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Vol. 1, No. 4

January 23, 2012

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They may not like each other, but they need each other to take on education. Page 10

ANDREW SCHWARTZ

Why are so many political battles breaking out in Brooklyn? Page 5

Errol Louis’ path to NY1’s “Inside City Hall.” Page 4

Three successful programs that have reduced health care costs. Page 14

Joe Lhota talks about his plans for the MTA. Page 23


UPFRONT

THE PERMANENT REVOLUTION That wasn’t just a budget address Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave last week. It was an Executive Budget and Reform Plan. The distinction is important. Cuomo ran for governor on a platform of turning the state around. He promised to change everything New Yorkers had gotten used to hating about how their dysfunctional government. Gov. Eliot Spitzer said, “On day one, everyAdam Lisberg thing changes”; Cuomo EDITOR really tried to do it. So he called his campaign platform “The New New York Agenda,” and after he got elected he kept the theme going by calling his program “Building a New New York.” He opened the hallway outside his offices to the public. He crashed tradition and gave his first State of the State address outside its traditional home in the Assembly chamber—and he used PowerPoint. He skipped the supposedly mandatory Legislative Correspondents Association dinner, where his predecessors would sit and pretend to laugh while reporters made fun of them. The changes in style matter to Cuomo. They send the message that he is serious about upending everything in Albany—that refusing to accept a cluttered staircase in the Capitol sets the stage for refusing to accept automatic

inflators in the state budget. They set the tone for Cuomo’s huge firstyear accomplishments, let the wolves of the Capitol know he wasn’t scared of them and made the voters happy. But how much change can New York take from a guy who clearly loves it? Leave aside the armchair psychoanalysis of why the younger half of New York’s first father-son gubernatorial pair seems intent on blowing up symbols of Old Albany. Cuomo governs with the urgency of a permanent campaign—demanding answers now, shooting for baskets like an underdog instead of an incumbent, pouncing on any

perceived slight as if Election Day were next week. So Cuomo’s Executive Budget and Reform Plan keeps the symbolism going, even as the language of his proposed budget lays the groundwork for him to rearrange state agencies unfettered. He is too politically savvy—and too pollsavvy—to get too far ahead of the New Yorkers he governs. And he knows there is no such thing as a permanent revolution— sooner or later, people accept the way things are again, and start looking for stability. So how does Cuomo manage New Yorkers’ expectations by 2014—while still looking like a force for change in 2016? alisberg@cityandstateny.com

BY T H E N U M B E R S ANNUAL DEBT PAYMENTS (in billions of dollars) $7 $6.150

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$6 $5 $4.213 $4

$3.358

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$4.775

$4.276

$4.263

$5.626 $5.004 $4.523

$5.283

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NEW YORK CITY

$3.323

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THE CAPITOL

EDITORIAL Editor: Adam Lisberg alisberg@cityandstateny.com Managing Editor: Andrew J. Hawkins ahawkins@cityandstateny.com Reporters: Chris Bragg cbragg@cityandstateny.com Laura Nahmias lnahmias@cityandstateny.com Jon Lentz jlentz@cityandstateny.com 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 advertising@cityandstateny.com General (212) 268-8600

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2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010

2011

City & State is published twice monthly. Copyright © 2012, Manhattan Media, LLC

* City figures calculated by the Independent Budget Office. State figures calculated by the Citizens Budget Commission.

ALBANY COUNTY

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 www.cityandstateny.com/first-read.

MANHATTAN If the state finally demolishes the Jacob K. Javits Center on the far west side of Manhattan, what will happen to the Javits name? One former aide would like to see it preserved, as well as the eight-foot-tall statue of the former senator that currently stands in the convention center’s lobby. “I would certainly like to see the name preserved in an appropriate way,” said Robert Kaufman, a former legislative aide to Javits and past president of the New York City Bar Association. In his State of the State speech Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared his intention to raze the Javits Center in favor of building a supersized convention center on the site of the Aqueduct racino in Queens. Javits, a moderate Republican who served in the U.S. Senate from 1957 to 1980, still has his name on a federal building downtown, but the convention center was central to his enduring legacy.

QUEENS COUNTY No question, the bag of trash stuck in a public trash receptacle near a subway station in Astoria last week got under Queens Councilman Peter Vallone’s skin. But little did he know that what followed would become a Facebook sensation. Angered that the trash bag was illegally jammed in the garbage can—which bore Vallone’s own name, because he had provided funding for it—the councilman went up to his office, grabbed a camera and took some photos, which he posted on Facebook. Later, growing more outraged, Vallone decided to open up the trash bag and examine its contents. He found a Victoria’s Secret catalog with an address on it—which he then sent to the Department of Sanitation. “A lot of people said I should have taken it back to the person’s house and dumped it on their lawn—but I didn’t go that far,” Vallone said, chuckling. JANUARY 23, 2012

$4.656

$5.402

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AROUND NEW YORK

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CITY HALL CI

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Assembly Democrats joined Twitter last week to much fanfare under the handle @NYSA_Majority, but while Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver knows how to use Twitter, he doesn’t have much familiarity with his very popular fake Twitter account, @ShellySilver. Asked if he knew about his alter ego, Silver gave a short stare and said, “I, I haven’t...” before press secretary Michael Whyland said, “I’ll answer for you!” Whyland said the speaker was “vaguely aware” of @ShellySilver, which has 1,220 followers (compared with just 331 for the real account). Why did the Assembly Majority join the social-networking site? “We’re just trying to keep up with the times,” Silver said, grudgingly.

SUFFOLK COUNTY In recent months there have been persistent rumors in Suffolk County and Albany political circles that 82-year-old State Sen. Owen Johnson is set to retire after four decades in the Legislature. His January campaign-finance filing will probably not do much to dampen those suspicions: Over the past six months, Johnson has raised only $1,400, with a mere $19,000 on hand. If Johnson does run, the Senate Republican Campaign Committee would likely be able to fund his race because of the substantial cash advantage they are expected to have over the Senate Democrats. Johnson has already attracted opposition: Ricardo Montano, a four-term Suffolk County legislator who chairs the body’s Ways & Means Committee. Montano says he believes the ultimate plan has always been for Assemblyman Phil Boyle to be named Johnson’s replacement after the 2012 elections via a special election. Others mentioned as possible replacements for Johnson include Babylon Town Councilman Lindsay Henry and Grant Hendricks, a Republican business owner.

CITY&STATE


A PIPE BOMB thrOugh sEcurIty? At 12 D.C. buildings guarded by U.S. Security Associates, undercover agents were able to:

• Enter without showing identification; • Enter with a cell-phone bomb; • Enter with a simulated pipe bomb; • Drive in restricted areas; and • Smuggle in a simulated explosive hidden in a book.

Is this the kind of Security Company we want in New York? Say no to U.S. Security Associates.

32BJ SEIU, 25 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011-1991

KEEP thE PuBlIc sAfE. Support U.S. Security Associates Officers Who Are Standing Up for Better Training.

Visit StandForSecurity.org SEIU has a dispute with U.S. Security Associates and has no dispute with any other employer. This is not a request to cease performing services or making deliveries.


UPFRONT

ERROL LOUIS Before he hosted Inside City Hall, he did just about everything else

In the year since he started hosting NY1’s Inside City Hall, nightly mandatory viewing for New York City political junkies, Errol Louis has grown used to being recognized on the street. But it’s nothing like the recognition he still gets when cabdrivers hear his voice. “I would get in a cab and just say where I was going, and they would turn around and stare at me,” said Louis, 49. “They showered me with everything short of a free fare.” The aural recognition comes from his years as a morning-radio host on WWRL (1600 AM), which Louis found was popular with cabbies—and which was another step on the circuitous route that took him to NY1. “One of the places where I end up differing with my colleagues is that I have seen politics from a lot of different perspectives that they have not,” he said.

IN THE

Louis always knew he wanted to be a journalist—he claims he spent more time working at The Harvard Crimson than he ever did on his undergraduate degree there. He turned down a job offer from The Wall Street Journal to work for The City Sun, a shortlived black-owned community newspaper in Brooklyn that seemed much more fun than covering financial deals. “I had a press pass and free run of the city,” he said—until the paper’s paychecks started bouncing. “I quickly discovered after I left the newspaper that I didn’t really know anything.” What followed was a 12-year detour working with community groups and nonprofits. Having grown up in New Rochelle, New Jersey, he lived in his father’s empty house in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, rehabbing it and helping the neighborhood

improve as the crack wars ebbed. Louis picked up a master’s degree in political science from Yale, started a credit union in central Brooklyn, ran for the City Council (and lost), and got to know just about everybody in Brooklyn politics. “It was a natural outgrowth,” he said. “I always knew that I would be involved in these issues, and then the only question would be from which vantage point, and why.” He went back to journalism in 2002, working at the late New York Sun and quickly becoming a presence in multiple media. He became an editorial columnist at the Daily News, a favored on-air contributor for CNN and the morning voice of WWRL. At the same time, he got a law degree

at Brooklyn Law School and taught college journalism classes. He never took the bar, but teaches a political-reporting class at the City University of New York. When previous Inside City Hall host Dominic Carter left the show following a domestic-violence arrest, Louis found himself at the desk where almost everyone in New York politics gets interviewed sooner or later. The mix of guests has changed too, with more authors and documentary filmmakers—and more women and minorities. “I have consciously tried to bring new voices onto the show,” he said. “I certainly try to bring more diversity onto the show.” Louis still lives in the Crown Heights house his father bought in 1966, with his wife, political consultant Juanita Scarlett, and their 7-year-old son, Noah. While Scarlett is sometimes involved in races her husband covers, he said it never becomes an issue for them at home—or almost never. “Once in a while,” he said, laughing, “she’ll give me a critique of an interview purely from the perspective of an advocate-slash-consultant-slash-PR person.” —Adam Lisberg alisberg@cityandstateny.com

THE FOOTNOTE: A real press release, annotated Sent 3:20 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012, from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s press office ERG STAT EME NT OF MAY OR MICH AE L R. BLO OMB S RES ADD GET BUD S MOÕ ON GOV ERN O R CUO Bloomberg has proposed New York City pension reforms for years, but has been powerless to implement them without approval from Albany.

The governor and the mayor have many common interests—see our cover story—and their staffs often work together on routine bills and issues. The personal relationship between Cuomo and Bloomberg remains cool.

