May 28th - 4:42 pm
Rep. Michael Grimm is not attending tomorrow’s state Republican dinner featuring Texas Senator Ted Cruz, according to Grimm’s spokeswoman.
Grimm took a beating today from Democrats who tried to link him to Cruz. In parts of New York, the Texas Republican has become persona non grata due to his attempts earlier this year to block federal aid to Hurricane Sandy victims.
During a conference call hosted by the Democratic National Committee this morning, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries said:
“It’s an insult to the hard-working New Yorkers who are still recovering from Superstorm Sandy that the New York Republican Party would see fit to bring in Ted Cruz of all people — someone who called federal aid wasteful spending.”
Hours later, House Majority PAC, the group leading the Democratic Party’s efforts to take back the House of Representatives, put out a statement asking: “Why won’t Michael Grimm come clean on support for Sandy relief fund-denier Ted Cruz?”
Grimm’s spokesperson insisted that Grimm never planned on attending the dinner. And in a statement, Grimm blasted his Democratic colleagues.
“To use an event as tragic as Sandy to try and score a few cheap political points is beyond reprehensible, and I expect more from my NYC colleagues, who quite frankly should know better,” said Grimm. “I could only hope that that they will put as much effort into Sandy relief as they have launching baseless political attacks.”
Rep. Peter King, an outspoken critic of Cruz’s Sandy vote, also said that he would not be attending the dinner.
Jan 2nd - 12:45 pm
Just as Gov. Andrew Cuomo was wrapping up his Q-and-A with reporters by railing against New York Republicans, calling out state GOP Chairman Ed Cox and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos for failing to join Rep. Pete King in decrying the House leadership’s failure to bring the Sandy disaster aid bill to the floor, the following statement from Skelos arrived in my in-box:
The failure of Congress to act on the federal assistance legislation to help the millions of people impacted by Hurricane Sandy is absolutely unconscionable.”
“People in my district and throughout the region continue to struggle to put their lives back together. Business owners are working to get back on their feet and everyone is trying to restore a sense of normalcy.”
“By walking away from the aid bill, the House leadership has turned their backs on New Yorkers in their time of need. Without action to provide federal aid, rebuilding homes and businesses and repairing vital infrastructure becomes even more of an uphill battle.”
“I urge the House to immediately take up the Hurricane Sandy aid legislation passed by the U.S. Senate so this critical assistance can get to the people who so desperately need it.”
Remember: Skelos’s district is in Nassau County, which was hit hard by Sandy.
King, who is also a Long Islander, said earlier today that the delayed Sandy vote is an “absolute disgrace.” He called on political donors in New York and New Jersey to cease contributing to congressional Republicans, saying anyone doing so would be “out of their minds.”
UPDATE: The Senate GOP press office says Skelos’ statement actually went out before Cuomo wondered aloud where the majority leader is on this issue. It takes a while for these blast emails to move through their pre-programmed lists, I guess.
Dec 28th - 8:01 pm
Today the Senate has approved a $60.4 billion emergency spending package for Hurricane Sandy recovery that was backed by Democrats.
The 61-33 vote Friday sends the measure to the House, where the bill faces uncertain prospects.
Governors Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie and Dan Malloy of Connecticut responded by sending a stern letter to every member of the House in hopes the bill will pass before the new year.
Dec 3rd - 5:01 pm
A D.C. source close to the New York congressional delegation called in this afternoon to question why Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn’t schedule some alone time with his fellow Democrats during his trip to Capitol Hill today, particularly since it’s his first trip to Washington since he became governor in January 2011.
“The members are peeved,” the source said. “We just found out about this on Friday…It’s very frustrating. It’s his first time in D.C. as governor, and he’s not even meeting with members of his own party? He asked them to go to a press conference, but they weren’t invited to speak or anything – just to stand behind him. It’s bewildering. We’re all sitting around here, saying, ‘Seriously?’”
