The May 23, 2011 Issue of The Capitol
The May 23, 2011 Issue of The Capitol. The Capitol is a monthly publication, targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and issues which shape New York State.
VOL. 4, NO. 10 www.nycapitolnews.com MAY 23, 2011 ALBANY’S NEXT GENERATION OF POLITICAL LEADERS RISING STARS UPFRONT Broken Engagement Political calculus dims the prospects for marriage equality “It’s very quiet in here,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. He had stepped into a press conference in Albany with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn last week to discuss their lobbying efforts on same-sex marriage. The room was silent. The real action was elsewhere. In private conversations around the Capitol, top Democratic lawmakers expressed serious misgivings about the likelihood that any bill would pass this session. At a certain point, they said, political reality takes over: The Senate is controlled by Republicans, and so far not a single Republican senator is willing yet to stand with Bloomberg and Quinn for gay marriage. “The Senate Republicans are very coy, and it’s their culture to say, ‘We’re going to be coy and won’t comment until we comment,’” said one Democrat. In fact, no senator of either party who voted “No” on the bill in 2009 has committed to voting “Yes” this time around. And while Bloomberg offered to open his wallet for any Republican who supports gay marriage, his huge checks to the Senate GOP have gone through Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who doesn’t. Outwardly, gay marriage activists and supportive lawmakers still express optimism that a marriage-equality bill would pass—when and if Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduces one. Advocates have focused their lobbying efforts on a handful of senators, particularly freshmen and those from suburban districts where support for gay marriage is higher. But Capitol insiders note that Republican victory margins tend to be narrower in suburban districts—the kind where the endorsement of the state’s Conservative Party can decide an election. That puts teeth in Conservative Party chairman Mike Long’s threat to withhold the party’s endorsement from any legislator who votes for gay marriage. Several suburban senators open to backing same-sex marriage also benefited the most from the Conservative Party ballot line. Sens. Greg Ball, Jim Alesi and Jack Martins all won their competitive races because of the added benefit conferred by the Row C line. Buffalo Democrat Tim Kennedy won his race over Jack Quinn, for instance, because of votes he received on Row C. Last year in Suffolk and Nassau counties, where support for gay marriage is higher than in some upstate districts, Sens. Ken LaValle, Kemp Hannon and Dean Skelos drew almost 20 percent of their total votes, on average, from the Conservative line. Senate Republicans have little to gain politically from voting “Yes” on gay marriage, the numbers suggest. Even if the governor is willing to cut a deal behind closed doors to bring the issue to the floor, some Republican senators who vote for gay marriage would still face a very real threat to their seats. —Laura Nahmias firstname.lastname@example.org 100% Job approval ratings for New York governors 80% 64% 61% (February 27) (April 13) David Paterson 53% 60% (December 24) 50% (April 17) 37% 37% (December 12) (October 7) 30% 28% 40% (October 23) (April 6) 21% (March 5) Eliot Spitzer 20% Andrew Cuomo 2007 2008 2009 2010 (Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.) Calendar (May 23–June 14) Citizens Union “Spring for Reform” fundraiser, 80 5th Ave 0% 2011 Memorial Day Personal Democracy Forum, NYU Skirball Center Ben Lawsky, nominee to lead new Department of Financial Regulation, appears at Citizens Budget Commission breakfast Gov. Andrew Cuomo hosting performance of Priscilla Queen of the Desert - at Palace Theatre, NYC Election-law attorney Jerry Goldfeder’s birthday Sen. Greg Ball hosts “On The Ball” golfing fund-raiser Supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis holding fund-raiser for AG Eric Schneiderman N.Y. Post reporter Brendan Scott’s birthday Special election in NY-26 Congressional district ABNY breakfast with ESDC CEO and president Kenneth Adams, Hilton New York 2 MAY 23, 2011 State Sen. John Bonacic’s birthday New York State Conservative Party annual fund-raising dinner, Sheraton Hotel 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 M T W Th F Sen. Mike Gianaris staffer Mike Murphy’s birthday 1 2 ESDC communications director Warner Johnston’s birthday 3 S Su M T W Th F 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 S Su M T W Th F www.nycapitolnews.com S Su M T THE CAPITOL Perspectives By Richard Brodsky Rising Stars: 40 Years Later C ongratulations to the 40 folks under 40 years old recognized on the “Rising Stars” list. Especially when public service is held in low regard, recognizing talented people committed to public service is the right thing to do. And having been young once, I recall that the recognition means a lot. What we don’t know is if these rising stars will change anything. Age is no longer an indicator of ideology. Once youth and progressive politics went hand in hand. Now there’s a sizable population of young Americans who view themselves as political and cultural conservatives. While the Tea Party is mostly composed of middle-aged folks, there are large numbers of young people who oppose abortion rights and immigration reform, favor restrictions on publicsector unions and so on. Be it Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan or Fox News’ Michelle Malkin (both barely 40), there are youngsters aplenty who want to take the country to the right. Some of this is a reaction to the historic success of the Left in shaping American society. FDR’s New Deal, Johnson’s Great Society, and the antiwar, women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. And a cohort of young people—kids— that refused to acquiesce to what they “Age is no longer an indicator of ideology. Once youth and progressive politics went hand in hand. Now there’s a sizable population of young Americans who view themselves as political and cultural conservatives.” and other liberation efforts transformed America. They became the dominant, consensus view of the country. Youthful opposition to this new “establishment” was probably inevitable. It’s a strange sort of response, one that takes advantage of the victories but repudiates the movement. Think about America before and during all this: Jim Crow laws, American apartheid and official violence and segregation by race; a war begun by the government faking a military attack; political assassinations; groups of Americans excluded from power because of race, viewed as wrong, changed it all. No one wants to go back to the bad old days. Equal opportunity and participation for women and minorities are social and political absolutes for both Right and Left. A decent respect for the environment and the general notion of access to health care are widely supported. The arguments are more about differences in emphasis, mechanics and personalities (the intense anti-Obama rhetoric, for example), than about undoing the progress of the last 40 years. It’s not that the Right doesn’t have a substantive argument: The size and cost of government is a question worth debating. It’s that the passion and anger they display against 40 years of progress assumes that the virtues of that same movement will be available to them. Sometimes a movement of youthful antiestablishment types isn’t a generational change as much as it is, well, just youthful antiestablishmentarianism. There’s no generational shift going on. The last of those, in the late ’60s, brought something weird and worldwide; the agony and shock of Kent State, Selma, Columbia, the Chicago Convention and the fall of LBJ were mirrored in the outbursts in Paris that overthrew DeGaulle, the bizarre Cultural Revolution across China, the Prague Spring and the Russian crackdown. It was a worldwide political revolution led by kids, and it defined the next half-century. I wish none of that on our new leaders. Peace and calm, no drama, no murder and outrage, no need for a generational conflict. So congratulations, and good luck, and remember why you got into this business. email@example.com Rent Law Battle Widens Fissures On Both Sides Real estate and tenant groups grapple with internal divisions BY ADAM LISBERG As time grows short to renew the rent regulations covering one million New York City apartments, both sides are battling for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ear— and hoping to drive a wedge between each other’s supporters. On one side is the alliance of two large organizations representing city real estate interests, the Rent Stabilization Association (RSA) and the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY). www.nycapitolnews.com Publisher/Executive Director: Darren Bloch The Capitol is published twice monthly. Copyright © 2011, Manhattan Media, LLC THE CAPITOL While the two groups largely share a worldview, their most pressing issues can diverge: Small landlords want relief from rent laws, while large landowners want to encourage development. “They don’t like each other, but they will stand together to oppose pro-tenant changes to the rent laws,” said Michael McKee of Tenants PAC. Facing off against them is the alliance of Sheldon Silver, the powerful Assembly speaker, and Vito Lopez, who chairs both the Assembly Housing Committee and the Brooklyn Democratic Party. Both men are stalwart supporters of affordable housing, but while it’s the only issue that matters for Lopez, it’s one of many interests Silver must juggle. “Vito has put forward what he believes EDITORIAL Editor: Adam Lisberg firstname.lastname@example.org Managing Editor: Andrew J. Hawkins email@example.com Reporters: Chris Bragg firstname.lastname@example.org Laura Nahmias email@example.com Jon Lentz firstname.lastname@example.org Photography Editor: Andrew Schwartz Interns: Ismail Muhammad and Jeff Jacobson the tenant advocates want and what Shelly wants,” said REBNY president Steven Spinola. “In the end, everything in “In the end, everything in Albany is negotiable.” Albany is negotiable.” Everyone expects the issues will finally be resolved in the grand rush to end the session in June. That means access to the governor will be key, but he has reason— both personal and ethical—to steer clear of key figures on both sides. Strasburg angered the governor when a heavily edited video showed him telling ADVERTISING Associate Publishers: Jim Katocin, Seth Miller Advertising Manager: Marty Strongin Senior Account Executives: Ceil Ainsworth, Monica Conde Director of Events and Marketing: Joanna Vitello Marketing Coordinator: Stephanie Musso Executive Assistant of Sales: Jennie Valenti www.nycapitolnews.com an audience about Cuomo’s negotiating style: “He will do whatever is necessary for himself. If you’re in his way, he’ll crush you like his father did.” Lopez, meanwhile, is under an ethical cloud as federal probers look into the finances of the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council he founded. Soon after taking office, Cuomo took an unmistakable slap at Lopez by appointing a rival, Brooklyn Assembly Member Darryl Towns, to run his housing agency. The fissures at the top of each side’s leadership also make it hard to predict how Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos will act, since nothing will be done without his Republican caucus. But both camps claim to be confident. email@example.com PRODUCTION Production Manager: Mark Stinson Art Director: Joey Carolino Advertising Design: Heather Mulcahey Assistant Production Manager: Jessica A. Balaschak Web Design: Lesley Siegel MANHATTAN MEDIA President/CEO: Tom Allon CFO/COO: Joanne Harras Director of Interactive Marketing and Digital Strategy: Jay Gissen The Capitol is a division of Manhattan Media, LLC, publisher of The Capitol, Our Town, The West Side Spirit, Chelsea Clinton News, The Westsider, New York Press, New York Family, AVENUE and City Arts magazine. Editorial (212) 894-5417 Advertising (212) 284-9715 Fax (212) 268-2935 General (212) 268-8600 MAY 23, 2011 3 RISING STARS ALBANY’S NEXT GENERATION OF POLITICAL LEADERS A recent poll claimed that more than one-third of New Yorkers under the age of 30 plan to move out of state in the next five years. Despite the excitement of New York City, the allure of the Hudson Valley and the natural beauty of Long Island and upstate, New York is apparently no country for young men and women. But each year, hundreds of young people embark on careers in politics and government, hoping to bring energy and enthusiasm to an environment that can be stubbornly resistant to both. Working in New York politics and government is no easy task. Taxes are high, the economy is struggling, jobs are scarce and the behind-the-scenes competition is as fierce as a special election for an open Congressional seat. This year’s crop of rising stars represents a cross-section of the idealism and aggressiveness that drive the best to succeed—40 people under 40 years old, toiling in statewide politics or state government, whose accomplishments to date aren’t enough to satisfy them. This is the third Rising Stars issue The Capitol has Thomas Kaplan Age: 22 Albany Reporter, The New York Times Nickname: “Tom” Last summer Thomas Kaplan was covering sports for The New York Times. Now he is covering Albany. “In the Capitol, when reporters are piling around the governor, it is nothing compared to fighting to get a tape recorder in front of A-Rod,” he said. A lot of Kaplan’s days involve following the governor. He also covered the budget negotiations. It was “a fun task to wrap my head around a new process,” he said. In college Kaplan was an editor of the Yale Daily News and worked as a stringer for The New York Times. After graduating last year, Kaplan interned at the newspaper, where he was soon hired. After writing about sports, he spent a few months covering Wall Street for the business desk before landing in Albany. Kaplan, who majored in political science, jumped at the chance to write about state politics. While in college, Kaplan worked as a speechwriter for the president of Yale. Although he enjoyed working on speeches, he missed the “adrenaline rush of reporting.” He wrote for his high school newspaper and had a summer job after his sophomore year at the New Haven Register. “In hindsight, I can’t believe they gave me a job when I was 15,” said Kaplan. At 22, Kaplan is still younger than most of the people he covers. How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “The chance to write for the Times in college was just a tremendous opportunity. I give that experience a lot of credit in putting me on the radar for the editors with whom I now work.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “If I were not writing about politics or writing on the news side, I would want to be on the other side—speechwriting.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “I hope nothing more than for it to say the same thing.” 