Bloomberg singled out the UFT about teacher evaluations in his State of the City address, infuriating its president, Michael Mulgrew, who was in the audience.

Bloomberg is known more for trying to strike deals than for holding personal grudges.

nstrates a bold comm itment Ò Governor Cuom o put forward a budget that demo great state. He has my strong to tackle some of the toughest challenges facing our support. ion reform could save the Ò The GovernorÕ s push for mand ate relief and pens than $8 billion annually Ð more ds City billion s in the long term. New York City spen than we spend on the more , costs ion more than 12 percent of our budget Ð on pens ts combined. Without rtmen Depa ation operating budgets for the Police, Fire and Sanit of a single current fits bene ment a new pens ion tier, which will not diminish the retire ion costs, leaving pens on more and employee, taxpayers will continue to spend more hous ing and able afford ion, creat less and less for public education, public safety, job local us onero e reduc will et other critical services. Further, the GovernorÕ s budg CityÕ s the in th grow of rate the Medicaid costs by limiting Ð and then elimi nating Ð Medicaid bills in the years to come. justice syste m reform s we Ò Governor Cuom o also has propo sed two important juvenile justice syste m our of have been seeking: a sweeping, progressive reform worked close ly have tions and the expan sion of DNA collection. Our admi nistra all but the most for lity nsibi together to forge an agree ment that will trans fer respo g people to stay youn more enabling seriously delinquent youth from State to City care, unitie s. And comm their lives in closer to their famil ies and trans ition into productive ction s. convi gful wron nt preve expanded DNA use can help solve more crime s and he is deter mine d to be a Ò Most urgently, the Governor has made it clear that the teachersÕ union to drag its cham pion for our students Ð and that he will not allow ation syste ms acros s the state. I feet any longer on imple menting new teacher evalu of millions of dollars for our hope the UFT will not reckle ssly jeopardize hundreds ving ineffective teachers from our scho ols by insisting on endle ss obstacles to remo not tolerate this and will help deliver class room s. The Governor has rightly said he will rigorous teacher evaluation s for our State and City.

Cuomo seemed to go out of his way to provoke Bloomberg during his State of the State address two weeks earlier. Bloomberg resisted the urge to respond in his State of the City address, and has so far tried not to exacerbate the tensions between them.

City Comptroller John Liu and employee unions point out that about half the growth in pension costs is caused by pension funds losing market value during the recession. The rest is caused by increased benefits.

Bloomberg may be projecting here. Cuomo did not attack teachers’ unions by name, but gave them 30 days to work out an evaluation compromise with the local school districts.

The devil is in the details. Cuomo balanced last year’s state budget in part by slashing state aid to New York City, which sends more to Albany than it gets back. Bloomberg’s team will be ready to fight any similar cuts, but their leverage in the state budget process is limited.

the State and I will be Ò The GovernorÕ s priorities are the right priorities for will be reviewing the details of the working with him to move his agenda forward. We testifying before the Legis lature budget over the coming days and I look forward to next week.Ó

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CITY&STATE


There’s someThing aBouT Brooklyn The county of Kings is a hotbed of political intrigue this year

There’s more political intrigue in Brooklyn’s 72 square miles this year than in the other four boroughs combined.

By Chris Bragg

W

hat’s in the water in Brooklyn these days? One of the borough’s most feared lawmakers, former Sen. Carl Kruger, just pleaded guilty to a sordid corruption plot. Another of the borough’s Democrats, Assemblyman William Boyland Jr., was indicted twice for soliciting bribes. Brooklyn Democratic County Leader Vito Lopez is still dealing with probes into the social service agency he founded.

“i think the difference between Brooklyn and other places is that in places like southeast Queens, you have the senior elected officials holding onto power. in Brooklyn, there’s a younger generation willing to challenge them.” Veteran Congressman Ed Towns is facing a three-way primary. And even Senate Republicans think the borough is ripe for the picking. There’s more political intrigue in Brooklyn’s 72 square miles this year than in the other four boroughs combined. One factor may be the intra-party warfare among Brooklyn Democrats. In Queens, where the politics are relatively mild these days by comparison, party boss Rep. Joe Crowley makes every effort to bring newly elected officials into the party’s fold—even if the party opposed them. In Brooklyn, those who are not supported by Lopez can often end up being permanent foes. This led to the creation of reform-minded independent political clubs like the New Kings Democrats and the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats—the type of club that largely does not exist in Queens. “There are no permanent enemies with Joe Crowley,” said Howard Graubard, who blogs about Brooklyn politics under the pseudonym “Gatemouth.” “They’ll fight for the seat, but no one will fight for the seat afterwards. I just wonder whether a little more carrot and a little less stick would prevent a lot of that from happening in Brooklyn.” The war in central Brooklyn between the Dilan family and the Towns family serves as a proxy for more intraparty battles. The elder Towns is facing a challenge from Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and Councilman Charles Barron. State Sen. Martin Dilan may well also face a primary this year. And the political culture is filled with young up-and-comers who are refusing to wait quietly for their turns. “I think the difference between Brooklyn and other

CITY&STATE

Joey Carolino

places is that in places like southeast Queens, you have the senior elected officials holding onto power,” said one Brooklyn political operative. “In Brooklyn, there’s a younger generation willing to challenge them.” In south Brooklyn, the Orthodox Jewish population, with its shifting political loyalties, adds spice to an area that also includes an up-and-coming Russian-American community. The two factions seem to be competing for influence in the race for Kruger’s Senate seat after aligning behind Republican Rep. Bob Turner’s surprise victory to replace the disgraced Anthony Weiner. (There’s so much going on in the borough that Weiner’s Twitter scandal seems a distant memory.) Further south in Bay Ridge, the borough’s lone Republican senator, Marty Golden, is facing a primary challenge from Andrew Gounardes, a 26-year-old Democrat. Golden usually skates by in his highly gerrymandered district, but given the unpredictable nature of the borough’s politics, several observers think it may actually be a contest this year. Justin Brannan, the up-and-coming president of the Bay Ridge Democrats, whose club is running Gounardes’ www.cityandstateny.com

campaign against Golden, said Democratic dominance in the rest of the borough added fuel to the fire in the Republican bastion. “Southwest Brooklyn is really the last frontier for Republicans in New York City. This is all they’ve got left,” Brannan said. “So you know they’re going to fight to the end in order to protect whatever influence they once had in New York politics.” Some of the changes in borough politics have nothing to do with politics, however. The rise of political blogs, social media and a 24-hour news cycle have cast more sunlight on the inner workings of the local political scene, making the tiniest disputes fair game for discussion by anyone with an Internet connection. It also doesn’t hurt that most of the city’s political journalists happen to live there. “Things are moving a great deal faster than they ever did before,” said Buddy Scotto, a veteran political figure informally known as the “Mayor of Carroll Gardens.” “The old guard—the people who have had a lot of say over what happens—is having a hard time adjusting.” cbragg@cityandstateny.com JANUARY 23, 2012

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shadow PLay All the world’s a stage, and redistricting in New York is the main act By Laura Nahmias

S

en. Martin Dilan was fidgeting throughout a recent meeting of the legislative task force on redistricting. It was one of the last of the group’s dozens of public hearings before drafting new lines for election districts. Dilan, representing the Senate Democratic Conference on the task force, was upset about a memo from a Senate Republican lawyer that advocated for a 63rd Senate seat. The memo had been placed on the LATFOR website late on a Friday, with no Democratic input. Dilan was not happy. “We can see what the outcome is going to be here,” Dilan said, rigid with tension in a room filled with reporters and interested onlookers. “It will be the same one it has been for 50 years.” Dilan was giving voice to a sneaking suspicion, rarely spoken on the record, that the official redistricting process in New York State is just a stage, and the politicians on it are merely players—that the legislators who signed on to former Mayor Ed Koch’s nonpartisan redistricting pledge were all talk and that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s promise to veto any lines that aren’t drawn by an independent commission will somehow be circumvented. “I believe that the hearings we have held are a farce and a waste of time and money,” Dilan said. Democrats say Republicans are using two different formulas to get to the results they want to maintain their majority, while Senate Republicans say the process has nothing to do with partisanship and everything to do with math. “We’re using the same methodology used in 2002...period,” Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif wrote in an email. Republicans note that Dilan’s outrage belies the fact the Senate Democrats did not pass a constitutional amendment or plan for independent redistricting during the two years they held the majority. Now, good-government groups and redistricting lawyers say it is too late to form the independent commission reform advocates wanted. The lines need to be in place 80 days before the legislative election primary date, even though that date has yet to be decided. A federal judge is expected to rule on the date within weeks. Despite all the hours Dilan and other members of LATFOR spent listening to legal experts and citizen groups describe

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Thomas James

There is a sneaking suspicion that the official redistricting process in New York is just a stage, and the politicians on it are merely players.

the criteria for fair lines, there is every indication redistricting will end up in the same place it has for more than half a century. “There is an increasing likelihood of

Democrats’ hope that Cuomo will veto the lines, as he has repeatedly promised. “Other than the Albany parlor game of people assuming the worst, there’s been no indication that he’s backing off of it one

tions about transparency, arguing that population growth in the state demanded the 63rd seat. He did not explain why Republicans waited two years into the process to

“i believe that the hearings we have held are a farce and a waste of time and money.” the courts stepping in to draw a plan,” said Jeff Wice, a redistricting lawyer for the Senate Democrats. Since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1964, redistricting has grown increasingly divisive. Three different plans for lines were drawn in the years 1964–66, with elections in each of those years taking place under new districts, Wice said. Redistricting discussions in 1992 and 2002 ended in failure, with lines ultimately being decided in both cases by a special master. In both decades, the special master was Frederick Lacey, a former prosecutor and federal judge. But there are a few big differences in this year’s redistricting fight. One is

iota, and we stand shoulder to shoulder with Governor Cuomo in insisting on reform,” said state Sen. Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat. Additionally, sources claim talks between Cuomo and Senate Republicans over a potential compromise on redistricting stalled in mid-January. If Cuomo vetoes the lines drawn by LATFOR and the issue goes to a special master, it would be the first time in 30 years that the Justice Department takes up the question while being led by Democratic appointees—which could result in lines less favorable to Senate Republicans. At the LATFOR meeting, Republican co-chair Sen. Mike Nozzolio dodged ques-

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release the plan, and he ignored a question about whether they would release documents to prove their version of why it was necessary. A week later, in the Senate lobby, Nozzolio stopped one of the reporters who had asked the questions and apologized for not being forthcoming. “It’s been bothering me all week that I didn’t answer your question,” he said. Senate Republicans did not know a new Senate seat would be necessary until a prisoner count was completed, a process that had happened just weeks earlier, Nozzolio said—and it was not possible to release any backup documents. And then he exited, stage left. lnahmias@cityandstateny.com

CITY&STATE


If the governor gets his way, gamblers won’t have to go to the New York–New York casino in Las Vegas to get the experience of gambling in New York City.

