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Reinvent Albany

Reinvent Albany

  • Thanks to a Push, Democratic County Organizations Slowly Grow Digital Footprint

    new queens democrats

    The New Queens Democrats recently formed (photo via NQD on Facebook)


    When Sahand Shahrabani moved to Forest Hills, Queens in 2013, the recent college graduate had one goal: to get involved in local politics. But a Google search turned up eerily sparse results for Democratic clubs in the borough and no trace of the Queens County Democratic Party.

    “They don't have Facebook and there’s no website. I was definitely surprised and disappointed by the lack of web presence,” said Shahrabani, now 29.

    During the 2016 presidential race,

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  • Voting Reform Advocates Say Cuomo Can Do More Through Executive Order

    Cuomo podium

    Gov. Cuomo (photo: The Governor's Office)


    Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order Monday expanding the list of New York State agencies required to provide voter registration assistance and creating a task force to oversee implementation of the program.

    While current state and federal law requires the forms to be available at the Department of Motor Vehicles and certain social service agencies, Cuomo’s

    Reviews Are In: What Watchdogs Say About The New State Budget

    Cuomo budget presentation

    (photo: The Governor's Office)


    A new state budget was passed in April in typical Albany fashion: with almost no time for public scrutiny of the bills or proper review by the legislators who quickly voted them through. Since the $153.1 billion budget was passed, watchdogs both in and out of government have released analyses, helping to better inform citizens and increase accountability.

    The budget was adopted a

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  • For Second Time, Legislature Sends FOIL Penalty Bill to Cuomo

    bill signing Cuomo

    (photo: Philip Kamrass/Governor's Office)


    A bill that would greatly strengthen New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), already vetoed once by Governor Andrew Cuomo, has again passed both houses of the Legislature -- with some minor adjustments.

    The bipartisan legislation, which passed the

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  • Government Watchdogs Push 'Clean Contracting' Reform in Albany

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    Alain Kaloyeros in 2016 (photo: The Governor's Office)


    A coalition of budget and transparency watchdog groups are calling on the Legislature to pass, and for Governor Cuomo to sign, comprehensive “clean contracting” legislation in response to the bid-rigging scandal that rocked the state Capitol last year and continues to reverberate.

    Specifically, at a Wednesday press conference the groups called for restoration of reviewing powers to State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli for all state contracts exceeding $250,000, an end to non-academic

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  • Renewed Push for 'Performance Budgeting' Through Mayor's Management Report

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    Council Member Ben Kallos (Photo: William Alatriste/New York City Council)


    A critical study by a fiscal watchdog on the city’s annual performance report has led to renewed calls for city agencies to base their budgets on the efficiency of services.

    The Citizens Budget Commission, an independent nonprofit, released an analysis earlier this month of the Mayor’s Management Report (MMR),

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  • City Council Hears Legislative Package on Conflicts of Interest and Campaign Finance

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    Henry Berger testifying (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    The City Council heard testimony Monday on a broad package of bills that would prevent conflicts of interest between elected officials and political nonprofits, limit the electoral influence of those who do business with the city, and make it easier for first-time candidates to navigate the city’s campaign finance system.

    The Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics heard 14 bills on Monday in what was the current Council’s first hearing of the committee focused on legislation. Of the 14, the headlining bill,

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  • In Wake of Charges, Cuomo Promises Change, Offers Few Details

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    Gov. Cuomo (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


    A day after United States Attorney Preet Bharara unveiled a myriad of corruption charges against two of his closest allies and some of his biggest donors related to their abuse of the state’s economic development programs, Gov. Andrew Cuomo traveled to Buffalo to announce he was expanding the program that sparked Bharara’s investigation.

    Cuomo publicly acknowledged the “truly disappointing” allegations and told the gathered crowd that his

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  • Federal Corruption Charges Confirm Systemic Flaws in State Economic Development System

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    Cuomo in Buffalo (photo via The Governor's Office on Flickr)


    After laying out multiple corruption and bribery charges against nine players involved with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature economic development program, including his former aide and close friend Joe Percoco, family friend and confidante Todd Howe, and a number of major developers and Cuomo donors, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara refused to say whether the governor is a target in the probe or if it is reasonable to hold him accountable for the conduct of the people he empowered.

