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Posts by Liz Benjamin
May 22nd - 1:01 pm
Committee members of the state Democratic Party, attending the annual spring meeting here in Albany this afternoon, just unanimously passed a resolution calling on scandal-scarred former Assemblyman Vito Lopez to resign his last remaining party posts: State committee member and district leader in the 53rd AD.
“Instead of accepting responsibility for his misconduct and apologizing to his victims, Vito Lopez blames his victims for his own misconduct,” the resolution reads. “…There is no place in government or politics someone who conducts himself as Vito Lopez has; now, therefore, be it resolved that the New York State Democratic Committee (NYSDC) seeks to send the strongest possible message condemning his conduct, and declare that New York State will have zero tolerance for sexual harassment in our legislature, our party, and the halls of government;and be it further.”
The resolution was initally put forward by JoAnne Simon, a Brooklyn Democratic district leader and state committee member who has long been at odds with Lopez. The final version was changed just slightly from Simon’s initial proposal.
Lopez, who was not present at today’s meeting, has already given up his post as Brooklyn Democratic Party chair, and also resigned his Assembly seat on Monday morning. He had wanted to remain in office until the end of the legislative session, but bowed to pressure from a wide array of his fellow Democrats, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Speaker Sheldon Silver, to step down ASAP.
UPDATE: A source familiar with last night’s get-together for Democratic leaders hosted at the executive mansion by the governor says Cuomo called for passage of this resolution at the event, saying: “We are a party that believes in government; we must have total integrity.”
May 22nd - 7:08 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany, Erie, and Onondaga counties.
At 10 a.m., he makes an announcement at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering
NanoFab Xtension Building, 141 Fuller Rd., Albany.
At 1 p.m., he makes an announcement at the UB Center for the Arts Drama Theater, 103 Center For The Arts, Buffalo.
At 4 p.m., he makes an announcement at SUNY Upstate Medical University, Medical Alumni Auditorium, Weiskotten Hall, 766 Irving Ave., Syracuse.
Apparently, the governor will not be attending the state Democratic Party’s annual spring meeting, which is being held at the Desmond in Colonie (outside Albany) at 11:30 a.m.
Also at 11:30 a.m., NYC Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Chris Quinn joins LGBT activists in calling for the Legislature to pass GENDA.
At 8:30 a.m., state Education Commissioner John King will speak at the Long Island Association HQ, 300 Broadhollow Road, Melville.
From 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Sen Patrick Gallivan will hold a bipartisan forum on the expansion of crossbow hunting in New York, Room 124, state Capitol, Albany.
At noon, anti-fracking activists and rent reform advocates rally for fair elections during their lobby day, Million Dollar Staircase, state Capitol, Albany.
At 1 p.m., drug law reform advocates and members of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus hold a press conference calling for reform of the state’s marijuana possession law, Million Dollar staircase, state Capitol, Albany.
At 8 p.m., Hillary Clinton receives a Humanitarian Award at the Spirit of Helen Keller Gala, Christie’s, 20 Rockefeller Plaza, Manhattan.
“I made some big mistakes and I know I let a lot of people down, but I also learned some tough lessons,” Weiner said.
“I’m running for mayor because I’ve been fighting for the middle class and those struggling to make it my entire life. And I hope I get a second chance.”
Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, appears in the video, saying: “We love this city, and no one will work harder to make it better than Anthony.”
The video came out just a few days short of the second anniversary of Weiner’s initial ill-fated tweet, and was apparently released by mistake.
Weiner was greeted by a new Quinnipiac poll that found 49 percent of New Yorkers don’t think he should run – that’s up from 44 percent one month ago.
The same poll found voters’ support of Democratic mayoral primary frontrunner, Council Speaker Chris Quinn, has steadily eroded from 37 percent at the end of February to 25 percent today.
….in other words, a Democratic runoff is highly likely this fall.
Meanwhile, NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is trying to capitalize on the ascendancy of Brooklyn in his mayoral campaign.
May 21st - 5:51 pm
Posted by Liz Benjamin in [...]
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is set to unveil a plan to use tax credits and other incentives to entice businesses to locate near SUNY campuses.
Will tonight’s executive mansion reception be the first meeting between Cuomo and his hand-picked state Democratic Party Co-Chair Stephanie Miner in seven months?
Cuomo tapped former Buffalo Mayor-turned-lobbyist Anthony Masiello to serve on the Peace Bridge Authority at a time in the bridge’s 86-year history when Canadian and New York officials are in a sharp dispute.
Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. claims bets are being placed on who in Albany will be the next to be indicted.
The Cuomo administration’s agreement with the St. Regis Mohawk dashed any hope of building a casino in Lake George.
Cuomo says any decision on whether to move forward with hydrofracking won’t be based on the economy in the Southern Tier.
Pro-life groups want to know: Where are the pro-choice advocates on the Assembly sexual harassment scandal – specifically, on the “should Sheldon Silver remain speaker” question?
Sen. Kevin Parker and NYC Councilman Jumaane Williams make cameo appearances in a music video denouncing the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy.
Assemblyman Barry Grodenchik decided to end his campaign for Queens borough president after the Queens Democrats endorsed Melinda Katz.
In the next step in what investors hope will be one of the new casinos built in the state, investors for the new Nevele Resort and HTC reached a labor agreement.
CWA Local 1180, a union whose leader is a force in a superPAC attack on NYC Democratical mayoral primary frontrunner Chris Quinn, endorsed Comptroller John Liu for mayor.
Congrats to CapTon’s own Maureen McManus!
AG Eric Schneiderman announced the appointments of Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. to serve as executive deputy AG for Social Justice and Eric J. Stock as chief of the AG’s Antitrust Bureau.
It’s Bill Clinton vs. David Axelrod (again, and by proxy) in today’s LA mayoral runoff.
Ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner has reportedly hired Camille Joseph, a former Obama campaign aide and adviser to US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, to be the political director of his soon-to-be-announced mayoral campaign.
Laid-off print reporters are finding second careers on camera.
May 21st - 2:52 pm
Although this was not included on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s official daily schedule, the governor is apparently scheduled to host the state’s 62 Democratic County chairs at the executive mansion this evening.
Officially speaking, Cuomo was in Albany with no public appearances planned, according to the press advisory released this morning. But then he had a last-minute Red Room press conference this afternoon to announce a casino-related deal with the St. Regis Mohawk tribe.
Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner (who, by the way, was not Cuomo’s first choice to replace veteran former Chairman Len Lenihan), revealed the reception…actually, he put out a press release announcing he would be attending, following a tour of the restored state Capitol with his fellow chairs.
“I am looking forward to seeing the completed renovations in the Capitol Building,” Zellner said in his release. “The building is one of New York’s treasures, and the restoration work is another key indication that things are getting done in Albany.”
(That “things are getting done in Albany” line is in keeping with Cuomo’s recent message – which voters appear to be buying, despite the recent spate of scandals to wash over the Capitol – and perhaps will help to endear the chairman to the governor).
Tomorrow, Zellner and his fellow county chairs will attend the state party’s annual spring meeting in Albany tomorrow. (No word yet as to whether Cuomo will be in an appearance, but he did speak at the DRC’s recent meeting in Saratoga Springs, so it’s a goood bet he’ll likely at least drop by).
After all, 2014 is an election year, and Cuomo is gearing up to run again. The state party has also taken on greater importance in Cuomoland since the Committee to Save New York stopped spending cash to run ads that are supportive of Cuomo’s agenda. The party is now doing that instead.
I believe this is the first time all the county chairs will be getting together since the high-profile tiff state Democratic Party Co-Chair Stephanie Miner had with Cuomo over pension smoothing and his proposal for a state-level advisory board to assist local governments that are facing financial difficulties.
May 21st - 12:20 pm
ICYMI: Assemblyman Mickey Kearns – now officially a man without a country since he left the Democratic conference to protest Speaker Sheldon Silver’s handling of the Vito Lopez scandal – was reluctant during a CapTon interview to suggest a replacement for the speaker, whose resignation the freshman Buffalo lawmaker is the first majority member to publicly call for.
But Kearns did say he’s confident there is someone among his former colleagues capable of taking Silver’s place without causing too much chaos – perhaps even a woman.
“Listen, I’m not here to to make a king today,” Kearns said when I asked him the “if not Silver, then who” question. “I don’t know. But all I do know is that there’s 150 members of the Assembly. There has to be someone else there who can lead the Assembly.”
“I don’t know who that person is – he or she – it would be maybe a little refreshing to have a woman speaker. I’m not here to answer that. What I’m saying here today is: People at home should call and contact their legislators and ask them why they still remain to support them. (sic) You mentioned being a caucus of one. I’d rather be in a caucus where at least I have my dignity at the end of the day, and at least I have my conscience to go home to.”
