Gotham Gazette Wed, 24 Jan 2018 11:12:09 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) 2018 Will Be a Busy, Contentious Election Year in New York election polling place Brooklyn

a polling place (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)

This year will be another busy, contentious election year for New Yorkers. While 2017 saw the majority of elections confined to local government, 2018 will see three election days and races for state-level offices, including five of six statewide positions and all of the state Legislature, and all of the state’s delegation to the House of Representatives.

A fourth election day may occur in some districts if Governor Andrew Cuomo calls a special election to fill 11 currently vacant state Senate and Assembly seats before the regularly-scheduled votes this fall. Cuomo could have called the special election as early as January 1 but has waited to do so, leaving those 11 districts with less than full representation.

Aside from those potential special elections and depending on political party affiliation, New Yorkers will be able to vote in the federal primaries on June 26; the state primaries on September 11; and Election Day November 6. Only those registered with a party can vote in party primaries in New York, but the November general elections are open to all registered voters. So-called “independent” voters -- those registered to vote but not with a party -- cannot participate in party primaries, nor can those registered with parties wherein primaries are not being decided.

In 2016 there was an unsuccessful push to combine the congressional and state primaries to a single date, which ensured four election days given it was a presidential year and that primary was in April. There is a good chance there will be a similar push this year to combine primary dates, but while Democrats have sought to move the state primaries to June, Republicans have suggested an August date, leaving the sides at an impasse.

Along with all the 27 New York House seats, which are elected every two years, one of New York’s two United State Senate seats, elected every six years, is on the ballot this year -- the one currently held by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. At the state government level, the four statewide posts of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller are all on the ballot in their four-year cycle, as well as the every-two-year elections of all 150 seats in the state Assembly and all 63 seats in the state Senate.

In New York, this year’s deadlines for candidates to file for federal office is April 12 and for state offices, July 12.

Another macro issue to watch ahead of this year’s elections is voting reform in New York. There is an ongoing push to see early voting passed, among other reforms like same-day registration and no-excuse absentee voting. While Cuomo, a Democrat, and the Democrat-controlled Assembly support such reforms, Republicans who control the state Senate do not.

2018 Federal Elections in New York
While Gillibrand is up for reelection this year, New York’s other U.S. Senator, Charles Schumer, won reelection in 2016 and won’t be on the ballot again until 2022. Gillibrand served in the House of Representatives from 2007 to 2009 before being appointed to the Senate in 2009, and winning a special election in 2010, to fill Hillary Clinton’s vacant seat when she was appointed Secretary of State. Gillibrand went on to win the regularly-scheduled 2012 election for the seat as well and is now running for her second full term as a senator. She is rumored as a possible 2020 presidential candidate. It is unclear who Republicans will run against her this year in New York.

In the House, New York and national Democrats are eyeing several seats to help flip control of the chamber through the 2018 elections. As of January 2018, the House is composed of 238 Republicans and 193 Democrats, with 4 vacancies.

Given Republican President Donald Trump’s record unpopularity, which is especially acute in his home state of New York; recent Democratic electoral wins in New York and elsewhere; and historical trends whereby a new president’s party loses congressional seats in the midterm elections, many are expecting a Democratic wave in 2018, with the potential for flipping the House and possibly the Senate.

Democrats’ “red to blue” campaign across the country will include multiple New York districts while local party activists may target others. Governor Cuomo, himself seeking a third term this year, has promised a campaign to flip six New York House seats after their officeholders have supported legislation Cuomo deems detrimental to New York. Cuomo joined House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats at a June 2017 rally in Manhattan to kick off a campaign to unseat Reps. Lee Zeldin (CD1), Chris Collins (CD27), John Faso (CD19), Elise Stefanik (CD21), Claudia Tenney (CD22), and Tom Reed (CD23).

The national Democratic Party is currently prioritizing two of those New York Congressional Districts, the 11th and the 22nd. Rep. Donovan currently represents the 11th, which includes all of Staten Island and some of Brooklyn. Max Rose is seen as the Democrats’ best chance to unseat Donovan in November, though Donovan also must first survivie a primary challenge by former Rep. Michael Grimm, who resigned from Congress after pleading guilty to tax evasion charges. Rep. Tenney represents the 22nd, sitting just east of Syracuse and including Binghamton, Cortland, and Utica, and the Democratic Party is apparently behind Anthony Brindisi, a state Assembly member.

New York’s 19th Congressional District, currently represented by Faso, is expected to be a toss up. Faso won a hotly contested 2016 race against Democrat Zephyr Teachout. The Hudson Valley seat is likely to again be home to a great deal of political spending.

The 24th Congressional District may also be home to a strong challenge to a sitting Republican. Syracuse’s recently-former mayor Stephanie Miner, a Democrat, has hinted at potentially challenging current Rep. Katko. The Democratic Party’s “red to blue” campaign lists the district in its efforts as well but has not found a candidate to support yet.

In the other direction, in early February 2017 the National Republican Congressional Committee released it’s Democratic targets for the 2018 elections. The list contained references to two New York Democrats: Tom Suozzi, who represents Congressional District 3 in the north and western portion of Nassau County, Long Island and Sean Patrick Maloney, who represents the 18th Congressional District containing Poughkeepsie, Woodbury, and Newburgh.

Aside from the Grimm-Donovan primary, there may be a handful of other intraparty challenges to sitting representatives worth watching. Rep. Joe Crowley of Queens, for example, is being challenged from the left by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. While Ocasio-Cortez faces very long odds, she may be able to at least make Crowley pay more attention to his home district than his larger ambitions and agenda.

2018 State-Level Elections in New York
As mentioned, 2018 is an election year for the four state-level statewide positions of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller. All four posts are held by Democrats expected to seek another term.

Governor Cuomo was first elected to the position in 2010 and won reelection in 2014. While Bob Duffy was Cuomo’s first-term Lieutenant Governor, he declined to run for reelection in 2014 and Cuomo chose Kathy Hochul as his running mate. She has said she is running again. Candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor can run as a slate, but they are elected separately in party primaries, then together in the general election. Cuomo and Hochul may have to each survive Democratic primary challengers before they can rejoin as a ticket for the general election.

The Lieutenant Governor’s role is similar to the Vice President of the United States. The LG is President of the State Senate and acts as Governor in the Governor’s absence from the state, in the case of severe disability, death, impeachment, or resignation from office. Otherwise it is a largely ceremonial position often seen as a cheerleader for the governor and the administration’s policies. Hochul often represents the Cuomo administration at events across the state, and has taken the lead on certain issues, such as co-chairing a recent task force put together by Cuomo on women’s opportunity.

It is unclear who Republicans will nominate for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, but GOP leadership has indicated it wants to avoid a primary. Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb has launched a gubernatorial campaign on the Republican side. Meanwhile, several minor parties will also put forward candidates. Democratic challengers to Cuomo and Hochul have begun to emerge, with former State Senator Terry Gibson aggressively testing the gubernatorial waters and New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams opening an exploratory committee to run for LG.

New York State’s Attorney General is also up for election in 2018. Eric Schneiderman first won election to the office of Attorney General in 2010. He would go on to win reelection in 2014. The Attorney General will be running for his third term in 2018 should he seek reelection. Schneiderman has been in the news a lot lately for his frequent lawsuits on behalf of New York against the Trump Administration and its policies.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is also expected to run for reelection this year. Dinapoli was first appointed to the position in 2007 after the resignation of Alan Hevesi. He would go on to win election to the Comptroller’s Office in 2010 and 2014. The Comptroller is tasked with managing the state’s enormous pension fund, auditing state agencies and local governments, and reviewing state and local budgets.

All 63 seats in the state Senate will be on the ballot this fall. Unlike the Assembly, control of the Senate will be at stake, with several swing districts at play. There is currently a complicated and contentious breakdown of power in the Senate, where Republicans hold 31 seats, but have a majority because of nine Democrats -- Brooklyn Senator Simcha Felder conferences with the GOP while the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference forms a ruling coalition with that Republican conference.

Mainline and Independent Democrats reached a tentative deal in late 2017 to begin to work together in the State Senate, but only on a number of conditions, including winning the two special elections for currently vacant seats. The empty seat in the Bronx is all but a lock, while the empty Westchester seat will be closer to a toss-up. Felder’s status is not completely clear in terms of what he will do -- he has always maintained he’ll take the best deal for him and his constituents.

Complicating things is grassroots anger at members of the IDC, whereby several if not all IDC members will be facing primary challenges. IDC Leader Jeff Klein of the Bronx (SD34), Jesse Hamilton of Brooklyn (SD20), Jose Peralta of Queens (SD13), and Marisol Alcantara of Manhattan (SD31) are among those members already facing primary challenges.

Meanwhile, there are somewhere around a half-dozen swing districts to watch outside New York City, and one potential swing district within the five boroughs -- the Brooklyn seat currently held by Senator Martin Golden. The expected Democratic wave could lead to several seats switching hands, though local races can turn on different issues and long-time incumbents like Golden can be very difficult to beat. Districts on Long Island and in the suburbs just north of New York City are often more likely to change hands, while New York City and other large cities around the state are overwhelmingly represented by Democrats and upstate areas outside of other major cities are heavily Republican.

All 150 state Assembly seats are up for election in 2018. The chamber is heavily Democratic, with a current partisan split of 103 Democrats, 37 Republicans, one Independence Party member, and the nine vacancies.

With all that is happening in other races, especially those for Governor and in key House and state Senate swing districts, there will likely be little attention paid to most Assembly races this year.

There will be other local elections in 2018, including local school board and trial court judicial elections, among others.

by Matthew Sweeney, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

2018 Will Be a Busy, Contentious Election Year in New York Mon, 22 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, January 22 New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week, all eyes are on Washington D.C. as the federal government shut down Saturday after Democrats and Republicans failed to come to an agreement over government spending. The key issue in the shutdown fight is immigration reform and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that allows undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to avoid deportation and to receive work permits. Democrats are advocating for an extension of the program, which was abruptly ended by President Donald Trump, while Republicans have sought more funding for border security and refuse to discuss DACA until the government reopens. No deal was reached between the two sides as of Sunday evening.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo reached a deal with federal authorities to reopen the Statue of Liberty which had closed down on Saturday amid the shutdown. Many other sites that fall under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Service remained closed, however. 

