Vol. 2, No. 10 | MAY 27, 2013
THE FIVE BOROUGH BALLOT: Voters Don’t Trust Anthony Weiner
WHAT ALBANY STILL HAS ON THE AGENDA
Michael Benjamin Alexis Grenell on Equal Opportunity Corruption
BOROUGH PRESIDENT ERIC ADAMS’ FORGOTTEN PAST BY ROSS BARKAN
Al D’Amato on Bill Thompson, Peter King Chris Christie City & State NY LLC 61 Broadway, Suite 2825 New York, NY 10006
GOING BULWORTH Recently The New York genuine substance, so as to Times revealed that Presi- avoid creating a record for dent Obama, exasperated which the orator may one by the recalcitrance of his day have to answer. Telling Republican antagonists and the truth is not among its adrift in a sea of troubles, has objectives; indeed, the disclosed to his purpose of inner circle his rhetoric is more longing to “go often than not to Bulworth.” The muddy it. phrase refers to Take Gov. the 1998 film Andrew Cuomo’s about a United recent stateStates senator ment about the who has rash of scandals become so that have once disillusioned Morgan Pehme again brought with the falsity shame upon EDITOR and hypocrisy the Capitol—an of Washington politics that epidemic he had claimed in a moment of suicidal credit for having cured. “It’s enlightenment he decides basically irrelevant unless to make the utterly unprec- you allow it to be relevant,” edented move of telling the he intoned, like Obi WanAmerican public the unvar- Kenobi using the Force nished truth about their against a gaggle of storm government and the way it troopers. I don’t mean to works. single out the governor. The president’s critics This is just the type of verbal were quick to pounce on sleight of hand that we not the sentiment as evidence only accept but expect from of their longtime asser- elected officials. tion that he masks his real On the rare occasion beliefs. But what Obama that politicians do speak actually was fantasizing the truth in public—usually about was something far because of a slipup on more explosive than were their part, or to conceal a he to suddenly come clean darker agenda—the effect on being the secret Muslim is so jarring that even those communist the right has listening with untrained alleged all along; the presi- ears can instantly pick out dent was dreaming of a day the dissonance of the note. when he could step to the Of course, President podium in the Rose Garden, Obama will never really cut through the bullshit for go Bulworth. In the movie, once and tell it like it is. Warren Beatty’s character is The fantasy of a politi- ultimately assassinated for cian speaking with pure, the audacity of voicing the unadulterated candor is straight dope, and it’s hard to one that anyone who knows imagine a scenario in which how politicians speak in a politician telling the truth, private has entertained. As the whole truth and nothing the insiders who read this but would lead to anything newspaper are well aware, less than career suicide. the art of political rhetoric As George Orwell, aims to please those who who knew as much about require pleasing, parry doublespeak as anyone, attacks, neutralize contro- wrote, “In a time of universal versy, avoid gaffes, sting the deceit, telling the truth is a opposition, aggrandize the revolutionary act.” speaker—all while saying And who in power wants as little as possible of any a revolution?
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AROUND NEW YORK The best items from City & State’s political blog City & State’s political blog is your key source for political and campaign developments in New York. Stay on top of the news with items like these at www.cityandstateny.com.
BROOKLYN Brooklyn Democratic leaders are uneasy at the possibility that the Brooklyn borough president front-runner, state Sen. Eric Adams (below, top), may become entangled in a federal dragnet that has already ensnared former state Sen. Shirley Huntley, who secretly recorded Adams, and they are making calls urging more candidates to step into the race, according to sources. Power brokers are urging Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Carlo Scissura (above), Marty Markowitz’s former chief of staff, to challenge Adams, but Scissura said he’s staying put for now. “I love being president of the Brooklyn Chamber, and I’ve endorsed Eric Adams,” he said. “As long as he’s in the race, I support him 100 percent.” Political observers also have suggested that Councilwoman Letitia James and Councilman Brad Lander could seek the seat, though James has denied interest in the post and Lander has said he remains focused on leading the Council’s Progressive Caucus. Adams has maintained that he has not been contacted about any investigation, saying in a statement, “I believe deeply in transparency and the pursuit of justice—and that is why I committed 20 years of my life to
ALBANY Gov. Andrew Cuomo called Assemblyman Vito Lopez’s (below) sexual harassment scandal a “sad and disturbing episode” and urged lawmakers to expel him from the chamber. “They should make the statement that we should not tolerate this in our house,” Cuomo said at a press conference. “The state Legislature does not tolerate this behavior, and we want him expelled from our house.” But Cuomo would not call on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to step down despite rumblings for his removal based on his handling of the case. “The Speaker and leadership said this situation is mismanaged,” Cuomo said. “As the executive it is not my place to say who [the Speaker] should be, not be. I don’t see any comparison between what Vito Lopez did and what Sheldon Silver did, either.” Lopez resigned effective May 20.
MANHATTAN In advance of the May 15 filing deadline, Bill Thompson’s (right) mayoral campaign announced that they have raised more than $600,000 over the last two months, almost double what his campaign had reported in the previous filing period. Thompson’s chief campaign strategist and manager, Jonathan Prince, said that the uptick in fundraising
lends credence to the notion that Thompson is building momentum in comparison with his Democratic rivals. “The campaign is starting to kick into high gear, and we have moved aggressively on a lot of fronts to improve the way we’re doing business, frankly, to get our message out there, to expand our network of supporters. I think we’re doing that in a lot of other ways we’ve seen,” Prince said, pointing to Thompson’s diverse array of recent endorsements. “The support is growing for the campaign, and we appreciate it.” Prince played up the campaign’s efficient spending compared with Democratic opponents Council Speaker Christine Quinn (above) and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. Prince argued that Thompson’s measured spending will serve him well as the campaign heats up approaching the primary because it will still be well under the spending cap for mayoral campaigns. Quinn’s campaign reported $510,000 raised during the latest twomonth filing period; de Blasio raised $240,000.
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UPFRONT THE KICKER: A CHOICE QUOTE FROM CITY & STATE ’S FIRST READ EMAIL “Al D’Amato accusing someone of bossism is like the Kardashians calling someone gaudy.” —Mike Morey, a spokesman for mayoral candidate Christine Quinn, responding to former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato’s claim that Quinn employs “old-style bossism,” via The New York Times
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Vito Lopez Versus The Office’s Michael Scott By Aaron Short Assemblyman Vito Lopez ended his three decadelong reign in Albany just four days after The Office ended its decadelong run on NBC. The sitcom became popular thanks to its oblivious branch manager, Michael Scott, played by Steve Carell. Both Scott and Lopez repeatedly failed to abide by their workplace’s sexual harassment policy, but Lopez crossed the line from genial buffoon to dangerous predator. Is truth more skeevy than fiction? The following are actual quotes from Lopez and Scott. Try to guess who said what:
“I probably have an attraction to you, and I have to deal with that, just like you said. That might sound terrible to you, but that is not the worst thing. If I thought you were terrible and ugly that might even be worse, or you might like that better, but that is something I will deal with, like you said.”
“Times have changed a little. And even though we’re still a family here at [redacted], families grow. And at some point, the daddy can’t take a bath with the kids anymore. ... It would be inappropriate for me to take a bath with [redacted]. As much as I might want to.”
“I really believe the work that you do or can do and have done, and if you get caught up in it, we could do a lot. But I want that intensity, and I want it to be a little bit adventurous, all right?”
“And, to your credit, wearing the shoes and buttoning your blouse, you know, I think it looks much nicer in general, and for you to do that, to me that was really nice, that was a really nice gesture, it really was, and I think you look much nicer in high heels than you don’t.”
“I’m friends with everybody in this office. We’re all best friends. I love everybody here. But sometimes your best friends start coming into work late and start having dentist appointments that aren’t dentist appointments, and that is when it’s nice to let them know that you could beat them up.”
“Yeah, well, could I tell you, that’s bad and it’s terrible, but a little bit, there needs to be a little bit of turning the corner. Do you hear me?”
“How about that hot picture you have by your desk? Centerfold in the Catholic schoolgirl’s outfit? I mean, it is hot, it is sexy, and it turns him on and I will admit, best part of my morning is staring at it. But, what, are we just going to take it away?”
7.5 % UNITED STATES
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“I just want you to know that this is not my decision, but from here on out, we can no longer be friends. And when we talk about things here, we must only discuss work-associated things.”
“You know what? I love [redacted]. And you know what else? I think she is gorgeous. I think she is an incredibly, incredibly attractive person. Come here, give me a kiss, come on.” “You know … you can’t be so wired. You can’t, you have to just break the steel wall, not even brick wall, a little bit. And I know you can’t, so we’ll leave it at that.”