ANTE UP

Senecas, Genting top gambling campaign contributions to lawmakers By JON LENTZ

A

s the battle over casino expansion heats up in New York, gambling interests are ratcheting up their spending on lobbyists—and their campaign contributions. Over the last year and a half, two of the biggest spenders on the gambling front—the Seneca Nation of Indians and Genting New York—have dramatically boosted their efforts to influence the state’s lawmakers. And opponents of gambling said the casinos’ political dollars will make it hard for lawmakers to hear their side of the story. “We can’t begin to spend money like they are,” said Joel Rose, chairman of the Coalition Against Gambling in New York, which includes secular groups that fear gambling’s economic impact and religious groups that oppose it on moral grounds. “We will be talking to legislators and we will get our message out. Not as repeatedly as they will—they’re trying to buy the state.” The Seneca Nation of Indians, which operates three full-fledged casinos, gave $142,500 in campaign contributions in the last half of 2011, more than any other gambling-related entity. Of course, the Senecas have other

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issues to sort out with the state, such as New York’s collection of taxes on cigarettes sold on their lands. But one of their biggest issues has to

will take their profits outside the state, will outspend us at least 10:1 on lobbying and political donations. We will support those allies in state government who support the

“We will be talking to legislators and we will get our message out. Not as repeatedly as they will— they’re trying to buy the state.” do with the gaming compact with the state that grants them exclusive rights to operate casinos in western New York: They fear Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature will expand gaming within that zone. That concern is one likely reason behind the dramatic boost in their campaign contributions. In the second half of 2010, including the November elections, the Senecas gave nearly $120,000. But in the same period a year before, in 2009, they gave only $10,400. “The Seneca Nation will continue to be aggressive but sensible in its efforts on all fronts to educate legislators and other state leaders about their responsibilities as they craft a constitutional amendment on gaming,” said Seneca President Robert Odawi Porter, who supports legalization as long as there is no expansion in the Senecas’ exclusivity zone. “We know that private gambling interests from Asia, that

Nation and our 6,000 employees.” Genting New York, the unit of the Malaysian company Genting Berhad that operates the recently opened Resorts World New York racino at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, was the nextlargest gambling-oriented donor in the second half of 2011, with nearly $100,000 in contributions. The company contributed $96,900 to an array of elected officials, party committees and a political action committee dedicated to expanding gaming solely at the state’s nine racetrack casinos, including Genting’s lucrative new facility at Aqueduct. Genting gave $20,000 to the state Senate Republican Campaign Committee and $10,000 each to the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, the state Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

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Gregory Reyes

In the same period, more than $66,000 in campaign contributions came from Tioga Downs, a racetrack casino not far from Binghamton in Nichols,N.Y., and its owner, Jeff Gural, and his family. Yonkers Raceway, its political action committee and its owner, Tim Rooney, contributed more than $56,000. But so far, lobbying is still where the bulk of the cash is going. Genting spent $975,000 last year on a team of lobbyists in its bid to carve out a place for itself in the state’s gambling landscape. The Senecas spent $73,557 in the first half of 2011; its second-half numbers have not been posted. “Most groups do end up spending more on lobbying than on campaign contributions,” said NYPIRG’s Bill Mahoney. “There’s no limits on that, first off. And they’ve mastered the art of running ads that have just as much of an impact in terms of influencing elected officials that lobbying works better for them in some ways.” For Genting, the spending may be paying off. This month, Cuomo announced a deal with Genting to build the country’s largest convention center next to its racetrack casino, though the governor quickly had to defend the plan against criticism that it was premature and that his negotiations lacked transparency. The deal also raised concerns that the company would have the inside track to getting exclusive rights to operate a casino in New York City. A spokesman for Genting did not respond to a request for comment. jlentz@cityandstateny.com

CITY&STATE


Green Future?

Environmental advocates look to a New York City without Bloomberg By Jon Lentz

M

ayor Michael Bloomberg, who has a reputation as one of the country’s most environmentally friendly mayors, is pressing ahead with initiatives to clean New York City’s air, use greener energy and raise the city’s lackluster recycling rate. But with fewer than two years left in office, the administration’s continued success may depend in large part on the next mayor—and some observers are fretting that the pool of candidates

and is running again in 2013. “I think the issue here is not going to be, as some have feared, that people will run against a signature issue for the mayor,” Bystryn said. “But our concern is that it won’t play a significant role in their campaigns.” She went on, “So I think it’s critical that the environmental and transit and parks communities work collaboratively together to make sure that the constituents voice their concerns about this issue to the people running.” Stringer disappointed some envi-

“no mayor is enamored with just building on or caretaking their predecessor’s agenda. they want to put their own stamp, so the question is more importantly for us: What is the next mayor going to do to make the environment their priority?” to replace him will distance themselves from his green-friendly policies. “No mayor is enamored with just building on or caretaking their predecessor’s agenda,” said Eddie Bautista, the executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance and a former staffer in the Bloomberg administration. “They want to put their own stamp, so the question is more importantly for us: What is the next mayor going to do to make the environment their priority?” Unlike Bloomberg when he was first elected, the leading mayoral candidates already have records on which they can be judged, environmentalists noted, and have largely taken positions that have pleased the environmental community. Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is leading early polls of the 2013 mayoral race, has the strongest record of any of the likely candidates so far, environmentalists say, largely because she has been a close ally of Bloomberg and has shepherded many of his innovative sustainability initiatives through the council. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and city Comptroller John Liu, two other likely mayoral candidates, also served on the City Council and voted for key environmental measures during their time there, giving them substantial environmental records to point to. The New York League of Conservation Voters has held events with Quinn, de Blasio and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. NYLCV President Marcia Bystryn said all three candidates articulated “sophisticated sustainability agendas—without coaxing.” The organization is also planning to hold an event with Bill Thompson, who lost a close race to Bloomberg in 2009

CITY&STATE

ronmentalists with his opposition to a Manhattan waterfront station to transfer garbage from trucks to barges. The Upper East Side site is part of an overhaul of the city’s waste-management system geared toward relying less on trucks and spreading the removal of the city’s waste more fairly across the boroughs. But Stringer has been outspoken in favor of other environmentally friendly policies such as improved transit, said the Environmental Justice Alliance’s Bautista. “Some of his positions, such as opposing the East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station, were really problematic and shortsighted, but what do you expect from a Manhattan borough president?” Bautista said. “Beyond that, I think the current crop of mayoral candidates understand and have had some history in voting on these issues.” Of course, a candidate’s background can tell only so much. When Bloomberg first ran for mayor in 2001, for example, environmentalists supported his Democratic opponent, Mark Green, who had a strong environmental record. After winning election, Bloomberg scaled back the city’s recycling program in his first year in office. But he later went on to implement PlaNYC, a wide-reaching environmental agenda that set a multitude of goals, with the backing of the business and real estate communities, in an effort to make New York City a more sustainable place to live as its population continues to grow. “That was a unique moment in time, with nobody knowing anything about Bloomberg,” Bystryn said of the mayor’s first run for office. “That rarely happens here in the city. 2013 will be similar to most elections for mayor in the city—

A Green Slate? A look at each likely mayoral candidate’s environmental highlights Council Speaker Christine Quinn • Guided through the Council the Climate Protection Act, mandating a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2030 • Shepherded legislation through the Council for the first municipal brownfield cleanup program • Serves on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Sustainability Advisory Board

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio • Wrote and passed New York City’s pioneering E-waste law, creating a recycling program for electronic waste like computers and old TVs • Sponsored and passed a bill boosting recycling at public and private schools in New York City • Launched campaign and introduced legislation to ban government use of Styrofoam

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer • Criticized hydrofracking, both statewide and in the New York City watershed • Called for investment in renewable energy and clean tech jobs and a stricter phaseout of dirty-heating-oil boilers • Launched Go Green East Harlem and other communityoriented urban greening initiatives

City Comptroller John Liu • Calls on companies in the city’s investment portfolio to adopt greener policies for their supply chains and other business practices to combat climate change • As councilman, sponsored a law to reduce school-bus emissions and legislation that banned cars idling near city schools • Attended a climate-change forum in China with Bloomberg

Former City Comptroller Bill Thompson • Called on companies in the city’s investment portfolio to combat climate change • Spoke out against hydrofracking during his 2009 campaign for mayor • Called on Bloomberg to reinstate a full recycling program across the city in 2003

you’re going to know who the candidates are and you’re going to know about them.” There are other challenges Bloomberg’s successor may face in keeping New York City at the forefront on promoting cleaner energy, reducing pollution and other green policies. With the economy still hobbling along, a new mayor could cut back on environmental programs or scale back regulations. Bloomberg’s self-funded runs for office also gave him more leeway in hiring independent, well-qualified staff, while his successor may have to give key positions to political allies who are less independent, which could compromise environmental goals.