In Albany this week, the New York state legislature will continue to deal with the governor's 2018 agenda as they pick apart the $168.2 billion executive budget proposal that he released last week. Prominent items on the agenda include a congestion pricing proposal, details of which were put forward on Friday by a state task force convened by Cuomo, and proposed changes to the state taxation system to deal with the federal tax overhaul passed in December. There's likely to be heavy scrutiny of the governor's proposals to close a $4.4 billion budget gap faced by the state.  

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will likely be watching the state budget closely as he readies to release his own preliminary budget proposal for the 2019 fiscal year, which is due by February 1. The mayor is scheduled to testify at a budget hearing of the state Legislature on February 5. On Monday, de Blasio will attend a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Recording Academy's New York office and will appear on NY1's Inside City Hall in the evening. 

Also on Monday, the corruption trial of Joseph Percoco, a top Cuomo aide, along with three others is set to begin in federal court in Manhattan. Percoco and his co-defendants face charges of bribery and bid-rigging in relation to upstate economic development contracts awarded by the state. Their trial is expected to last between four and six weeks. Although Cuomo himself has not been accused of any wrongdoing in the case, the trial will put the spotlight on his administration at a time when he is headed into a reelection this year and is seen as positioning himself for a potential presidential run in 2020.   

As always, there's a great deal happening all over the city, with many events to be aware of - see our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:***

The run of the week in detail:

Mayor de Blasio will attend and deliver remarks at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Recording Academy’s New York office at 10 a.m. Monday in Manhattan. In the 7 and 10 p.m. hours, de Blasio will appear on NY1’s Inside City Hall.

The New York State Legislature will be in session on Monday in Albany.

The New York State Board of Regents will meet on Monday and Tuesday.

At noon Monday, the New York State Board of Elections will hold a commissioners’ meeting in Albany.

At 12:30 p.m. Monday, Civic Hall and Streetlives will welcome RDJ Refugee Shelter and immigrant community partners for “a discussion on homelessness and housing from the perspective of refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers.”

On Monday afternoon, Governor Cuomo "will travel to Park City, Utah to attend a screening of RX Early Breast Cancer Detection. He will leave to return to the New York City area in the evening."

At 2 p.m. Monday, the New York City Tax Commission, Center for New York City Law, and Center for Real Estate Studies will host a workshop on 2018 property taxes in New York at New York Law School. Tax Commission President Ellen Hoffmann will deliver remarks.

At 6 p.m. Monday, U.S. Rep Jerrold Nadler will hold a congressional town hall meeting at NYU’s Vanderbilt Hall in Greenwich Village.

At 6 p.m. Monday, U.S. Rep Tom Reed will hold a congressional town hall meeting at the Middlesex Fire House in Middlesex, Yates County.

At 6 p.m. Monday, the Business Council of New York State will host its 2018 “Legislators’ Reception” at the Albany Capital Center, allowing Business Council members a chance to “mingle with members of the New York State Legislature and top New York State government officials.”

At 6 p.m. Monday, the New York City Bar Association will host “Rebuilding Puerto Rico: Strategies, Partners, and the Role of the Oversight Board,” discussing how Puerto Rico can rebuild after the devastating hurricane and protracted fiscal crisis that have affected the island.

Monday night is the annual "HOPE" count of homeless people on New York City streets.

The New York State Legislature will be in session on Tuesday in Albany.

At the State Legislature on Tuesday: There will be a joint legislative hearing on the executive budget proposal as it relates to higher education at 9:30 a.m.

At the City Council on Tuesday:
- The Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet at 9:30 a.m.
- The Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting, and Maritime Uses will meet at 11 a.m.
- The Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions, and Concessions will meet at 1 p.m.

Tuesday is Let NY Vote’s “Albany Action Day.” Proponents of election reform will gather at the State Capitol at noon for a rally demanding reforms such as early voting, followed by “lobby visits.”

On Tuesday at 9:30 a.m., Comptroller Scott Stringer will host a "Manhattan Workforce Forum" at Strive International, on East 122nd Street. At 6:30 p.m., Stringer will receive "“Honorary Haitian Award” at Hatian Roundtable 2018 Haitian Independence Reception and Special Recognition Awards."

At 10 a.m. Tuesday in Albany, state Senate Democrats will "announce legislation to protect and expand New Yorkers’ voting rights." The press conference will be led by Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Senator Brian Kavanagh, ranking member on the Senate Elections Committee, and members of the New York State Senate Democratic Conference.

On Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. outside of Tweed Courthouse, "leaders of the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council (CPAC), representing all the PTAs and Parent Associations at NYC public schools, along with the leaders of the Education Council Consortium, representing the elected and appointed members of the Community and Citywide Education Councils, will speak and release letters to Mayor de Blasio, demanding that he give parents a voice in the selection of a new Chancellor, as he promised to do when he first ran for Mayor."

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals will hold a public hearing at Spector Hall.

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, "Mayor de Blasio and First Lady McCray will make an announcement about the opioid epidemic" at the Latino Pastoral Action Center on 170th Street in the Bronx. The mayor will take press questions.

At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, the New York City Board of Elections will hold a commissioners’ meeting.

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, U.S. Rep Hakeem Jeffries will deliver his 2018 State of the District speech for the New York’s 8th Congressional District at Brooklyn Technical High School. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson is among those who will attend.

At 8 a.m. Wednesday, the Citizens Budget Commission and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism will host “How Bad Is It? Implications of the Federal Tax Bill for New York” at the CUNY J-School in Midtown. Robert Mujica, Director of the New York State Division of the Budget, and Dean Fuleihan, First Deputy Mayor of New York, will deliver opening remarks. Following these remarks, two panels consisting of government officials, advocates, and business leaders will convene to discuss the fiscal impacts on the state and the best responses at the state and local level.

At the State Legislature on Wednesday:
- There will be a joint legislative hearing on the executive budget proposal as it relates to housing at 9:30 a.m.
- The Senate Standing Committee on Racing, Gaming, and Wagering will meet at 11 a.m. in Albany to “discuss the potential of sports betting in New York State.”
- There will be a joint legislative hearing on the executive budget proposal as it relates to workforce development at 2:30 p.m.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the MTA will hold its monthly board meeting. Committees will meet on Monday.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, the Panel for Educational Policy will hold a public meeting at P.S. 20 in Manhattan.

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Museum of the City of New York will host a screening of Chisholm ‘72: Unbought & Unbossed, detailing the presidential campaign of the first black woman to run, Shirley Chisholm. Afterwards, the film’s director, Shola Lynch, will discuss “Chisholm’s lasting legacy” with former DNC Chair Donna Brazile and U.S. Rep Yvette Clarke, who currently holds the seat Chisholm once held.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, U.S. Rep Tom Suozzi will host a town hall meeting for the third congressional district at the Dix Hills Jewish Center in Dix Hills, Suffolk County.

At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, NYCLU will host “Flights and Rights -- Voting Rights” at the Flatiron Lounge in Manhattan, discussing the 2018 elections from a framing of civil and voting rights. The discussion will be led by NYCLU’s Erika Lorshbough.

At the State Legislature on Thursday: There will be a joint legislative hearing on the executive budget proposal as it relates to transportation at 9:30 a.m.

At the City Council on Thursday: The Committee on Land Use will meet at 11 a.m.

At 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Crain’s New York Business will host State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan at its first 2018 “Business Breakfast Forum,” at the New York Athletic Club. Flanagan “will discuss senate politics, fixing the transit system, and his priorities for the legislative session” with moderators Erik Engquist of Crain’s and Ken Lovett of the New York Daily News.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, the New York City Bar Association will host “Wiping the Slate Clean: New York’s New Law on Sealing Criminal Records,” discussing the effects of the new state law allowing people to have state conviction records sealed in certain circumstances. Panelists will include Marta Nelson, Executive Director of the New York State Council on Community Reentry and Reintregration; Emma Goodman, of the Legal Aid Society; and Wesley Caines, of the Bronx Defenders. The panel will be moderated by Judith Whiting of the Community Service Society.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, Civic Hall, NYC Open Data Team, HPD, and the Department of Buildings will host a workshop on city buildings.

On Thursday evening, City Council Member Debi Rose will deliver a state of the district address on Staten Island.

Friday and the weekend
At 10 a.m. Friday, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will deliver her 2018 State of the Borough address at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts High School in Astoria.

At noon Sunday, Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou will hold a town hall meeting at the Manny Cantor Center on the Lower East Side.

At noon Sunday, Staten Island Borough President Jimmy Oddo will host “Direct Connect Sunday” at the Petrides School in Todt Hill, Staten Island.

At 1 p.m. Sunday, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson will be inaugurated in a ceremony at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Chelsea.

Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

by Ben Brachfeld and Samar Khurshid

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, January 22 Sun, 21 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, January 15 New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week begins with celebrations and rememberances of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tuesday will see Governor Andrew Cuomo present his Executive Budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year that begins April 1. We'll be not only watching the presentation and the details of the budget, but how Mayor Bill de Blasio and others in the city react to Cuomo's fiscal plan, which is a starting point of hearings and negotiations with the state Legislature.

There are filing deadlines this week for the final period of the 2017 city election cycle and the first period of the 2018 state election cycle.  

As always, there's a lot happening all over the city - see our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. There are celebrations across the city honoring Dr. King.

At 11 a.m. Monday, City Council Member Jumaane Williams “will deliver the keynote address at the Salem Missionary Baptist Church 'Making the Dream a Reality' event...Williams will make a major announcement.”

At about 12:15 p.m., Mayor Bill de Blasio will deliver remarks at the annual BAM tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.

There will be a mid-day rally on Monday at Judson Memorial Church to support immigrant and activist Ravi Ragbir, who is now facing deportation.

At 1 p.m. Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and many other top Democrats will appear at the National Action Network’s event with Reverend Al Sharpton. Participants will include Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand; a number of members of Congress; Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman; Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James; City Council Speaker Corey Johnson; State Senators Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Jeff Klein; and others.

Public Advocate James is speaking at seven Martin Luther King Day events across four boroughs on Monday.

There will be a rally on Monday at 2:30 p.m. in Times Square to protest President Trump and his recent remarks about Haitians, African countries, and others. The rally is being organized by labor unions, progressive groups, activists, and others. Several top elected officials will participate; Mayor de Blasio and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will be among those delivering remarks.

