Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/steve-mclaughlin 2017-12-14T22:45:24+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Will for Water Contamination Hearings Nearly Vanishes 2016-04-25T02:03:03+00:00 2016-04-25T02:03:03+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6299:will-for-water-contamination-hearings-nearly-vanishes-after-budget-deal Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/25730694296_c20ebccbc8_z.jpg" width="600" height="400" alt="cuomo hoosick" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Cuomo tours a water filtration area in Hoosick Falls (photo: Governor's Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>A number of state legislators once eager to hold hearings into drinking water contamination by a cancer-causing chemical in the small town of Hoosick Falls now seem loathe to even discuss the matter. The change in tune by some seeking to hold the Cuomo administration accountable and ensure a public discussion of the issue appears to have accompanied the passage of the new state budget.</p> <p>The Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, announced in February that hearings would be held into the matter in April. Assemblymember Richard Gottfried of Manhattan, chair of the health committee, and Assemblymember Steve Englebright of Long Island, environment committee chair, were set to oversee them.</p> <p>Several lawmakers stressed the importance of using the hearings to discuss the state’s decaying water infrastructure and dealing with and preventing the kind of contamination found in Hoosick Falls, a village in Rensselaer County not far from the Vermont border. Others were interested in examining why it took the state a year to warn residents about the safety of their water after being contacted by concerned residents and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The topic of drinking water protection and infrastructure was put forward by some Assembly Democrats and their allies as one of the issues that needed more funding and could be provided for by the millionaire’s tax being proposed by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.</p> <p>With the budget resolved at the end of March and April nearing an end, hearings have not been scheduled and lawmakers who were supposed to be involved don’t want to discuss them. The offices of Gottfried and Englebright failed to return inquiries into the status of the hearings. Neither did the offices of Senate health committee Chair Sen. Kamp Hannon of Long Island nor Sen. Kathy Marchione, who represents Hoosick Falls.</p> <p>A number of legislators and advocates are concerned the hearings were traded away in a budget deal, a concession won by the Cuomo administration. The Hoosick incident has proven embarrassing for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his team - the administration was slow to respond and has sought to downplay criticism of how it handled the matter. The Cuomo administration did not respond when Gotham Gazette asked if the governor supports hearings.</p> <p>Assemblymember Steve McLaughlin, a Republican who represents Hoosick Falls and surrounding areas, originally pressed for hearings and said he is concerned the hearings and, in turn, his constituents were used during budget negotiations. “I told them in February: ‘Don’t use my constituents as leverage,’ and it looks like that is exactly what happened.” McLaughlin said he wouldn’t be surprised to see federal hearings on the matter before the state takes action because Congressional Rep. Chris Gibson represents the area. Gibson’s office did not return an inquiry into whether he would support federal hearings. (Gibson has indicated he exploring a run for Governor in 2018.)</p> <p>Concerns were raised in 2014 about the possibility of contaminated drinking water leading to increased cancer rates in Hoosick, a town of about 4,000. Emails obtained by The Times Union and Politico New York show that the state Department of Health resisted pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency to warn residents about the safety of their water for nearly a year. It wasn’t until December 2015 that the EPA issued a warning to residents notifying them that their drinking water was testing well above acceptable levels of a chemical known as PFOA. The state declared it a disaster area and has since begun installing filters on local wells. Residents, meanwhile, are still scared that they face an increased risk of cancer.</p> <p>Cuomo has lashed out at the EPA, criticizing the agency for not establishing the amount of PFOA safe to consume over the long-term. "Just pick it, you have the scientists, EPA," Cuomo said on March 14 during his first visit to Hoosick Falls since the water crisis began. "We want a national standard because this shouldn't be a question for anyone.</p> <p>Cuomo came under considerable criticism for failing to visit the town for months after declaring its water unsafe to drink. Then, his Sunday morning visit was only <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6234-cuomos-public-schedules-offer-little-information" target="_blank">announced to the press</a> a few hours ahead and local officials were left in the dark.