4 MAY 23, 2011 published, and each year the list gets better. We received hundreds of excited emails and phone calls telling us why their nominees should be shoo-ins. Culling them down to just 40 was a difficult and time-consuming task—testament to the strength of New York’s young political crop. The pages that follow are our imperfect attempt at spotlighting the best. There are several legislators expected to make waves, and a few who already have; staffers working to make government more open and effective; lobbyists and analysts who can push and shove with the best of them; and ink-stained wretches hustling to cover it all in real time. All of them are just getting started in their careers. And while pollsters focus on the problems that push young people out of the state, we’re glad to highlight so many young people whose futures shine brightest right here in New York. Profiles by Colby Hamilton, Lela Moore, Colin Campbell and Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke Photos by Andrew Schwartz and Patrick Dodson Jessica Ottney Mahar Age: 32 Director of State Public Relations, The Nature Conservancy Nickname: “Jess” Jessica Ottney Mahar grew up loving the outdoors and now applies that same passion to public policy. “When I was younger, I loved going out to the swamps near Rochester. I think just enjoying the outdoors really shaped me,” she explained. “My parents moved me out to the suburbs when I was about 10 years old. I remember distinctly, growing up, that a lot of farms in my town became housing developments. I did a slide show when I was in school showing how the fields and open spaces in the town were becoming housing developments.” Ottney Mahar started to truly understand the intersection between the environment and politics as a college student. www.nycapitolnews.com “I did an internship with Assemblyman Sam Hoyt back when I was at the University of Buffalo,” Ottney Mahar said. “So that was my first official experience with state government and politics, and it really made an impression on me.” Working with Hoyt, a Buffalo Democrat, Ottney Mahar began to meet with local environmental groups to discuss their issues. “It was the first time I saw the world of politics and the environment combined, and that’s how it all got started,” she said. She became extremely active in environmental advocacy organizations, starting out canvassing door-to-door and rising to her current position with the Nature Conservancy. In addition to being known as a rising star in the environmental and lobbying communities in New York, Ottney Mahar is known for her ability to make things happen in Albany, and her talent for developing large coalitions focused on common goals. Ottney Mahar says overseeing these coalitions is “one of the favorite aspects of my job.” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “I think each job has been helpful for me to learn a new school and kind of hone where I want to be.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “I would be a wedding planner, I think. I love weddings.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “I hope my business card reads almost the same as it does now. I’m hoping to add another title, ‘Supermom,’ since I’m having a child in September.” THE CAPITOL Andres Ledesma Age: 36 Director, N.Y. Senate Democratic Conference Redistricting Office Nickname: “A-Train” Andres Ledesma interviewed former City Council Member Martin Dilan for a college journalism class. After the interview, he gave his résumé to Dilan. Two years later, when Ledesma graduated, the Council member offered him a job as a legislative aide. Ledesma went on to become chief of staff for Council Member Erik Dilan, Martin Dilan’s son, and then worked for city comptroller Bill Thompson. While working for Thompson, Ledesma got a master’s degree in public affairs from Baruch College. Ledesma took a leave of absence from the comptroller’s office to become a campaign coordinator in North Brooklyn for Thompson’s mayoral race. The Redistricting Task Force has been a very different experience for Ledesma. “As a legislative aide, you have to be a master in a variety of issues,” said Ledesma. “Working on the Redistricting Task Force was an opportunity to become an expert. Redistricting is the only game in town for me.” As the redistricting fight heats up, Ledesma says that people are becoming more aware of the entire process. Ledesma grew up in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and now lives with his wife and two sons in Briarwood, Queens. “I think my interest in politics comes from my parents, who were both politically active in the Dominican Republic before moving to New York,” said Ledesma. Ledesma has learned about New York political history from biographies that he said provide a historical context. He has read his favorite one, Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, numerous times. Although his reading material and career veer toward the political, Ledesma writes fiction in his spare time. He is currently working on a collection of short stories. “I write one chapter a year,” said Ledesma. “I am hoping to finish by the time I am 40.” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “At the redistricting office, we do a lot of statistical analysis at local and state levels. You need to have an appreciation for local concerns and an understanding of specific neighborhood concerns when creating policy that affects people.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “Writing more autobiographical coming-of-age short stories.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “P.T.A. president, coach, commissioner [of] to-be-determined public authority.” Mike Neppl Lauren Bierman Age: 32 Age: 31 Director of Correspondence Unit, Office of the Attorney General Nickname: “Neptacular” Vice President of Government Affairs, The Advance Group Nickname: “L.B.” Mike Neppl, the son of two public school teachers, was instilled with progressive values from a young age. “My parents always raised me to be compassionate to people who didn’t have a voice in society,” he said. “I really took my parents’ example to heart.” But Neppl took his first big political leap by running for office when he was just 20 years old. “When I was younger, I ran for town supervisor as a member of the Green Party in Newburgh, New York,” he explained. “That propelled me down the course of being in public service.” He didn’t stay a member of the Green Party, though. “Ultimately my beliefs aligned more with the Democratic Party as time rolled on,” he said. “It’s been a happy marriage for me ever since then.” While attending Albany Law School, Neppl became increasingly interested in organized politics, and was even elected student-body president. While still attending law school, Neppl interned at then Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s office. That internship turned into a job offer straight out of law school at the newlyelected Governor Spitzer’s office. “Working in the governor’s office provided me a breadth of experience in all facets of state government that most people don’t get a chance to have at an early stage of their career,” he said. After staying on in Paterson’s administration, Neppl joined Eric Schneiderman’s campaign for attorney general as a research coordinator, where he was known as a talented organizer. THE CAPITOL Now Neppl manages constituent relations for Schneiderman’s office and supports the executive staff. “If you want to bring about change in government, the best way to do that is get involved,” he said. How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “They really got me into the nuts and bolts of how the government works.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “Probably a writer, or possibly a professor.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “I think I’m in a rare job where I really believe in the attorney general and the person I work for, so I would consider myself extremely luckily if I was still working with Eric.” Lauren Bierman moved to New York after she graduated from Wesleyan University in 2002. Bierman majored in economics, but decided she didn’t want to work in finance. Instead she found an internship at the Advance Group, a nonprofit consultancy that represents political candidates, corporations, labor unions and nonprofits. Soon after starting the internship, Bierman was promoted to assistant. “I didn’t know anything about New York politics, but I learned how interesting and important it is,” said Bierman, who grew up in South Florida. Bierman is about to graduate with a master’s degree in public affairs from Baruch College, where she has integrated her course work with her work for the Advance Group. She now heads the Advance Group’s lobbying division. She has represented the American Red Cross, Children’s Health Fund and www.nycapitolnews.com Primary Care Development Corporation, and managed political campaigns for Assembly Members Hakim Jeffries and Robert Rodriguez. “The work is so different from month to month that it stays fresh,” she said. How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “Starting as an intern and then an assistant, I went to a lot of meetings and was privy to a lot of information.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “I would be doing some kind of number crunching at a think tank, or else selling crafts on Etsy.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “‘Economic Development Guru.’” MAY 23, 2011 5 Erin Billups Age: 28 Albany political reporter for NY1 Nickname: “‘Gazelle.’ I’ve got long legs, which help me move swiftly up and down the steps of the Capitol with my gear.” Also: “‘Sotty,’ courtesy of Jimmy Vielkind from the Albany Times Union, because I aim to get a lot of ‘sound-on-tape’ from lawmakers and other Albany players.” Erin Billups has come a long way since she reported the news from a barn in Elmira, N.Y. A music major at SUNY Albany, Billups grew up in Queens with a musicteacher mother, performed with the Young People’s Chorus of New York and attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, the high school featured in the movie Fame. “Most of my life centered around music,” she said. Morris Peters Age: 36 Spokesman, Division of the Budget Nickname: “Mo” Morris Peters says it directly, “I’ve had a lifelong interest in politics.” “I grew up in a very political family. My dad was a mayor of a small town in California. My mom was sort of a rabble-rouser, constantly at a protest for one thing or the other, trying to save the world.” As he got older, Peters continued to develop his interest in government by going to the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, and working at nonprofits. “Prior to getting into this game, I had a nonprofit background. I worked for the YMCA for five years, and did a lot of As part of her journalism minor at Albany, Billups got an internship with the New York Network. “We were sent out with cameras to run around the Capitol, “she recalled. The program was a revelation. “I loved the energy of the place,” she said. “The problem with many New Yorkers is that they don’t hear about politics, so they are not interested. I was attending press conferences with the governor as a student.” fund-raising with United Way for years,” he said. Peters’ communications career stepped up when he became a staffer to the New York State Commission on Property Tax Relief, also known as the Suozzi Commission. “The Suozzi Commission was a pretty public position. It was across the state and in the press and heavily covered. That was the first real stab at the publicrelations game,” he said. From there he entered work at the Division of the Budget (DOB) press office, where he is known for being extremely bright, insightful and well-spoken. Peters finds himself a natural fit in the DOB office. “Certainly I have a lot of mentors here in the budget division. The budget division is really good at developing talent,” he said. “A lot of people work here for 10 years or so and go off to leadership positions in other agencies.” Peters’ close friends call him “Mo,” but he is cautious about expanding the nickname’s use. “If I did go by ‘Mo,’ I’d have to open up a tavern; I think those are the rules,” he explained. How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to do a number of interesting assignments…. I took some of the skills I learned [from the Suozzi Commission] and I combined it with my general understanding of the budget division and budgets in New York.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “If I wasn’t drawn into this line of work, I’d probably be doing nonprofit work.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “One thing I’ve learned about press work is that things change very quickly. So I don’t know.” 6 MAY 23, 2011 After graduation Billups became a news assistant at WTEN in Albany, where, among other tasks, she wrote chyrons—the identifying graphics that accompany news broadcasts. On weekends she followed the reporters on their assignments to learn their tricks of the trade. That job led her to the barn in Elmira with ABC affiliate WENY. Billups returned to Albany two years later as the first political reporter at Capital News 9 (now YNN), hosting the show “Capital Tonight.” Her first day at “Capital Tonight” was March 10, 2008. Billups was driving to the Capitol when she got a phone call alerting her that then Gov. Eliot Spitzer was about to hold a press conference announcing his involvement in a prostitution scandal. For the next three weeks, Billups worked at the center of the Spitzer whirlwind. “That was a trial by fire,” she said. In June 2009, Billups found herself hunched down in a seat in the Senate chamber mumbling into her forbidden cell phone to her producers as Demo- Richard St. Paul Age: 33 Council Member, New Rochelle Nickname: “Big Papa” New Rochelle City Council Member Richard St. Paul started in the Bronx and found himself just north of the city, but he credits New Jersey for getting him there. Deciding that the Bronx during the late 1970s and ’80s was nowhere to raise her son, St. Paul’s mother packed their bags for Montclair. “It’s very much similar to the diversity of New Rochelle,” he said. St. Paul remembers first becoming interested in politics through the prism of foreign events. “I was studying social studies, and I was reading about the Iraq-Iran war and all the different issues taking place because of the war,” he said. “I was thinking about how, in my life, how I could help people.” This sense of wanting to help people www.nycapitolnews.com cratic Sens. Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada, Jr. aligned themselves with the Republicans in a stunning coup. NY1—YNN’s sister station—came calling that December. Billups says she is honored to work with Bob Hardt, a former New York Post reporter who is now NY1’s political director and “a television producer extraordinaire.” It’s safe to assume the barn doors are closed behind Billups now. How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “Moving up in TV news has a lot to do with experience. It’s all connected; you just have to show initiative and work hard.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “I would probably be singing in a band somewhere, preferably sporting a curly Afro while playing the drums—which I can’t do yet, but it’s on the list.” Five years from now, what will your business card say? “Washington or White House correspondent for one of the national news networks.” has driven St. Paul ever since. “Drive” might be the operative word in that sentence: As a freshman at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, St. Paul was a walk-on for their football team. The next year he was starting—and holding a full-ride athletic scholarship. He majored in political science and minored in pre-law. Later, while attending Widener law school in Pennsylvania, St. Paul took a semester off to go on active duty with the army reserves as a member of the Judge Advocate General Legal Service organization. Since leaving law school he has held a wide variety of political positions, from the Bush/Cheney 2004 reelection campaign to Jeanine Pirro’s 2006 bid for the Senate. After working on a number of campaigns, St. Paul found himself back in Southern New York. Having always wanted to run for office, he took the first opportunity during the 2007 election for New Rochelle City Council. He ran as a Republican, and won by 16 votes in a district that is enrolled approximately three-to-one Democratic. “There’s no Democrat or Republican way to pick up the trash,” said St. Paul, who is currently considering a run for mayor of New Rochelle. “On the local level, people respond to why they should vote for you.” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “Your experience from one job, you take to the other. You build a foundation from one, and you build up to the other.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “Lawyer.