Mar 28th - 1:11 am
New York State Assemblyman Andrew Goodell is accusing the Cuomo Administration of expanding a whistle blower program as a form of punishment to 51 Upstate counties that have passed legislation opposing New York’s Safe Act.
“The Cuomo Administration has expanded that program to all of Upstate New York offering a $500 dollar reward if a neighbor turns in another neighbor on the theory the neighbor didn’t properly register their rifle,” said Goodell.
The Jamestown Republican told YNN’s Mark Goshgarian that a Division of Criminal Justice Services tipline, created to curb gang violence in New York City, is now being used to target Upstate rifle owners.
“Now to put it in context, last year there were only five murders committed statewide with a rifle. The new gun legislation will force more than a million people to register their rifle of face a felony. So this hotline now is clearly targeting those million law abiding residents who now have an obligation to register their rifle,” Goodell said.
The issue was first raised last week a recent email surfaces from the State Division of Criminal Justice Services to police chiefs about the toll-free tipline. State officials said the email was a reminder to police chiefs about its existence.
Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle points out the tipline was created in February 2012, well before the Safe Act was enacted and denies Goodell’s claim the Division of Criminal Justice Services has been asked to use the tipline to target Upstate rifle owners.
“This sounds like more of the same. People who don’t believe in legitimate limits to gun ownership are trying to create a narrative that’s wrong. Many of these same representatives have said we need to get criminals and illegal guns off the streets,” said Morelle.
Goodell continues to believe the timing of the new focus on the tipline is not a coincidence.
“That’s a waste of taxpayer money, to start encouraging neighbors to turn on neighbors over the registration of a rifle that’s been lawfully held for years, if not decades, without any problems,” Goodell added.
Mar 27th - 3:58 pm
A Mayville man who failed in his quest to get the DEC to ban the hunting of Bigfoot in New York is appealing to a higher power: President Obama.
Peter Hans Wiemer, who founded the Chautauqua Lake Bigfoot Expo, wrote a very personal letter to Obama, “respectfully” seeking his assistance in enacting a ban – or at least a moratorium – on tracking down and killing the elusive furry beast.
While Wiemer’s request is probably going to strike most people as out of left field, or even crazy, his letter is actually rather poignant. An excerpt:
“When I created this special event in October of 2011, I had no idea the ridicule that I was opening myself and my family up to.”
“On my children’s first day of School in September of 2012, my son Justin (12) came home saying he was picked on by kids saying his Dad believes in Bigfoots. My oldest daughter Jenna (14) came home in early November 2012 crying because some girls were picking on her as well that her father believes in Bigfoots. She pleaded with me to let it go. I said ‘Jenna, it is a business now and she needs to stand up for our right of freedom of speech. That we are entertaining the public and that there is nothing wrong with her parents.’”
“(My wife tries to support me on this but I too am being ridiculed by my friends to let this event go to the benefit of my children)…If there is any proof that the USA Government has, then please consider stepping up to the plate and some how sharing this information in helping me please. Anything You can do in writing me a letter of support or asking someone to try to enact a law or moratorium protecting Bigfoots, I would Greatly appreciate.”
The response Wiemer received last fall from the DEC, which rejected his request for a Bigfoot hunting ban on the grounds that “the mythical animal does not exist in nature or otherwise,” generated a lot of attention – apparently, some it quite negative.
But even that has not been enough to dislodge Wiemer’s belief in Bigfoot. And on a certain level, you’ve really got to admire that kind of sticktoitiveness.
Mar 4th - 1:51 pm
GOP memo to Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei: Don’t get too comfortable.
National Republicans are looking to get an early start in their quest to re-take NY-24 from Maffei after he toppled former Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle last fall.
A Central New York source says NRCC Chairman Greg Walden, of Oregon, made a trip to the area this weekend and met with several potential candidates – including Buerkle herself, who is maintaining her D.C. ties and hasn’t yet ruled out a re-match (this would be the third time she faces off against Maffei) in 2014.