There hasn’t been a contest for speaker since 1994 when Silver, then the 49-year-old head of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, succeeded Saul Weprin after he suffered a severe troke and died. But there also hasn’t been a speaker from upstate in years – other than James Tallon, of Broome County, who held the post in an acting capacity for three days in 1991 in between Mel Miller’s felony conviction and Weprin’s election.
There has never been a woman speaker. There has never been a woman leader in the state Senate, either. Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who ousted Sen. John Sampson last December, is the first woman in Albany history to lead a legislative conference. It would be truly historic if there were two women leaders in Albany serving at the same time – one of whom bumped one of the man out of that infamous room where all the deals are made.
So, if there were to be a change in leadership in the Assembly – which, as Nick and the NYT pointed out earlier today is highly unlikely – Silver’s replacement would almost certainly have to come from New York City, given the downstate dominance of the Democratic conference. And since the chamber is so seniority-driven, there aren’t many women who would even be considered contenders – maybe Deborah Glick, Cathy Nolan or Helene Weinstein?
All of them – actually, all of the female Democratic conference members – are standing by Silver, so this discussion is, of course, purely academic.
I’m not sure who – woman or man – has a sufficient power base to win the glorified popularity contest that is the speaker’s race. The black and Puerto Rican caucus would certainly be a driving force in that election, but its members often have trouble staying united.
The lack of unity and dearth of members with clout and power in the conference is a big factor when it comes to Silver’s longevity. Because, of course, you can’t beat someone with no one.
May 21st - 6:24 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule.
Voters across the state head to the polls to cast ballots in school budget votes.
At 9 a.m., Mayor Bloomberg speaks at the NYC Conflicts of Interest Board’s 19th Annual Seminar on Ethics in NYC Government, 185 West Broadway at Leonard Street, Manhattan.
At 10:30 a.m., the Independent Budget office releases its analysis of Bloomberg’s executive budget for 2014 and his financial plan through 2017.
At 11 a.m., NYC Council Member Jessica Lappin, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and NYCLU Director Donna Lieberman hold a press conference to speak out against a resolution that calls on Albany to allow religious groups to use New York City public school space for worship services; Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers St., Manhattan.
…The Council’s Education Committee holds a hearing and will vote on the same bill at 1 p.m.
At 11:30 a.m., thousands of nurses and healthcare workers from across New York will rally in Albany in advance of their lobby day, West Capitol Park, state Capitol.
It’s also NARAL Pro-Choice NY’s lobby day, with hundreds of advocates gathering to push for Cuomo’s (yet unreleased) Women’s Equality Agenda.
Also at 11:30 a.m., Common Cause/NY and NYPIRG will unveil an in-depth analysis of soft money giving to housekeeping accounts in New York, LCA Press Room, LOB 130, Albany.
From 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., Cuomo’s New NY Education Reform Commission is holding a public symposium on “innovative solutions for restructuring public school systems,” The Huxley Theater, NYS Museum, 222 Madison Ave., Albany.
Also at 12:30 p.m., the New York State DREAM Coalition will call on the Senate to pass the DREAM Act before the session ends. (The Assembly is expected to take up the measure today), Million Dollar staircase, state Capitol, Albany.
From 12:45 p.m. to 2 p.m., CUNY administrators, former U.S. Secretary of State and retired U.S. Army Gen. Colin Powell and the commander of the U.S. Army Cadet Command, Maj. Gen. Jefforey Smith, discuss the establishment of an Army Senior ROTC program on all of the university’s campuses; The Great Hall, second floor, Shepard Hall, 160 Convent Ave., Manhattan.
Kerry Kennedy is scheduled to appear tonight in North Castle Town Court as her drugged-driving case ambles toward trial.
Facing growing pressure to resign his leadership post, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for the first time publicly said “I’m sorry” for helping to cover up the Vito Lopez sexual harassment scandal.
Silver announced he would establish an independent investigator to handle and direct any complaint of that type brought by an Assembly employee, and would make all lawmakers and supervisory staff “mandatory reporters” of harassment complaints.
The NYT calls on Brooklyn residents to reject Vito Lopez’s NYC Council candidacy if he makes good on his threat to run.
The NY Post ties Cuomo firmly to the Lopez mess, calling on him to change his tune on Silver. “So long as the governor defends Shelly, he will be defined by Shelly.”
“People say the speaker should resign…I said, I don’t,” Cuomo said yesterday. “The Assembly will decide who is the leader of the Assembly. They vote. I don’t vote.”
Silver said he hasn’t given any thought to resigning.
May 20th - 4:56 pm
All traces of now former Assemblyman Vito Lopez have been scrubbed from the Legislature and its environs.
