and taxi-cab drivers deserve $15 an hour, and every working man and woman in the State of New York deserves $15 an hour as a minimum wage - and we are not going to stop until we get it done!" Cuomo said, his voice rising.</p> <p>It was a triumphant moment for the governor, and for unions and progressive groups who have worked for the last year to get Cuomo on board with a $15 hourly minimum wage. It is being called a major about-face by many watchers, including some who note that Cuomo now supports a policy his rival, Mayor Bill de Blasio, has been pushing for quite some time and that Cuomo had previously dismissed.</p> <p>The move, along with other recent Cuomo plays, is in striking contrast to the Cuomo of last spring, who some confidants and legislators describe as aimless, distracted, and maybe a little bit bored.</p> <p>Now, though, any such perception has dissipated, perhaps in large part thanks to de Blasio's exasperated June tirade against the governor, which came at the end of this year's legislative session. Harsh, damning words from the mayor may have been the challenge Cuomo needed in order to reinvigorate.</p> <p>De Blasio pulled no punches, boldly saying Cuomo had made promises he didn't intend to keep, is vindictive, and backed policies that were harmful to New York City. "And what I believe here is the governor worked with the Senate in some cases to inhibit the work of the Assembly, to inhibit the agenda that New York City put forward," de Blasio told NY1 anchor Errol Louis <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2015/06/30/de-blasio-slams-cuomo-for--lack-of-leadership-.html" target="_blank">in a June interview</a>, before sitting down with City Hall reporters to reiterate his message.</p> <p>Cuomo had used de Blasio as a punching bag for months before de Blasio's explosion, even apparently giving publications blind quotes attacking the mayor. But with the feud spilling out into the open, observers say Cuomo was freed in a way, even given a gift--a political opponent to war with in the open.</p> <p>The mayor's declaration of war was something pundits and sources close to the Cuomo administration say the governor desperately needed. "The governor is at his best when he has someone to duel in the political arena," one Albany insider told Gotham Gazette. "It is also when he is apt to make mistakes, but he comes alive when he is going for the kill."</p> <p>For some Democrats, de Blasio's tirade was a breath of fresh air - someone, they said, had finally called out the bully. Others, including members of the Cuomo administration saw it much differently. They heard it as the younger brother finally crying "Uncle!" because he had no other means of retaliation.</p> <p>Sources within the Cuomo administration say they saw de Blasio's "tantrum" as an admission that he had failed at moving his agenda and was giving up any hope of future success in Albany. That appears to have left an opening for Cuomo to reassert himself on progressive issues - like minimum wage - that de Blasio has staked out.</p> <p>Not very long ago, Cuomo was advocating a plan that would eventually raise the minimum wage to $11.50 in New York City and $10.50 elsewhere in the state. He appeared to scoff at the Assembly's proposal that would have raised the minimum wage across the state to $15 by the end of 2018. "God bless them — shoot for the stars," Cuomo said, dismissively, in March at a stop in Rochester. The governor has repeatedly cited the Republican-controlled state Senate as a place where such progressive proposals go to die.</p> <p>If Cuomo had made a major announcement on a $15 minimum wage a year ago, it would have appeared as though he had been dragged to the position kicking and screaming by The Working Families Party and de Blasio, who <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5085-wfp-cuomo-deal-transactional-politics-full-display" target="_blank">brokered a deal</a> between the two to prevent a WFP-backed primary challenge to Cuomo in the 2014 gubernatorial race.</p> <p>At the time, Cuomo appeared to agree to back the mayor's proposal to allow the city to raise its minimum wage up to 30 percent higher than the state's (as well as other WFP-backed policies and a Democratic takeover of the state Senate). But this year Cuomo presented his own plan, which did not include giving the city a say over its wage, and was still short of what activists on the left were calling for.</p> <p>But now, Cuomo has swooped in to champion the $15 wage, albeit on an extended phase-in timeline that would implement $15 per hour in New York City at the end of 2018 and state-wide in the middle of 2021.</p> <p>Cuomo is notorious for refusing to move on proposals that he won't receive absolute credit for enacting into law. With de Blasio all but slain in Albany after a rough 2015 legislative session, Cuomo was freed to move on minimum wage and other progressive initiatives, knowing he could charge in and pick up the baton that he had knocked out of de Blasio's hands.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Cuomo enjoys the benefits of being de Blasio's enemy, which boosts his standing with conservatives and moderates (and even some liberals) across the state. Cuomo's favorability ratings dropped to all-time lows this summer, but de Blasio's poll numbers are even lower.</p> <p>"I'm not buying de Blasio gave him an overarching focus, because clearly the governor used the mayor for a punching bag from the very beginning of the administration, whether it be on the millionaire's tax or charter schools," said Doug Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College. "It certainly did exacerbate the relationship and gave Cuomo the opportunity to strike out at a perceived tormentor."</p> <p>Cuomo and de Blasio have appeared to go out of their way to avoid each other at public events, though they did speak in person at a September 11th commemoration on Friday. Cuomo has either not invited the mayor to several, like his recent solidarity mission to Puerto Rico, or de Blasio has not appeared interested in attending, like for the governor's announcement of a new LaGuardia Airport.</p> <p>Cuomo has appeared to jab at de Blasio when reporters ask why the two are not meeting at events, which have included several parades. He's also made efforts to strengthen relationships with sometime de Blasio antagonists like Comptroller Scott Stringer and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., and de Blasio ally City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.</p> <p>Last Thursday, Cuomo was honored as "Man of the Year" by the city's largest police union, which is headed by de Blasio nemesis Patrick Lynch. "You deserve to be paid for the job you do," Cuomo told the officers, hinting at their dispute with the city over pay raises. Someone in the back of the room shouted back: "Tell de Blasio!"</p> <p>Cuomo's feud with de Blasio appears to be helping insulate him from backlash he has faced from police unions for signing an executive order giving the Attorney General the ability to act as special prosecutor in cases where police kill unarmed civilians.</p> <p>"De Blasio has served as a foil for the governor with some groups," said Muzzio. "This conflict certainly enhances his influence with certain interests, especially with the Republican-controlled Senate."</p> <p>Cuomo's moves on progressive issues may risk some of his goodwill with Republicans, but nevertheless, the governor has shown a renewed sense of urgency. It is energy that Cuomo has also been putting into efforts not easily labeled as progressive, such as Upstate economic development.</p> <p>Pundits say they feel the Cuomo of the past few months is a stark contrast to the Cuomo of this legislative session, who shied away from public and media appearances for weeks at a time.</p> <p>It's fairly easy to see why Cuomo may have been off his game.</p> <p>His reelection bid was complicated by rebellious progressives and unions who felt Cuomo had delivered more on conservative causes than on Democratic ones. The governor was also reeling from the backlash he faced from shuttering the Moreland Commission. His campaign strategy to ignore his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, might have been more effective if Fordham professor Zephyr Teachout hadn't joined the Democratic primary. Her campaign quickly made Cuomo appear detached from voters, and at times exposed his tendencies as a bully.</p> <p>Cuomo moved from a closer-than-expected election to face the death of his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, and the federal indictments of then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and then-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. He appeared ready to end the legislative session early after securing a number of education reforms that were fought tooth-and-nail by teachers unions (and opposed by de Blasio). But the pressure mounted on the governor to deliver deals on rent regulations, mayoral control of New York City schools, and other big-ticket items, all while the legislature remained in turmoil thanks to their leadership crises.</p> <p>Virtually all of the deals reached were less than desired as far as de Blasio was concerned, with the one-year extension of mayoral control of schools an especially bitter pill - and perhaps the final nudge over the edge.</p> <p>With session over and his legislative opponents out of town, Cuomo leaped into action, issuing an executive order to create a special prosecutor for police killings. This not only ingratiated Cuomo to many on his left, but also brought one of his main rivals - and a natural de Blasio ally - AG Eric Schneiderman, closer to Cuomo's hip.</p> <p>A flurry of executive activity was capped off by the finding of his fast food wage board that workers in the industry should be paid a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Cuomo was lauded by union leaders and progressive elected officials; his achievements made for evidence in the effort to disprove de Blasio's accusations that the governor was hamstringing the progressive agenda.</p> <p>And, they allowed the governor to demonstrate one of his favorite points: that he gets things done regardless of political ideology.</p> <p>On Thursday, de Blasio's office quickly shot out a statement praising Cuomo's decision to advocate a $15 minimum wage but laced with language highlighting that Cuomo is late to the party the mayor's been leading.</p> <p>"Nothing would do more to lift New Yorkers out of poverty and move our economy forward than raising the wage...We welcome the Governor's support for a $15 minimum wage – and New York City stands ready to help make it a reality," de Blasio's statement reads. "We have been doing all we can here in the city: affordable housing, Pre-K for All, increasing and expanding the living wage, and much more. But combating income inequality requires bold action on all levels of government. I urge Albany to act quickly."</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p> Cuomo Waves Left with Executive Actions, Is Met with Shrugs 2015-07-23T03:37:14+00:00 2015-07-23T03:37:14+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5822:cuomo-waves-left-with-executive-actions-is-met-with-shrugs Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/19304123903_15ea392c84_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo wage rally " height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Cuomo at Wednesday's rally (<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/19304123903/in/album-72157656158267546/" target="_blank">photo</a>: Governor's Office via flickr)</span></p> <hr /> <p>On Wednesday, the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo streamed live video of the wage board he convened as its members recommended a multi-year plan to phase in a $15 per hour minimum wage for fast food workers across the state. As the meeting ended the same stream cut to a jubilant rally in New York City. In stark contrast to previous Cuomo administration efforts there was no pretense that the wage board was somehow separate from the governor.</p> <p>The Cuomo administration attempted to propagate the appearance of independence for previous executive entities such as the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, two tax commissions, and even the Department of Environmental Conservation when it made its decision to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the state. But this time such a separation wasn't useful to the governor.</p> <p>With his poll numbers at an all-time-low, members of his own party in open revolt and facing an ongoing feud with Mayor Bill de Blasio, Cuomo appears to be looking to bolster his standing among Democrats across the state by taking executive action on issues he failed to deliver on during the legislative session. Many prominent Democratic electeds and activists <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5817-black-hispanic-a-asian-caucus-faces-growing-pains-tense-relationship-with-cuomo" target="_blank">have questioned</a> whether Cuomo actually expended any political capital during the legislative session to move progressive issues such as criminal justice reform, the DREAM Act, or a minimum wage increase.</p> <p>"I don't believe the Assembly had a real working partner in the governor or the Senate in terms of getting things done for the people of this city and, in many cases, the people of this state," Mayor Bill de Blasio <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2015/06/30/de-blasio-slams-cuomo-for--lack-of-leadership-.html" target="_blank">told NY1</a> late last month.</p> <p>Trust among Democrats was further eroded when Senate Republicans released a memorandum of understanding with Cuomo's office that <a href="http://polhudson.lohudblogs.com/2015/07/21/heastie-safe-act-deal-different-than-cuomos-other-actions/" target="_blank">appeared</a> to state that the governor agreed not to phase in a part of the SAFE Act until Republicans agree to it. Other than that MOU, Cuomo's post-session agenda has been dedicated to taking executive action on issues favored by the left and on which he did not deliver through legislation.</p> <p>Cuomo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5797-cuomos-executive-action-on-raise-the-age-prompts-questions" target="_blank">has promised</a> to use executive action to remove 16- and 17-year-olds from the state's prison system after failing to enact a sweeping policy to prevent those teens from being tried as adults, much less locked up with them. Failing to reach a deal with the legislature on other criminal justice reforms in the wake of death of Eric Garner, Cuomo signed an executive order earlier this month giving Attorney General Eric Schneiderman the authority to investigate police killings of unarmed individuals, an attempt to reduce the perception that local district attorneys are biased toward the police.</p> <p>Cuomo was celebrated by Democrats when signing the special prosecutor executive order, and he was applauded at Wednesday's minimum wage rally. City Comptroller Scott Stringer heaped praise on the governor as a man of action when he spoke to those gathered. But, many of Cuomo's fellow Democratic electeds and progressive advocates were not so committed to attaching the governor's name to the wage board decision. Three of the state's most powerful Democratic electeds - Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie - all released statements praising the decision, but without any mention of the governor.</p> <p>Celebratory statements from New York Communities for Change and the Working Families Party also failed to mention the governor by name.</p> <p>"I think that's appropriate," said former Cuomo opponent Zephyr Teachout of the lack of support from other Democratic electeds. Teachout is the Fordham Law professor who embarrassed Cuomo with a stronger-than-expected showing during last year's Democratic primary. Teachout tapped into displeasure with the governor from his left.</p> <p>Cuomo defended his use of executive actions during a Wednesday <a href="http://www.wcny.org/cpr072215/" target="_blank">appearance</a> on The Capitol Pressroom radio program, and chose to eliminate any perception that he was separate from the wage board.</p> <p>"I am the executive, I have many powers beyond those which the Legislature passes, right?" Cuomo told host Susan Arbetter rhetorically. "The executive, whether it's the president, the mayor, or the governor, you run the government, and you have a whole host of powers that are apart and aside from the Legislature. I often say to people [that] dealing with the Legislature and getting a budget passed, and then new laws, that's a part of my job. But that's only a part. And by the way, I don't even think that's the majority of my job. I run the government."</p> <p>Teachout doesn't think Cuomo's problem lies exclusively with Democrats. "The governor has broad temperamental issues," Teachout told Gotham Gazette. "It's not like Cuomo has a problem with [only] the left. You are going to have a problem finding any group of voters who believe the governor is actually committed to fighting for them."