“I am going to make a major investment into an apartment and half of the investment, although I really want to do it, is to do it with somebody and do it with you, otherwise we could probably get an apartment for six, seven hundred dollars, you know by myself but I probably wouldn’t get it if it was by myself, so it’s one of those things.”
Can’t find a job? If you’re in New York, things are looking up. But while the state’s job market is improving, it still lags behind the rest of the country, according to the U.S. Labor Department’s latest preliminary figures.
“Alright, okay, good. Now it’s a deal. Stop crying. All right, rub my hand, do my hand. Good. I like that. That means that you have to rub it longer. Do you, do you mind? Rub it harder, though.”
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“Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy: both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.”
“One drinking partner, one train car, one bed—yes or no?” “I’m not, I’m not worried! You know what? The only thing I am worried about is getting a boner.”
UPSTATE NEW YORK
ANSWERS: A) VITO LOPEZ B) MICHAEL SCOTT C) VITO LOPEZ D) VITO LOPEZ E) MICHAEL SCOTT F) VITO LOPEZ G) MICHAEL SCOTT H) MICHAEL SCOTT I) VITO LOPEZ J) VITO LOPEZ K) MICHAEL SCOTT L) VITO LOPEZ M) MICHAEL SCOTT N) VITO LOPEZ O) MICHAEL SCOTT 4
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PROMOTIONAL PHOTOGRAPH OF MICHAEL SCOTT (PLAYED BY STEVE CARRELL) FROM THE NBC SITE
WHO SAID IT?
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THE LABORERS ARE PROUD TO WELCOME APRIL INTO THEIR RANKS AND RECOGNIZE HER AS A TRAILBLAZER FOR THE HUNDREDS MORE WHO WILL FOLLOW IN HER FOOTSTEPS. Greater New York Laborers-Employers Cooperation & Education Trust 266 West 37th St. Suite 1100, New York, NY 10018 Phone: (212) 452-9300 | Fax: (212) 452-9318
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UPPER WEST SIDE, MANHATTAN UPPER WEST SIDE RESIDENTS NOT THRILLED WITH WEINER Voters distrust former congressman, but undecided in New York City mayor’s race BY AARON SHORT Customers on the Upper West Side know what they want when they take a seat at Artie’s Deli. They order the matzo ball soup, a pastrami or turkey sandwich on rye with coleslaw, and maybe a little chopped liver. But when it comes to picking the next mayor, many haven’t made a choice— and they’re not thrilled with what’s on the menu. “Everyone is picking the one they find least objectionable,” said an Artie’s customer named Beatrice, who declined to give her last name. “That’s the way it is. It’s very sad. This is a great city and I love it with a passion. We deserve better than the candidates that are running. Politics being what it is today, I understand why people are reluctant to run.” Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, a Jewish, Queens-born media-savvy Democrat,
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might have been a natural choice for Upper West Side voters who have cast their ballots before for similarly progressive candidates to represent them. Weiner had the support of 15 percent of Democratic mayoral primary voters, second behind Council Speaker Christine Quinn, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. But 41 percent of voters viewed him unfavorably, compared with 33 percent who like him. He recently declared his intentions to run for office. The poll reflects the sentiments of West Side residents, who remain wary of the man whose lewd tweeting cover-up forced him from Congress. “What am I supposed to say to that— that this guy’s actually going to get elected mayor?” Artie’s customer Richard Shandell asked. “I can’t believe what he did. He’s so incredibly stupid.” Shandell said Weiner’s scandal was
“crazier” than President Bill Clinton’s affair with a White House intern. “What Weiner did to me is sheer unadulterated nuts,” he said. “I understand how you can fool around with a young woman in your office, but I can’t understand at all why you would do the thing that Weiner did. Nothing against him, but I wouldn’t consider voting for an a--hole like that.” Artie’s customers Chris Kachulis and Bess Charalambakis, who are brother and sister, say they could forgive Weiner over time, but not this election cycle. “I think he’s very smart, but I don’t think so,” Kachulis said when asked whether he would support Weiner. “It’s too questionable.” Charalambakis said she thought Weiner has “too much baggage.” “He’s going to have to answer a lot of questions,” she said. “Some of them won’t be
Joshua Carnival (left), an Artie’s employee, was more forgiving toward Anthony Weiner than the deli’s customers were. Jonathan Silas (right) is a sous chef at Artie’s. (Photos by Bess Adler)
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Our Perspective pretty. In 10 years, we’ll tell if things have changed. He has to do a lot more.” Both said they were leaning toward former City Comptroller Bill Thompson in the Democratic primary. “We don’t always agree, but on that we do,” Kachulis said. Some of Artie’s’ waiters were in a more forgiving mood than their customers, but even they could not condone Weiner’s actions. “It doesn’t show good character—plus he’s married, so I guess it was the best thing for him to resign,” Joshua Carnival, an Artie’s employee, said. “If he has the best interests for the city, if he has good plans, then yeah, why not [run for mayor]? Personal and business shouldn’t mix. So his personal life shouldn’t be anybody’s business as long as his business is being handled correctly.” Christina Vidal, a waitress who started at Artie’s this week, said she has not been paying attention to the mayor’s race so far this year, but she plans on voting in the Democratic primary in September. She has ruled out Weiner because of the scandal. “I don’t think he should be mayor for that,” she said. “That’s not presentable.” The reluctance of Artie’s’ customers and wait staff to support a potential Weiner candidacy does not surprise the restaurant’s manager, Barry Orenstein. He says most customers have not made up their minds. “There’s no chalk in the race yet,” he said. Orenstein used to like Weiner because of his tirades on the floor of Congress against Republican policies. But not anymore. “How do you trust a person, regardless of what they do, who is such a liar?” he asked. “Politicians have reputations for lying, but I don’t think he has any street cred.” “It’s not even lying but his stupidity,” Orenstein added. “How did he expect that when he went on Twitter it wouldn’t be immediately shown all over? That’s the whole concept of social networking. How did somebody so smart make such a stupid mistake?” That’s the question still on the minds of many Upper West Side residents. Orenstein is leaning toward Thompson, but he wants to see the candidates discuss more issues of substance in the remaining mayoral forums. “There’s no meat,” he said. “I want the Wendy’s commercial, ‘Where’s the beef?’ There’s nothing there.” And Orenstein knows meat. “It’s like a Peggy Lee song,” he said. “ ‘Is that all there is?’ I want something substantive.”
U.S. Retailers Bear Responsibility for Bangladesh Tragedy By Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, RWDSU, UFCW
n April 24, an eight-story commercial building in Bangladesh — home to a number of clothing factories — collapsed. A stunning 1,127 people were killed, along with over 2,500 people injured in what is being considered the deadliest garment-factory accident in history.
The factories housed in the collapsed Rana Plaza produced clothes for numerous global retailers, and suppliers and retailers around the world bear much of the responsibility for this outrageous health and safety disaster. The Rana Plaza building was known to have structural issues when large cracks were discovered in the building. Shops and the bank on the lower floors of the building had been closed, but garment workers were ordered to return to work despite the warnings that the building was in a dangerous state. The bosses who ordered these employees back into the building have blood on their hands, but so do companies who insist on the cheapest possible products with little regard for the workplace conditions of their suppliers or the welfare of the workers who toil in unsafe factories. The Bangladesh building collapse was an unspeakable tragedy, and one that can only be avoided in the future if suppliers and retailers take global workplace health and safety seriously. To this end, we urge all global retail companies to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, which calls for corporations to take responsibility for the health and safety conditions at their suppliers’ factories. The accord was created last year by IndustriALL and UNI, global union federations, in negotiations with global corporations. The RWDSU is affiliated with UNI. Companies who sign the accord agree to establish fire and building safety programs at the Bangladeshi factories that supply their goods within 45 days of signing the accord. So far, a number of retailers — including Swedish-owned H&M, where over 1,100 RWDSU Local 1102 members in New York are employed — have signed onto the document. But with a few exceptions, it’s been mostly European-owned companies who have stepped up to the plate. Many large western companies, like The Gap, have refused to sign the accord. Wal-Mart, which uses 279 factories in Bangladesh, says it is “not in a position to sign the accord,” and has declared it will create its own inspection and safety program in Bangladesh. But can we really trust giant corporations like them to police themselves and do what is right? Time and again they have let down their workers, with often fatal consequences. The agreement by many global retailers to sign the accord, along with the Bangladeshi government changing its laws to make it easier for workers to unionize, are important steps toward changing the dangerous workplace conditions in Bangladesh. But customers of stores like The Gap and Wal-Mart need to tell those companies to get on board or risk losing their business. The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh is not a paper tiger created for public relations value — it is a legally binding document, with sanctions in place for non-compliance. Signing the accord is the best way global retailers can show they are finally putting the safety of their workers above profits, and avoid future tragedies and the blood on their hands that will accompany them.
