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Citizens Union

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Councilman Brad Lander is proposing legislation aimed at cracking down on spending by outside groups in city races. Such "independent expenditures" exploded following the Citizens United court decision, which allows near-unlimited spending, as long as the groups don’t directly co-ordinate with campaigns. Lander's plan would close a loophole that allows corporations to spend lavishly on candidates through LLCs and require mailings and similar communications to include a notice outlining who paid for them.

Of particular concern to Lander is the real estate industry-backed "Jobs 4 NY" committee. It's already spent $1.35 million - including $167,000 in support of Brooklyn Councilwoman Sara González and $110,000 to back Paul Vallone in Queens - and aims to spend $10 million citywide. The PAC supports several council incumbents who are up for re-election, which might make it difficult to pass during an election year. But even some candidates who've received its support, like Brooklyn's Laurie Combo, say it's unwelcome and support Lander's proposal.

Other Stories We're Following

City At Risk From Rising Seas, Stronger Hurricanes (Daily News)

Corruption Panel Co-Chair Received Campaign Contributions From Silver (Daily News)

De Blasio Once Supported Expanding Term Limits Too (Wall Street Journal)

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Gov. Cuomo yesterday followed through on threats to establish a commission to investigate corruption in Albany after the legislature failed to pass any bills addressing the recent rash of scandals there. The commission will recommend cases against public officials and suggest changes to election and campaign fund-raising laws. It can issue subpoenas and examine witnesses under oath and it's slated to issue a preliminary report by year's end. Many of the panels members have ties to the governor. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Former Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau are special advisors to the commission.

Other Stories We're Following

City Finally Approved For .NYC Domain Names (Politicker)

Quinn Awards $210,000 To Nonprofits That Helped Her Campaign (Daily News)

Complaints Against NYPD Cops Mirror Stop-And-Frisk Locations (Daily News)

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The names of elected officials secretly recorded by disgraced ex-State Sen. Shirley Huntley will be revealed this afternoon, thanks to a judge's ruling. Nine were recorded and eight are under investigation. Six of those being investigated are politicians, including Sen. John Sampson, who was arrested earlier this week. One of the charges Sampson faces is embezzling $440,000 from sales of foreclosed properties, and this has revealed a flaw in the way foreclosed homes are being handled. State officials are now looking at how the problem could be addressed. Sampson had tried to plant a mole in the Brooklyn DA's office to find out if he was under investigation, but that mole turned out to be an informant. His arrest may further dampen Democrats' chances at controlling the chamber.

Other Stories We're Following

Kimani Gray's Parents To File Suit Against City (Daily News)

Report Sees Widespread Mold After Sandy (The Brooklyn Bureau)

NYC Set To Pass Sick Days Plan (Associated Press)

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State Sen. John Sampson was charged yesterday with embezzlement, obstruction of justice, and lying to investigators. Among those charges, prosecutors accuse him of trying to get a list of cooperating witnesses in his case so that he could "take them out." He faces up to 120 years behind bars. Also yesterday, Assemblyman William Boyland was charged with mail fraud conspiracy - for the second time. In the past seven years, 32 state level officials have been snared in corruption cases.

Other Stories We're Following

New York City Gun Giveaway Planned By Armed Citizen Project (Daily News)

Use Of Stop-And-Frisk Drops By Half (Wall Street Journal)

Senate Confirms First Black Women On Top Court (Albany Times Union)

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Without going into specifics, Gov. Cuomo called for a series of reforms yesterday in the wake of the bribery scandals that have rocked the state - and added to the growing criticism he's faced over the past two months. In a radio interview, the governor said the crisis should not be wasted and instead used to pass reforms in areas like political party balloting, member items, campaign donation limits, and the state Board of Elections. He would also enact lobbying reform and make it easier for local prosecutors to bring corruption cases. But he went on to argue that Albany is actually functioning better under his watch than before, particularly on New York City issues. When speaking with the NY Post, Cuomo blamed the capitol's incumbent-driven political culture for the rash of corruption. So far, he won't order a corruption commission to investigate state politics as his father did in 1987.

Other Stories We're Following

State's Recovery Uneven (Albany Times Union)

Cuomo Calls On Federal Mortgage Backers To Protect Sandy Victims (Daily News)

Private Development Feared In City-Owned Complex (NY Times)

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More details have emerged from the arrest of State Sen. Malcolm Smith and Councilman Dan Halloran. Four local Republicans were arrested as well, including the Bronx party chairman and the Queens party vice chairman. Another worked on John Catsimatidis's campaign but has now been fired. All six were charged with wire fraud and bribery. The senator was also charged with extortion. The money from the bribes was to come from state funding secured by Smith for upstate developers - actually an informant and undercover FBI agent - who would then pay the GOP leaders. Halloran was using council discretionary funds. Smith had previously survived a series of scandals and Halloran was hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. This is just the latest in a series of Albany scandals.