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “‘Father, husband, humanitarian.’” THE CAPITOL Jorge Montalvo Age: 30 Strategic planning, Department for Consumer Protection Nickname: “El Guapo” When Jorge Montalvo was a child, his parents— both Ecuadorean immigrants—decided to buy an apartment in a new affordable-housing development in the South Bronx. In order to do so, they had to take a class for first-time homeowners. Recently, he found himself speaking at a similar class for new homeowners. “I told them that I was excited for their kids, because I had been one of them,” said Montalvo. In his position at the Department for Consumer Protection, Montalvo analyzes and reports on creditcard practices, product safety, information and cyber privacy, among other issues that affect consumers. He recently worked to help people whose information was leaked by Sony PlayStation. Montalvo majored in chemistry and minored in math at Dartmouth College. “Chemistry and science have helped me look at the world as a group of systems and system dynamics,” he said. After college, Montalvo decided that the day-to- Kathleen Digan Age: 23 Legislative Aide/ Scheduling Coordinator for State Sen. Neil Breslin Nickname: “Digan” Kathleen Digan became active in Democratic politics in college. After joining the Democratic club during her freshman year at Siena College, she began volunteering for Kirsten Gillibrand’s 2006 Congressional campaign. “It was a good year to be a Democrat,” said Digan. “I saw that knocking on doors could make a difference.” During her sophomore year, she volunteered for Sen. Chuck Schumer in Albany and continued to work for him during the summer in her hometown of Syracuse. Digan was also elected president of the Siena College Democrats and secretary of College Democrats of New York. She is currently the vice president of the Albany County Young Democrats. Digan spent her junior year at an exchange program at American College in Washington, D.C. While in D.C., Digan again interned for Schumer in his Washington office. Digan graduated a semester early so that she could start working in time for the legislative calendar. Working as a legislative aide for Sen. Neil Breslin has given Digan real-world experience in politics. “Senator Breslin has a lot of trust and faith in his staff,” she said. “He really lets you grow in the position.” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “Throughout college I was involved in politics, and those experiences both inside and outside the classroom helped teach me the work ethic and experience that led me to my current position.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “History teacher.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “‘Legislative Director.’” 8 MAY 23, 2011 day work in science didn’t incorporate the things he really cared about—people and the community. After working for the New York City 2012 Olympics bid, he worked in community and media relations for the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Being involved in community has been a longtime interest for Montalvo. Even as a child, he spent his weekends volunteering for a variety of causes near his home in the Bronx. “My mother would say on Fridays, ‘Where are we going this weekend, and what crazy time do we have to be up?’” said Montalvo. “I always had a passion for doing things that helped people.” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “All have been different, and as such have given me the broad perspective to see how each area of government works with each other.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “Creating financial models at a community bank or working at a grassroots organization in the South Bronx.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “‘Gets things done.’” Tucker Green Age: 32 Founder, Tucker Green Consulting Nickname: “Mr. Persistent” Tucker Green grew up in a very politically engaged family. “My parents were both teachers, but it was an active, Democratic household. Both me and my sister got into politics,” he said. Green’s sister works for the Center for American Progress in Washington. Green got his first big taste of politics on Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, when he actually moved up to Vermont to help out. “I had just graduated from college, and I didn’t know what to do,” Green explained. “Dean’s campaign was heating up, and I got really excited about it, and I picked up everything and moved out.” “I started out as a volunteer, working in the research and policy department as an intern. I got a paid job in the accounting and finance department; that’s where I caught the bug.” Although Howard Dean’s presiden- www.nycapitolnews.com tial ambitions didn’t pan out, Green stayed in Vermont, working as a legislative aide and a lobbyist at a law firm’s government-affairs practice before moving to New York in 2006. After working at polling and PR firms, Green became finance director of David Yassky’s campaign for New York City comptroller in 2009. “That was my first foray into political fund-raising,” he said. “I liked fund-raising the most, and found out I was good at it.” He then joined Kathleen Rice’s reelection campaign for Nassau County district attorney, and continued on as her finance director in her 2010 run for attorney general. That’s when Green, known for being outgoing and savvy, raised an eyepopping $7 million for her campaign, and truly started turning heads. Now Green runs his own consulting business, where he earnestly enjoys the campaign mentality. “I think I like the competition. I like setting a plan and executing it and trying to raise more than the other guy.” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “Well, I’ve always had jobs that involved interacting with people and building relationships, and fund-raising is sort of the ultimate in relationship-building.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “In college, during my summers, I was an outdoor guide out West…so I think I would be a fishing guide in Wyoming or Idaho.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “I hope to build a business and to continue to build a business. Hopefully it’ll say something a little more creative than ‘Tucker Green Consulting.’” THE CAPITOL GOVERNOR CUOMO: Auto insurance fraud cost honest, hardworking New Yorkers $627.5 million over the past three years. It’s time to put the brakes on auto insurance fraud! As Attorney General you helped protect consumers against fraud… and New Yorkers need you to do it again as Governor. We urge you to take the lead and work with the Legislature to reform New York’s broken no-fault system and STOP THE FRAUD TAX. For more information, visit www.FraudCostsNewYork.com PAID FOR BY THE FRAUD COSTS NEW YORK COALITION Linda Sun Age: 27 Chief of Staff to Assembly Member Grace Meng Nickname: “Jill of All Trades” Linda Sun first engaged in politics as a young teenager by helping her parents study for their Americancitizenship test. “I was born in China, but I came to this country when I was five. In China there was no voting or voter registration or any of that stuff,” she said. “I remember when my parents became United States citizens. I was 14 at the time. I helped my mom and dad study for the test— how many stars and stripes the American flag had, who was the first president.” While earning her master’s degree in higher and postsecondary education from Columbia University’s Teachers College, Sun Jamar Hooks Age: 27 Executive Director of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus Nickname: “Mar” Growing up in Marble Hill, a community that was underfunded but had the advantage of being zoned for schools in Riverdale, Jamar Hooks realized the value of education at an early age. “I attribute my development and escaping poverty to having access to good schools,” said Hooks. “I saw education as an opportunity to impact the community and change the paradigm of poverty.” During a spring semester at Syracuse University, Hooks interned for Clarence Norman, Jr. in the State Assembly, and realized the influence that government could have on the community. “I never wanted to be an elected official, but I always wanted to play a role,” said Hooks. In his current position as the director of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, Hooks works to help minority communities through legislation such as the 2010 Business Diversification Act. “New York has more people of color living here than almost any other place,” said Hooks. Since Hooks started as an intern, he has found inspiration from those around him. “Hakeem Jeffries has been a role model in terms of how he impacts the community, and I have learned more from Sen. [Ruth] Hassell-Thompson [chairwoman of the Caucus] than I have learned from any book or person I ever encountered,” he said. “This is the school of hard knocks.” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “In college, I was the vice president of the Black Student Union and the VP of the Black Greek Council at the same time, which almost never happens. I had to learn to run an organization effectively, navigate the system and red tape.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “I would be an actor, because I have a winning personality.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “Hopefully, it will say ‘Student,’ because I will be in a PhD program.” 10 MAY 23, 2011 began her career in communications at the NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau, working to bridge the gap between the police and the community. She also began to work in admissions for Barnard College. “My past jobs have been very peopleoriented,” said Sun. “I dealt with lots of different types of people, from immigrants to students. In this field now, people come [from] as far away as Texas and Binghamton.” It was from there that she got involved with the future Queens Assembly member. “Grace and I have always been friends; I ran into her, and she told me that she was running for office. She asked if I was available, if I could go into the office and help her out.” In the wake of Meng’s successful campaign, Sun is now the Assembly Member’s chief of staff; she is known as a rising bilingual star who is extremely active in the Timothy Kennedy Age: 34 State Senator Nickname: “TK” Freshman State Sen. Tim Kennedy is nothing if not a big lover of Buffalo. The former Erie County legislator has lived his whole life in the Western New York city. Yet it was a Cuban refugee who helped transform Kennedy’s ingrained civic pride into a political force. “The best advice I ever got was from a college professor, Dr. Olga Karman,” Kennedy said, recalling what the local activist and liberal-arts professor from his alma mater, D’Youville College, told him: “‘Volunteer.’” Kennedy took her advice and put himself on a path inside Democratic politics that landed him an internship with then Assembly Member Brian Higgins while finishing up his degree in occupational therapy. Kennedy’s professional work as a therapist, combined with his highprofile political climbing, caught the eye of both the University of Southern Cali- www.nycapitolnews.com city’s emerging Chinese-American community and media. In fact, her nickname—Jill of All Trades—comes from her tireless work on behalf of the office across the city. How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “Just knowing how to speak to people. I did a lot of speaking when I was at Barnard; we had to [do] a lot of speaking to students to explain the admissions process and the financialaid process.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “I would probably be back in the admissions field, working at a university or a college.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “That’s a tough question; I’m not sure. Something probably similar to what I have now, still working in this field. Either ‘Chief of Staff’ or ‘District Office Manager.’” fornia and Columbia University. He’ll be giving this year’s commencement speeches for the occupational-therapy schools of each institution. For Kennedy, both fields—politics and therapy—share a common foundation: “Any way you look at it, it’s all about helping people.” In 2004, Kennedy joined the Erie County Legislature, where he served until last year. Citing the fact that more state senators were indicted in the past 10 years than lost their incumbency at the voting booth, Kennedy decided to challenge then Democratic Sen. William Stachowski in the primary. He won, went on to the general election and helped keep the swing of power back toward Senate Republicans to a minimum. While he has in some ways set himself up as the minority-party spokesman—he gave the Democrats’ reaction to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “State of the State” back in January—Kennedy says Senate Democrats have a role to play in Albany’s new bipartisan functionality. “I feel very strongly that the Democratic minority has to use its voice and voices, both individually and collectively, to help to dictate the direction of state government,” he said. How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “All of the jobs that I’ve held…taught me the value of hard work—and if you work hard, it can take you anywhere.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “I would be working as an occupational therapist.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “I imagine it will say ‘New York State Senator.’” THE CAPITOL The Partners and Staff of Red Horse Strategies Congratulate Ariana Caplan RHS Director of Fundraising Consulting On being selected for Capitol Newspaper’s 4th Annual 40 Under 40! • Campaign Consulting • Media Relations • Fundraising • Strategic Planning • Polling • (New!) Redistricting Analysis & Mapping Services NYC: 718.801.8650 CNY: 315.220.0685 CAP: 518.269.3669 John Durso, Jr. Age: 36 Executive Director, New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance Nickname: “Johnny D” If John Durso, Jr.’s political life had a theme, it would be bipartisanship. And the importance of bridging the aisle between parties started early. Durso grew up in Massapequa Park on Long Island. His father, John Durso, Sr., is the president of the Long Island Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO; and his mother, Peggy, has a long history with Nassau County Republican politics. Durso recalls walking door-to-door with his mother campaigning for Ronald Reagan in 1984; he began volunteering for local GOP campaigns himself as a preteen. “My goal has been to bring people together,” Durso said. As an intern for Republican State Sen. Norman Levy, a job he began as a freshman at Siena College in Loudonville, New York, Durso noticed that Levy cultivated Democratic friends. Durso calls Levy, who died in 1998, “the epitome of a gentleman—and a statesman.” Durso’s father, a political mentor as well, similarly acquired many Republican friends while championing labor causes. Inspired, Durso made it his mission to establish a dialogue with labor unions while working as the political director for the New York Republican State Committee. THE CAPITOL www.RedHorseStrategies.com From Albany, Durso was Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks’ communications director before assuming his present position at New York AREA in 2009. New York AREA is an energy-policy coalition of 150 members—including utility companies, labor unions and business organizations—that lobbies on energy issues. In the wake of the March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan, and the resulting problems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Durso was, in his words, “very vocal and very visible” in an effort to get out the message that New York’s own nuclear plant, Indian Point, is safe and effective. Despite all the blending of red and blue throughout his career, Durso’s color is not purple. “I bleed green,” he said—Jets football green. He attended this year’s AFC Championship game in Pittsburgh in subzero weather, and dreams of a trip to the Super Bowl. Ari 40 under 40 ad.indd 1 5/18/11 2:06 AM Her TNC Colleagues Salute Jessica Ottney How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “I’ve worked with some great people over the years and been fortunate to have absorbed their knowledge and wisdom.