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BROWNSVILLE, BROOKLYN CARRIÓN, LIU VIE FOR VOTES IN BROWNSVILLE NYCHA PROJECT The audience knew what the candidates wanted. But what did the people of Van Dyke want in return? By JARRETT MURPHY
When a candidate for mayor enters the domain of Lisa Kenner—the president of the resident association at NYCHA’s sprawling Van Dyke Houses—he or she is welcomed as an honored guest. But that can be a time-consuming status. When former Bronx borough president and the Independence Party’s nominee for mayor Adolfo Carrión came out to Brownsville to visit the Van Dyke Community Center in late April, he waited patiently for an hour, through a presentation about a GED program and a Q&A with the new manager of the Van Dyke development, before getting to make his stump speech. This month City Comptroller John Liu stopped by the Van Dyke senior center for a post–Mother’s Day “high tea” and waited nearly as long to make brief remarks. Then he was pressed into handing out awards honoring “older Americans,” an achievement virtually everyone in the room except Liu could claim. There’s no mystery why the wait is worthwhile to the mayoral hopefuls. In a primary that’s likely to feature five or
six major candidates, every little pocket of voters counts. The Assembly district in which the Van Dyke Houses sit cast 13,000 votes in the 2009 mayoral race, with 84 percent going to Democrat Bill Thompson. But turnout in the two Assembly districts that encompass Brownsville was about 25 percent in that last mayoral race, even worse than the 29 percent citywide turnout rate. There is a question in the 2013 campaign probably as important as who will win. Namely, can the race somehow engage voters who’ve gotten used to staying home? And Brownsville frames that question. So what matters isn’t so much what Carrión or Liu said on their visits to Van Dyke, but what people in the seats heard. JUST A KID FROM THE BRONX Carrión spoke to a crowd of around 60 people on April 20, a brilliant spring Saturday. “I’m just a kid from the Bronx trying
VAN DYKE HOUSES
to do the right thing,” Carrión told them as he took center stage in the pale green room. “The political process is failing our country. We want to change the relationship between our community and our government.” He was introduced by local Independence Party leader Lenora Fulani, who said that Carrión —who was elected councilman and borough president on the Democratic line and then served in two Obama administration posts—took the Independence line “because of his growing frustration with the fighting between Republican leaders and Democratic leaders—and we get screwed in the process.” She didn’t mention Carrión’s bid to get on the Republican mayoral primary ballot, which had only recently failed. The last Independence Party nominee, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, “took the third term a little too lightly and lost his connection with the people,” Carrión said. He noted that 71 percent of New York’s registered voters did not participate in that last mayoral election. “That is a crisis—a crisis for our country but more importantly a crisis for our community,” he said, telling the overwhelmingly black and Latino audience that decreased turnout meant the people deciding who runs the city “don’t look like us.” “Beware the overpromisers,” Carrión continued, in an apparent shot at Liu’s crowd-pleasing calls for an $11.50 minimum wage and a complete end to stop-and-frisk. “We call them panderers.
They know how to pluck at your heartstrings. People promising minimum wages we’ll never reach or doing away with things that we’ll never do away with. Don’t let them insult your intelligence.” As Carrión spoke, one woman took copious notes. Another snapped pictures. When it came time for questions, Fort Greene resident Jacqueline Simmons asked him about the Whitman and Ingersoll housing projects, where hundreds of apartments have been vacant for years as a renovation dragged out, spurring suspicion of a plot to remove public housing from the gentrifying neighborhood. “That was the Democratic Party who did that,” Simmons said. “They took the housing projects from the public.” (The Whitman and Ingersoll renovations were launched when Republicans controlled HUD and the mayoralty.) Carrión gave only a vague answer. Afterward, Lawona Wilson sized up Carrión’s odds. “Ugh. I think he has a chance. He needs to come out more to the developments,” she said. “I want someone who can help us. Especially the lower class.” “He definitely got my attention,” said Jesse Watkins, who lives in Crown Heights. But it’s quite a long way to go until Election Day, he noted. He’s looking for a candidate who understands that “it’s about community empowerment—that’s where the focus should be.” DON’T FORGET BROWNSVILLE “Sometimes you’ve got to sit down,” Kenner told Liu last Thursday as he waited—through an invocation, musical
City Comptroller John Liu, a candidate for mayor of New York City, recently visited the Van Dyke Houses on the campaign trail. (Photo by Jarrett Murphy, City Limits)
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Educate & Influence NY’s Elected Officials with: performances and a tribute to a recently deceased 50-year resident of the Van Dyke houses, Hattie “Honey” Blunt. “You’re running all over the place.” The perpetually hyperscheduled Liu took the advice gamely. “I feel the warmth,” he said, and then went back to waiting. When Liu finally did take the mic, he recalled meeting Kenner at a Take Back the Night event, referred to his stewardship of the city’s pension funds (“from which some of you ought to be receiving a check soon”) and presented a fairly brief message: that the next mayor has “got to give people opportunities, young and old alike.” Then came the “Older American” awards, which were so numerous Liu had to hand off the task to an aide and skip out. Afterward, as the mostly female crowd—many wearing fancy hats in keeping with the “high tea” theme— sipped coffee and snacked on glazed miniature cinnamon rolls and redwhite-and-blue frosted cupcakes, Lucille Daniels weighed in on what Liu’s appearance meant. “His coming here makes a big difference,” said Daniels, who actually lives in Crown Heights but has been volunteering at the Van Dyke Center for 18 years, never once calling in sick. “It’s what you see for yourself, personally.” Asked how she makes up her mind as to whom to vote for, she said, “I pray on it. Oh, yes. I’m not one of those gullible people.” She also watches the TV news, channels 12 and 7 mostly. She would never take advice from a friend on whom to vote for. “No. No. No. No. I don’t trust people,” she said. “People like to be bought.” “MAKE LIFE EASIER” At another table, Oreathya Green, a
Queens resident visiting her sister at Van Dyke, said she liked Liu; as a former member of SEIU 1199, she had seen him before. “I always liked his technique,” she said. “I hope he doesn’t get lost like everybody else.” “What we need are people who offer to do something for the poor instead of the rich. Technology is fine for people who can afford it,” she said. “Why not pay attention to that instead of the sugar in Pepsi or Coca-Cola?” Like Daniels, Green says she gets her political information mostly from TV, especially Channel 7. So do Carrie Price and John Moore, residents of East New York, just east of Brownsville. Price says she’ll vote for “whichever one has the best program for the people”—which she said means someone who can “make life easier” and, she added with a chuckle, “give us more money.” Price and Moore are brother and sister, and their house suffered a fire on December 10; they’re still displaced. “Life is hard. I’m telling you, somebody needs to make it easier” to deal with insurance companies and contractors and bureaucracies, Price said. But if Price articulated a retail approach to politics, Kenner was calling for something more wholesale. The idea behind bringing all these candidates out to Brownsville is not about individual transactions with government but strength in numbers. “Once we get a voting bloc, we’re going to be able to get things done. Nobody’s going to overlook Brownsville,” she said. She had invited Carrión and Liu—and was extending invitations to other candidates—because “one of ’em is going to be mayor and I want them to know they met Lisa Kenner.” But, she stressed, “We’re going to do this collectively.”
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BOROUGH PRESIDENT Eric Adams’ unconventional journey to Brooklyn Borough Hall
rooklyn is sandwiched between two highly competitive borough president races in Queens and Manhattan. Even candidates with far larger war chests than Adams, like Julie Menin in Manhattan and Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. in Queens, have not scared away challengers. “There are some serious lifers who want that seat,” said a Brooklyn Democratic insider about the crowded Queens borough president race. “So then what does it say about the Brooklyn BP spot if no one wants it except Eric Adams and John Gangemi? Markowitz was good, but he wasn’t that good as to scare away all others. It’s very odd.” Adams’ lone challenger is the relatively unknown John
Gangemi, who has raised a measley $12,265 as of the latest filing. Gangemi, a former councilman-at-large, last held elected office more than 30 years ago. Before he decided to run for Congress, the termlimited City Councilman Domenic Recchia was believed to be Adams’ chief competition. According to multiple sources familiar with the Kings County Democratic Party, Recchia was persuaded by the party, now based in southern Brooklyn after Canarsie resident Frank Seddio was named its chair last year, not to challenge Adams. Seddio, who is white, did not want a clash between a southern Brooklyn white elected official and a northern Brooklyn black elected official, according to Democratic sources. After years of infighting under Assemblyman Vito Lopez, Seddio has sought to unify a once-fractured party.