Cuomo’s schedule, released last night, included a meeting with House Speaker John Boehner, at which he was to be joined by three Republican lawmakers from New York – Reps. Bob Turner, Michael Grimm and Pete King, on whom the governor is leaning quite heavily as he pushes for the $42 billion worth of federal disaster aid he’s seeking after Sandy.
The governor was also scheduled to meet with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. But, according to his schedule, none of his fellow New York Democrats were invited to accompany him to that sit down.
The state’s two US senators – Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer – were scheduled to join him when he met with Appropriations Committee Chairman and Vice-Chairman Sen. Daniel Inouye and Sen. Thad Cochran and also at a get together with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The press conference of which my source spoke is scheduled for 5 p.m.
This isn’t the first time members of the New York delegation have complained about being ignored by Cuomo.
They were put out about the fact that the governor didn’t brief them before going public with his initial estimate of $30 billion worth of damage caused by Sandy – a number that later grew to $42 billion when he formally briefed them and local elected officials at a meeting in his midtown Manhattan office.
And going back to pre-Sandy days, the Democrats were none too thrilled that Cuomo declined to intercede when the Senate and Assembly failed to agree on a redistricting plan for the congressional lines, kicking the matter to the courts and resulting in a far less gerrymandered outcome than a politically-controlled process would likely have produced.
Pelosi herself tried to get Cuomo to engage in the redistricting battle, but to no avail.
Generally speaking, Democrats did fairly well anyway on Election Day – thanks in large part to the higher-than-usual Democratic turnout caused by the presidential race. But one popular member of the delegation – freshman Rep. Kathy Hochul – lost her seat to Republican Congressman-elect Chris Collins.
And Pelosi went out of her way to issue a statement praising Cuomo for his one-day pre-election blitz of campaigning for House Democrats – including Hochul – saying he went “above and beyond to help support our candidates in New York.”
Dec 3rd - 5:58 am
Today’s Siena poll reveals New Yorkers give high marks to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the job he has done in dealing with Superstorm Sandy, but the utility companies – particularly LIPA, which the governor himself has made a verbal whipping boy – not so much.
Sixty-seven percent of voters say Cuomo has done an excellent or good job dealing with the hurricane and its aftermath, 22 percent graded his performance as “fair,” and seven percent said it was downright “poor.”
Mayor Bloomberg, President Obama, the MTA, and FEMA all received good grades following Sandy, too.
ConEd, which Bloomberg went out of his way to praise late last week, calling it “virtually the best utility company in the country,” received a mixed review.
But more than half of NYC voters, who make up the bulk of ConEd’s customers impacted by Sandy, has done an excellent or good job.
LIPA, which Cuomo said “failed” its customers after Sandy and served as the impetus for his Moreland Act Commission that is now investigating the utility industry’s post-storm response overall, did not fare nearly so well.
Only one in six Long Islanders said LIPA has done an excellent or good job, compared to 60 percent who felt the company performed poorly.
And, as Siena’s Steve Greenberg noted, they are in a position to know, since 86 percent of Long Islanders say they lost power during the storm – half of them for more than a week.
Cuomo took some heat for castigating LIPA. The authority is a political subdivision of the state and he has allowed it to drift to he took office, declining to make appointments to its board or change its leadership.
An exodus among LIPA’s leaders has been underway since Sandy and Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission announcement.
Also notable in the Siena poll: at least 63 percent of voters from every region – including two-thirds of upstaters and three-quarters of those in New York City – agree with Cuomo’s assessment that the severe storms the state has seen over the last two years are the result of global climate change, rather than isolated weather events.
Nov 30th - 12:18 pm
ICYMI: Here’s today’s CapTon morning memo, which focuses on the unusual, and probably short-term, alliance between three governors – Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie and (to a somewhat lesser extent) Dannel Malloy – forced by Superstorm Sandy. This piece by The Daily Beast’s David Freedlander is in a somewhat similar vein, though he focuses on the Cuomo-Christie relationship, which is particularly interesting because of the 2016 angle.
