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Vol. 1, No. 3

January 9, 2012



Gene Russianoff tells his favorite subway stories. Page 5 Energy experts charge up for Andrew Cuomo’s “super-highway” plan. Page 7

Divisions over teacher evaluations could impede Cuomo’s education reforms. Page 12 The four members of the Senate’s IDC celebrate their first birthday. Page 19


Bringing the Mayor to Heel


Choose your metaphor: When Gov. New York City are hardly the biggest problem ness that helped make him a billionaire. Andrew Cuomo roused a crowd in Albany facing the state. So why did the governor use Either way, challenging it was politically last week by promising to stop fingerprinting his biggest speech of the year to make an useful for the governor. Cuomo’s pledge to end food stamp fingerfood stamp applicants, was he example of it? Sure, Bloomberg is an easy target. He’s prints was more than a crowd-pleaser and stepping on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s toes or a billionaire who keeps his empathy well- more than an easy way to tweak the mayor; hidden, and it’s not hard for a foe to paint it was a way to show that the governor kicking him in the shin? runs New York, and that the mayor has to Cuomo didn’t single out him as blind to the suffering of the poor. But it also points to a flaw in Bloomberg’s accommodate him by changing the way he New York City, but there was no mistaking which style. He is a data-driven manager who runs operates. In other words, Cuomo wasn’t aiming for city he was targeting with New York City on numbers, not emotion— Bloomberg’s toes and he wasn’t aiming for except when he makes up his mind on an his call to end the practice. Adam Lisberg his shin. His aim was right in the middle, issue and no one can change it. To Bloomberg, it’s EDITOR Perhaps Bloomberg doesn’t feel like trying to pinch what he thinks is the mayor’s a simple way to guard against fraud, and his Human Resources reopening old battles after 10 years in the Achilles heel. Administration has argued for years it’s same job. Perhaps it’s part of the stubbornthe responsible thing to do. To advocates for the needy, it’s a heartless step GIVING AND GETTING that penalizes the poorest: The Empire A new Rockefeller Institute report shows where state funds are raised and spent Justice Center found that 97 percent PERCENT OF PERCENT OF ALL of New York City’s food stamp denials ALL STATE TAXES STATE SPENDING based on fingerprinting were later overturned. The examples in their NEW YORK CITY report are heartbreaking. 23.1% The debate has played out for years NYC SUBURBS on the City Hall steps, where politicians 35.2% 40% 45.1% from City Council Speaker Christine 3.8% CAPITAL REGION Quinn on down, powerless to force the mayor’s hand, have decried the policy. 27.4% 7% Cuomo, though, can end it with an REST OF NEW YORK 17.7% executive order. As devastating as losing food stamps is to a desperately poor family, the denials in


EDITORIAL Editor: Adam Lisberg Managing Editor: Andrew J. Hawkins Reporters: Chris Bragg Laura Nahmias Jon Lentz Copy Editor: Helen Eisenbach Photography Editor: Andrew Schwartz ADVERTISING Associate Publishers: Jim Katocin, Seth Miller Advertising Manager: Marty Strongin Senior Account Executives: Ceil Ainsworth, Monica Conde Director of Events & Special Projects: Andrew A. Holt Executive Assistant of Sales: Jennie Valenti PRODUCTION Art Director: Joey Carolino Production Manager: Ed Johnson Ad Designer: Quarn Corley MANHATTAN MEDIA President/CEO: Tom Allon CFO/COO: Joanne Harras Director of Interactive Marketing and Digital Strategy: Jay Gissen Editorial (212) 894-5417 Advertising (212) 284-9712 General (212) 268-8600 City & State is published twice monthly. Copyright © 2012, Manhattan Media, LLC

Source: Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, SUNY-Albany



The best items from the City & State First Read morning email City & State First Read delivers every day’s headlines, schedules, birthdays and “Heard Around Town” news nuggets like these into your inbox before 7 a.m. Not getting City & State First Read? Sign up for free at

NASSAU COUNTY: Former same-sex marriage lobbyist Jeff Friedman, a conservative Democrat, is mounting a run against Republican Assemblyman Brian Curran in Nassau County. Friedman, a former attorney who has an adopted son with his husband, has been trekking up to Albany for years to lobby in support of same-sex marriage. “For years I’ve been very interested in running for office, although I thought that being in the suburbs and being an LGBT parent was too much for getting elected. But I think times are changing,” Friedman said. He is hoping to work on issues related to property taxes and school funding if elected.


STATEN ISLAND: The names of at least two Republicans have been floated as potential challengers to Staten Island Assemblyman Michael Cusick in 2012: Sam Pirozzolo, the president of the borough’s community education council, and Linda Manfredi, a public school principal and a cofounder of the Joseph Maffeo Foundation. The Staten Island GOP is aiming to mount a strong challenge next year to Cusick, who is seen as more vulnerable than Assemblyman Matt Titone and State Sen. Diane Savino, his fellow Democrats in the Legislature. “This year they’re looking to field a more competitive challenger than they’ve had in the past,” said a Republican source on Staten Island.


JANUARY 9, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Spending and Government Efficiency Commission failed to announce to the public its last two meetings in September and December. That’s a change from its first two meetings, which were posted beforehand on the governor’s website. It’s also a change from what Paul Francis, Cuomo’s director of agency redesign and efficiency, pledged at the commission’s first gathering in April: “The commission’s filing is not under openmeetings law, but it is something the governor wants voluntarily to open to the public,” Francis said. “All meetings of this committee will be public.”

Viewers of the YouTube video “Senator Greg Ball on the Farm” might be forgiven for thinking it shows the Hudson Valley senator on his farm. For two and a half minutes, Ball feeds pigs, tends to a rescued bull and talks about the importance of family farms while ducks quack in the background. The farm, however, belongs to Joe Capasso, a town councilman in Patterson. Ball rents a home and space for his various flocks there. “The bull itself is mine. The farm is not mine,” said Ball. “At no time have I ever said that that’s my farm.” Ball says he rescued the malnourished bull from a nearby field last summer, and is holding a contest on his Facebook page to pick a name for it by the end of January. The leader so far: “Vegan.”



JANUARY 9, 2012



THE A real press release, annotated Sent 1:06 p.m., Tuesday, January 03, 2012, from City Comptroller John Liu’s press office.

* *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

The mayoral candidate has made headlines recently for irregularities in his campaign fundraising – which spurred a federal investigation.

Cable subscribers pay for a package of channels, and providers are allowed to drop and add channels and networks as they choose.


James Dolan, who runs the MSG channels and Cablevision, helped kill Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan for a football stadium on the West Side in 2005.

y stated the following about NEW YORK, NY Ð City Com ptroller John C. Liu toda nels for Time Warner the blackout of Madison Square Garden-owned chan Cable customers:

Cablevision, which spun off its MSG sports networks in 2009 but kept them under Dolan family control, was on the other side of a similar dispute when it dropped sports games on Fox in 2010.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** **** **

ongoing corporate dispute Ò New Yorkers deserve to get what they pay for. This rs and City residents. does nothing more than unfairly puni sh their custome now esca lated to the MSG What started as a blackout of the Fuse chan nel has rs to be without acce ss to sports networks, caus ing nearly 2 million custome the Departm ent of their beloved Knicks and Rangers. We have aske d to step up and hold the Infor mation Technology and Telecom munications subs cribers for the loss of com pany accountable and make sure it reim burs es thes e channels. Anything less is unacceptable.Ó

Liu may have an ulterior motive defending the city’s many avid sports fans comes – his job approval rating recently plummeted to 38 percent.

Bac k gr o u n d: Long-suffering Knicks fans aren’t missing much, as the team is off to a slow start despite adding center Tyson Chandler to bolster its porous defense.

DoITT reports to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, not to Liu, who has feuded regularly with the mayor.The department says it has no legal basis for demanding a refund for subscribers and is barred by federal law from doing so.

T concerning the blackout of Last week, Com ptroller LiuÕ s office contacted DoIT resu lt of the ongoing cable the Fuse channel for Time Warner customers as a cable agreeme nts, dispute. As the City agency responsi ble for enforcing for future blackout s, as Com ptroller Liu dem ande d that DoITT develop a plan taken place with cable well as update his office on what discussi ons have providers regarding cons umer protection s. cess ion and Review Four months ago, the New York City Franchis e Con nts with Time Warner and Com miss ion authorized cable franchise agreeme ler Liu expresse d concern Cablevis ion. As a mem ber of the FCRC, Com ptrol g blackout s such as the that the City needed to protect cable cons umers durin with. one that Time Warner subscribers are now faced expressi ng supp ort for In addition, Com ptroller Liu has written to the FCC as well as DoITT additional cons umer protection s during blackout s, g the U.S. Open. concerning the blackout of the Tennis Channel durin ###

The commission approved Verizon’s FiOS network as a cable TV alternative in 2008, but it has done little to break down a monopolistic system that encourages such disputes.


JANUARY 9, 2012

The FCC has been exploring ways to avoid such blackouts, but cannot legally prevent broadcasters from blacking out sports games.

The Federal Communications Commission has yet to respond to the comptroller’s letter.

The division-leading Rangers, meanwhile, have won their first three games of the year.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has jumped into the fray too, working with Time Warner Cable and MSG to negotiate a compromise.

DoITT does have the authority to require refunds for some subscribers, but only those who cancel a subscription they paid for in advance.



Build a Better

Business Climate

GENE RUSSIANOFF Fighting for the subway, while romanticizing the morning commute Gene Russianoff has seen some strange things on the subway, like the saxophone-playing panhandler who claimed to be a visitor from another planet. “He needed money for fuel to return home, and then he would play the theme from The Twilight Zone,” said Russianoff, perhaps New York City’s best-known transit advocate. “One day he was playing sax and he looked across the platform and he said to this other guy, ‘Hey Murray! It’s me, Irving!’ ” Russianoff, who has been an attorney at the Straphangers Campaign for the New York Public Interest Research Group since 1981, is almost as much of an institution as the system he’s been advocating for most of his adult life. Even so, Russianoff says he appreciates the way a subway ride is also a humbling experience. “The thing about the subways is you’re anonymous; you can sit there, read a book and pretend like you don’t know anybody in the world,” said Russianoff, 58. A native Brooklynite who went to Sheepshead Bay High School and Brooklyn College, Russianoff left New York just once, to go to law school at Harvard. He wanted to be Atticus Finch. “When you come from a family of New Deal Democrats, to you the lawyer in the book is a saint,” he said. “I had a vague idea of doing good.” His Harvard Law classmates took jobs at corporate firms, but Russianoff instead saw that NYPIRG was looking for a transit lawyer. A lifelong subway rider, he found advocating for the city’s transit system was a natural fit.