</p> <p>Cuomo has branded himself as a doer, as an executive who is about making sure the government is running efficiently and effectively, and who can get deals made by working with members of both parties.</p> <p>Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group said that Cuomo's use of executive action is fairly typical for governors who have served more than one term. "In terms of putting it into context, governors have historically faced challenges in their second terms. Second terms tend to be harder. [Republican Governor George] Pataki had serious trouble in his second term. It wasn't just with Democrats, but with his own party challenging him."</p> <p>Horner said that Cuomo is also dealing with "eroded approval ratings and unprecedented indictments" of state legislative leaders that have made getting what he wants from the Legislature that more difficult. And Horner said Cuomo is particularly notorious for "liking to put points on the board."</p> <p>Many Democrats are happy Cuomo has used his executive powers on the issues he has but feel he acted out of political expediency so that he didn't have to place his Senate Republican allies in a difficult position during the legislative session. These Democrats are therefore reluctant to give him credit.</p> <p>On the other hand, many business groups and Republican electeds are more than happy to connect Cuomo to his left-leaning executive actions, because they are opposed to them. "From day one Governor Cuomo's wage board has sought to silence the business community and force through an unfair and discriminatory increase on a single sector of one industry," said Melissa Fleischut, President and CEO of the NYS Restaurant Association, in a statement. Fleischut went on to accuse Cuomo of "stacking the board" with supporters of a wage increase, and allowing business owners "to get booed and heckled at public hearings."</p> <p>Other business groups have attacked Cuomo for bypassing the Legislature on the wage issue, saying he has too much executive power. It may be surprising, but Teachout agrees to some extent. "The governor of New York has too much executive power and the 'three men in a room' have too much power," Teachout told Gotham Gazette. "Having said that, I'm happy he's using it for positive ends. But you know with this governor that if he has to move, he is always going to act in a way that maximizes his own power."</p> <p>Cuomo is likely to face a lawsuit from the restaurant industry over the wage board's recommendations and subsequent adoption by the Department of Labor.</p> <p>Regardless of his executive actions, pundits say Cuomo has to do something about his sinking poll numbers in New York City, which has been a reliable base for Cuomo in past elections. A June 15 Siena College poll found Cuomo's favorability rating drop to 39 percent, with his numbers dipping among city-based voters.</p> <p>Horner said that executive actions are simply part of Cuomo's efforts to enact his agenda and that part of his agenda has to be "keeping the coalition together."</p> <p>Teachout thinks Cuomo's executive actions indicate that he knows he faces an increasingly hostile electorate. "He is losing that default New York City vote that he could count on last time, and that's a big, big deal. When all you have left is the Buffalo base, that's a real problem. I don't think the wage board does much to help that."</p> <p>Teachout - who has not ruled out challenging Cuomo again in 2018 (assuming he seeks a third term) - said that she believes voters have developed a view of Cuomo similar to the one that de Blasio expressed: a transactional politician, cynical, power-obsessed, and untrustworthy; and not much is going to change that.</p> <p>A key question is how much workers, activists, and elected officials associate Cuomo with the action he is taking. Will the special prosecutor move endear Cuomo in communities distrustful of the police and district attorney offices? Will his move on the minimum wage earn him the loyalty of those low-wage and union workers? Are the progressive activists who have been burned by Cuomo willing to live with a governor who they don't feel they can trust but sometimes delivers for their causes?</p> <p>"I compare this moment to the fracking moment," said Teachout. "I think the administration thought the fracking ban would have an equal impact to the marriage equality moment--that it would be this inspirational moment for people to rally around the governor. But I think most people saw it the same way I did: 'Great! He banned fracking.' But with no change in how they see him."</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/2014/03/19304123903_15ea392c84_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo wage rally " height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Cuomo at Wednesday's rally (<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/19304123903/in/album-72157656158267546/" target="_blank">photo</a>: Governor's Office via flickr)</span></p> <hr /> <p>On Wednesday, the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo streamed live video of the wage board he convened as its members recommended a multi-year plan to phase in a $15 per hour minimum wage for fast food workers across the state. As the meeting ended the same stream cut to a jubilant rally in New York City. In stark contrast to previous Cuomo administration efforts there was no pretense that the wage board was somehow separate from the governor.</p> <p>The Cuomo administration attempted to propagate the appearance of independence for previous executive entities such as the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, two tax commissions, and even the Department of Environmental Conservation when it made its decision to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the state. But this time such a separation wasn't useful to the governor.</p> <p>With his poll numbers at an all-time-low, members of his own party in open revolt and facing an ongoing feud with Mayor Bill de Blasio, Cuomo appears to be looking to bolster his standing among Democrats across the state by taking executive action on issues he failed to deliver on during the legislative session. Many prominent Democratic electeds and activists <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5817-black-hispanic-a-asian-caucus-faces-growing-pains-tense-relationship-with-cuomo" target="_blank">have questioned</a> whether Cuomo actually expended any political capital during the legislative session to move progressive issues such as criminal justice reform, the DREAM Act, or a minimum wage increase.</p> <p>"I don't believe the Assembly had a real working partner in the governor or the Senate in terms of getting things done for the people of this city and, in many cases, the people of this state," Mayor Bill de Blasio <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2015/06/30/de-blasio-slams-cuomo-for--lack-of-leadership-.html" target="_blank">told NY1</a> late last month.</p> <p>Trust among Democrats was further eroded when Senate Republicans released a memorandum of understanding with Cuomo's office that <a href="http://polhudson.lohudblogs.com/2015/07/21/heastie-safe-act-deal-different-than-cuomos-other-actions/" target="_blank">appeared</a> to state that the governor agreed not to phase in a part of the SAFE Act until Republicans agree to it. Other than that MOU, Cuomo's post-session agenda has been dedicated to taking executive action on issues favored by the left and on which he did not deliver through legislation.</p> <p>Cuomo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5797-cuomos-executive-action-on-raise-the-age-prompts-questions" target="_blank">has promised</a> to use executive action to remove 16- and 17-year-olds from the state's prison system after failing to enact a sweeping policy to prevent those teens from being tried as adults, much less locked up with them. Failing to reach a deal with the legislature on other criminal justice reforms in the wake of death of Eric Garner, Cuomo signed an executive order earlier this month giving Attorney General Eric Schneiderman the authority to investigate police killings of unarmed individuals, an attempt to reduce the perception that local district attorneys are biased toward the police.</p> <p>Cuomo was celebrated by Democrats when signing the special prosecutor executive order, and he was applauded at Wednesday's minimum wage rally. City Comptroller Scott Stringer heaped praise on the governor as a man of action when he spoke to those gathered. But, many of Cuomo's fellow Democratic electeds and progressive advocates were not so committed to attaching the governor's name to the wage board decision. Three of the state's most powerful Democratic electeds - Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie - all released statements praising the decision, but without any mention of the governor.</p> <p>Celebratory statements from New York Communities for Change and the Working Families Party also failed to mention the governor by name.</p> <p>"I think that's appropriate," said former Cuomo opponent Zephyr Teachout of the lack of support from other Democratic electeds. Teachout is the Fordham Law professor who embarrassed Cuomo with a stronger-than-expected showing during last year's Democratic primary. Teachout tapped into displeasure with the governor from his left.</p> <p>Cuomo defended his use of executive actions during a Wednesday <a href="http://www.wcny.org/cpr072215/" target="_blank">appearance</a> on The Capitol Pressroom radio program, and chose to eliminate any perception that he was separate from the wage board.</p> <p>"I am the executive, I have many powers beyond those which the Legislature passes, right?" Cuomo told host Susan Arbetter rhetorically. "The executive, whether it's the president, the mayor, or the governor, you run the government, and you have a whole host of powers that are apart and aside from the Legislature. I often say to people [that] dealing with the Legislature and getting a budget passed, and then new laws, that's a part of my job. But that's only a part. And by the way, I don't even think that's the majority of my job. I run the government."</p> <p>Teachout doesn't think Cuomo's problem lies exclusively with Democrats. "The governor has broad temperamental issues," Teachout told Gotham Gazette. "It's not like Cuomo has a problem with [only] the left. You are going to have a problem finding any group of voters who believe the governor is actually committed to fighting for them."</p> <p>Cuomo has branded himself as a doer, as an executive who is about making sure the government is running efficiently and effectively, and who can get deals made by working with members of both parties.</p> <p>Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group said that Cuomo's use of executive action is fairly typical for governors who have served more than one term. "In terms of putting it into context, governors have historically faced challenges in their second terms. Second terms tend to be harder. [Republican Governor George] Pataki had serious trouble in his second term. It wasn't just with Democrats, but with his own party challenging him."</p> <p>Horner said that Cuomo is also dealing with "eroded approval ratings and unprecedented indictments" of state legislative leaders that have made getting what he wants from the Legislature that more difficult. And Horner said Cuomo is particularly notorious for "liking to put points on the board."</p> <p>Many Democrats are happy Cuomo has used his executive powers on the issues he has but feel he acted out of political expediency so that he didn't have to place his Senate Republican allies in a difficult position during the legislative session. These Democrats are therefore reluctant to give him credit.</p> <p>On the other hand, many business groups and Republican electeds are more than happy to connect Cuomo to his left-leaning executive actions, because they are opposed to them. "From day one Governor Cuomo's wage board has sought to silence the business community and force through an unfair and discriminatory increase on a single sector of one industry," said Melissa Fleischut, President and CEO of the NYS Restaurant Association, in a statement. Fleischut went on to accuse Cuomo of "stacking the board" with supporters of a wage increase, and allowing business owners "to get booed and heckled at public hearings."</p> <p>Other business groups have attacked Cuomo for bypassing the Legislature on the wage issue, saying he has too much executive power. It may be surprising, but Teachout agrees to some extent. "The governor of New York has too much executive power and the 'three men in a room' have too much power," Teachout told Gotham Gazette. "Having said that, I'm happy he's using it for positive ends. But you know with this governor that if he has to move, he is always going to act in a way that maximizes his own power."</p> <p>Cuomo is likely to face a lawsuit from the restaurant industry over the wage board's recommendations and subsequent adoption by the Department of Labor.</p> <p>Regardless of his executive actions, pundits say Cuomo has to do something about his sinking poll numbers in New York City, which has been a reliable base for Cuomo in past elections. A June 15 Siena College poll found Cuomo's favorability rating drop to 39 percent, with his numbers dipping among city-based voters.</p> <p>Horner said that executive actions are simply part of Cuomo's efforts to enact his agenda and that part of his agenda has to be "keeping the coalition together."</p> <p>Teachout thinks Cuomo's executive actions indicate that he knows he faces an increasingly hostile electorate. "He is losing that default New York City vote that he could count on last time, and that's a big, big deal. When all you have left is the Buffalo base, that's a real problem. I don't think the wage board does much to help that."</p> <p>Teachout - who has not ruled out challenging Cuomo again in 2018 (assuming he seeks a third term) - said that she believes voters have developed a view of Cuomo similar to the one that de Blasio expressed: a transactional politician, cynical, power-obsessed, and untrustworthy; and not much is going to change that.</p> <p>A key question is how much workers, activists, and elected officials associate Cuomo with the action he is taking. Will the special prosecutor move endear Cuomo in communities distrustful of the police and district attorney offices? Will his move on the minimum wage earn him the loyalty of those low-wage and union workers? Are the progressive activists who have been burned by Cuomo willing to live with a governor who they don't feel they can trust but sometimes delivers for their causes?</p> <p>"I compare this moment to the fracking moment," said Teachout. "I think the administration thought the fracking ban would have an equal impact to the marriage equality moment--that it would be this inspirational moment for people to rally around the governor. But I think most people saw it the same way I did: 'Great! He banned fracking.' But with no change in how they see him."</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p> The Week That Was in New York Politics, June 22-26 2015-06-26T16:01:46+00:00 2015-06-26T16:01:46+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5790:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-june-22-26 Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/week_in_review_bus_readers.jpg" alt="week in review bus readers" height="409" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;"><a href="http://blog.mcny.org/2012/04/24/a-ride-on-the-subway-in-1946-with-stanley-kubrick/" target="_blank">photo</a>: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York</span></p> <hr /> <p>Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday June 26</p> <p><strong>PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: </strong>Gov. Cuomo shakes hands with Sen. Flanagan at their Thursday 'big ugly' announcement (top; <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/19131688556/in/photostream/" target="_blank">via</a> The Governor's Office on flickr); Mayor de Blasio hugs CM Ferreras-Copeland at their Monday budget announcement (middle, via William Alatriste); de Blasio officiates three marriages at City Hall on Friday (bottom, via William Alatriste)</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/19131688556_25feda1808_z.jpg" alt="Heastie Cuomo Flanagan" height="301" width="450" /><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/IMG_2881.JPG" alt="de Blasio ferreras" height="301" width="450" /></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/marriage_equlity_city_hall.jpg" alt="marriage equlity city hall" height="300" width="450" /></p> <p><strong>TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:</strong></p> <p><strong>1. Albany End-of-Session Policy:</strong> The&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5785-cuomo-legislative-leaders-announce-end-of-session-pact" target="_blank">framework</a> for the end of 2015-2016 legislative session deal was announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Tuesday afternoon; details were negotiated, and the two legislative houses voted the deal through on&nbsp;Thursday evening.