Apr 5th - 4:13 pm
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is already teed off with Albany after state lawmakers declined to take up his speed camera legislation.
Bloomberg, who spread his own wealth around in the last election cycle to both Senate Republicans and the Independent Demcratic Conference, said on WOR radio in New York City this morning that neither major political party seems capable if staying out of trouble.
“I don’t see how it can get much worse. You can only have every two days another scandal,” said Bloomberg, a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent. “I guess you could have one every day.”
Both state and city governments were rocked by a pair back-to-back corruption scandals this week. One was an alleged plot for Sen. Malcolm Smith to buy his way onto the New York City GOP mayoral ballot, while another took down a Bronx assemblyman who wrote favorable legislation in exchange for bribes, according to federal prosecutors.
The Eric Stevenson arrest was made possible after another lawmaker, Democrat Nelson Castro, had worked as an informant for law enforcement virtually his entire time in office in order after he was indicted for perjury.
The billionaire mayor donated $1 million to the Senate Republicans’ housekeeping account and $75,000 to IDC last year before the conference of breakaway Democrats added the now criminally charged Smith to their ranks.
Bloomberg also blasted lawmakers who he said couldn’t get elected in the private sector doing what they do now in office.
“The average legislator who has to make policy on things that influence our lives, our kids’ lives, our future, would they ever get a job in the private sector making policy on big things? No, not a chance,” he said.
The mayor also blasted the use of messages of necessity issued to waive the three-day aging process for bills. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who came under some criticism for the message of necessity used during the gun control debate in order to speed up the legislative process, did not issue one during the final passage of the 2013-14 state budget.
“At the state level they still use these messages of necessity where they’ve got to jam something through quickly,” Bloomberg said. “Why can’t you give it time? Well, the answer is they don’t want anyone to see it. They say their are other things, but let’s get serious. That’s the only explaination.”
Mar 27th - 3:37 pm
Mayor Bloomberg today lit into the Senate Republicans for refusing to authorize installing up to 40 cameras in school zones to catch speeding drivers.
The Assembly supported a plan to fine speeders $25 to $100 when caught by the cameras, but the idea has now failed to pass muster with both houses of the Legislature for the third straight year.
During his Q-and-A with reporters in NYC earlier today, Bloomberg singled out several members of the GOP conference – including his onetime ally Simcha Felder, a former Democratic NYC councilman from Brooklyn who is caucusing with the Republicans – for killing the measure, and said the next death of a child struck by a speeding driver will be on their heads.
The mayor called the Senate’s rejection of the bill “reckless” and “negligent,” and accused legislators of engaging in hypocrisy by rejecting the speed cameras while also approving increased surcharges for speeders as part of the 2013-14 budget.
“We literally are having kids that are getting killed around our schools, people are speeding, but they don’t want to let us use cameras to stop people from doing that,” Bloomberg said. “They do seem, however, I noticed, happy to take some extra revenue from the people we do catch speeding using our resources, but they are unwilling to allow us to use speed cameras to save more lives.”
“Hard to believe, but the Senate was fine in adding a surcharge onto speeding tickets that we give out in New York City and they’re going to take the money, but they would not let us use speed cameras to stop people from killing our kids. And that’s the only fair ways (sic) to describe it.”
“…The next time you write a story or have a story on television or in your paper or on your radio show about a child killed by a speeding car in this city, why don’t you pick up the phone
and ask your state senator and ask why they allowed that child to be killed.”
“And certainly, if you need the names of phone numbers of Senator Dean Skelos, or Marty Golden or Simcha Felder, who were certainly most responsible for blocking the speed cameras that save lives we’ll be very happy to provide you with their phone numbers. Maybe you’ll want to give those numbers to the parents of the child when a child is killed. It would certainly be useful so the parents know exactly who’s to blame.”
As you’ll recall, Bloomberg has long supported the Senate Republicans in their increasingly more difficult quest to retain control of the chamber – or, at least a semblance of it. Over the years, he has ponied up quite a bit of cash to fill their housekeeping account, including $1 million in the last election cycle alone, making him the conference’s largest individual donor.