</p> <p>“If this happened in Westchester there wouldn’t have been any hesitation to hold hearings,” said McLaughlin, who said he plans to press the Assembly to reschedule hearings immediately. “This is just shameful. I may just hold hearings myself. I don’t know who would show, but it can’t be ignored.” McLaughlin said he hasn’t been told directly the hearings are not happening. Heastie’s office did not respond when Gotham Gazette asked if the speaker still supports holding hearings. In February, Heastie’s spokesperson <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/02/8590754/assembly-schedules-hearings-water-quality-wake-hoosick-falls-crisis" target="_blank">told Politico New York</a> that the Assembly was planning April hearings.</p> <p>McLaughlin’s counterpart in the Senate, Marchione, is considerably less troubled by a lack of hearings. She told Susan Arbetter on the Capitol Pressroom radio program <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2016/02/marchione-considering-hearings-on-hoosick-falls-water/" target="_blank">in February</a>, “We will discuss that [hearings] because whether the state didn’t move quick enough or whether they thought they moved fast enough, sometimes you have to hear from the other perspective why they moved slowly, when did they actually know?”</p> <p>Marchione <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/04/8596610/assembly-hearings-hoosick-falls-canceled-now" target="_blank">told Politico New York</a> last week that she doesn’t want hearings until the Department of Health completes blood testing of Hoosick Falls residents. Her message echoes that of Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who said in February he thought hearings should wait until after the problem is fixed. Fixing the problem is more important than figuring out who to blame,” Flanagan <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/02/8590599/flanagan-open-senate-hearings-hoosick-falls" target="_blank">told Politico New York</a>.</p> <p>Flanagan’s office did not return request for comment on whether the majority leader still supports hearings.</p> <p>McLaughlin said he is dubious of assertions that hearings should not be held while the problem is being solved. “The people of Hoosick Falls deserve clean water, but they also deserve the truth,” McLaughlin said.</p> <p>Advocates say New York could lead on what has become a national focus by setting new drinking water standards, and holding hearings to examine the events in Hoosick Falls to determine how to best prevent and respond to contamination in other areas of the state.</p> <p>“There is no doubt government needs to be held accountable,” said Liz Moran of Environmental Advocates of New York. Senator Marchione publicly called for hearings and now she says we don't need them. This is very high stakes for her constituents and they will hold her accountable.”</p> <p>In a March op-ed in The Times Union, Moran’s group <a href="http://www.eany.org/our-work/press-release/oped-overhaul-state-chemical-rules-ensure-citizens%E2%80%99-health" target="_blank">wrote that</a> ”Public hearings can also address the root causes behind such contamination: America's broken chemical policy of calling things safe until someone gets sick, and the lack of strong regulations and enough cops on the beat to keep people safe.”</p> <p>While Moran said she is disappointed by the lack of hearings, she noted that the state budget does include some items that deal with the overall issue of ensuring clean, reliable, and safe drinking water across the state.</p> <p>“Water safety is definitely something that is in the spotlight because of Flint [Michigan]. It is much more on the minds of New Yorkers,” Moran told Gotham Gazette, with an additional nod to Hoosick Falls. “There are lines in the budget to provide funding to detect water quality and a grant program to help repair aging water infrastructure. More can always be done but it's a positive step.”</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/25730694296_c20ebccbc8_z.jpg" width="600" height="400" alt="cuomo hoosick" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Cuomo tours a water filtration area in Hoosick Falls (photo: Governor's Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>A number of state legislators once eager to hold hearings into drinking water contamination by a cancer-causing chemical in the small town of Hoosick Falls now seem loathe to even discuss the matter. The change in tune by some seeking to hold the Cuomo administration accountable and ensure a public discussion of the issue appears to have accompanied the passage of the new state budget.</p> <p>The Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, announced in February that hearings would be held into the matter in April. Assemblymember Richard Gottfried of Manhattan, chair of the health committee, and Assemblymember Steve Englebright of Long Island, environment committee chair, were set to oversee them.