A “best of” reel of vintage Lopez moments – including when he called NY Post reporter Sally Goldenberg a “sick lady” for daring to inquire about his health (which he routinely says is failing).
Crain’s has an on-line poll on Silver’s future as speaker.
In defense of Silver, Cuomo said sexual harassment is a societal problem, and not something unique to Albany.
Buffalo-area Assemblyman Michael Kearns, a longtime Silver critic, says he’s leaving the chamber’s Democratic majority until the speaker steps down.
“It’s no surprise,” said Silver spokesman Mike Whyland, “He ran as a Republican…he has never supported the speaker.”
Cuomo’s chief of staff Josh Vlasto sent an email exchange with the NY Post’s Fred Dicker to 10 other reporters after Dicker alleged in his column that Cuomo’s office had leaked his exclusive to another outlet.
Some African American Queens Democrats are unhappy the party’s endorsement list doesn’t include any black candidates.
Seven things New Yorkers should know (according to the CBC) about municipal labor contracts in NYC.
The Cuomo administration is trying to generate support for its plan to overhaul LIPA by getting business groups to sign on to a letter it is circulating.
Hillary Clinton will deliver the next lecture in the Kerschner Family Series Global Leaders at Colgate University on Oct. 25.
Developer Carl Paladino’s $14.7 million plan to convert the decaying Arctic Freezer Building next to the Niagara Thruway is getting $634,000 in tax breaks through the Erie County IDA.
A new mailer from Republican NYC mayoral hopeful John Catsimatidis includes a pointed reference to “years of mismanagement” at the MTA.
A state judge says Hudson River Rafting Co. can resume guided trips in the Adirondacks but must post a $50,000 bond and cannot rent rafts or kayaks to customers who captain their own boats on rivers requiring licensed guides.
New York Downtown Hospital has laid off its entire paramedic and EMT staff in preparation for a takeover by New York Presbyterian.
Is practicing journalism a criminal act? It appears the Obama administration might think so.
May 20th - 2:28 pm
US Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have thrown their support behind the Empire State Pride Agenda’s push to get the state Senate to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, also known as GENDA, before the end of this legislative session.
Since the passage of the same-sex marriage bill two years ago, GENDA, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in employment, housing, public accommodations and credit, has become a top priority for the LGBT community in New York.
The measure has passed the Assembly for six consecutive years. But it has never been taken up in the Senate, thanks largely to the fact that it’s a bit of a bridge too far for many Republican lawmakers.
ESPA today released an April 29 letter from Schumer and Gillibrand to the three Senate leaders – Jeff Klein, Dean Skelos and Andrea Stewart-Cousins – saying that passage of GENDA would “once again position New York as a beacon of civil and human rights.”
Almost immediately upon inheriting former Sen. Hillary Clinton’s seat, Gillibrand set about becoming a champion for LGBT rights, and lobbied hard on behalf of the gay marriage bill before the then-GOP controlled state Senate took it up in June 2011. Schumer came out in support of same-sex marriage in March 2009. At the time, he was the last remaining statewide elected official who had supported civil unions over marriage for gay couples.
UPDATE: Interestingly, this letter – which, as I noted above, is dated April 29 – was released on the very same day Schumer is facing pressure from gay activists over over whether a provision sought by same-sex couples will be included in the immigration reform bill. Republicans consider this provision a deal killer, and Schumer very much wants to see a deal done.
According to POLITICO, Schumer held a meeting today with prominent New York gay elected officials, and the meeting became “heated at times,” and Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell was one of the more vocal attendees.
May 20th - 6:30 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany. At 2:30 p.m., he holds a cabinet meeting in the Red Room at the state Capitol.
At 8 a.m., state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli will deliver remarks to a breakfast meeting of the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce, The Queensbury Hotel ballroom, 88 Ridge St, Glens Falls.
At 8:30 a.m., the Queens Democratic Party will hold its endorsement meeting to decide who gets its support in the upcoming NYC elections, 72-50 Austin St., Forest Hills. They’re expected to back three women in marquee races: NYC Council Speaker Chris Quinn for mayor, Reshma Saujani for public advocate and Melinda Katz for Queens BP.
From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Common Cause/NY will co-sponsor a convening with the Urban and Social Policy Program, School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University to address the best practices in elections administration. The Kellogg Center, Columbia University, 420 West 118th Street, 15th Fl., Manhattan.
Also at 9 a.m., SUNY Downstate holds a town hall meeting, Alumni Auditorium, SUNY Downstate, 395 Lenox Road, Brooklyn.