When he started at NYPIRG, subway ridership was at a historically low level, with fewer riders in the system than there had been since before World War I. Graffiti and broken glass were ubiquitous. In the time since, Russianoff has pushed for new taxes to fund subway improvements, fare increases and advance planning like the MTA Capital Program. He fought to keep newsstands in the train stations, helped lobby against a law that would have prevented tourists from taking photographs in the subway and continues to do battle over measures like Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s partial repeal of the MTA payroll tax. Because Russianoff rarely leaves New York—“hands down, the best city in the world”—the transit system has also been the backbone of his major life events. “I have a soft spot in my heart for that song, ‘Under the Boardwalk,’ ” he said. “I remember hearing it play on the Times Square subway platform when I was falling in love with my wife.” Russianoff and his wife, Pauline Toole, live with their two daughters in Park Slope. He takes the R train to work. (“It’s pokey, but reliable.”) And while service cutbacks might inspire some people to cab it to work, Russianoff practices what he preaches. “In law school, not to be too highfalutin or anything, they teach you that the best form of lawyering is defending people who cannot get representation.… It’s a pretty good definition of subway riders. How many lawyers can they get?” he said. “And then there’s me.” —Laura Nahmias

An Agenda for Fiscal Responsibility and a Stronger New York: n Capital

investment that meets New York’s growing infrastructure needs—for bridges, tunnels, energy, roads, transit, airports and water systems

n Jobs

creation through mandate relief measures and pension cost reductions that will free up funds for public works projects and put thousands of New Yorkers back to work

n Extension

of Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) requirements to public authorities and public benefit corporations for higher quality design

n Implementation

of alternative project delivery methods such as design-build and public-private partnerships to accelerate infrastructure projects, decrease costs and leverage private equity

n Cost-effective

delivery of engineering services through greater use of private design firms

n Indemnification

that ensures engineers are responsible for only the work they perform

Leaders in the business of engineering

JANUARY 9, 2012



CUOmO’s BlUepRiNT fOR The 2012 sessiON BegiNs TO UNfOlD Photos by ANDREW SCHWARTZ


ear Two of the Cuomo era started out, surprisingly, with a bang. Not content to rest on his laurels, Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled a list of big-ticket items in his State of the State speech last week. Among them: a plan to build the largest convention center in the United States, the legalization of casino gambling, a call to create a public campaign finance system and billions of dollars leveraged toward improving the state’s crumbling infrastructure. “Last year, we learned to walk,” Cuomo said. “This year, we run.” But in his quest to build on the successes of his first year in office, Cuomo is sure to run up against those entrenched interests he is so fond of deriding, the “cynics and naysayers” who regularly


JANUARY 9, 2012

serve as straw men in the governor’s speeches. Already, some business leaders—and even the usually Cuomo-sympathetic New York Post opinion page—have cast a skeptical eye on the governor’s plan to build a convention center next to the Aqueduct racino in Queens. And backroom fights over redistricting and the state budget deficit may spill out into the open if Cuomo is unable to broker a deal with legislative leaders. There are still many reasons to remain hopeful; Cuomo has already proven to be a master at coaxing the latent functionality out of New York’s government. How fast he can run with this new agenda will define what lies ahead for Albany and the rest of the state. —Andrew J. Hawkins



the eneRGIzeR CuoMo By Jon Lentz


he two energy issues that stirred outcry in 2011 were hydrofracking, a natural-gas drilling procedure the Cuomo administration is reviewing, and Indian Point, a nuclear power plant the governor wants to shut down. But last week, the governor shifted the focus to two new energy initiatives for 2012: expanding the transmission system to bring more energy downstate, much of it from renewable resources; and

boosting solar power. “We need power to power our economic growth,” Cuomo said in his State of the State address. “Let’s build

what this energy highway can be to the next generation.” Key lawmakers expressed support for the governor’s energy agenda. Assem-

“Let’s build an energy-highway system that doesn’t exist now. What eisenhower did in the ’50s, by building an interstate system, is what this energy highway can be to the next generation.” an energy-highway system that doesn’t exist now. What Eisenhower did in the ’50s, by building an interstate system, is

blyman Kevin Cahill, who chairs the Energy Committee, applauded both initiatives, as well as the governor’s call

the not-So-IntRaCtaBLeS A look back at last year’s list of New York’s most intractable issues—and how they played out A year ago we identified five intractable policy issues in New York, but through the course of the year Gov. Andrew Cuomo flexed his political muscle and finally got them rolling—at least those he really cared about. Here’s where they stand going into Cuomo’s second legislative session.

Same-Sex Marriage We said: “The fate of gay marriage in New York seems to rest in the unlikely hands of Republican State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos…. The defeat of the marriage bill last year, after it was voted down by eight Democrats and the entire Republican conference, was crushing for marriage equality proponents.” What got done: The unexpected passage of same-sex marriage legislation in June was a legacy-establishing victory for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, demonstrating his effectiveness as a negotiator, burnishing his record as a progressive leader and energizing gay-rights activists across the country. Just as remarkable was that four members of the Republican majority voted for the legislation in the Senate, where Skelos allowed the bill to come up for a vote. Questions remain about what Skelos could get in return, but the shift also reflected growing acceptance of same-sex marriage among New York voters.

ethics and Budget Reform We said: “Cuomo proposed the establishment of an independent state ethics commission with ‘robust enforcement powers’ that would not be appointed by the Legislature. He also called for the full disclosure of all outside sources of income—including the disclosure of clients by the attorneys in the Legislature…. The incoming governor, meanwhile, has embraced some of outgoing Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch’s budget reforms, such as starting the state’s fiscal year on July 1 and transitioning to GAAP accounting.”


What got done: Cuomo’s new Joint Commission on Public Ethics got under way in December, albeit with concerns about the independence of some appointees. While good-government groups applauded the new commission for increasing oversight of the Legislature, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos each have enough appointees to block an investigation of any lawmaker. The law also requires legislators to post earnings from outside business, and for those who are lawyers to reveal their clients. Cuomo did not pass any major budget reforms, leaving the state with cash-basis accounting and its unusually early April 1 budget deadline.

Indian Cigarettes We said: “Tobacco and convenience store lobbyists are crossing their fingers that 2011 will be the year—and Andrew Cuomo the governor—to bring an end to the ongoing Indian tobacco tax debacle that they say has robbed the state of billions in tax revenue. So far, there has been no word from Cuomo on taxing tobacco products sold on Indian reservations.” What got done: After a series of court rulings eventually cleared the way for the governor, Cuomo’s administration began enforcing a state law allowing New York to collect taxes on cigarettes sold on Indian reservations. Indian tribes had argued that because the tribes were sovereign nations, the state had no right to meddle in their sale of cigarettes, which were much cheaper since they were tax-free. Vowing to resist, the Seneca Indian Nation has said it will only sell cigarettes they make themselves as a way to avoid the New York taxes, though there have been rumors the state will try to tax those tobacco products, too.

Independent Redistricting We said: “Just a few days into the new year, Senate President Dean Skelos

is hedging a bet on the [independent redistricting] proposal, saying that the Legislature may not be able to take politics out of the process entirely. And following through [on] the pledge would likely hurt Republicans next election in several heavily gerrymandered districts as they seek to hold onto their slim majority in 2012.” What got done: Cuomo introduced a redistricting bill in February that would have created an independent commission to draw district lines for 2012, but Senate Republicans countered with legislation for a constitutional amendment to take on gerrymandering a decade from now, which was criticized as a ploy to maintain control of the lines and protect themselves in critical elections this fall. Cuomo has since repeated his promise to veto any partisan redistricting plan. With no independent commission in place, that could leave it to the courts to draw the lines.

Soda tax/ Wine in Grocery Stores We said: “With Andrew Cuomo promising in his New NY Agenda to veto any types of sales taxes, the opportunity for the soda tax may well have passed— especially with the Senate Republicans now in the majority. Cuomo did not weigh in on the wine in grocery stores proposal in his policy books.” What got done: Nothing, as these two issues disappeared in 2011. Both the soda tax and wine sales in grocery stores were key but failed elements of Gov. David Paterson’s legislative agenda, but Cuomo never came around to supporting either. The few times the issues came up he remained opposed, and both issues dropped off the radar among lawmakers and lobbyists alike. —Jon Lentz

CUOMO WANTS: A new transmission superhighway and more solar power. OTHERS SAY: Environmentalists fear Cuomo will approve hydrofracking, but many agree with his call to close Indian Point. Lawmakers support transmission and solarpower projects, albeit with some concern about costs.

for repowering of outdated power plants. “We think we have enough energy in New York State to supply the needs of all New Yorkers without resorting to out-ofstate or out-of-country resources,” Cahill said. “What we need is a means of getting it from A to B, and if we focus on that, I think it’s something we can do.” The governor did not mention Indian Point in his address, but transmission is inextricably tied to the nuclear power plant and could provide substitute energy if its two reactors are decommissioned. Some lawmakers, including Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee Chair George Maziarz, support transmission investment but are adamantly opposed to shutting down Indian Point. Ashok Gupta, the director of energy policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the state could attract the private investment for $2 billion in new transmission. “I don’t think there’s any doubt in my mind at all that the private capital is there and ready to be deployed,” Gupta said. “There is both labor and capital out there looking for a place to go.” What’s needed now is clear state policy to attract investment, Gupta added. The governor’s NY-SUN Initiative, which aims to expand solar rebates and increase competitive procurement of large solar projects, offers a different approach than the Solar Jobs Act, which stalled last year over concerns about costs. A study by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority analyzing the costs of the bill, which would gradually require utilities to provide more energy from solar power, is due out later this month and could pave the way for a compromise. “Now it is time to focus more attention on exploiting our solar potential,” Cuomo said in the written text of the speech. “But we need to do this in ways that protect the ratepayer—and certain approaches that have been proposed do not meet both goals of expanding production of solar energy and protecting the ratepayer.” Cahill said he would continue to push for the Solar Jobs bill, saying it would create more solar power over the long run. Maziarz said he expected to reach a compromise this year that included elements of both last year’s bill and the governor’s new solar initiative.

JANUARY 9, 2012


An Open Letter to New York City Parents New York City is losing its teachers.