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>2. New York City Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Agreement:</strong> The City’s <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5784-mayor-a-council-announce-785b-fiscal-2016-budget-deal" target="_blank">$78.5 billion budget agreement</a> for Fiscal Year 2016 was announced by Mayor de Blasio, City Speaker Mark-Viverito, Finance Committee Chair Ferreras-Copeland and Council Members on Monday evening. Highlights include funding for 1,297 additional NYPD officers, six-day library service, seniors centers, and much more, including a new bail fund.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>3. New NYPD Plan, "One City: Safe and Fair Everywhere":</strong> On Thursday Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/06/8571026/nypd-unveils-neighborhood-policing-program" target="_blank">announced</a> a new community policing plan, possible due to the upcoming addition of about 1,000 police officers to the NYPD force, aimed to unite “neighbors and residents in the fight against crime.” Police officers will go through the “training necessary to deepen relationships within the communities they serve.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>4. De Blasio’s Other Announcements:</strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">On Tuesday, de Blasio added&nbsp;the Lunar New Year as an official school holiday.</li> <li dir="ltr">On Wednesday, with&nbsp;<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/home/downloads/pdf/executive-orders/2015/eo_10.pdf" target="_blank">Executive Order No.10</a>,&nbsp;de Blasio established the Commission on Gender Equality.</li> <li dir="ltr">Also on Wednesday, de Blasio <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/437-15/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-partnership-warby-parker-provide-free-eyeglasses-to" target="_blank">announced</a>&nbsp;a partnership with eyeglass company Warby Parker, which will allow community school students who need eyeglasses to receive them free of charge.</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr"><strong>5. City Council Schedules Hearing on Police Reform Proposals:</strong>&nbsp;On&nbsp;Monday&nbsp;June 29 there will be a <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=412648&amp;GUID=200C2568-64A2-45D7-80A9-B89A84A61A38&amp;Options=info|&amp;Search=" target="_blank">hearing</a>&nbsp;of the public safety committee on nine police reform proposals, Capital New York <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/06/8570969/council-schedules-hearing-police-reform-proposals" target="_blank">reported</a>. One of the bills included would outlaw the use of chokeholds by police officers. There is speculation that the hearing was added to the calendar as part of the budget deal during which de Blasio and the Council decided to include funding for 1,297 new police officers for the NYPD force.</p> <p><strong>THIS WEEK'S NUMBERS:</strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>1,297</strong> NYPD officers will be <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5784-mayor-a-council-announce-785b-fiscal-2016-budget-deal" target="_blank">added</a> to the force per the City’s newly released budget.</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>$78.5 billion</strong> for <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5784-mayor-a-council-announce-785b-fiscal-2016-budget-deal" target="_blank">the city’s 2016 fiscal year budget</a>. The budget is only a $200 million increase from the mayor’s executive budget released in early May. The new budget includes&nbsp;<strong>$52.6 million</strong> in City Council discretionary funds to be allocated by the 51 members, and Speaker Marissa Mark-Viverito has <strong>$16 million</strong> to allocate from her speaker's pot.&nbsp;</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>80</strong> different pre-packaged Whole Foods products were tested by the Department of Consumer Affairs and “all the products had packages with mislabeled weights.” DCA Commissioner Julie Menin <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/dca/media/pr062415.page" target="_blank">announced</a> an investigation on Wednesday.</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>1</strong>&nbsp;year extension&nbsp;<a href="http://observer.com/2015/06/mayoral-control-is-extended-for-just-a-single-year/" target="_blank">for</a>&nbsp;mayoral control of city schools, per the new end-of-session deal in Albany, a major blow to Mayor de Blasio, who had wanted it made permanent.</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr"><strong>THE GLORY AND THE GOAT:</strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>It was a good week</strong> for the LGBTQ community with the Stonewall Inn voted as a historic landmark on Monday and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriage is a right on Friday.</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>It was bad week</strong> for Mayor Bill de Blasio with mayoral control of schools only extended for a year, the charter cap essentially increased, and the rent regulation extension not matching his desired outcome.</li> </ul> <p><strong>THE FLASH:</strong></p> <ul> <li><strong>This week in 2011</strong>, the same-sex marriage bill was <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/25/nyregion/gay-marriage-approved-by-new-york-senate.html" target="_blank">approved</a> by the State Senate 33-29 and was signed into law by Governor Cuomo at 11:55 p.m. June 24, 2011. Tweet from Andrew Cuomo, in part:&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/NYGovCuomo/status/613833962776076288" target="_blank">@NYGovCuomo</a> “On this day in 2011, New York State proudly passed #MarriageEquality.”</li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>This week in 1915</strong>, the current New York City flag was<a href="http://blog.nyhistory.org/of-seals-and-rampant-beavers-new-york-citys-flag-on-its-100th-birthday/" target="_blank"> raised</a> for the first time during a flag-raising ceremony.</p> </li> </ul> <p><strong>GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK:</strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5784-mayor-a-council-announce-785b-fiscal-2016-budget-deal" target="_blank">Mayor &amp; City Council Announce $78.5B Fiscal 2016 Budget Deal</a>, by Ben Max</li> <li dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5788-school-meals-in-the-budget-applause-for-breakfast-groans-for-lunch" target="_blank">School Meals in the Budget: Applause for Breakfast, Groans for Lunch</a>, by Zehra Rehman</li> <li dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5785-cuomo-legislative-leaders-announce-end-of-session-pact" target="_blank">Cuomo, Legislative Leaders Announce End-of-Session Pact</a>, by Ben Max</li> <li dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5782-license-to-carry-new-yorks-gun-permit-laws" target="_blank">License to Carry: New York’s Complicated, Controversial Gun Laws</a>, by David Howard King</li> </ul> <p><strong>MORE FOR THE WEEKEND:</strong></p> <ul> <li>Chalkbeat NY published <a href="http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2015/06/22/brooklyn-generation-offers-a-look-at-de-blasios-renewal-school-turnaround-initiative/#.VYsYaGRVikp" target="_blank">a three-part series</a> looking at one of New York City's "renewal schools."</li> <li>President Obama appeared on Marc Maron's podcast for <a href="http://potus.wtfpod.com/podcast/episodes/episode_613_-_president_barack_obama/" target="_blank">an extended, personal interview</a>.</li> </ul> <p><em>***<br />NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a>.</em></p> <p><em>If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a></em></p> <p><em>Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government" target="_blank">the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here</a>. And have a great weekend!</em></p> <p><em>***</em><br />by Erika Wang and Ben Max</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/week_in_review_bus_readers.jpg" alt="week in review bus readers" height="409" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;"><a href="http://blog.mcny.org/2012/04/24/a-ride-on-the-subway-in-1946-with-stanley-kubrick/" target="_blank">photo</a>: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York</span></p> <hr /> <p>Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday June 26</p> <p><strong>PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: </strong>Gov. Cuomo shakes hands with Sen. Flanagan at their Thursday 'big ugly' announcement (top; <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/19131688556/in/photostream/" target="_blank">via</a> The Governor's Office on flickr); Mayor de Blasio hugs CM Ferreras-Copeland at their Monday budget announcement (middle, via William Alatriste); de Blasio officiates three marriages at City Hall on Friday (bottom, via William Alatriste)</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/19131688556_25feda1808_z.jpg" alt="Heastie Cuomo Flanagan" height="301" width="450" /><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/IMG_2881.JPG" alt="de Blasio ferreras" height="301" width="450" /></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/marriage_equlity_city_hall.jpg" alt="marriage equlity city hall" height="300" width="450" /></p> <p><strong>TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:</strong></p> <p><strong>1. Albany End-of-Session Policy:</strong> The&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5785-cuomo-legislative-leaders-announce-end-of-session-pact" target="_blank">framework</a> for the end of 2015-2016 legislative session deal was announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Tuesday afternoon; details were negotiated, and the two legislative houses voted the deal through on&nbsp;Thursday evening.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>2. New York City Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Agreement:</strong> The City’s <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5784-mayor-a-council-announce-785b-fiscal-2016-budget-deal" target="_blank">$78.5 billion budget agreement</a> for Fiscal Year 2016 was announced by Mayor de Blasio, City Speaker Mark-Viverito, Finance Committee Chair Ferreras-Copeland and Council Members on Monday evening. Highlights include funding for 1,297 additional NYPD officers, six-day library service, seniors centers, and much more, including a new bail fund.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>3. New NYPD Plan, "One City: Safe and Fair Everywhere":</strong> On Thursday Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/06/8571026/nypd-unveils-neighborhood-policing-program" target="_blank">announced</a> a new community policing plan, possible due to the upcoming addition of about 1,000 police officers to the NYPD force, aimed to unite “neighbors and residents in the fight against crime.” Police officers will go through the “training necessary to deepen relationships within the communities they serve.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>4. De Blasio’s Other Announcements:</strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">On Tuesday, de Blasio added&nbsp;the Lunar New Year as an official school holiday.</li> <li dir="ltr">On Wednesday, with&nbsp;<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/home/downloads/pdf/executive-orders/2015/eo_10.pdf" target="_blank">Executive Order No.10</a>,&nbsp;de Blasio established the Commission on Gender Equality.</li> <li dir="ltr">Also on Wednesday, de Blasio <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/437-15/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-partnership-warby-parker-provide-free-eyeglasses-to" target="_blank">announced</a>&nbsp;a partnership with eyeglass company Warby Parker, which will allow community school students who need eyeglasses to receive them free of charge.</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr"><strong>5. City Council Schedules Hearing on Police Reform Proposals:</strong>&nbsp;On&nbsp;Monday&nbsp;June 29 there will be a <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=412648&amp;GUID=200C2568-64A2-45D7-80A9-B89A84A61A38&amp;Options=info|&amp;Search=" target="_blank">hearing</a>&nbsp;of the public safety committee on nine police reform proposals, Capital New York <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/06/8570969/council-schedules-hearing-police-reform-proposals" target="_blank">reported</a>. One of the bills included would outlaw the use of chokeholds by police officers. There is speculation that the hearing was added to the calendar as part of the budget deal during which de Blasio and the Council decided to include funding for 1,297 new police officers for the NYPD force.</p> <p><strong>THIS WEEK'S NUMBERS:</strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>1,297</strong> NYPD officers will be <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5784-mayor-a-council-announce-785b-fiscal-2016-budget-deal" target="_blank">added</a> to the force per the City’s newly released budget.</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>$78.5 billion</strong> for <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5784-mayor-a-council-announce-785b-fiscal-2016-budget-deal" target="_blank">the city’s 2016 fiscal year budget</a>. The budget is only a $200 million increase from the mayor’s executive budget released in early May. The new budget includes&nbsp;<strong>$52.6 million</strong> in City Council discretionary funds to be allocated by the 51 members, and Speaker Marissa Mark-Viverito has <strong>$16 million</strong> to allocate from her speaker's pot.&nbsp;</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>80</strong> different pre-packaged Whole Foods products were tested by the Department of Consumer Affairs and “all the products had packages with mislabeled weights.” DCA Commissioner Julie Menin <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/dca/media/pr062415.page" target="_blank">announced</a> an investigation on Wednesday.</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>1</strong>&nbsp;year extension&nbsp;<a href="http://observer.com/2015/06/mayoral-control-is-extended-for-just-a-single-year/" target="_blank">for</a>&nbsp;mayoral control of city schools, per the new end-of-session deal in Albany, a major blow to Mayor de Blasio, who had wanted it made permanent.</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr"><strong>THE GLORY AND THE GOAT:</strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>It was a good week</strong> for the LGBTQ community with the Stonewall Inn voted as a historic landmark on Monday and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriage is a right on Friday.</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>It was bad week</strong> for Mayor Bill de Blasio with mayoral control of schools only extended for a year, the charter cap essentially increased, and the rent regulation extension not matching his desired outcome.</li> </ul> <p><strong>THE FLASH:</strong></p> <ul> <li><strong>This week in 2011</strong>, the same-sex marriage bill was <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/25/nyregion/gay-marriage-approved-by-new-york-senate.html" target="_blank">approved</a> by the State Senate 33-29 and was signed into law by Governor Cuomo at 11:55 p.m. June 24, 2011. Tweet from Andrew Cuomo, in part:&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/NYGovCuomo/status/613833962776076288" target="_blank">@NYGovCuomo</a> “On this day in 2011, New York State proudly passed #MarriageEquality.”</li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><strong>This week in 1915</strong>, the current New York City flag was<a href="http://blog.nyhistory.org/of-seals-and-rampant-beavers-new-york-citys-flag-on-its-100th-birthday/" target="_blank"> raised</a> for the first time during a flag-raising ceremony.</p> </li> </ul> <p><strong>GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK:</strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5784-mayor-a-council-announce-785b-fiscal-2016-budget-deal" target="_blank">Mayor &amp; City Council Announce $78.5B Fiscal 2016 Budget Deal</a>, by Ben Max</li> <li dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5788-school-meals-in-the-budget-applause-for-breakfast-groans-for-lunch" target="_blank">School Meals in the Budget: Applause for Breakfast, Groans for Lunch</a>, by Zehra Rehman</li> <li dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5785-cuomo-legislative-leaders-announce-end-of-session-pact" target="_blank">Cuomo, Legislative Leaders Announce End-of-Session Pact</a>, by Ben Max</li> <li dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5782-license-to-carry-new-yorks-gun-permit-laws" target="_blank">License to Carry: New York’s Complicated, Controversial Gun Laws</a>, by David Howard King</li> </ul> <p><strong>MORE FOR THE WEEKEND:</strong></p> <ul> <li>Chalkbeat NY published <a href="http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2015/06/22/brooklyn-generation-offers-a-look-at-de-blasios-renewal-school-turnaround-initiative/#.VYsYaGRVikp" target="_blank">a three-part series</a> looking at one of New York City's "renewal schools."