</p> <p>Several lawmakers stressed the importance of using the hearings to discuss the state’s decaying water infrastructure and dealing with and preventing the kind of contamination found in Hoosick Falls, a village in Rensselaer County not far from the Vermont border. Others were interested in examining why it took the state a year to warn residents about the safety of their water after being contacted by concerned residents and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The topic of drinking water protection and infrastructure was put forward by some Assembly Democrats and their allies as one of the issues that needed more funding and could be provided for by the millionaire’s tax being proposed by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.</p> <p>With the budget resolved at the end of March and April nearing an end, hearings have not been scheduled and lawmakers who were supposed to be involved don’t want to discuss them. The offices of Gottfried and Englebright failed to return inquiries into the status of the hearings. Neither did the offices of Senate health committee Chair Sen. Kamp Hannon of Long Island nor Sen. Kathy Marchione, who represents Hoosick Falls.</p> <p>A number of legislators and advocates are concerned the hearings were traded away in a budget deal, a concession won by the Cuomo administration. The Hoosick incident has proven embarrassing for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his team - the administration was slow to respond and has sought to downplay criticism of how it handled the matter. The Cuomo administration did not respond when Gotham Gazette asked if the governor supports hearings.</p> <p>Assemblymember Steve McLaughlin, a Republican who represents Hoosick Falls and surrounding areas, originally pressed for hearings and said he is concerned the hearings and, in turn, his constituents were used during budget negotiations. “I told them in February: ‘Don’t use my constituents as leverage,’ and it looks like that is exactly what happened.” McLaughlin said he wouldn’t be surprised to see federal hearings on the matter before the state takes action because Congressional Rep. Chris Gibson represents the area. Gibson’s office did not return an inquiry into whether he would support federal hearings. (Gibson has indicated he exploring a run for Governor in 2018.)</p> <p>Concerns were raised in 2014 about the possibility of contaminated drinking water leading to increased cancer rates in Hoosick, a town of about 4,000. Emails obtained by The Times Union and Politico New York show that the state Department of Health resisted pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency to warn residents about the safety of their water for nearly a year. It wasn’t until December 2015 that the EPA issued a warning to residents notifying them that their drinking water was testing well above acceptable levels of a chemical known as PFOA. The state declared it a disaster area and has since begun installing filters on local wells. Residents, meanwhile, are still scared that they face an increased risk of cancer.</p> <p>Cuomo has lashed out at the EPA, criticizing the agency for not establishing the amount of PFOA safe to consume over the long-term. "Just pick it, you have the scientists, EPA," Cuomo said on March 14 during his first visit to Hoosick Falls since the water crisis began. "We want a national standard because this shouldn't be a question for anyone.</p> <p>Cuomo came under considerable criticism for failing to visit the town for months after declaring its water unsafe to drink. Then, his Sunday morning visit was only <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6234-cuomos-public-schedules-offer-little-information" target="_blank">announced to the press</a> a few hours ahead and local officials were left in the dark.</p> <p>“If this happened in Westchester there wouldn’t have been any hesitation to hold hearings,” said McLaughlin, who said he plans to press the Assembly to reschedule hearings immediately. “This is just shameful. I may just hold hearings myself. I don’t know who would show, but it can’t be ignored.” McLaughlin said he hasn’t been told directly the hearings are not happening. Heastie’s office did not respond when Gotham Gazette asked if the speaker still supports holding hearings. In February, Heastie’s spokesperson <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/02/8590754/assembly-schedules-hearings-water-quality-wake-hoosick-falls-crisis" target="_blank">told Politico New York</a> that the Assembly was planning April hearings.</p> <p>McLaughlin’s counterpart in the Senate, Marchione, is considerably less troubled by a lack of hearings. She told Susan Arbetter on the Capitol Pressroom radio program <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2016/02/marchione-considering-hearings-on-hoosick-falls-water/" target="_blank">in February</a>, “We will discuss that [hearings] because whether the state didn’t move quick enough or whether they thought they moved fast enough, sometimes you have to hear from the other perspective why they moved slowly, when did they actually know?”</p> <p>Marchione <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/04/8596610/assembly-hearings-hoosick-falls-canceled-now" target="_blank">told Politico New York</a> last week that she doesn’t want hearings until the Department of Health completes blood testing of Hoosick Falls residents. Her message echoes that of Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who said in February he thought hearings should wait until after the problem is fixed. Fixing the problem is more important than figuring out who to blame,” Flanagan <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/02/8590599/flanagan-open-senate-hearings-hoosick-falls" target="_blank">told Politico New York</a>.