More than 66,000 have either resigned or retired since Mayor Bloomberg took control of the schools. Teachers leave one of the toughest jobs in New York City for a variety of personal and professional reasons, but the most common single reason is a lack of support from supervisors and the Department of Education. Teaching is a craft that is acquired over time, and teachers desperately want to improve their skills. That is why the United Federation of Teachers led the campaign to create a better teacher evaluation system, one that put a priority on helping all teachers do their job better. The UFT’s role was critical in creating the new system, and in going to Washington, D.C. to help get federal funds for it through the Race to the Top program. Starting last spring, many of our members with expertise in evaluation worked for months on the state subcommittees designing the new system. We have been trying to work with the Bloomberg administration to iron out the final details of the new system, but the administration has refused to engage in meaningful talks about teacher and principal improvement. Instead it has focused on ensuring that administrators have unlimited power over their employees. If we agree, it will mean that supervisors’ decisions can never be properly reviewed, much less overturned. This would be true even if their negative rating of a teacher or a principal can be proven to be the result of their refusal to inappropriately change a student’s grade or to give students credit for courses they have not properly completed. Make no mistake about it. The administration has put tremendous pressure on principals to make their schools appear to be successful. But any claims of success ring hollow in the light of national tests that show very limited student progress for the system as a whole, and state measures that show that while the high school graduation rate is increasing, the number of graduates ready for college is only about one in five.

The sad truth is that Mayor Bloomberg’s “reform” agenda — raising class size across the system; closing schools and “warehousing” the neediest students; pushing art and music out of the schools to make room for more test prep; turning a deaf ear to parents’ concerns; and appointing a completely unqualified publishing executive to be Chancellor — hasn’t made our schools better. A real teacher evaluation system that helps all teachers improve while providing checks and balances is a critical step toward stopping the hemorrhaging of our teaching force and making our schools more effective. At the same time it would help ensure that teachers who cannot succeed in the classroom leave the profession. We have an open offer to the administration to continue our negotiations on this issue, or even to take it to binding arbitration. It’s time the administration sat down with teachers and principals to come up with an agenda that will actually help our children learn. Sincerely, Michael Mulgrew President United Federation of Teachers

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Line DAnCinG Will Cuomo’s pledge to end partisan redistricting survive? By Laura Nahmias


ov. Andrew Cuomo didn’t mention independent redistricting in his State of the State address. While he continues to insist he will veto new Senate and Assembly district lines unless they’re drawn by an independent commission, other forces think the disappearance of redistricting from his speech hints at a change of heart. The governor has vowed to veto on principle any plan drawn by the Legislative Task Force on Redistricting, known as LATFOR, but Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats have plodded ahead with bipartisan hearings anyway. “They’ve tried to trade for it, tax bills, marriage bill, and the governor is having none of it. In their minds they would rather take their chances and hope they get a

By Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, RWDSU, UFCW Cuomo Wants: The governor has repeatedly promised to veto any district lines drawn by LATFOR, the state’s bipartisan task force on redistricting, and wants them drawn by an independent commission.

from the outrage his Democratic counterparts in the Senate expressed. A new seat would lower the population threshold, because New York’s popu-

lation has barely grown since the last census. That would help out Republican senators in shrinking upstate districts, such as Betty Little, Joseph Griffo and James Seward. Primary Date stiLL uNDeciDeD Historical precedent suggests New York’s Republican presidential primary Senate Republicans and Assembly will be held April 24, but there is no date for state Democrats might do well to wait for legislative and Congressional primaries. DemoCuomo to follow through with his crats want a June 26 primary, while Republicans veto pledge and await appointment favor an August date. of a special master, just as his father, If the primary is June 26, New York must Mario Cuomo, and George Pataki have lines in place by late February or early March so candidates can prepare. Democrats did in 1992 and 2002, respectively. The longer the Legislature believe voter turnout would be higher in June waits to put a plan together, the than August, when more voters are believed to less likely legal challenges to its be on vacation. Republicans say a June primary fairness will succeed, because would collide with the end of the legislative challenges filed too late in the session, hurting government operations. process would delay the primary Albany Federal Judge Gary Sharpe is expected elections—even though they have to rule on the matter within the next month. yet to set a date (see sidebar). —LN Despite Cuomo’s veto threat, redistricting experts wonder whether he master to draw lines. But there might be an escape route can maneuver around it, as he did late last for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos year with a tax-reform plan that violated and his conference: adding a proposed his campaign pledge not to raise taxes. “If (Cuomo) vetoes this, the dynamic 63rd Senate district. Senate Republicans quietly declared their intentions to add the is, everyone is pointing to Senate Repubseat late on Jan. 6, without giving any clue licans as trying to rig this to benefit themwhere it would be located. Democrats selves,” a Republican strategist noted. “I cried foul, and some redistricting experts can assure you the Assembly Democrats are planning the same thing.” said the move may be unconstitutional. “If the governor vetoes this, he’s poking Cuomo has not weighed in on that idea, and Democratic Assemblyman and the speaker in the eye. So the speaker does LATFOR co-chair John McEneny said not want to have a special master,” the he had no opinion on adding a new seat. strategist said. “I can’t see the governor Instead, he said, he would wait for public wanting that either.” input on any Senate proposal, a far cry



or almost two years, a coalition dedicated to economic justice for working New Yorkers has grown from a small grassroots campaign to a city-wide movement. The collective voice calling for the passage of the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act has grown steadily louder, and a look at some disturbing economic trends shows why it’s time to pass this historic legislation in 2012.

others say: Many lawmakers don’t support an independent commission, and a veto would force a court-appointed special master to draw the lines.

“everyone is pointing to senate republicans as trying to rig this to benefit themselves. i can assure you the assembly Democrats are planning the same thing.” Republican judge,” said Sen. Mike Gianaris. Democrats believe Republicans will wait until the last moment to act, forcing the federal courts to appoint a special

Our Perspective New Yorkers Want A Living Wage In 2012

The number of needy New Yorkers is growing at an alarming rate. The city distributed $3.5 billion in food stamps in 2011, more than twice the amount than in 2009. And it’s estimated that one in six New Yorkers, or 1.47 million people, are having trouble buying food. And many of the growing ranks of the poor fight an uphill battle to feed their families and pay the rent while holding down the poverty wage jobs that make up far too much of the work offered in New York City. That’s why we urgently need passage of the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act. Under the bill, now before City Council, large developers and employers that receive substantial public subsidies will pay employees $10 per hour. Employees who are not covered by an employer-provided health plan will receive an additional $1.50 per hour wage supplement to help them purchase their own health insurance. Both the living wage and the health benefits supplement will be adjusted each year to keep pace with the rising cost of living. The support for this groundbreaking bill has reached a crescendo. We saw it on November 21 at Riverside Church, when well over 3,000 community and congregation members and workers joined elected officials and community, religious, civil rights, and labor leaders to call upon the City Council to move the bill forward. Overwhelmingly, New Yorkers are convinced that it is time for a living wage law. According to a December Quinnipiac University Poll, an astounding 74 percent of New York voters support the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act. Our progressive city is falling behind when it comes to creating living wage jobs. San Francisco and Santa Fe have just signed into laws that ensure minimum wage will rise to over $10 an hour. The Fair Wages For New Yorkers Act represents an important step toward catching up to the fights being won against economic quality in cities across the U.S. Putting food on the table and paying the rent shouldn’t be an uphill struggle for working New Yorkers. When this bill passes in 2012, an important battle in the fight for economic justice will be won.

Visit us on the web at

JANUARY 9, 2012


stAte senAte wAtch 2012

reAdy For the rAce By chrIs BrAGG

Redistricting has caused many potential State Senate candidates to delay declaring for office until new district lines are finalized. Even so, a few races are already taking shape. • The most discussed is the impending special election for convicted former Sen. Carl Kruger’s seat in a changing south Brooklyn neighborhood. The presumptive candidates are Lew Fidler, a Democratic City Council member, and David Storobin, a Russian-American attorney. Fidler has a long track record of providing funding to Jewish socialservice organizations in the district, but the Senate Republicans have angled hard for their support by securing $18 million in tuition assistance for rabbinical students in last year’s budget. Hopeful Republicans believe Congressman Bob Turner’s special-election win last year could provide a template for victory. Like Fidler, Turner’s opponent, Assemblyman David Weprin, supported gay

marriage—which some believe was a major reason why Weprin lost. Turning out the Russian-American vote also proved crucial in that race. Whichever candidate wins will have to run again in a redrawn district in November—potentially against a different opponent. • Brooklyn Republican Sen. Marty Golden is facing the first tough reelection challenge of his career from 26-yearold Democrat Andrew Gounardes. The newcomer is expected to have strong appeal in Bay Ridge’s Greek community and already has the surprising support of Brooklyn leader Vito Lopez, who was rumored to have a nonaggression pact with Golden for years. Democrats are targeting Golden for a voting record they say has grown too conservative for the district, especially on housing issues. • Two long-serving Long Island Republicans have drawn Democratic challengers. Ricardo Montano, a Suffolk County legislator, has registered to run

against 82-year-old Owen Johnson, who is always rumored to be on the verge of retirement. But Montano will not have the support of Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Rich Schaffer, who has supported Johnson for years. If Republicans draw a heavily Hispanic 63rd Senate district in Suffolk, Montano would likely run for that instead. Meanwhile, Ryan Cronin, former executive director of the Nassau Democrats, is taking on Sen. Kemp Hannon. • An intriguing primary battle is also taking shape in Brooklyn. Democratic Sen. Martin Dilan has angered housing and immigrant advocates and the Working Families Party with several votes. Following a strong campaign last summer by the WFP-backed Jesus Gonzalez against now-Assemblyman Rafael Espinal, a Dilan protégé, the WFP is looking for a win. The possible WFP-backed candidate would be Wilfredo Larancuent, head of the laundry-workers union, who recently registered a campaign committee. • At least two candidates are mulling

runs against Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti—who is seen as the most vulnerable Senate Republican—but who will emerge for the Erie County seat remains unclear. Republicans are expected to try and maximize the number of Italian-American voters in the district while cutting out some of Buffalo’s black population. In the Hudson Valley, colorful Republican Sen. Greg Ball is likely to get a strong challenge. Democrats for years have been hoping to take out Republican Sen. Joe Robach of Rochester, whose district increasingly leans Democratic and nearby Republican Sen. Jim Alesi has problems of his own, from a bogus personal-injury lawsuit to a vote for gay marriage that inflamed his GOP base. Democratic Queens Sen. Tony Avella could face a challenge from Republican Councilman Dan Halloran. And who knows what will happen with Democrats David Carlucci and Dave Valesky—members of the four-member breakaway Independent Democratic Conference—who may or may not get GOP challengers?