</li> <li>President Obama appeared on Marc Maron's podcast for <a href="http://potus.wtfpod.com/podcast/episodes/episode_613_-_president_barack_obama/" target="_blank">an extended, personal interview</a>.</li> </ul> <p><em>***<br />NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a>.</em></p> <p><em>If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a></em></p> <p><em>Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government" target="_blank">the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here</a>. And have a great weekend!</em></p> <p><em>***</em><br />by Erika Wang and Ben Max</p> Amid Further Ethics Scandal, What Can Cuomo Do Now? 2015-05-06T21:02:53+00:00 2015-05-06T21:02:53+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5713:amid-further-ethics-scandal-what-can-cuomo-do-now Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/cuomo_side.jpg" alt="cuomo side" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo (photo: @NYGovCuomo)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Last March Gov. Andrew Cuomo killed the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption in a deal with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Now, a little more than a year later, both legislative leaders have been arrested and charged with multiple counts of federal corruption. Surrounded by scandal, it isn't immediately clear what the governor can or will do next. One thing that is sure, though, is that the worse Albany looks, the worse Cuomo looks.</p> <p>After Silver's January arrest Cuomo gave a speech at NYU outlining grand ethics reform proposals like public financing of campaigns and enacting a full-time legislature. But when it came time to cut a budget deal, Cuomo again agreed to limited change in order to get an on-time spending plan. After Skelos' arrest this week, the governor has remained relatively quiet. With Albany in disarray and a national laughingstock, what can Cuomo do in a tough situation he has largely made for himself?</p> <p>Reformers and political experts are torn about Cuomo's next move, especially after he's trumpeted many ethics adjustments as the end-all-be-all. Some say Cuomo needs to use the bully pulpit without fear of losing political capital, while others say Cuomo shouldn't say anything at all. On Wednesday Cuomo lamented the fact that if the charges against Skelos are true, it flies against the work he and others, including Skelos, have done trying to clean up the capital.</p> <p>Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham Law professor whose speciality is corruption and 2014 primary opponent of Cuomo's, said that the Skelos indictment shows that none of Cuomo's smaller ethics initiatives have actually changed the climate of corruption in Albany. "Symbolic action won't cut it," said Teachout. "There is no bridge he can start to build right now, there is not one thing he can toss out there at this point."</p> <p>Teachout added that "the thing that is so damning" about the complaint against Skelos is that the alleged corruption occurred since Cuomo's been in office, "not like the Silver indictment where things took place before Cuomo took office. So it shows us these incremental changes haven't paid off."</p> <p>The Skelos complaint details how the majority leader asked Glenwood Management to steer title insurance business to his son. Skelos allegedly threatened to punish members of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/07/nyregion/big-names-in-new-york-real-estate-figure-into-skelos-and-silver-cases.html" target="_blank">the real estate industry</a> if they failed to comply with his demands and eventually a representative of Glenwood allegedly gave Skelos' son a $20,000 commission for doing no work. Glenwood steers millions of dollars into campaign accounts - including Cuomo's - of candidates running at all levels through the LLC loophole that allows them to subvert campaign finance limits.</p> <p>"We've always suspected this is how things are done behind closed doors, but these complaints have really brought it into the light," said Dick Dadey, executive director of good govenrment organization Citizens Union. "Not just the influence of campaign donations but that some officials use their positions to extort," he added.</p> <p>It was these kinds of relationships that the Moreland Commission was digging into when Cuomo's aides began interfering with it. And it was that kind of scrutiny that led legislative leaders to pressure Cuomo into ending the commission altogether, though it is unclear how much pressure they really had to apply.</p> <p>Teachout said that Cuomo, who has taken in over $1 million from Glenwood, should go to great lengths to demonstrate he is not himself tied to the company in any quid-pro-quo arrangement.</p> <p>"He should tell Glenwood their kind of business is not welcome in Albany, he should reveal his emails with Glenwood and [its head] <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5561-leonard-litwins-political-donations-the-full-picture" target="_blank">Leonard Litwin</a> and say enough is enough on the LLC loophole," said Teachout.</p> <p>Bill Samuels, head of good government organization EffectiveNY, called on Cuomo to return all the donations from Glenwood. "I shouldn't have to call on the Governor to return this tainted money. If he were truly committed to ethics reform and cleaning up Albany, Cuomo would have immediately returned these funds to Glenwood Management and expressed outrage over this latest corruption scandal unfolding on his watch," Samuels said in a statement.</p> <p>Cuomo told Capital New York at a press conference in Syracuse on Wednesday that he would not return the donations or refuse to accept more because Glenwood representatives had not been charged with wrongdoing. "If no one did anything wrong, then you can't just say, 'You have no right to participate in the political process,'" the governor said.</p> <p>Dadey agrees that Cuomo should not have to return the contributions because they were made legally, but says that it would be, "Helpful to know what kind of interactions the administration had with Glenwood."</p> <p>Karen Scharff, executive director of Citizen Action NY, said she feels Cuomo's attempts at ethics reform haven't paid off because he is so concerned about immediate political wins rather than the long-term good. Scharff said she'd like to see Cuomo take to the bully pulpit on public financing of elections even knowing that he won't win this year, but ready to take a loss and do it to build political momentum.</p> <p>Teachout agrees. "If he actually believes in reform he has to show he is willing to take genuine political risk," she said. "He has to come out saying: 'Win or lose I am going to put capital on the line for this to get credibility."</p> <p>Blair Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, told Gotham Gazette that he has concerns that public financing of campaigns simply won't go anywhere because Senate Republicans are ideologically opposed. He and other good government advocates also worry that Cuomo no longer has any credibility on reform issues and that his proclamations on the subject have become white noise to the public and to legislators.</p> <p>"The governor has eroded the bully pulpit," Horner said. "He has been delivering speeches but not real reform. In Albany, talk is cheap. He has shown that he prefers triage but that doesn't get you anywhere."</p> <p>Dadey said that Cuomo must stay on the soap box to "connect the dots of corruption for the public."</p> <p>"The governor must not allow this saga of scandal and corruption to prevent him from enacting real ethics reform," said Dadey. Good government groups like Citizens Union and NYPIRG, as well as reform-minded legislators and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, have been <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/05/8567420/schneiderman-going-beyond-catching-people" target="_blank">calling</a> for sweeping reforms aimed at truly cleaning up Albany's corruption problem. They say that the time for incrementalism is over.</p> <p>Horner said that action is critical and he thinks the governor could find quick consensus with the Legislature on certain issues. Horner wants to see a new ethics watchdog where "the appointees aren't captives," a bill to restrict legislators' outside income, and legislation to end the LLC loophole. "The time for fake ethics reform has long past," said Horner.</p> <p>Cuomo has remained relatively silent on Skelos' indictment. On Wednesday <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2015/05/cuomo-wont-call-on-skelos-to-step-down/" target="_blank">he said</a> he will not call on Skelos to resign because, "I don't have the option of picking who they pick as their leaders. They pick a Senate leader, I will work with that leader," Cuomo said referring to state senators, especially the Republican majority.</p> <p>Doug Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College, said he believes Cuomo is doing the best thing he can for himself by remaining mum on the scandals that have left Albany more dysfunctional than ever. "My initial inclination is he should keep quiet, stay far away from it, don't even comment," Muzzio told Gotham Gazette. Cuomo appears to be taking that tack, instead promoting on Wednesday that several private New York colleges have signed on to his campaign aimed at reducing sexual assault on campuses and penning <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/07/opinion/andrew-m-cuomo-fast-food-workers-deserve-a-raise.html?ref=opinion" target="_blank">an op-ed</a> in the New York Times announcing his new move geared at raising the wages of fast-food workers.</p> <p>What he'll do next on ethics reform is far from clear. Muzzio said Cuomo should avoid making any grand speeches on reform because everyone has heard it before. "I don't think Groundhog Day works because the press are gonna hang him for it. He should keep quiet while working toward a strategy of reform because this is going to pass."</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/cuomo_side.jpg" alt="cuomo side" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo (photo: @NYGovCuomo)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Last March Gov. Andrew Cuomo killed the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption in a deal with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Now, a little more than a year later, both legislative leaders have been arrested and charged with multiple counts of federal corruption. Surrounded by scandal, it isn't immediately clear what the governor can or will do next. One thing that is sure, though, is that the worse Albany looks, the worse Cuomo looks.</p> <p>After Silver's January arrest Cuomo gave a speech at NYU outlining grand ethics reform proposals like public financing of campaigns and enacting a full-time legislature. But when it came time to cut a budget deal, Cuomo again agreed to limited change in order to get an on-time spending plan. After Skelos' arrest this week, the governor has remained relatively quiet. With Albany in disarray and a national laughingstock, what can Cuomo do in a tough situation he has largely made for himself?</p> <p>Reformers and political experts are torn about Cuomo's next move, especially after he's trumpeted many ethics adjustments as the end-all-be-all. Some say Cuomo needs to use the bully pulpit without fear of losing political capital, while others say Cuomo shouldn't say anything at all. On Wednesday Cuomo lamented the fact that if the charges against Skelos are true, it flies against the work he and others, including Skelos, have done trying to clean up the capital.</p> <p>Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham Law professor whose speciality is corruption and 2014 primary opponent of Cuomo's, said that the Skelos indictment shows that none of Cuomo's smaller ethics initiatives have actually changed the climate of corruption in Albany. "Symbolic action won't cut it," said Teachout. "There is no bridge he can start to build right now, there is not one thing he can toss out there at this point."</p> <p>Teachout added that "the thing that is so damning" about the complaint against Skelos is that the alleged corruption occurred since Cuomo's been in office, "not like the Silver indictment where things took place before Cuomo took office. So it shows us these incremental changes haven't paid off."</p> <p>The Skelos complaint details how the majority leader asked Glenwood Management to steer title insurance business to his son. Skelos allegedly threatened to punish members of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/07/nyregion/big-names-in-new-york-real-estate-figure-into-skelos-and-silver-cases.html" target="_blank">the real estate industry</a> if they failed to comply with his demands and eventually a representative of Glenwood allegedly gave Skelos' son a $20,000 commission for doing no work. Glenwood steers millions of dollars into campaign accounts - including Cuomo's - of candidates running at all levels through the LLC loophole that allows them to subvert campaign finance limits.</p> <p>"We've always suspected this is how things are done behind closed doors, but these complaints have really brought it into the light," said Dick Dadey, executive director of good govenrment organization Citizens Union. "Not just the influence of campaign donations but that some officials use their positions to extort," he added.</p> <p>It was these kinds of relationships that the Moreland Commission was digging into when Cuomo's aides began interfering with it. And it was that kind of scrutiny that led legislative leaders to pressure Cuomo into ending the commission altogether, though it is unclear how much pressure they really had to apply.</p> <p>Teachout said that Cuomo, who has taken in over $1 million from Glenwood, should go to great lengths to demonstrate he is not himself tied to the company in any quid-pro-quo arrangement.</p> <p>"He should tell Glenwood their kind of business is not welcome in Albany, he should reveal his emails with Glenwood and [its head] <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5561-leonard-litwins-political-donations-the-full-picture" target="_blank">Leonard Litwin</a> and say enough is enough on the LLC loophole," said Teachout.</p> <p>Bill Samuels, head of good government organization EffectiveNY, called on Cuomo to return all the donations from Glenwood. "I shouldn't have to call on the Governor to return this tainted money. If he were truly committed to ethics reform and cleaning up Albany, Cuomo would have immediately returned these funds to Glenwood Management and expressed outrage over this latest corruption scandal unfolding on his watch," Samuels said in a statement.</p> <p>Cuomo told Capital New York at a press conference in Syracuse on Wednesday that he would not return the donations or refuse to accept more because Glenwood representatives had not been charged with wrongdoing. "If no one did anything wrong, then you can't just say, 'You have no right to participate in the political process,'" the governor said.</p> <p>Dadey agrees that Cuomo should not have to return the contributions because they were made legally, but says that it would be, "Helpful to know what kind of interactions the administration had with Glenwood."</p> <p>Karen Scharff, executive director of Citizen Action NY, said she feels Cuomo's attempts at ethics reform haven't paid off because he is so concerned about immediate political wins rather than the long-term good. Scharff said she'd like to see Cuomo take to the bully pulpit on public financing of elections even knowing that he won't win this year, but ready to take a loss and do it to build political momentum.</p> <p>Teachout agrees. "If he actually believes in reform he has to show he is willing to take genuine political risk," she said. "He has to come out saying: 'Win or lose I am going to put capital on the line for this to get credibility."</p> <p>Blair Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, told Gotham Gazette that he has concerns that public financing of campaigns simply won't go anywhere because Senate Republicans are ideologically opposed. He and other good government advocates also worry that Cuomo no longer has any credibility on reform issues and that his proclamations on the subject have become white noise to the public and to legislators.</p> <p>"The governor has eroded the bully pulpit," Horner said. "He has been delivering speeches but not real reform. In Albany, talk is cheap. He has shown that he prefers triage but that doesn't get you anywhere."</p> <p>Dadey said that Cuomo must stay on the soap box to "connect the dots of corruption for the public."