Eric Adams at Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s “State of the Borough” address this year 10
MAY 27, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
here is no battle for Brooklyn Borough Hall. State Sen. Eric Adams is in a rarefied place for a candidate seeking a wide open seat: He does not really need to campaign. With only a sole long-shot opponent and virtually the entire Brooklyn Democratic Party behind him, Adams is poised to replace the wisecracking Borough President Marty Markowitz, who has reigned over the borough as its No. 1 booster for close to a dozen years. Adams’ campaign kickoff in March, fittingly on the steps of Borough Hall, was a show of strength typically reserved for a longtime incumbent. Mayoral candidates like City Comptroller John Liu and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio swooped in to give Adams ringing endorsements. Leaders from Brooklyn’s wide-ranging ethnic and religious communities flocked to the event, extolling the character, strength and intelligence of the retired police captain. “First, President Obama got a mandate from the American people,” Liu told the cheering crowd. “Now Senator Eric Adams is going to get a mandate from the people of Brooklyn!” Adams, who was elected to the state Senate in 2006, is currently a darling of the Democratic Party, a future power broker on track to make history as Brooklyn’s first African-American borough president. Yet his probable path to Brooklyn’s highest office is surprisingly winding, including stints as a registered Republican, antiestablishment gadfly and upstart challenger to a popular congressman. In May he was named as one of the elected officials who was wiretapped by then state Sen. Shirley Huntley, who was sentenced to a year in a prison for embezzling nearly $90,000 from a sham nonprofit. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, eight of the nine people whom Huntley secretly recorded are the subjects of an ongoing investigation, including Adams. Following the bombshell revelation about the Huntley wiretap, Adams stated that he had not been contacted by any prosecutors. “I believe deeply in transparency and the pursuit of justice—and that is why I committed 20 years of my life to law enforcement,” he said in a statement. “I am more than willing to help with any investigation.”
By ROSS BARKAN
PERSONALITIES Some Democratic insiders believe he did not want a scenario where a white county leader and white borough president would preside over a borough that U.S. census figures show is now only half white. According to Seddio, however, the party did not dissuade Recchia from running for borough president. A Recchia spokeswoman confirmed Seddio’s statement. “We’re trying to bring a much more cohesive Brooklyn. The days of fractured politics are gone, in my mind,” Seddio said. “We worked very hard with the different candidates that wanted to run, thought about running. It’s kind of like going into a good clothing store, trying to find a suit that fits … I think we managed to get everyone into a suit that they’re going to be able to wear, and wear with pride.” Adams declared his intention to run early last year, giving him a head start in lining up support from the borough’s various ethnic blocs and putting some distance between himself and his potential opponents. He has now raised almost a half million dollars, a substantial figure that could serve as a deterrent to any future challengers. Recchia’s decision not to seek the seat, coupled with both Councilwoman Letitia James and State Sen. Daniel Squadron opting to run for public advocate, created a clear path for Adams. Carlo Scissura, Markowitz’s former chief of staff, once also a candidate, ultimately left the race to lead the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. Since news of the Huntley wiretap surfaced, there has been speculation that James will switch gears and instead challenge Adams, but she issued a statement earlier this month saying the rumors were “unfounded.” She officially declared for public advocate on May 19.
“ON THE BRINK OF INCITING CONTROVERSY”
t his kickoff in early March, Adams portrayed himself as a fiscal progressive able to unite a diverse and rapidly changing borough. Known as a strident opponent of stopand-frisk, Adams recently testified against the controversial anticrime policing tactic in a class-action suit challenging its constitutionality. Adams, who agreed to be interviewed by City & State only by email, said he would use the power of the borough presidency to introduce legislation, something Markowitz did not do, while focusing on job-training programs and “financial literacy” initiatives. “Yes, we have drawn great interest and investment in recent years—but there are still many who live here who haven’t benefitted from that,” Adams said via email. “The office must offer access to government resources to those who need them, but also be proactive in its approach by growing the Brooklyn economy and working with businesses that will look out for working families.” For a candidate running virtually unopposed, Adams has remained strikingly guarded. It is rare for elected officials running for higher office to consent only to emailed questions and no in-person interviews. Adams’ public appearances since his raucous kickoff have been limited as well. On May
9, a day after a federal judge revealed that Huntley had recorded his conversations with her, Adams canceled a scheduled appearance at the Bay Ridge Democratic Club. According to a source close to the Brooklyn Democratic Party, a meeting to officially endorse Adams was postponed. Adams did appear at a Brooklyn Young Democrats meeting a week later, where he insisted that Huntley’s wiretap would turn up nothing incriminating. “There’s nothing on those tapes that’s detrimental to me,” Adams said. “I don’t have to wonder what was said, what wasn’t said; I don’t have to do that. … If you come to talk to me about breaking the law, you’re going to find my handcuffs. I’m not here to break the law. I’m here to serve the people of the state and I’m consistent about that.” Adams, a retired transit police officer who had a hardscrabble upbringing in Queens, entered the political world long before being elected to the state Senate in 2006. In the 1990s he became known as the combative leader of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, a law enforcement advocacy group focused on crime and racerelated issues. In 1994 he launched a challenge against then Central Brooklyn Congressman Major Owens, a well-established political figure in the borough. Though Adams was knocked off the ballot in that race, he would make headlines for criticizing Owens and former Rep. Herman Badillo. According to a 1994 story in New York magazine, Adams, then 33, did not appear to be someone who two decades later would have practically the entire political establishment at his back. “Adams seems always on the brink of inciting controversy,” journalist Craig Horowitz wrote in New York. According to multiple published reports, Adams took aim at Badillo, a former comptroller and mayoral candidate, for having a Jewish wife. “It’s insulting to the Hispanic community that he can go to the Hispanic community for support, but he can’t go to the Hispanic community when he’s picking a wife,” Adams said at the time. Adams now insists that the comment was a “theory” on the state of Hispanic voters at the time and not a personal opinion or criticism of Badillo and his wife. Adams also supported the anticrime tactics of the Nation of Islam and their controversial leader, Louis Farrakhan, according to several published reports. Adams’ praise of Farrakhan upset members of the Jewish community who viewed Farrakhan as an anti-Semite. In 1993 Adams blasted then Mayor David Dinkins for keeping his distance from Farrakhan. “Eric Adams, president of the Grand Council of Guardians, an organization of 15,000 black police and correction officers, charged that Dinkins ‘shies away’ from black Muslims because he does not want to be associated with Louis Farrakhan, the black Muslim leader who has been accused of anti-Semitism,” reporter Michael Cottman wrote in Newsday. When Owens virulently denounced Farrakhan during the race, Adams responded, “Those who feel people shouldn’t gravitate toward Farrakhan should realize there wouldn’t be a need if Owens and so many of our other leaders in Washington and Albany were actually bringing home the victories to the communities they represent.” Adams now says he expressed admiration only for Farrakhan’s anticrime initiatives and nothing else, otherwise repudiating the Nation of Islam leader, who has said in the past that Jewish people “control” Hollywood, the media and the banking industry. Adams remained politically active in the latter half of the decade, even changing his party registration. The Brooklyn Democratic Party’s current standard-bearer self-identified as a “conservative Republican” in a 1999 New York Times profile. According to the Board of Elections, Adams was a registered Republican from 1997
through 2001, during the last term of Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Calling his party switch a “symbolic action,” Adams said he briefly made the eyebrow-raising registration change because Democrats, in his estimation, were not tough enough on crime. He said he never voted for a Republican. “It was for that reason and that reason only that I decided to motivate my Democrat brothers and sisters for a short time by taking symbolic action, in order to make real change on what I thought was New York’s most pressing issue during those years,” he said. Brooklyn district leader Jo Anne Simon, a member of the party’s “reform” wing, did not see Adams’ party switch as an indictment of his character. “I’ve heard he was a registered Republican, but the mayor was a Democrat, and I don’t see him doing too many Democratic things,” she said. “I’m not sure what that says. It’s not a particular concern that someone has seen the light.” In 2003 Adams appeared in brochures financed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg that promoted the idea of nonpartisan elections, an idea denounced by the Democratic establishment. Three years later Adams would be elected to the state Senate as a Democrat. “In Brooklyn, registered voters received a brochure declaring: ‘Here are some Black, Hispanic and Asian mayors elected in Nonpartisan Elections,’” wrote reporter Dan Janison in Newsday. “To black areas went pieces with Eric Adams, co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, and black civic activists Robert Lovick of Brooklyn and Debi Rose of Staten Island.”