At 4 p.m. Monday, Assemblymember Michael Blake will host his State of the District speech for the 79th District, at the Concourse Village Community Center in the Bronx.

Tuesday is the deadline to file for the final campaign finance period of the 2017 New York City election cycle -- for December 1, 2017 to January 11, 2018 fundraising and spending. The City Campaign Finance Board has already begun posting filings of campaigns that filed before the deadline.

The State Legislature will be in session on Tuesday in Albany.

The Assembly Standing Committees on Local Governments and Cities will meet jointly at 10 a.m. in Albany for a budget oversight hearing to “examine the implementation of County-Wide Shared Services Property Tax Savings Plans as required in the State Budget for Fiscal Year 2017-2018.”

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, ""Mayor de Blasio will deliver keys to a senior signing his lease and moving into a new affordable housing development. The Mayor will host a media availability to discuss progress on building and protecting affordable housing and tenants across New York City." This will occur in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn. In the evening, the Mayor will appear on NY1's Inside City Hall, during the 7 and 11 p.m. hours.

On Tuesday at 11 a.m., Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will attend the inauguration of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.

At 1 p.m. Tuesday, Governor Cuomo will deliver his 2018 Executive Budget Address at the New York State Museum in Albany.

At 1 p.m. Tuesday the City Council will have a full-body Stated Meeting at City Hall. Prior to that, the Committee on Finance will hold an 11 a.m. hearing.

At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, the New York City Board of Elections will hold a commissioners’ meeting.

On Tuesday at 5 p.m., Comptroller Scott Stringer will host a Staten Island "Workforce Forum" at Brighton Heights Reformed Church. Then, at 7:30 p.m., Stringer will deliver remarks at the Staten Island Community Board 2 Full Board Meeting, at Sea View Hospital.

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Brooklyn Historical Society will host “45 Years after Roe v Wade,” discussing the legacy of the landmark Supreme Court case, which established the constitutional right to get an abortion. Panelists will include NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue, writer Rebecca Traister, and author Katha Pollitt.

The State Legislature will be in session on Wednesday in Albany.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the City Planning Commission will hold a public meeting at Spector Hall.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, Mayor de Blasio will host a town hall meeting at East Side Middle School 114 on the Upper East Side with City Council Member Ben Kallos, U.S. Rep Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Liz Krueger, and Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright. (The event was originally scheduled for December but was cancelled when the Mayor caught the flu.)

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, the Museum of the City of New York will host “Only in New York: Gender and Justice,” moderated by Sarah Maslin Nir of the New York Times and featuring Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Lucy Lang and Vivian Nixon of the College & Community Fellowship, discussing the “fraught relationship between gender and justice in New York City.”

At 10 a.m. Thursday, the New York City Campaign Finance Board will hold a board meeting at 100 Church Street in Manhattan.

At 7 p.m. Thursday, the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) will host its 122nd Annual Banquet at the Midtown Hilton. The guest of honor will be U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, who will be given the John E. Zuccotti Public Service Award.

The organization Stop REBNY Bullies will be protesting outside the REBNY banquet, accusing REBNY of being “leaders in gentrifying NYC, ending rent stabilization, bankrolling the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) in Albany, bulldozing historic buildings and neighborhoods, busting construction unions and blocking passage of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA).”

Friday and the weekend
Mayor de Blasio is expected to make his weekly appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show at 10 a.m. Friday.

At 11 a.m. Saturday, women and allies will converge in New York and cities across the country for the 2018 Women’s March, one year after millions of people protested against Donald Trump the day after he was inaugurated. In New York, the march will begin at 72nd and Central Park West and end in a rally at Columbus Circle, featuring #metoo founder Tarana Burke and several other speakers.

At noon Sunday, newly-elected City Council Member Keith Powers will be inaugurated in a ceremony at the CUNY Graduate Center in Midtown.

At 1 p.m. Sunday, newly-elected City Council Member Justin Brannan will be inaugurated in a ceremony at Xaverian High School in Bay Ridge.

At 1 p.m. Sunday, newly-elected City Council Member Mark Gjonaj will be inaugurated in a ceremony at the Herbert H. Lehman Educational Complex in Westchester Square, the Bronx.

At 3 p.m. Sunday, newly-elected City Council Member Carlina Rivera will be inaugurated in a ceremony at Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village.

Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, January 15 Sun, 14 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Troubles Ahead as 2018 Legislative Session Kicks Off in Albany Cuomo legislative leaders Albany

Gov. Cuomo and legislative leaders (photo: Darren McGee/Governor's Office)

Since the 2018 session began last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have outlined their agendas for the year, and addressed or hinted at some of the significant challenges facing state lawmakers.

In particular, threats from the federal government were acknowledged by Cuomo during his state of the State address and in remarks from legislative leaders in the Assembly and Senate, from the potentially harmful environmental policy of President Donald Trump’s administration to the new federal tax code -- passed by the Republican Congress and signed by the Republican president in December -- which is expected to disportionately burden New York taxpayers. Cuomo has said New York will sue, while his team is also exploring an overhaul of the state tax code to blunt the impact of the federal reforms.

The governor and the Legislature must also sort out the state’s larger-than-usual budget deficit, with a new spending plan due by the April 1 start to the new fiscal year, and while tackling the expiration of federal funding to various programs in healthcare and beyond.

Conflicts, some of them repetitious from past years, are clearly brewing over taxes, MTA funding and an expected congestion pricing proposal by Cuomo, reforming child abuse laws, voting reform, women’s reproductive rights, and more.

Also looming are the trials of several close former aides and donors to Cuomo and the retrials of two former legislative leaders, Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver, both of whom were removed from the Legislature in 2015 following their initial convictions, which were later overturned due to a new Supreme Court ruling. Nevertheless, government ethics and campaign finance reform got barely a mention in the governor’s address and in opening day remarks by legislative leaders.

At the Assembly’s opening day on Monday, before outlining his legislative agenda, Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, offered an overview of the conference’s past legislative accomplishments, such as passing paid family leave and raising the age of criminal responsibility, and then dove into his concerns over “radical policies” coming from Washington.

“We must push back wherever necessary to protect the interests of our citizens,” said Heastie. “Among other things, Congress just enacted a law to scale back the deductibility of state and local taxes—a provision of law that predates the federal income tax itself. This shift will increase New Yorkers’ already sizeable contributions to the federal treasury while increasing our cost of living and disrupting our housing market—all to finance huge giveaways to the rich and to large corporations.”

Heastie cited affordable healthcare and childcare, domestic violence and sexual harassment, environmental protections, and gun control, including the banning of bump stocks, as issues on the top of his majority conference’s legislative agenda.

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, a Republican representing Canandaigua and Geneva Counties in the Finger Lakes region who has announced he is running for governor this year, spent his initial floor time calling on his colleagues to put politics aside and face the crises in front of them. Essentially outlining his platform for the gubernatorial race, Kolb painted a bleak picture of New York State, which he noted could not be blamed on the federal government, highlighting New York City’s crumbling subways, Upstate New York’s chronic outmigration and poor job growth, as well as lack of movement on ethics reform in Albany as evidence that government was failing the voters of the state.

A poignant moment unfolded when Kolb expressed condolences to Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, whose daughter Lauren died last year following a battle with breast cancer, and praised his commitment to the job in the face of those challenges.

Meanwhile, looming over the State Senate’s opening day, which took place on Wednesday, January 3, was the news that there may be a Democratic reunification deal in place, provided that two vacated Senate seats remain Democratic through upcoming but not-yet-called special elections, granting the party the requisite 32 votes to pass legislation.

Currently, eight Democratic senators known as the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) form a ruling coalition with the Republican conference and nominal Democrat Simcha Felder, of Brooklyn, a Democrat who conferences with the GOP to form a majority even without the IDC.

During his opening comments on the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican from Long Island, expressed pride in his conference and his colleagues across the aisle, noting that collectively they had served in the Senate for 593 years.

“I am not going to apologize. I am going to speak proudly of this institution and the fact that we all are engaged in public service, because last time I checked, I don’t have to canvas all 62 members to know that we’re not doing this for the money,” he said, seemingly referring to Cuomo’s call in his annual address for a ban on outside income.

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Westchester Democrat, urged the governor to call a special election to fill the two vacant Senate seats “as soon as possible.” Cuomo had the discretion to call for special elections to fill a total of 11 vacant legislative seats, with nine in the Assembly, as early as January 1, but he has declined, indicating he does not want the Senate seats filled before a budget deal is reached. An election would take place 70 days after Cuomo makes the call.

IDC Leader Jeffrey Klein of the Bronx also rattled off his conference’s legislative priorities, including voting reform measures, universal pre-kindergarten expansion, a student loan forgiveness proposal, improvements to the subway system and a method to pay for them, and a completely state-funded Child Health Plus program.

On Monday, Stewart-Cousins spoke from the Senate floor wearing black in solidarity with all women, echoing the statement made by Oprah Winfrey and others at the Golden Globes a day prior, and vowed that her conference is committed to battling workplace sexual harassment, which she said “every woman in the Senate has experienced.”

Outlining her conference’s priorities, she highlighted legislation to tip workers’ rights, voting reforms, women’s health policies, healthcare, tightened gun laws, MTA investments, and more.

On Tuesday, Senate Republicans elaborated on their “affordability agenda,” making clear that their vision does not include higher taxes of any sort, including the additional payroll tax floated by Cuomo as a possible way to compensate for the reduction of the state and local tax deduction from federal taxes that is part of the new tax code. Rather, the Republican conference is pushing their usual message of controlled spending, including a cap on annual state spending growth, plus a slew of bills to slash income, property, energy, and retirement taxes.

Presiding over a press conference to outline the agenda, Flanagan did not provide information about how the state, which is facing immense budgetary challenges, would pay for the additional tax breaks and cut the press conference short as reporters asked repeated questions about curbing discretionary spending in members’ districts. Flanagan defended the practice, which he was being asked about because of the news Tuesday morning that Democratic Assemblymember Pamela Harris had been indicted on public corruption charges.

Another point of conflict was apparent at the Senate’s opening last week, when Timothy Cardinal Dolan, New York’s archdiocese, offered a prayer to launch the session. Advocates for the passage of the Child Victims Act, hopeful for movement on the bill that makes it easier for victims of childhood sex abuse to file charges, criticized Flanagan and IDC Leader Jeffrey Klein for inviting Dolan to give the benediction.