According to this source, Walden also chatted with two others: Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci, who made a brief and unsuccessful attempt at landing the GOP nod for statewide office – first comptroller, and then attorney general – back in 2010; and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney.
Walden was spotted at private reception for high-dollar donors that preceded Mahoney’s 2013 gala reception at the Oncenter Ballroom Saturday night.
The idea of a Mahoney candidacy is intriguing on a number of levels, not the least of which is the pickle in which that might put Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Mahoney, as you’ll recall, enraged her fellow CNY Republicans when she crossed party lines to endorse Cuomo for governor in 2010.
Since then, she has co-chaired his transtition committee, become a NYPA trustee and been a staunch advocate for a number of his policies, including his controversial pension smoothing proposal that has caused so much friction between Cuomo and his hand-picked state Democratic Party co-chair, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner.
Cuomo endorsed Maffei’s successful re-match against Buerkle last year, but it would put him in an awkward position if Maffei was pitted against Mahoney.
Another full endorsement of a Republican would not sit well with the left at a time when Cuomo will be seeking re-election himself. (Remember how well that – failed – endorsement of former Republican Sen. Steve Saland played with the liberal base?)
The 2014 races are a long way off, but President Obama is reportedly already looking ahead to the next round of mid-terms to in hopes of helping the Democrats re-take control of the House to help cement his legacy.
Mahoney’s chief of staff Ben Dublin confirmed that the county executive did indeed meet with Walden to discuss 2014 this weekend. Asked if she might be interested in running, Dublin replied:
“It’s very flattering to have her name mentioned, but right now, she’s focused on being county executive. Thar race is a long way off.”
Which, by the way, is not “no.”
UPDATE: NRCC spokesman Ian Prior emailed:
“The NRCC is absolutely looking to flip NY-24 in 2014. We view Maffei as a weak candidate with a misguided party-line mentality and a record of questionable decision making while in office (e.g, handing out midnight bonuses on his way out the door).”
“In a mid-term election without Maffei hanging for his political life on the coattails of the President, we are confident that, with the right Republican candidate, Maffei will suffer the same fate as he did in 2010 – defeat.”
“While I cannot confirm specific individuals with whom he met, I can confirm that Chairman Walden was in the Syracuse area meeting with several potential candidates to gauge interest in running for a very winnable seat.”
Feb 14th - 2:31 pm
The state Inspector General’s office has released yet another report criticizing operation and oversight of the New York State Fair – the result of an investigation that started back in 2009. This is the second IG report on problems at the fair in just over two years.
Acting IG Catherine Leahy Scott said her office determined the fair had a flawed procurement system, resulting in two defective procurements that violated the Department of Agriculture and Markets’ own procurement policies.
Fair officials, including former First Deputy Commissioner Robert Haggerty and former Fair Director Daniel O’Hara, conducted an improper RFP process and ultimately gave the sole bidder more favorable terms than initially offered.
In a separate procurement process, they allowed an electronic ticketing vendor to bid on an RFP when that vendor had assisted Haggerty in preparing the RFP – a “likely violation” of state law.
The IG also identified areas of significant security lapses at the fair, discovering that two employees were maintaining living and storage spaces on the grounds.
In one case, an employee was found to reside in the racing stable office, keeping exotic pet birds on-site and storing enough belongings to fill six horse stalls and a pickup truck. In another case, an employee established quarters which featured a kitchenette that had a refrigerator containing alcoholic beverages, a couch, an inflatable bed, and a television.
This conduct had been occurring for several years, with at least one supervisor aware since 2010. According to the IG, “significant management failures” enabled these security lapses to exist and persist.
As a result of the IG’s findings, Haggerty and O’Hara are no longer working for Ag and Markets. The same goes for General Counsel Ruth Moore, who was replaced, and Supervising Attorney Michael McCormick, who retired.
Haggerty was fired last June. O’Hara, who had held his position since Februrary 2007 (which would make him a Spitzer appointee). Earlier this month, O’Hara landed a new job with the Cuomo administration.