In the memo, which you should really sign up for on our SoP home page if you haven’t already, I wrote:
We already know about the terrible power of Hurricane Sandy when it comes to economic and physical damage. But is it possible the storm also has the power to mend – at least temporarily – long-standing political rifts between the governors of the tri-state area?
There are reports this morning that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (Democrat), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (Republican) and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (Democrat) “are joining forces in a regional effort to land nearly $83 billion in federal aid to recover from Superstorm Sandy.”
Even though it seems logical for the governors to team up – the whole strength in numbers thing, particularly when it comes to wooing a reluctant Congress for additional cash – it took this trio a while to get together.
Cuomo was the first to put a price tag on Sandy damage, pegging the total at $30 billion – a number he has since revised upwards. That figure was leaked to the New York Times three days before President Obama was scheduled to make his first trip to New York to tour areas damaged by Sandy.
During that visit, the president reportedly advised the governor and Mayor Bloomberg to incorporate as many states as possible into their disaster aid ask in order to maximize their chances of getting Congress to say “yes.”
Easier said than done, since doing so requires the setting aside of egos and long-simmering political rivalries.
Both Christie and Cuomo are seen as potential White House contenders in 2016. But the two nevertheless seem to have a good working relationship that pre-dates Sandy. (Remember: They have, among other things, the Port Authority in common).
There’s a veritable love fest between Christie and Obama ever since the president’s pre-Election Day visit to the Sandy-ravaged Garden State shore – a move that infuriated Republicans, who believe the New Jersey governor, an outspoken surrogate for Mitt Romney before the storm, was in part to blame for Romney’s loss to Obama on Nov. 6.
An anonymous senior Obama administration official even leaked to the New York Post that the Christie people had been “so much easier to deal with” than Team Cuomo after Sandy.
But that hasn’t stopped Christie and Cuomo from collaborating. They issued a joint statement this past Wednesday, pledging a “shared commitment” to receive federal aid in order to rebuild after Sandy.
Cooperation between Malloy, Cuomo and Christie is perhaps more difficult to navigate.
Nov 26th - 12:11 pm
Mayor Bloomberg’s office this morning announced the city has estimated the combined public/private losses of to be $19 billion, and after subtracting private insurance of $3.8 billion and FEMA reimbursement of $5.4 billion, is eeking $9.8 billion worth of federal disaster aid to cover the remainder of the cost.
Bloomberg outlined his request in a letter to New York congressional delegation members, which was released to the media by his office.
“Four weeks ago, as Sandy was approaching our shores, President Obama committed federal resources to this storm and its recover,” the mayor wrote.
“Since then we have worked closely with his Administration on everything from cleanup to temporary housing. With our combined efforts, I am confident that we can secure the funding needed to ensure the swiftest and smartest recovery for New York City. Thank you for your leadership on this issue.”
The release of Bloomberg’s aid ask comes as he is meeting with members of the New York congressional delegation and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has pegged the entire state recovery cost at at least $30 billion, to discuss the ongoing post-storm response.
Cuomo’s decision to go public with his $30 billion figure without first giving anyone a heads-up reportedly did not sit well with New York’s House members and two US senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, who have made their own request for $1 billion worth of aid.
Gillibrand and Schumer were scheduled to attend the meeting with Cuomo, which was called by the governor and started at about 11:30 a.m.
When Obama made his pre-Thanksgiving visit to New York to tour Sandy damage, he rode in a helicopter with both Cuomo and Bloomberg and reportedly advised the duo to think regionally when seeking federal disaster aid in order to maximize their chances of getting a green light from the divided Congress.
Nov 15th - 2:45 pm
With the president in town, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the area’s elected officials toured the storm-ravaged borough of Staten Island on Thursday.
Obama said he would was making Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan the “point person” for the recovery effort.
“He’s going to be working with the mayor, the governor, the borough president, the county officials to make sure that we come up with a strong, effective plan,” Obama said.