Critics said Dolan, who leads the Catholic Conference, which has spent millions on lobbying to prevent the passage of the Child Victims Act, should not have been invited when the bill is such a hot item of debate.

"Majority Leader Flanagan has refused to meet with victims and buried the Child Victims Act in the rules committee for years," stated Gary A. Greenberg, founder of Fighting for Children PAC. "The is a new low to rub salt in our wounds and invite the person who has stopped victims of child sexual abuse from receiving justice in New York. Flanagan has refused to meet with victims and I have turned down another meeting with his staff."

New Members and Vacant Seats
If Cuomo does not call a special election soon, nearly 1.8 million New Yorkers will be without representation during budget negotiations, according to calculations from the New York Public Interest Group.

The Assembly has welcomed two new members from the city, Daniel Rosenthal, of the 27th Assembly District in Queens, and Al Taylor, who replaced former Assembly Ways and Means chair Denny Farrell in Upper Manhattan’s 71st District, both of whom were selected by local Democratic party leadership. Rosenthal, a former aide to City Council Member Rory Lancman, is the youngest sitting member of the state Assembly at age 26. Taylor is a pastor and community organizer who served as chief of staff to his predecessor, Farrell, who retired last year.

In the Senate, former Assembly member turned Senator Brian Kavanagh, of lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, took Daniel Squadron’s former seat in the Democratic conference. Kavanagh was the party-leader-picked successor to Squadron, who resigned abruptly last fall, citing disillusionment with his ability to affect change in the Senate and a new opportunity to go national. Kavanagh led a press conference on Tuesday calling on the governor to include funding for early voting in his executive budget proposal, due out next week.

Klein, in his remarks, also briefly addressed Assemblymember Luis Sepulveda of the Bronx as a “senator in waiting.” Sepulveda has announced his candidacy for the vacated seat of now-City Council Member Ruben Diaz, Sr.

Heastie also announced a shuffle of leadership positions. Replacing Farrell at the helm of the Ways and Means committee is Brooklyn Assemblymember Helene Weinstein, marking a first for the Assembly, as no woman has previously held the post that runs budget proceedings.

Corruption Trials Loom
Hanging over this session will be the upcoming trials of former State Senator George Maziarz, which begins in February, as well as those of the former Cuomo aides and associates -- including his former top aide Joe Percoco and former SUNY Polytechnic Institute President and CEO Alain Kaloyeros -- and those of Skelos and Silver. Good government groups gathered at the capital this week to highlight this climate, attempting to put pressure on legislative leaders and Cuomo to move forward legislation on clean contracting, LLC loophole closure, outside income limits, and other reforms.

On Tuesday morning the news of Assemblymember Harris’ multi-count indictment broke, putting added focus on government ethics and other reforms. Harris, who represents Bay Ridge and Coney Island, was indicted on fraud charges for allegedly diverting City Council funds designated for the non-profit she ran before taking office and for fraudulently obtaining Hurricane Sandy relief funds for her home, as well as witness tampering. Legislative leaders reacted to the news with surprise and disappointment but downplayed the need for reforms.

Flanagan expressed surprise as he learned of the news from reporters, during the press conference on the Senate Republicans’ agenda. “I’m actually very disheartened to hear that. But it is an indication that our laws are actually working. We have more disclosure, more transparency, more limitations of what people can do in the Legislature,” said Flanagan, adding that her indictment is “bad for everyone, because it paints the Legislature with a broad brush.”

Heastie, when cornered by reporters outside his chamber, also shrugged off the need for additional ethics guidelines. “I don’t want to get so much into it, because I haven’t read the indictment, but there are certain things you can and cannot do in this life. I’m not sure how another ethics reform makes this better or worse.”

In contrast, Democratic Senator Todd Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor, released a statement calling for “crucial ethics reform in Albany” after learning of Harris’ indictment.

“Today’s indictment is the latest chapter in a sordid book about the need for crucial ethics reform in Albany,” said Kaminsky. “In particular, the legislature needs to immediately focus on the outside income of legislators, as demonstrated by this latest case. We can’t let Albany shrug this one off — we must prioritize those reforms and others to restore voters' trust and confidence in the government.”

by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette

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Troubles Ahead as 2018 Legislative Session Kicks Off in Albany Tue, 09 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
De Blasio Lays Out Initial 2018 Albany Priorities de Blasio Albany agenda

Mayor de Blasio in the snow (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)

The state Legislature is back in session, beginning the months-long process of deliberating on its $160-billion budget and legislation for the coming fiscal year that starts April 1. For New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a second-term Democrat, it poses the annual opportunity to lobby for the city’s priorities, including small and large policy changes and additional funding for city agencies.

De Blasio had mixed successes in the state capitol, where he has few allies, during his first term, and this year may present the most challenging fiscal situation since the mayor came to office given the new federal tax code, reductions in federal funding, and the $4.4 billion state budget gap that Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature must close.

Cuomo gave his State of the State address last week, where he released his 2018 policy agenda with de Blasio present in the audience. There was plenty for the mayor to chew on, both in the speech and the accompanying policy book that lays out a vast agenda, only some of which will actually be prioritized by the governor. Cuomo’s speech focused on women’s rights and anti-sexual harassment policies, criminal justice reforms, and the federal tax overhaul, which he has vowed to fight, first with a lawsuit. The governor also mentioned specific projects he intended to fund in the city, a continued focus on big infrastructure projects that largely involve the five boroughs, and the prospects of supporting needed subway upgrades through a yet-released congestion pricing scheme.

[Read: New York City Takeaways from Governor Cuomo's 2018 State of the State]

As part of the annual budget ritual, de Blasio will head to Albany later this month to testify hat-in-hand before a joint legislative hearing of Senate and Assembly leaders. This is expected to come after Cuomo outlines his executive budget plan on January 16 and before de Blasio releases his own preliminary budget for the city’s next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Both after attending Cuomo’s speech and in other venues, the mayor has spoken of the broad strokes of his Albany agenda. Among other things, he wants to see more funding for education, affordable housing, and mass transit. He hopes the Legislature will approve an expansion of speed cameras around public schools, new electoral and voting laws to expand ballot access and participation, and a repeal of a civil rights law that the city argues protects police officers’ disciplinary records from public disclosure.

The dynamics of the mayor’s negotiations with state government officials may prove slightly different this year, though it is unclear how things will play out. Cuomo must close the budget deficit while also reacting to the new federal tax code that is set to significantly increase the overall tax burden on many New Yorkers given the reduction in taxpayers’ ability to deduct their state and local taxes from their federal liability. The governor may seek to offload expenses to the city as he has done on multiple occasions. The mayor has few friends in the Republican-led state Senate, though he has allies in the Democrat and New York City-dominated Assembly.

De Blasio may have little to lose by standing up to a governor facing reelection this year and seeking to secure his left flank, or to a Senate GOP with a razor-thin majority that is under threat. The Trump administration also poses a common foe for the city and state, Democrats and Republicans, to do battle with, which could mean increased cooperation in certain areas.

When asked by a reporter at a January 5 news conference if his ability to negotiate with the governor had changed considering the political landscape of 2018, de Blasio mused that he felt “very liberated” but would continue to follow his first-term script. “Look, I think the simple way to think about this is not to look for too many tea leaves,” he said. “Always have said I’m ready to work with the governor when he proposes things that are good for New York City, and if he does something that is going to hurt the people of New York City, I’ll take him on. And that’s how I’m going to look at each and every issue. That is going to be unchanging.”

At time when the city has billions of dollars squirrelled away, and the state faces its shortfall, the governor’s representatives have repeatedly reference city reserves as ripe for picking. At a December 29 news conference, Gotham Gazette asked the mayor if he was taking preemptive actions to avoid the governor seeking to move costs to the city, as he most controversially did two years ago with CUNY and Medicaid in a move that was mostly beat back.

“You know, I’m hoping for a good faith situation where there’s a lot of communication and coordination,” de Blasio said. He warned that the biggest threat to the city was no longer an expected economic downturn but the federal tax plan, and that he would protect the city’s reserves. “And the notion that we have strong surpluses is not an open season call for New York State to raid New York City’s resources,” he said. “We need them because if anything goes wrong, if we sustain federal cuts we will also sustain state cuts...So, they can talk about it all they want, it’s not going to change my approach.”

Education Aid
The mayor is continuing his push for the state to fully abide by the state Supreme Court’s Campaign for Fiscal Equity ruling requiring equitable state funding for public schools. Last year, the mayor estimated that the state was underfunding the city to the tune of about $1.6 billion.  

More practically, a significant priority for the mayor is his proposed expansion of early childhood education to all three-year-olds in the city, building on his signature first-term accomplishment of implementing universal pre-kindergarten for four-year-olds. (The UPK program was put into effect largely with state funding, after the mayor’s calls to fund it through a tax on the wealthy were opposed by the governor and Senate GOP.)

The “3-K for All” program is set to expand to eight districts by 2021 and will cost the city roughly $177 million that year. The city already has another $200 million invested annually in the Early Learn program for three-year-olds from low-income families and a full-scale expansion of 3-K to all 32 school districts in the city would cost an additional $700 million sourced from federal and state coffers, according to city estimates.

“We want to continue the progress we’ve made in our public schools,” de Blasio said, at a news conference after the governor’s address. “We have our highest graduation rate ever. We’ve had continual progress on test-score improvement. We want to go farther. We need to see state education aid continue to expand. We particularly are interested in using that aid to address some key strategic initiatives, such as creating the 3-K program on a universal basis.”

Affordable Housing and Homelessness
The mayor’s affordable housing plan target, which he recently increased from 200,000 to 300,000 affordable rental units, relies on a multi-faceted approach to preserving existing units while creating more housing across the city. It also involves investing in public housing developments and supportive housing for formerly homeless, disabled, and mentally ill individuals.

De Blasio has continued to express frustration with the slow pace of funds being disbursed by the state despite numerous pledges made by the governor and the Legislature. He noted, for instance, funding promised toward the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) in the state budget from two years ago. “We’re still waiting to see some of that funding reach the people who live in public housing,” he said.