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  • Cuomo Seeks to Undermine Comptroller’s Check on His Power

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    Cuomo, left, and DiNapoli, middle, in 2012 (photo: The Governor's Office)


    Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent assertion that Comptroller Tom DiNapoli should “educate himself” and that the comptroller’s audits on state economic development projects are “dead wrong” and “opinion” drew a lot of attention. Many Albany observers took it as a sign of Cuomo’s growing sensitivity to criticism about his signature projects.

    Those projects, like the Buffalo Billion, are the subject of a

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  • Two Months On, Buffalo Billion Investigator’s Contract Remains a Mystery

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    Gov. Cuomo (photo: The Governor's Office)


    It has been two months since Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that Bartz Schwartz would conduct an “independent review” of the state’s signature Buffalo Billion economic development program and yet Schwartz’s contract with the state remains either unfinished or under wraps. On April 29, following the news that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara had subpoenaed some of Cuomo’s closest allies in conjunction with an investigation into bid-rigging and other possible improprieties, Cuomo and

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  • Cuomo Appears to Give Up on Legislature Closing LLC Loophole

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    Gov. Cuomo & his budget director, Robert Mujica (photo: The Governor's Office)


    Gov. Andrew Cuomo appears to have given up on the state Legislature taking action to close the notorious LLC loophole, which allows wealthy donors to subvert campaign finance laws by creating multiple limited liability corporations that can each give more than $60,000 to a candidate’s campaign.

    According to The New York Times, Cuomo said this weekend that it would be up to the public to close the loophole through a constitutional convention.

    In

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  • Everyone Agrees Albany Needs Ethics Reform, Except the People Who Matter Most

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    Heastie, Cuomo, Flanagan (l-r) (photo via The Governor's Office)


    "Top of my agenda is going to be ethics reform," said Governor Andrew Cuomo, speaking on NY1 on Jan. 3. "We have done a lot in Albany, but we haven't done enough. And I'm going to push the legislature very hard to adopt more aggressive ethics legislation, more disclosure, more enforcement, etcetera."

    While the governor

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  • Oft-Criticized Ethics Watchdog Names Cuomo Aide as Executive Director

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    Gov. Cuomo gives an ethics reform speech in 2015 (Governor's Office via flickr)


    The state's independent ethics commission took the first official ethics-related action in Albany since the convictions of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos on Tuesday when it appointed a man with ties to both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders as its new executive director.

    Seth Agata, who JCOPE - the Joint Commission on Public Ethics - says it hired after a nine-month,

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  • Cuomo's Public Schedules Offer Little Information

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    Cuomo gives a press briefing in Tarrytown (Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


    Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was facing pressure from the press, local officials, and the public to make his first appearance in Hoosick Falls, a small town near the Vermont border. Residents of the town were told in December that their drinking water was unsafe for consumption due to contamination from a toxic chemical that may lead to cancer. Cuomo, whose administration has been accused of mishandling reports about water contamination in the

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  • Boards to Offer Peek Into New Ways to Access Campaign Finance Data

    cfb screenshot site page

    (photo via @NYCCFB)


    On Friday morning representatives from both the New York State Board of Elections and the New York City Campaign Finance Board will come together to outline updates to their reporting systems and take questions from candidates, journalists, watchdogs, and others.

    John Kaehny of Reinvent Albany, the good government group hosting the event along with Civic Hall, where it will take place, said he is most excited to have representatives

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  • Good Government Groups Point to New Evidence of Need for Major Ethics Reform

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    L-R: Silver, Cuomo & Skelos in 2011 (photo via the governor's office) 


    New York's leading good government groups gathered at Manhattan's Foley Square Wednesday to call on the New York State legislature and the governor to take immediate action to reform public ethics laws. The press conference, held in the shadows of a federal courthouse where one of New York’s most

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  • Spurred by Buffalo Billion, Reformers Look to Fix State Business Subsidies

    Cuomo Buffalo thank you

    Cuomo in Buffalo (photo: Governor's Office via flickr)


    United States Attorney Preet Bharara's attention has been drawn away from his normal stomping grounds to Buffalo, intrigued by what critics say is a shadowy network of state authorities and state-controlled non-profits handing out large business subsidies and contracts with little to no oversight.