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But leaders of environmental groups said they’ll be doing all they can to pressure the next mayor to take up the cause, even if it means scrapping PlaNYC and adopting something new. After all, they noted, Bloomberg didn’t get the city to where it is right now on his own. “I think people have somehow sold themselves a little short,” Bautista said. “The PlaNYC and the mayor’s environmental agenda speaks as much to the mayor’s ability to be a visionary mayor as it does to our community’s ability to be able to talk to policymakers in government in a way they can understand, and appreciate the policy benefits, as well as the economic benefits, that these policies engender.” jlentz@cityandstateny.com JANUARY 23, 2012

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They may not like each other, but they need each other to take on education. By ANDREW J. HAWKINS

Andrew Schwartz

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JANUARY 23, 2012

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NYC Mayor’s Office

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classroom of Bronx high school students was discussing John Steinbeck’s literary classic Of Mice and Men last week when a grayhaired, dark-suited visitor chimed in with the perspective of an extra 50 years. “One of the messages there is that things will work out,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said as students gawked. “That there’s still problems around, not everybody’s perfect, we still have the same battles to fight, we’re better today then we were then. “But we still have a long ways to go.” In short: You win some, you lose some. A week earlier, in his State of the City speech, the mayor had made similar comments about his decade-long effort to overhaul the city’s labyrinthine school system. He’s had some successes and some failures, but in the long run, graduation rates and student achievement are up across the city, he said. Bloomberg is proud of his education record, even if recent polling shows the majority of New Yorkers don’t think the schools are any better under his leadership. Ten years into his term, he said the reforms were halfway there. Yet the mayor wasn’t the only one promising to shake up education in New York. In his State of the State address a week earlier—without a mention of the mayor’s quest in the state’s largest school system—Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his next great feat of strength would be fixing the schools. New York is first in the nation in education spending and only 38th in achievement, the governor said—although a few teacher-bloggers took issue with that statistic, noting a recent American Legislative Exchange Council report that showed New York fifth in the country in student performance. Cuomo vowed to create a commission to examine accountability and achievement in the school system, and gave school districts and union officials a year to negotiate a new teacher evaluation system or have one forced upon them. Bloomberg, who got control of New York City’s schools in 2003, has already done all that—and has the scars to show for it. The evaluation system he fought hard for in 2010 has ground to a stalemate. The head of the teachers’ union said Bloomberg is living in a fantasy world; Bloomberg used an expletive to the New York Post’s editorial board to describe the union’s stand on evaluations. Against that backdrop, Cuomo brings new life—and a cleaner slate—to the effort. “It was great to hear Governor Cuomo address teacher evaluations in his state budget presentation,” the mayor said in the Bronx. “The governor has made it clear that he is determined to be a champion for our students, that he will not allow the teachers’ union to block teacher evaluation systems across the state.” Aides to both men recognize that their bosses’ new alignment on education could be fruitful—even as the two remain frosty

Bloomberg touted his education initiatives during a visit to the Urban Assembly School for Applied Math and Science in the Bronx.

in person and at odds over other policy issues. Both say they want to reform an unaccountable system and plow through the bureaucracy that stands in their way. And both want better outcomes for more students, for less money. “I commend Mayor Bloomberg for outlining a positive vision for New York City’s future and the most important part of building that future, our students,” Cuomo said in a statement after the mayor’s State of the City address. “The mayor and I agree that this starts with implementing a teacher evaluation system that holds teachers accountable for their performance. I look forward to working together.” Education insiders hope the parallel efforts of the mayor and governor will bring real progress—but scoff at the idea that they could coordinate. “They’re not working together at all,” said one insider. “It’s not working. They’re just incapable of cooperating with each other.” Working independently, though, Cuomo and Bloomberg may bring a goodcop, bad-cop dynamic to their common purpose of reforming schools: Cuomo is the dealmaker who spent his first year bridging divides, while Bloomberg is entrenched on one side of the debate. “It’s helpful to the governor to have the mayor out there on the education front, because it lets him be the lightning rod,” said someone who works with both men. “The teachers, they’re in a two-front war.”

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t is not about the adults, it’s about the children,” Cuomo said in his Martin Luther King Day speech. “The children come first, the students’ rights and the students’ ability come first, and that’s what we’re going to make happen in the state of New York.” Still, Cuomo has not been as forceful a critic of teachers’ unions as Bloomberg. He broadly decries the educational bureaucracy, lumping teachers in with superintendents, principals and even bus drivers, who spend millions lobbying state government while leaving students out in the cold. He has not, though, weighed in on Bloomberg’s more controversial policies, like closing failing schools and imposing new charter schools in existing public school buildings. This hasn’t escaped the unions’ notice. United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, who represents the city’s 200,000-strong teaching workforce, says the 2002 law granting Bloomberg control over the education system should be reexamined, and possibly revoked. But he couldn’t find much to criticize in Cuomo’s approach. “What the governor has said at this point is he wants to get all different stakeholders together, including educational experts, to look at educational issues,” Mulgrew said. “So they would never come up and say, ‘Let’s do individual merit pay,’ because they know that hurts kids.” He said, “Over here, you have the

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mayor, who says, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ and he proposes it’s a great thing, when any researcher will tell you it doesn’t work. I think we need real facts and research, not rhetoric.” And while Mulgrew doesn’t speak for every New York teacher—one teacher said, “I trust Mulgrew about 1 percent more than I trust Bloomberg, which is to say I trust Mulgrew 1 percent”—the union chief was articulating a common refrain among educators and legislators: that the intervention of the fresh-faced and uncannily effective Cuomo could help offset years of arm-twisting and bullying by the Bloomberg administration. Cuomo is said to have a far closer relationship with Mulgrew than with Richard Iannuzzi, president of the statewide New York State United Teachers. The UFT is the largest component of NYSUT, giving Cuomo the ability to pressure the statewide union from inside and out. “Cuomo’s always calling Iannuzzi and putting the fear of Cuomo into him,” as one insider put it. Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, a Queens Democrat who chairs the Education Committee, said that after years of fighting and arguing, she and her colleagues are looking forward to some consensus on education policy in the state. “It can be very frustrating,” she said. “But I actually think the governor taking on a leadership role in a way that other governors never did, I think in the long JANUARY 23, 2012

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run may help alleviate some of the mayor’s frustrations.” One prominent education figure predicted trouble ahead for Cuomo as he continues down this path, however, especially if it means wading into disputes between local school districts and their unions. “It’s early in the governor’s tenure,” the source said. “He’s had a lot of these commissions. Right? He had a mandaterelief commission. Do we have any mandate relief? When the basic principle [is] that every locality has to collectivebargain, and you have a governor that doesn’t want to instigate a war against collective bargaining, you’re only going so far.”

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ne fundamental difference stands between how Bloomberg and Cuomo have tackled education: The mayor demanded direct control of the city’s schools, saying it was the only way to bring change. Cuomo has not done the same for the state. NYSUT’s Iannuzzi, however, said the state Education Department and the Board of Regents, the two agencies that control education policy in New York, are so out of touch that Cuomo should consider some form of gubernatorial control. NYSUT is currently suing the Board of Regents over the implementation of the 2010 law that establishes a new teacher evaluation system. Cuomo has said the lawsuit must be dropped before local school districts can receive their state aid. But despite his tough talk, Iannuzzi said he would prefer an education department run by Cuomo to the current system, where Assembly Democrats appoint the regents, who in turn appoint the education commissioner. “While I’ve never been a supporter of any governor controlling education in New York State,” Iannuzzi said, “I have to say maybe it’s time to revisit whether there’s a real need for the Board of Regents.” Some Albany insiders speculate Cuomo could be seeking more power over education policy, pointing to the as-yet-unnamed committee that will examine education statewide. But Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver won’t easily give up his conference’s responsibility in choosing the regents. Cuomo holds heavy sway over education through the budget. But the possibility of acquiring more power could hold promise for Cuomo, a renowned micromanager who likes playing it close to the vest. “There’s a real good argument for gubernatorial control of state education policy,” said one Albany insider not in Cuomo’s circle. “Just like there’s a real good argument for mayoral control of city education policy.” But Bloomberg wouldn’t say whether he thinks Cuomo should ape his style and grab full control of education in New York State.

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JANUARY 23, 2012

The Calm After The Storm Cuomo and Bloomberg, together again By Adam Lisberg

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uddenly, the two most powerful people in the state are getting along again. After months of skirmishes, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg are aligned on fixing schools, challenging the teachers’ unions, scaling back pension benefits and reforming the juvenile justice system. Their fights over firing teachers and overhauling city taxis are over. Their staffs are talking more. Their public statements on each other’s recent speeches are full of praise. People in each camp, as well as people who shuttle between them, say they are both trumpeting the goals they share. “They really recognize that they have a lot of common interests,” said one of those in the middle who, like everyone interviewed for this story, refused to be identified. “And substantively, it’s a common agenda. So I think substance triumphed over personality.” From the second floor of the Capitol, Bloomberg is seen as an imperious billionaire who is happiest ordering people around. From City Hall, Cuomo is seen as an insular bully who is happiest showing people who’s boss. From the offices of

“Typically, states delegate down to the local level,” the mayor said. “He understands the politics of Albany. He’s the governor, and I support him. I think that we’ve shown in New York City phenomenal progress. But I don’t think anyone seriously wants to change the system.”

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t the end of this rainbow of battles sits a pot of gold: over $1 billion sitting on the table, just waiting to be spent on salaries and data systems and test prep and all the things the governor derides as the “business of education.” And there it will sit until a teacher evaluation system is put in place. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says that without a teacher evaluation system, New York could lose $700 million in federal Race to the Top money. On top of that, Cuomo says he will withhold a promised 4 percent increase in state education spending to school districts, or around $800 million, if the union and the state Education Department fail to reach a deal on the evaluations. Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch says without an adequate evaluation system, all the reforms the governor wants are dead in the water. “You cannot improve educational outcomes without focusing on the quality

people in the middle, both men are seen as sensitive creatures whose mercurial personalities have far too much bearing on what gets done in the city and state. But they are working together again. Relations deteriorated through last year, as Bloomberg annoyed the governor by trying to ram through Albany changes to the last-in, first-out rule for firing teachers. Cuomo then picked up another bill he had previously shown little interest in—one that would expand outer-borough taxi service in New York City—and toyed with it for months, infuriating Bloomberg, before finally signing it. January seemed to start the same way, with Cuomo poking a finger in Bloomberg’s eye. The governor’s staff gave the mayor’s staff less than an hour’s warning about big New York City initiatives in his State of the State address—eliminating fingerprinting for food-stamp applicants, tearing down the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan and building a casino and convention center in Queens. “Their staffs reflect the big guys,” said someone aligned with Cuomo, listing members of the governor’s inner circle: “It’s not conceivable that Larry Schwartz, Howard Glaser and Josh Vlasto all go off on the mayor on their own, and the same in the mayor’s camp.” Yet under counsel from his staff, of teaching,” Tisch said. “That’s the beginning, middle and end of that story.” Tisch, a member of one of the state’s wealthiest families and a sometime ally of Bloomberg’s who is said to harbor political ambitions of her own, says Cuomo is right to get involved in the thorny issue of education reform—but will need to broaden his scope if he really wants to be effective. “Pick your battles,” she said. “I would like to pick a battle over evaluations, I would like to pick a battle over the data system, I would like to pick a battle [over] the implementation of common core standards, and I sure as heck would like to pick a battle [over] improving the quality of testing. If [Cuomo] can take on those four things, it will really lay the foundation for improving the system.” Many observers say Cuomo is likely to be more successful in his efforts to wring results out of the education system than the mayor has been over the last decade, thanks to his enormous political capital and sky-high approval ratings. But that’s not to suggest they don’t have the same goal: to siphon power away from the teachers’ union and consolidate more control in their own offices. “They’re saying the same thing,” said Steve Sanders, a lobbyist and former chair of the Assembly Education Committee. “I think the governor is using softer, more