</p> <p>Flanagan’s office did not return request for comment on whether the majority leader still supports hearings.</p> <p>McLaughlin said he is dubious of assertions that hearings should not be held while the problem is being solved. “The people of Hoosick Falls deserve clean water, but they also deserve the truth,” McLaughlin said.</p> <p>Advocates say New York could lead on what has become a national focus by setting new drinking water standards, and holding hearings to examine the events in Hoosick Falls to determine how to best prevent and respond to contamination in other areas of the state.</p> <p>“There is no doubt government needs to be held accountable,” said Liz Moran of Environmental Advocates of New York. Senator Marchione publicly called for hearings and now she says we don't need them. This is very high stakes for her constituents and they will hold her accountable.”</p> <p>In a March op-ed in The Times Union, Moran’s group <a href="http://www.eany.org/our-work/press-release/oped-overhaul-state-chemical-rules-ensure-citizens%E2%80%99-health" target="_blank">wrote that</a> ”Public hearings can also address the root causes behind such contamination: America's broken chemical policy of calling things safe until someone gets sick, and the lack of strong regulations and enough cops on the beat to keep people safe.”</p> <p>While Moran said she is disappointed by the lack of hearings, she noted that the state budget does include some items that deal with the overall issue of ensuring clean, reliable, and safe drinking water across the state.</p> <p>“Water safety is definitely something that is in the spotlight because of Flint [Michigan]. It is much more on the minds of New Yorkers,” Moran told Gotham Gazette, with an additional nod to Hoosick Falls. “There are lines in the budget to provide funding to detect water quality and a grant program to help repair aging water infrastructure. More can always be done but it's a positive step.”</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Cuomo's Public Schedules Offer Little Information 2016-03-22T03:06:14+00:00 2016-03-22T03:06:14+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6234:cuomos-public-schedules-offer-little-information Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/25762631705_ff2f0cca6a_z.jpg" alt="cuomo reporters" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Cuomo gives a press briefing in Tarrytown (Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was facing pressure from the press, local officials, and the public to make his first appearance in Hoosick Falls, a small town near the Vermont border. Residents of the town were told in December that their drinking water was unsafe for consumption due to contamination from a toxic chemical that may lead to cancer. Cuomo, whose administration has been accused of mishandling reports about water contamination in the town since 2014, had been conspicuously absent.</p> <p>On Sunday, March 13 at about 7:30 a.m. reporters received an updated public schedule for Cuomo announcing that at 10:15 a.m the governor would give <a href="http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Cuomo-visits-Hoosick-Falls-6887249.php" target="_blank">a press briefing</a> in Hoosick Falls. Assembly Member Steve McLaughlin, a Republican who represents the area and has been a consistent critic of the Democratic governor, said he learned of the visit from members of the press who contacted him to see if he planned to attend. McLaughlin was not contacted by the Cuomo administration, he said, nor were a host of other elected officials from the area. Some local reporters had been told specifically the governor would not be visiting the town that weekend.</p> <p>"I had been there a day before for the St. Patrick's Day Parade and I said then, 'Leaders lead, they show up when people are hurting, they don't show up for a photo op,'" McLaughlin told Gotham Gazette. "I will contend the reason [Cuomo] didn't show up for 109 days is because this situation is politically damaging to him - it isn't a situation where he's hooking up and towing someone and taking a picture; people are hurting here."</p> <p>The situation was typical of how the administration often handles Cuomo's public schedules - most days, no matter what the governor might actually be doing, his public schedules, emailed to the press the night before, put him in Albany, New York City, or the New York City area, with no additional information.</p> <p>Occasionally the administration will issue an update about an appearance or an event with varying amounts of lead time. Sometimes a few hours, often less. Events the governor attends are regularly ones that appear unlikely to be last-minute decision. One such update was issued on January 21 at 5:29 p.m. to announce Cuomo was attending a 6 p.m. gala held by the Real Estate Board of New York, whose members include large Cuomo donors.