    Watchdogs say that Gov. Andrew Cuomo, through SUNY Polytechnic head ...

  • Klein's 'Newspaper' Touts His Ability to Bring Home the Bacon

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    Sen. Klein's "newspaper"


    The latest edition of the "newspaper" being published by state Senator Jeff Klein features frontpage news celebrating his ability to bring cash home to his Bronx district.

    "UFT, educators herald Klein's $1.5M support for community schools," reads one frontpage headline.

    Another: "Community applauds Klein for securing $250K for Hudson River Greenway study."

    The timing is interesting given that the latest edition of "Riverdale Record" - circulation 37,000 - hit mailboxes just as Klein and the large sums

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  • Alain Kaloyeros, Powerful Centerpiece of Buffalo Billion, Could Become Household Name

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    Alain Kaloyeros (photo via the Governor's Office on flickr)


    It is easy to spot Alain Kaloyeros, head of SUNY Polytechnic, around Albany. You can often see him jetting around Stuyvesant Plaza, an upscale shopping center basically next door to the campus he built, which features a spaceship-like structure rising out of the dirt of constant construction.

    It doesn't hurt that he drives a Ferrari Spider with the license plate "Dr. Nano." He is New

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  • Despite Unprecedented Scandal, Calls for Special Ethics Session Fall on Deaf Ears

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    Recently convicted former Sen. John Sampson (photo: @SampsonVictory)


    It would reason to think that the conviction of two legislative leaders would lead to a flurry of anti-corruption activity in any state capital. But in Albany, where the new normal appears to involve multiple convictions and indictments of sitting lawmakers every year, last week's crime blotter appears to have barely turned a head. The convictions of Republican Senate Deputy Leader Tom Libous and Democratic Sen. John Sampson, a former Majority Leader, on

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  • Mostly Questions and Criticism Ahead of Cuomo Email Summit

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    Gov. Cuomo (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


    On Friday - the Friday of Memorial Day weekend - Gov. Andrew Cuomo will host a summit on email retention policy. It is a much-anticipated meeting that a large number of key stakeholders don't see a need for, and it's unclear what attendance will look like in terms of representation from the major entities in state government being called together to agree on a uniform approach to keeping and deleting official emails.

  • Overwhelmingly Passed Again by Assembly, Bill to Close LLC Loophole Appears Iced by Senate

    squadron podium

    Sen. Daniel Squadron (photo: @DanielSquadron)


    On Tuesday the state Assembly passed a bill to close the controversial LLC loophole at the center of the federal corruption cases against former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Both men - a Democrat and a Republican, respectively - were recently arrested and subsequently stepped down from their powerful leadership posts. Later in the evening Tuesday, the Senate’s version of the bill to close the loophole that allows money

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  • Left Out of Ethics Deal, LLC Loophole Faces Renewed Scrutiny

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    Gov. Cuomo & Speaker Heastie shake on an ethics deal (photo: Governor's Office via flickr)


    The New York State Board of Elections opened up a floodgate in 1996, allowing cash to flow virtually unabated to political candidates. The BOE issued a ruling that allowed limited liability corporations, or LLCs, to be treated as individual donors and individuals to donate unlimited funds to candidates for state-level offices by creating multiple LLCs. Efforts to change the law in the Legislature have failed miserably and

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  • Albany Sunshine Week Looked Like an Eclipse to Advocates

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    Cuomo and Heastie embrace over ethics deal (photo: Governor's Office via flickr)


    The Cuomo administration and the state Legislature are doing battle on a variety of fronts, perhaps none more intense than that over ethics reform. Last week, the administration launched a two-pronged attack in response to criticism of its 90-day email deletion policy and over a push for increased financial disclosure by administration employees and their significant others.

    The pushback came during Sunshine Week, when

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