</p> <p>"The governor must not allow this saga of scandal and corruption to prevent him from enacting real ethics reform," said Dadey. Good government groups like Citizens Union and NYPIRG, as well as reform-minded legislators and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, have been <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/05/8567420/schneiderman-going-beyond-catching-people" target="_blank">calling</a> for sweeping reforms aimed at truly cleaning up Albany's corruption problem. They say that the time for incrementalism is over.</p> <p>Horner said that action is critical and he thinks the governor could find quick consensus with the Legislature on certain issues. Horner wants to see a new ethics watchdog where "the appointees aren't captives," a bill to restrict legislators' outside income, and legislation to end the LLC loophole. "The time for fake ethics reform has long past," said Horner.</p> <p>Cuomo has remained relatively silent on Skelos' indictment. On Wednesday <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2015/05/cuomo-wont-call-on-skelos-to-step-down/" target="_blank">he said</a> he will not call on Skelos to resign because, "I don't have the option of picking who they pick as their leaders. They pick a Senate leader, I will work with that leader," Cuomo said referring to state senators, especially the Republican majority.</p> <p>Doug Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College, said he believes Cuomo is doing the best thing he can for himself by remaining mum on the scandals that have left Albany more dysfunctional than ever. "My initial inclination is he should keep quiet, stay far away from it, don't even comment," Muzzio told Gotham Gazette. Cuomo appears to be taking that tack, instead promoting on Wednesday that several private New York colleges have signed on to his campaign aimed at reducing sexual assault on campuses and penning <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/07/opinion/andrew-m-cuomo-fast-food-workers-deserve-a-raise.html?ref=opinion" target="_blank">an op-ed</a> in the New York Times announcing his new move geared at raising the wages of fast-food workers.</p> <p>What he'll do next on ethics reform is far from clear. Muzzio said Cuomo should avoid making any grand speeches on reform because everyone has heard it before. "I don't think Groundhog Day works because the press are gonna hang him for it. He should keep quiet while working toward a strategy of reform because this is going to pass."</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/davidhowardking" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p> Advocates: Cuomo, Legislature Squandered Moment for True Reform 2015-04-05T16:06:14+00:00 2015-04-05T16:06:14+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5670:advocates-cuomo-legislature-squandered-moment-for-true-reform Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/16641888487_7e5506d8e9_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Nolan" height="392" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo &amp; AM Nolan shake on an ethics deal (photo: the Governor's Office via flickr)</span></p> <hr /> <p>The arrest of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was supposed to spark the moment for true reform in Albany. It felt to many a simultaneously shocking and galvanizing event, strong enough to splinter, if not destroy the dam, allowing the flow of real discussion about regulating lawyer-legislators, loopholes allowing unlimited LLC donations to candidates, and conflicts of interest. It was a time for bold leadership.</p> <p>"There was no appetite for incremental change," said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, of good government groups, legislators, and others rejecting Governor Andrew Cuomo's ethics reforms as "tinkering around the edges."</p> <p>"The governor could have challenged the Legislature by imposing on himself restrictions that would have bolstered his efforts and shamed them by leading by example," Dadey added, expressing the general sense of regret that many have around what is being called another missed opportunity to drastically reform the culture in state government.</p> <p>Cuomo did come out swinging after Silver's arrest, loudly proposing a five-point ethics reform plan he said he was so committed to that he would hold up passage of the budget if necessary. But as the governor engaged in discussions with leaders of the state Legislature, the proposals that many had originally called too weak became <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2015/04/what-was-proposed-what-changed-in-ethics-deal/" target="_blank">even less bold</a> and the final compromise included in the budget deal landed with less than a thud.</p> <p>Reform-minded legislators and good government groups say that as ethics reforms were molded they were shut out by the Cuomo administration, which has become increasingly standoffish. It is said that good ideas went unused because Team Cuomo refuses to entertain anything it doesn't come up with first and in the end what could have been a transformative moment resulted in more of the same, Cuomo's third incremental ethics reform package in four years (see timeline below), revealed to most legislators with a heap of voluminous budget bills only hours before they came to a vote up against the final deadline.</p> <p>A number of legislators were expecting much more drastic reform after Silver's arrest. They feel that the ethics discussion should focus on preventing legislators from earning any outside income, or at least disallowing lawmakers from practicing law in the private sector. Silver is charged with using his power as a legislature to advance the interests of a law firm that paid him for referring cases.</p> <p>Some lawyer-legislators are leading by example.</p> <p>Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Democrat and non-practicing attorney, said that a new commission included in the budget to study legislative pay raises could answer some objections that legislators aren't paid enough not to have outside income. Legislators currently make a base salary of $79,500 a year, a rate that has not been increased in more than fifteen years.</p> <p>Sen. Jeff Klein, head of the Independent Democratic Conference, broke with his Republican allies, saying the ethics plan doesn't go far enough because it fails to ban outside income. Klein divested himself from his law firm following Silver's indictment. "During this crisis we need to win back the voters' trust," Klein said. "I think the way we do this is to not have any potential conflicts at all moving forward. I think this is sort of a clarion call for all. If you want to earn outside income, you shouldn't be in public service," Klein <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2015/02/klein-will-divest-from-law-firm-2/" target="_blank">told</a> State of Politics in February.</p> <p>Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos is <a href="http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/dean-skelos-investigation-state-senate-leader-albany-290259821.html" target="_blank">reportedly</a> under investigation related to his outside income. He is of counsel at Ruskin, Moscou &amp; Faltischek.&nbsp;Senate Republicans appear to be steadfast against banning outside income and at least one Republican lawmaker was insulted by questions about conflicts of interest. As part of a sweeping set of reforms he unveiled in a speech at a Citizens Union event, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a former state senator himself, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5634-schneiderman-unveils-ethics-plan-to-cure-the-disease" target="_blank">called for</a> an all-out ban on legislators' earning outside income.</p> <p>During the budget debate, Hoylman, insisted that lawyers should not be allowed to be legislators, citing their loyalty to clients that comes from cash retainers. He advocated banning outside income completely. Republican State Sen. John DeFrancisco, chair of the finance committee, objected, calling Hoylman's comments "out of line" and "discrimination" against lawyers.</p> <p>DeFrancisco also challenged Democrats' characterization of the law that allows donors to use LLCs to donate unlimited funds as a "loophole." Sen. Daniel Squadron, a Democrat, introduced a hostile amendment to end the LLC loophole, and quoted a series of newspaper editorials that suppot its end in his argument that the amendment was germane to the budget discussion. He and his amendment were shot down. Then, DeFrancisco challenged Squadron's use of the word "loophole" and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BO05mNGQiFc" target="_blank">said</a> it was simply part of the law.</p> <p>The new ethics package - being hailed as transformative by the governor and some legislative leaders - includes increased financial disclosure requirements for legislators, gives the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) much-needed funding, and forces legislators to use a swipe card to check in at the Capitol to get their travel reimbursements. As Capital New York reported, the changes do not address the types of corruption Albany has seen most over the years. There is one other reform in the works that could take legislators' pensions away if they are convicted of corruption.</p> <p>The changes come with loopholes. Lawyer-legislators can apply to two agencies to keep their disclosures private (while JCOPE is already controlled by legislative and gubernatorial appointees and has proved generally ineffective).</p> <p>Never on the table, it seems, was closing the massive LLC loophole. Cuomo is the largest beneficiary of the system that allows corporations and individuals to funnel unlimited campaign funds to candidates through various LLCs.</p> <p>John Kaehny of Reinvent Albany said it does not generally behoove good government groups to attack reform measures. "You quickly become the boy who cried wolf," said Kaehny. "You hit a single this year, and another next year, but that just isn't happening." Kaehny said that with lawyer-legislators protected from full disclosure the package lacks any real meat.</p> <p>"What are you left with? A swipe card system that can be easily defrauded," said Kaehny, who notes the standard in the corporate world is biometric ID systems that are not easily cheated and are relatively inexpensive.</p> <p>Dadey said that the reforms are not insignificant but that they should have come much sooner. "These changes were significant but would have been more significant in 2011. This is what we wanted to see in 2011," said Dadey. "This ethic reform is bigger than what we got in 2014 but it is not as big as it needed to be to battle corruption in Albany. We always suspected corruption bigger than we knew and the speaker's arrest blew it up. This was a huge opportunity to change Albany's ethics."</p> <p>Dadey and representatives of other good government groups say that in past years they were included in discussions on ethics reforms early in the process but this year were only consulted when a deal was in place.</p> <p>Kaehny said that the he believes the administration needs to start leading by example to sway the debate. But, he said he doesn't have a great deal of faith that that is going to take place as, for example, Cuomo has not taken unilateral action to end his administration's 90-day email deletion policy, saying, "The governor has absolutely not led by example on this - he has led backwards."</p> <p>Rather than ending the policy (as Schneiderman <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5634-schneiderman-unveils-ethics-plan-to-cure-the-disease" target="_blank">did in his office</a>) that good government groups have called "devastating to transparency," Cuomo defended the policy, then attacked the Legislature for not being open to the Freedom of Information Law, and proposed an email summit to occur before the end of March. That deadline has passed and good government groups and stakeholders including the offices of the attorney general and the comptroller say they have not been contacted.</p> <p>"Its disappointing because we have a strong decisive governor," said Kaehny. "The proof is in his actions, but here he is trying to mislead, distract, and throw up smoke and mirrors. To this day we haven't gotten a response - not acknowledging our letter [requesting an update on the summit], not saying: 'we disagree and we are gonna yell at you.' So we are exasperated and disappointed in this lack of leadership."</p> <p>Reform-minded legislators and good government groups agree that it is likely that a discussion about a new ethics reform package will start again before end of the upcoming legislative session, which will run from April 21 to mid-June. "This ethics fight isn't over," said Dadey. "We will need to be talking about it again very soon when the U.S. Attorney comes out with a new set of indictments," he added, referring to <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5360-with-smirk-bharara-diagnoses-new-york-corruption-problem" target="_blank">Preet Bharara</a>, who has brought charges against Silver and others. "We peeled off one layer of the onion this time," Dadey continued, "but we will get to the core, if only because the public will demand it."</p> <p><em><strong>A look at <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5387-the-cuomo-record-governor-first-term-government-reform" target="_blank">Cuomo's attempts at reform</a>:</strong></em></p> <p><strong>2011:</strong> The Clean Up Albany Act <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/762-ethics-deal-breaks-logjam-but-leaves-key-issues-behind" target="_blank">established</a> The Joint Commission on Public Ethics to investigate corruption in the legislative and executive branches. Labeled "independent," the agency is actually headed by gubernatorial and legislative appointees with deep connections to those elected officials. It only takes three votes out of 14 members to stop an investigation. A required review of JCOPE's <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/876-when-will-new-york-have-a-functioning-ethics-agency-" target="_blank">effectiveness</a> in 2014 was not undertaken and the latest ethics law extends the deadline for such a review.</p> <p>Cuomo's quote: <em>"This bill is the tough and aggressive approach we need. It provides for disclosure of outside income by lawmakers, creates a true independent monitor to investigate corruption, and spells out tough, new rules that lobbyists must follow. Government does not work without the trust of the people and this ethics overhaul is an important step in restoring that trust."</em></p> <p><strong>2013:</strong> After a slew of legislators are indicted, Cuomo announces a package of reforms that good government groups call "watered down," but legislators balk. Cuomo threatens to convene a Moreland Commission to investigate corruption in the Legislature and <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-appoints-moreland-commission-investigate-public-corruption-attorney-general" target="_blank">makes good</a> on the promise in June. Moreland began holding hearings and taking testimony across the state but was quickly hampered by interference from the Cuomo administration when it began investigating major Cuomo donors.</p> <p>Cuomo's quote: <em>"Since the Legislature has failed to act, today I am formally empanelling a Commission to Investigate Public Corruption pursuant to the Moreland Act and Section 63(8) of the Executive Law that will convene the best minds in law enforcement and public policy from across New York to address weaknesses in the State's public corruption, election and campaign finance laws, generate transparency and accountability, and restore the public trust."</em></p> <p><strong>2014:</strong> Cuomo goes into details of <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-and-legislative-leaders-announce-passage-2014-15-budget" target="_blank">a budget deal</a> on a Saturday press conference call with reporters and reveals he has shuttered The Moreland Commission in exchange for a set of reforms that he sought the previous year. Those reforms include stronger bribery laws, a trial campaign finance system that only applied to the 2014 Comptroller's race, and a new enforcement position at the Board of Elections. Good government groups slammed the move and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara launched an investigation into Cuomo's involvement in the commission.</p> <p>Cuomo's quote: <em>"It's not a legal question. The Moreland Commission was my commission. It's my commission. My subpoena power, my Moreland Commission. I can appoint it, I can disband it. I appoint you, I can un-appoint you tomorrow. So, interference? It's my commission. I can't 'interfere' with it, because it is mine,"</em> Cuomo <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/gov-cuomo-stands-anti-corruption-commission-shutdown-article-1.1768508" target="_blank">told Crain's</a>.</p> <p><strong>2015</strong>: After Silver's arrest Cuomo gives <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-and-transcript-governor-cuomo-outlines-2015-ethics-reform-agenda-nyu-school-law" target="_blank">a speech</a> at the NYU School of Law where he discusses major reforms like a full-time legislature and a public campaign finance system. He says he is willing to have a late budget if it means getting his proposed reforms. However, a following statement from his office indicates the bigger reforms are not part of his ultimatum. When the budget deal is finally reached it includes more funding for JCOPE, a swipe card system for lawmakers to prevent per diem fraud, and a set of new rules he calls "The nation's toughest diclosure laws."