Jan 18th - 8:19 am
Former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. and his son, Pedro G., were indicted yet again for allegedly bilking hundreds of thousands of dollars from their healthcare network, Soundview, which received both federal and state funding.
The superseding indictment that appears below was handed down late yesterday.
It adds two counts of false statement (basically allegedly the former Bronx lawmaker lied to the federal government about profits realized by a janitorial services company he and his son had set up to contract with Soundview and his own compensation) to the litany of charges the Espadas are facing – all of which they deny.
Arraignment will be next Wednesday, Jan. 25, at 5 p.m.
Jan 12th - 1:40 pm
Mayor Bloomberg, who reportedly was taken by surprise by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State announcements on eradicating the fingerprint requirement for foodstamps and building the nation’s largest convention center/casino at the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, is getting his revenge this afternoon.
In the State of the City address he is delivering right now in the Morris High School campus in the Bronx, Bloomberg sides with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver – going so far as to mention the Manhattan Democrat by name – in the speaker’s call to raise the minimum wage in New York.
“The minimum wage is another way to help those who can only find jobs with entry-level wages by incentivize and reward work,” Bloomberg says, according to a copy of his prepared remarks (which appears below). “Like the EITC, it helps those who are trying to help themselves. But setting the minimum wage is also a balancing act – setting it high enough so people can get by on it without having a negative economic impact.”
“Right now, I believe, we are slightly out of balance. The genius of the free market is not always perfect. Two of our neighbors – Connecticut and Massachusetts – have raised their minimum wage above the Federal standard to address higher costs of living.”
“And so while we would prefer the Federal government to act to keep us competitive, this year, we will join Speaker Shelly Silver in pushing for a responsible raise in the minimum wage. Our city just cannot afford to wait for Washington. Not when it comes to illegal guns, not when it comes to climate change, not when it comes to creating jobs and not when it comes to raising the minimum wage.”
To see Bloomberg siding with Silver – the man who helped kill two of his pet projects, the West Side stadium and congestion pricing – is pretty significant, although their relationship has improved, policy-wise, in recent years.
Neither Silver nor Bloomberg has gotten along terribly well lately with Cuomo, who has taken more of an interest in NYC affairs than his immediate predecessors. The institutional tension between the NYC mayor and the governor has escalated since Cuomo took office last January, a development due in part to the stark differences in style and political ideology. In short, Cuomo embraces political wheeling and dealing, while Bloomberg disdains politicking, even as he engages in it.
Silver reportedly struck a nerve (at least with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos) by outlining a detailed agenda – including the minimum wage hike – during his remarks before Cuomo’s State of the State. His relationship with Cuomo became even more strained this week over teacher performance evaluations.
UPDATE: It should be noted that Bloomberg gave Cuomo a shout-out for the passage of same-sex marriage, while also crediting his own policy advisor, John Feinblatt, whose wedding to partner Jonathan Mintz, Bloomberg officiated at Gracie. He also said he wants to work with the governor on pension reform. Also worth mentioning: There’s nary a word in the prepared speech about Aqueduct and the nation’s biggest convention center.
Jan 5th - 1:34 pm
Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., one of the few lawmakers who hasn’t been shy about publicly voicing his criticism of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (and pretty much anyone else – and there are many – with whom he disagrees), had some rare words of praise for his fellow Democrat after the governor delivered his second State of the State address yesterday.
“He’s a good preacher; he preaches better than I do,” a jovial Diaz Sr. said. “He should become a rabbi or a priest or something.”
Since Cuomo is an Italian Catholic, becoming a rabbi would be a real trick. Diaz Sr., as you’ll recall, is a Pentecostal minister.
In reviewing Cuomo’s speech, the Bronx lawmaker also managed to get in a dig at another fellow elected official he often singles out for criticism: Mayor Bloomberg.
“Education, I hope, I honestly say this, I hope that he could do better than Bloomberg because what he said today he’s going to do, Bloomberg said that he was going to do that,” the senator said. And Bloomberg was a fiasco in education. So I hope that Governor Cuomo means what he said and that our children will finally, finally our children will get someone to defend them.”
UPDATE: Now that he has had more time to think about Cuomo’s speech, Diaz Sr. has apparently found more he doesn’t like. He released a statement expressing his “ardent” disagreement with the governor’s call to expand casino gambling in the state and also to expand the statewide DNA database to include anyone convicted of a felony or penal law misdemeanor. (Specifically, Cuomo said he wants NY to become the first state to collect DMA on “all crimes”).
“Governor Cuomo has already legalized gay marriage,” Diaz Sr. said. “Now he wants to legalize casino gambling. What’s next – legalizing prostitution and marijuana and drugs – all in good ‘faith’ to make money to raise tax revenues for the State?”
The senator’s full statement appears after the jump.
Dec 29th - 2:41 pm
Talk of stretching veteran Rep. Charlie Rangel’s historic Harlem-centric district to include parts of the Bronx and Westchester has touched off a nascent power struggle between two NYC Democratic county organizations.