Freddi Goldstein, a spokesperson for the mayor on budgetary matters, did not have exact figures for the amount of aid the city is requesting on numerous fronts. On NYCHA funding, she emailed saying the mayor wants “to see the previously authorized moneys [sic] actually flow, rather than continue to be inexplicably held up. Though of course we’d also welcome more funding!”

De Blasio also noted that the city is already taking measures to create 15,000 units of supportive housing while the state has been lax in following up on its own promise to fund another 20,000 units. “We need to see that plan take off and start to have an impact on the ground in New York City so it can help us address homelessness,” he said. In total, the state allocated $2.5 billion in last year’s budget for affordable and supportive housing. It’s unclear, however, how much of that has been utilized and in the city.

During his State of the State, Cuomo indicated that the state will look to withhold funding from localities deemed to not be doing enough to get homeless people off the streets. It was not clear if he believes New York City fits that category. When asked about it, de Blasio dismissed the idea, saying that the city has the most robust street-outreach program it's ever had.

Public Safety
De Blasio and his allies failed to convince the Legislature last year to approve more speed cameras around public schools, a priority in his Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic fatalities in the city. Vision Zero was continuously successful over the mayor’s first term and the administration announced on Monday that there were a total of 214 traffic fatalities in 2017, an all-time low.

The mayor has advocated for expanding the speed camera program from 140 school zones where it is currently active to 750 school zones citywide, citing a report that found, among other results, that crashes with injuries declined by 15 percent at camera locations between 2014 and 2016, and pedestrian injuries fell by 23 percent in the same time. Like on many fronts, the city needs Albany approval to act.

“We need to continue that progress,” the mayor said at the January 3 new conference, noting that the city was safer in 2017 than ever before. “One of the things that would help us the most, again, is those speed cameras around schools to help us protect kids and community members.”

In his budget testimony in Albany last year, de Blasio emphasized that giving New York City approval to use design-build -- which allows agencies to solicit combined design-and-construction bids for capital projects -- would save $450 million from $7.3 billion estimated for a specific list of projects. A bill passed by the state Assembly authorized design-build for eight projects, to save an estimated $158 million, according to Goldstein, the mayoral spokesperson.

The mayor reiterated on January 3 that design-build was essential for the city, particularly with the threat of federal budget cuts to city agencies and for infrastructure projects. “I think it becomes more important than ever,” he said. “This year, given that we will see tight fiscal conditions, design-build is a common sense way to help us save the taxpayers money, and get more done more quickly. So, we’ll be making that a top item on the agenda.”

The state has used design-build for several years on certain major projects and saved billions of dollars, according to Gov. Cuomo, who regularly touts the process as effective and inefficient. Cuomo has said he supports expanding it to city use, but it has not moved through the Senate.

Police Transparency
De Blasio has faced strong criticism from police reform advocates over his administration’s shielding of the disciplinary records of police officers, particularly in the case of Officer Daniel Pantaleo, whose use of a department-prohibited chokehold led to the death of Staten Island resident Eric Garner in 2014. Under de Blasio, the NYPD changed its policy of disclosing “personnel orders” containing summaries of disciplinary actions against an officer, insisting that they had mistakenly done so in violation of Section 50-a of the New York State Civil Rights Code.

The mayor has instead put the onus on the Legislature to repeal the law. At a January 5 news conference releasing the latest crime statistics, de Blasio told Gotham Gazette it would be a priority for him this year. “I think this is the year. I’d love to see 50-a resolved once and for all,” he said, conceding that it might only happen if the state Senate, currently controlled by Republicans, flips to Democrat control. “But I think this is a powerful year to go and try and see if we can have a breakthrough. And there’s a lot of people in the state who think it’s the right thing to do to have that greater transparency. So we’ll be working for it.”

Voting reform
Governor Cuomo’s 2018 priorities include a “Democracy Agenda” of voting reform, political advertisement transparency, and election security initiatives. (He is also proposing a similar slate of campaign finance and government ethics reforms that he offered last year.) Though de Blasio had himself promised a major push on voting reform last year, his effort amounted to little more than a conference call with reporters. The mayor said he had to re-prioritize given the challenges of getting renewal of mayoral control of city schools approved.

This year, the mayor has promised to follow through, saying he was “heartened” to hear the governor address things like early voting in his speech. “We’re going to focus on it intensely, and we’re going to be organizing people all over New York City to put pressure on their legislators, on the Governor to get this done, and, obviously, working with allies all over the state,” de Blasio said.

Transit Funding
The year begins with de Blasio and Cuomo arguing over whether the city will contrivute half the $800-plus million subway rescue plan put forward several months ago by MTA Chair Joe Lhota. De Blasio has insisted that the state use the nearly identifical amount it has raided from the MTA over the last few years. Cuomo and Lhota have told de Blasio to simply put up the money.

Meanwhile, one of the mayor’s priorities that seems least likely to succeed is a so-called millionaires tax to fund the MTA and subsidized MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers. The governor and Senate GOP, already averse to new taxes, have indicated that the proposal would be dead on arrival. But the mayor has only doubled down, reinvigorated in his effort by his reelection and the recently approved federal tax plan. “[G]iven that the Trump tax plan was a giveaway to the wealthy and corporations, I think it makes even more sense to have a millionaire’s tax,” he said on his weekly “Ask The Mayor” segment on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show on January 5. Critics point out, though, that the wealthy in New York are not necessarily projected to make out very well under the new tax plan, unlike higher earners in other, low-tax states.

De Blasio has also repeatedly rejected congestion pricing as an alternative to raise revenue for the MTA while also reducing traffic congestion in Manhattan. Despite evidence to the contrary, he has insisted that it would be a “regressive tax” that harms outer borough commuters and that he has yet to see a proposal he could support. “The first concern I have is that I don’t think it is the best way to address the MTA crisis,” de Blasio told Lehrer. “I think a millionaire’s tax is a better way and it’s a live, actual proposal. You can see it. You can touch it.” Though Cuomo has floated the idea, he did not propose any details in his State of the State address last week, saying that a panel he formed will present options in the coming weeks.

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

De Blasio Lays Out Initial 2018 Albany Priorities Mon, 08 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, January 8 New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week we'e continuing to examine Governor Andrew Cuomo's 2018 State of the State speech and policy book, which were delivered last week. Cuomo's 2018 agenda includes fighting the new federal tax code, a variety of proposals that affect New York City, and a 'reform' agenda that largely resembles past years since little on election, campaign finance, and government ethics reform has been done.

Action will continue this week in Albany as the state Legislature kicks more fully into gear. There are two session days this week as well as several committee hearings.

We're also watching the first full week for Corey Johnson as Speaker of the City Council, and the developing relationship between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Johnson as speaker. Johnson is expected to continue getting settled into the job, figuring out some of his staffing, and working out plans for Council committee chairs and members. Johnson spent the first few days after being elected speaker on Wednesday, Jan. 3, meeting with almost all of the 50 other members of the Council to gauge their interests and priorities. Johnson will be on WNYC radio Monday morning discussing his new role.

Meanwhile, de Blasio begins his week with three public events -- see below for details.  

There are several events to be aware of this week around the city and state - see our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:***

The run of the week in detail:

The State Legislature will be in session on Monday in Albany. At 2 p.m., Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie will deliver remarks to kick off his chamber's year (the Senate held introductory session briefly last week).

At 10:30 a.m. Monday, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson will appear on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show.

On Monday morning at 10:45 a.m., Mayor de Blasio will be in Woodside to "join the Department of Transportation and NYPD to announce the latest progress under the City’s Vision Zero initiative." The mayor will not be taking press questions.
At 4:30 p.m. at City Hall, "the Mayor will hold a public hearing for three pieces of legislation: Intro. 1619-A requires DYCD to report on shelter access for runaway and homeless youth, Intro.1705-A streamlines intake from youth shelter to DHS adult shelter, and Intro. 1653-B establishes new decibel levels for construction and authorizes DEP to issue stop work orders in response to certain noise violations. The Mayor will also hold a public hearing and sign seven pieces of legislation: Intro. 1036-A relates to a census on vacant properties, Intro.1039-A studies opportunities to develop affordable housing on certain vacant property, Intro. 54-A requires DOT to study the feasibility of using alternative fuels for the City’s ferries, Intro. 880-A requires a review of the use of biodiesel for school buses, Intro. 1465-A expedites the phasing out of higher grade oil city power plants, Intro. 1629-A requires periodic recommendations on energy efficiency requirements for certain buildings, and Intro. 1632-A relates to energy efficiency scores." The mayor will not be taking press questions.
In the 7 and 10 p.m. hours, the Mayor will appear on NY1’s Inside City Hall with Errol Louis.

At 11:30 a.m. Monday, schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña will make "an announcement on arts education" at PS 51 in Manhattan.

The State Legislature will be in session on Tuesday in Albany.

The State Senate Majority will hold a press conference on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. in the Capitol in Albany "to unveil a 2018 Affordability Agenda that focuses on broad-based tax relief for families and seniors. Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan will be joined by members of the conference to detail the first part of the Senate’s “Blueprint for a Stronger New York” that focuses on making the state less costly and more attractive for hardworking New Yorkers."

On Tuesday morning, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli will discuss the state’s fiscal challenges as 2018 begins, during an event in Albany with The Times Union’s Casey Seiler.

On Tuesday, the Alliance for Quality Education will bring “500 parents, students, and community members to Albany to demand full and fair funding for our schools.”

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, the New York City Board of Correction will hold a public board meeting at 125 Worth Street in Manhattan.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, the Board of Standards and Appeals will hold a public hearing at Spector Hall in Manhattan.

On Tuesday at about noon outside the state Senate chamber, "State Senator Brian Kavanagh will join with good government groups and legislators to call on Governor Cuomo to fund early voting in his Fiscal Year 2018-2019 Executive Budget proposal. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia have already implemented this critical reform, and the press conference will highlight why including funds in the state budget is essential to ensuring early voting becomes a reality." Participants will include Kavanagh and other elected officials, and representatives from The Brennan Center for Justice; Citizen Action; Citizens Union; Common Cause/NY; The League of Women Voters of New York State; The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG); and Transportation Workers United Local 100 (TWU 100).