At 9:15 a.m., Rep. Michael Grimm rings the NASDAQ Stock Market opening bell, NASDAQ MarketSite, 4 Times Square, Manhattan.
At 9:30 a.m., labor leaders, utility workers and elected officials rally against Con Edison, Con Edison building, 4 Irving Place, Manhattan.
By 10 a.m., Vito Lopez will no longer be an assemblyman.
From 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., the IDC will hold a public hearing on ethics and campaign finance reform, Hearing Room B, LOB, Albany.
Also at 10:30 a.m., Democratic NYC mayoral candidate Sal Albanese will reveal FOIL data on the “abuse of taxpayer funds” by the comptroller, public advocate, and Council speaker. He will also address the cost to taxpayers of ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner’s resignation. City Hall steps, Manhattan.
At noon, Sen. David Carlucci and Assembly members Sandy Galef, Thomas Abinanti and Steve Englebright push for boating safety legislation, Room 130, LCA Press Room, Legislative Office Building, Albany.
At 5:30 p.m., gay rights activists plan to march and rally in Greenwich Village to protest the murder of a gay man from Harlem early Saturday morning. Quinn will join them. The march stars at the LGBT Center offices at 208 W. 13th St. (Manhattan) and ends at the crime scene.
At 7:30 p.m., Mayor Bloomberg will receive a lifetime achievement award from the NYLCV at its annual spring gala, Chelsea Piers (Pier 60, 23rd Street at the West Side Highway), Manhattan.
The Cuomo administration has ordered a high-end clothing line run by Khloe Kardashian and her husband, NBA player Lamar Odom, to stop selling a designer T-shirt, because it bears an emblem that looks suspiciously like a state logo. If they don’t comply within five days, the state will sue.
Cuomo has decided not to call a special election to fill resigning Assemblyman Vito Lopez’s seat to prevent him from exerting influence over selection of his successor.
State GOP Chairman Ed Cox will request that Cuomo name a special prosecutor — possibly AG Eric Schneiderman — to conduct a criminal probe of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s handling of the Lopez affair, as well as of Lopez’s conduct itself.
Mike Lupica: You get the idea sometimes that the one constant in the grimy theater of state politics is Shelly Silver himself: The Assembly speaker — and gang of one — who only spoke any evil about a creep like Vito Lopez as a last resort.”
Andrea Peyser speaks to Charmian Neary – “the first to complain of sexual harassment in Albany — and the first to be paid off with your money by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, just to shut up.”
A spokesman for Silver called the drumbeat for the speaker to resign his leadership post “ridiculous,” and insisted he has no intention of doing so.
May 20th - 6:00 am
The latest Siena poll contains some head-scratching results.
On the one hand, half of New Yorkers agree with Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he says state government is working again.
But when asked how they feel about the government in light of the recent series of public corruption scandals, only 26 percent said it’s working effectively, compared to 67 percent who said it is becoming more dysfunctional every day.
A vast majority of poll respondents – 88 percent – believe more arrests of legislators are on the horizon. That’s up from 81 percent last month.
A plurality of voters – 41 percent – said passing laws to address corruption should be the top end-of-session priority.
Addressing the governor’s Women’s Equality Agenda came in a distant second at 21 percent, with more than twice as much support from women as from men, followed by public campaign financing at 15 percent and the casino amendment at 13 percent.
All this turmoil has, oddly, been good for Cuomo’s favorability rating, which had fallen incrementally in each of the last four months.
According to this poll, Cuomo’s numbers – both approval and re-elect – have edged up a little, while his job performance rating remains identical to last month.
Cuomo now has a 64-32 favorability rating, up slightly from 62-33 percent last month.
Fifty-two percent say Cuomo is doing an excellent or good job as governor, and 47 percent say he’s doing only a fair or poor job. That’s unchanged from April.
Fifty-five percent say they are prepared to re-elect Cuomo, while 36 percent would prefer someone else – up from 53-39 in April.
Support for a casino gambling constitutional amendment, 53-37 percent, is the highest it has ever been. This makes some sense, given the amount of attention given to the Cuomo administration-Oneida Indian Nation deal struck last week.
On fracking, 39 percent of voters say they’d like to see drilling move forward, while 41 percent are opposed. The numbers last month were 45 percent opposed, 40 percent in favor.
Statewide, 57 percent of New Yorkers support the idea of a taxpayer funded campaign finance system, (in other words, using public dollars to match donations to candidates while also lowering contribution limits).
More than 60 percent of Democrats and independents support creation of a public system, while Republicans are evenly divided.