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “Trying to make the Pro Bowlers Tour, and further obsessing about the Jets and the Mets.” Five years from now, what will your business card say? “I have some ideas. Stay tuned.” www.nycapitolnews.com On being recognized as a “Rising Star” The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to preserve the plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. www.nature.org/newyork MAY 23, 2011 11 WE HOUSE NEW YORK… Deregulation Has Generated $12.2 Billion in Economic Activity • From 1994 to 2010, the deregulation of high-income/highrent apartments resulted in a $12.2 billion infusion to the New York City economy.1 • This included $3.9 billion in increased real estate tax revenue that funded municipal services and $6.8 billion in housing construction and improvements that generated thousands of jobs.1 • At the same time apartments were being deregulated, rentstabilized units increased by 25,811 to 1,077,333 between 1993-2008.1 • Eighty percent of deregulated apartments are in Manhattan.2 • Wealthy renters in Manhattan saw their rent subsidy increase from $159 in 1987 to $345 in 2005.3 • A majority of multi-family property owners own less than 20 units of housing.4 Nearly half of all owners are at risk because rental income fails to exceed building operating costs.5 Why Would Anyone Want to Repeal Vacancy De-Control? “The Impact of Deregulation of Rent Stabilized Units by High-Rent/High-Income Decontrol and High-Rent Vacancy Decontrol: An Economic and Fiscal Impact Study” Urbanomics, May 2011 2 “Changes to the Rent Stabilized Housing Stock in New York City in 2008” The New York City Rent Guidelines Board, June 4, 2009 3 “The Value of Rent Subsidies from Rent Stabilization by Borough & Neighborhood of New York City: An Econometric Study based on the2005 Housing and Vacancy Survey” Urbanomics, May 15, 2009 4 The Rent Stabilization Association Membership Files 5 “Survey of Owners of Rent Stabilized Property” Urbanomics, June 17, 2009 1 “MY CONSTANCE NUGENT-MILLER. I STRUGGLE LIKE MANY OF MY NEIGHBORS – AS A SINGLE MOM, WORKING TWO JOBS TO PAY THE BILLS. I PROVIDE AFFORDABLE RENTAL HOUSING TO SIX FAMILIES IN CROWN HEIGHTS IN A BUILDING THAT’S BEEN IN MY FAMILY FOR 50 YEARS. THAT’S A HARD JOB, WORKING UNDER THE TOUGHEST RENT LAWS IN THE COUNTRY. BUT I MANAGE – BECAUSE MY TENANTS ARE COUNTING ON ME.” NAME IS “MY NAME IS ALBERT CORION. I’M A RETIRED TRUCK DRIVER, STRUGGLING LIKE MANY OF MY NEIGHBORS TO MAKE ENDS MEET . HOUSING TO IN F LATBUSH YEARS .” 41 I PROVIDE AFFORDABLE RENTAL FAMILIES IN TWO SMALL BUILDINGS THAT MY FAMILY HAS OWNED FOR 30 “WE HIRE NEIGHBORHOOD PLUMBERS AND PAINTERS TO MAINTAIN OUR APARTMENTS. WE GIVE JOBS TO LOCAL RESIDENTS. OUR REAL ESTATE TAXES PAY FOR COPS, FIREMEN AND TEACHERS – BUY BOOKS FOR SCHOOL KIDS – AND PROVIDE SERVICES FOR SENIOR CITIZENS. FACT IS, THOUSANDS OF SMALL BUILDING OWNERS JUST LIKE US HELP THE CITY AND STATE SURVIVE ECONOMIC HARD TIMES. AND, WE PROVIDE AFFORDABLE HOUSING TO OUR TENANTS. THE LAST THING WE NEED IS MORE REGULATION FROM ALBANY.” RENT STABILIZATION ASSOCIATION • 123 William Street New York, NY 10038 • TEL: 212-214-9200 • WWW.RSANYC.ORG Dawn Hoffman Age: 35 Senior Vice President, Global Strategy Group Nickname: “The Hoff” Dawn Hoffman originally thought she was going to work on the other side of the media field, as a reporter. Instead she ended up as one of the leading advocacy and polling consultants in New York, helping a plethora of advocacy campaigns over the last decade—ranging from Planned Parenthood to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Hoffman’s introduction to politics came when she was studying at Cornell. “I thought I was going to be a journalist when I was in college, so I came to D.C. in my junior year instead of going abroad,” she said. “Through that I got involved in the world of political consulting, media as well as general strategy.” “Frankly, it’s kind of difficult to get a job in D.C. when you’re in Ithaca, New York. So I just sent my résumé out to polling firms in D.C.,” she said, describing how she landed her first political job at Lake Research Partners. Hoffman more than enjoyed her time there. “It was a women-run firm with really close ties and a great advocacy organization,” she said. “I got to work with some really wonderful clients.” In 2002, Hoffman moved to New York to become a vice president at Global Strategy Group, a major Democratic consulting and polling firm. In 2008, the rapidly rising Hoffman was promoted yet again to senior vice president. Hoffman stays focused in her job and says there are unique qualities to advocacy campaigns that extend beyond the electoral landscape. “Elections happen every two or four years, but the advocates don’t go away; they continue working through every administration, Democrat or Republican,” she said. “They keep chipping away year after year to make some advance towards their objective.” “I’ve been inspired to keep doing what I do.” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “There have been a lot of fabulous women along the way, and I’ve learned a lot from my clients.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “Probably working at a nonprofit.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “I’m hoping it’s going to continue saying ‘Dawn Hoffman, Senior Vice President of Advocacy.’” Jason Helgerson David DeCancio Age: 31 Age: 39 State Medicaid Director Nickname: “The Senator” Director of Regional Services for the New York State Assembly Nickname: “Coach” His specialty now is helping governors negotiate the politically deadly minefield of Medicaid restructuring. But Jason Helgerson, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Medicaid director, had a policy-wonk love before public health care: education. It was only at then Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle’s considerable insistence that Helgerson made the switch. “He basically forced me to go work on Medicaid,” Helgerson said. “I credit him: It was probably one of the best forced decisions of my career.” Helgerson said his grandmother’s early civics lessons set his public policy career in motion. “My grandmother said she was going to teach me to say the presidents’ names in a row at the age of 5,” he said. “That started me on a path.” It was Helgerson’s mother, however, who kept him focused on areas of public policy and not politics. “My mother basically threatened that if I ran for public office she’d disown me,” he said. Elected officials across America— from California to Wisconsin and now New York—are surely grateful. Helgerson’s well-recorded role in helping Wisconsin solve a $9 billion budget gap caught the attention of New York’s newly elected governor last year. Helgerson was still working for Doyle on Medicaid when he received a voice message while waiting for a flight in Washington, D.C. It was the Cuomo transition team calling. “It really started out with just answering questions,” he said. Within a few months, Helgerson was heading up Cuomo’s efforts to reform Medicaid THE CAPITOL here in New York. While news accounts paint Helgerson as covering for Cuomo during the bruising Medicaid-reform process, Helgerson says the governor’s behindthe-scenes involvement was key to the relatively peaceful process leading up to the budget vote in March. “The governor himself was very involved in making sure that stakeholders stayed engaged in this process,” Helgerson said. “There were moments where, if we didn’t have trust [in the process], it wouldn’t have worked.” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “I’ve always seen myself as a change agent. I’ve been fortunate each and every job I’ve had allowed me to work for change.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “Archaeology.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “In four, it’s to still be New York State Medicaid Director.” As the son of Cuban exiles, David DeCancio was taught the value of freedom and hard work from an early age. “My parents gave up everything to come here,” said DeCancio. “I hope I do half as well for my children.” Both of DeCancio’s parents were active in labor movements—his mother helped start a teacher’s aide union and his father was a union printer. While still in college at SUNY Plattsburgh, DeCancio interned for the late Assembly Member Angelo Del Toro. “He took me under his wing and gave me the bug to be in politics,” said DeCancio. The internship was very influential for DeCancio. Del Toro, who represented East Harlem, taught his young charge the impact local politics can have on a community. “I realized how important it is to look at things from a local level,” said DeCancio. “Legislation is the day-to-day things that are going to affect people.” As the Director of Regional Services in the New York State Assembly, David assists Assembly members with their constituent communications and community outreach. DeCancio has been active on political campaigns around the state, and was influential in electing Assembly Member Phil Ramos from Suffolk County, the first Latino to serve in the Assembly from outside New York City. DeCancio lives in Bethlehem, New York with his wife and two daughters, and coaches them in soccer. In www.nycapitolnews.com 2007, DeCancio was selected to attend the FBI Citizens Academy. A handful of community leaders are selected each year to learn about the FBI and help improve relations between the agency and the community. “My parents always taught me that you can do anything you want,” said DeCancio. “As long as you work hard.” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “My internship gave me a good understanding of the legislative process and how important it is for members to make sure their community’s voices are heard.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “Law enforcement.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “If I knew the future, I wouldn’t be here in Albany; I would be on Wall Street.” MAY 23, 2011 13 Tai White Age: 30 Press Secretary, State Sen. Malcolm Smith Nickname: Tai Tai White knows both sides of a press office. Before becoming State Sen. Malcolm Smith’s press secretary, White worked as an assignment editor and associate producer for Capitol News 9 (now known as YNN) and as a writer for Channel 11 News. “It gives me a better insight as a press secretary,” said White. “I understand how news works and the time crunch of deadlines.” In 2007, after a short stint in the office of Sen. Kevin Parker, White got a job as a constituent liaison to Smith. “Working with constituents gave me a sense of what the needs are in the community,” said White. “I am able to affect where I live and where Natasha Kerry Age: 37 State lobbyist for the New York City Council Nickname: “Tash” Growing up in a family of politicians, Natasha Kerry always knew that she wanted to work in government. “I grew up in politics,” said Kerry. Her father, John, is a former state senator from Maine, and was until recently the director of energy for the state of Maine. One uncle was a senator, and another was a district attorney. Kerry went to Albany Law School, where she was on the law review. After law school, she stayed in Albany and got her current job as a lobbyist for the New York City Council. “I am the Albany girl for City Council,” she said. “I’m the only one that is here every day.” In her role as a lobbyist Kerry works to promote the Council’s agenda in state government. She has been active in issues such as marriage equality and rent regulation. “I am one of those people behind the scenes,” said Kerry. “My family was in elected positions, while I am a representative for the elected.” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “I did a year of volunteer work out in California teaching English to migrants. They didn’t speak English and didn’t speak Spanish. That helped me work with people who aren’t coming from the same place.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “A professor of history or political science.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “Still being part of public service—and I’m still figuring out what I’ll be doing in five years.” 14 MAY 23, 2011 Nick Reisman Age: 26 Reporter, “Capital Tonight” Nickname: “Trip” Nick Reisman, reporter for “Capital Tonight” on YNN is nothing if not enthusiastic. At 26, he might be forgiven, but Reisman is no Albany newbie. His father is Phil Reisman, columnist for The Journal News in Westchester County. Growing up in Yonkers, the younger Reisman was seduced by nightly tales his father—then the metro editor— brought home. “He would always come home and tell these really fantastic stories of his day,” he recalled. “It sounded like such a cool job.” This brought Reisman to SUNY Albany, where he majored in history and journalism—at least that’s what he thinks it was. “I spent a lot of time working on the school newspaper and interning down here,” he said. “I have www.nycapitolnews.com my taxes go.” After a short time working for Smith, White was promoted to her current position of press secretary and special-events coordinator. White lives in Rosedale, Queens, and recently got engaged. She is currently working on a master’s degree in public relations from the New York Institute of Technology. “I always knew I’d be in the communications field in some way,” said White. How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “Experience in communications, insight into how the news world works.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “Doing something to service my community.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “I know I do hope to work in a capacity that helps New Yorkers. And I want it to say ‘Wife and mother.’” very few memories of actually going to class.” Reisman interned with the Gannett News service in Albany under the tutelage of longtime bureau chief Jay Gallagher, who passed away last year. “He taught me not just how to be a beat reporter and put a story together but really how to parse through a lot of the spin that comes around here,” Reisman said. After graduating from college in 2007, Reisman held positions with the New York Daily News and the Post-Star before returning to Albany as a reporter for Gannett. Then Liz Benjamin and “Capital Tonight” came calling this past February. “She was like, ‘I want you to apply for this opening at ‘Capital Tonight,’” he said. “The first thing out of my mouth was, ‘I’m a newspaper reporter.’” The offer proved too tempting: He started April 1. The hardest part of transitioning from print to broadcast? “When I was a newspaper reporter, I could dress like a schlub, and it wouldn’t matter.” Asked if he was shooting to one day take over for Benjamin, whom he described as a “superpower,” Reisman said he was still just trying to learn the ropes. “If I can match half of what she does in a day, I consider that success,” he said. How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “Starting off as an intern at Gannett really gave me an edge establishing contacts in The Capital.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “Probably being a teacher.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “‘Badass Reporter.’ ” THE CAPITOL Aravella Simotas Indian Point is a Good Neighbor Age: 32 Assembly Member, Assembly District 36 Nickname: Simotas When Aravella Simotas worked on her friend Mike Ginaris’ Assembly campaign in 2000, she had no idea she would eventually run for the same seat. “It is an honor to have run for the same seat 10 years later,” said Simotas. Simotas is the first Greek-American woman to be elected to office in New York state and the first woman elected in her district. Her parents were born in Greece and moved to Astoria, Queens, when Simotas was six months old. Growing up in Astoria gave Simotas an inside perspective on the neighborhood. “When you are a community kid and have an opportunity to live anywhere you want and you choose to stay, it really makes you feel connected,” she said. Her husband grew up in other parts of Queens, but because of Simotas’ connection to the neighborhood, he never questioned that they would live in Astoria. Before running for the Assembly, Simotas worked as a lawyer in the private sector but always managed to make time for community politics. “When I had a community board meeting or a civic meeting, then I had to leave the office—even if I had to go back to Manhattan afterwards,” she said. How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “I studied and practiced law before I became an elected official. As a woman in a male- Marina Vranich Age: 31 Special Assistant for Labor Affairs, Office of the Governor Nickname: “Dorothy” Some people are born to be in politics. Others transfer their way in. Marina Vranich, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s representative in the Department of Labor, is definitely of the latter tradition. Growing up in Los Angeles, her family wasn’t particularly political, according to Vranich. When she THE CAPITOL By Deborah Milone Indian Point is in my backyard. I have some news for you. It is a wonderful neighbor. Indian Point-owner Entergy has been a steadfast and tireless supporter of our community. The company's open lines of communication and consistent modernization of Indian Point's infrastructure have served to build confidence among the families and businesses across Northern Westchester. dominated field, I learned to be assertive and taken seriously. My legal background gave me the skill set to draft legislation.