He was appointed as deputy director for preparedness with the state Office of Emergency Management. He’s earning $110,000, and started the new job in Albany on Feb. 1.
O’Hara’s predecessor at the state fair, Peter Cappuccilli, was convicted of a misdemeanor crime as a result of a 2010 IG report.
Feb 8th - 1:43 pm
…That was lead of David Rubin’s column in today’s Syracuse Post-Standard, in which he sided with the city’s mayor, Stephanie Miner, in her ongoing verbal battle with Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the governor’s controversial pension smoothing proposal.
Tell us how you really feel, Mr. Rubin.
It’s a bit of a stretch to compare Cuomo’s borrow now, pay later pension plan to then-President Ford’s 1975 denial of federal funds to nearly bankrupt New York City. (And for the record, Ford never actually uttered the words “drop dead” – that was a moment of creative license by the Daily News).
It’s also not at all unusual for a local newspaper columist to support his mayor when she tangles with a much bigger fish, especially when almost no one else has been willing to take on the popular and powerful governor.
But Rubin’s point – basically that Cuomo’s “this or a control board” response to Miner’s public questioning of his plan was overkill – is well taken. And Rubin also doesn’t stop at this particular incident in calling out the governor for being what he calls a “kick the can down the road” politician.
“What the governor offered provides a clue to his management style,” Rubin wrote. “The Mayor’s response suggests he has met a foe he cannot bully.”
“…While he is relentless in trumpeting his successes, his record is replete with can-kicking of this sort. Where is the independent redistricting plan he promised? Where is the comprehensive ethics legislation? Where is a decision, any decision, on hydrofracking? Most important, where is the real mandate relief from Albany’s sweetheart contracts with public employees?”
“…What lessons should we learn from this sad story? Cuomo should focus on the job he has, and not the job he wants. He should realize that if he runs for president as the governor of a state whose cities are falling apart, he loses. Finally, he should recognize who his friends are – they are the independent ones with ideas, not the ones who bow and scrape.”
After Miner went public with her criticism of the pension smoothing plan, a whole host of people have felt sufficiently comfortable (safe?) to express similiar concerns – especially since the mayor his Cuomo’s hand-picked state Democratic Party co-chair, and no retribution has (yet) been exacted on her for speaking her mind.
We’ll see how long this lasts.
Feb 6th - 1:44 pm
After much heated debate and delay, the Village of Oxford Board of Trustees voted 4-1 last night in favor of a change in the municipal zoning ordinance that clarifies a prohibition against gas exploration, extraction, and disposal, establishing the first fracking moratorium in Chenango County.
There are a number of these local holds on fracking (some bans, some moratoriums) across the state, many of which have been passed in communities that aren’t located on top of the Marcellus and/or Utica shales and therefore are in no danger of seeing drilling anytime soon.
Chenango County is in the Southern Tier, and is one of of a handful of counties mentioned last summer as part of a limited fracking plan floated to the New York Times by a senior official at the Department of Environmental Conservation. According to that proposal, communities that do not want to play host to the controversial natural gas drilling process would not be forced to do so.
Village of Oxford officials have been contemplating this ban since last July, and the debate has apparently been quite contentious at times. They were poised to vote in December, but then delayed things at the last minute due to the threat of legal action by a pro-fracking group.
According to a press release sent by an organization called the Concerned Residents of Oxford, Mayor Stark (who voted “yes” on the ban, received over 300 letters from local residents urging him to enact a moratorium. In addition, a petition yielded has so far yielded 1,052 signatures for a townwide moratorium on fracking.
After the vote, Stark urged everyone involved in this local debate to “please seek common ground,” which seems much easier said than done if you’ve been following this issue through its many ups and downs over the past four+ years.
Feb 4th - 12:35 pm
Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter introduced Brian Schweitzer this morning at the United South and Eastern Tribes Conference in Washington, D.C., lavishing praise on the former Montana governor who has been touted as a “dark horse” candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.