cAsIno GAmInG

Fun And GAmes By Jon Lentz


f the Legislature takes the first step toward legalizing casino gambling in New York this year, it could be the easiest step in a long and complex process. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has wrapped up key support for casino gambling on non-Indian lands, with legislative leaders backing a constitutional amendment to remove the prohibition on gaming and pave the way for Las Vegas-style gambling palaces. The tougher questions are where to build, how many casinos to allow and who gets to operate them—but some of those decisions could be

CUOMO WANTS: Full-fledged Vegas-style gaming as part of his jobs agenda. OTHERS SAY: Senate and Assembly leaders support legalization. The Senecas want to keep their exclusivity in western New York. Sen. John Bonacic wants expansion in the Catskills. Cuomo has not said where exactly to expand.

known as racinos or to open up sites to other major casino players like Wynn and MGM. The governor’s plan to create the world’s largest convention center near the new Resorts World racino in Queens signaled that the state wants to see an expansion of Vegas-style gambling there. But some of those questions may not be

“It would be an extremely noncomplex, simple bill to do. then comes the real battle as to location and all of that.” delayed another year. “What the governor is asking for is basically just removing the prohibition against games of chance in the New York State constitution,” said Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, who chairs the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee. “It would be an extremely noncomplex, simple bill to do. Then comes the real battle as to location and all of that.” But Sen. John Bonacic, who chairs the Senate Committee on Racing, Wagering and Gaming, wants any constitutional change to come with a provision for finally putting casinos in the Catskills, which would mean addressing some geographic issues in 2012. The battle over location is likely to intensify in western New York, where the Seneca Nation of Indians has a long-standing exclusivity agreement with the state barring any other casinos. The Senecas have called on the state to abide by its agreement, and recently entered arbitration to resolve a related dispute over its gaming compact with the state. The state will also confront whether to expand gaming only at the state’s nine racetrack casinos


JANUARY 9, 2012

resolved immediately, since a constitutional amendment doesn’t need to address them. An amendment has to be approved by two separate legislatures, and then could go before voters in public referendum only by the fall of 2013—when the New York City mayoral race will draw many city voters to the polls. In his State of the State speech last week, Cuomo called on lawmakers to take the first step toward expanding gambling, which he pointed out is already allowed at Indian casinos and, on a limited basis, at the racinos. “We don’t regulate it. We don’t capitalize on it. But we have gaming,” said Cuomo, who estimated that expansion would create $1 billion in economic activity, much of which he said is being lost to neighboring states. New Yorkers are also in favor of expansion, which boosts the chances of a successful referendum. Last month, a Quinnipiac University poll found that 64 percent of voters back Vegas-style gambling.


Mandate reLief

Many, Many Mandates By Jon Lentz


ast year was the property tax cap. This year, it’s mandate relief. “The property tax cap we passed worked,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in his State of the State address. “It forced fiscal discipline—forced being an operative word—and it stimulated a citizen dialogue. It stopped the assumed annual increases.” CUOMO WANTS: A new pension tier and a vote on a yet-to-be-determined mandate relief package. OTHERS SAY: Organized labor and some lawmakers oppose a new pension tier. Local governments and school boards want mandate relief but see a tough road ahead.

But the governor acknowledged that more must be done to ease the costs of the state-mandated programs and services that local governments have to fund, and called on his Mandate Relief Redesign taskforce to submit recommendations for a vote this year. “I want that mandate relief council to have hearings all across the state, where citizens participate and local elected officials participate,” Cuomo said. “Let them come up with a package that they present to the legislature this year on mandate relief and let the legislature take an up-ordown vote this year, because the local governments deserve that.” The governor provided few specifics on which mandates to cut or scale back, emphasizing only the creation of a Tier VI to reform the pension system. “I understand the politics and I understand the political opposition,” Cuomo said. “But the choice for you, my friends, is this: When we’re talking about pension reform for union employees, we’re talking about union employees who don’t even exist at this point in time, because current employees are covered by the current pension system.” The new pension tier was quickly criticized by organized labor and some lawmakers, who noted it would have little effect on immediate fiscal woes and that the recently created Tier V has yet to kick in. “Why are we talking about depressing wages for senior citizens in the next generation?” asked Sen. Diane Savino, who predicted the governor would have an uphill battle on Tier VI. “What does that solve today? It doesn’t do anything.” Local governments and school districts struggling with reduced state aid and the property tax cap said they’ll need the relief the governor is offering. David Albert, a spokesman for the New York State School Boards Association, said he was encouraged that Cuomo called for a mandate relief package this year. But he expressed reservations about whether much progress will be made on proposals like reforming the Triborough


Amendment so districts don’t have to pay wage increases under an expired union contract or letting schools consider factors other than seniority when making decisions regarding teacher layoffs. “We’re really hopeful something will happen this year,” Albert said. “At the same time, these are very challenging issues, very controversial issues. The

phrase ‘mandate relief’ sounds good in concept, but when you drill down to specific mandates, at the end of the day you may get rid of something that’s in place right now and someone is potentially going to be impacted by that. That’s where it gets difficult.”

We make a big differeNce! Not a big pension. The next time you hear someone railing against excessive, bloated public pensions, you might want to know the facts: A CSEA public service worker earns an average pension of $14,000 a year. That’s right. $14,000. The vast majority pay into their pensions and overtime is capped for pension purposes.

Yet the misrepresentation continues. That’s wrong and false. So is calling public employees “overpaid.” Recent research* has found that state and local employees make 11-to-12 percent less in salary than workers in the private sector, when education and experience are considered. Stop scapegoating public employees.

It’s time to help our communities and focus on New York’s real challenges. LOCAL 1000 AFSCME, AFL-CIO DA N N Y D O N O H U E , P R E S I D E N T

*Sources: The Center for State and Local Government Excellence and the National Institute on Retirement Security.

8744_Pensions_7.458x10 Cap.indd 1

AM JANUARY 9, 1/4/12 201210:5111


BAck To scHool By Andrew J. HAwkins


n his State of the State speech, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a tonguein-cheek comment about wanting to take on the job of being a lobbyist for the state’s schoolchildren. But in the political minefield that is education policy in New York, not many people were laughing. “I am appalled, as a mother of eight children, that the governor believes he is a better advocate for our children than we are as parents and students,” said

Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director for the Alliance for Quality Education. This is the sort of outrage and hyperbole Cuomo must navigate as he attempts to exert more control over the state’s education system. In the speech, the governor outlined the problems with

management decision for close to a decade, is also a big unknown. Cuomo and Bloomberg have clashed over education issues in the past, such as the mayor’s desire to end the last in, first out teacherseniority rule. The fight over scarce resources will

“Give me the 4 percent and i’m still short half a billion dollars.” schools in New York—too much politics, not enough attention to outcomes—and announced his intention to convene a task force to address student performance, teacher evaluations and management efficiency. “I will wage a campaign to put students first,” Cuomo said, “and to remind us that the purpose of public education is to help children grow, not to grow the public education bureaucracy.” How that will translate legislatively remains unclear. And how that will conflict with New York City’s school system in particular, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg has held control over every

likely define much of the legislative session. Cuomo has vowed to increase the education budget by 4 percent, or $755 million, which union officials say is not enough to meet the needs of struggling school districts. “Give me the 4 percent and I’m still short half a billion dollars,” said Dick Iannuzzi, president of the New York State United Teachers. Advocates for the defunct Campaign for Fiscal Equity have promised to restart their campaign for a more equitable distribution of funding, which state Education Commissioner John King acknowledged was an ongoing problem for many schools across the state. “Low-wealth districts certainly are struggling with a freeze in foundation aid and some of the cuts we’ve had over the last few years,” King said. “I hope the governor will take that up.”

CUOMO WANTS: A bipartisan education commission to recommend reforms in student accountability, teacher evaluations and management efficiency. OTHERS SAY: Teachers’ unions are skeptical, worried the governor’s call for accountability will translate into an increased emphasis on test scores. And pressure is mounting for Cuomo to intervene in a dispute between unions and district officials over teacher evaluations.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says he wants more support for the state’s community colleges, while Senate Republicans are interested in mandate relief to help school districts operate better under Cuomo’s property tax cap. Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch agrees. “We have districts that are going bankrupt because of costs that are really out of their hands,” she said. “The whole concept of mandate relief looms large now as you look at the economic challenges school districts are having.” The hope is that Cuomo can have the same success with the education task force as he had with his committees on Medicaid and economic development. “He’s saying, ‘Let’s get a commission, and let’s get real facts,’” said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew. “Stop playing with the ideologies and politics; let’s get the facts on the table and start making better decisions.”

Auto insurance fraud is a crime that affects all New York Drivers It’s the “Fraud Tax” you pay! We need Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature to reform New York’s broken auto insurance system and crack down on the criminals who are stealing your hard-earned dollars.

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JANUARY 9, 2012


Government reorGAnizAtion

great deal of discussion within SAGE of the idea of merging and coordinating back-office operations of many different state agencies.” One example is a proposal to create a centralized business-services center to handle all purchasing, human resources and financial transactions for the state, saving as much as $63 million in 2016. The commission recommended creating a human-resources services unit in the Office of General Services as a first step.

Management Report tracks how many people an agency serves or how quickly it completes its tasks. “I have found that to be an invaluable tool in trying to look at how government is doing, and yet we don’t really do that at the state level,” Krueger said. “But, absolutely, SAGE has put a heavy focus on trying to implement these models that have been working in other states.” But perhaps the most dramatic recom-

mendation before the governor is a consolidation of leadership and some functions of the state Department of Transportation, the Thruway Authority and the Bridge Authority to save an estimated $50 million to $82 million. The recommendations, submitted in mid-December, include just a handful of other mergers. One would combine the Office of Mental Health with the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. Another would let the Olympic Regional Development Authority take control of the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, a money-losing venture run by the Department of Environmental Conservation. The SAGE Commission will continue to meet until June of this year, leaving more time for the governor to decide how to proceed. “The more I’ve seen, the worse the situation is with the state agencies,” Cuomo said. “This is going to be a ground-up reorganization. We’re going to be giving you more details in the budget.”

on the roAd AGAin

Lawmakers said they were waiting on Cuomo’s executive budget to see how he would fund the MTA before making any judgments about his commitment to transit. “There is obviously some concern there, but in the grand scheme it doesn’t face anything that’s different from the funding shortcomings you have anywhere in the

state,” said Graham Parker, a spokesman for State Sen. Martin Dilan, the ranking member of the Transportation Committee. “At least the light at the end of the tunnel was at the State of the State, since the governor has a mentality of looking at it as an opportunity for an MTA investment.”