Cuomo, of course, is a former HUD secretary himself in the second term of Bill Clinton, a job he frequently mentions whenever talk turns to the federal government or housing issues.
“It’s not going to be easy. There’s still going to be some, believe it or not, complaints, or the next couple of weeks,” the president said. “I’m very proud of you New York, you’re tough, you bounce back, just as America always bounces back.”
But aside from pointing Donovan, who used to run NYC’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, to the spotlight role for storm recovery, Obama kept his comments general.
He notably did not mention climate change concerns.
Bloomberg endorsed Obama just days before his election to a second term largely because he felt the Democratic incumbent was best equipped to deal with climate change.
But Cuomo reiterated his concerns that New York’s infrastructure must be rebuilt to handle the “extreme weather” that’s hit New York three times in the last two years.
“We must re-knit the fabric of tattered communities. we must re-think and redesign for the longterm because extreme weather as we have learned is the new normal,” Cuomo said.
The governor has requested $30 billion worth of supplemental aide from Washington in order to help with the recovery effort. Unlike the FEMA reimbursement aid, the supplemental package must be approved by Congress.
In press gaggle earlier today, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Cuomo’s specific plan is yet to be seen by federal officials.
Well, we can’t comment specifically on that plan, as we haven’t seen it, but the administration continues to provide all available resources to support our state and local partners, as well as affected families. The administration, as you know, has obligated more than $1.5 billion to support response and recovery efforts, which includes more than $600 million now, already approved in direct assistance to hundreds of thousands of individuals impacted by the storm. And we will continue to work with the governors on ongoing recovery efforts, including supporting their efforts to develop appropriate long-term housing plans for those whose homes were damaged or destroyed.
Nov 15th - 1:47 pm
President Obama is on the ground in Staten Island, touring some of the damage wrought by Sandy.
Earlier in the day, he took an aerial tour of of wreckage in Far Rockaway, Queens, which suffered a significant hit during the storm, and was able to see Breezy Point – the neighborhood where more than 100 buildings, including homes that belonged to Rep. Bob Turner and state Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long, burned to the ground.
Mayor Bloomberg, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Rep. Michael Grimm and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz were among the New York officials joining Cuomo for that trip.
US Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand traveled with him to New York City from Washington, D.C. on Air Force One.
Here’s the first pool report from Obama’s Staten Island stop. He’s scheduled to give a speech any minute now. (It was originally scheduled for 1:30 p.m.)
Potus visited a FEMA and SBA disaster tent as a loud crowds of about a 100 locals looked on and yelled for his attention, as well as a tent holding boxes of toiletries, as well cans of soup. (Campbell’s was well represented) and boxed food to victims of Sandy.
Pooler got to talk with a girl who was getting some supplies. She said her house was on the beach but “it’s gone.” She laughed and said it’s “still standing…” but they can’t live in it. They’re living (with) family. She said of the president: “We need help. He should of been here a long time ago.”
A young Hispanic man who just met the president said he “lost everything; I lost my job.” “Thanks so much,” he said he wanted to say to the president.
From what pool could see through the windows in the tent, Potus shook hands, hugged a few folks and chatted. He offered consoling words to a few local residents. To a few volunteers who said they were from Texas, West Virginia and other states, Potus said: “We got the whole country represented here…we’re proud of you guys.”
“Having young people like you guys involved” in helping out it “tremendous,” the president told some FEMA Corps volunteers.
Nov 14th - 4:24 pm
As of yesterday, the Long Island Power Authority is now 1) in the crosshairs of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission, and 2) rudderless, thanks to the resignation of its acting head, Michael Hervey, who tendered his resignation shortly after Cuomo announced a formal investigation of the utilities’ response to Sandy, Irene and Lee.
The commission’s scope actually includes NYPA, LIPA, NYSERDA, and the Public Service Commission, but LIPA has born the brunt of Cuomo’s wrath as post-Sandy power outages dragged on in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.