“SHOW ME THE MONEY”
nce elected to the state Senate, Adams began to amass a relatively progressive voting record. Early into his tenure, though, the fiery Adams took to the Senate floor to argue for pay raises for state legislators, raising eyebrows with his confrontational rhetoric. “I don’t know how some of you are living on $79,000; to tell you the truth, you qualify for public assistance,” Adams said in 2007. “Don’t be insulted for yourselves. You should be insulted for your children that you are not allowed to give your children an affordable, decent form of living because all of us know when we’re up here, our children are down there. … I deserve a raise, I deserve to be paid more, and I’m only a freshman and I’m already complaining.” Adams boomed, “Show me the money, show me the money, that’s what it’s all about, we deserve more money.” For those in the Senate at the time, it was the combative way the demand for pay raises was delivered, not the message itself, that surprised legislators and staffers. One former staffer to a New York City state senator present at the time of the speech said Adams shocked many in the chamber. “People were definitely taken aback by the words,” the former staffer said. “But the bigger ramification of that speech was that it was used against Democrats, in what I would call a false context, by Republicans that fall.” The pay raise was not granted, and state legislators still earn $79,500. Of course, Adams and many of his fellow lawmakers have other sources of income. In addition to his legislative pay, Adams collects a pension from the NYPD. A year later Adams aggressively defended fellow state Sen. Hiram Monserrate, a Queens Democrat charged with assaulting his girlfriend. Monserrate would be convicted of misdemeanor assault and sentenced to three years of probation. In 2009 the Senate voted overwhelmingly to expel Monserrate. Adams voted against immediate expulwww.cityandstateny.com | MAY 27, 2013
PERSONALITIES with him and said, ‘If you want to see Eric’s American Express, he said he’ll give you a copy of that, here’s how it’s paid for, he put it on his website,’ and they still wrote the article saying, ‘Eric is hiding something.’ ” “Listen, when people hate you, they’re out to get you, there’s nothing you can do about it,” Adams continued. “I’m at the point now where people have to start staying, ‘We know the man and what he represents.’ ”
PROBLEMS AT AQUEDUCT
sion, though he supported a second resolution that would have ousted the senator had he lost the appeals process and his convinction been upheld. “As a former NYPD captain, I have some serious concerns regarding the unusual handling of the case against Councilman Monserrate,” Adams said in 2008, when Monserrate had been elected to the Senate but had not yet been sworn in. “The primary goal of investigating a complaint of domestic violence is to ensure the safety of the innocent victim.” After explaining several concerns he had about the case, including Monserrate being forced to take a “perp walk” past television cameras, Adams added that the investigation against him was suspect. “It is well known that Councilman Monserrate has been an outspoken advocate for police reform,” Adams added. “I believe his role as an agent for change cause him to be denied his rights and a thorough investigation.” Adams’ support of Monserrate angered some of his fellow Democrats. State Sen. Diane Savino, who represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, described a furious confrontation with Adams and Brooklyn state Sen. Kevin Parker in February 2010. “We were going around the room and everyone was voicing their opinion, and I made the point that since the recommendation for the penalty had come from the Select Committee—which was a bipartisan committee appointed by the leader—that it’s possible that they should have some say as to whether we bring this resolution to the floor,” Savino said in an interview with blogger Colin Campbell. “And in the midst of me making my 12
MAY 27, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
point, Eric Adams starts yelling about how, pardon, “They have no f---ing right, to dictate…” and then Kevin [Parker] started screaming, “They have no f---ing right! They have no f---ing right! F--- you!” So I’m no shrinking violet. Kevin stood up, and I stood up and said: “I didn’t interrupt you, don’t interrupt me. I’m speaking.” He starts screaming: “F--- you! F--- you!” and so I said, ‘No, f--- you!’ ” An October 2011 trip Adams took to South Korea with Brooklyn State Sen. John Sampson has drawn additional scrutiny since Sampson was indicted on embezzlement charges in May. Adams, through his consultant Evan Thies, refused to provide any further details to the Times Union about the four-day trip, other than to state that it was financed with campaign and private funds. Adams also traveled with Stacey Rowland, a lobbyist for the top Albany lobbying firm Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker. Filings show that Adams paid more than $3,000 for the trip out of his campaign funds. The lobbyist, according to a source, was the girlfriend of Sampson, then the Senate majority leader and the organizer of the trip. “When he went to South Korea and doesn’t tell anyone why he was there, I think he owes a little more to the public than what he’s been telling them,” said Gangemi, Adams’ long-shot opponent. Adams elaborated only slightly on the South Korea trip at the Brooklyn Young Democrats meeting in May, where he disputed the Times Union story written by James Odato (who declined to comment for this piece). “[In] 2011, I went to Korea to look at converting garbage to energy and a reporter questioned my trip, and I spoke with him for hours and gave him the information of the trip,” Adams said, referring to Odato. “He wrote an article attacking the trip back then, which I could’ve paid for the entire trip through my campaign fund, but since my lady was traveling with me, I said, ‘I don’t want any problem, I’ll pay for the hotel.’ He rewrote the same article Monday and said that I didn’t talk with him, and I spoke with him Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. My team spoke
“A GREAT BOROUGH PRESIDENT”
espite the senator’s unconventional history and rumors of wrongdoing, the son of the congressman whom he attempted to unseat two decades ago says he thinks Adams is now qualified to be Brooklyn’s next borough president. “I believe he wants to do really good work, and I think he’s committed to that,” said Chris Owens, a Democratic district leader in Brooklyn. “I am shocked he has no opposition, but I’m also very pleased. There’s long been talk of having a black borough president, so for him to essentially walk into the position is amazing.” And endorsers like Liu are not backing away from Adams either. “I still support Eric Adams, and he’ll be a great borough president,” Liu said, a smile frozen on his face.
SPENCER PLATT/GETTY IMAGES
Adams attends a news conference with members of the Brooklyn Orthodox Jewish community after the hit-and-run death of an Orthodox couple struck by a BMW on the way to the hospital to deliver their child.
ince returning to the Democratic fold, Adams has faced criticism for the role he played in the flawed bidding process to bring casino gaming to the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. The state Lottery Division in 2010 disqualified a winning bid from the Aqueduct Entertainment Group. A scathing Inspector General’s report later that year would call the bidding process a “political free-for-all” in which lobbyists and campaign donations slanted the competition toward AEG. Adams, then the chairman of the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, was castigated in the report for not being diligent enough in his oversight of the bidding process. “Aside from the obvious disregard for the analysis and diligence involved in creating these documents, it seems reasonable to expect the Chairman of the Racing and Wagering Committee in the Senate to actually review all proffered information thoroughly before recommending a vendor for a 30-year contract that meant billions of dollars to New York State,” Inspector General Joseph Fisch wrote. Adams, along with several other state senators, mingled with AEG lobbyists at a “victory celebration” held at the Albany home of Carl Andrews, one of the lobbyists and a former state senator, according to the report. During the bidding process Adams also received several thousand dollars in campaign donations from groups and individuals associated with AEG. How AEG was ultimately chosen, according to the report, was a “murky” business: Fisch wrote that he was given “contradictory accounts of the climax of the process by the ‘three men in a room’ and Senator Adams.” On this count Adams disagrees, arguing that Fisch “made what I’m sure was an innocent oversight in its report, which unfortunately led to misperception.”
Thank You from
JOHN CATSIMATIDIS To The Dedicated Uniformed Service & Law Enforcement Officers That We Have Always Supported Police Athletic League – Board Member Federal Law Enforcement Foundation - Board Member New York State Police Foundation - Board Member New York Police Chiefs’ Benevolent Association, Inc. - Supporter NYPD Foundation - Supporter NY Fire Foundation - Supporter
I believe in supporting our uniformed services, not knocking them down. There is no place in the Mayor’s race for name calling by candidates. That is disrespectful or takes in vain the ultimate sacrifice made by 37 members of the Port Authority Police Department on 9/11. The families of those who have given their lives in the line of duty do not deserve this. It is the uniformed services who keep New York City safe and operating 365 days a year - for that, we owe them respect.
www.cityandstateny.com | MAY 27, 2013
P O L I CY
Sen. Kemp Hannon (from left) joined Everett Neville of Express Scripts and Carlos Sattler of Sandoz to discuss the rising cost of prescription drugs. Mitra Behroozi (below) of 1199 SEIU also joined the panel.