Bloomberg also slammed the Republicans for what he called an “unfunded mandate for extra Yeshiva school buses,” which he deemed “complete pandering to a particular political constituency.” (Again, you can see the work of Felder here, who made no secret of the fact back when he was mulling which conference to join that his main concern was which side would deliver more for his Orthodox Jew-dominated district).
The mayor praised the Assembly Democrats – and Speaker Sheldon Silver in particular – for trying to restore the $250 million the city lost after it failed to reach a teacher evaluation agreement with the UFT by the deadline laid out by the governor.
But Bloomberg said the city did make “some progress” in the budget, especially when it comes to an agreement between the governor and legislative leaders that will essentially prevent any teacher evaluation plans from sunsetting – a big concern for the mayor.
UPDATE: Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif emailed the following comment:
“Working with the City, no one has fought harder or longer than Senate Republicans to ensure the safety of New York City children and their families.”
Mar 11th - 3:31 pm
Here’s an interesting blast from the past: Former NY1 and WCBS-2 political reporter-turned book writer and gay nightclub/hotel impresario is returning to the public eye – this time on the other side of the pen and camera.
NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced today he has tapped Kirtzman to servce as his senior advisor for Communications and Public Affairs. In this role, Kirtzman will oversee the media and public affairs offices and manage communications for the city’s Department of Education. His first day will be next Monday. (No word in the press release about his salary).
“Andrew has a long and distinguished career and will be critical member of my leadership team as we continue to raise standards and prepare students for college and careers,” said Walcott. “Andrew will lead a talented team and we look forward to working together to communicate with parents, students and our school communities.”
It’s an interesting time to take a job with the Bloomberg administration, since the mayor is on his way out the door, and the next mayor – presumably – will want to pick his or her own chancellor, who, in turn, would likely want to appoint his or her own top staffers.
The administration is also at a difficult place vis-a-vis education, which has long been a main focus for the mayor and is supposed to be a major part of his legacy. He managed to wrest control of the public school system in the city, thanks to the state Legislature, which means any positives or negatives in terms of performance rest almost entirely on his shoulders.
Kirtzman is no doubt savvy when it comes to both NYC media and politics, though he has been out of the limelight for a while. He worked in both TV and print.
From 2003 to 2008, he was a political reporter for WCBS-TV and hosted Kirtzman and Co., a weekly Sunday morning show. Prior to that, Kirtzman co-anchored NY1’s “Inside City Hall,” the sister show of YNN’s “Capital Tonight.”
Kirtzman also reported for the New York Daily News, Houston Post and Hudson Dispatch. He is the author of two books, one on Bernard Madoff and the other on former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, with whom he weathered the earliest moments in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
A May 2011 New York Times story described Kirtzman as “the unofficial mayor of Fire Island Pines, as a club and hotel impresario, restaurateur, landlord and developer.” But the storied waterfront properties he owned with two business partners were gutted by a fire in November 2011. UPDATE: As per that NYT story, the Pavilion, the island’s legendary dance club and social hub, is being rebuilt and is set to re-open this season.
Mar 7th - 11:25 am
NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s anti-gun organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns has just released polling data for two dozen states and 40 congressional districts on where voters stand on background checks for all gun purchases.
The polls specifically targeted lawmakers with high NRA ratings, and two upstate Republican House members made the list: Southern Tier Rep. Tom Reed and Capital Region Rep. Chris Gibson.
Both have an “A” rating from the NRA. And in both of their districts, 94 percent of residents said they support mandatory background checks for all gun sales.
“That 94 percent of New York’s 19th Congressional District residents want every gun buyer to pass a criminal background check speaks volumes about the changing public mood on guns,” said pollster Doug Schoen in a press release.
“This margin is unlike any I’ve seen on this issue, and it marks a real sea change. Voters want their elected officials to fight gun violence, and after Newtown, they’re demanding it.”
Schoen gave the same quote in the press release about Reed’s district. He goes on to say that 40 percent of current gun sales each year, amounting to about 6.6 million guns, are conducted without background checks.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns printed the results from all these polls in a full page ad in today’s Washington Post. A copy of that ad appears below.