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Bloomberg refused to take Cuomo’s bait and lash out, either in public appearances or in private conversations with the governor. “The beauty of the mayor is that you have ups and downs in every relationship, and he’s able to stay focused on his interests, not the personalities,” said someone who works with both men. Cuomo, meanwhile, heard from influential voices in the state that there was too much at stake for the fighting to continue—and that a change in tone would pay huge rewards. “The mayor, in some ways, allows himself to be subjected to his handlers. The governor doesn’t,” said one of those voices. “But it’s obvious that they have the same agenda.” Soon after, phones started ringing in City Hall again. Cuomo aides were calling to talk about reforming schools, pensions and juvenile justice—before putting them in his proposed budget. “Everything we’ve asked for is in the budget,” said one Bloomberg official. “I don’t get it.” City Hall remains cautious but hopeful. The second floor of the Capitol seems equally comfortable with Bloomberg and at war with him. Nobody knows how long it will last. “You’ll never be Andrew’s friend,” said someone who works with the governor and admires him. “So you have to find out your areas of agreement.” alisberg@cityandstateny.com generalized language. The mayor, on the other hand, has had ten years of conflict with the UFT, and he’s not of the mind to mince words. He’s in his last term, and I think from his point of view, he’s had it.” Cuomo has shown no reluctance to encroach on Bloomberg’s turf, whether by renegotiating a New York City taxi bill or planning the nation’s largest convention center in Queens. Now he is using his vise grip on state education aid to get Bloomberg and the teachers’ union back to the negotiating table—with all the pitfalls that come with it. “It’s a morass; it’s complicated,” Sanders said. “It’s not really a place for a governor to be.” The good-cop, bad-cop dynamic gives Cuomo more room than Bloomberg to maneuver. Insiders speculate he could even use his friendly relationship with Mulgrew to get what he wants from NYSUT, then sit on his hands when Bloomberg and Mulgrew come to blows. No one knows how long Cuomo and Bloomberg will remain allies—not even within the Capitol and City Hall. Education reformers hope to make the most of it while they can, because the good-cop, bad-cop dynamic may go only so far. It’s up to Cuomo whether he wants to stay a good cop as well—or whether to let the bad cop walk a beat on his own. ahawkins@cityandstateny.com

CITY&STATE


transmission: impossiBLe? Cuomo’s push for a transmission superhighway faces challenges By Jon Lentz

CITY&STATE

stars preliminary transmission paths The New York State Transmission Assessment and Reliability Study, due out this spring, will identify bottlenecks in the transmission network—and who should pay for upgrades.

Paths under consideration Source: Powers Trends 2011, NYISO, April 2011

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ov. Andrew Cuomo’s vision of a new transmission superhighway in New York would solve what might seem like a simple challenge— connecting ample power resources upstate and in Canada with energy-hungry areas in and around New York City. “Let’s build an energy highway system that doesn’t exist now,” Cuomo said earlier this month in his State of the State speech. “We have supply of power in northern New York [and] Quebec. We have power supply in western New York. We have a tremendous need for power in downstate New York.” But if the need for energy is so great, and the overall supply in the state so plentiful, why haven’t utility companies already built or bolstered transmission lines to eliminate the bottlenecks and “connect the dots,” as Cuomo says he wants to do? One reason is the nature of the state’s energy market: Utility companies currently lack incentive to invest in eliminating or easing bottlenecks on their own transmission lines, experts say. If an upstate utility like National Grid were to upgrade its transmission network—at a significant cost to its own ratepayers—more energy would flow downstate and lower the cost of electricity for customers of downstate utilities like Con Edison. Another obstacle is staunch opposition to new transmission lines from local residents, who don’t want unsightly electrical lines towering over their homes. For example, the New York Regional Interconnect, a line proposed in 2006 across central New York, drew powerful opposition, and was eventually withdrawn. Together these challenges to upgrading or replacing the state’s worn-out energy infrastructure could imperil the $2 billion in private investment in transmission Cuomo has pledged to unleash. Even if Cuomo is eventually successful, there’s no certainty utility companies will follow through quickly— and years of delay could make it harder for the governor to shut down the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which he has pledged to do without imperiling New York’s power supply. The governor believes building new transmission lines will be one of several ways to provide the power needed if the two nuclear reactors are shut down for safety reasons. The Public Service Commission says the state has enough resources to replace Indian Point, but the energy industry has insisted it will take

HVDC 765 kV 500 kV 345 kV 230 kV * The transmission lines are categorized by kilovolts, with higher levels indicating greater capacity. The HVDC lines, or high-voltage, direct-current lines, are underwater and don’t use typical alternating current transmission.

years before it will be safe to shut down the plant. “All of this stuff sounds great, but at the end of the day, the thing that the governor has not indicated yet is who’s going to pay for this stuff,” said Gavin Donohue, president of the Independent Power Producers of New York.

Independent System Operator, or NYISO, and another by transmission operators, are expected to be completed early this year, and could provide a framework for more fairly sharing the costs and benefits of transmission projects. They are expected to identify key constraints in the transmission network, the cost

“there’s more unanswered questions than answered questions at this point.” “Think about the ratepayers in upstate New York,” Donohue continued. “You’re going to upgrade the transmission line that begins in Buffalo, and we’re going to send that power in Buffalo to New York City, [which is] going to get a lower rate as a result. Are the people in Buffalo going to pay more and get no benefit for it?” Efforts are under way to align the market incentives to make it more attractive for utility companies to upgrade their transmission lines. Two studies, one by the New York

of upgrading them and how those costs should be shared. “The hope is once that comes out, developers will take a look at it and make proposals based on what they see in that report,” said Conor Bambrick, legislative director for Assembly Energy Committee Chair Kevin Cahill. The Public Service Commission could then order utilities under its jurisdiction to partner on the projects to make the required upgrades. But what’s also unclear is whether the

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governor is as interested in connecting various regions within the state as he is in importing energy from Canada. Some think he’s banking on the Champlain Hudson Power Express, a line from Quebec to New York City proposed by Transmission Developers Incorporated and currently under review. That 1,000-megawatt line, which could be operational by 2016, is estimated to cost $2 billion, just the amount Cuomo pledged to attract from private investors. It is also planned to be underground, buried along river ways or rail lines, which could allow it to avoid some of the NIMBYism aimed at the New York Regional Interconnect. But some observers said the governor should focus on investing in New York energy resources, though he has been vague so far about his intentions. “There’s more unanswered questions than answered questions at this point,” Donohue said. jlentz@cityandstateny.com JANUARY 23, 2012

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S P OT L I G H T : H e a lt H a n d M e d i c a i d

Andrew Schwartz

The Hotel Trades Council health clinic in Harlem is an example of how some unions and businesses are providing healthcare for their employees without going broke.

COmPaNY CarE

Where affordable health insurance for employers isn’t a pipe dream

By Laura Nahmias

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he cost of insuring employees is one of the most frequent complaints of small-business owners in America. In New York, where an employer pays a monthly premium well over $1,000 for each employee’s health care, the cost is cited as an obstacle to hiring and growth, and can sink a business trying to ride out the tsunami of the current recession. But some New York businesses and unions have found ways to buck the system, lower health-care costs for workers and improve health outcomes for their employees. One union, the New York Hotel Trades Council, has developed a health-insurance system that cuts out mainstream healthinsurance companies altogether. In 1949 the Legislature enabled the Council and the Hotel Association of New York City to set up a special not-for-profit that would deliver medical care to members. It currently serves more than 29,000 employees and their families, who make defined contributions as a percentage of their wages to the health fund, which pools the funds to provide insurance. The plan requires no deductibles, and pays a group of doctors salaries to provide employees’ care. The individual rate in the Hotel Council’s plan is about $315 per month, compared with roughly $1,200 per month for some of the state’s largest insurers, including Oxford, Aetna and Healthfirst. The fund has been around long enough

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for its managers to note a measurable positive impact on employees’ health outcomes. The hotel union’s membership is “lower income, ethnically diverse, has a large proportion of immigrants and singleparent families, and has a higher rate of ambulatory-care-sensitive conditions than New York State as a whole,” said Josh Gold, a spokesman for the Hotel Council. By leaving out insurance companies, the fund eliminates a massive part of the overhead and rate calculation that drives up premiums for individuals and other small businesses, said Robert Greenspan, CEO of the fund. But the Hotel Council’s success is not easily reproducible, Greenspan said. “It’s not insurmountable, but the real issue for a plan of our size, big or small, for it to be replicated, is that there’s a fairly large initial investment,” he said. “There’s an investment in bricks and mortar that has to be overcome.” That doesn’t mean Greenspan thinks other health organizations shouldn’t be taking a similar approach to health care. While other health organizations might increase co-pays on drugs during periods of financial difficulty, the Benefit Fund charges none, on the logic that more access to care will improve patients’ longterm health, he said. “It’s kind of a different way of thinking about it, but extremely cost-effective on a common-sense basis, and the right thing to do, even if nobody’s doing that,” Greenspan said.