HOSPITALS, HEALTHCARE AND NEW YORK CITY Leading hospital experts discuss challenges facing hospitals in New York City metro area BY NICK POWELL
ealthcare delivery in New York City and across the state is in a period of transition—and one of the biggest changes is technological. Over the past 15 years or so, the most significant transformation in healthcare delivery has been the growing technological challenges, said Tony Shorris, the vice president of NYU Langone Medical Center. Shorris illustrated his point by describing the early proliferation of HIV/AIDS and how hospitals struggled to keep up with the rise in the number of patients. “The shift to ambulatory care from inpatient care has had profound impacts on the delivery system and the nature of healthcare in the city and the country,” Shorris said at City & State’s “Healthcare, Hospitals and New York” conference on May 9. “The issue of drugs and the use of pharmaceuticals—that has changed the nature of delivery when it comes to lots of diseases, and will continue to profoundly change the way we care for everybody from people with HIV/AIDS to people with cancer.” Shorris was joined by Assemblyman Dick Gottfried, the chairman of the Assembly Health Committee, and Stanley Brezenoff, the CEO of Continuum Health Partners, for a panel discussion on the state of hospitals in New York City. The panel touched on the biggest challenge facing state hospitals today: the ongoing battle over
state investment in for-profit healthcare and how new data on the price structuring of inpatient care should be interpreted. When the topic shifted to the financial quagmire in which many of the state’s hospitals have found themselves, Brezenoff said that part of the problem is the high reimbursement rate for Medicaid. Gottfried, a healthcare policy wonk and a longtime proponent of a single-payer system for the state, disagreed. “The hospitals that have been in financial trouble would have been wiped off the map years ago were it not for Medicaid,” Gottfried said. “It was, for them, one of the only reliable sources of payment.” Next the subject shifted to the Long Island College Hospital, a money-losing facility in Brooklyn that until recently the state was looking to close. Brezenoff defended his company’s past management of the hospital despite incurring debt reportedly as high as $300 million. Brezenoff acknowledged the difficulty of running a state hospital, and said Continuum put forth a number of ideas to try and stem the bleeding, including merging with other hospitals, eliminating costly services and selling off property. When a consensus could not be reached as to how to make LICH solvent, Brezenoff decided to “sell” the hospital to SUNY Downstate Medical Center. “Everybody thought that the general set of goals was good, but nobody would approve of the means that had to be adopted to get there,” Brezenoff said. “So I gave up and arranged we do, say, sell—and officially it was a sale, it had all the trappings of a sale—but we gave the hospital to the state. [There] was not one dollar that changed
hands; we didn’t keep any title to the land or anything. We gave it to the state.” The fate of LICH has been up in the air for months, ending for now with the decision by state officials to keep it open thanks to the advocacy of labor unions such as SEIU 1199 and LICH doctors and nurses, even though the hospital continues to lose millions of dollars every month. “SUNY had a plan too, they had a plan that to me seemed credible,” Brezenoff said. “It wasn’t my place to evaluate it, but they had a plan that included the infusion of higher-end services in Long Island College Hospital and so on. As far as I can tell that never happened, so what you get is a lot of rhetoric that masked the perpetuation of the status quo that can only create deteriorating finances.” Brezenoff was also a sobering voice on the debate over private versus public healthcare, detailing the success of the private business model while pointing out its pitfalls and saying that even the most successful CEOs of private hospitals would be “fired within 30 days” for their low profit margins. He was also skeptical of the new consumer information released by the federal Department of Health and Human Services comparing the price of inpatient services in hospitals around the country. “It’s a good start; in and of itself it’s not going to make that much of an impact,” Brezenoff said. “What it does, though, make abundantly clear is that there is this irregular, if not irrational, element of the healthcare industry, where it’s very hard to make rhyme or reason on how these cost structures get developed, what goes into them and what significance they have.”
Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (left) defended Medicaid on a panel about New York City hospitals. Another panel (right) delved into the benefits of “biosimilars,” biologicially equivalent alternatives to existing drugs. 14
MAY 27, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
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S E SS I O N CO U N T D OW N
arlier this year Gov. Andrew Cuomo drew an analogy between the new Tappan Zee Bridge, which is moving along after years of study and inaction, and the schisms facing New Yorkers. “We needed to bridge a divide from yesterday to tomorrow, from what was to what can be, from dysfunction to performance, from cynicism to trust, from gridlock to cooperation to make the government work,” the governor said during his State of the State address. “And we are, literally and metaphorically.” Indeed, some of the literal gaps have been closed in recent months. The governor and state lawmakers reached an agreement for a third straight on-time budget. A bipartisan compromise was reached on a minimum wage hike. And following tragic shootings in Connecticut and in New York, a stricter gun control measure was quickly passed and signed into law. But with just four weeks left in the legislative session, some divides remain. One of the biggest is the fate of the Long Island Power Authority. In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Cuomo blasted the public utility for its inept response, and this year he has insisted on privatizing it. However, some of the details are still being worked out as opponents worry that the governor’s plan will raise rates in the long run. Another highly charged energy issue, hydraulic fracturing, is under review by New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation. With the state’s analysis repeatedly being delayed, some lawmakers are taking the matter into their own hands with a push for a moratorium. One prominent lawmaker who supports hydrofracking even
MAY 27, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
pronounced it dead in New York State. If hydrofracking is truly dead or on its deathbed, supporters of shale gas drilling are certain to raise the issue as a loss for struggling communities in the Southern Tier and a wasted opportunity for economic development. Economic development has also been the frame for another major proposal before the state: the legalization of casino gambling. A constitutional amendment legalizing casinos in New York is up for second passage this year, but even if it is successful, there are still some unanswered questions about where any new casinos would be located and whether the measure will garner enough support from voters, who would have to pass it in a referendum this fall. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The governor has called for campaign finance reform, a board to help struggling municipalities reorganize their finances and a 10-point women’s agenda. Moreover, there are hundreds of additional measures that lawmakers want to see enacted this year, from medical marijuana to an infrastructure commission to reforming the Scaffold Law. In this special section, we recap what’s been accomplished so far this session in Albany and detail the remaining priorities for the governor, lawmakers and other key players in six key areas. Of course, plenty can get done in four weeks—especially in Albany, where decisions often are made at the last minute. “The real intense focus doesn’t come down [until] just a couple of weeks before, if not several days before, believe it or not,” Cuomo said at a May 1 cabinet meeting. “So it is relatively early.” CITY&STATE
www.cityandstateny.com | MAY 27, 2013
S E SS I O N CO U N T D OW N CASINOS
THE BEST BET Cuomo, lawmakers trying to reach agreement on state casino expansion By JON LENTZ
WHAT GOT DONE • Proposal introduced for three casinos in upstate New York • Oneidas granted exclusivity zone in Central New York • St. Regis Mohawks’ exclusivity zone affirmed in the North Country WHAT’S ON THE DOCKET • Getting second passage of the casino amendment • Passing enabling legislation
MAY 27, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
State Sen. John Bonacic, who chairs the Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee, has been vocal about his desire to drop the limit of one casino in each upstate zone, particularly in regard to the Catskills, a once bustling tourist destination that has fallen on hard times. Bonacic, who represents the Catskills, has called for as many as three casinos there while also echoing Pretlow in calling for more transparency about the siting process. “If the governor gets this done, he will correctly be able to claim he created thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—of jobs in upstate New York,” Bonacic said in a statement after the governor unveiled his casino plan. “If, however, the referendum is so poorly defined that voters are left with more questions than answers, I am concerned they will vote ‘no.’ In blackjack, you want as many cards as possible without ‘busting’—going over 21. Here, though, it is too little of something—too little information—that could make the plan a bust.” Other questions remain as well. While pushing his plan for three upstate casinos, the governor has also raised the possibility of siting one in Niagara Falls, perhaps as a negotiating tactic to put pressure on the Senecas. The governor’s proposal has also been complicated by reports of a proposed slots-only casino on Long Island. While some questions are unlikely to be addressed this year, such as the tax rates that any new casinos would have to pay, other details are gradually becoming clearer. The governor announced that a temporary selection committee, made up of real estate and finance experts, would be set up to determine where the casinos go. The final question, of course, is whether voters will support the amendment to legalize casino gambling. Asked about the impact of a potentially large turnout for the mayor’s race in New York City, which won’t see any new casinos but which makes up a big share of the state’s electorate, Cuomo said he couldn’t afford to wait until next year. “This plan is we go forward, we do it this year,” he said. “The problem of pushing it off a year is you’re pushing it off a year. … We need jobs in upstate New York and economic activity in upstate New York like we need oxygen.”
NYGA’s James Featherstonhaugh (left) discussed casino expansion with Sen. John Bonacic and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow at City & State’s “State of Our State” conference.
he legalization of casino gambling in New York is one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top priorities as the legislative session comes to a close this year, but it’s not yet clear whether he has a winning hand. Framing the issue in terms of economic development and tourism, Cuomo has called for limiting any new full-fledged casinos to the upstate region for at least five years. And while the constitutional amendment legalizing casinos would allow for up to seven locations, for months Cuomo has made it clear that he wants to start out with just three. “We’re talking about resort gaming destinations, which we believe have a significant economic development potential for regional economic development and tourism,” Cuomo said during a press conference earlier this month. “We believe this could be a great regional asset, an engine to actually spur additional tourism.” Casino operators could compete in as many as four regions in upstate New York—excluding the New York City metropolitan area and Long Island—for one of the three casinos under the governor’s plan. Two other regions were taken off the table this month when the state announced wide-reaching deals granting exclusive operating rights to the Oneida Indian Nation in Central New York and the St. Regis Mohawks in the North Country. The Seneca Nation also has an exclusivity casino zone in the Western New York region, but Cuomo has threatened to allow casino expansion there amid a dispute over an existing gambling agreement between the state and the tribe. Some details are likely to be addressed in enabling legislation that is separate from the constitutional amendment to legalize full-fledged casinos with table games. The Legislature passed the casino amendment last year, and this year the new Legislature will have to pass it again before it can go before the public in a referendum, which the governor wants on the ballot in November. Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, who chairs the Racing and Wagering Committee, said that he expects the constitutional amendment to pass before the end of session this year, but he was unsure about the prospects for the enabling legislation. “I think second passage is good,” Pretlow said. “The rest of it, I don’t know. The enabling legislation, the plan that the governor put forward, I don’t know if that’s going to fly the way it is.” Pretlow and others have called for all seven casinos to be sited at once, including in the downstate area, which experts say would easily be the most profitable part of the state for casino gambling. Or at least, critics say, the administration should provide more details on where any downstate casinos could be located in the future. The governor has countered that leaving New York City out of the mix would maximize much-needed investment upstate. “I know what the governor wants to do, and I have a little bit of a different view on it,” Pretlow said. “I think we should at least show the locations of the other four.”