UPDATE: Bloomberg’s organization also released a new public service announcement today that features 30 mayors from around the US calling on Congress to pass legislation to require background checks for all sales, limit military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and make gun trafficking a federal crime.
One New York mayor – Niagara Falls’ Paul Dyster, a Democrat – appears in the PSA. He gets to say a single word: “Columbine.”
Just this morning, a key Senate committee on advanced an element of President Barack Obama’s broad gun control initiative, approving a measure aimed at combating gun trafficking and straw purchasing in a bipartisan vote. (One Republican, Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, joined the committee’s 10 Democrats to approve the bill, 11-7, sending it to the full Senate for consideration).
The Judiciary Committee is considering four gun control bills today – an assault weapons ban, a school safety measure, a universal background check bill and the gun trafficking law. The assault weapons ban is expected to generate the most Republican opposition.
Feb 14th - 1:22 pm
Jan 30th - 2:33 pm
UFT President Mike Mulgrew was in Albany yesterday to testify at the joint legislative hearing on education, and got an earful from state lawmakers – particularly Assembly Education Committee Chair Cathy Nolan, who was furious about the union’s failure to reach a teacher evaluation deal with Mayor Bloomberg by the Jan. 17 deadline, costing the district hundreds of millions of dollars worth of aid.
Nolan lectured Mulgrew about the need to get back to the negotiating table ASAP and stop short-charging NYC school kids, who, at the end of the day, are going to pay the price of funding lost because adults who are supposed to be more responsible and mature weren’t able to put their differences aside.
At the hearing, Mulgrew managed to keep his cool in the face of Nolan’s wrath, but also reiterated his oft-repeated claim that the mayor is lying about the circumstances surrounding the failed pre-Jan. 17 talks. (Basically, the union insists there was a deal and the mayor walked away, and the mayor rejects that claim, saying it the union didn’t really want a deal and made unrealistic demands).
But during a CapTon interview on his way out of town, Mulgrew upped the ante in his war of words against Bloomberg, suggesting that if the mayor isn’t able to work with the UFT to meet new terms laid out by state Education Commissioner John King, then he will ask state lawmakers to end mayoral control of the NYC school system early. (It is scheduled to sunset in 2015, long after Bloomberg is gone from City Hall).
“I don’t want to see any district lose money,” Mulgrew told me. “I’m in Albany every year advocating for school funding. This is something I take very seriously. I asked at the hearing today, I said: Direct New York City to take it out of central bureaucracy. You know, there’s other ways to do this right now.”
“We don’t want to lose any more money, which is like a major issue for us, because now February 15th, Commissioner King has put this issue in play where we have to have a training plan put together and submit it into SED.”
“…If the mayor refuses to even do that, then I’m going to have to go to the Legislature and say: We need to get rid of the current governance of the New York City School system. We can’t wait two more years for that to sunset. Because if he won’t even put together a plan with us to train people, and risks losing more money, then it’s just reckless.”
Mulgrew would likely find a sympathetic ear among the Senate Democrats from NYC, many of whom are not big Bloomberg fans and have made clear in the past that they’re not happy with the way mayoral control has worked out. (They did, however, vote to reauthorize it back in 2009.
Other than that, however, it’s highly unlikely that ending mayoral control early would be a proposal that receives serious consideration in Albany – a lot of consternation for not very much payoff, since it’s already scheduled to sunset anyway.
This whole discussion might be moot anyway, since Mulgrew confirmed the UFT and the administration have agreed to start teacher evaluation talks again, although there was no set schedule as of late yesterday afternoon.
“In the middle of this, we have figured out a way to try to get our talks moving again, because it’s got to be about the kids…I’m hoping the politics can be set aside. I’m not sure,” Mulgrew said.
Jan 28th - 11:31 am
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged state lawmakers in testimony in Albany today to not “punish” schoolchildren because the United Federation of Teachers failed to come to an agreement with the city over the local criteria for teacher evaluations.