Other Stories We're Following

With Legacy On His Mind, Mayor Adds 78 More Schools (NY Times)

Who Policies Prosecutors? (WNYC)

Push To Address Possible Danger In Smoke Detectors (City Limits)

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Last year, debt at the state's public authorities reached $244 billion, rising from $215 billion the year before, according to a report by the state comptroller. That includes $58 billion worth of bonds issued on behalf of state government. Spending jumped from $44 billion to $56 billion during the same period. The 1,169 state and local authorities range from the MTA to the Rensselaer County Water and Sewer Authority. The public typically has no vote on their indebtedness.


Other Stories We're Following

Government Lends To Rebuild In Flood Zones (WNYC)

Victim Of Illegal Stop-And-Frisk Gets $14,000 Settlement (Daily News)

City Elections Board Opts For Scanners in Primary, Runoff (WNYC)

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State Senate Republicans agreed yesterday to a power sharing arrangement with five dissident Democrats led by Jeffery Klein. Instead of being run by a majority leader, the body will be led by a revolving presidency held by Republican Dean Skelos and Klein. Leaders of the GOP and the Democratic group would have “joint and equal authority” over bills, committee assignments, appointments and budget negotiations. Some legislation the coalition is likely to back includes a minimum-wage increase and more lenient marijuana laws. Mayor Bloomberg's spokesman called the coalition “an example of bipartisan cooperation at its best,” but some Democrats criticized the arrangement a "coup." The other four Democrats are Malcolm Smith, Diane Savino, David Valesky, and David Carlucci.

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About 200 homes that are so damaged they endanger public safety and other buildings nearby will need to be bulldozed, the Buildings Department said on Sunday. That is in addition to that 200 houses already destroyed by the storm. They are also inspecting nearly 500 other damaged structures the could be razed as well. The department said that “only a very small number” of the buildings slated for demolition were at risk of being razed without notice. Officials offered “as much assistance as possible” to homeowners, including aid for demolition costs. The homes slated for removal are located in Breezy Point, Belle Harbor and Rockaway Beach in Queens; South Beach, Midland Beach and Fox Beach on Staten Island, and Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn.

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Yesterday’s election saw long lines, jammed ballot scanners and shortages of affidavit ballots. Few voters used shuttle buses to get to substitute polling sites. Scanners were broken at polling sites in Gramercy Park and Park Slope. Two of three emergency sites in Coney Island opened over two hours late. Some poll workers at sites had no idea that people could vote using affidavit ballots, and the city printed up only 250 per election district. According to unofficial results, the state Senate is now tied, but thousands of absentee ballots still need to be counted in very close races. Even if the Democrats win a majority, a number of Democrats say they'll back Republican leadership. Meanwhile, embattled Assemblyman Vito Lopez won re-election with 89 percent of the vote despite the scandal swirling around him.

In the Press...

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The city’s Board of Elections moved 66 polling sites, many to supersites that consolidate multiple poll sites into one location. Shuttle buses running every 15 minutes will ferry voters to and from polling places in three areas hit particularly hard by the storm. The MTA is also providing voter shuttles. for people in the Rockaways, Staten Island and Coney Island whose polling places were damaged in the storm. Voters in the city can cast affidavit ballots at any polling site, but if they vote in a different district than where they're registered, the can't vote for legislative races other than the U.S. Senate. The GOP has accused the board of playing politics with relocating polling places in Queens, saying it will make it harder for Republican Eric Ulrich to get his supporters to the polls.

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Between 20,000 and 40,000 were left homeless in the city by Sandy. About half of those are public-housing residents. The 115,000 people in the Rockaways remain without power, as do thousands more in Red Hook and Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn, and New Dorp Beach on Staten Island. A cold snap is making this particularly problematic. Also, a nor’easter with 35-45mph sustained winds is likely to hit on Wednesday night, possibly bringing moderate flooding in areas already impacted by extreme flooding from Sandy.

Although the majority of the subway system is reopened, rail switch and signal failures will continue. It could also take several months to restore the A train to the Rockaways.

Fifty-nine polling places will be affected, and Mayor Bloomberg expresses little confidence the Board of Elections will manage it very well. The board still hasn't appointed an executive director and their Manhattan headquarters had no power all week. Those who can't get to their polling places may to go to the Board of Election's borough offices and vote until 5 p.m. today.