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www.cityandstateny.com | MAY 27, 2013
S E SS I O N CO U N T D OW N CASINOS
EXPERT OPINION “It’s not gaming or no gaming. New York State is in the gaming business. So let’s frame the question properly and not deny the reality of the situation. There is gaming in the state of New York. There are 17 casinos/ racinos. We’ve had the discussion before that a racino, especially today, is basically a casino. The racinos were created to get around, frankly, existing state law, and they were in many ways created as a loophole, but for all intents and purposes they are a casino, and there are 17 casinos and racinos in New York, 29,000 electronic gaming devices, and they are all across the state. … What you put on top of that is that we are surrounded by casinos in neighboring states. So it’s not a question of ‘Should we have gaming or should we not have gaming?’ We have gaming. The question really is: ‘Should we recognize the reality of our situation and fully participate in casinos and gaming and actually regulate it intelligently and tie it in to our overall tourism efforts?’ ” —Gov. Andrew Cuomo
“I am hopeful the governor will consider authorizing
in that area is going to be needed.” —Gary Pretlow, Chair, Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee
three casinos in the Catskills. I believe voters will want to know the facts before they vote on gaming. I believe as much information as possible should be out there. I believe an informed voter is a voter more likely to vote ‘yes’ on the referendum. I look forward to finally seeing gaming come to the Catskills, and creating jobs desperately needed there and elsewhere, to help the upstate economy.” —John Bonacic, Chair, State Senate Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee
“I’m not a believer in destination casinos. Casinos are a convenience. There are only three destination casinos in the world, and that’s Las Vegas and Monte Carlo if you’re wealthy, and Macau if you happen to live in China. Everything else is a casino of convenience, and that’s why you see the demise of the casinos that surround New York, because the drop-off, if you do the numbers, of what they used to get is now going to New York. We’ve benefited from what we have. So I don’t think that having them upstate is a bad idea— it’s a good idea—especially if it’s near our competition, which now means Massachusetts. Something
“New York Gaming Association members are proud to be partners in the most successful public-private partnership in the country. That partnership has resulted in more than $3.8 billion in education aid, $839 million for racing, breeding and the preservation of open space, and $170 million for local governments since 2004. The strength of the New York model is backed by our numbers and our ability to increasingly generate funding for schools, local governments and support for racing and related agricultural industries. NYGA’s goal for the remainder of this session is no different from our mission every day: continue to expand the New York model of responsible, community partnerships centered on job creation, tourism expansion and support for public education and upstate agriculture. We hope to continue to work collaboratively with all parties to preserve the truly excellent model in place and to improve gaming options at our facilities.” —James Featherstonhaugh (pictured), President, the New York Gaming Association
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Since Our GRAND OPENINGS in 2006 Our Properties Have Grown To Employ Over 600 People. In Addition We Are Proud That Our Racing And Gaming Enterprises Have Contributed Over $238.6 Million To Our Communities.
Combined Properties Education Contribution - $225.5 Million Town of Nichols - $1,660,110 Tioga County - $2,610,714
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www.cityandstateny.com | MAY 27, 2013
S E SS I O N CO U N T D OW N LABOR
LABOR GAINS Lawmakers look at farmworker rights, tweaks to minimum wage deal By ADAM JANOS
egislation raising New York’s minimum wage didn’t please everybody in Albany, but the final agreement, which incrementally increases the wage to $9 an hour by the end of 2015, was acceptable enough for both houses and the governor to sign on. That bill is likely to be the biggest piece of legislation directly affecting the state’s workers this year, but there have been other important changes as well—and still more are under discussion. Signed into law as part of the latest budget, the minimum wage will increase from $7.25 to $8 on Dec. 31, then to $8.75 at the end of 2014 and finally to $9 the following year. The law also establishes a wage board under the state Department of Labor to determine if and when a new minimum wage for tipped workers would go into effect.
As of now, the minimum wage for tipped workers will continue to be $7.25 an hour. A tax credit for employers hiring minimum wage workers who are between the ages of 16 and 19 will offset some of the increased burden the raised wage will bring to small businesses while incentivizing their hiring. Unemployment benefits will also be pegged to the wages earned in the marketplace. Like the minimum wage, the changes to unemployment benefits were included in the latest state budget, though these will kick in at a far slower place. Over the next 13 years, maximum unemployment benefits will be indexed to the state’s average wage in each profession. Eventually workers unable to find a job will be eligible to receive up to 50 percent of the state’s average weekly wage, with that maximum figure reached in October 2026.
WHAT GOT DONE • Minimum wage hike • Unemployment benefits reform • Workers’ compensation expanded and streamlined WHAT’S ON THE DOCKET • Tax credits for young minimum wage workers • Farmworker labor standards
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LABOR Workers’ compensation, which provides payments to workers injured on the job, was also altered this year. The governor touted cost reductions by closing a fund for reopened cases, into which businesses will no longer need to make payments. Further changes aimed at increasing competitiveness in the market are projected to save employers $800 million, with self-insured businesses garnering the lion’s share of those savings. Workers will see minimum weekly benefits increase from $100 to $150 per week. Other measures are still on the table, including at least one attempt to repeal part of this year’s minimum wage deal. A minimum wage tax credit reimbursement for businesses employing teenage workers—a measure pushed by Senate Republicans—has been criticized by some for being poorly designed and wasteful. State Sen. José Peralta has called for repealing the credit entirely. The tax credit, which will cost an estimated $230 million over its first four years, is designed to encourage the hiring of youths by granting businesses hourly subsidies for workers between the ages of 16 and 19. Opponents fear that the credit will inadvertently disincentivize those same businesses from keeping workers 20 years of age or older on payroll. Since the state only provides the credit to businesses employing teens at minimum wage, opponents say that the credit effectively creates a maximum wage for the newly hired youth. When even a five-cent raise for young employees disqualifies the employer from receiving a subsidy, employers may find that raises don’t make sense. Peralta noted that the subsidies could benefit corporations like McDonald’s and Walmart, which he argues don’t need taxpayer support. “If the idea is to help small business, then let’s try to do that,” said Frank Sobrino, a Peralta spokesman. “As it stands now … this will result in tens of millions of taxpayer dollars going to some of the largest, most profitable companies in the world.” Senate Republicans deny the tax credit benefits large corporations. According to spokesman Scott Reif, unemployment among young New Yorkers—particularly minorities—remains high, and increases in the minimum wage will only exacerbate the problem. The unemployment rate for New Yorkers ages 16–19 is 28 percent. “Every member has the right to introduce any legislation they wish, but that doesn’t mean we have to take it seriously,” Reif said. “This provision was part of a budget compromise that will keep young workers from losing their jobs.” Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan also introduced a bill to expand farmers’ rights and hold agrarian labor practices to the same standards as factories. The bill would
grant farmworkers collective bargaining rights, mandate a day off per week and grant time-and-a-half pay for overtime. It passed the Assembly and was awaiting a vote in the Senate at press time. The New York Farm Bureau, which opposes the bill, criticized applying the labor laws of a factory to the economics of agriculture. “Simply put, harvesting crops doesn’t fit into a typical work week
S E S S I O N CO U N T D OW N
schedule,” the Farm Bureau said in a statement, adding that a farmer’s workload is dictated by the ripening of crops and the weather, not by the days of the calendar. “If an employee is unhappy, they have every right and the ability to simply vote with their feet and leave employment, just like everyone else in today’s workplace.” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver chal-
lenged that notion. “It is inexcusable that in 2013 farmworkers are still excluded from some basic labor protections that are afforded to workers under the state’s labor law,” Silver said in a statement. “Farmworkers perform physically taxing, sometimes dangerous work to put food on our tables and deserve to receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”
Tax-free NY is a really bad idea.