On Tuesday at 3 p.m. at City Hall, "Mayor de Blasio and First Lady McCray will deliver remarks on Intro. 1241, which relates to diaper changing stations." They'll be joined by City Council Member Rafael Espinal, sponsor of the bill, and others. The mayor will not be taking press questions.

City Council Member Margaret Chin will hold a re-inauguration ceremony on Tuesday at 5 p.m. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson will give remarks.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, City & State will host its annual “State of Our State” reception at the Albany Capital Center. The main event will be a panel discussion regarding “the top policy issues and how and where the state should invest in this year’s budget.” The panel will consist of Assemblymembers Dick Gottfried, Michaelle Solages, and David Weprin, as well as John Maggiore, policy director for the New York State Executive Chamber.

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Chancellor Carmen Fariña will attend a town hall meeting of District 9’s Community Education Council at PS 555 in the Bronx.

At the State Legislature on Wednesday:
--The Assembly Standing Committee on Racing and Wagering will meet at 10 a.m. in Albany to examine “interactive fantasy sports in New York State.”
--The Assembly Standing Committee on Libraries and Education Technology will meet at 10:30 a.m. in Albany for its “Annual Budget Oversight Hearing on funding of libraries in New York State for fiscal year 2017-2018.”

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, the New York City Bar Association will host a panel discussion on the economic impact of federal tax reform and potential passport revocation by the State Department for those who owe more than $50,000 in back taxes, penalties, and interest. The panel will consist of David Kamin, of NYU Law, and Drita Tonuzi, Deputy Chief Counsel for the IRS.

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Civilian Complaint Review Board will hold a public board meeting at the Queens Library in Long Island City.

At the State Legislature on Thursday: The Assembly Standing Committees on Codes, Health, and Alcoholism and Drug Abuse will meet jointly at 10:30 a.m. at 250 Broadway in Manhattan to “examine the potential impacts of the legalization and regulation of marijuana and its effects on New York’s criminal justice and public health care systems.”

Friday and the weekend
At the State Legislature on Friday: The Assembly Standing Committee on Insurance will meet at 10 a.m. in Albany to “evaluate whether the new title insurance regulations are successfully lowering consumer costs while also ensuring that the title insurance market remains healthy and competitive in New York State.”

Mayor de Blasio is expected to make his weekly appearance on WNYC radio’s The Brian Lehrer Show at 10 a.m. Friday.

The weekend will extend into Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 15.

Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, January 8 Sun, 07 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Reform Groups Launch 'Restore Public Trust' Campaign Cuomo Long Island flag

(photo: The Governor's Office)

New York’s leading government reform groups reacted to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State agenda on Thursday in Albany, holding a press conference to urge the governor and legislative leaders to adopt a package of reforms to help restore public confidence in state government.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that Cuomo failed to pass any of the reforms he promised in the wake of the alleged bid-rigging schemes associated with his signature economic development programs, government ethics and contracting reform got barely a mention in Cuomo’s 92-minute Wednesday address. His 2018 policy book includes many of the same reform measures included in his 2017 version, such as closure of the LLC loophole, limits on outside income for state legislators, the creation of a chief procurement officer, and expansion of the oversight of the state inspector general. Critics point out that the latter two measures would not be significant reforms given they would both be under the governor.

Citing the six upcoming corruption trials of former high-ranking public officials that begin this month, representatives from New York Public Interest Group, Citizens Union, Reinvent Albany, Common Cause/NY, and League of Women Voters outlined specific actions they believe must be taken to prevent corruption and clean up state government.

The coalition is urging state leaders to approve a package of reforms, titled “Restore the Public’s Trust,” which includes procurement reform, transparency in lump-sum budget appropriations, an end to “pay-to-play,” closure of the LLC Loophole, strict limits on outside income for legislators, and the empowerment of “independent, effective, well-resourced” watchdog agencies.

The courtroom dramas that are bound to cast a shadow over this legislative session touch on both the executive and legislative branches, as well as state and local government. Two of the trials directly touch Gov. Cuomo’s inner circle of aides, allies, and donors, while the two former legislative leaders, Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos, will be retried after their corruption convictions were overturned due to a new Supreme Court ruling.

The trial of Joseph Percoco, former executive deputy secretary to Gov. Cuomo, is scheduled to begin January 22; former State Senator George Maziarz’s trial will start February 5; former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano will be tried beginning March 12, and former SUNY Polytechnic Institute President and CEO Alain Kaloyeros’ trial is set to begin May 15.

“Pay-to-play is a major issue in New York State because of lump sum appropriations in the budget and because of a lack of transparency in the procurement process,” said Jennifer Wilson of League of Women Voters at Thursday’s news conference. “In 2016, we learned that a lot of the RFPs in Buffalo Billion were people who gave huge donations to the governor. Other states have pay to play laws; we can’t allow that in New York State.

Especially pointing to the Silver and Skelos sagas, the civic groups are calling on legislative leaders to act.

“LLCs loom large in the Skelos and Silver cases,” said NYPIRG Executive Director Blair Horner. “Glenwood Management pumped in more than $10 million into campaign contributions.”

“The Senate has to be brought along; there’s no way around it,” Horner said, referring to the fact that campaign finance reforms are more popular in the Democrat-led Assembly than the Republican-led Senate.

The cases the groups mentioned are just the latest in a seemingly endless barrage of corruption scandals plaguing state and local government, earning New York its reputation as one of the most corrupt states in the nation. At least 33 legislators have left office since 2000 due to corruption-related issues.

Good government groups have been pushing for some of these measures for years, and to some might sound like a broken record, as state Senate leadership has continued to block campaign finance reform and the governor has opposed the type of procurement reform being called for by the groups, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, and others. But after last session, good government leaders say there have been some encouraging signs on the transparency front, citing legislation from Republican Senator John DeFrancisco, of Syracuse, that progressed through the finance committee, but ultimately did not make it to the floor of the Senate.

“Last year we saw some movement on the clean contracting bill from the Comptroller, and on the database of deals, and the governor’s put forth his proposal on prohibiting vendors from making campaign contributions during the bidding process,” said Alex Camarda, of ReInvent Albany.

  • As presented by the groups, the Restore Public Trust agenda, which they say will be the basis of a “campaign,” includes:
    Clean Contracting. Basic accountability measures that would result in an open, ethical, and efficient way to award government contracts appropriations, an area which was identified as a key problem in the indictments of the governor’s top aides.
  • Real Budget Transparency. Make lump-sum budget appropriations and the resulting expenditures fully transparent.
  • Ban “Pay to Play.” Strict “pay to play” restrictions on state vendors. The U.S. Attorney’s charges that $800m in state contracts were rigged to benefit campaign contributors to the governor underscores the need to strictly limit contributions from those seeking state contracts.
  • Close the “LLC Loophole.” Current practice allows essentially unlimited campaign contributions via Limited Liability Companies. LLCs have been at the heart of some of Albany’s largest scandals.
  • Strict Limits on Outside Income. Real limits on the outside income for legislators and the executive branch. Moonlighting by top legislative leaders and top members of the executive branch has triggered indictments by the federal prosecutors.
  • Effective Watchdogs. Truly independent, effective, well-resourced, ethics enforcement agencies are needed (e.g. JCOPE, SBOE, ABO).

by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. ]]>
Reform Groups Launch 'Restore Public Trust' Campaign Thu, 04 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Cuomo's 2018 State of the State 'Reform' Agenda Largely Repeats Past Proposals Cuomo State of the State reforms

Gov. Cuomo at his 2018 State of the State (photo: Philip Kamrass/Governor's Office)

During his 2018 State of the State speech on Wednesday in Albany, Governor Andrew Cuomo spent little time on government ethics reform, but did address at somewhat greater length his proposals to increase access to the ballot box and change state campaign finance law.

In sum, the “reform” portion of Cuomo’s remarks were relatively brief, though the governor did expand more on his proposals to change voting, campaign financing, political advertising, and the jobs of legislators in the accompanying 374-page policy book that details his 2018 agenda. Many of these proposals are repeated from prior years. Cuomo has not prioritized things like early voting or a public campaign finance system, so they have not become law in New York.

Known for his ability to bend the Legislature to his will for policy items he puts his weight behind -- like marriage equality or a $15 minimum wage program -- Cuomo has overseen some incremental ethics reforms but little by way of seismic shifts to prevent corruption or increase election participation. He has also been unwilling to go along with contracting reform that is aimed at bringing more oversight and transparency to his own economic development programming.

The governor’s speech came just ahead of a handful of corruption trials that will occur this year, including some of his top aides and donors who are accused of engaging in major bid-rigging and kickback schemes dealing with the governor’s signature economic development programs. Two former legislative leaders will also be retried for public corruption after their recent convictions were overturned due to a new Supreme Court ruling.

In an hour-and-a-half speech on Wednesday, government ethics was sandwiched briefly between Cuomo’s discussion of doing more to help mentally ill homeless people and focusing on “new problems” facing the state, like the “rise in terrorism,” climate change, the opioid epidemic, and more. Cuomo devoted just one brief segment to the topic, and in doing so nodded to legislators’ disinterest in further reform.

“With all we have to do as a government, it is more important than ever that we have the public's trust,” Cuomo said. “I know the Legislature feels that we have done much on ethics reform and they are right. I know they feel that whatever we do, it will never be enough in this political atmosphere and they may be right, but we must do more anyway. The single best ethics reform is to ban outside income, remove any possibility for conflict and let legislators say 'I work for the public. Period. And there are no possible conflicts presented.’”

The Democratic governor, now in the final year of his second term and seeking a third, has proposed banning outside income for legislators before, along with other reforms that he did not name Wednesday but are again in his policy book, like term limits. These and campaign finance reforms have mostly gone nowhere in the Legislature, especially the Republican-controlled state Senate, though lawmakers would like their first salary increase since 1999. Cuomo is in favor of a pay raise for legislators, but in exchange for strict limits on outside income and other reforms.

In moving toward “new” challenges, Cuomo referenced previously announced pieces of his larger “Democracy Agenda,” including more transparency for online political advertisements. Action must be taken, he said, to address “the distortion and manipulation of our elections by big donors, foreign money and social media advertising and the alienation of our citizens.”

Noting that “social media has revolutionized our elections,” Cuomo said that the “freedom of the internet” must be respected, but that laws must be followed. “Foreign countries like Russia and big anonymous donors cannot jeopardize our democracy. Social media must disclose who or what pays for political advertising because sunlight is still the best disinfectant.”