Bloomberg told lawmakers that negotiating with the UFT “proved to be impossible.”
The city stands to lose an additional $250 million in state education aid for the current fiscal year after the evaluation negotiations broke down.
“No other state in the union even tries to do this. It is just a process that has not, will not and in fact cannot work,” Bloomberg said in his prepared remarks.
He laid blame on the union for pushing for a sunset provision in the evaluations that arose at the 11th hour in the negotiations just before the Jan. 17 deadline.
Overall, Bloomberg says the city stands to lose upwards of $724 million in education aid over the next two years.
While he thanked lawmakers for passing a new gun control law that updates the state’s assault weapons ban and credited Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s efforts in handling the devastation of Superstorm Sandy in the New York City area, Bloomberg is clearly tired with Albany.
He’s tangled with nearly each governor during his tenure, including Cuomo (to be sure, governors and mayors are often at odds with each other based on the very nature of their positions, needs and whatever power dynamic is at play).
Today is likely the mayor’s last appearance before a joint legislative budget panel. And after 12 years of coming hat hand on “tin can day,” Bloomberg, a national figure talked up by some pundits as a post-partisan presidential candidate or possible head of the World Bank, was patient and restrained while getting a tongue lashing from Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan over the handling of the union negotiations.
“Going along with the UFT’s demands would have broken faith with you — and our schoochildren who deserve far better from us all,” he said. “My message is simple: Do not punish our schoolchildren for the obstructionism of the UFT.”
Jan 4th - 4:21 pm
As the United Federation of Teachers and Mayor Michael Bloomberg begin a public campaign of grappling over criteria for teacher evaluations, UFT President Michael Mulgrew is not pleased with a parallel the mayor drew today between the union and the National Rifle Association.
On the radio this morning, Bloomberg noted that the UFT’s membership may not be totally in synch with what the leadership wants to do. That’s comparable to the NRA’s leadership and it’s rank-and-file membership of hunters and sportsmen when it comes to gun control legislation, Bloomberg said.
Teachers want to work with the best and most of them are not in sympathy with the union. There’s a small group in the union – and that is typical of an organization like that. It’s typical of Congress, it’s typical of unions, it’s typical of companies, I guess, where a small group really is carrying the ball and the others aren’t necessarily in agreement. The NRA is another place where the membership – if you do the polling – doesn’t agree with the leadership.
Clumsy, perhaps, in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting that killed 20 children, and Mulgrew is not happy.
“In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, the Mayor’s comparison this morning of teachers to the National Rifle Association is completely inappropriate, and a demonstration of how difficult he can be to deal with on any issue – much less one as complex as a new teacher evaluation system,” Mulgrew said in a statement.
As Liz noted today, the UFT is now running radio ads bashing the Bloomberg legacy on education and saying he is pushing a “my way or the highway” effort on the evaluations. The city would lose a 4 percent education funding boost from the state if the local criteria for evaluations isn’t agreed to by Jan. 17.
Jan 4th - 6:01 am
With the Jan. 17 deadline looming for school districts to have teacher evaluation plans approved by the state or risk losing a four percent aid increase, the NYC teachers union is going on the offensive against Mayor Bloomberg, accusing him of playing politics at kids’ expense.
The UFT is out today with a new TV ad that slams Bloomberg’s entire education policy legacy over the past 11 years, saying he has adopted a “my way or the highway” without regard to teachers or students.
The 30-second spot reviews several not-so-highlights in Bloomberg’s tenure – including his failed selection of Cathie Black, a magazine executive with no education experience, as NYC schools chancellor.
“The mayor’s educational legacy is unfortunately one of missed opportunities,” said UFT President Mike Mulgrew.
“If he wants his legacy to be anything but a decade of disaster, he will put politics aside and come to an agreement on an evaluation system that helps students and teachers succeed.”
The spot will air through the Jan. 17 deadline on local broadcast stations as well as cable television networks in the New York City area. T
It will be seen during some of television’s most popular shows, including: Good Morning America, the Today Show, the Daily Show, Jeopardy, Judge Judy, SNL, and Knicks games. It will also appear regularly on NY1, Bravo, Lifetime, TNT, HGTV, USA and BET.