CUOMO WANTS: A “reimagined government” that cuts costs and is more efficient.

SAGe Advice By Jon Lentz


hen Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the creation of a commission to reorganize New York’s government a year ago, he called attention to a state workforce that had grown by thousands and the proliferation of hundreds of agencies, authorities and commissions. This month, he’ll reveal which of the Spending and Government Efficiency Commission’s cost-cutting recommendations make it into his executive budget. But don’t expect a significant reduction in the number of agencies or state employees. Instead, some of the biggest changes resulting from the commission’s work could be more coordination and sharing of services across agencies, the implementation of metrics to track agency performance and using technology to improve

customer access to government services. “Even though, for some reason, initially many people thought SAGE [was] just going to merge all these agencies in the state, that’s really not where it’s gone,” said Sen. Liz Krueger, a commission member. “There’s a


tate Sen. Chuck Fuschillo is on a roll. The Transportation Committee chair saw the Legislature last month approve design-build procurement, one of his top priorities. At the same time, Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged to create an infrastructure fund to leverage private dollars and spur investment in the state’s aging roads, bridges and highways. And now Fuschillo is working closely with the governor’s office to shape legislation paving the way for public-private partnerships in the state. “We had three parts to our agenda: One part was design-build, the other was an infrastructure bank, which he’s going to create by executive order, and the third one was public-private partnerships,” Fuschillo said. “So we’re getting there, but the P3s are a critical component to accomplishing the initiatives he’s proposed.” Fuschillo’s three-point policy should provide the backbone for Cuomo’s plan to ramp up infrastructure investment, most notably the long-delayed replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge. In his State of the State address, Cuomo also said the state would improve or replace more than 100 bridges, repair 2,000 miles of roads and upgrade 90 municipal water systems. He also promised to convene a task force in tandem with the infrastructure fund to coordinate and bring in private-sector expertise to leverage capital investment. “This task force will be made up of leading public- and private-sector experts


Krueger said the state was also looking at ways to monitor agency performance, much like how New York City’s Mayor’s

“even though, for some reason, initially many people thought SAGe [was] just going to merge all these agencies in the state, that’s really not where it’s gone.”


By Jon Lentz

OTHERS SAY: Organized labor has expressed concerns about worker layoffs. Some lawmakers wanted the commission to reduce the number of public authorities.

CUOMO WANTS: An infrastructure fund and centralized control over all capital spending. OTHERS SAY: Lawmakers want more details on a master plan for capital spending and where the money will come from for the infrastructure fund.

and members of the Legislature,” Cuomo said. “It will coordinate for the first time all the state’s capital construction.” Lawmakers and industry representatives said they were awaiting more details about the proposals. Mike Elmendorf, president the Associated General Contractors of New York State, said the details of the infrastructure fund are not likely to come until after the budget. “From what we hear, that’s very much a work in progress,” said Elmendorf, who is enthusiastic about Cuomo’s emphasis on infrastructure. Fuschillo said he was awaiting further details of the governor’s call for a master plan on capital spending, which would coordinate construction across all state agencies and authorities. “They really are separate authorities, and have their own boards,” Fuschillo said of agencies like the Port Authority and the MTA. “I want to make sure nothing impedes their progress in their capital programs.” Another question that remains unanswered is how the governor will fund the state’s cash-strapped transportation agencies and authorities, particularly the MTA, which lost $250 million in funding when his administration scaled back the MTA payroll tax that was unpopular in the New York City suburbs.

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JANUARY 9, 2012



Master Of the hOuse By andrew J. hawkins


he creation of a tenantprotection unit to crack down on shady landlords who flout the state’s rent laws was the only mention of housing policy in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State speech. But for landlords and tenants, the proposal isn’t exactly bringing down the house. Michael McKee, of the Tenants Political Action Committee, said that without new funding for the protection unit and major changes to the state’s administrative code, law-breaking landlords will continue to cheat the system with impunity. He claimed that employees at the state Division of Homes and Community Renewal described the governor’s plan to him as “rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.” Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who chairs

the Housing Committee, said he would fight if necessary for enough new money to give the protection unit teeth to fight fraud and abuse. “If resources are required, it’s an

housing laws in the state, raising concerns the new protection unit will be a redundant and wasted effort. “How much more of an impact can you hope for?” Freund wondered. “Will

“it’s been terrible agency, probably as dysfunctional as any agency i’ve seen.” important enough issue to protect tenant rights,” Lopez said. “I would support additional expenditures to do that.” How much money will be allocated for the tenant-protection unit won’t be known until Cuomo releases his executive budget proposal later this month. Landlords have a different beef. Jack Freund, executive vice president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents rent-regulated landlords in New York City, said over a dozen state agencies currently regulate and enforce

an additional level of enforcement deter the scoundrels in the business? I don’t know. It’s a good goal, but whether it’s cost-effective is another question.” Tenant groups and Democrats in the Legislature are also eager to reopen the issue of rent regulations this year. Last year, Cuomo negotiated a temporary extension of the state’s rent-stabilization laws, raising the rent ceiling for regulated apartments to $2,500 a month and the income level to $250,000 a year. Almost no one was happy with the end

CaMPaign finanCe refOrM

Paying fOr POlitiCs By Chris Bragg


fter ignoring most of the Working Families Party’s agenda during his first year in office, Gov. Andrew Cuomo threw the labor-backed party a big bone last week by calling for the public financing of New York campaigns. In New York City, such a system has helped the WFP dominate recent elections by leveling the financial playing field between candidates—allowing the bootson-the-ground power of organized labor to prevail. But since publicly financed campaigns make incumbents more vulnerable, many


JANUARY 9, 2012

state legislators are likely to resist such a system. The New York City system is also detested by many city politicians for its

employee unions—which would continue pouring millions of taxpayer dollars into races under such a proposal—and

“this is an olive branch from the governor to union leaders. it is not a serious proposal.” lengthy and extensive audits of campaign spending. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is seen by insiders as unlikely to make the issue a major priority, while Senate Republicans will be very reluctant to reduce the influence of big-money business and real estate lobbies that often back them. “The governor’s proposal is more about boosting the power of the public

less about good government,” said Bill O’Reilly, spokesman for the New York Republican State Committee. “This is an olive branch from the governor to union leaders. It is not a serious proposal.” Cuomo also called for lowering New York’s extremely high contribution limits, restricting donations from contractors and lobbyists and creating a better-funded enforcement unit within the largely tooth-

CUOMO WANTS: A tenant-protection unit as part of a larger fraud-prevention effort by the state housing agency. OTHERS SAY: Landlord lobbyists fear the unit could duplicate what other regulatory agencies already do, while tenant advocates believe the proposal would be toothless without new money.

result, but both tenants and landlords acknowledge the Legislature is unlikely to take up the issue in a non-sunset year, especially with every member up for reelection. Sen. Adriano Espaillat, a Manhattan Democrat and vocal advocate for tenants’ rights, said most of the work that needs to be done this year is administrative, not legislative. “We’re looking to work with Commissioner [Darryl] Towns, strengthening administratively and making HCR a superagency, a model agency, which it hasn’t been,” Espaillat said. “It’s been terrible agency, probably as dysfunctional as any agency I’ve seen.”

CUOMO WANTS: The governor says New York State elections need a public campaign-finance system in the model of New York City’s. OTHERS SAY: The Legislature— especially the Senate Republican majority— will likely kill the idea.

less state Board of Elections—proposals that could be more politically viable. Like most issues this year, campaign finance reform is likely to hinge on Cuomo’s willingness to put political capital behind it. Campaign finance reform was mentioned late in his State of the State speech and was not discussed at length, but, unlike independent redistricting, it was at least mentioned. Minority Senate Democrats—who notably also did not pass campaign finance reform while they were in the majority—are expected to continue to try to keep the issue alive as the session unfurls into campaign season. Bill Samuels, the former finance chairman for the Senate Democrats who now runs the reform-minded New Roosevelt Initiative, said campaign finance reform should be the top priority this year for Cuomo. The issue has come to the forefront nationally, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision—and Cuomo is said to harbor presidential ambitions. Samuels said Cuomo needs to latch onto a reform issue after punting on redistricting. He said Cuomo should attempt to solidify support among Senate Democrats—while peeling off a few Republicans—as he did with gay marriage last year. “There needs to be a hero on top, just like there was for marriage equality,” said Samuels, calling for Cuomo to take to the road again to push the cause. “Issues like job creation—those are issues of the day. But they don’t do anything to permanently change the culture.”


Building a Better Prevailing Rate for Construction Workers

Governor Cuomo: Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! New York’s Construction Workers: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! As anyone paying attention to the economic health of this state should know, during the first three months of 2011 unemployment in NY’s construction industry reached its highest level in 13 years. Put in terms of actual construction jobs, the overall construction workforce in the state has shed almost 70 thousand jobs or a loss of about one fifth of the 2008 workforce. Although September and October of 2011 showed some signs of limited relief, the predictions for 2012 are, on the whole, pretty dismal. As of November 30, 2011 there were still 638 stalled construction projects in New York City. Reports from industry professionals have placed the blame for this ongoing disaster on the banks’ refusal to provide financing. Given the agony of 2011 for many of our members who have been unemployed for over a year, we agree with the Governor that New York’s # 1 priority must be to get New Yorkers back to work.

government subsidy/funding/financing mechanisms for all these projects regardless of who ultimately owns title. If we let government look the other way while developers and trade contractors line their pockets with government subsidies and pay their construction workers subsistence wages, our state will never crawl out of this hole.

2) Second, all trade contractors, as a condition of bidding on these government subsidized/

funded/financed projects should be required to participate in active, successful, state-certified apprenticeship training programs in each of the appropriate trades for the work contemplated. These programs provide local New Yorkers with a chance for a meaningful career in the construction industry and hope for economic opportunity. B.A.C. Local 1’s Joint Apprenticeship Training Program based in Long Island City has opened the door to the best training in the masonry business – free-of-charge – to hundreds of local residents. Our current union membership reflects the broad ethnic, religious and racial diversity that is New York City. In addition, we’ve embraced targeted training opportunities for those leaving active military duty and, more recently, for unemployed residents of the New York City Housing Authority. We can accomplish great things with apprenticeship training, but unless our government commits to linking its construction funding/subsidies/financing to those trade contractors that provide certified apprenticeship training, we will only create more dead-end construction jobs.