“Disclosure must apply to social media the same way that it applies to a newspaper ad or a TV ad or a radio ad,” Cuomo said. “Anything else is a scam and a perversion of the law and an affront to democracy. Let's stop this abuse, and while Washington talks about it and dithers, let New York lead the way and address this challenge and let's do it this session.”

Cuomo also said that in “this time of citizen alienation and outrage, the best thing we can do is let people know that their voice is heard, that they matter and that they can and they should vote. And we should make voting easier, not harder, with same-day registration, no-fault absentee ballots, and early voting.”

He said that New York could “increase trust” through campaign finance reforms like closing the infamous LLC loophole, which allows virtually unlimited campaign donations from people and businesses through multiple limited liability companies (which Cuomo has benefited mightily from), and public financing of electoral campaigns. Both are ideas Cuomo has said he supports for years but has not been able to see passed through the Legislature. A 2014 pilot public campaign financing program that was passed but only applied to the comptroller race fizzled almost immediately.

Cuomo, king of the mega-donors, as The New York Times recently pointed out, says in his policy book that “candidates are incentivized to focus on large donations over small ones.” New York does have excessively high individual donation limits, at more than $65,000 for gubernatorial candidates. Cuomo writes that the only way to fix the situation is to offer matching funds for smaller donations, like the New York City system does.

The governor is also calling for laws mandating financial disclosures by local elected officials, which would institute requirements on officials not in state government, but municipal and county offices around the state, where there are not uniform requirements to create more transparency around potential conflicts of interest.

Cuomo is also again calling for extending the state’s Freedom of Information Law to the Legislature, which is not currently subject. He also calls for FOIL and the open meetings law to apply to state ethics monitors the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) and the Legislative Ethics Commission.

The governor is again calling for extending the power of the state Inspector General to nonprofits affiliated with the SUNY and CUNY systems, including their contracting processes. This reform relates to some of the alleged bid-rigging in Cuomo’s economic development programs. While Cuomo is open to the IG having more power, he continues to resist re-establishing the state Comptroller’s pre-clearance of contracts procured through SUNY-affiliated nonprofits.

On that same note, Cuomo is also again proposing the creation of a Chief Procurement Officer in order to “oversee the integrity” of contracting processes. Critics have called this potential position duplicative given the role of the Comptroller. The governor’s policy book notes, “despite existing legal safeguards, conflicts of interest and unlawful conduct may jeopardize the impartiality and objectivity of the current procurement process. This risk is further heightened by the significant amount of dollars spent by state and local public agencies, which exceeds tens of billions of dollars annually.”

Cuomo is also proposing legislation toward eventually creating a uniform contract-tracking system among various state entities that each currently use their own.

There is no indication of a new appetite for the voting, ethics, and campaign finance reforms that Cuomo has proposed before, and it is unclear if there will be support for some of the new proposals, like more transparency around digital political advertisements. Several of the proposals would likely pass if the state Senate flips to Democrats, which could occur at some point later this year. The governor must first call a special election for the 11 vacancies in the Legislature, two of which are in the Senate.

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Cuomo's 2018 State of the State 'Reform' Agenda Largely Repeats Past Proposals Wed, 03 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Cuomo Criticized for Failing to Call Special Election January 1 Cuomo Flanagan Long Island

Gov. Cuomo and John Flanagan, right (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)

As the legislative session kicks off this week, there are a slew of open state Senate and Assembly seats, and Governor Andrew Cuomo has not indicated when or whether he will call a special election to fill the vacancies.

January 1 was the earliest the second-term governor could have called the election day to fill all 11 vacancies, and a growing number of critics are pressuring Cuomo to make the pronouncement as soon as possible. The election would occur 70 days after declared by Cuomo, who has not made clear if he intends to do so in time for the seats to be filled before the state budget is due, by April 1.

On the first of this month, George Latimer officially vacated his Westchester County Senate seat to take on his new role as Westchester County Executive, which he won in the fall, and Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., of the Bronx, left his Senate seat to assume his newly won City Council position. Nine Assembly seats remain empty for a variety of reasons, including officials who have won other elected posts, like Brian Kavanagh, who moved from the Assembly to the Senate.

If the governor calls a special election this week, 70 days would mean votes cast in the middle of March. However, Cuomo, a Democrat, has indicated that he may call the elections for a date after the budget process is concluded. Cuomo’s delay is being criticized by progressive activists and good government leaders, either because of how the Senate elections factor into majority control of the chamber, which is currently held by a narrow margin by a coalition of Republicans and breakaway Democrats, or because of the basic lack of representation hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are experiencing with the seats unfilled.

The state’s $160-plus billion budget will be negotiated over the coming months by a heavily Democratic Assembly and the Senate, which has multiple party fractures and a Democratic unity deal on the table that could throw the process into disarray if the two vacant seats are filled by Democrats before April 1.

“The governor has a responsibility to his constituents to call a special election immediately,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of good government group Common Cause NY in a statement on Tuesday. “There’s no excuse to delay.” Lerner stressed that all New Yorkers deserve their due representation in government.

The stakes are highest for the 63-seat Senate, where Democrats are now two seats short of the 32 votes needed to pass legislation. A Democratic majority can only occur if mainline conference members are joined by the nine Democrats who caucus with Republicans, along with Democratic victories for the Latimer and Diaz, Sr. seats. Complicating the situation is a potential deal between Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, brokered by Cuomo and his allies, which would reunify the Democratic conference at the end of the 2018 legislative session, provided multiple developments and guarantees.

The vacancies have less of an impact on the 150-seat Assembly, which Democrats control handily under Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx. But leaving nine vacancies would undermine the state’s democratic budget process and leave millions of New Yorkers without representation, notes Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Group.

According to NYPIRG’s calculation, 625,484 Senate constituents and more than 1.1 million Assembly constituents are unrepresented as the legislative session starts on Wednesday, January 3 in Albany.

Joining the calls for a special election sooner rather than later is Kat Brezler, a public school teacher and former Bernie Sanders organizer who is seeking Latimer’s seat in the event that a special election is called.

“If you, the Governor, do not call a special election before the budget vote, you will effectively disenfranchise more than 700,000 residents in these Districts,” Brezler said in a statement. “Representation matters. The residents of District 37 deserve to have a seat at the table” during budget negotiations. “It is for this reason that a special election cannot wait,” Brezler said.

A spokesperson for Cuomo’s office, when asked whether governor planned to call the election during the legislative session, pointed to the governor’s comments during recent press appearances, when he said he would make a decision in January.

“There are some that want it sooner, some that want it later, there’s some who don’t,” Cuomo told reporters in December. “Some would argue politicizing the budget isn’t the best idea. It’s a decision that we have to make next year in January.”

Bronx Assemblymember Luis Sepulveda, who announced that he plans to run for Diaz, Sr.’s Senate seat, said in an interview with Gotham Gazette that he is confident both Senate seats will be filled by Democrats and hopes that a special election will happen in March.

“I think one of the most pressing things in the state Legislature is to continue to push for progressive policies and progressive legislation,” said Sepulveda. “I encourage the governor to call the special election as soon as possible.”

While the Bronx seat is virtually guaranteed to stay Democratic, the Westchester seat is less of a sure thing, though Democrats will have multiple advantages there.

Policy changes coming out of Washington are expected to have serious implications for New York, which is facing a larger than usual budget deficit, and progressives are mounting pressure on the governor, who, like all of the Legislature, is up for reelection this year, to call the special election before budget negotiations really heat up.

The balance of power in the state Senate will have significant influence over the final state spending plan that emerges. A number of Democratic activists insist Cuomo prefers Republican control of the Senate for as long as possible, especially during budget season, so that he can best limit state spending.

Heastie, whose Assembly majority conference is down several members, said in December that he hopes for a Democratic majority in the Senate, but in an interview with WCNY’s Susan Arbetter said that he would defer to the governor’s decision about the election.

“I’ve always said, as a Democrat, I look forward to the day of a Democratic Senate. I hope they get it together as soon as possible — particularly in light of what’s happening in Washington,” Heastie told reporters during a gaggle at the Capitol in December.

In the meantime, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, wields enormous influence over how state funds are distributed. Flanagan, outlining his priorities for the coming session, struck a conciliatory note, but made clear that raising property taxes was a non-starter for addressing New York’s growing budget shortfall.

“In Washington, Democrats and Republicans battle each other with predictable ferocity -- sometimes producing gridlock and dysfunction, and sometimes producing policies that are counterproductive for many New Yorkers. Here in New York, we’ve taken a vastly different approach,” he said in a Tuesday statement. “We’re working across the aisle to find common ground, partnering with Upstate and suburban Democrats to move our state forward.”

Spokespersons for Heastie and Flanagan did not return requests for comment on when Cuomo should call the special election. The governor will deliver his 2018 State of the State speech on Wednesday in Albany.

by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Cuomo Criticized for Failing to Call Special Election January 1 Tue, 02 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, December 11 New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week starts a two-week sprint to what amounts to the end of the political year: Friday, December 22. Though there will be some political business Christmas week, and a deal to crown the next Speaker of the City Council could be announced any time before the January 3 vote, most of the rest of the political activity for the year (and thus the four-year city term) will take place this week and next. That includes a very busy schedule at the City Council in terms of oversight hearings, legislative negotiations, and bills being passed before this Council class and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito end their term together. The first of two December full-body Stated meetings of the Council takes place on Monday, at which a number of bills will be passed (the other one is set for Dec. 19).

As the year nears an end, we're also watching for announcements related to personnel in the de Blasio administration -- who else might be leaving, coming, or promoted -- as well as in the administrations of the two other citywide elected officials, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James. While their top deputies are much less known than the mayor's, the positions are still influential and important to how the city is run.

We're also just a few weeks away from a new budget and legislative year kicking off in Albany, where Governor Cuomo will outline his 2018 agenda on January 3. There are legislative hearings this week as the two chambers gear up for next year. Cuomo begins his week with one public event in New York City -- see below for details.

And one New York eye remains fixed on Washington, D.C., where tax reform legislation is being negotiated among the House, Senate, and White House, with major potential ramifications for the Empire State and its biggest city.