The strategy of circumventing insurance companies altogether is also helping the Rensselaer-Columbia-Greene Health Insurance Trust pool employees from 23 different school districts buy health insurance from BOCES, a board of cooperative educational services. The trust serves more than 18,000 people, whose buying power and agreement with Questar III BOCES has led to lower operational costs than regular insurance programs, and lower health premiums, said Howard Schaffer, a spokesman for the trust’s health program. “Nationwide, for every $1 spent on health-insurance premiums in 2005, the cost is about $1.94 today,” he said. “But to members of the trust, who benefit from the large-pool buying power it offers, premium costs are only about $1.25.” The BOCES programs are only available to school district employees, but RCG Health trust administrator Harry Hadjioannou is pushing hard for legislation at the state level that would allow similar programs for municipalities’ employees too, Schaffer said. The program’s success at lowering health costs is critical at a time when local costs for municipalities are being squeezed. The implementation of a property tax cap combined with rising school costs makes the hunt for savings at the local level ferocious, Schaffer said. Another approach is being used by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, which was part of a state pilot program in 2004

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that gave businesses subsidies so they could afford insurance for employees. The program is so popular among the more than 700 businesses in the Brooklyn chamber that the subsidies get used up in full every year, said outgoing Chamber President and CEO Carl Hum. “Consistently, we found that one of the greatest obstacles for our members in growing their business was the high cost of health insurance for their employees,” Hum said. “When you provide health insurance as a package, you tend to retain employees and attract better employees.” The chamber’s insurance plan is underwritten by GHI, but the subsidies cover about 15 percent of employers’ health costs. The response to the program, which is only available to members of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, has been overwhelmingly positive, Hum said. Members receive all the same benefits as any other beneficiary of a GHI plan, but are able to receive some specialized services, such as customer service through the Brooklyn Chamber, which connects employees with health-plan options suited to their needs. While the pilot program is too young for there to be any substantial study of whether the plan has helped improve health outcomes among members, the plan has had measurable impact on employers’ and employees’ satisfaction, according to their own testimonials, Hum said. “One: Employers are improving retention rates of employees, and two: The plan gives them the ability to draw betterquality employees,” Hum said. “The impact on Brooklyn business has just been—well, it’s been tremendous.” lnahmias@cityandstateny.com

CITY&STATE


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S P OT L I G H T : H e a lt H a n d M e d i c a i d services to their full capacity, utilizing their full array of talents and knowledge. That means looking at scope and practice and a number of recommendations on scope and practice, so that we can get

other areas. That does require workforce changes, changes in what people do; we’ll need more people in certain areas and, hopefully, fewer people in other areas, but it does require restructuring.

Our taxpayers have been very generous in the sense they’ve been willing to finance ever-growing costs, but we just don’t spend the money where we need to.

Q: What are some of the new areas in which you expect the field to expand? JH: Health homes is an example. It’s a potentially very transformative thing, particularly down in New York City; what we’re paying for in health homes [has] got to pay for the glue that keeps various disparate providers sharing information among each other, working together managing care for the most complex patients that we have in Medicaid. Generally speaking, they’re some of the most complex patients in the poorest communities that we have in New York, like the Bronx. The individuals that do that care management—we don’t have enough of those people today. And the ones we do have are not as fully employed as we need them to be today. So that means we need more care managers, we need more nurse practitioners, nurse coordinators, we would probably—as we move people out of nursing homes, we’ll need more home care workers, particularly upstate, where we don’t have as much home care. Redesign will lead to changes in who’s doing what and what kinds of services and people we need to provide those services in the future.

we’re adding to our efforts around further reforms in the governor’s proposed budget. It includes 25 additional MRT reforms. And then, last is beginning the process of thinking about a Medicaid waiver.

Obviously, we need to make a case of flexibility if we want to make a case to the federal government that we would like to reinvest some of those savings that we’ve made for the federal government. So you add up those three things and I would say that’s really the core of what 2012 will be all about. Enough to fill a whole year.

JASON HELGERSON New York State Medicaid Director

Q: What are your top policy priorities for the legislative session? JH: For the Medicaid Redesign Team, it’s really going to be a year of implementation. There are some major implementation challenges ahead of us; the move to care management, moving long-term care services out of fee-for-service and into managed care—those are huge implementation challenges, and I say, first and foremost, the theme for 2012 will be implementation. Secondly, this budget process—we’ve got some additional Phase II MRT initiatives that we’re hoping to get in place;

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JANUARY 23, 2012

Q: What kinds of changes do you anticipate in the health care workforce this year? JH: I think that one of the key challenges we face is that we have a demographic trend that implies that people are getting older. As they age, they need more health care; in some key areas [we] don’t have enough workforce to meet our current needs, let alone what our needs are going to be in the future. To accomplish that, we need a couple of things. One: We need to get more people into these sectors, but we need to also make sure that we’re utilizing people to the maximum degree we can. [An] example would be making sure that people are functioning and providing

more midlevel providers to do more, but I think the bottom line is that in order for us to really have cost-effective health care for all New Yorkers, we need to make sure we are utilizing every worker to the maximum effect that we can, and then we need to recruit new people to the field. Q: Can you hold the line on spending and still grow jobs in health care in New York? JH: Yes, I think it’s actually an advantage we have. Compare us to California, for example: They have twice as many people in their Medicaid program, yet they spend $10 billion less. So that’s a challenge, but it’s also [an] opportunity, in the sense that we don’t spend money very effectively. Our taxpayers have been very generous in the sense they’ve been willing to finance ever-growing costs, but we just don’t spend the money where we need to. We have too many people in hospitals—we rank 49th in the country in inappropriate hospital use—so we really need to move services out [of] certain sectors and into

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breastfeeding is a cost-effective public health strategy to reduce infant illness and promote the health of children in many ways. We would like to see more hospitals substantially support women’s choice to breastfeed, reduce their reliance on formula and attain this certification.

THOMAS FARLEY New York City Health Commissioner

Q: What are the policy agenda items you most want to happen this year? TF: We have made a lot of strides this past year—fewer New Yorkers are dying from HIV-related illness, smoking reached an all-time low of 14 percent and we’ve

Q: What is the way forward for health care to remain a leading job creator in New York, as methods of health care delivery change? TF: The degree of change outlined by health care reform is unprecedented, so it’s difficult to predict exactly how it will unfold in New York State. However, specific Affordable Care Act funding provisions speak to growth opportunities for some areas of the health care workforce such as community health center staff, including primary care practitioners, care coordinators, medical educators, electronic health-record implementation and support staff. Given a larger number of insured New Yorkers and a continuing shift toward an older population, the opportunities and growth should persist. To help meet the shifting needs of health

The degree of change outlined by health care reform is unprecedented, so it’s difficult to predict exactly how it will unfold in New York State. recently seen one of the first declines in childhood obesity rates. However, we still have to narrow the disparities in health outcomes among New Yorkers with lower incomes and certain racial and ethnic groups. Smoking remains the city’s biggest killer. Cigarette advertising continues to bombard the airwaves and store counters, so we plan to continue our effort’s message with antitobacco public education campaigns. Obesity continues to be an epidemic in our city. We are working with a multiagency task force to build on our success to date to generate a slate of innovative approaches to combat obesity, including increasing access to healthy food options, reducing consumption of products driving obesity such as sugary drinks and increasing opportunities for physical activity. Opioid pain medication abuse has become a major health problem in New York City. We’ve created a multiagency NYC Task Force on the Prevention of Opioid Misuse and Diversion to tackle this growing problem. We’ll help prevent painkillers from ending up in the wrong hands or in dangerous quantities. Excessive drinking is responsible for approximately 1,500 deaths in the city each year. We’re looking to enhance the enforcement of laws that prohibit sales of alcohol to minors. The Health Department is also working to promote breastfeeding in New York City hospitals. Increasing the rate of

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I want to pass the Reproductive Health Act in the Assembly and, hopefully, the Senate. I am pursuing legalizing the medical use of marijuana. If Governor Cuomo’s reexamination of the issue brings him to support it, we can get this done and benefit thousands of people who suffer unnecessarily. And last, I am revising and will be reintroducing my single-payer bill and working to build support for it.

RICHARD GOTTFRIED Assembly Health Committee Chairman

Q: What are your top policy priorities for the legislative session? RG: My top priorities are as follows: Getting a strong health benefit exchange law enacted. There should be no conflicts of interest on its board, and it should have the power to set standards for what products are sold on its website. Another is expanding and strengthening the state law authorizing accountable care organizations (ACOs), enacted in 2011, to allow more than seven ACOs to be certified and add more protections for consumers and providers.

Q: What kinds of changes do you anticipate in the health care workforce this year? RG: I expect health care employment will continue to grow, especially in care coordination, home health care, community health workers, and primary care professionals. Unfortunately, in one critical area—staffing of the state Health Department—we will continue to have a serious and growing shortage. We have superb people at DOH, but nowhere near enough of them. That undermines efforts to promote innovation, quality improvement and cost containment. Q: How do you think the state’s health care delivery systems will change over the coming year? RG: I expect to see continued growth of integrated delivery systems, care coordination, shifting resources to primary and preventive care and movement away from fee-for-service and towards capitation and salaried professionals.

care employers, the city’s Workforce1 Healthcare Career Center serves to connect employers to a pipeline of qualified candidates and also train and place New Yorkers in available health care jobs. Q: What general changes do you think we can expect to see in the city’s health delivery system over the remaining years of the mayor’s administration? TF: As provisions of the Affordable Care Act are implemented over the coming years, improving preventive care and access to a primary care physician will be a central focus. People with little or no access to primary care often receive health care once their condition has worsened, lowering their chances of full recovery and increasing the cost burden. We’ll continue to track health care access and use our electronic health records to help doctors improve health outcomes. By focusing on key preventive care, we hope to increase the number of New Yorkers with their blood pressure and cholesterol under control, to expand smoking-cessation support and to reduce the prevalence of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Another important focus is on decreasing fragmentation in the care system for people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders and promoting integration with the physical health care system.