Halbritter basically held Schweitzer out as a model against which all other governors should be measured when it comes to dealing with native Americans, noting Indian Country Today Media Network once called him the “best governor for Indian Country, ever.”
“In his eight years in office,no governor in the country has been more responsive to tribes thanGovernor Schweitzer,” Halbritter said. “As Governor, he ensured that Indians were acknowledged, respected, and included in all state operations. It is alsoworth noting that he left office as the most popular governor in the history of his state.”
“…It is not an overstatement to say that Governor Schweitzer hasfundamentally changed the attitudes of countless Americans toward Indian people. Governor Schweitzer has created a blueprint for every governor and political leader to learn from and emulate.”
This description stands in stark contrast to how things are going here in New York between the Indian tribes and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who, of course, is also frequently mentioned as a potential 2016 contender.
To say Cuomo has a contentious relationship with the Indians in this state is a vast understatement.
The situation has rapidly deteriorated in recent months between the governor and the Senecas, in whose eye Cuomo poked a proverbial stick over the weekend via a story leaked to The Buffalo News about the administration’s desire to create a non-Indian run casino in downtown Niagara Falls.
That, of course, is a direct hit at the Senecas, who have already made it clear they would consider any casino run by anyone other than themselves within the 14-county Western New York exclusivity zone to be a further violation of their compact with the state.
The exclusivity zone is already in dispute, however. The Senecas haven’t made any revenue sharing payments to either the state or their host cities since 2009, rguing that the state violated the compact by allowing casino-style gambling at Hamburg and Batavia. At this point, the lapsed payments total more than $500 million.
The funds are being held in an escrow account pending a resolution of the dispute. The nation pays 25 percent of its slot revenues from its casinos in Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca to the state in exchange for the exclusive right to operate gaming machines in its exclusivity zone. The state then pays out around 25 percent of the revenues it receives to the host municipalities.
Cuomo’s threat to try to locate a non-Indian casino in Niagara Falls does not impact the Onedia, who operating the Turning Stone Casino in Central New York. But the tribe’s relationship with Cuomo has been remote – at best.
An Oneida spokesman said tribe officials have reached out several times seeking meetings with high-level members of the Cuomo administration, and also asked to be included on one of the regional economic development councils, but have yet to receive a response.
The Oneida had a very good relationship with Cuomo’s father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, who signed an agreement in 1993 that allowed the tribe to open the state’s first high-stakes gambling casino in more than a century.
The 2016 Democratic primary will not likely turn on Indian affairs, which is an issue to which not many people pay much attention, other than those who are directly impacted by it.
But it is interesting to note the very warm feelings being expressed today for Schweitzer – a red state Democrat who is viewed by insiders as an intriguing White House contender because he polls well with independents and moderates, even though he’s not as well known as Cuomo or Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley or any other of the numerous candidates likely to rise to the top tier of if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decides not to run.
He’s also out of office, which makes it more difficult for him to keep his name in the news.
Jan 28th - 2:24 pm
Compliments of the Syracuse Post-Standard’s Michelle Breidenbach: A YouTube video of Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, Sen. John DeFrancisco and former Gov. David Paterson joining forces with a CNY band called The Blacklites for a nearly nine-minute rendition of “Mustang Sally.”
The one-time-only (we hope) gig took place at the Mayor’s 2013 Winter Ball Saturday night – Miner’s signature fund-raising event at the Museum of Science and Technology. The $250-a-head party was closed to members of the press, but The Blacklites posted this video on their website.
Miner recently announced she’s seeking a second term, and she’s so far unopposed, although Onondaga County GOP Chairman Tom Dadey has asked DeFrancisco to consider challenging her. The veteran senator hasn’t yet commented on whether he’s even considering a run.
The mayor, who is also Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s hand-picked state Democratic Party co-chair, has been disagreeing publicly with the governor of late over his pension smoothing proposal as one way to assist financially strapped cities like hers.
Paterson has been spending a lot of time in the Syracuse area lately, Reportedly, he has a girfriend in the area. (He and his wife, Michelle Paige Paterson, announced last fall that they have separated after 19 years of marriage).