There's a lot happening this week -- see our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:***

The run of the week in detail:

At 10:30 a.m. Monday on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show, Ben Max of Gotham Gazette and Dr. Christina Greer of Fordham University will discuss the latest in city and state politics.

At 11 a.m. Monday, Governor Cuomo will be at the CUNY Graduate Center to hold a briefing with Puerto Rican Governor Rosselló and members of the New York congressional delegation.

Mayor de Blasio will appear on NY1's Inside City Hall in the 7 and 10 p.m. hours.

The full City Council will meet at 1:30 p.m. Monday for the penultimate stated meeting of the year and of the current four-year session. The meeting will be prefaced by a press conference led by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. Before the Stated meeting, the Committee on Finance will hold a hearing and the Committee on Rules, Privelages and Elections will hold a meeting.

At the State Legislature on Monday: The Assembly Standing Committee on Mental Health will meet at 10 a.m. in Albany for a public hearing regarding “the adequacy of housing opportunities for individuals who are receiving services and supports from the Office of Mental Health (OMH) or the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) in the context of the funding provided in the State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2017-18 budget.”

The New York State Board of Regents will meet on Monday and Tuesday in Albany.

At 10 a.m. Monday, First Lady Chirlane McCray will host a press conference at the Tweed Courthouse where she will make an announcement about “promoting mental health literacy in the black community.” She will be joined by Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Mary Bassett, U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke, former SEIU chair Toni Lewis, and representatives of six organizations historically led by black women.

At noon Monday, City Council Member Rory Lancman will hold a press conference outside the City Hall R train stop to “tout passage of Intro. 1664, legislation that will require the NYPD to report quarterly the number of arrests and summonses issued for subway fare evasion.” Lancman will be joined by representatives of the Community Service Society, the Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services, and the Bronx Defenders.

Also Monday at noon, on the steps of City Hall, "Council Member Rafael Espinal and Chair of the Transportation Committee, Ydanis Rodriguez will join transportation and environmental advocates to host a press conference announcing a transportation committee oversight hearing. The upcoming hearing, slated for Thursday, December 14 at 10 AM will feature a bill sponsored by Council Member Espinal. Reso No. 1443 "calls upon the Governor and MTA to commit to an expeditious transition to an electric bus fleet and to use electric buses as a robust part of its replacement service during the upcoming L train shutdown.”"

At 1pm Monday at City Hall, there will be a protest against the city’s plans to redevelop the Elizabeth Street Garden. The city’s plan, backed by local Council Member Margaret Chin, includes senior affordable housing and park/garden space, but Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden and a variety of other elected officials, including Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James, are opposed to the deal.

At 6:30 p.m. Monday, the New York City Bar Association will host “The Global War on Terrorism: Do We Need a New AUMF,” discussing whether current military operations should be covered under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, authorized after 9/11. Speakers will include William Castle, Acting General Counsel for the Department of Defense; Bruce Ackerman, counsel in Smith vs Trump, a case challenging the president’s power to fight ISIS under the 2001 AUMF; and John Bellinger III, former senior counsel to George W. Bush and legal advisor to the National Security Council during 9/11.

At the City Council on Tuesday:
--The Committee on Education will tour The Earth School in the East Village at 9:30 a.m.
--The Committee on Housing and Buildings will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “Homeownership in NYC: Challenges and HPD’s Programs.”
--The Committee on Civil Service and Labor will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “USIC underground safety contractor workers’ unfair pay and benefits.”
--The Committee on Recovery and Resiliency will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “NFIP reauthorization and flood insurance affordability.”

At the State Legislature on Tuesday:
--The Assembly Standing Committee on Higher Education will meet at 10 a.m. in Albany for a public hearing to “examine the implementation of the scholarship programs included in the 2017-18 State Budget, the Excelsior Scholarship and the Enhanced Tuition Awards Program, and to examine the impact they are having on New York State families and institutions of higher education.”
--The Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture will meet at 10 a.m. in Albany for a public hearing to “elicit comments on what measures the state can implement that will provide a direct economic impact to farmers by enhancing their bottom line.”
--The Assembly Standing Committee on Libraries and Education Technology will meet at 10:30 a.m. in Albany for its annual budget oversight hearing on “funding of libraries in New York State for fiscal year 2017-2018.”
--The Assembly Standing Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse will meet at 1 p.m. at 250 Broadway in Manhattan for a public hearing “to examine the adequacy of funding for prevention, treatment, and recovery services within the State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2017-2018 Enacted Budget.”

At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie will join UFT President Michael Mulgrew at UFT Headquarters in Lower Manhattan to discuss “the upcoming legislative session; the state economy and budget priorities, including school spending; the threat posed by federal tax changes and potential program reductions; and other issues.” It is unclear if this is a public event or only open to UFT members.

At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, the Manhattan Institute will host “Prospects for Black America,” discussing the unique challenges that African-Americans face and possible policy and grassroots remedies. U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson will deliver the keynote address.

On Tuesday at 10:45 a.m., City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will speak at Generation Citizen's 2017 Civics Day, at Riverside Church.

At 11 a.m. in the Bronx, "Mayor de Blasio will make an announcement regarding the City’s use of cluster housing."

On Tuesday at noon, “Color Of Change, the nation's largest online racial justice organization, will join leaders from VOCAL-NY and Brooklyn Community Bail Fund in front of the office of Governor Cuomo in New York City to deliver a petition and hold press a conference demanding that Cuomo and Attorney General Schneiderman investigate the bail bond industry in New York. The petition highlights the lack of oversight and regulation of the exploitative commercial bail bond industry, which extracts millions of dollars from New York’s most marginalized communities. Each year, as many as 100,000 people in New York are imprisoned only because of their inability to afford bail. For some families, the only way to buy a loved one’s release is through the for-profit commercial bail bond industry.”

On Tuesday at 2 p.m. at City Hall Park, "Council Member Margaret S. Chin will join a diverse coalition of affordable senior housing advocates, LGBTQ groups and community gardeners in support of the announcement of the senior housing plan for Mott and Elizabeth streets that would include 121 units of deeply affordable housing for seniors and the formerly homeless; more than 7,600 square feet of public green space; and onsite offices for Habitat for Humanity NYC and SAGE."

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, City Council Member and Speaker candidate Corey Johnson will join the Association for a Better New York for its “What’s on Tap” series at American Beauty in Chelsea.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Mayor de Blasio will hold a town hall meeting at the Jerome Parker Educational Complex in New Springville, Staten Island, with City Council Member Joe Borelli, Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, State Senator Andrew Lanza, and Assemblymember Michael Cusick.

At the City Council on Wednesday:
--The Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet at 9:30 a.m.
--The Committee on Environmental Protection will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding the “current condition and future plans” of the city’s wastewater infrastructure.
--The Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting, and Maritime Uses will meet at 11 a.m.
--The Committees on Higher Education and General Welfare will meet jointly at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “higher education opportunities for youth aging out of foster care.”
--The Committee on Governmental Operations will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing on the 2017 election, as well as to discuss a proposed law relating to “the broadcasting of mandatory debates.”
--The Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions, and Concessions will meet at 1 p.m.

At the State Legislature on Wednesday: The Assembly Standing Committee on Health, the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, and the Task Force on New Americans will meet jointly at 10 a.m. at 250 Broadway in Manhattan for a public hearing regarding immigrants’ access to healthcare.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the City Planning Commission will hold a public meeting at Spector Hall.

At 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Civilian Complaint Review Board will hold a public board meeting at 100 Church Street.

At 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Campaign Finance Board’s Voter Assistance Advisory Committee will hold its annual hearing at CFB headquarters at 100 Church Street. Featured speakers will be Fordham political science professor Dr. Christina Greer and 2018 NYC Youth Poet Laureate William Lohier.

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, MTA Board Members Veronica Vanterpool and Norman Brown will join the Riders Alliance to discuss intricacies of the MTA’s funding, and how money gets spent by the authority. The conversation will be moderated by Executive Director John Raskin.

Governor Cuomo is scheduled to hold a fundraiser in Manhattan on Thursday featuring former President Bill Clinton. (Democrats to Cuomo's left are planning to protest outside the fundraiser, according to The New York Post.)

At the City Council on Thursday:
--The Committee on Waterfronts will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “the citywide waterfront inspection process.”
--The Committee on Transportation will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “mitigation plans for the 2019 L Train tunnel closure,” as well as to discuss a resolution “calling upon the Governor and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to commit to an expeditious transition to an electric bus fleet and to use electric buses as a robust part of its replacement service during the upcoming L train shutdown.”
--The Committees on Health and Public Safety will meet jointly at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “examining forensic science practices in the NYPD crime lab and OCME.”
--The Committee on Public Safety will also be discussing a proposed law relating to “respecting the right to record police activities.”
--The Committee on Aging and the Subcommittee on Senior Centers will meet jointly at 1 p.m.
--The Committee on Economic Development will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding the “economic impact of vacant storefronts.”

At the State Legislature on Thursday:
--The Assembly Standing Committee on Children and Families will meet at 11 a.m. in Albany for a public hearing to “examine the impact of the State budget on supports for foster parents and caretakers of children removed from their homes.”
--The Assembly Standing Committee on Housing will meet at 11:30 a.m. at 250 Broadway in Manhattan for an oversight hearing of “the State Fiscal Year 2017-2018 State Budget for New York State Homes & Community Renewal.”

The New York City Campaign Finance Board will hold a public hearing at 10 a.m. on Thursday.

At 10:30 a.m. Thursday, City & State will honor its “CSR Responsible 100” honorees, in recognition of “100 of New York’s most outstanding corporate citizens.” First Lady Chirlane McCray will also be presented with the “Civic Leader of the Year Award.”

At 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Assemblymember Dan Quart will unveil a broad criminal justice reform legislative package, addressing issues such as “cash bail reform, online harassment, reentry services to those who were wrongfully convicted,” at 250 Broadway.

At 8 p.m. Thursday, Mayor de Blasio will hold a town hall meeting at JHS 88 in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, with City Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery,  and Assemblymember Felix Ortiz.

Friday and the weekend
At the State Legislature on Friday: The Assembly Standing Committee on Transportation will meet at 10:30 a.m. in Albany for a public hearing regarding the Department of Transportation Capital Program.

At noon Friday, the New York State Board of Elections will hold a commissioners’ meeting at the State Board Offices in Albany.

Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, December 11 Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:00:00 +0000