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Sheldon Silver

Sheldon Silver

  • Adjusting to Albany: Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou

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    Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou (photo via @yuhline)


    Yuh-Line Niou, Assemblymember for the 65th District in Lower Manhattan, has a tough task. The new Assembly member takes the seat held by disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for 40 years. Niou won the September 2016 Democratic primary -- backed by the Working Families Party -- and November general election after losing a prior special election to Alice Cancel, who had been the choice of the Silver machine.

    Now, she must navigate growing into her role as an elected official, managing constituent

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  • On Your November Ballot: Stripping Pensions from Corrupt Politicians

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    Sheldon Silver & others in 2011 (photo: The Governor's Office)


    This November, New York voters will get to decide whether state officials who are convicted of public corruption can be stripped of their pensions.

    A government ethics reform bill, jointly passed by the state Legislature Monday for a second time, amends the state constitution and allows the state to reduce or revoke the pension of a public officer that has been convicted of a crime related to his or her official duties.

    Under the measure, a public officer convicted of a crime

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  • Crowded Assembly Field Looks to Quickly Unseat Silver Replacement

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    AD65 candidates at a debate (photo: @FilAmDems)


    In a world where U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara hadn’t turned his eye toward public corruption in state government, Sheldon Silver would likely be running for his 21st term in the Assembly and easily extending by another two years his 40-year reign over Manhattan’s 65th Assembly District.

    In the real world, Silver, who had already resigned the powerful Assembly speakership he held for almost 20 years, was automatically stripped of

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  • Should Everything Silver and Skelos Touched Be Reviewed?

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    Skelos, Cuomo, Silver (l-r) (photo via The Governor's Office, Jan. 2015)


    Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos were each told by their judge during recent prison sentencing that their corrupt actions have increased public cynicism around state government. Their corrupt actions, they were told, make people question what might have been different in the budgets and policy deals they negotiated, government decision-making that impacted millions. Judge Kimba Wood told Skelos we “can’t know” how his budget advocacy would

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  • 5 Things State Lawmakers Can Do To Prevent Another Silver

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    Silver, Cuomo, and others (photo via The Governor's Office, 2013)


    Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was perceived by many to be an institution of state government. Having served at the head of the Democrat-controlled Assembly for over a decade, Silver’s rule was iron-fisted and opaque - he could end a political career on a whim, kill a major policy initiative with a quiet grumble, and maneuver millions of dollars in state cash to recipients of his choice.

    That all ended last year when Silver was indicted by the U.S. Attorney on multiple

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  • Special Election Results Buoy Hopes for Reform

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    Todd Kaminsky votes for himself Tuesday (photo via @toddkaminsky)


    The polls may be closed but the heated race to replace convicted former Republican Senator Dean Skelos is far from over. Late Tuesday night Assemblymember Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat, declared victory while Republican candidate Chris McGrath refused to concede, saying the race would be decided by absentee ballots. Only 780 votes separate Kaminsky from McGrath and there are over 2,000 outstanding ballots to be counted. Regardless of the results the pair may face off again in November when the

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  • Legislative Days Quickly Dwindle, Intensifying Worry Over Ethics

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    Rally in the capital


    For the past two weeks state legislators have been preoccupied by the New York presidential primary. They’ve been charmed by candidates like Hillary Clinton and John Kasich who’ve come to the capital to pitch their campaigns and ask for support; and by Donald Trump and Ted Cruz who’ve invited them to attend large rallies.

    Legislators have been so distracted that the first two weeks of post-budget session have slipped by without much real legislative action, despite the fact that there is a long list of high-profile issues unsettled in the budget.

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  • For State Budget, Leaders Choose 'On Time' Over Open

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    Heastie, Cuomo, Flanagan (l-r), June 2015 (photo via The Governor's Office)


    As negotiations over the state's $150 billion budget sputtered on Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ramped up pressure on legislators to accept a deal. Speaking with reporters, Cuomo implied legislators could jeopardize a potential pay raise if they can't deliver an on-time budget.

    "So they're gonna need to be able to make that case not just to the pay commission but to the people of the State of New York in November when they go to seek re-election," Cuomo said. "So

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  • De Blasio Concerned with Lack of Clarity as State Budget Deadline Nears

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    De Blasio (photo: Rob Bennett/Mayoral Photography Office)


     

    Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday afternoon that he has been in regular contact with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and that he spoke with Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier in the day, but that he did not gain much clarity as Albany budget negotiations enter their final days.

    A new state budget is due by midnight Thursday, with the state's fiscal year beginning

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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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  • Assembly Announces Internal Reform Plan to Mixed Reviews

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    Assembly Speaker Heastie (photo via The Governor's Office)


    On Thursday afternoon - after session, at the end of Sunshine Week - the Assembly's year-long path to greater transparency and participation took a major step as Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced recommendations made by his reform committee and pledged to enact them.

    The proposals - some actual rules changes, others pledges - are designed to empower members through the committee process

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  • In Albany, Sunshine Week Starts with Darkness

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    Heastie, Cuomo, & Flanagan (l-r) in 2015 (photo via The Governor's Office) 


    The first Sunshine Week following the convictions of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos got off to an inauspicious start Monday as representatives of the state's major good government groups gathered in Albany to give their evaluation of the ethics reforms put forward in the one-house budgets released by the Assembly and Senate majorities over the weekend.