A Bronx Democratic source said it’s not sitting well with his side that the lines of NY-15 might be manipulated northward to maintain Rangel’s so-called “black” district, making up for the steady increase of Hispanic voters in its current confines, while letting Manhattan retain control.
According to this source, there’s talk – and a plan floated by the NAACP – that NY-15 would be carefully redrawn to maximize black voters, but also keep the Bronx’s share less than Manhattan’s, percentage-wise.
That would enable Manhattan to determine the Democratic designee in regularly scheduled elections and select the candidate in a special election – should Rangel someday decide, as has been widely speculated for years now, to retire mid-term and try to hand-pick his successor.
This source was prompted to call by our CapTon post on Rangel’s recent Pura Politica interview with Juan Manuel Benitez, during which the congressman mentioned the proposed changes to his district and expressed frustration with Gov. Andrew Cuomo for confusing redistricting process with his consistent talk of a veto.
“There’s no guarantee he would have support in the Bronx,” my source said. “We just don’t know him. It would be new territory for him, a large amount of new territory.”
Rangel has already signaled his intention to seek yet another term next year, although he’s likely to face several primary challenges – again.
But the fight brewing here is really more about who comes after Rangel, and who would have the most control over either selecting that successor or boosting a favored candidate.
It’s no secret that Manhattan Democratic Chairman/Assemblyman Keith Wright is interesting in running for Rangel’s seat when the veteran congressman finally calls it quits. He clearly stands to gain if the committee he controls has the ability to choose a special election candidate or vote for the party’s designee in the primary.
UPDATE: Jeffrey Wice, a redistricting attorney who is working for state Senate Democrats, emailed the following:
“Voting Rights Act requirements and the need to maintain an effective minority district will determine how this district will be redrawn.”
“The district will need to be redrawn in a way so that the minority communities will be able to elect their candidate of choice. This will require weighing African-American and Latino voting histories to determine the most effective way to comply with the law.”
Dec 8th - 2:35 pm
Not to be confused with an adult Christmas, which could be interpreted to mean something else entirely – something altogether unlikely for the minister/state lawmaker who is co-hosting this celebration.
A reader forwarded this invite to a Dec. 23 party being thrown by Assemblyman Marcus Crespo and Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. Two things strike me right off the bat:
1) The very large – and bright red – NO CHILDREN – directive at the bottom right-hand corner. Why anyone would want to bring a child to a party that starts at 8 p.m. and lasts until 2 a.m. is another question entirely, but this pretty unusual, and not something you generally see from elected officials (especially not during the holidays).
2) This invite makes no attempt at political correctness, not only are children not welcome, but this this is a CHRISTMAS party – no “holiday” celebration here.
Oct 6th - 4:40 pm
…is another’s mark of true success.
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, a Bronx Democrat, sent out a press release today to tout the fact that he finished close to dead last in his chamber in the state Conservative Party’s annual legislative rankings. The party awarded him a 16 percent rating based upon his vote on 24 key bills.
Dinowitz voted “yes” on extending unemployment benefits, legalizing same-sex marriage, raising the maximum retirement age for judges, mandating microstamping of ammunition for semiautomatic pistols, requiring backseat passengers under 16 to wear seat belts, providing health insurance coverage to domestic partners, extending of a domestic violence prevention law, prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity, forbidding smoking in playgrounds, and suspending the issuance of new permits for hydrofracking.
The Conservative Party opposed all of those bills.
“I believe the Conservative Party is wrong on most issues,” Dinowitz said. “Their extremist positions are not shared by most Bronxites. Receiving a 16% rating from them is a badge of honor. I only wish it could have been even lower. I hope to do something about that in the 2012 legislative session.”
Aug 12th - 2:05 pm
ICYMI: Sen. Gustavo Rivera, a frequent critic of the federal Secure Communities program, expressed significant “disappointment” during a CapTon interview last night with the Obama administration’s reversal on allowing states to opt out.
S-Comm, as it has come to be known, compels local law enforcement officers to share information about new arrests with federal immigration authorities. The goal is to deport illegal immigrants with criminal records. Instead, critics mantain, the program has largely impacted individuals who have committed either no offenses or relatively minor crimes.
In June, Gov. Andrew Cuomo heeded the calls of immigrant advocates and law enforcement officials and suspended New York’s participation in S-Comm, although he did not completely withdraw from the program.
Two other governors – Deval Patrick, of Massachusetts; and Patrick Quinn, of Illinois – also quit S-Comm. (PAtrick’s move was particularly interesting, since he is the country’s only black governor and shares a political strategist, David Axelrod, with Obama, the country’s first black president).
Last week, the Obama administration quietly had the Homeland Security Department terminante its memorandum of agreements with the state on S-Comm, essentially forcing governors to participate in the program whether they want to or not.
The decision didn’t receive much press, since it was vastly overshadowed by the high-profile debt debate. However, it surprised people like Rivera, who worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign and knows just how important the Latino vote will be to the president’s re-election bid next year.