</p> <p>Other events Cuomo attends, such as fundraisers or gatherings with legislators at the Executive Mansion, are left off his schedule. Some of these events, for candidate campaigns, should be left off of the governor's official government schedule. Yet, strangely, on March 9, Cuomo held a ceremony to honor former New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza and no notice was given, though the administration later gave members of the press an account of the proceedings.</p> <p>Administration officials paint last-minute updates and omissions as the result of minding the schedule of a very busy governor, but the pattern has rankled the press, annoyed legislators who feel the governor should notify them when he visits their districts, and stymied issue advocates and protesters. It has a growing number of critics saying that the administration shares little with the press and the public as a political strategy to protect Cuomo from unwanted coverage.</p> <p>Cuomo's schedules also come in stark contrast of those of other major New York elected officials - senators, members of Congress, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and others mostly issue detailed daily schedules full of events, whether the press is invited or not. They also often send their schedules earlier than the governor's office does. Case in point: on Monday evening, de Blasio's Tuesday schedule, with two public events, was sent to members of the media at about 5:30 p.m.; Gov. Cuomo's, also with two public events, was emailed at a little after 10 p.m.</p> <p>"It is highly unusual for officials to play this kind of game," said Douglas Muzzio professor of political science at Baruch. "The governor is truly unique in this regard compared to other electeds. It throws everyone off, prevents people from covering things, seeing him, meeting him. It keeps everybody on edge."</p> <p>The Cuomo administration flatly denied that the governor's schedules are designed to reduce interaction with the press or voters. "People have all kinds of opinions, it's just not true," Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>"There is a clear difference in style and substance between this governor and people who are willing to go into the lion's den and deal with it and take not only the accolades, but the criticism head on," said Assembly Member McLaughlin. Cuomo has made a habit of "ducking, covering, and avoiding and misdirecting," McLaughlin added, saying that Cuomo has had "the hypocrisy" of saying he would run the most transparent administration in history. "People are waking up to it," he said, "The answer to it is to stop doing what you're doing, but his answer will be to double down and do more of what got him in trouble to begin with."</p> <p>The situation is particularly pointed this year as budget negotiations again play out almost entirely behind closed doors. Unlike his two immediate predecessors, Cuomo has not held public leaders meetings to discuss budget priorities.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Cuomo hasn't held a traditional media availability on the second floor of the Capitol since June of last year. While the governor has taken press questions after events at a variety of locations around the state, he has eschewed a traditional Albany press conference <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/cuomo-curtails-news-conferences-with-media-in-albany-1458522663" target="_blank">for well over 200 days</a>.</p> <p>A recent Freedom of Information Law request for any email communications sent by Cuomo, <a href="http://www.pressconnects.com/story/news/local/new-york/2016/03/12/cuomo-shuns-email-leaving-trail/81686934/" target="_blank">filed by Gannett's John Campbell</a>, resulted in no information. An administration official told Campbell that Cuomo has no state-issued email account or Blackberry device.</p> <p>"Do you get the impression this governor doesn't want coverage, doesn't want to answer any questions?" asked Barbara Bartoletti of The League of Women Voters. "Wasn't this the governor who said he would have the most transparent administration in history? Well it hasn't turned out that way. He doesn't seem to let people know he is going to be somewhere unless he is handing out money or responding to a disaster."</p> <p>John Kaehny, of Reinvent Albany, said that from his perspective the governor's office has been ahead of the game on releasing the governor's schedules when compared to other elected officials, albeit months after the fact. Kaehny points to the administration's information portal that is updated every few months with the governor's past schedules, including the names of groups and people he meets with. "We're happy to have more complete schedules later, rather than faster, less specific schedules right now," said Kaehny, who acknowledged it might be different for the press.</p> <p>"The state website allows searches by name so you can see what meetings they've had with the governor," explained Kaehny. "That isn't comparable to anything [Mayor de Blasio] has at the moment. It's extremely useful."</p> <p>Azzopardi touted Cuomo's transparency website in a statement to Gotham Gazette: "This administration has proactively made more documents and data publicly available than any other in recent memory. The governor's final schedules are publicly posted on <a href="http://www.ny.gov/citizens-connect" target="_blank">CitizenConnects</a> and have been since the beginning of this administration."