</p> <p>Cuomo's quote: <em>"I said I would not sign a Budget without real ethics reform, and this Budget does just that, putting in place the nation's strongest and most comprehensive rules for disclosure of outside income by public officials, reforming the long-abused per diem system, revoking public pensions for those who abuse the public's trust, defining and eliminating personal use of campaign funds, and increasing transparency of independent expenditures."</em></p> <p>Unlike years past, Cuomo and leaders of the Legislature did not hold a press conference to discuss the budget or the ethics reforms.</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/2014/03/16641888487_7e5506d8e9_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Nolan" height="392" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo &amp; AM Nolan shake on an ethics deal (photo: the Governor's Office via flickr)</span></p> <hr /> <p>The arrest of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was supposed to spark the moment for true reform in Albany. It felt to many a simultaneously shocking and galvanizing event, strong enough to splinter, if not destroy the dam, allowing the flow of real discussion about regulating lawyer-legislators, loopholes allowing unlimited LLC donations to candidates, and conflicts of interest. It was a time for bold leadership.</p> <p>"There was no appetite for incremental change," said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, of good government groups, legislators, and others rejecting Governor Andrew Cuomo's ethics reforms as "tinkering around the edges."</p> <p>"The governor could have challenged the Legislature by imposing on himself restrictions that would have bolstered his efforts and shamed them by leading by example," Dadey added, expressing the general sense of regret that many have around what is being called another missed opportunity to drastically reform the culture in state government.</p> <p>Cuomo did come out swinging after Silver's arrest, loudly proposing a five-point ethics reform plan he said he was so committed to that he would hold up passage of the budget if necessary. But as the governor engaged in discussions with leaders of the state Legislature, the proposals that many had originally called too weak became <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2015/04/what-was-proposed-what-changed-in-ethics-deal/" target="_blank">even less bold</a> and the final compromise included in the budget deal landed with less than a thud.</p> <p>Reform-minded legislators and good government groups say that as ethics reforms were molded they were shut out by the Cuomo administration, which has become increasingly standoffish. It is said that good ideas went unused because Team Cuomo refuses to entertain anything it doesn't come up with first and in the end what could have been a transformative moment resulted in more of the same, Cuomo's third incremental ethics reform package in four years (see timeline below), revealed to most legislators with a heap of voluminous budget bills only hours before they came to a vote up against the final deadline.</p> <p>A number of legislators were expecting much more drastic reform after Silver's arrest. They feel that the ethics discussion should focus on preventing legislators from earning any outside income, or at least disallowing lawmakers from practicing law in the private sector. Silver is charged with using his power as a legislature to advance the interests of a law firm that paid him for referring cases.</p> <p>Some lawyer-legislators are leading by example.</p> <p>Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Democrat and non-practicing attorney, said that a new commission included in the budget to study legislative pay raises could answer some objections that legislators aren't paid enough not to have outside income. Legislators currently make a base salary of $79,500 a year, a rate that has not been increased in more than fifteen years.</p> <p>Sen. Jeff Klein, head of the Independent Democratic Conference, broke with his Republican allies, saying the ethics plan doesn't go far enough because it fails to ban outside income. Klein divested himself from his law firm following Silver's indictment. "During this crisis we need to win back the voters' trust," Klein said. "I think the way we do this is to not have any potential conflicts at all moving forward. I think this is sort of a clarion call for all. If you want to earn outside income, you shouldn't be in public service," Klein <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2015/02/klein-will-divest-from-law-firm-2/" target="_blank">told</a> State of Politics in February.</p> <p>Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos is <a href="http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/dean-skelos-investigation-state-senate-leader-albany-290259821.html" target="_blank">reportedly</a> under investigation related to his outside income. He is of counsel at Ruskin, Moscou &amp; Faltischek.&nbsp;Senate Republicans appear to be steadfast against banning outside income and at least one Republican lawmaker was insulted by questions about conflicts of interest. As part of a sweeping set of reforms he unveiled in a speech at a Citizens Union event, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a former state senator himself, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5634-schneiderman-unveils-ethics-plan-to-cure-the-disease" target="_blank">called for</a> an all-out ban on legislators' earning outside income.</p> <p>During the budget debate, Hoylman, insisted that lawyers should not be allowed to be legislators, citing their loyalty to clients that comes from cash retainers. He advocated banning outside income completely. Republican State Sen. John DeFrancisco, chair of the finance committee, objected, calling Hoylman's comments "out of line" and "discrimination" against lawyers.</p> <p>DeFrancisco also challenged Democrats' characterization of the law that allows donors to use LLCs to donate unlimited funds as a "loophole." Sen. Daniel Squadron, a Democrat, introduced a hostile amendment to end the LLC loophole, and quoted a series of newspaper editorials that suppot its end in his argument that the amendment was germane to the budget discussion. He and his amendment were shot down. Then, DeFrancisco challenged Squadron's use of the word "loophole" and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BO05mNGQiFc" target="_blank">said</a> it was simply part of the law.</p> <p>The new ethics package - being hailed as transformative by the governor and some legislative leaders - includes increased financial disclosure requirements for legislators, gives the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) much-needed funding, and forces legislators to use a swipe card to check in at the Capitol to get their travel reimbursements. As Capital New York reported, the changes do not address the types of corruption Albany has seen most over the years. There is one other reform in the works that could take legislators' pensions away if they are convicted of corruption.</p> <p>The changes come with loopholes. Lawyer-legislators can apply to two agencies to keep their disclosures private (while JCOPE is already controlled by legislative and gubernatorial appointees and has proved generally ineffective).</p> <p>Never on the table, it seems, was closing the massive LLC loophole. Cuomo is the largest beneficiary of the system that allows corporations and individuals to funnel unlimited campaign funds to candidates through various LLCs.</p> <p>John Kaehny of Reinvent Albany said it does not generally behoove good government groups to attack reform measures. "You quickly become the boy who cried wolf," said Kaehny. "You hit a single this year, and another next year, but that just isn't happening." Kaehny said that with lawyer-legislators protected from full disclosure the package lacks any real meat.</p> <p>"What are you left with? A swipe card system that can be easily defrauded," said Kaehny, who notes the standard in the corporate world is biometric ID systems that are not easily cheated and are relatively inexpensive.</p> <p>Dadey said that the reforms are not insignificant but that they should have come much sooner. "These changes were significant but would have been more significant in 2011. This is what we wanted to see in 2011," said Dadey. "This ethic reform is bigger than what we got in 2014 but it is not as big as it needed to be to battle corruption in Albany. We always suspected corruption bigger than we knew and the speaker's arrest blew it up. This was a huge opportunity to change Albany's ethics."</p> <p>Dadey and representatives of other good government groups say that in past years they were included in discussions on ethics reforms early in the process but this year were only consulted when a deal was in place.</p> <p>Kaehny said that the he believes the administration needs to start leading by example to sway the debate. But, he said he doesn't have a great deal of faith that that is going to take place as, for example, Cuomo has not taken unilateral action to end his administration's 90-day email deletion policy, saying, "The governor has absolutely not led by example on this - he has led backwards."</p> <p>Rather than ending the policy (as Schneiderman <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5634-schneiderman-unveils-ethics-plan-to-cure-the-disease" target="_blank">did in his office</a>) that good government groups have called "devastating to transparency," Cuomo defended the policy, then attacked the Legislature for not being open to the Freedom of Information Law, and proposed an email summit to occur before the end of March. That deadline has passed and good government groups and stakeholders including the offices of the attorney general and the comptroller say they have not been contacted.</p> <p>"Its disappointing because we have a strong decisive governor," said Kaehny. "The proof is in his actions, but here he is trying to mislead, distract, and throw up smoke and mirrors. To this day we haven't gotten a response - not acknowledging our letter [requesting an update on the summit], not saying: 'we disagree and we are gonna yell at you.' So we are exasperated and disappointed in this lack of leadership."</p> <p>Reform-minded legislators and good government groups agree that it is likely that a discussion about a new ethics reform package will start again before end of the upcoming legislative session, which will run from April 21 to mid-June. "This ethics fight isn't over," said Dadey. "We will need to be talking about it again very soon when the U.S. Attorney comes out with a new set of indictments," he added, referring to <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5360-with-smirk-bharara-diagnoses-new-york-corruption-problem" target="_blank">Preet Bharara</a>, who has brought charges against Silver and others. "We peeled off one layer of the onion this time," Dadey continued, "but we will get to the core, if only because the public will demand it."</p> <p><em><strong>A look at <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5387-the-cuomo-record-governor-first-term-government-reform" target="_blank">Cuomo's attempts at reform</a>:</strong></em></p> <p><strong>2011:</strong> The Clean Up Albany Act <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/762-ethics-deal-breaks-logjam-but-leaves-key-issues-behind" target="_blank">established</a> The Joint Commission on Public Ethics to investigate corruption in the legislative and executive branches. Labeled "independent," the agency is actually headed by gubernatorial and legislative appointees with deep connections to those elected officials. It only takes three votes out of 14 members to stop an investigation. A required review of JCOPE's <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/876-when-will-new-york-have-a-functioning-ethics-agency-" target="_blank">effectiveness</a> in 2014 was not undertaken and the latest ethics law extends the deadline for such a review.</p> <p>Cuomo's quote: <em>"This bill is the tough and aggressive approach we need. It provides for disclosure of outside income by lawmakers, creates a true independent monitor to investigate corruption, and spells out tough, new rules that lobbyists must follow. Government does not work without the trust of the people and this ethics overhaul is an important step in restoring that trust."</em></p> <p><strong>2013:</strong> After a slew of legislators are indicted, Cuomo announces a package of reforms that good government groups call "watered down," but legislators balk. Cuomo threatens to convene a Moreland Commission to investigate corruption in the Legislature and <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-appoints-moreland-commission-investigate-public-corruption-attorney-general" target="_blank">makes good</a> on the promise in June. Moreland began holding hearings and taking testimony across the state but was quickly hampered by interference from the Cuomo administration when it began investigating major Cuomo donors.</p> <p>Cuomo's quote: <em>"Since the Legislature has failed to act, today I am formally empanelling a Commission to Investigate Public Corruption pursuant to the Moreland Act and Section 63(8) of the Executive Law that will convene the best minds in law enforcement and public policy from across New York to address weaknesses in the State's public corruption, election and campaign finance laws, generate transparency and accountability, and restore the public trust."</em></p> <p><strong>2014:</strong> Cuomo goes into details of <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-and-legislative-leaders-announce-passage-2014-15-budget" target="_blank">a budget deal</a> on a Saturday press conference call with reporters and reveals he has shuttered The Moreland Commission in exchange for a set of reforms that he sought the previous year. Those reforms include stronger bribery laws, a trial campaign finance system that only applied to the 2014 Comptroller's race, and a new enforcement position at the Board of Elections. Good government groups slammed the move and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara launched an investigation into Cuomo's involvement in the commission.</p> <p>Cuomo's quote: <em>"It's not a legal question. The Moreland Commission was my commission. It's my commission. My subpoena power, my Moreland Commission. I can appoint it, I can disband it. I appoint you, I can un-appoint you tomorrow. So, interference? It's my commission. I can't 'interfere' with it, because it is mine,"</em> Cuomo <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/gov-cuomo-stands-anti-corruption-commission-shutdown-article-1.1768508" target="_blank">told Crain's</a>.</p> <p><strong>2015</strong>: After Silver's arrest Cuomo gives <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-and-transcript-governor-cuomo-outlines-2015-ethics-reform-agenda-nyu-school-law" target="_blank">a speech</a> at the NYU School of Law where he discusses major reforms like a full-time legislature and a public campaign finance system. He says he is willing to have a late budget if it means getting his proposed reforms. However, a following statement from his office indicates the bigger reforms are not part of his ultimatum. When the budget deal is finally reached it includes more funding for JCOPE, a swipe card system for lawmakers to prevent per diem fraud, and a set of new rules he calls "The nation's toughest diclosure laws."</p> <p>Cuomo's quote: <em>"I said I would not sign a Budget without real ethics reform, and this Budget does just that, putting in place the nation's strongest and most comprehensive rules for disclosure of outside income by public officials, reforming the long-abused per diem system, revoking public pensions for those who abuse the public's trust, defining and eliminating personal use of campaign funds, and increasing transparency of independent expenditures."</em></p> <p>Unlike years past, Cuomo and leaders of the Legislature did not hold a press conference to discuss the budget or the ethics reforms.</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p> Frustrated and Confused, Legislators Vote on Largely Unseen Budget 2015-03-31T10:00:21+00:00 2015-03-31T10:00:21+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5664:frustrated-and-confused-legislators-vote-on-largely-unseen-budget Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/cuomo_greek_parade.jpg" alt="cuomo greek parade" height="459" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo during Sunday's Greek Independence parade (photo: @NYGovCuomo)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Voting on a murky budget "framework" began in Albany on Monday evening under a cloud of confusion and anger. Debate in both houses of the state Legislature stretched from afternoon into evening, with the Assembly adjourning around 9 and the Senate around 10 p.m. Both will be back to finish voting on budget bills Tuesday morning - legslation that members mostly have not had a chance to read.