3) Third, as a prerequisite to providing government subsidies/funding/financing to a particular construction project, large or small, the supervising agency or authority should engage in a mandatory written consideration and cost study of the efficacy of a project labor agreement. Can a PLA provide an appropriate cost containment mechanism for a construction project(s) and provide for more efficient and timely completion of construction work? Given the cost savings, the efficiency and the potential for local job growth that a PLA offers, everyone contemplating a construction project at every level of government in NY should be asking this question. Instead, PLAs are frequently ignored by both state and local officials. This needs to change.

We agree that the Governor’s projects must start putting people to work as soon as the spring weather breaks, so we agree with the idea of cutting the red tape. But, this time around, we can’t afford to cut the corners on good construction jobs. New Yorkers need to ensure a broadbased and meaningful economic benefit from every one of our construction dollars. Once again, thank you, Governor Cuomo for an ambitious plan to break the economic malaise and put New Yorkers back to work. We will do everything we can to work with you to make your plan a reality.










Brought to you by: Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Local 1, New York City and Long Island Labor-Management Committee.


the restructuring of the private insurance market is connected directly to the simplification of enrollment procedures and administrative processing necessary to improve Medicaid,” he said. Indeed, if the Supreme Court strikes down parts of President Barack Obama’s health care reform law this spring, Senate Republicans have signaled their willingness to create an exchange anyway, as a pragmatic decision to benefit small businesses. In what was perhaps the greatest surprise of the address, Cuomo promised to push for passage of the Reproductive Health Act, a bill to strengthen state reproductive rights that languished in the Legislature under Governors Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson. The announcement pleased progressives and Senate Democrats. Asking Senate Republicans to sign off on a bill that could alienate members of their base will be a hard sell though, senators acknowledged. “New York has always been at the forefront of the fight to protect women’s reproductive rights,” said Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy. “Senate Democrats are ready to work with Governor Cuomo to force the Republicans to respect the rights of all New Yorkers and immediately pass the Reproductive Health Act.”

1) Labor Law Section 220 prevailing rate requirements need to be part and parcel of all



OTHERS SAY: Health experts and lawmakers applaud the decision to set up an exchange and progressive senators are excited for the reproductive health act, but others hope the governor doesn’t lose sight of his Medicaid reforms begun last year.



ne of the major themes of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s first year in office was Medicaid reform, but in this year’s State of the State address he cited only a few health proposals he hoped to pass. Health care officials were delighted by Cuomo’s successes last year, including passing a bill to set up a health insurance exchange. But many hope the governor does not lose sight of Medicaid in his sophomore year, arguing that more needs to be done to completely reform the system. “It will be at least a 10-year effort to change the program,” said Elizabeth Lynam, vice president of the Citizens Budget Commission. Additional reforms suggested by the governor’s Medicaid Redesign Taskforce are still necessary to ease the state’s transition from a fee-forservice payment model to an accountable managed care system, she said. “You don’t turn around a $52 billiona-year program overnight,” Lynam said. “We need to look at new caps, continue reforms. Some things just fell by the wayside the first time.” Some of the long-term fixes for Medicaid will come with the state’s compliance with federal health care reform, including setting up a health insurance exchange, which Cuomo vowed to see through in his speech. Senate Republicans have balked at passing the bill, fearful of the stigma of supporting so-called “Obamacare.” The exchange itself is the key to reforming the system, said James Tallon, president of the United Hospital Fund. “It’s important that the governor keep pressing forward on that, because

CUOMO WANTS: To pass a health insurance exchange and the perennially challenged Reproductive Health Act.


By Laura Nahmias

Governor Cuomo’s plan appears to rely in part on using state “investment” or subsidies to leverage and spur the private sector investment that is currently missing from NY’s construction sector. However, at the risk of stating the obvious, we have a couple of important suggestions that we believe are essential to the ultimate success of his plan:


The Body PoLiTic



So, we greet Governor Cuomo’s State of the State and his legislative agenda with great enthusiasm and high hopes. However, the devil remains in the details and our enthusiasm is tempered by the fact that we have been down this road before. We have watched in dismay first as the bulk of the 2009 federal stimulus was shifted away from construction work. Then, our state’s previous administration, while paying lip service to the federal Davis-Bacon wage and benefit requirements, chose instead to fritter away a significant chunk of those remaining federal subsidies into the pockets of developers, contractors and workers who operate in the underground economy of the construction industry. Pouring money into the underground economy with its fly-by-night contractors and its subsistence rate construction jobs will certainly make a few key people very rich but, by and large, will blunt the multiplier effect that is essential to the broader success of government stimulus spending. In order to break New York’s current economic malaise, all New Yorkers need Governor Cuomo’s stimulus to be a success.

JANUARY 9, 2012


economic development

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs by Andrew J. HAwkins


he word “jobs” appeared over 20 times in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State speech, underscoring the importance the governor places on growing New York’s economy in his second year in office. “Our challenge for 2012 is this: How does government spur job creation in a down economy while limiting spending and maintaining fiscal discipline?” Cuomo said. In his speech, Cuomo laid the groundwork for his jobs agenda, calling for another round of public grants to be doled out through the system of regional economic councils he created last year. He wants to create a network of publicprivate partnerships to offset the lack of new money. And his plan to spend up to $25 billion in infrastructure improvement across the state is intended to spur job growth and revitalize depressed communities upstate. But not all of the members of the

Legislature are fully on board with this proposal. Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, who chairs the Economic Devel-

“i was super surprised. no one had an inkling of this.” opment, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry Committee, said he would seek more legislative oversight for the regional councils during the budget process. “I’m not quite sure which projects would or could not have been funded through traditional delegation, member and legislative funding processes,” said Schimminger, a western New York Democrat. “As we go forward, we will now have an intervening state budget process, where there may be refinements and clarifications to the regional council process.” This may come as a surprise to Cuomo, who has held up the regional council model as a successful way to bring competing groups to the table and force them to come to a consensus. But it wouldn’t equal the shock many western

New Yorkers felt when they heard the governor say he wanted to pump $1 billion into economically depressed Buffalo. “I was super surprised,” said Andrew Rudnick, president and CEO of the Buffalo-Niagara Partnership and a member of the western New York regional council. “No one had an inkling of this.” Rudnick said he is “cautiously ecstatic” about the investment. “We realize there are a lot of steps and a lot of devilish details to be played out and understood before we do anything with it,” he said. Cuomo is putting his money where his mouth is, having doled out $785 million through the regional councils last year and proposing an additional $200 million be handed out this year. Kenneth Adams, president and CEO of the Empire State Development Corp., said his agency would be tasked with developing report cards on each regional council to determine how well they spent the money and how many jobs are being created. “Part of restoring confidence in state government is you have to increase trans-

CUOMO WANTS: Jobs. $1 billion for Buffalo. $25 billion for infrastructure improvements. OTHERS SAY: It all depends on how the government intends to create those jobs. More than tax credits and other incentives, advocates say they need regulatory reform that reduces the burden on local businesses.

parency, demand accountability and tell a story with facts,” Adams said. Later this year, Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy will convene a meeting of all of the chairmen of the regional councils to develop a plan to ease the regulatory burden on state businesses. Rob Simpson, president of the Syracuse-based CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity and co-chair of the central New York regional council, said the state’s business leaders will be watching that process closely and continuing to urge the governor to reform the pension system and further refine the state’s tax code. “People pick up and move to Florida or Arizona or other low-cost states in reaction to what New York State has done on a tax policy level,” Simpson said. “And I think we need to be ever conscious of that.”

new york city

tHe bAttle for new york city Cuomo’s plans please progressives, beset Bloomberg

CUOMO WANTS: A new convention center in Queens, an end to fingerprinting food stamp applicants, a foreclosure relief unit and a tenant protection unit. OTHERS SAY: While thumbing his nose at Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the MTA, Cuomo is burnishing his credentials with other city leaders and progressives downstate.

by lAurA nAHmiAs


ithout bothering to consult Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gov. Andrew Cuomo set bold plans for New York City in his State of the State address—but the real test of how he treats the city won’t be known until the governor releases his new budget Jan. 17. Last year, Bloomberg said Cuomo balanced his budget on the backs of city taxpayers by slashing aid; this year, he hopes things might go better. “We send an enormous amount of money up to Albany,” Bloomberg said. “It’d be nice to get more of that back.” But it could be another difficult year for New York City, as Cuomo offered proposals that seemed to diminish the importance of the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s long-term spending plans while questioning whether the city gets the most bang for its buck on school spending. Cuomo skipped his prepared remarks, which promised to keep funding the MTA capital plan, and in his speech proposed merging the agency’s long-term spending plan with that of five other agencies.


JANUARY 9, 2012

“we send an enormous amount of money up to Albany. it’d be nice to get more of that back.” “I was very disappointed in his comments about MTA funding,” said Manhattan Sen. Liz Krueger. “There was much more detail about bridges and highways. New York City is the economic breadbasket for the state, and without mass transit infrastructure in the tri-state area, our future as a city cannot be secured.” Cuomo did propose other big ideas for the city, such as ripping up the moribund Jacob Javits center on Manhattan’s West

Side to pave the way for development, then building the nation’s largest convention center in Queens. Other city and state leaders have pursued those goals for years, but Cuomo’s interest brings new pressure to make them happen. The governor also offered socially progressive ideas that seemed designed to foster better relationships with other city leaders, such as City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has fought to end

the fingerprinting of food stamp applicants. Cuomo received a flurry of praise from the city’s progressives for promising to end the practice. Two housing programs to focus on foreclosures and rent-regulated tenants seem designed to appeal to black and Latino lawmakers in struggling parts of the city who have been critical of Cuomo in the past. “This is something we were anxiously anticipating,” said Assemblyman Karim Camara, chair of the minority legislative caucus. Any rent regulations are toothless, he said, without additional enforcement like the kind a tenant protection unit would provide. Camara had an inkling the proposal would appear on the governor’s agenda. In contrast, the governor did not seek input on some city-based proposals from Bloomberg, such as his call to end fingerprinting for food stamps. “I haven’t talked to him about it,” Bloomberg said of the fingerprinting plan after the governor’s speech. “I heard his position today.”