</p> <p>Cuomo's schedules have been shown to have at least a hole or two. In 2012 The Wall Street Journal <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303918204577448873258019752" target="_blank">reported</a> that Cuomo's schedules did not show an October fundraiser where the Governor was pitched on a massive casino project by Genting, a group that had given millions to a lobbying group created at the governor's behest. Administration officials said the omission was a mistake.</p> <p>Blair Horner, of the New York Public Interest Research Group, noted that compared to Albany standards where the leaders rarely announce their plans to the public, Cuomo's scheduling isn't particularly concerning.</p> <p>For others however, it is concerning that the governor who pledged utmost transparency appears to only be interested in interacting with the public of his choosing and has limited his press interaction.</p> <p>"Is he afraid of the press or does he think New Yorkers aren't interested in what their governor is doing?" asked Bartoletti. "I don't know why he wouldn't want to be more visible."</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/25762631705_ff2f0cca6a_z.jpg" alt="cuomo reporters" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Cuomo gives a press briefing in Tarrytown (Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was facing pressure from the press, local officials, and the public to make his first appearance in Hoosick Falls, a small town near the Vermont border. Residents of the town were told in December that their drinking water was unsafe for consumption due to contamination from a toxic chemical that may lead to cancer. Cuomo, whose administration has been accused of mishandling reports about water contamination in the town since 2014, had been conspicuously absent.</p> <p>On Sunday, March 13 at about 7:30 a.m. reporters received an updated public schedule for Cuomo announcing that at 10:15 a.m the governor would give <a href="http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Cuomo-visits-Hoosick-Falls-6887249.php" target="_blank">a press briefing</a> in Hoosick Falls. Assembly Member Steve McLaughlin, a Republican who represents the area and has been a consistent critic of the Democratic governor, said he learned of the visit from members of the press who contacted him to see if he planned to attend. McLaughlin was not contacted by the Cuomo administration, he said, nor were a host of other elected officials from the area. Some local reporters had been told specifically the governor would not be visiting the town that weekend.</p> <p>"I had been there a day before for the St. Patrick's Day Parade and I said then, 'Leaders lead, they show up when people are hurting, they don't show up for a photo op,'" McLaughlin told Gotham Gazette. "I will contend the reason [Cuomo] didn't show up for 109 days is because this situation is politically damaging to him - it isn't a situation where he's hooking up and towing someone and taking a picture; people are hurting here."</p> <p>The situation was typical of how the administration often handles Cuomo's public schedules - most days, no matter what the governor might actually be doing, his public schedules, emailed to the press the night before, put him in Albany, New York City, or the New York City area, with no additional information.</p> <p>Occasionally the administration will issue an update about an appearance or an event with varying amounts of lead time. Sometimes a few hours, often less. Events the governor attends are regularly ones that appear unlikely to be last-minute decision. One such update was issued on January 21 at 5:29 p.m. to announce Cuomo was attending a 6 p.m. gala held by the Real Estate Board of New York, whose members include large Cuomo donors.</p> <p>Other events Cuomo attends, such as fundraisers or gatherings with legislators at the Executive Mansion, are left off his schedule. Some of these events, for candidate campaigns, should be left off of the governor's official government schedule. Yet, strangely, on March 9, Cuomo held a ceremony to honor former New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza and no notice was given, though the administration later gave members of the press an account of the proceedings.</p> <p>Administration officials paint last-minute updates and omissions as the result of minding the schedule of a very busy governor, but the pattern has rankled the press, annoyed legislators who feel the governor should notify them when he visits their districts, and stymied issue advocates and protesters. It has a growing number of critics saying that the administration shares little with the press and the public as a political strategy to protect Cuomo from unwanted coverage.</p> <p>Cuomo's schedules also come in stark contrast of those of other major New York elected officials - senators, members of Congress, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and others mostly issue detailed daily schedules full of events, whether the press is invited or not. They also often send their schedules earlier than the governor's office does. Case in point: on Monday evening, de Blasio's Tuesday schedule, with two public events, was sent to members of the media at about 5:30 p.m.; Gov. Cuomo's, also with two public events, was emailed at a little after 10 p.m.