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S P OT L I G H T : H e a lt H a n d M e d i c a i d

CatCh-22

Can New York grow health jobs without exacerbating its health budget crisis? By Laura Nahmias

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orget convention centers, gambling halls and nanotechnology. For decades, and probably for at least a decade to come, the fastest growing sector of New York State’s economy has been and will be health care. But health experts say the next decade won’t look like the ones that came before in health-care job growth. The demand for primary-care services and new major government initiatives like health reform will create new kinds of health jobs, experts say—even as governments try to scale back funding on massive social-service programs like Medicaid, which swallows one-third of New York State spending. “Let’s look backwards for the moment,” said Greater New York Hospital Association President Ken Raske. “Health care has been one of the few bright spots in the national and New York economies, and the most recent set of reports shows that job growth has continued notwithstanding the national recession.” He said, “Both the executive branch

in Albany and executive branch in Washington should view that as a positive, stabilizing element of the overall economy, because we do.” But as New York prepares to implement federal health reforms, it can look toward Massachusetts’ experience with universal health care for some idea of what the changing workforce might look like, said Ben Geyerhahn, a consultant at Hudson TG who specializes in health care. “I don’t think anybody really knows for sure what will happen, but Massachusetts saw a total reconfiguration of their workforce,” said Geyerhahn. “I don’t think it was anything less simple than that.” Over the next decade, as more and more New Yorkers are enrolled in Medicaid and private or employersponsored insurance as part of the federal health reforms, the demand for primary-care doctors is expected to increase. So will the demand for computer specialists who can write electronic health-records programs and digitize the state’s health records. And as the state prepares to transition

patients into managed-care programs, the demand for a new set of health-care providers—those who coordinate a patient’s different kinds of care, whether psychiatric, physical or even housingrelated—will arise, said Karen Heller, GNYHA’s executive vice president of health, economics and finance. “The whole industry is grappling with the idea of what [managed care providers’] skill set would be,” Heller said. “There is a need for a function that is being emphasized now that has not had emphasis in the past—a whole idea of when people need a lot of health-care services, there has to be someone there managing it on their behalf.” Raske said new jobs for those managed-care coordinators could be in the thousands over the next several years. That will form a marked contrast to the past two decades, when the number of jobs in health care grew by more than 30,000, according to a study by the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the University of Albany. The growth came mostly from home-health-care, nursing and palliative care. Meanwhile, other sectors of the state’s economy, like manufacturing, have suffered. Recent Obama administration reports have showed health spending slowing down throughout the country, and New York has been able to rein in spending on Medicaid because of a self-imposed

global cap put into place last year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Team. Some of the downsizing was less expected, though, as more than 3,000 jobs fell victim to hospital closures in New York City. The governor’s task force has said the state needs to move to a new model of health care that focuses less on big-box hospitals and more on ambulatory care and outpatient services, a move that hospitals will no doubt fight as they struggle to preserve their bottom lines. Over the next eight years the state anticipates only 3 percent growth in hospital jobs, according to the state’s Department of Labor. As Health Systems Redesign: Brooklyn Work Group Chair Stephen Berger said recently at a forum on the borough’s hospitals, “The system we have created no longer works.” To prevent job losses, the hospital system will have to shift, with workers providing new and different kinds of services, as the state faces a “deinstitutionalization of health care,” Raske said. “We’re going to have to take a much more holistic view of the health-care delivery system than ever before, and our members understand that health-care delivery is before and after the hospitalization,” he said. lnahmias@cityandstateny.com

THANK YOU New York City and State officials, for your continued support of NYU Langone Medical Center and of the missions of academic medical centers in patient care, research and education

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HOW WILL I SURVIVE IF I LOSE MY HOME CARE PROVIDER?

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he State’s upcoming transition to mandatory managed long-term care threatens to undermine quality care for tens of thousands of elderly and homebound New Yorkers. On April 1, managed long-term care companies will no longer be required to pay New York City’s 40,000 home care workers a living wage. Unless Albany acts, these caregivers will face 25% wage reductions and the loss of health benefits. Home care workers provide the independence, dignity and vital care that so many New Yorkers rely on. Managed long-term care companies must be required to protect quality healthcare by paying these caregivers a living wage and benefits.

Tell Albany: Managed long-term care companies must maintain current quality standards.


S P OT L I G H T : H E A LT H A N D M E D I C A I D THE ISSUES ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT In Cuomo’s second year in office, he has made job creation a focus. One of the fastest-growing sectors of the state’s economy is health care, with massive need projected in areas such as nursing and home-health-care. Additional growth is projected as the state undertakes the effort to digitize health records, an effort doctors say will also improve health outcomes. But the state has also begun to issue competitive economic development grants for the creation of health and biotechnology industries in the western, northern and capital regions of New York. The state plans to monitor the grant recipients to ensure job growth.

HEALTH DELIVERY TRANSITIONS Following the recommendations the Medicaid Redesign Team made last spring, the state has begun implementing major initiatives to change the way the state delivers health care, including rolling patients from mental-health and long-termcare populations into a system of managed care. Additionally, a special task force is working to consolidate Brooklyn hospitals, giving the state oversight to replace management and also enabling private companies to invest in hospitals. Each of these changes is highly controversial, with vocal supporters and detractors.

FEDERAL HEALTH REFORM While Cuomo gave nary a mention of President Barack Obama’s federal healthreform law in his State of the State address, health advocates are anxiously awaiting the passage of a bill to set up a key piece of that law in New York— health-insurance exchanges where individuals and small businesses will be able to comparison-shop for insurance. A U.S. Supreme Court hearing on the law known as “Obamacare” is scheduled to begin in March, but more than $27 million has already been doled out in New York to implement the exchange. Other parts of the federal law are already taking effect, including a provision that withholds reimbursements from hospitals that have to readmit patients because of their own errors. Look for federal health reform to serve as a wedge issue between Republicans and Democrats in a presidential election year, and for urban and poorer hospitals’ financial distress to increase under the strain of reimbursement cuts and mandated changes from the federal law. Andrew Schwartz

—Laura Nahmias lnahmias@cityandstateny.com

St. Vincent’s Hospital closed in 2010.

KEY PLAYERS

2008–18 JOBS INCREASE

EXECUTIVES AND HEALTH MANAGEMENT

Source: NYS Department of Labor

Accommodation and Food Services

5%

–20%

Information

–15%

Financial Activities

–5%

Wholesale Trade Mining Utilities Construction

0%

Agriculture Transportation Government

Manufacturing

–25% 120,000

98,450

100,000 80,000

State and city government respect the expertise of hospital and healthmanagement CEOs who combine business management and medical knowledge and serve on advisory boards statewide. Among the most influential are Pamela Brier, CEO of Maimonides Medical Center; Steve Berger, chairman for the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century; Michael Dowling, president and CEO of North Shore–Long Island Jewish Health System; Montefiore Hospital President Steven M. Safyer; Continuum Health Partners President Stan Brezenoff and Metropolitan Jewish Health System President Eli Feldman. JANUARY 23, 2012

Arts, Entertainment and Recreation

10%

–10%

Unions have traditionally played a huge role in the state’s health-care process, with coffers large enough to demand some level of subservience from governors who threaten budget cuts. The most powerful is 1199 SEIU, whose president is George Gresham and political director is Kevin Finnegan. Both Gresham and former SEIU Chair Dennis Rivera serve on Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Team. The other important players include the state’s hospital and health-care associations. The most powerful of these are the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA), headed by Ken Raske, and the Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS), headed by Dan Sisto. Other important association heads include Elizabeth Swain, CEO of the Community Health Care Association of New York State, and New York State Nurses Association CEO Tina Gerardi.

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15%

Health Care

Self-Employed Retail Trade

UNIONS AND ASSOCIATIONS

20%

Other Services

In his first year in office, Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed three health officials with broad authority to implement his sweeping health-policy vision: Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah, Medicaid Director Jason Helgerson and Deputy Secretary for Health Jim Introne. Cuomo invested Shah with unilateral authority to make cuts where organizations fail, and Helgerson has been charged with coalition-building for cost-cutting ideas in the state’s Medicaid program. Introne serves as a vocal defender of Cuomo’s policies. Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried and Ranking Senate Health Committee member Tom Duane are both advocates for liberal health policy, while Senate Health Committee Chair Kemp Hannon advocates changes in federal reimbursement methodologies. Other important figures include new Medicaid Inspector General James Cox, Department of Financial Services Superintendent Ben Lawsky, Assembly Insurance Committee Chair Joseph Morelle and Senate Insurance Committee Chair Jim Seward.

Education Professional Services

GOVERNMENT

72,050

60,000

51,750

40,000 20,000 0

www.cityandstateny.com

Increase

9,800

12,170

Health and personal-care stores

Hospitals

Nursing and residential care facilities

Social assistance

Ambulatory and health-care services

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IT’S ALL IN

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tay plugged into New York politics all day long with The Notebook, the new political blog from City & State. Led by political writer Chris Bragg with contributions from the entire City & State staff, The Notebook is City & State’s new online home for breaking news and sharp analysis of the shifting sands of campaigns and elections in New York.

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PERSPECTIVES

CUOMO’S INDIAN PROBLEM BY MICHAEL BENJAMIN

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nations receive federal grants, including stimulus funding, but not regional council grants. Why? Tracy Lloyd, a lobbyist representing the Seneca Nation, says “the nations were not invited to participate in the councils”— though some detractors claim the nations would have declined

m I the only one surprised to learn that New York’s Indian nations are not represented on the state’s economic development regional councils? The state’s Indian nations are major job providers and revenue sources in western and central New York. Sen. George Maziarz, chairman of the Committee on State– any invitation. Native American Relations, Even though aides to Cuomo says he was surprised the Michael Benjamin have met with the nations, Seneca and Oneida nations did some believe they are being ignored. If this not have a seat at the table. Gov. Andrew Cuomo cannot talk about is true, the governor is making a serious encouraging economic development miscalculation. The nations are far from while ignoring this group of significant supplicants coming to Albany to see the Great White Chief with hat in hand. players in the upstate economy. The Indian nations are not your typical Indian nations own businesses that run gaming facilities, gas stations, conve- special interest. They see themselves nience stores, private-label water bottling, as stewards of the environment. All of wholesale and retail tobacco manufac- the nations want to stimulate the state’s turing, film production, and tourism and economy in ways that create and attract new jobs to central and western New York. hospitality services—among others. The Seneca Nation is the fifth-largest In Republican parlance, Indians are job creators. Cuomo’s economic develop- employer in western New York, and has ment plans should embrace them. Indian invested tens of millions of dollars in

the region. If they and the other nations were left out by design, we’re missing an incredible opportunity to bring their entrepreneurial energy into the economic fold. They recently took out a full-page ad in an upstate newspaper asking Cuomo to honor the 2002 compact giving “the

Indians are job creators. Cuomo’s economic development plans should embrace them. Senecas exclusive rights to gaming in Western New York.” If Cuomo hopes to squeeze the Indian nations with his gambling amendment, he’s playing a weak hand. The Onondaga don’t favor casino gambling, while the Seneca, Oneida and Saint Regis Mohawk just want their geographical exclusivity honored. The Seneca are withholding the state’s share of casino revenue because of a dispute over three nearby racinos. The Cayuga and Onondaga continue to press land claims in Cayuga, Onondaga and Seneca counties. And all continue to dispute the tobacco and gasoline taxes. Cuomo’s planned Thruway improvement projects could be held up in the section

bisecting Seneca territory. Since the Seneca claim they were not properly compensated for granting the right-of-way for the Thruway’s construction, it’s unlikely they would easily permit improvement projects. Recently the Cuomo administration successfully transferred the policing of the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino from the state police to the tribal police. This won Cuomo high praise and sets the template for future negotiated agreements. Cuomo must take Indian hands in friendship and make New York whole. He can start by making good on former Gov. David Paterson’s promise to create a cabinet-level post on Indian Nation Sovereign Affairs. Such a move would ensure regular, direct communications, and would signal the governor’s respect, commitment and desire to resolve outstanding issues. We cannot afford to miss an opportunity to close a contentious chapter in New York’s Indian history. Cuomo’s jobcreation goals require him to collaborate sincerely with all New York business leaders, especially the Indian nations. Retired Assemblyman Michael Benjamin represented the Bronx for eight years.