As has been noted with increasing frequency now, Cuomo actually has the power to do something about LIPA, since it’s a public entity and nine of its 15 trustees – including the chairman – are gubernatorial appointees.
Even though Cuomo pledged to reform LIPA during his 2010 campaign for governor and launched what he promised would be a “swift and thorough” audit of the authority’s rate system after Hurricane Irene, he has taken no definitive action to change things.
In fact, as Dana Reubenstein notes, there are only 10 trustees currently serving on the LIPA Board, and only six of the nine seats Cuomo is responsible for filling are actually filled. Three occupants of those seats are serving on borrowed time, as their terms have already expired.
Bill Hammond pointed out that since Cuomo took office back in January 2011, he has made just one appointment to the LIPA Board.
The guy who got bounced was Michael Fragin, a former Pataki administration aide and Orthodox Jewish/Republican operative. He was replaced last symmer Flushing-based construction-
Fragin reminded me this afternoon that LIPA had been considering changes that would have dramatically changed its internal structure, and even considered the possibility of privatization – an option Cuomo hasn’t yet ruled out.
But it turns out LIPA doesn’t have a lot of options, in part because it’s carry so much debt – about $7 billion worth of bonds related to the Shoreham nuclear reactor and various capital projects.
Ironically, it was a desire to prevent LIPA’s predecessor, LILCO, from opening the controversial nuclear plant that caused former Gov. Mario Cuomo to create LIPA in the first place, saddling the new authority with a gigantic white elephant that it couldn’t use to generate a dime in revenue.
Of course, LIPA’s debt is public, which means ratepayers are still paying through the nose, but at a lower rate than they would if Shoreham’s owner were a private entity.
On Monday, Fitch Ratings lowered its outlook on $5.9 billion of LIPA’s A-rated debt to negative from stable, saying that the aftermath of Sandy will put an additional strain on the authority’s already tight finances.
Another problem is the millions of dollars LIPA is paying every year in property taxes.
Last year, the Long Island Business News reported that LIPA’s taxes and assessments would rise $51.7 million in 2012 over the levels budgeted for 2011.
The authority and its more than 1 million ratepayers were slated to pay $537 million in property taxes in this year, and payments in lieu of taxes wer scheduled to be $264.5 million – up $42.5 million or 19.1 percent from the level budgeted for 2011.
At the time, LIPA Chairman Howard Steinberg (a Pataki appointee whose term has expired) blamed inflated assessments for the authority’s woes and vowed to redouble its efforts to fight its tax bill in the courts and with the Legislature.
According to Fragin, who served on the LIPA Board from 2006 to 2011, it’s only recently that LIPA has gotten aggressive about challenging its assessments – a practice he called “something of a sport on Long Island.”
Property taxes account for 24.2 percent of the LIPA delivery charge. According to Fragin, roughly 30 cents of every dollar at LIPA goes toward servicing the debt and paying taxes, adding: “When you’re spending all that money on things that have nothing to do with your electric system, other areas are suffering.”
Here’s the dirty little secret about LIPA (aside from its reputation as a patronage mill, which is barely a secret at all): While local elected officials love to complain about it, they also love the tax revenue it generates. And without that revenue, some already cash-strapped local governments would would have a serious problem on their hands.
If you privatized LIPA, it would continue to pay taxes. But, if you made it a purely municipal entity run entirely by public employees, who, of course, would come with their own additional costs, the property tax stream would dry right up.
“A lot of politicians look at LIPA as if it’s a cash cow,” Fragin told me. “…Obsolete plants that barely run, their assessments are in the hundreds of millions of dollars. They’re paying millions to various localities, and probably should be paying a lot less.”
“LIPA has large structural issues that most of the politicans in Albany and on Long Island don’t want to deal with and a lot of that. It all stems from decisions made decades ago. Nobody wants to deal with the debt and the taxes. The board has been strategically looking at this structure for the past couple of years….and the reality is that none of them are really workable. They only thing that’s workable is the hybrid model that we have.”