We haven’t heard a peep on this decision yet from the Cuomo administration. But several organizations that advocate on behalf of immigrants in New York have discussed the possibility of suing. I asked Rivera if he would join – or, at the very least, support – such a move. He replied:
“That is certainly an option, and we’re looking at the different options we have. We’re going to be expressing very clearly to the administration – again, myself and other elected officials and advocates – how we feel about this.”
“We’ve already communicated to them. Now that there’s been this particular action, we’re going to respond to this and tell them very clearly that we disagree with the way that they’ve chosen to deal with this issue. And we just hope that our continued advocacy can end up in place where we have safer communities all across the country and across the state of New York.”
UPDATE: Rivera aide Conchita Cruz noted Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (based in Obama’s hometown of Chicago) filed a federal class action lawsuit yesterday against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for unlawfully detaining immigrants and U.S. citizens identified through local law enforcement agencies.
The suit is related to the S-Comm decision, and Cruz suggested similar lawsuits are likely to pop up around the country in the coming months – including here in NY.
Aug 10th - 5:34 pm
As expected, the Medicaid IG has recommended that the state exclude former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr.’s Bronx-based Soundview Health Network from the Medicaid program based on its “failure to develop and enact a comprehensive compliance program.”
Medicaid IG James Cox made this decision after an “extensive review of management practices” by Soundview. Reviews were conducted in May by the office’s Bureau of Compliance and depositions were taken from Soundview’s board chair and assistant controller in July.
In addition, the IG subpoenaed thousands of pages of documents from the healthcare organization – some of which have yet to be produced, according to Cox’s press release.
Espada and his son, Pedro G. Espada, were barred from participating in the state’s Medicaid program on Jan. 10, which means they cannot be paid with Medicaid funds. Nevertheless, according to Cox, both Espadas have continued to work at Soundview.
Jul 29th - 12:54 pm
The Parkside Group, a NYC-based consulting/lobbying firm that is a favorite of the Senate Democrats, has hired a former aide to now-Gov. Andrew Cuomo: Paul Thomas.
“Paul Thomas is a seasoned professional with extensive experience in city and state government, said Parkside Group President Harry Giannoulis in a press release.
“Throughout his career, Paul has counseled public officials on substantive policy issues and the most effective methods of community outreach. We look forward to Paul putting his considerable abilities to work on behalf of our clients.”
Thomas is coming on as the firm’s newest vice president. He served as (deputy) director of Intergovernmental and Community Affairs for Cuomo when the governor was in the AG’s office.
He has also worked for the NYC City Council, a number of state lawmakers from the Bronx and Brooklyn – including Assemblyman/Bronx Democratic Chairman Carl Heastie – and on then-state Comptroller Carl McCall’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign.
(Incidentally, that was the year Cuomo challenged McCall in an ill-fated and short-lived primary from which Cuomo withdrew one week prior to the September election).
Parkside has a strong Queens connection (that’s the governor’s home borough, in case you had forgotten). Evan Stavisky, a parnter in the firm, is the son of Queens Sen. Toby Stavisky, and has been intimately involved in any number of campaigns there – including Assemblyman David Weprin’s current quest to fill former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s NY-9 seat.
Thomas’ hiring strengthens the traditionally Queens-Bronx alliance, which has been necessitated in part by the fact that Queens Democratic Chairman/Rep. Joe Crowley’s district includes a
sliver chunk of the Bronx.
UPDATE: As per a reader (thank you), much more of of Crowley’s district, NY-7, than I thought is actually in the Bronx.
There are 203,645 enrolled voters there, compared to 116,125 in Queens, with a total of 317,770 – active and inactive.
In the 2010 election, of the overall votes cast, 62,346 came from the Bronx, compared to 35,625 from Queens. Crowley won with 66,223 votes, 43,885 from the Bronx and 22,338 from Queens.
Fearing a primary challenge – particularly from a Latino candidate – Crowley has maintained close ties to whoever is in charge of the Bronx Democratic organization. That job is currently being held by Thomas’ former boss, Heastie.
(I would be remiss if I didn’t note that my former DN partner Ken Lovett beat me to the posting punch on this one).
Jun 15th - 4:26 pm
Following the Senate GOP’s punt earlier today on same-sex marriage, attention has turned to the Assembly, which requested – and received – a message of necessity from Gov. Andrew Cuomo so it can circumvent the three-day aging process and vote on his program bill this afternoon.
Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell, the bill’s sponsor, just Tweeted that the bill is through the Rules Committee and headed to the floor for the fourth time in NYS history soon.
Republicans, particularly Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, have been suggesting that there might not be sufficient votes in the chamber to pass the bill yet again. Advocates have rejected that assertion, and I guess we’ll be finding out who’s right soon enough.
The Democrat-Republican split in the chamber is now 99-51, with four vacant seats on the Democratic side. There are also a handful of members in both conferences who have a history of crossing the aisle on this issue. The pro-marriage folks just got some good news from Assemblyman Nelson Castro, a Bronx Democrat, who announced he has changed his mind and plans to vote “yes” today.
Castro’s full statement appears after the jump.