</p> <p>As Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislators sprint to an on-time budget, frustration at the Capitol is clear. Budget agreements were things to be grandly celebrated during the first three years of Cuomo's tenure, now in its fifth year. But the past two deals have oozed out with little fanfare and plenty of criticism.</p> <p>Last year Cuomo went over a deal with reporters on a Saturday conference call, quietly revealing he had agreed to shutter The Moreland Commission on Public Corruption. This year, a Sunday announcement of the "framework" of a deal by Cuomo's office appeared premature on Monday when no formal press conference was held and legislators involved in discussions said that a number of areas were still under negotiation.</p> <p>In the rush to ensure a fifth straight on-time budget before the April 1 deadline, Cuomo even issued messages of necessity to expedite the passage of the bills and allow them to be voted on without the required three-day review window - something he had tried to avoid previously in an effort to escape criticism.</p> <p>On Monday evening rank-and-file legislators were unclear on exactly what they were being asked to vote on. State Senator John DeFranciso. who helped author a much-touted ethics agreement, admitted it would only be available for review for a few hours before legislators from both chambers would vote on it.</p> <p>The ethics package isn't alone. A little past 8:30 p.m. on Monday, Sen. Kemp Hannon said that the capital projects portion of the budget was still being negotiated. As of 9 p.m. legislators still hadn't been provided with education runs that show how state cash will be distributed to school districts. It is unclear if key education policies have fully been agreed upon.</p> <p>"This budget is shaping up to being nothing more than a glorified extender," Sen. Michael Gianaris said on the floor on Monday. Senate Democrats voted against the budget bills because their leader, Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, has been left out of budget negotiations and because the budget was bereft of so many pertinent issues Democrats had been fighting for, such as the DREAM Act.</p> <p>Blair Horner, of New York Public Interest Research Group, said that it wasn't exactly surprising the budget was so thin on details, even this late in the game. He noted that Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is negotiating his first budget, Cuomo has a new second term staff, and Senate Republicans are trying to maintain a "razor-thin majority."</p> <p>After the arrest of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on federal corruption charges earlier this year Cuomo said he was so set on getting a new set of ethics reforms that he would even sacrifice an on-time budget. But with public opinion turning against him, especially around his handling of education reform, Cuomo and legislators appeared to abandon some of the other policy pieces he had touted. Gone from a final budget deal are an increase to the minimum wage, grand jury reform, the 'raise the age' initiative, an extension of mayoral control of schools, raising the charter school cap, an education donation tax credit, the DREAM Act, and paid family leave. The two minorities - Senate Democrats and Assembly Republicans - attempted a number of hostile amendments to derail the deal, or at least poke holes in it.</p> <p>What is in the budget agreement appears to be a $1.6 billion increase in education spending, a new plan for revamping the teacher evaluation system through the state education department, $1.5 million in funds for upstate economic development, infrastructure expenditures, and state operational spending capped at an increase of 2 percent.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio praised the education funding included in the budget on Monday, but noted he would like to have seen more action on progressive issues. "I think I made my views known on mayoral control of education, I made my views known on the Dream Act. I was hoping both of those issues would be addressed here and now, but they have been postponed," de Blasio <a href="http://observer.com/2015/03/bill-de-blasio-is-mostly-happy-with-education-deal-in-state-budge" target="_blank">said</a> during a press conference on Monday. "We'll obviously continue our efforts to get the Dream Act passed and mayoral control of schools renewed for a substantial period of time."</p> <p>A Capital New York <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/03/8565085/budget-includes-sales-tax-carveout-yachts" target="_blank">report</a> that the budget all of a sudden included a sales-tax exemption for boats that cost over $230,000 (and private planes) became the talk of the capital as legislators prepared to vote on the budget bills that had been settled. Many legislators hammered away at the "yacht exemption" as they noted the budget does not include a DREAM Act or minimum wage. Many still voted for it.</p> <p>Grievances about what is or is not in the mysterious ethics bill were also aired. The deal appeared to involve a mandate that lawyer-legislators disclose clients who pay them more than $5,000, but they would be allowed to appeal to state agencies to not make certain disclosures. Legislators will also be forced to check in to the Capitol with a swipe card to earn their per diem travel reimbursements.</p> <p>The irony of an ethics reform bill being among the last to be seen as the budget is being passed through was not lost on many. Meanwhile, during a floor vote on budget bills in the Senate, Sen. Daniel Squadron questioned DeFranciso about whether the missing ethics bill would close the LLC "loophole" that allows one person to donate unlimited campaign funds by using multiple LLCs. DeFranciso admitted the provision would not be part of the bill but took exception to the "loophole" label.</p> <p>"The LLC loophole is unconscionable to leave out of this year's budget at a time when ethics reform has been put forward as necessity," Squadron told legislators. Later, Sen. Brad Hoylman wryly suggested, "Maybe we should call this the New York State Senate LLC exception." Both the Democratic-controlled Assembly and Cuomo had advocated for ending the loophole. Sources told Gotham Gazette the provision was removed at the behest of Senate Republicans.</p> <p>Attorney General Eric Schneiderman slammed the ethics package earlier Monday. Schneiderman is advocating <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5634-schneiderman-unveils-ethics-plan-to-cure-the-disease" target="_blank">major reform</a> of the Legislature - including making it a full-time body. "I have not seen the final copy of this, but, from what I understand, it does sound as though this is more tinkering around the edges, accompanied by some fairly strong and recycled language about how this really solves all the problems."</p> <p>Floor debate in the Senate also revealed that Senators, even from the majority involved in negotiations had no knowledge of major policy details. Democratic Sen. Liz Krueger asked DeFrancisco, a Republican, about the state's brownfields program and DeFrancisco admitted he had no knowledge of the final details and said he would get an "analyst" to answer Krueger's inquiry. "I can't intelligently give you an answer on that question," DeFrancisco said. Krueger said she "sympathized" with DeFrancisco because so much was unfinished in the budget. "We are voting on a budget that isn't a budget; budget bills that aren't budget bills," said Krueger.</p> <p>Horner said that it was "mind-boggling" even by Albany standards that "an agreement to open up Albany would be delivered under darkness with so much secrecy."</p> <p>Senate Democrats, who have been increasingly critical of Cuomo in public in the last few months, simultaneously congratulated Schneiderman for <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5652-hurting-homeowners-say-bank-settlement-funds-belong-with-them" target="_blank">his work securing settlements</a> with major banks on mortgage fraud and contributing to the state windfall while decrying the budget deal Cuomo negotiated for not using those funds to help neighborhoods hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.</p> <p>Democratic Senators Adriano Espaillat and Leroy Comrie both lamented a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5652-hurting-homeowners-say-bank-settlement-funds-belong-with-them" target="_blank">lack of help</a> for those in mortgage crisis in their districts.</p> <p>In the days leading up to the budget vote - including Monday - Cuomo faced blistering, unrelenting attacks from teachers unions and some parent groups on <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5657-debate-over-evaluations-leaves-teachers-frustrated" target="_blank">his plan to change teacher evaluations</a> to rely more on students' state test scores and to boost charter schools. New Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie won accolades from education lobbyists for standing up to Cuomo on education issues, while Senate Republicans appear to have come out the biggest winners as they stymied any effort to move major progressive issues. Meanwhile, Cuomo's mystique as a man who can move mountains and votes to achieve his policy goals has been all but exterminated. "Mario Cuomo said that in politics friends are scarce and enemies accumulate," said Horner.</p> <p>Cuomo admitted this year's budget was the toughest for him to negotiate, pointing to his push for major ethics and education reforms.</p> <p>"It isn't surprising Andrew had so much success in his first term - first-term governors tend to get what they want and he had allies spending money to defend him," Horner said. This year, Horner said Cuomo was operating with a new team of aides, with his list of enemies growing, and without organizations like the controversial Committee to Save New York that raised funds at his behest to run advertisements to support his policies.</p> <p>Cuomo also lost much credibility with reform groups when he decided to negotiate the end of Moreland with legislators. This year he is seeing the impact - good government groups have thrown their backing behind <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5634-schneiderman-unveils-ethics-plan-to-cure-the-disease" target="_blank">Schneiderman's ethics plan</a> and are dismissing an ethics framework Cuomo says will "address intractable problems that have vexed our state for generations," because they have seen him tout previous deals that ended up fragmented and loaded with loopholes.</p> <p>"We are waiting to see the plan to cast official judgement," Horner said of NYPIRG and other good government groups. "We've seen in the past that we will be told one thing only to see the language in the bill is the exact opposite."</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/cuomo_greek_parade.jpg" alt="cuomo greek parade" height="459" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo during Sunday's Greek Independence parade (photo: @NYGovCuomo)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Voting on a murky budget "framework" began in Albany on Monday evening under a cloud of confusion and anger. Debate in both houses of the state Legislature stretched from afternoon into evening, with the Assembly adjourning around 9 and the Senate around 10 p.m. Both will be back to finish voting on budget bills Tuesday morning - legslation that members mostly have not had a chance to read.</p> <p>As Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislators sprint to an on-time budget, frustration at the Capitol is clear. Budget agreements were things to be grandly celebrated during the first three years of Cuomo's tenure, now in its fifth year. But the past two deals have oozed out with little fanfare and plenty of criticism.</p> <p>Last year Cuomo went over a deal with reporters on a Saturday conference call, quietly revealing he had agreed to shutter The Moreland Commission on Public Corruption. This year, a Sunday announcement of the "framework" of a deal by Cuomo's office appeared premature on Monday when no formal press conference was held and legislators involved in discussions said that a number of areas were still under negotiation.</p> <p>In the rush to ensure a fifth straight on-time budget before the April 1 deadline, Cuomo even issued messages of necessity to expedite the passage of the bills and allow them to be voted on without the required three-day review window - something he had tried to avoid previously in an effort to escape criticism.</p> <p>On Monday evening rank-and-file legislators were unclear on exactly what they were being asked to vote on. State Senator John DeFranciso. who helped author a much-touted ethics agreement, admitted it would only be available for review for a few hours before legislators from both chambers would vote on it.</p> <p>The ethics package isn't alone. A little past 8:30 p.m. on Monday, Sen. Kemp Hannon said that the capital projects portion of the budget was still being negotiated. As of 9 p.m. legislators still hadn't been provided with education runs that show how state cash will be distributed to school districts. It is unclear if key education policies have fully been agreed upon.</p> <p>"This budget is shaping up to being nothing more than a glorified extender," Sen. Michael Gianaris said on the floor on Monday. Senate Democrats voted against the budget bills because their leader, Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, has been left out of budget negotiations and because the budget was bereft of so many pertinent issues Democrats had been fighting for, such as the DREAM Act.</p> <p>Blair Horner, of New York Public Interest Research Group, said that it wasn't exactly surprising the budget was so thin on details, even this late in the game. He noted that Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is negotiating his first budget, Cuomo has a new second term staff, and Senate Republicans are trying to maintain a "razor-thin majority."</p> <p>After the arrest of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on federal corruption charges earlier this year Cuomo said he was so set on getting a new set of ethics reforms that he would even sacrifice an on-time budget. But with public opinion turning against him, especially around his handling of education reform, Cuomo and legislators appeared to abandon some of the other policy pieces he had touted. Gone from a final budget deal are an increase to the minimum wage, grand jury reform, the 'raise the age' initiative, an extension of mayoral control of schools, raising the charter school cap, an education donation tax credit, the DREAM Act, and paid family leave. The two minorities - Senate Democrats and Assembly Republicans - attempted a number of hostile amendments to derail the deal, or at least poke holes in it.</p> <p>What is in the budget agreement appears to be a $1.6 billion increase in education spending, a new plan for revamping the teacher evaluation system through the state education department, $1.5 million in funds for upstate economic development, infrastructure expenditures, and state operational spending capped at an increase of 2 percent.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio praised the education funding included in the budget on Monday, but noted he would like to have seen more action on progressive issues. "I think I made my views known on mayoral control of education, I made my views known on the Dream Act. I was hoping both of those issues would be addressed here and now, but they have been postponed," de Blasio <a href="http://observer.com/2015/03/bill-de-blasio-is-mostly-happy-with-education-deal-in-state-budge" target="_blank">said</a> during a press conference on Monday. "We'll obviously continue our efforts to get the Dream Act passed and mayoral control of schools renewed for a substantial period of time."</p> <p>A Capital New York <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/03/8565085/budget-includes-sales-tax-carveout-yachts" target="_blank">report</a> that the budget all of a sudden included a sales-tax exemption for boats that cost over $230,000 (and private planes) became the talk of the capital as legislators prepared to vote on the budget bills that had been settled. Many legislators hammered away at the "yacht exemption" as they noted the budget does not include a DREAM Act or minimum wage. Many still voted for it.</p> <p>Grievances about what is or is not in the mysterious ethics bill were also aired. The deal appeared to involve a mandate that lawyer-legislators disclose clients who pay them more than $5,000, but they would be allowed to appeal to state agencies to not make certain disclosures. Legislators will also be forced to check in to the Capitol with a swipe card to earn their per diem travel reimbursements.