A 63RD SEAT HAS NO LEG TO STAND ON California, Texas and Florida, all have 40 or fewer senators. Unfortunately for New Yorkers, this s their population base erodes, New York’s Senate bloated Senate does not mean a more Republicans face a challenging effective or active institution. New York’s Senate is not exactly known redistricting—one that could end their as the hardest-working legisalmost uninterrupted, nearly lative body in the country. century-long hammerlock on Albany’s “three men in a the State Senate. room” governing philosophy So they have decided to fall has meant that, except for back on an old idea: Expand the the majority leader, nearly all size of the Senate to squeeze in the senators—including all one more seat in their favor. the members of the minority This plan is a straightforward Joshua Spivak party—are superfluous. power grab—one that simply But this irrelevance is not adds more fat and expenses to free—New York senators are actually very an already bloated institution. Compared with other states, New well paid. Surveys show our Senate ranks York’s Senate is already way too big. New near the top in pay in the nation, while at York has the second-largest Senate in the the same time being considered a “partcountry, after Minnesota; only two other time” job—meaning senators can (and do) states have more than 50 members in hold down other lucrative positions. As we saw at the trial of former Majority their upper chamber. On the other side of the aisle, our state Leader Joseph Bruno, sometimes these posiAssembly, while large at 150 members, tions can be directly related to the Senate is not even in the top 5 in the country. job, to the taxpayers’ everlasting regret. Each additional senator is not The reason for the supersized Senate has nothing to do with the state’s large popu- just a salary, plus per diem and travel lation—America’s other biggest states, expenses. The new senator will also By JOSHUA SPIVAK

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require staff and office space. It’s not clear exactly how much the cost will be, but in a 2005 survey, the Empire Center for New York State Policy ranked New York fourth in spending per legislator, at $973,900 per member. None of these negative facts will stop the Republicans, who have added one seat in each of the last two redis-

catastrophic Democratic infighting. But now, Republicans rightly feel threatened. Democrats are easily going to win the presidential vote in New York, and perhaps pull in additional voters for the rest of the ticket. The Republicans’ majority is very thin, and that extra seat can only help. However, this problem should be of no

Having two competitive parties in a state is great. Adding more players to your team is no way to go about it. trictings. The addition of a seat in 2002 ended up coming back to haunt New York, when four rogue Democrats created a 32–32 split in the chamber— and Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s resignation elevated his lieutenant, David Paterson, to the governor’s office, leaving no one to break the tie. Republicans have long had their way with the upper chamber—the party has controlled the body for all but a handful of years since World War I. Over the last 70 years, there have been only two terms that the Republicans were not in power, and both of those terms were marred by

consequence to the redistricting process. There is clearly no need for an additional Senate seat, and no reason for the added expense. Having two competitive parties in a state is great. Adding more players to your team is no way to go about it. Republicans should turn back from this plan, before New Yorkers make them regret it. Joshua Spivak is a senior fellow at the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College and blogs at http://recallelections. blogspot.com.

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B AC K & F O R T H

GETTING ON TRACK T

he oft-repeated line about Joseph Lhota’s new job as CEO and chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is that it’s one of the toughest jobs in New York government. But Lhota says that he thrives taking on challenges, and that the older he gets, “the more complex I want my problems to be.” More complexity is exactly what the 57-year-old faces with the MTA’s sprawling transit system and its scarce funds, aging infrastructure and eroded credibility. Lhota spoke with City & State about his goals, from improving services to restoring the authority’s image. What follows is an edited transcript.

City & State: Your predecessor, Jay Walder, was seen as a transit expert, while your reputation is as a management guy. How will your leadership differ, and where might you need to rely on others’ expertise? Joseph Lhota: There are presidents of each one of the operating divisions who are experts in transit and mass transit and train operations, and I view the chairman and CEO of the authority truly as a management position. We’re under significant financial stress right now, so my background as budget director of the City of New York in the Giuliani administration, and then deputy mayor of operations, where I helped run the City of New York, are very apt. When I first met Jay, he wasn’t a trains guy. He was the finance director here. He went from being finance director here to being head of finance for London Transport. First and foremost, Jay was a manager. So am I. CS: Do tensions between the mayor and the governor make it harder for you to do your job? JL: My job at the MTA is to serve our 8.5 million customers a day, the ridership. The MTA is more than just a New York City subway system; [it includes the] Long Island Rail Road and Metro North, our capital construction projects that are going on, our bus company—and I’ve tried to keep an open, cordial relationship with both Albany and City Hall. CS: Some critics say Gov. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t emphasize or prioritize transit enough. What has he told you? JL: I think those perceptions are incorrect. I’ve had numerous conversations with the governor, all of which are private. As [with] my conversations with the mayor, when I was deputy mayor, any conversations I have with the governor are private. CS: Will the governor go to bat to get funding for the MTA? JL: Absolutely. I think the governor has been very helpful with the federal government in getting money for the East Side Access project. CS: How often did you ride the subways before you took this job? JL: Every day. It’s how I got to work. I took the 2 or the 3 express from Clark Street in Brooklyn Heights to Penn Station. Every day, to and from. Weekends, too. CS: Did you have a monthly pass? JL: I didn’t have a monthly pass. I just would buy $30 at a time or something like that. I would take my existing card, put it back in the machine, put my credit card in there, buy 30 bucks worth, and when I got really low I would go back and fill it up again, and you get a discount for doing that. I have no idea if the monthly would have been better than the discount. I’ve got enough problems to worry about.

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yet lawmakers continued to refer to the “double books” when they confirmed you. JL: I’ve got my hands full in trying to correct it. Folklore somehow or other becomes real after a while. CS: So how did the MTA get its poor reputation? JL: I haven’t had enough time to do any diagnostic examination of why things have happened the way it is. But people have said the agency’s been arrogant. I’m not arrogant. Hopefully I’ll be able to project a face and an image to try to get around that stuff. I talked about the fact that 8.5 million people get to and from work, get to and from home, to and from school, dates on Saturday night, taking the subway or any one of the railroads or any one of our bridges and tunnels. Not a whole lot is

“The most egregious lie ever perpetrated about the MTA was that we had two sets of books. It was an absolute lie.” thought about the fact that 8.5 million people ride our system, day in and day out, and they do it in a safe, secure and relatively less expensive mass transit. Some people don’t have that perspective, but it’s important to understand that. Every now and then when a train is late, and people are delayed, it’s really unfortunate, and we’ll try to do whatever we can to correct that situation. CS: Do you ever feel awe you that you run the country’s biggest subway system? JL: That hasn’t set in, though people keep asking me that question.

Daniel S. Burnstein

CS: People say you have one of the toughest jobs in government. JL: It’s one of its great attractions. I was at a point in my life when I was saying, “What do I want to do with the rest of my life?” And Jay resigned, and knowing how important transportation is for the metropolitan New York area, knowing how important the MTA is, not just for the MTA region but for the whole state of New York—I mean, we procure lots of buses and lots of trains, most of which are made in New York, upstate. It’s a very important position, and it’s a very important place. So when Jay decided he wanted to go off to Hong Kong, I threw my name in the ring. People who know me know I much prefer challenges. I much prefer difficult challenges. So I find this place a challenge, and it makes me happy that it’s a challenge. It keeps me going. CS: One challenge is the MTA’s credibility. JL: If I can do anything—anything—in my tenure here as chairman and CEO, I would like to be able to turn the dial a little bit on the credibility issue of the MTA. There have been so many absolute misstatements made that people think are absolutely true. As I did during my confirmation hearing, whenever somebody said something that was factually incorrect, when I was given an opportunity to respond, I made that point known. The most egregious lie ever perpetrated about the MTA was that we had two sets of books—never had two sets of books, never will have two sets of books. It was an absolute lie perpetrated by a former state comptroller—who, by the way, happens to be in prison. Alan Hevesi has always hated me, and it’s a mutual relationship. CS: You made that clear during your confirmation, www.cityandstateny.com

CS: Much of the MTA’s success depends on the governor, the mayor, the Legislature, federal funding and union relations. What do you control? JL: I can do everything I can to maintain good relationships with Albany, good relationships with City Hall, good relationships with the executive and legislative branches in Washington, and to make it a point to embrace them and provide them with information and make the authority more transparent and have all of our partners understand what benefit they’re getting from it. We’ve got to provide a good product. We’ve got to continue to enhance our product. Ways in which we charge, whether it’s a new version of fare payments, we’ve just got to continue to do more and more. We just announced bus-time [tracking] on Staten Island, and they’ll now be able to go to a smart phone or a regular phone and even their computer or iPad and know how far away the nearest bus is. The countdown clocks on the subway, while they’re not in all the subways, on those lines where they are, people feel good and feel better about the subways. CS: Were you surprised your confirmation was unanimous? JL: There were some members of the Democratic Senate, the minority in the Senate, who got up to speak on my behalf, and when I worked on behalf of the Giuliani administration they barely would take my phone call. That was pleasing and surprising. CS: How long will that level of support last? JL: It’s over. I don’t know, honestly. Look, we need to continue to move the MTA forward. We can’t stay stagnant. We’ve got to understand technology, and find better ways of doing it. —Jon Lentz jlentz@cityandstateny.com january 23, 2012

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Celebrate New York’s schools! Our state’s public school educators are getting the job done: n New York’s public schools are ranked #3 in the nation, and meet or exceed the national average in six graded educational categories. (Education Week’s “Quality Counts”) n Education in New York, from kindergarten through higher ed, is #1 in the U.S. in terms of what businesses and their employees need to succeed. (CNBC Special Report: America’s Top States for Business 2011) n More than 100 New York students — the most in the nation — have been named semi-finalists in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search. (Society for Science and the Public)

City and State - January 23, 2012  

The January 23, 2012 issue of City and State . Targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and issues which shape New York City...

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