The city had been inundated with people dropping off goods, so officials and other groups are suggesting they give money, and possibly coats, instead. Dozens of buildings near the water’s edge, especially in the financial district, are weeks or months away from reopening. The fuel shortage could last for several more days. Currently 27 percent of gas stations in the area are empty. Major crime dropped significantly in the storm's wake, but burglaries saw a 3 percent increase. Generators, heaters, and other supplies for the canceled marathon remained unused in Central Park. More than 100 New York City public schools will remain closed today.

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The Cuomo Administration plans to try offering cash bonuses to Medicaid recipients who get regular check ups. The incentive will initially target 16,700 people with health problems like diabetes and hypertension. Meanwhile, community health advocates in the Bronx say more jobs for the community could improve the overall health of the borough. Also, the Health and Hospitals Corporation's inspector general will make more records available to the public after it was exposed to have failed to follow up on hundreds of cases.

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Mayor Bloomberg yesterday announced his plans to spend between $10 million and $15 million through a "super PAC" he will spearhead. It's named Independence USA PAC and has a goal of supporting candidates across party lines who pledge to work in a bipartisan fashion. It will spend money on highly competitive state, local and Congressional races this year and back candidates who support legalizing same-sex marriage, enacting tougher gun laws, and education reform.

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This report by the Citizens Budget Commission proposes a new way to fund the M.T.A. called "25-50-25". It recommends that auto user fees cover all drivers' facilities, plus 25 percent of mass transit services. Then mass transit user fees would cover another 50 percent of the operating costs of those services. And state and local tax subsidies would cover the final 25 percent of transit operating costs plus “catch-up” capital investments needed to bring the system to a state of good repair.

The 25-50-25 policy would mean that mass transit riders would pay higher – but still reasonable – fares. The cost of a single ride ticket would increase to at least $2.75 by 2016 but in constant dollars a subway ride would cost at most three cents more than it did in 1996. Motorists would face increased costs for the use of their vehicles, in the range of $167 to $293 more annually, but the charges would be consistent with those in other global metropolises and related to the benefits drivers derive from a well-functioning transportation system.

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A number of New York state GOP lawmakers have been promoting their ties to Gov. Cuomo as election day draws near, including the second-highest-ranking Republican in Albany, Sen. Thomas Libous. The governor is popular with voters from both parties. Many mailings featuring Cuomo's image don't mention the party affiliations of the candidate or the governor. The City Council is holding an oversight hearing today to make sure the city's Board of Elections is ready for the November voting. Meanwhile, candidates for city office are left struggling to plan for the 2013 primaries as the state decides whether to move primary day up to June from September for New York races. Congressional and presidential primaries were already moved to June.

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State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says the M.T.A.'s finances have improved after years of crises thanks to increased ridership, higher tax collection, and cost-cutting measures. But he noted that fare hikes outpace inflation and financing sources for future projects remain unclear. The legal challenge to the payroll tax was also raised as a significant hurdle. Meanwhile, the state budget has generally stabilized from the recent past, when it lurched from multi-billion dollar crisis to crisis, he said.

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Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist convicted of bribery this January, is cooperating with authorities. It isn't known who he'll be giving information about to prosecutors. In six years, 27 elected officials have been been charged in scandals, and that number is expected to grow with Lipsky's help.

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The sexual harassment scandal continues to remain the tops news today. The News reports that it was Assemblyman Vito Lopez who wanted the settlement payment to be kept from the public. Meanwhile, the Post finds sources who say Gov. Cuomo is worried that Assembly Speaker Silver may not survive the scandal. Silver has hired Mayor Bloomberg's former press secretary to help manage the situation. And finally, the fallout from Lopez's diminished stature has affected a number of primary races.

More headlines:

NYPD issues rules for use of social media during investigations

In quest for river’s power, an underwater test spin

Twitter must produce Occupy protester’s tweets: judge

Taxi TV to tell riders of scams

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The Joint Commission on Public Ethics may be considering an expansion of their probe into Assemblyman Vito Lopez's sexual harassment suit. Ravi Batra, a member of the commission, quit over the weekend, claiming the board had no independence. He also said good government groups were more concerned with Albany access than real reform. The attorney general and comptroller have been playing down their roles in the settlement. Also, a new accuser - who is also a candidate for State Senate - says she was the victim of sexual harassment when she worked in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

More stories in the press: 

Number of children in city's homeless shelters hits 19,000

Feds ready to recognize 9/11 cancer link

Ex-speaker spared $400,000 in lobbying fines

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