Middle-Class Unease Will Spur Political Change Suburbs lead call for higher taxes on wealthy By BRUCE GYORY


rom the day Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980 until last fall, America’s middle class gave its political proxy on tax policy to the wealthy. Tax reform was based on supplyside norms for those three decades, and notions of progressivity were easily swatted away as “class warfare.” But in the wake of the Great Recession, the middle class revoked that proxy. Middle-class voters now say they deserve a tax policy that nurtures them instead of coddling the wealthy. When House Republicans buckled on a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, they reflected this shift. This is a sea change in our politics. Gov. Andrew Cuomo rode this new political current in New York by leading a bipartisan charge for the tax and economic development package enacted last month. President Barack Obama has also begun tacking his sails to effectively navigate these new tides. But House Republicans seem to have run aground after the August debt-limit debacle and

11.8 percent in America’s suburbs, where their losing payroll-tax battle. Polling data now reflects the reality of fully half the electorate resides. Poverty actually grew faster in the this economic shift. Last month suburbs—by 24 percent— a Pew Research survey found than it did in urban or smalla majority of the American town America. people no longer felt they paid The recent Hofstra poll too much in taxes, but fully of America’s suburbs found 57 percent felt the wealthy did 59 percent of suburbanites not pay their fair share. favored raising the income There are many reasons this tax on those earning $100,000 recession has been called the Bruce Gyory or more, 85 percent favored it Great Recession. Unemployfor those earning $250,000 or ment lingers at 8.6 percent, after peaking at 10.2 percent two years more, and 97 percent favored it on those ago. Long-term unemployment (defined earning $1 million or more. It is a profound shift in public opinion as those out of work for six months or

Just as Democrats missed the shift underlying the Reagan Revolution among middle-class voters, Republicans will face long-term political decline if they continue to seem uninterested in middle-class tax burdens. longer) remains high, just below 6 million. Net worth declined during this recession, while median household income fell for three consecutive years, for the first time since the Great Depression. This recession hit the poor very hard, especially among minorities and those lacking a college education, but it also hit America’s suburbs. Poverty surged to

when America’s suburbs are prepared to raise income taxes for the wealthy. The significance is clear: If a tax revolt surges, its torch must be lit in America’s suburbs. Here in New York State the Siena poll has consistently found overwhelming majorities in favor of a true millionaires’ tax—71 percent in March, 72 percent in October.

In the midst of December’s federal debate on the payroll tax-cut extension, the Washington Post—ABC News poll found voters trusted Obama to protect the middle class more than the Republican Congress, 50 percent to 35 percent. Liberals should tread carefully, however. Polling data also shows the electorate is not clamoring for tax increases. Instead the public wants a balanced package of deficit reduction and job stimulation, paid for mostly by spending cuts but also with more of the tax burden borne by the wealthy. Just as Democrats missed the shift underlying the Reagan Revolution among middle-class voters, Republicans will face long-term political decline if they continue to seem uninterested in middleclass tax burdens. Going forward, can the tax burden be redistributed in a way that seems more fair to middle-class voters? Whichever party harnesses the political energy behind that question is likely to carry the presidency, the House and state legislatures this fall. Bruce Gyory is a political consultant at Corning Place Communications in Albany, and an adjunct professor of political science at SUNY Albany.

The Working Families Party Gets Back To Work Candidates look to the party to survive 2012 By RICHARD BRODSKY


he ides of January bring a new year’s worth of speculation and prediction about the politics of 2012 in New York: Cuomo versus Bloomberg, more millionaires’ tax pressure, reapportionment, control of the Senate, the next mayor of New York City... there’s no end. The personalities, the clash of interest groups and the intensity of the battles make for a world-class spectator sport— and better still, it’s about the things that matter in our daily lives. In the midst of this swirling cosmos, keep your eye on the resurgence of the Working Families Party—an event that will affect all of the above. For about a decade the Working Families Party had more impact on what happened in Albany and New York City than any other player without $19.5 billion in the bank. It successfully muscled its way into battles over the rent laws, livingwage laws and campaign finance reform, reaching its high point when it led the campaign to depose the long-reigning Republican Senate majority in 2008. Starting with a high-profile victory over an incumbent tough-guy pro–Rockefeller


drug law district attorney in Albany County, WFP line in 2010. He did, but with condithrough a hard-fought but successful City tions that starkly limited the WFP’s ability Council race on Staten Island, the WFP to advocate for a millionaires’ tax, among had its way with the traditional big players other things. Rather than go it alone in the quadrennial effort to get upstate and in the city. 50,000 votes on the WFP line It’s been a tough road ever (or else lose its automatic since. ballot line), the weakened The dismal performance party took what it could get. of the Senate Democratic Now comes 2012, and the majority didn’t help. But WFP’s future is a hot topic for the real damage came from both candidates and pundits. It’s attacks from Republican and more than likely that the WFP real estate operatives, and Richard Brodsky will resurge and again show up a few self-inflicted wounds. Republican operatives like Jeff Buley and as the muscular left-wing political machine Randy Mastro began a set of legal attacks, that had the political class in fear and awe. The reasons for this reemergence are bringing lawsuits in Albany and Staten

The WFP will resurge and again show up as the muscular left-wing political machine that had the political class in fear and awe. Island that attacked the way the WFP was organizing and operating its highly successful campaigns. The WFP brushed off the Albany lawsuits, but got clobbered on Staten Island. The party’s genuine concern for legality and image got beaten up, the dollar cost of the fight was enormous and the party was forced to change the way it did business. This culminated in an elaborate dance with Gov. Andrew Cuomo about whether he would take the

not hard to figure. The limiting deal with Cuomo has run its course. There’s neither love nor hate in that relationship: Each will treat the other with cautious respect. The WFP’s constituent organizations value its sharp-edged electoral elbows as a necessary complement to their own individual efforts. The WFP’s key role in the creation and survival of the Occupy Wall Street movement was known and appreciated by as varied a group as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and OWS itself.

And 2012’s political uncertainty will make WFP support essential in legislative races across New York. It’s a reapportionment year, and many incumbents in the Assembly, Senate and Congress who would normally sail through are scared by potential challenges. They will actively seek support from the WFP, and will place a premium on the party’s skills and strengths. In many a race, the WFP’s field organization will make the difference between victory and defeat, and candidates know it. The WFP is likely to begin the year with aggressive policy demands in exchange for its support: a living wage, a state-owned bank, more millionaires’ tax, restoring budget cuts. Friends will be tapped, positions set forth, alternative candidates found. It will be lively, fascinating and defining for the politics of 2012. It’s a pivotal moment for the WFP—and for those watching not just this year’s results but also the outcomes in 2014 and 2016. Those who counted the WFP out are going to be surprised. Richard Brodsky is a Senior Fellow at Demos, a NYC-based think tank, and at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service. He served in the Assembly until 2010 and chaired the Corporations and Environmental Protection committees. He appears regularly as a contributing editor on WRNN-TV and on Fox Business Network. JANUARY 9, 2012



Motivated SellerS

Inside the multibillion-dollar business of government contracts, concessions and purchasing

MTA reaches out to help minority- and women-owned vendors

CUrreNt oPPortUNitieS: COMMERCIAL DRIVER’S LICENSE TRAINING: MTA Bridges and Tunnels needs a company to train drivers to obtain commercial driver’s licenses. Proposals due Jan. 24. More information available by writing Victoria Warren, vwarren@ INVENTORY CONTROL: The state Department of Agriculture and Markets needs inventory-control software for the state fairgrounds. Bids due Jan. 27. More information available by writing Mike Difulvio, mike.difulvio@agriculture. OIL FLUSHING: The New York Power Authority needs a company to flush lube oil and seal oil from a steam turbine. Bids due Jan. 27. More information available by writing Kevin King, AIR CONDITIONER MAINTENANCE: The New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services needs a company to install, service and maintain window air conditioners in the Municipal Building. Bids due Feb. 2. More information available by writing Louis Pastore, HOSPITAL RENOVATION: The New York City Health and Hospitals Corp. needs companies to renovate psychiatric units at Lincoln Hospital Center. Bids for four separate contracts due Feb. 2. More information available by calling Emmanuel Obadina, (212) 442-3680. CONSTRUCTION ADMINISTRATION: The University at Albany is seeking qualifications from companies that can provide design and construction administration services for the rehabilitation of the building at 423 State St. Qualifications due Feb. 2. More information available by writing David LaComb, BRIDGE REHABILITATION: The New York City Transportation Department needs a company to rehabilitate components of 10 bridges in Brooklyn. Bids due Feb. 16. More information available by calling Rezaul Karim, (212) 839-4874.

reCeNt aWardS: FISH AND SEAFOOD: North Atlantic Fish Company of Gloucester, Mass., won a bid to supply fish and seafood to the New York City Corrections Department for $289,645.40 on Jan. 3. WATER METERS: Elster AMCO Water Inc. of Ocala, Fla., won a bid to supply large water meters to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection for $409,985 on Jan. 4. HOSPITAL ENGINEERING: Lothrop Associates of Valhalla, N.Y., won a bid for architectural and engineering services for the replacement of imaging equipment at Stony Brook University Hospital for $24,900 on Jan. 4. PRISON SECURITY GUARDS: Jess Security & Investigation of the Bronx won a bid for security guard services at the recently closed Arthur Kill Correctional Facility for $45,456 on Jan. 4. GAY AND LESBIAN SOCIAL SERVICES: The Lesbian and Gay Community Service Center of Manhattan won a New York City Council and Manhattan Borough President contract to provide employment, English language training and support services to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community for $225,000 on Jan. 6.