The former governor also made a stop at Syracuse’s famed Destiny Mall over the weekend, where he hit the go-kart track even though he is legally blind – a fact that he reportedly did not disclose to the ride’s operator.
Jan 23rd - 1:31 pm
The backlash against New York’s new gun control law, the NY SAFE Act, continues, with the Wilton GOP announcing today it unanimously passed a resolution in opposition to the measure and calling on fellow party committees to do the same.
“No new laws ought to be passed which further restrict the rights of law abiding New Yorkers to possess firearms,” the party said in a statement. “We endorse and uphold the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution: A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Wilton GOP Chairman Scott Kingsley called the right to bear arms “a fundamental right that transcends party politics.”
Wilton happens to be located in the district represented by Sen. Kathy Marchione, who was one of just two Republican senators to speak out in opposition to the SAFE Act on the floor of the Senate last week.
She has since led the (likely quixotic) charge to repeal the act, launching an on-line petition to “repeal and replace” it. Several of her colleagues, including Sens. Bill Larkin and George Maziarz, followed suit.
Jan 9th - 1:13 pm
Rochester-area Assemblyman Joe Morelle has been tapped by Speaker Sheldon Silver to serve as majority leader – the number two position in the body. He replaces Ron Canestrari, an Albany-area Democrat who didn’t seek re-election in 2012.
“Joe has made tremendous contributions to the Assembly Majority over the last two decades. Given his strength of character, proven leadership abilities and loyalty to this institution, I have every confidence that he will ably guide the work of the Assembly with integrity and respect,” said Silver in a press release. (He also announced Morelle’s new job on the floor of the Assembly during the pre-State of the State session.
Traditionally, the majority leader post, which carries a stipend – or lulu – of $34,500, has been held by an upstate Democrat because the speaker has been from New York City. This year, Morelle was considered the frontrunner, but Long Island Assemblyman Robert Sweeney was also considered a possible choice.
“I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to serve as Majority Leader of this great Body, and grateful to Speaker Silver for his friendship and extraordinary leadership. I look forward to the year ahead and to working hard on behalf of all New Yorkers,” said Morelle.
Morelle has already received praise from the Unshackle Upstate, an organization representing businesses from Buffalo to the Capital Region.
“During his 23 year tenure in the State Assembly, Joe Morelle has been a tremendous advocate for his constituents in the Rochester area as well as the entire Upstate region. His appointment to serve as Assembly Majority Leader will undoubtedly strengthen the voice of Upstate taxpayers and businesses,” said Unshackle Executive Director Brian Sampson.
“As a former small business owner, Assemblyman Morelle knows the challenges that employers face on a daily basis and we look forward to working with him to advance measures that will improve New York’s business climate and strengthen the future of our Upstate communities.”
Morelle is also close to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which should make for interesting politics in the Assembly going forward.
Morelle’s promotion opens the chairmanship of the Insurance Committee, which is likely to be a highly sought after position. There’s a lot of what’s known as “churn” – shuffling of committee and leadership posts – in the Assembly this year, due to many redistricting-year retirements and/or losses at the ballot box.
We know of at least one other promotion that Silver has yet to announce: Assemblyman Jeff Aubry, a Queens Democrat, confirmed he will be speaker pro temp, replacing former Assemblyman Peter Rivera, of the Bronx, who left to become Cuomo’s labor commissioner.
Aubry is currently chair of the Corrections Committee, so that position will have to be filled. Another committee chairmanship over which there’s a lot of speculation: Housing, which used to belong to Assemblyman Vito Lopez. (Remember, the Brooklyn Democrat – who has yet to be spotted at the Capitol, by the way – lost his post, and a host of other perks, thanks to his sexual harassment scandal, which is still under investigation).
There is some talk that Assemblyman Keith Wright, who is Cuomo’s hand-picked state Democratic Party Committee co-chair, will get the Housing Committee, but there has been no formal announcement as of yet.