</p> <p>"It is highly unusual for officials to play this kind of game," said Douglas Muzzio professor of political science at Baruch. "The governor is truly unique in this regard compared to other electeds. It throws everyone off, prevents people from covering things, seeing him, meeting him. It keeps everybody on edge."</p> <p>The Cuomo administration flatly denied that the governor's schedules are designed to reduce interaction with the press or voters. "People have all kinds of opinions, it's just not true," Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>"There is a clear difference in style and substance between this governor and people who are willing to go into the lion's den and deal with it and take not only the accolades, but the criticism head on," said Assembly Member McLaughlin. Cuomo has made a habit of "ducking, covering, and avoiding and misdirecting," McLaughlin added, saying that Cuomo has had "the hypocrisy" of saying he would run the most transparent administration in history. "People are waking up to it," he said, "The answer to it is to stop doing what you're doing, but his answer will be to double down and do more of what got him in trouble to begin with."</p> <p>The situation is particularly pointed this year as budget negotiations again play out almost entirely behind closed doors. Unlike his two immediate predecessors, Cuomo has not held public leaders meetings to discuss budget priorities.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Cuomo hasn't held a traditional media availability on the second floor of the Capitol since June of last year. While the governor has taken press questions after events at a variety of locations around the state, he has eschewed a traditional Albany press conference <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/cuomo-curtails-news-conferences-with-media-in-albany-1458522663" target="_blank">for well over 200 days</a>.</p> <p>A recent Freedom of Information Law request for any email communications sent by Cuomo, <a href="http://www.pressconnects.com/story/news/local/new-york/2016/03/12/cuomo-shuns-email-leaving-trail/81686934/" target="_blank">filed by Gannett's John Campbell</a>, resulted in no information. An administration official told Campbell that Cuomo has no state-issued email account or Blackberry device.</p> <p>"Do you get the impression this governor doesn't want coverage, doesn't want to answer any questions?" asked Barbara Bartoletti of The League of Women Voters. "Wasn't this the governor who said he would have the most transparent administration in history? Well it hasn't turned out that way. He doesn't seem to let people know he is going to be somewhere unless he is handing out money or responding to a disaster."</p> <p>John Kaehny, of Reinvent Albany, said that from his perspective the governor's office has been ahead of the game on releasing the governor's schedules when compared to other elected officials, albeit months after the fact. Kaehny points to the administration's information portal that is updated every few months with the governor's past schedules, including the names of groups and people he meets with. "We're happy to have more complete schedules later, rather than faster, less specific schedules right now," said Kaehny, who acknowledged it might be different for the press.</p> <p>"The state website allows searches by name so you can see what meetings they've had with the governor," explained Kaehny. "That isn't comparable to anything [Mayor de Blasio] has at the moment. It's extremely useful."</p> <p>Azzopardi touted Cuomo's transparency website in a statement to Gotham Gazette: "This administration has proactively made more documents and data publicly available than any other in recent memory. The governor's final schedules are publicly posted on <a href="http://www.ny.gov/citizens-connect" target="_blank">CitizenConnects</a> and have been since the beginning of this administration."</p> <p>Cuomo's schedules have been shown to have at least a hole or two. In 2012 The Wall Street Journal <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303918204577448873258019752" target="_blank">reported</a> that Cuomo's schedules did not show an October fundraiser where the Governor was pitched on a massive casino project by Genting, a group that had given millions to a lobbying group created at the governor's behest. Administration officials said the omission was a mistake.</p> <p>Blair Horner, of the New York Public Interest Research Group, noted that compared to Albany standards where the leaders rarely announce their plans to the public, Cuomo's scheduling isn't particularly concerning.</p> <p>For others however, it is concerning that the governor who pledged utmost transparency appears to only be interested in interacting with the public of his choosing and has limited his press interaction.</p> <p>"Is he afraid of the press or does he think New Yorkers aren't interested in what their governor is doing?" asked Bartoletti. "I don't know why he wouldn't want to be more visible."</p> <p>

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by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

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