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “My dream job would be to be a member of the New York City Ballet. I studied ballet but then took a different path.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “New York State Assembly Member.” entered college at California State University, Northridge, her major was in psychology. It was only after transferring to Fordham University that her future started to take shape. “I was poli-sci in college—just because most of my friends were,” Vranich said. It might sound like an innocuous beginning, but Vranich was soon interning in then-Sen. Hillary Clinton’s office as part of her scheduling team. “Basically I had to tell a whole lot of people no,” said Vranich. From there she worked on a series of political campaigns as a fund-raiser, including for former state comptroller H. Carl McCall’s bid for governor. When she heard the carpenters union was looking for a deputy political director, she applied and was hired. She spent the next seven years working in the union’s political shop, helping on electoral campaigns as well as issue work like New York’s “Fair Play Act,” which she worked to help pass last year. Thanks to her experience with the carpenters, Vranich now considers herself a true believer in labor’s cause. “I guess drank the Kool-Aid,” she said. “I just really believe in what they do.” Now Vranich is working on the other side to help workers and businesses recover after the recession. “I wanted to try and be helpful in different ways and work in government, because I never have,” she said. How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “My past jobs taught me how to work hard and believe in something, to help people do something in a different way.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “I’d be a psychologist.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “The same thing it does now, hopefully.” www.nycapitolnews.com Further, Indian Point directly employs 1,100 highly-trained, wellpaid workers. According to a 2008 study by the Westchester Business Alliance, the facility is responsible for more than $2 billion in regional gross wages and more than $5 billion in regional economic output. Indian Point also provides $50 million annually in state and local taxes, without including the local taxes and economic stimulus created by its employees. Without that tax revenue and economic contribution that comes directly from Indian Point, municipalities will be faced with either significant tax increases or draconian cuts, especially to education. The elimination of over 1,100 well-paying jobs would certainly create a ripple that would devastate our local economy. Just a few short years ago a similar crisis occurred following a 2003 agreement to close the Lovett power plant in Rockland County. In the end, the closure cost Rockland County and several local entities $275 million in tax overcharges that had to be squeezed from taxpayers. The scene was not pretty. Homeowners saw their property taxes skyrocket and to meet the terms of the court settlement the North Rockland school district issued a 30-year bond to raise $220 million to pay this obligation. Likewise, Long Island's Shoreham nuclear power plant was closed in 1989 and decommissioned in 1994. Two decades later Long Islanders are still paying for the $6 billion debt service which costs every man, woman and child in Suffolk County $2,000 annually. Candidly, it's time to stop and think about the real consequences of closing down Indian Point - a safe, clean and efficient power plant that supplies up to 12 percent of the state's electricity, and up to a quarter of downstate's power. Indian Point is a wonderful neighbor and the cornerstone to our regional economy. It must remain part of New York's energy future. Deborah Milone is the Executive Director of the Hudson Valley Gateway of Commerce, representing much of Northern Westchester. She is a member of the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance. S P E C I A L S P O N S O R E D S E C T I O N New York AREA’s membership includes some of the state’s most vital business, labor and community organizations including the New York State AFL-CIO, Business Council of New York State, Partnership for New York City, New York Building Congress, National Federation of Independent Business and many more. W W W. A R E A - A L L I A N C E . O R G MAY 23, 2011 15 Stefan Friedman Age: 36 Managing Director, SKDKnickerbocker Nickname: “‘Big Fella.’ That’s from the basketball court. I’m 6’4.” In the office, it’s ‘Chief,’ ‘Boss’ or ‘Big Pook.’” When a journalist leaves the newsroom for public relations, it’s often called “going to the dark side.” But for Stefan Friedman, the two professions are merely different sides of the same coin. Friedman is a lifelong New Yorker who arrived at SKDKnickerbocker in 2006 after eight years at The New York Post, where he started as a copy kid, worked his way through the opinion department and later penned his own political column called “City Confidential.” An admitted liberal who said his Bob Honold Age: 31 President, Honold Communications, and Partner, Revolution Agency Nickname: Bobby/ Hondo Bob Honold was supposed to start his internship at the White House on September 11, 2001. He started two days later. After the semester, he decided to move to Washington, D.C. when he graduated from college. “Being a New Yorker in D.C. when that happened is something I’ll never forget,” said Honold. days writing editorials for the notoriously conservative paper created “an interesting dynamic,” Friedman nevertheless has nothing but praise for his former employer. “I learned how to craft stories in the way that only a tabloid paper can,” he said. “The ability to ‘write short’ is one of the most valuable skills you can have in journalism or PR.” Friedman’s mentors at the Post— editorial page editor Bob McManus, former political editor Gregg Birnbaum and City Hall bureau chief David Seifman—taught him well, he said. “They have a laser-like way of looking at things that can cut through the crap and make things understandable to the general public,” Friedman said. Since he started at SKDKnickerbocker, the public affairs department has grown from one person to 10. “I’m really happy with the trajectory of the After working as the director of public affairs at CTIA-The Wireless Association, and working on Capitol Hill and in the White House, Honold realized his favorite part of politics was helping Republicans win difficult seats. He worked on campaigns in 2008 and 2010—helping switch six House seats from Democrat to Republican. “It’s challenging to flip House seats while people are voting for Democrats at the top of the ballot,” said Honold. “It’s different winning in purple or blue states than in red states.” As a partner at Revolution Agency, Honold brings his experience using the media in campaigns to a variety of Republican candidates and organizations. He is the president of his own company, Honold Communications, which works to get Republican politicians elected throughout the Northeast. Honold grew up in Syracuse, a city he said was less ideologically consistent than many other cities in the state. “I’m pretty sure my mom is a Democrat and my dad is a Republican, but neither of them are bound to either party,” said Honold. How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “My experience taught me the best way to communicate with persuadable voters to get them to choose my candidate over a Democratic candidate, and how to articulate the emotions that resonate to get a fence-sitter off the fence.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “A fishing guide.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “It will still say ‘President of Honold Communications,’ but it will be a bigger company.” 16 MAY 23, 2011 company,” said Friedman. He now puts his journalism skills to good use publicizing causes like education reform, real estate development and marriage equality that, he said, are “topflight issues that are important to most all New Yorkers.” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “You can’t have a better entry to PR than journalism. The best sort of PR person is a person who has been on the other side and knows what makes a good story.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “Playing first base for the Mets. If not that, then playing Mr. Mom for my daughter and soon-to-be baby boy.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “‘Managing director, SKDKnickerbocker.’ I’m very happy where I am.” Warner Johnston Age: 35 Vice President of Public Affairs, Empire State Development Corporation Nickname: “Will” Warner Johnston loves New York. In fact, the state economic development agency he works for oversees the “I Love NY” campaign, something the Brooklyn-born Johnston says is “very personal to me.” Johnston is also well-known as the cofounder of Flacks and Hacks, a quarterly get-together of journalists, officials and politicos of all types. “I’ve always been very interested in public service, from a very early age,” Johnston said. “I originally thought my career would be focused more on social welfare and social justice.” Johnston pursued master’s degrees in public administration and social work at www.nycapitolnews.com NYU, where he is still a guest lecturer. “It was kind of by accident that I got into PR,” Johnston explained. “Someone got my résumé and started doing the interview process.” Johnston’s public-relations career started in full in June of 2001, when he started working for the city of New York. “After the events of 9/11, there was so much misinformation out there, and the administration was in need of a strong voice and leadership, and it received it through [former mayor Rudolph] Giuliani,” Johnston said. “The events of 9/11 led me to a better understanding of how effective public relations can be. I never looked back.” He was soon promoted to deputy press secretary in Giuliani’s press shop. Johnston then worked for a variety of city and state agencies in the following years, including the city Parks Department and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. Johnston has used these experiences to become a highly recognized and talented communicator. “Public relations, when done well, is a science rather than an art,” he said. “Our mission is to improve external relations. Make sure communications are open and the public is receiving the information they need.” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “Every job and position I’ve had has been able to challenge me and provide me with a fantastic learning opportunity.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “There are times where I wish I could be a barista at a Barnes & Noble Starbucks, where I could meet interesting people and read as much as I want.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “‘Chief of Staff to Deputy Mayor Kay Sarlin.’” [In a past “40 Under 40” feature, Sarlin gave Johnston a similar future promotion.] THE CAPITOL Rachel McEneny Clearing the Air with Nuclear Energy Age: 39 Senior Associate, Capitol Public Strategies Nickname: “Cupcake” When Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand first ascended to her position, there were many questions and uncertainties surrounding her. It took a lot of goodwill work and friendly media in places like Vogue, Elle and New York magazines to turn the tide of public perception in her favor. There’s arguably no one more responsible for that than Rachel McEneny. “I hope I was a part of it,” McEneny said humbly. She left her position as senior advisor to the junior senator to join Capitol Public Strategies this past January, where she helps lead the firm’s communications practice. McEneny has been working in politics off and on since she was 19 years old. Her first campaign was with her father, Assembly Member Jack McEneny. Had it not been for a chance conversation with her future boss, Albany County D.A. David Soares, when she returned to the Albany area after her mother passed away, McEneny could easily be working on the other passion in her life: theater. She holds a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Albany in theater; her minor is in political science. Working to develop a nonprofit theater company—Piper Theatre Productions in Brooklyn— parallels campaign work in many ways, she says. “You got to flyer; you got to create a tremendous amount of press. We built everything from scratch,” she said. She goes so far as to question the adage about politics being the stage for the attractively challenged: “Some people would say one industry has better-looking people than the other, but that can be debated.” At Capitol Public Strategies, McEneny stands out as a blue dot in a sea of red. The other members of Ariana Caplan Age: 29 Director of Fundraising, Red Horse Strategies Nickname: “Cap” Ariana Caplan’s political career started in full swing during the 2004 presidential election. “In 2004 I did some work on John Kerry’s campaign through other organizations,” she said. “Then I went to work with Family Planning Advocates.” Soon afterward, she started working for State Sen. Dave Valesky. “I heard he was looking for somebody to come in and be his Albany person,” she said. “So I joined his staff in 2005, and I spent the last six years working for him. I did everything from legislation to overseeing the office.” Valesky was very involved in Senate races all over the state, including the special elections that elected Darrel Aubertine and Craig Johnson. Caplan was involved in these campaigns as Valesky’s senior THE CAPITOL By: Alan J. Steinberg During my tenure as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Regional Administrator for New York and New Jersey, the threats of terrorism changed the public discourse about nuclear energy. Today, with the concerns raised by the incidents at Fukushima, I see many parallels. Some of it is rational; more is simply fear-ridden and exploitative. Most troubling is how quickly anti-nuclear organizations began to capitalize on the Japanese nuclear incident as an opportunity to call for the closure of Indian Point and other nuclear facilities, before key facts were analyzed. the firm come from places like the Pataki administration and the state Republican Party. McEneny says she embraces the situation. “I like standing out and being a little different,” she said. “Why do you want to work with everybody that thinks exactly like you?” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “My life has always been about personal relationships, hard work, luck, and having great bosses who shared my values.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “I would be running a theater company and producing projects.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “‘Rachel McEneny, Still Standing.’ ” advisor and finance director. Valesky also gave Caplan her nickname, “Cap.” “Let’s call it a term of endearment; he has given me that name, and it has not gone away,” she said. Caplan is known for her sharp political mind and her talent as a fund-raiser—raising millions of dollars for campaigns. “Politics in general—and fund-raising in general— is a relationship-based business. I was certainly able to learn a lot in a lot of these races,” she said. “I gained expertise and a number of these relationships across the state.” After working on even more Senate campaigns in subsequent elections, Caplan started at Red Horse Strategies in 2011, working to expand the political consulting firm’s upstate office and fund-raising operation. As for political mentors, Kaplan has many. “I’ve had a lot of inspirational women in my life, and a lot of people who have offered me great advice and helped me to grow, and have been given great advice to know what I don’t know and when I don’t know it.” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “My donor-based background put me in a place where I was able to do fund-raising full-time.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “I’d probably still be doing fund-raising, but for a foundation. I believe it’s a key piece to helping organizations, campaigns and candidates to survive, so I’d probably be involved in some sort of nonprofit foundation work.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “I’d like to be a mother and work as well. I’d like to be a partner or principal in a fundraising operation.” www.nycapitolnews.com These special interests helped generate a flurry of sensational headlines, doomsday predictions, and fear mongering that engulfed the media. Individuals with no expertise on nuclear energy were providing television and radio interviews, helping to propagate misinformation and rumors. There will be many lessons learned from Fukushima, and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is currently engaged in a comprehensive review of the 104 U.S. nuclear power plants. As a result, the U.S. nuclear power industry— which already has an excellent safety record—will no doubt evolve and become even safer. And while Indian Point may be the focus of the most sensational claims, we cannot forget that New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have a total of a dozen nuclear plants, so nuclear safety cannot be taken for granted. President Obama and Secretary Chu have both taken a strong and statesmanlike stance to reiterate the safety of U.S. nuclear power plants and voice support for the expansion of nuclear energy to proceed. Secretary Chu has specifically said Indian Point is safe. So has Gregory Jaczko, the head of the NRC. Without Indian Point’s 2,000 megawatts of clean, safe power, we would be forced to burn more fossil fuels. This means higher levels of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, and particulate pollution. As many counties in New York are already in violation of federal air quality standards, this would take the state in the wrong direction. Nuclear power is a safe and clean energy source. In terms of pollutants, air toxins, and greenhouse gases, nuclear is a true form of reliable “green” energy. Indian Point not only provides critical electricity for the densely populated downstate region, but avoids the release of significant amounts of toxins and particulates proven to harm the environment and public health. Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush. Region 2 EPA consists of the states of New York and New Jersey, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and eight federally recognized Indian nations. He currently serves on the Political Science faculty of Monmouth University. S P E C I A L S P O N S O R E D S E C T I O N The New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (New York AREA) is a diverse group of business, labor, environmental, and community leaders working together for clean, low-cost and reliable electricity solutions that foster prosperity and jobs for the Empire State. W W W. A R E A - A L L I A N C E . O R G MAY 23, 2011 17 Gregory O. Smiley wisdom, Terence said, ‘Greg, whatever you do, don’t drink the Kool-Aid,’” Smiley recalled. Kool-Aid quaffed nonetheless, Smiley recently left CUNY to form his own government-relations firm, the Trench Town Group. Active in his church, V.O. North Brooklyn and a fraternity, Joppa Lodge #55 PHA, Smiley also sits on the board of the Boys & Girls Club of Harlem. Additionally, he is pursuing a Master’s of Public Administration in Urban Affairs and Public-Private Partnerships at the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service Management Program at the City College of New York. “Terence continues to mentor me through the lessons and experiences he has shared with his close friends who are now my brothers, sisters, mentors and friends,” said Smiley. Age: 29 Principal, The Trench Town Group Nicknames: I have a few. My fraternity brothers call me ‘Shaky Shaky.’ Assemblyman Keith Wright calls me ‘The Mosquito.’ Friends and colleagues call me ‘Smiley.’” Greg Smiley did sip the political KoolAid, even after a beloved mentor warned him against it. After emigrating from Jamaica with his family at age 8, Smiley grew up on a residential block in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn. There he was surrounded by neighbors who told him about growing up in the segregated South and shared stories about organizing to combat racism there. “Hearing those stories sparked my interest in politics,” said Smiley. He found a job registering voters in East New York and in Jamaica, Queens, during George Pataki’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign. “I quickly realized I loved politics, but not that kind of politics,” Smiley said. Campaign work for several Democratic candidates followed. Smiley later clerked for the Committee on Racing and Wagering under its chair, Assembly Member J. Gary Pretlow (D-Mount Vernon). While working in the Assembly, he met New York Department of Education lobbyist Terence Tolbert, his eventual mentor. The two developed what Smiley called “a wonderful mentor-mentee relationship.” When Smiley left the Capitol for the City University of New York’s Office of Government Relations in Albany in 2007, “Terence became my political Yoda and I became his Luke Skywalker,” said Smiley. While at CUNY, Smiley said, he learned much about lobbying and politics from Tolbert. “I also learned many valuable life lessons from him,” said Smiley. When Tolbert became Nevada state director for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008, Smiley took a leave of absence and followed Tolbert to Las Vegas for several months to work as his assistant. Two days before Obama’s election, Tolbert died of a heart attack at 44. Smiley remembers Tolbert’s final bit of advice to his protégé. “In his special way of imparting How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “Being the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee clerk, then transitioning to CUNY-Government Relations gave me the opportunity to establish myself. I was able to cultivate my lobbying skills around multiple issues for a diverse constituency.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “I appreciate men’s fashion and real estate. I suspect I would be involved in both arenas.” In five years, what will your business card say? “President of Government Relations.” support investment in new york Support the Solar Industry & Jobs Act Fo r m o re i n fo r m a t i o n g o t o : w w w. s o la ra l l ia n c e . o rg 18 MAY 23, 2011 www.nycapitolnews.com THE CAPITOL After college she became a liaison for the late senator John Marchi. “State Sen. John Marchi, he was really a legend in our community. He was the longest-serving state legislator—he was there for 50 years,” she said. Her success brought her to serve as liaison for Gov. George Pataki, whom she called “a tremendous inspiration for me.” It was working with these two elected officials that Malliotakis earned her nickname. “I’m the young, new person, and I have mentors who call me ‘Grasshopper,’” she explained. After working in the private sector as a government-relations specialist for Consolidated Edison, she took her interest in government to the next level last year by running for the 60th Assembly District in Staten Island and Brooklyn. Malliotakis defeated the incumbent Democrat by 10 percent, but the freshman Assembly member stays grounded and focused on her community. “I learned everything we do in Albany affects people. You can’t just have legislation just to have legislation; you have to look at the costs and the end results, and how it’s going to benefit our state.” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “Working alongside these two individuals, Marchi and Pataki, really solidified my interest in government. They were really passionate about what they did.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “The work I did at Con Ed…but there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing right now.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “Cher’s publicist.” Nicole Malliotakis Age: 30 State Assembly Member, Brooklyn and Staten Island Nickname: Grasshopper The daughter of two politically active immigrants—a Cuban mother and a Greek father—Nicole Malliotakis was steeped in politics since childhood. “I have a very strong passion for government and politics, and I think that stems from my background,” she said, citing her father’s activity in the Greek community, and her mother in particular. “My mother comes from a Communist country, [which] I think has really instilled in me a passion for democracy and freedom. I think that’s why I really got involved in government in the first place,” she said. Malliotakis worked on campaigns with her mother when she was just 15 years old. “Ever since then, I was involved in this community, making positive changes in government,” she said. The history of CSEA is not as well understood or appreciated as it should be. Until now... A Century of Service Limited edition! Order now while supplies last! The Story of CSEA’s First 100 Years A must read for every New Yorker. A Century of Service chronicles the history of CSEA and the growth of New York decade by decade, through the 20th century and into the present day. Hardcover: $34.99 plus tax Softcover: $20.99 plus tax Prices include shipping & handling Exclusive internet offer! www.csealocal1000.org THE CAPITOL 8635_AnnivBook.Ad3.indd 1 www.nycapitolnews.com MAY 23, 4/4/11 201110:2819 AM Laura Wood Age: 36 Counsel to the Senate Minority Nickname: “Timber (coined by my high school chemistry teacher)” Laura Wood got her first taste of being in the political minority the hard way. Following a triumph by the Walter Mondale–Geraldine Ferraro ticket in the mock election held by her fourth-grade class on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, she was dismayed to see the actual results play out on television. “The results in our class were very different than the electoral college,” she said. “Honestly, I’m not sure Reagan got a single vote.” An interest in Democratic politics came early on, courtesy of Wood’s mother, a lifelong member of the teachers’ union who held political meetings in the family living room on a regular basis. “I’ve been lucky to have many Lee Zeldin Age: 31 State Senator Nickname: “The Legend” State Sen. Lee Zeldin’s first exposure came as a member of the William Floyd High School Youth in Government group. The yearly mock legislative sessions in Albany were enough to spark an interest, and the ambitious Zeldin soon found himself at SUNY Albany studying political science and doubling down on a JD from the Albany Law School, all while serving as an aide to State Sen. Ken LaValle. However, his return to Albany was almost enough to keep him out of politics forever. “I became increasingly critical of politics and solidifying in my beliefs that it was the worst of human nature,” Zeldin said. “At that time I couldn’t continue in politics without compromising my beliefs and who I was.” To keep his integrity intact, he turned to the military. Shortly after passing the New York State bar, Zeldin joined the mentors; my mom was definitely my first,” Wood said. Wood, a political science major at Brown, worked in politics—including on the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1996— before heading to Northwestern Law School. In 2008 she took a leave of army as a military intelligence officer. He would eventually serve in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, as well as in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006. That year proved a pivotal one for Zeldin. As he deploying to Iraq, his wife Diana gave birth to his two daughters. They were only in their second trimester. With his family weighing on his mind, Zeldin says he reconsidered his life options. “There was a lot of time over the course of that year to reflect on things,” he said. “I grew internally to the point where I believed I could survive in politics.” His daughters finally came home from the hospital in January 2007. Their dad was home for good about six months later. The next year he was the Republican and Conservative Party candidate for Congress in New York’s first district. Though he lost, the effort laid the groundwork for his successful run to unseat Democratic State Sen. Brian Foley last year. Despite being in the midst of Albany politics most of his life, the reality of elected office has taken Zeldin some getting used to. “You have to have a very thick skin. You can’t take everything personally,” he said “You just try to constantly move forward.” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “All of my jobs have taught me something with regards to leadership and character.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “I don’t know exactly what I’d be doing but I’m sure it would have something to do with public service.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “I might still be here—if I don’t fire myself, or the voters don’t fire me.” 20 MAY 23, 2011 absence from the New York law firm Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler to work on Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. She helped run the voter-protection effort in Pennsylvania, coordinating boards of elections across several counties to educate voters and monitor their access to the polls and ensure that all precincts were ready to handle a large voter turnout on Election Day. That job led directly to her work in Albany when the newly elected State Sen. Daniel Squadron hired her as his policy director in 2009. In her new position Wood helped pass legislation to allow the New York City Housing Authority to tap into federal money. She also helped pass a law to criminalize the use of government resources for personal profit, in the wake of Joe Bruno’s conviction on federal corruption charges. In March, Wood was promoted to Robert J. Rodriguez Age: 35 Assembly member Nickname: “Rob” There are certainly politicians in New York who, because of their family name, seem to be political heirs-apparent. That’s not the case for Assembly Member Robert J. Rodriguez, whose father, Robert, was a longtime community leader and former City Council member. The Assembly freshman says there were lessons learned having had a father as an elected official, but early thoughts of higher office wasn’t one of them. “I was very young during his tenure as an elected [official], so I can’t say I learned a lot,” Rodriguez said. “But what I did gather was…realizing that you can pursue your individual ambitions but you never forget that responsibility to give, to help your community advance.” Those individual ambitions for Rodriguez meant pursuing a career in private finance after earning his bachelor’s degree from Yale University. His first job was with Bloomberg L.P. “That was when technology and www.nycapitolnews.com Counsel to the Senate Minority. Now the top lawyer for the Senate Democrats, she is tasked with “keeping the lines of communication open” between lobbyists, lawmakers and the legal staff. She credits her corporate experience for her success in Albany. “For better or for worse, I was a little further along in my career by the time I came up here and joined the fray,” she said. “I haven’t met anyone who spent as long in a private law firm as I did.” As for the future, Wood hopes one day to work for the Senate Majority. Until then, she’ll always have Mondale. How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “Hard work, relationships and luck.