    "Unfortunately with a late Friday release what we're

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  • Democrats and Republicans Run Parallel Races in Special Elections Created by Corruption

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    Chris McGrath, Republican candidate for state Senate (photo: @McGrath4Senate) 


    Both groups are accustomed to scrapping for power and attention. With two recent federal corruption convictions, each saw an opportunity to grab more. And now, in downtown Manhattan and Nassau County Long Island, Republicans and Democrats are running parallel campaigns to seize upon a chance to flip one seat in each of the two houses of the New York State Legislature. 

    Assembly Republicans and Senate Democrats again find themselves in similar

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  • Heastie Outlines Assembly Ethics Plan

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    Carl Heastie (photo: Office of the Governor - Kevin P. Coughlin)


    In a major departure from his predecessor, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie publicly laid out his conference's proposals for government ethics reform during a wide-ranging speech and interview Friday morning. At a breakfast event hosted by Crain's New York Business, Heastie explained the proposals for preventing government corruption that will be contained in the Assembly's one-house budget, the release of which is key to intensifying negotiations with Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority

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  • Special Election Shows Need for Democratization

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    Charles Youn, executive director of KALCA, speaks at a press conference


    Any good democracy should reflect a society’s diversity in its leadership. The undemocratic way in which the 65th Assembly District special election is unfolding should galvanize all communities, particularly underrepresented ones, to push for reforms and encourage underrepresented New Yorkers to be more civically engaged.

    America does not always have accurate and inclusive representation in government. This is especially true in state legislatures. A few weeks ago...

  • Assembly Reform Group Nears Release of 49-Recommendation Report

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    Assembly Speaker Heastie photo: (Office of the Governor - Kevin P. Coughlin)


    The long wait for recommendations from a group of Democrats charged with finding ways to improve the transparency and democratization of the state Assembly may soon be over. According to Assembly Member Gary Pretlow, co-chair of The Assembly Working Group on Operations, Participation and Transparency, the release of a 49-point report is imminent.

    Pretlow told Gotham Gazette that the the committee's report will be made available after a press release is written

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  • Bharara Visits Capital He Upended

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    U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara (photo: @SDNYnews)


    For the last year a siege mentality has dominated the New York state capitol. And in some respect, Albany, or at least the political denizens who dwell within the capitol, does appear to be very much in the cross hairs of a conquering army headed by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. The main roads into town feature digital billboards flashing entreaties from the FBI urging New Yorkers to "REPORT CORRUPTION," along with a number for

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  • Good Government Groups Rate Cuomo's Ethics Package

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    Scene at Gov. Cuomo's State of the State (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


    On Tuesday in Albany, the heads of three major good government groups gave their evaluation of the ethics proposals Gov. Andrew Cuomo included in his State of the State address and budget presentation last week. Susan Lerner of Common Cause, Dick Dadey of Citizens Union and Blair Horner of the New York Public

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  • Once Rife with Problems, City Budget Process Now a Model for State System in Need of Reform

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    Governor Cuomo presents his 2014-2015 Executive Budget


    In 1975 New York City was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, having balanced its budget for years with massive borrowing and shady accounting tricks. Banks were at the point where they would lend no more. Mayor Abe Beame had written the announcement of the city's default. City lawyers were in State Supreme Court filing a petition for bankruptcy and police were prepared to serve

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  • Concerns of ‘Voter Fatigue’ as New York Schedules Four 2016 Election Days

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    Mayor de Blasio votes (photo via @BilldeBlasio) 


    As New Yorkers begin a year of many voting opportunities, there are important questions that elections will help answer - like who the next U.S. President will be and which party will control the state Senate - but also concern about voter fatigue and thus, turnout.

    There will be at least four chances for New Yorkers to cast votes in 2016, with three different primary election days leading up to November’s general election. There will be a presidential primary vote in April;

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  • Corruption, Elections Loom Over Lengthy 2016 Legislative Agenda

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    Cuomo (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)


    Lawmakers returning to Albany this week to kick off the 2016 legislative session are faced with a litany of unresolved issues from last year and the spectre of the recent convictions of two former legislative leaders.

    Add to that impending elections for all 213 legislative seats, some of which will be critical for the future of state Senate control and the prospect of future indictments hinted at by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and you have a recipe for potential

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  • Good Government Groups Want Legislators to Pledge to Fight for Reform

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    The pledge (photo via @CitizensUnionNY)


    Lawmakers returned to Albany for the first day of the 2016 legislative session in the wake of two seismic corruption convictions of their former house leaders. Waiting for them were representatives of three leading good government groups, asking New York state legislators to sign a pledge to fight for good government reform.

    On the first day of session since both former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos were convicted on multiple federal corruption charges, good government groups unveiled a

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  • Skelos Conviction Greeted With Calls for Immediate Action on Reform

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    Dean Skelos in 2012, via The Governor's Office on flickr 


    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.

    The convictions speak to a larger campaign by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whose

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  • Tenant Activists Trace Road to Corruption Trials, Eye Elusive Reform

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    Tenants sit-in at the Albany capitol


    "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.

    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

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  • The Week That Was in New York Politics, Nov 30-Dec 4

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    photo: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York


    Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday December 4, 2015

    PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Sheldon Silver outside the courthouse, via Zack Fink of NY1

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