With this ad, the UFT is trying to hit Bloomberg where it hurts.
The mayor, who has less than a year remaining at City Hall and is keenly focused on legacy-building, made education a top priority soon after he took office.
One of the mayor’s first significant policy victories in Albany was convincing the Legislature to give him control of the city’s vast public school system – a power state lawmakers re-approved in 2009. (That’s set to expire in 2015).
New York City is the largest school district in the state, and one of only nine that have not yet submitted a teacher evaluation plan to the state Education Department for approval. (The others are: Fallsburg, Hamburg, Harrison, Montauk, Onteora, Pine Plains, Remsen and Yonkers).
An ongoing and increasingly bitter battle between the UFT and Bloomberg has prevented a plan from being negotiated. If this fight is not resolved in time, NYC will lose $250 million worth of state aid.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week urged the two sides to come together, saying: “It’s a pox on all your houses if you don’t come to an agreement.”
He also insisted the Jan. 17 deadline is firm, noting an “overwhelming majority” of districts will manage to meet it.
On CapTon last night, NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi, who is involved in the negotiations between districts that have yet to settle their evaluation battles and their respective unions, insisted the UFT isn’t trying to run out the clock until Bloomberg departs City Hall and a potentially more labor-friendly mayor takes his place.
Iannuzzi did say, however, that he expects anyone replacing Bloomberg will be more “teacher friendly” than the billionaire mayor has been.
For the first time since the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, every New York City public-employee union – all 152 bargaining units – is working without a contract.
Other labor leaders have not been shy about admitting they’re willing to wait out Bloomberg until his replacement – someone hopefully more amenable to their contract demands – arrived at City Hall in January 2014.
Jan 3rd - 4:12 pm
Mayor Bloomberg announced today announced the appointment of Joseph N. Garba as director of the Mayor’s Office of State Legislative Affairs, which means he’ll be heading up the lobbying and communications effort on behalf of Hizzoner here in Albany.
Garba is not actually new to either the Bloomberg administration or the state Capitol.
He started working for the mayor in April 2010 and currently serves as a legislative representative in Albany. He has had a hand in negotiating several key items on Bloomberg’s Albany agenda in recent years, include raising the charter school cap, creating a new pension tier, expanding taxi service to the outer boroughs, giving the administration control of Brooklyn Bridge Park and Governor’s Island and overhauling the juvenile justice system.
Garba will replace Wendy Saunders, who has served as acting director since April 2012 when Bloomberg’s previous Albany point man – Micah Lasher – departed to join the education reform advocacy group Students FirstNY.
Saunders will return to her post as assistant vice president of intergovernmental affairs for the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation.
“Joe has been a key part of a team that has delivered for our city time and again,” Bloomberg said. “…Joe has been a rising star in Albany, and his talent and passion will help us continue to advance the reforms and State legislation needed to build on the progress we have made in our city. I also want to thank Wendy Saunders for stepping up and leading the office for the last nine months – we didn’t miss a beat thanks to her hard work.”
Prior to joining the Bloomberg Administration, Garba served as deputy director of Governor’s Office of Taxpayer Accountability, which was created by former Gov. David Paterson, to eliminate fraud, waste and abuse in state government. He also worked in the Paterson administration as assistant secretary to the governor on state operations and staff secretary.
Garba was actually a holdover from the Spitzer administration, where he was deputy director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, and before that, he worked for NYSUT.
Unlike Lasher and his predecessors, Garba is actually a resident of the Capital District (Rensselaer), which will likely assist him in what has traditionally been a difficult job as serving as the upstate face of a man who has not tried to hide his downright disdain for Albany and state government in general.
Bloomberg also has had a rocky relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, part of which is due to the inherent and historic tension between the NYC mayor and the governor of New York. But the fact that Bloomberg and Cuomo are both aggressive and headstrong executives who don’t suffer fools gladly and are used to getting their own way hasn’t helped the relationship, either.