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing now? “I sent in an audition tape to Saturday Night Live. I assume they never received it.” Five years from now, what will your business card say? “I think the SAGE Commission is getting rid of business cards.” finance were rearing and blazing in the ’90s,” he said. The experience led him back to school, where he earned his MBA from New York University. Rodriguez is nothing, though, if not a proud Harlemite, “born and bred.” In 2002 he was appointed to Community Board 11 in Manhattan, where he quickly carved out a niche working on economic and housing issues. By 2009 he had become its chair. His work on affordable housing and development projects like the East River Plaza—working to marry private growth with community needs—set the stage for a City Council run in 2009, which he ultimately lost. However, when Assembly Member Adam Clayton Powell IV decided to run against the embattled Rep. Charlie Rangel for his seat in Congress last year, a new opportunity became available. “We put our heart and soul into building a base the year before,” he said. “We thought, maybe all that work was not all for naught.” Despite his work as a state official, Rodriguez continues to show his love for his district and his home. “I’m proud of our district. Where we are from,” he said, “is by far light years from where we’d been.” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “For me it provides a different perspective. I can look at it in a balanced way, where we’re able to move forward [economically] but the community never gets ripped off.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “I’d still be advising municipalities on their capital plans.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “Not a freshman assemblyman.” THE CAPITOL Yrthya Dinzey-Flores Age: 39 Chief Diversity Officer for New York State Nickname: “Toli—a combination of two Spanish words, todo (all) and linda (beautiful)” It’s one thing to have a job you love. It’s another to have a job you love established just for you. When the position of Chief Diversity Officer of New York State was created in legislation in 2010, Gov. Andrew Cuomo knew just where to look to fill it: the Toyota U.S.A. Foundation, where Yrthya Dinzey-Flores worked as a manager and a program officer for its national philanthropy efforts. Her job, which Dinzey-Flores calls “groundbreaking,” requires her to be involved in many different areas—operations, policy, technology, communications and development among them. “I like that I can ask lots of questions,” she said. “ ‘Why?’ but also ‘Why not?’ ” The daughter of Dominican parents, Dinzey-Flores grew up in Puerto Rico. As a child she watched Meet the Press with her dad, sparking an interest in politics. She went to NYU for a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science, and for a master’s degree in public administration. Her first job out of college was also her introduction to political activism—working with a group called Dominicans 2000 in Washington Heights to set a policy agenda for the large Dominican community there. Dinzey-Flores counts among her greatest achievements there securing Hillary Clinton as the keynote speaker THE CAPITOL for their annual conference. She later worked for the Manhattan borough president and the New York City Department of Education before going to Toyota. “Most of my mentors are successful Latina women,” she said, citing El Diario La Prensa publisher Rossana Rosado as one who continues to follow Dinzey-Flores’ career. “She encouraged me to build a career, as opposed to just having a job in politics.” As the chief diversity officer, Dinzey-Flores is tasked primarily with increasing the number of minority- and women-owned businesses involved in state contracts in New York to 20 percent, a goal set by Cuomo in his first State of the State speech in Albany earlier this year. Eventually, said Dinzey-Flores, she’d like to head back to the private sector— but first comes motherhood. Dinzey-Flores is currently pregnant with her first child. Before plotting her next move, she said, “I’d like to hone my skills as a mom, having spent 20-plus years honing my career.” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “I have worked in the nonprofit and private sectors, as well as in the public sector. I have a diversity of experience, and I believe all of those different sectors were a good training ground for my work as chief diversity officer of New York State.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “I would be a travel writer.” Five years from now, what will your business card say? “‘Senior VP for Diversity and Corporate Social Responsibility.’ ” New York City Chief Digital Officer RACHEL STERNE WEDNESDAY, JUNE 15TH 8:00 AM TO 9:30 AM Moderated by Adam Lisberg Editor of City Hall Location: to be announced TICKETS CAN BE PURCHASED ONLINE AT WWW.CITYHALLNEWS.COM For more information call 212.268.8600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org www.nycapitolnews.com MAY 23, 2011 21 David Carlucci Age: 30 State Senator Nickname: “The ‘Luch (pronounced LOOCH)” New York’s youngest state senator believes youth is power in government. David Carlucci, 30, got the political bug running for junior class president in high school. He graduated from Rockland Community College and then Cornell University, working in a variety of political jobs along the way. After college, Carlucci took a job at American Express. Still interested in politics, he thought he should wait a while, make some money and start a family before running for office. “Then I thought, wait, those are reasons I wouldn’t be able to run for office,” he said. So he ran for town clerk in his hometown of Clarkstown, N.Y. “I realized that public service was really my passion.” His opponent was a 26-year incumbent. Carlucci lost by a mere thousand votes. “I have a saying: You always lose 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” Carlucci said. “I really thought it was a victory.” Two years later, in 2005, he ran again and won. He was 24. In 2010, at 29, he was elected to the state Senate, representing all of Rockland County and parts of Orange County. Simeon Banister Age: 29 New York State Taxation and Finance, Government Liaison Nickname: “The Senator” “In certain kinds of ways, politics is in the blood,” noted Simeon Banister, the government liaison in the state taxation and finance division. It certainly seems that way: How often does the lieutenant governor mention, in passing, that he remembers your speech to the Rochester city council—when you were 9? Banister credits his civic-minded parents for starting him on the political road. “My parents were really, really intent on making sure that we were actively engaged,” he said. “It was definitely a push, and maybe even a shove.” After earning his bachelor’s degree from North Carolina Central Univer- sity and a master’s degree in divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, Banister and his wife moved to Manhattan, where she attended Columbia University. Banister quickly became involved with local politics during the 2006 governor’s race. His work with the Spitzer campaign caught the attention of then-Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum. Six weeks after the election he was hired as a community-affairs liaison. He spent the next four years working for Democratic officials—mostly in northern Manhattan—and the party itself, becoming the executive director of the county Democratic Committee in 2010. It was working with the Cuomo transition team that finally brought him upstate. While tax and finance might not sound like the sexiest appointment, Banister says he couldn’t be in a more critical position: 62 percent of the state’s revenue comes through collected taxes. “I would argue there’s not a more central place to be at the frontlines,” he said. Moving to the capital has brought Banister almost full circle, making him a “quintessential New Yorker” who has experienced all the state has to offer. “I would call myself the upstate/downstate harmony,” he said. How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “Two words: lessons learned. And that you can’t do it alone.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “Wait, there’s work outside of politics? Why did no one tell me?” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “I think I’m going to need more than one business card.” 22 MAY 23, 2011 Carlucci credits his work as Clarkstown town clerk with fueling his interest in legalizing gay marriage in New York. The push for marriage equality is one of his major projects in the Senate. “As town clerk, I issued marriage licenses and performed more than 1,000 marriage ceremonies,” Carlucci said. An increase in marriage licenses issued, he said, would mean “thousands of dollars in the coffers of local municipalities.” A newlywed himself (he married wife Lauren in January), he also knows from experience how expensive weddings are, and what a boon additional wedding spending would be for local economies. Carlucci knows his young age gets him and his platform publicity. But he considers it an advantage. “I think people like it, especially in this climate,” he said. “There’s stagnation in New York State. People want change.” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “As town clerk I was face-to-face with the public every day. I enjoyed helping people cut through the red tape of bureaucracy. My ear was always to the ground, and I knew what my constituents were thinking. It was the best training a public servant can have.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “Still some type of public service.“ Five years from now, what will your business card say? “‘Senator Carlucci.’ “ Deputy Secretary for Policy Management, Office of the Governor Nickname: “It’s a really exciting nickname: ‘Jim.’ But I also go by ‘Tito.’ ” have veered left. He collected a BA, an MA and a PhD at SUNY Albany, all in political science. As a student, Malatras interned for former Assembly Member Richard Brodsky after stints with an environmental organization and in the attorney general’s office. He later became Brodsky’s legislative director. Malatras counts Brodsky as a significant political influence. “He taught me to always fight the good fight—and boy, does he like a good fight,” said Malatras. Another mentor is his mother-in-law, Eileen Weil, a former union organizer. “I know most people won’t say their in-laws, but it’s true,” Malatras said. “She’s incredible.” After leaving Brodsky’s office, Malatras worked for then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo as his director of legislative affairs and state policy. He served as Cuomo’s deputy policy director during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign before being tapped for Cuomo’s administration in Albany. What’s next for Malatras? “No time to think about the future!” he said. A shared taste for candy prompted a young Jim Malatras to support Ronald Reagan for an elementary school class project in 1984. “It must have been his love of jelly beans that drew me to him,” said Malatras. But his family didn’t share his Reagan sympathies; indeed, Malatras recalls his grandfather as a champion of Ralph Nader. “I thought it was fascinating that my grandfather, a retired manufacturing executive, was a big supporter of Nader,” said Malatras. “I liked the thought of someone fighting for the little guy, righting wrongs and fighting injustice.” Since then, Malatras’ own politics How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “I started as an intern for Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, eventually becoming his legislative director. I learned a tremendous amount about state government and the legislative process from my time in the Assembly. My role in the attorney general’s office built on that experience, and has provided a solid foundation for my role in the governor’s office.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “Hosting a show on Comedy Central.” Five years from now, what will your business card say? “‘Still Crazy After All These Years.’” Jim Malatras Age: 33 www.nycapitolnews.com THE CAPITOL Nirav Shah Age: 39 Commissioner, New York State Department of Health Nickname: “Doc” When Nirav Shah served on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s transition team to help choose a new state health commissioner, he didn’t foresee what would happen next. “They moved my resume from one pile—the selectors—to the other pile of potential candidates,” he said. “One thing led to another.” Dr. Shah became New York’s youngest health commissioner in January. He admits to being “totally surprised,” but says the position is an honor. Shah, raised in Buffalo and educated at Harvard and the Yale School of Medicine, had never been a politician. His work at Bellevue Hospital in New York and at the Geisinger Center for Health Research in Pennsylvania generated an interest in providing medical care to underserved populations—the elderly and new immigrants. “Politics allowed greater scope to the work,” he said. Upon Shah’s arrival in Albany, he said, he was impressed by the dedication of his fellow state employees. “It’s easy to write off government as a bureaucracy,” he said. “The reality is they work much harder than anyone I know in the private sector, academia or anywhere else. And they do it because they love it.” Something else Shah said he never did before arriving in Albany was to hire a babysitter. But he made an exception for a recent reception in his honor thrown by Cuomo at the governor’s mansion. He calls his wife, Nidhi—a former American Express “finance type” who stays home with the couple’s two children, a 4-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter—“inspiring.” Shah doesn’t know whether he will stay in government. “I will go wherever I can to make the biggest impact for vulnerable patients who may not have all the opportunities that others do.” As state health commissioner, Shah said, his goal is to provide high-quality, low-cost accessible health care to all New Yorkers. “This is an incredible opportunity,” he said of his high-profile job. “This is the last and best chance in our generation to truly change health care, because in a crisis, people understand that big changes need to happen.” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “I was a physician at Bellevue Hospital, and I also did work in the Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, with a focus on the underserved. I was able to take care of the vulnerable elderly, as well as poor immigrants, and figure out ways to best help them in this era of health care.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “I’d be taking care of patients and teaching and doing research in New York.” Five years from now, what will your business card say? “One part will always say ‘MD.’ I hope to continue to take care of patients wherever I go.” Robert Mujica Eric Sumberg Age: 37 Age: 29 Secretary to the Senate Finance Committee Nickname: “Bobby” New York City Press Secretary at Office of the State Comptroller Nickname: The Burglar It was difficult getting Robert Mujica on the phone. As the senior policy advisor and secretary to the New York State Senate Finance Committee for the Republican majority, Mujica is a man many people need to see. He is essentially the point person for all things budget-related in the state Senate—a position he has worked toward for the last 15 years. “I have 32 different bosses,” he said after having to push back the phone interview twice to accommodate state lawmakers and policy officials in need of his services. Mujica entered the world of government finance during his graduate school days at Penn State through the New York City Office of Management and Budget in 1995. He credits his mother—herself a New York City civil servant in government finance—for sparking his interest. “It makes it easy. She understands the craziness and the hours that I have to do now,” he said. After completing graduate school in 1997, he followed an old boss to Albany as an analyst for the Senate Finance Committee, where he thought he’d stay for “a couple of years.” He’s spent his entire career behind the scenes in Albany, working with the seemingly permanent Republican Senate majority to craft the fiscal end of government policy. “There’s a lot of rhetoric out there, but how the budget gets put together shows where your priorities are,” he said. Mujica is likely one of the only people from his camp who has a positive takeaway from the experience. “I’ve become a better staff person THE CAPITOL having gone through that experience,” he said. Despite his commitment to public service, Mujica says he has no interest in running for office himself. “I really do enjoy being the person behind the scenes, behind the members,” he said. “I’m really a policy wonk—a budget geek and a policy wonk.” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “Working for people that I respected and who allowed me the flex to grow.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “I’d probably be in private finance.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “Probably ‘CFO’ or ‘CEO.’ ” Eric Sumberg grew up in a family tradition rich in history and politics. “My family was always very interested in history; I’ve been to every presidential home in the country except for Bill Clinton’s,” he said. “So there’s been a sense that politics and history and those things are kind of important.” Sumberg went to school at Brown University, where he majored in political science and earned his nickname, “The Burglar.” “My sophomore year I went as ‘The Hamburglar’ for Halloween, and it stuck,” he said. Sumberg was moved toward a government career by the attacks of September 11, and applied to be Congressman Patrick Kennedy’s intern. “After 9/11, I felt strongly that I wanted to work in government. I may have gotten the job with Patrick Kennedy because there weren’t a lot of people applying to be interns at the time.” After getting a master’s degree in history from Oxford in 2005, Sumberg started working as a newspaper photographer and writer at various Midwestern newspapers. In 2008, Sumberg moved to New York City to work at the Glover Park Group, and in 2009 decided to enter the public sector as Sen. Tom Duane’s public relations director. From there he became Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s campaign spokesman. He rose to become DiNapoli’s New York City press secretary last December. “Working for the comptroller is probably going to be my longest stay, because it’s a good office to be a part of and involves a lot of important issues for our www.nycapitolnews.com state,” he said. “I’ve always been driven by the desire to do things that matter. I’ve come in touch with a lot of people at the state and federal level, and I’ve kind of had a career where I bounce around a lot, both in journalism and in government.” How did your past jobs get you to where you are now? “The worlds of journalism and government and politics are all pretty interrelated. You see that there is a group of people who are dedicated in the public sphere in whatever side of the coin you might be on, trying to achieve something good for society.” If you were not in politics, what would you be doing? “I’d probably be taking pictures somewhere a bit more exotic than Toledo, Ohio. Hopefully getting paid for it—it’s a tough industry to get paid in.” Five years from now, what will it say on your business card? “I think it will have the word ‘communications’ in it, and some title that’s a better one than the one I have right now.” MAY 23, 2011 23 POLITICS • POLICY • PERSONALITIES Look who’s reading The Capitol... The Way to Reach Elected Officials www.nycapitolnews.com For advertising information, please contact your account executive at 212-284-9735 or email@example.com healthcare issue spotlight: TRANSPORTATION and Infrastructure issue spotlight: Property Taxes and Mandate Relief Point/Counterpoint Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made achieving a 2 percent property-tax cap a signature effort of his first year in office. But while the Senate Republicans and the state’s business community are on board, Assembly Democrats and labor-backed activists remain skeptical. Many say a tax cap without appropriate mandate relief is a nonstarter. The Capitol asked Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari and Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb to discuss property taxes and mandate relief. What follows is an edited transcript. Q: Should a property-tax cap and mandate relief happen simultaneously? Ron Canestrari: Ideally they should be done in tandem. But I think that’s going to be a heavy lift, to get it all done together. But ideally that would be the way to go, and that’s one of the stumbling blocks in getting it enacted, obviously. costs are going up but we can’t get the teachers to renegotiate,” our hands are tied. So if you want us to have higher than a 2 percent cap, they can do it, but it’s subject to approval by the voters. Q: How close is the chamber to a deal on both a tax cap and mandate relief? RC: I can’t tell you. Don’t know the answer. Brian Kolb: In a perfect world I would want them done at the exact same time. But as you know, Albany is not a perfect world. I’d love to do both, but for sure Ron Canestrari we have a property-tax-cap bill that is the governor’s bill. It’s already been passed by the Senate, and we should have an up-and-down vote on it in the Assembly, and I’m assuming it’s going to pass there, too. We’ve had members on the task force for mandate relief, there are bills out there for mandate relief and it would be incumbent upon the governor and the legislature to get mandate relief before the end of the session. They both can be done, the next day, the same day, three days later—as long as we get them done by the end of June. I think that’s the timetable for us all together to make sure we get something done, meaningful, not watered-down. As long as we can get both of those done by the end of June, I think we can step back and say that we’ve made significant progress. BK: Can it be done by the end of the session? Yes. Now, how easily, you have to ask the Assembly Demo- Brian Kolb crats and Andrew Cuomo, because Andrew Cuomo has not come out and said what Sheldon Silver is telling him he’s willing to do and not do. The Senate’s already passed the tax-cap bill, so what’s the Assembly going to accept? Now they’re saying they may introduce their own bill. What about Governor Cuomo’s bill? Are they saying they don’t think Andrew Cuomo is right on this issue? If so, where is he wrong? But this is always what happens—they try to change the subject. “We’ve got a different idea, blah, blah, blah”—no. This is the governor’s bill. It’s not like traditional legislation where a leader in one house has a bill, and the other house has a different idea, and you have to reach a consensus. This is the governor’s bill, so where do the Democrats stand on the governor’s bill? Yes or no—and if no, why not? Q: What should school districts and local governments do to prepare for a propertyQ: Should a circuit breaker, which would limit property-tax rates for low- and tax cap? middle-income taxpayers, be part of the discussion? RC: I’d also like to see something done about pension costs and health-care costs. [Local] districts have very little control over the costs of both these items. Pension costs aren’t determined at the local level, and health-care costs, to some extent, are beyond the control of localities as well. As important as mandate relief is, I think some exemptions for pension and health-care costs are an essential part of the package. BK: We all have to lower our costs of operations, and that is at the state, county and school-district levels. But it’s not just incumbent upon those elected leaders, but also the employees. It’s not just the pressure of being on the school board or superintendent; it’s also up to the employees to be participating. In collectivebargaining negotiations, what are they willing to contribute in order to lower costs? Like a school budget, in the average school budget, 70-75 percent is payroll costs, which is salaries, health care and pensions. That’s out of the entire budget. So the people who are actually getting those benefits, what are they willing to do in the collective bargaining process to help in the times that are tough? I think the more they can also reach out to their constituents and educate their constituents that there’s no magic wand here, tough decisions have to be made, [the better]. RC: The circuit breaker, I believe, has a greater recognition of one’s ability to pay. Those that are poor or more middle-class get a better benefit than those at the upper class or the upper level of society, whereas 2 percent is just 2 percent regardless of one’s ability to pay. I think the circuit breaker is more progressive…. I just think some prefer a fixed cap, and that’s it. But that’s what negotiations are about, and the discussions continue. BK: There are some merits to [a circuit breaker] as a separate entity to look at, but I think it’s one more way to get away from the real question about the bill that’s been proposed by the governor. Everything else is meant as a political distraction to get away from answering the question. Q: What about a tax on high-income earners? RC: That could be helpful; we could dedicate 80-90 percent of that additional income to education while we do this. That would be a balanced approach, but we’re not getting much support in the Senate or the governor’s office. Q: How could localities recover lost revenue from a tax cap? RC: That’s the difficulty that some of us have [with] the proposal, unless there is some kind of exemption for some of these costs and some relief—because with the layoffs we’ve already experienced this year, and the increased class sizes at the school level, it’s difficult for localities to deal with this without hampering them in accomplishing their mission. BK: When they go to their voters and say, “We have to live within this cap, these THE CAPITOL www.nycapitolnews.com BK: This is, as you can see it unfolding in Washington, going to be a battle of, Let’s just tax the other guy, instead of trying to spend prudently for all taxpayers. When you look at our spending growth for education, annual state spending has grown by close to 70-75 percent in 11 years. That’s unsustainable. You don’t have enough rich people to tax to pay for that. And that’s what’s going on in Washington. You can’t get there by creating another tax, which we refer to as a success tax. But that’s what they want to do; they want to get class warfare going instead of talking about the real issues. MAY 23, 2011 25 issue spotlight: ProPerTY TAxeS ANd MANdATe reLIeF Sound-bites Richard Ianuzzi, president of the New York State United Teachers erty taxes is not through gimmicks like ill-conceived tax caps but by having the state meet its legal and moral obligaThe failure of the state to adequately tion—as agreed to in settling the Camand equitably fund education has paign for Fiscal Equity case—to pay a shifted the burden of paying for schools fair23 share education costs. onto the backs of localAd_NYSSBA property-tax NYSSBA Jr Pg Playbook Playbook May Issueof5/19/2011 10:34 AM Page 1 Teachers are taxpayers too, so the idea payers. The best way to reduce prop- of taxpayer pain resonates. They pay the same school taxes as other New Yorkers and also want real, meaningful tax relief. Working families looking for tax relief would be far better served with an income-sensitive approach, which would actually lower their tax bills, than New York State School Boards Association NYSSBA ESSENTIAL FISCAL REFORM PLAYBOOK Schools need a game plan for dealing with the new fiscal realities. NYSSBA’s Essential Fiscal Reform Playbook proposes seven items that would provide real mandate relief to schools and taxpayers: 1) Reform the Triborough Amendment 2) Eliminate “Last In, First Out” 3) Streamline Teacher Disciplinary Procedures 4) Establish a Maximum Healthcare Contribution for Schools 5) Create New Pension Options 6) Rebuild Special Education 7) Allow “Piggyback” Purchasing Learn more at www.nyssba.org/playbook 26 MAY 23, 2011 www.nycapitolnews.com with arbitrary caps that would further devastate school programs while lowering property values and benefiting the wealthy even more. Mike Durant, state director, National Federation of Independent Business I think the perception remains that this issue is solely a downstate or Long Island issue. The reality is the top 15 highest-taxed counties in the nation are all in upstate New York. New York’s property taxes are 79 percent above the national average, and are, frankly, decimating our state by driving small-business owners and homeowners out of New York in droves, causing lost revenue, lost political clout in Washington, D.C. and a sustained flatlined economy. The other side discusses the need for mandate relief before a propertytax cap can be enacted. Many of the mandates that are major cost-inhibitors in property taxes have been around for years, and the Legislature or a governor could have dealt with these issues at any time in the past. It is plainly obvious that only after a property-tax cap is enacted [will] small-business owners and taxpayers get the necessary mandate relief they need. Paul Tokasz, former Assembly majority leader, Patricia Lynch Associates As someone who spent nearly a year studying and engaged [with] the issue of capping taxes as part of the so-called Suozzi Commission, I think the analysis is available. Our focus was primarily school property taxes, which outside of the New York City metropolitan area is the main cost driver. It would seem to me that public-policy decisions made in Albany need to somehow lower costs. If you refer to that as a “mandate” so be it, then the mandates must be lowered. However, one person’s “mandate” is often another’s worthy program… As usual, these are not simple choices. THE CAPITOL ISSUE SPOTLIGHT: PROPERTY TAXES AND MANDATE RELIEF Property taxes have emerged as one of this yearâ€™s most polarizing issues. Earlier this month, the Empire Center for New York State Policy, a conservative think tank, released a detailed analysis of property tax rates across the state. Here are the median rates, broken down by region and excluding New York City, where property taxes are less of a political issue. North Country: $24.57 Property taxes by region Capital Region: $21.97 Central N.Y.: $32.82 Finger Lakes: $33.96 Western N.Y.: $34.93 Mohawk Valley: $28.51 Southern Tier: $28.50 Median effective tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value Mid-Hudson: $24.11 Nassau County and New York City impose different tax rates on different classes of property, and are therefore excluded from calculations. Suffolk County: $20.40 Stay tuned For our upcoming iSSue SpotlightS Sections feature insight and observations from key government officials, leading voices from across the industry, and influential and informative editorial coverage. The Capitol City Call June 6 - inSurance June 20 - energy For advertising opportunities, call 646-422-1623. THE CAPITOL www.nycapitolnews.com MAY 23, 2011 27 Instead of closing the courthouse doors to injured New Yorkers... ...let the sun shine in on the auto insurance companies. New York’s outdated auto insurance laws close the doors on deserving New Yorkers injured by irresponsible drivers, and keep policymakers and policyholders from getting real information about insurance industry profits. • A.4787 (Titone) / S3790 (Bonacic) will update Section 5102(d) of the Insurance Law to provide clarity to judges and juries, ensuring that the No-Fault Law is administered fairly. All serious injuries should be compensated under the Auto No-Fault Law. • The Auto Sunshine Bill, S5009 (Maziarz), will finally give lawmakers access to insurance carriers’ data to help them make sure automobile insurance carriers charge consumers a fair and reasonable premium. Open the doors and let the sun shine in. Support updating the auto threshold law and the Automobile Insurance Sunshine Act of 2011. 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