</p> <p>The irony of an ethics reform bill being among the last to be seen as the budget is being passed through was not lost on many. Meanwhile, during a floor vote on budget bills in the Senate, Sen. Daniel Squadron questioned DeFranciso about whether the missing ethics bill would close the LLC "loophole" that allows one person to donate unlimited campaign funds by using multiple LLCs. DeFranciso admitted the provision would not be part of the bill but took exception to the "loophole" label.</p> <p>"The LLC loophole is unconscionable to leave out of this year's budget at a time when ethics reform has been put forward as necessity," Squadron told legislators. Later, Sen. Brad Hoylman wryly suggested, "Maybe we should call this the New York State Senate LLC exception." Both the Democratic-controlled Assembly and Cuomo had advocated for ending the loophole. Sources told Gotham Gazette the provision was removed at the behest of Senate Republicans.</p> <p>Attorney General Eric Schneiderman slammed the ethics package earlier Monday. Schneiderman is advocating <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5634-schneiderman-unveils-ethics-plan-to-cure-the-disease" target="_blank">major reform</a> of the Legislature - including making it a full-time body. "I have not seen the final copy of this, but, from what I understand, it does sound as though this is more tinkering around the edges, accompanied by some fairly strong and recycled language about how this really solves all the problems."</p> <p>Floor debate in the Senate also revealed that Senators, even from the majority involved in negotiations had no knowledge of major policy details. Democratic Sen. Liz Krueger asked DeFrancisco, a Republican, about the state's brownfields program and DeFrancisco admitted he had no knowledge of the final details and said he would get an "analyst" to answer Krueger's inquiry. "I can't intelligently give you an answer on that question," DeFrancisco said. Krueger said she "sympathized" with DeFrancisco because so much was unfinished in the budget. "We are voting on a budget that isn't a budget; budget bills that aren't budget bills," said Krueger.</p> <p>Horner said that it was "mind-boggling" even by Albany standards that "an agreement to open up Albany would be delivered under darkness with so much secrecy."</p> <p>Senate Democrats, who have been increasingly critical of Cuomo in public in the last few months, simultaneously congratulated Schneiderman for <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5652-hurting-homeowners-say-bank-settlement-funds-belong-with-them" target="_blank">his work securing settlements</a> with major banks on mortgage fraud and contributing to the state windfall while decrying the budget deal Cuomo negotiated for not using those funds to help neighborhoods hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.</p> <p>Democratic Senators Adriano Espaillat and Leroy Comrie both lamented a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5652-hurting-homeowners-say-bank-settlement-funds-belong-with-them" target="_blank">lack of help</a> for those in mortgage crisis in their districts.</p> <p>In the days leading up to the budget vote - including Monday - Cuomo faced blistering, unrelenting attacks from teachers unions and some parent groups on <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5657-debate-over-evaluations-leaves-teachers-frustrated" target="_blank">his plan to change teacher evaluations</a> to rely more on students' state test scores and to boost charter schools. New Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie won accolades from education lobbyists for standing up to Cuomo on education issues, while Senate Republicans appear to have come out the biggest winners as they stymied any effort to move major progressive issues. Meanwhile, Cuomo's mystique as a man who can move mountains and votes to achieve his policy goals has been all but exterminated. "Mario Cuomo said that in politics friends are scarce and enemies accumulate," said Horner.</p> <p>Cuomo admitted this year's budget was the toughest for him to negotiate, pointing to his push for major ethics and education reforms.</p> <p>"It isn't surprising Andrew had so much success in his first term - first-term governors tend to get what they want and he had allies spending money to defend him," Horner said. This year, Horner said Cuomo was operating with a new team of aides, with his list of enemies growing, and without organizations like the controversial Committee to Save New York that raised funds at his behest to run advertisements to support his policies.</p> <p>Cuomo also lost much credibility with reform groups when he decided to negotiate the end of Moreland with legislators. This year he is seeing the impact - good government groups have thrown their backing behind <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5634-schneiderman-unveils-ethics-plan-to-cure-the-disease" target="_blank">Schneiderman's ethics plan</a> and are dismissing an ethics framework Cuomo says will "address intractable problems that have vexed our state for generations," because they have seen him tout previous deals that ended up fragmented and loaded with loopholes.</p> <p>"We are waiting to see the plan to cast official judgement," Horner said of NYPIRG and other good government groups. "We've seen in the past that we will be told one thing only to see the language in the bill is the exact opposite."</p> <p>****<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p> Outside Experts, Inside Employees Agree: Cuomo's Email Purge Misguided 2015-03-06T00:45:01+00:00 2015-03-06T00:45:01+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5618:outside-experts-inside-employees-agree-cuomos-email-purge-misguided Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/16386730649_2c2c3d4c7a_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo (photo: Governor's Office via flickr)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo's new 90-day email deletion policy for all state agencies is being met with widespread disapproval. Experts say it is terrible for transparency; the people who have to abide by the mandate say they don't feel qualified to implement it and that it isn't good for their productivity.</p> <p>According to a number of state workers who spoke to Gotham Gazette on the condition of anonymity, regular work habits have been disrupted by the policy that sees emails purged after three months. They say that the policy costs them time because to abide by it they are forced to weigh the State's monumentally large email retention policy against the purge policy, and then ferret out and save important emails.</p> <p>There is also concern that losing emails will disrupt workflow because employees won't be able to refer back to previous conversations by searching their inboxes, as people often do.</p> <p>The State began the program after consolidating a myriad of email systems into Microsoft Office 365. Capital New York <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/02/8562835/cuomo-administration-begins-large-scale-email-purges" target="_blank">reported</a> the start of the program last week. The program actually gives the administrator the ability to purge employee emails after one day. A coalition of technology- and transparency-minded groups including Reinvent Albany and the NYCLU wrote the governor last month to oppose implementation of the program, arguing that it would cripple Freedom of Information Act laws (FOIL).</p> <p>"This policy was adopted without public notice or comment," reads the letter. "Furthermore, we are extremely concerned that the inevitable destruction of email records under your 90-day automatic deletion policy directly undermines other public accountability laws like the False Claims Act."</p> <p>Cuomo's IT chief Maggie Miller <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/02/8563051/cuomo-it-chief-grilled-over-email-purges" target="_blank">was grilled</a> about the policy during a budget hearing last week. She defended the policy, saying in part, "It's also a matter of, actually, encouraging good behavior, prudent and responsible use of state resources." In terms of concern over space issues and expense, Microsoft Office 365 offers decades worth of email retention.</p> <p>The Cuomo administration has billed the deletion program as a way to improve efficiency, but workers say it's a hinderance and that they don't feel qualified to decide which emails should be saved in case of lawsuits or FOIL requests. "This just isn't my job," said one employee.</p> <p>State rules pertaining to what emails should be saved <a href="http://www.propublica.org/article/why-is-cuomo-administration-automatically-deleting-state-employees-emails" target="_blank">are extensive</a> - they take up 118 pages and 215 separate categories.</p> <p>State Sen. Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan, told Gotham Gazette that she learned of the policy during that budget hearing and was "horrified."</p> <p>"How many state employees understand the language in the policy about what should be preserved?" Kruger asked. "I asked three FOIL lawyers how complicated it is and whether a layman could interpret the rules and they laughed."</p> <p>Krueger has a bill in the works that would overturn the 90-day policy and establish retention timelines for different areas of government. The bill would add electronic communication to the state's archive laws. She says her legislation will be complicated because it covers so many areas, but takes some inspiration from the Federal Capstone Email Management Policy. It would also make all branches of government, including the Legislature, subject to FOIL. Krueger said she expects bill drafting to be complete in about a week.</p> <p>There is concern among some legislators and advocates who want to stop Cuomo's policy that Krueger's bill is too far-reaching to actually pass. One legislator told Gotham Gazette with condition of anonymity that they felt making the Legislature subject to FOIL is actually a "poison pill," and virtually guarantees it will not pass.</p> <p>Krueger said that her bill is not designed as an attack on Cuomo. "I hope this is a situation where the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. Maybe the governor made a mistake. This isn't a spat. I'm not here to go 'Ha, ha! I caught you screwing up!' I am here to repair [the situation] because I care about the democratic process."</p> <p>Although the uproar over the policy has been sudden and sharp it isn't exactly surprising that the Cuomo administration implemented it. The administration is known for being extremely secretive, and has been working on the implementation of the program for years.</p> <p>Zephyr Teachout, Cuomo's primary opponent from last year and author of a book on political corruption, has slammed the policy and pointed out that Cuomo is under federal investigation for tampering with The Moreland Commission on Public Corruption.</p> <p>"Everyone knows that Albany - all of it, executive and legislative - has a corruption problem. Some of it's legal, some of it's illegal," Teachout told Gotham Gazette. " At this particular moment, with such low trust in Albany, there's no excuse for an email deletion policy. He should be opening the books, not burning them after three months. Transparency isn't the full answer. X-rays don't cure patients. But you need them to figure out what's going on."</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/2014/03/16386730649_2c2c3d4c7a_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo (photo: Governor's Office via flickr)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo's new 90-day email deletion policy for all state agencies is being met with widespread disapproval. Experts say it is terrible for transparency; the people who have to abide by the mandate say they don't feel qualified to implement it and that it isn't good for their productivity.</p> <p>According to a number of state workers who spoke to Gotham Gazette on the condition of anonymity, regular work habits have been disrupted by the policy that sees emails purged after three months. They say that the policy costs them time because to abide by it they are forced to weigh the State's monumentally large email retention policy against the purge policy, and then ferret out and save important emails.</p> <p>There is also concern that losing emails will disrupt workflow because employees won't be able to refer back to previous conversations by searching their inboxes, as people often do.</p> <p>The State began the program after consolidating a myriad of email systems into Microsoft Office 365. Capital New York <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/02/8562835/cuomo-administration-begins-large-scale-email-purges" target="_blank">reported</a> the start of the program last week. The program actually gives the administrator the ability to purge employee emails after one day. A coalition of technology- and transparency-minded groups including Reinvent Albany and the NYCLU wrote the governor last month to oppose implementation of the program, arguing that it would cripple Freedom of Information Act laws (FOIL).</p> <p>"This policy was adopted without public notice or comment," reads the letter. "Furthermore, we are extremely concerned that the inevitable destruction of email records under your 90-day automatic deletion policy directly undermines other public accountability laws like the False Claims Act."</p> <p>Cuomo's IT chief Maggie Miller <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/02/8563051/cuomo-it-chief-grilled-over-email-purges" target="_blank">was grilled</a> about the policy during a budget hearing last week. She defended the policy, saying in part, "It's also a matter of, actually, encouraging good behavior, prudent and responsible use of state resources." In terms of concern over space issues and expense, Microsoft Office 365 offers decades worth of email retention.</p> <p>The Cuomo administration has billed the deletion program as a way to improve efficiency, but workers say it's a hinderance and that they don't feel qualified to decide which emails should be saved in case of lawsuits or FOIL requests. "This just isn't my job," said one employee.</p> <p>State rules pertaining to what emails should be saved <a href="http://www.propublica.org/article/why-is-cuomo-administration-automatically-deleting-state-employees-emails" target="_blank">are extensive</a> - they take up 118 pages and 215 separate categories.</p> <p>State Sen. Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan, told Gotham Gazette that she learned of the policy during that budget hearing and was "horrified."</p> <p>"How many state employees understand the language in the policy about what should be preserved?" Kruger asked. "I asked three FOIL lawyers how complicated it is and whether a layman could interpret the rules and they laughed."</p> <p>Krueger has a bill in the works that would overturn the 90-day policy and establish retention timelines for different areas of government. The bill would add electronic communication to the state's archive laws. She says her legislation will be complicated because it covers so many areas, but takes some inspiration from the Federal Capstone Email Management Policy. It would also make all branches of government, including the Legislature, subject to FOIL. Krueger said she expects bill drafting to be complete in about a week.</p> <p>There is concern among some legislators and advocates who want to stop Cuomo's policy that Krueger's bill is too far-reaching to actually pass. One legislator told Gotham Gazette with condition of anonymity that they felt making the Legislature subject to FOIL is actually a "poison pill," and virtually guarantees it will not pass.</p> <p>Krueger said that her bill is not designed as an attack on Cuomo. "I hope this is a situation where the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. Maybe the governor made a mistake. This isn't a spat. I'm not here to go 'Ha, ha! I caught you screwing up!' I am here to repair [the situation] because I care about the democratic process."</p> <p>Although the uproar over the policy has been sudden and sharp it isn't exactly surprising that the Cuomo administration implemented it. The administration is known for being extremely secretive, and has been working on the implementation of the program for years.</p> <p>Zephyr Teachout, Cuomo's primary opponent from last year and author of a book on political corruption, has slammed the policy and pointed out that Cuomo is under federal investigation for tampering with The Moreland Commission on Public Corruption.</p> <p>"Everyone knows that Albany - all of it, executive and legislative - has a corruption problem. Some of it's legal, some of it's illegal," Teachout told Gotham Gazette. " At this particular moment, with such low trust in Albany, there's no excuse for an email deletion policy. He should be opening the books, not burning them after three months. Transparency isn't the full answer. X-rays don't cure patients. But you need them to figure out what's going on."</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p>