JANUARY 9, 2012

Spurred by a directive from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the MTA wants to double its share of purchasing from minority- and women-owned businesses to 20 percent. Michael Garner, the agency’s chief diversity officer for the past three years, is trying to reach beyond its existing pool of vendors by holding conferences to link major suppliers like bus manufacturers with smaller companies that can provide them with parts, supplies and services. Garner, who previously worked in management at the New York City School Construction Authority and the New York City Housing Authority, talked with City & State about the MTA’s new approach and ambitious goals. What follows is an edited transcript. City & State: What kinds of programs pre-

Andrew Schwartz


Michael Garner, MTA chief diversity officer

And so the more contractors or the more sources you have bidding your work, it brings a downward spiral on pricing. We’re not viewing it as an expense but we’re viewing it as a long-term investment.

pared you to launch this one? Michael Garner: We awarded a record number of contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses at the School Construction Authority by C&S: How did your conference linking bus bringing in small-business programs that dealt suppliers and vendors work? with issues that the small contractors were MG: Historically our bus and subway manufacin fact facing, like prime contracts, access to turers have asked us to waive the MWBE goals capital, access to training and access to surety because they claimed that they could not find bonding. Once the MTA found qualified firms to help them. out about that model, they asked “the more contractors For the first time in history we me: Would I be willing to come to or the more sources brought all of our bus manuthe MTA? facturers here. They brought you have bidding your work, it brings sample buses, and there were C&S: What at the MTA can 135 minority- and women-owned a downward spiral firms. We basically told our bus address those issues? on pricing. We’re manufacturers that we are going MG: Most small contractors, and especially the smaller women- and not viewing it as an to increase contract awards to minority-owned contractors, face expense but we’re New York State-certified MWBE four issues that are barriers to viewing it as a long- firms. We’re sending a very, very strong message that we entry. One is the access to capital, term investment.” are going to do business in a so we have a loan program that is geared to small businesses. Once a contractor wins different manner. a contract, they can apply for a loan. Also, most small firms, they don’t have the resources to bid on C&S: What feedback did you get? larger projects—and a small contract at the MTA MG: It was great feedback, not only from the sometimes is $35 million, $45 million. So we go firms but also from the bus manufacturers. They through an exercise of debundling larger projects were saying they could not find qualified firms. To so the smaller contractors can bid to us as prime bring these firms into one place, it was great for contractors. We have a training program in which them as well. The [Federal Transit Administrawe train contractors to be better contractors and tion] was here, because they want to mimic what how to do business the MTA’s way. Then we have we’re doing at the MTA nationally. a surety-bonding program in which we’ve hired the nation’s largest insurance company to work with C&S: It’s interesting that all it takes is our contractors in obtaining bonding. Most of all, bringing everybody together in one room. we are paying these contractors in five days. MG: Government, we’ve failed in the past because we’ve gone out, certified firms and brought the C&S: How do you train firms to learn how firms back to the agency with nowhere to go. the MTA works? We’re now changing that whole paradigm. We’re MG: Any firm that has been admitted to the building programs first and then we’re going out, program, they are mandated to take our nine bringing firms in, so they can flourish. We created courses—safety, scheduling, how to do business programs for those impediments. We funded at the MTA, how to finish out contracts on time, those programs. And now we’re seeing contracts, safely and on budget. And then they can begin for the first time in history, being awarded to the the process of bidding on those projects. There MWBE population as prime contractors. are various training programs out there, but this C&S: What’s the timeline to get MWBE purprogram leads to contracting opportunities. chasing from 10 to 20 percent? MG: Basically, [Cuomo] wants it done yesterday. C&S: How do you measure the success of But I would say within the next two to three this program? MG: The MTA is doing this program as an investment. years we’ll hit that total. We are creating a larger pool of diverse contractors who can finish our work safely, timely and on budget.

—Adam Lisberg


B AC K & F O R T H

Independent thInkIng


City & State: What’s the difference between trying to form and push a legislative agenda among a four-person caucus as opposed to a 32-person caucus? Jeff Klein: It’s a legislative agenda we all agree upon, and I think that wasn’t always the case in the previous majority. Diane Savino: And I think that’s important, because one thing we learned from having been in the majority in a very— what’s the word? Dysfunctional majority? A fancy word for it?—is that you’re not supposed to put forward legislation that’s harmful to your colleagues. And that’s a mistake I think was made over and over and over again by the Democratic majority leader. You know, putting forward things that put Dave Valesky and his members in upstate New York, like Darrel Aubertine and Bill Stachowski, in a box. You’re not supposed to do that; you’re supposed to build support for stuff. And part of building support is educating not just your colleagues but educating voters. It’s not easy to move an agenda that can be very narrowly defined to a specific part of the state when other parts of the state feel it’s inherently harmful. JK: And also, it was always that rule of 32. It had to be 32 Democrats. I wish I had a dollar for every time John Sampson told me, “We don’t have 32 votes,” because somebody was opposed to something that was good for all of us but that person just wasn’t in favor of it. When you’re doing something as important as passing meaningful legislation, you need to do it in a bipartisan fashion. Especially when you have a Senate that, I believe, is going to be two, three seats [apart] over the next 10 years. C&S: What’s the difference working with the Republicans? David Valesky: It’s clear that they see the value of working in a bipartisan fashion. Senator Skelos talks about bipartisanship, as the Republican leader of the Senate, just as much as Governor Cuomo does as the Democratic leader of the state. C&S: Are members of the Senate Democratic conference still willing to work with you on bills? JK: We have examples of working with Eric Adams on cyber-bullying, working with Adriano Espaillat on foreclosure issues. DS: For members who really want to work on legislation, they’re able to put aside the creation of the IDC and work on bills that matter to them. If you don’t



n the one-year anniversary of their defection from the Senate Democratic minority, the four senators of the Independent Democratic Conference—Jeff Klein, David Valesky, David Carlucci and Diane Savino— sat down to discuss their eventful first year together. It included helping pass nearly 40 bills, releasing a sheaf of reports on reforming government and incurring the frequent wrath of their 26 former colleagues. The IDC discussed whether they would ever vote to return Minority Leader John Sampson to control of the Senate, the outing of the romance between Klein and Savino and whether Carlucci, the Senate’s youngest member, is the next Franklin D. Roosevelt. What follows is an edited transcript.

From left, David Valesky, Jeff Klein, David Carlucci and Diane Savino.

care about this, you can just retreat to the corner and work on being the vocal minority that points fingers. C&S: There have been a lot of negative articles coming out about Senator Klein’s law practice. Is there any resentment that those may be coming from Democratic colleagues? JK: You know, what we did was a risk. I will say, and this is no knock to the media in any way, that the constant sniping and using me as a target somehow empowers me. I think it does send a message sometimes—there are a lot of people in the media that I respect immensely who will ask the question: “Why didn’t people do this before? Why now?” This is the reason, because you have to face the wrath of a small number of Democrats who aren’t serious about governing, they’re only serious about politics, they only look at their own political interests, their own political gains. And they’re the ones who are going to prevent the people like us from being independent. DS: They put my personal life in the newspaper! That’s the kind of silly thing they do. They’re incapable of self-reflection. They’re incapable of looking back at the mistakes they made and saying, “What can we do better, so that people will trust us again and people will invest in us? And maybe, then, they might even believe in us again.” But they’re not willing to do that. Instead, they want to attack us every day. We’re not interested. I’m not in the schoolyard anymore. C&S: Does Andrew Cuomo care that Democrats are divided in the Senate? DS: It doesn’t matter whether it’s Democrats or Republicans. Andrew Cuomo wants

stable, serious members of the Senate. JK: He ended the practice, which always bothered me, of using issues as wedge issues. Politicizing them. Like, if you elect a Democratic majority in the state Senate, you’ll get gay marriage. Well, that didn’t happen. Or independent redistricting. Or, if you get Republicans in charge, we’ll do a property tax cap. I mean, these are issues that are important. And he put an end to that. C&S: If Democrats pick up seats this year—and you’re in a position to determine which party holds the majority— could you ever vote for Sampson? JK: The IDC is alive and well. We’re having our first PAC fundraiser for our first anniversary. I don’t think there’s any secret that we’d like to expand the IDC. As a Democrat, we want to elect Democrats; Republicans want to elect Republicans. But during that time period when it’s time to govern, you need to govern in a bipartisan fashion. Putting politics into it each and every issue hurts our ability to govern effectively. C&S: But does that mean you don’t see the schism healing anytime soon? JK: As far as governing, no, I think it’s been going very well. C&S: Could you have the same influence within a Democratic majority? DS: Not right now, within the current system, no. The leadership of [the Democratic] Senate right now isn’t interested in leading, they’re interested in being in leadership. That’s a very big distinction. No one’s asking us to support them, number one. And number two, no one’s giving us a reason to support them. So let’s assume the

campaign will come, and the elections are over and by some miracle they’ve won two seats. Well, we’re still voters. You tell us why we should support one of those people. When that day comes, we’ll consider it. JK: I think it’s important to make a compelling argument about why they should be returned to power—which I think they haven’t done. I think, if anything, the IDC is raising the Democratic agenda and moving the Democratic agenda in a bipartisan fashion. C&S: What did you make of recent reports that you may get Republican challengers after all? David Carlucci: I think this kind of discussion is one of the major problems and a reason for the gridlock. Before I even sat down in the chamber, people were all up in arms about all sorts of issues and making it so hyper-partisan for the next election. That’s one of the frustrations and concerns I had in going to the Senate, that I was going to just join this dysfunctional body and bang my head against the wall and not get anything done. I think we’ve shown a way around that. C&S: Have any of your constituents expressed concern about the IDC? DS: A couple of party officials weren’t sure at first. They said, “What does this mean? Are you becoming a Republican?” And I explained it to them. And they were like, “Yeah, the [Democrats] were a bunch of idiots anyway.” Usually, many of them said, “If you guys had done this a year ago, you would still be in the majority.” C&S: Is there an overarching governmental philosophy for the IDC? DC: A lot of the issues shouldn’t be Democratic or Republican, and it just lines up that way. For me: MTA payroll tax, killing us. Property taxes, killing us. DV: My political mentor I worked for many years, Mike Bragman, his campaign slogan every two years was very simple and very effective: “Work. Results.” “Work. Results.” That’s the way I was trained in this business. You work hard, you get results for it. DS: You know my ideology—I’m like a Communist compared to these guys. What I always say is I’m an FDR Democrat. I believe he’s the most successful Democrat in modern times. DC: And if you read about him in the [New York] Senate, there’s a lot of similarities. He didn’t support the majority leader or the minority leader when he was in the Senate. DV: [To Carlucci] And I believe [FDR] is the only state senator that was younger than you. JK: [To Carlucci] So next year, you’re going to be Assistant Secretary to the Navy. [Laughter.] DS: And then governor and president. DC: But hopefully no polio. DS: And no Eleanor. Brilliant woman, but not very attractive. —Chris Bragg january 9, 2012


Don’t Feed the Birds

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City and State - January 9, 2012  

The January 9, 2012 issue of City and State . Targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and issues which shape New York City a...

City and State - January 9, 2012  

The January 9, 2012 issue of City and State . Targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and issues which shape New York City a...