By Danny Donohue Governor Andrew Cuomo has a new corporate welfare scheme and it’s a bad idea. “Tax-free NY” would allow new businesses to lease land on SUNY campuses and private colleges and universities and pay no taxes for 10 years – no sales, property or business taxes! But here’s the worst part: employees of the new businesses would pay no state income taxes. This is yet another tax giveaway to business at the expense of local communities and middle class jobs. It’s also extremely disturbing that state legislative leaders seem ready to give the Governor a blank check on this latest misguided venture. Think about it – this is dangerous territory when we start creating special categories of employees and start treating some people better than others. New York already has the most inequitable income distribution in the country and “Tax-free NY” would further undermine confidence in the fairness of our society. More corporate welfare is no answer to New York’s economic challenges. No amount of TV ads spinning the Governor’s record can change the reality that his so-called
Danny Donohue is president of the nearly 300,000 member CSEA – New York’s Leading Union – representing workers doing every kind of job, in every part of New York.
8951_Tax-Free NY Advertorial 7.458x10 CS.indd 1
job creation policies have failed. They have mostly benefitted the superwealthy and big corporations and repeatedly failed to deliver real growth and middle class jobs. Recent state budgets have repeatedly shortchanged localities without providing any meaningful relief. This has resulted in the loss of nearly 60,000 public service jobs since 2010, eroding needed services and taking paychecks out of the economy. There’s no money to help distressed localities and we have to cut funds from services for people with developmental disabilities, but we can send tax rebates to people who don’t need it in an election year? Now it’s even more outrageous that the Governor and legislative leaders think we can give away even more to businesses without any guarantee of a benefit to taxpayers. The Governor has the money for the things that help his political agenda and his millionaire friends but he just doesn’t give a fig about working people. He truly deserves the nickname, “Governor One Percent.”
LOCAL 1000 AFSCME, AFL-CIO DA N N Y D O N O H U E , P R E S I D E N T
www.cityandstateny.com | MAY 27, 20132:07 PM 23 5/23/13
HOW did transit workers restore bus and subway service so fast after Sandy?
We never went home! TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen (center) with some of the transit workers who worked during the storm.
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As Sandy bore down, we participated in the evacuation of residents from the City’s at-risk neighborhoods. When Sandy raged across the region, we remained on the job in stations, in depots, in tunnels and in train yards to protect the system and its buses and trains. As all hell broke loose, TWU Local 100’s work crews stayed put and worked tirelessly to bring the region’s economic lifeblood back on line as soon as possible.
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S E SS I O N CO U N T D OW N LABOR
EXPERT OPINION “Contrary to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s spin, the new state budget is full of misplaced priorities and continues the assault on public services and working people. In the next few weeks New Yorkers need to see lawmakers stepping up to address the governor’s failure in many areas. It starts with the governor’s failure to commit to a future for public healthcare at Downstate Medical Center, leaving millions of people at risk. We need to see real community reinvestment in mental health services, not newsrelease rhetoric about “centers of excellence” that really mean more erosion of care that leaves people in need and local communities footing the bill for the administration’s irresponsibility. We also need to see real help for localities who have been hit by the double whammy of repeatedly being shortchanged by this administration while it has failed to deliver on job creation.” —Danny Donohue (pictured), President, CSEA “We’re working on coming up with some sort of compromise for the police and firearm binding arbitration. We’re also working on a bill, a New York version of the Davis–Bacon Act right now to make sure that there are not contractors barred from doing federal work for violations who are also barred from doing work in New York State. Those are probably the two major objectives, plus we have a number of bills that are expiring that we have to continue on with.” —Peter Abbate, Chair, Employees Committee
“We have a month left, and I am going through the bills with my committee staff and the Speaker’s office to determine which legislation we will focus on for the rest of the session.”
finally get it done this year.” —Diane Savino, Chair (pictured), State Senate Labor Committee “There’s no pension smoothers, no increases in pension benefits and there’s actually no consolidation and no lessening of pensions. I would not be at all surprised that there will be stuff coming out that will not come from this committee after June 4. It will go through Rules and Finance. You’ll see the big bills that will come out. They could cover anything from A to Z. I believe the session will end on time. I don’t think there will be many large announcements over the next three or four weeks. Casinos will get done, I’m pretty sure. You’ll see some surprises but not many.” —Martin Golden (pictured), Chair, State Senate Civil Service and Pensions Committee “The Transport Workers Union Local 100 is looking at four issues for the remainder of the session, including a two-year extension of the binding arbitration provision of the Taylor Law, sponsored by Assemblyman Peter Abbate and state Sen. Martin Golden, and a bill that would enable military veterans who served during any period, to buy back up to three years of pension credit in public retirement systems, sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and state Sen. William Larkin. Local 100 is further seeking a bus safety measure, mandating the installation of safety partitions on buses in New York City within the next five years, a measure sponsored by Assemblyman Walter Mosley. Also, the union supports a bill creating a New York City Transit Authority Safety Advisory panel, sponsored by Assemblyman Keith Wright and state Sen. Martin Golden, to study the impact of Station Booth closings on passengers, as well as other safety concerns.”
—TWU Local 100 “We were pleased to see this year an increase in the state’s minimum wage, but one aspect of the bill was drafted in such a way to cause great harm and needs to be amended. By subsidizing employers for the increase in the new minimum wage for workers under 20 years old, the legislation creates incentives for employers to replace older workers with younger workers and to let go workers when they reach 20 years old. At the same time, it penalizes employers for paying these teen workers even a penny above the minimum wage. Unfortunately and disgracefully, New York has become the first state in the nation to create a de facto “maximum wage” for teen workers. Furthermore, the bill transfers tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to large employers like Walmart and McDonalds. While reforming the partial unemployment insurance (UI) rule is long overdue, the main problem with the current calculation of partial UI benefits is that there is a greater incentive to collect full benefits than there is to work part-time with partial benefits. This practice prevents retail workers, under-employed after the holiday season, from collecting partial unemployment benefits even though their weekly schedules, and thus incomes, have been cut in half.” —Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union
—Carl Heastie, Chair, Assembly Labor Committee “The governor took a lot of the big issues earlier this year and did them in the budget ... but there’s still a lot of priority bills moving through the Labor Committee. There’s a bill that Sen. Bonacic is carrying that is very important. It would establish inspections in the elevator industry. We saw horrible examples in the past few years where people were killed by elevators that had not been inspected. We have a bill that would [bar] contractors that have labor violations in other states because we do not want bad actors coming into New York. We have the fair pay misclassification of the trucking industry. We have clear examples of employers treating truck drivers as if they were independent contractors in every way other than when it comes to paying them, so you know when you’re an employee. There’s a bill that would give farmworkers basic dignity in the workplace. It’s time. We think we may be able to 26 MAY 27, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
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www.cityandstateny.com | MAY 27, 2013
S E SS I O N CO U N T D OW N INFRASTRUCTURE
BRIDGING the GAP Cuomo targets bridges, post-Sandy rebuilding to shore up state’s aging infrastructure
WHAT GOT DONE • NY Works funding for bridges • Federal natural disaster funds WHAT’S ON THE DOCKET • Reforming the Scaffold Law • Independent infrastructure commission Last summer Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an application letter to the federal government for federal funding for a new bridge to replace the Tappan Zee.
28 MAY 27, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
or Gov. Andrew Cuomo, bridges are a major part of his agenda—and not just the figurative kind. The governor has spearheaded a project to replace the aging Tappan Zee Bridge, a key component of the state’s transportation infrastructure that had languished in the planning stages for years. In his State of the State address in January, a depiction of the Tappan Zee’s planned replacement was a prominent part of the imagery of the event. And in April the governor announced the start of construction on $44.5 million in smaller bridge projects across the state, funded by his “NY Works” program and touted as a way to spur economic development. “Replacing these bridges and bridge decks will increase safety for motorists and enhance mobility along important travel corridors across the state,” Joan McDonald, the state’s transportation commissioner, said in a statement. But even with the initiatives the Cuomo administration has moving forward, there is plenty more work to be done. Sixty percent of the state’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition, while 2,169 bridges are structurally deficient, according to the 2013 Infrastructure Report Card from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Of course, some of that work is already under way. The NY Works program got an additional influx of $225 million in the budget this year, bringing the state’s total capital investment in its highway construction program to $1.9 billion. Last month Cuomo announced a plan to repair or replace 15 bridges across the state. Most of the projects are planned for upstate, including four projects in the Hudson Valley and others in Oneida, Schenectady and Sullivan counties. Other infrastructure projects in the state are aimed at rebuilding in the wake of natural disasters. Having secured funding through the federal Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, which was signed into law by President Obama at the start of the year, Cuomo announced the Community Reconstruction Zones program in April. The $1.7 billion federally funded program will focus resources through bottom-up planning in concert with FEMA to restore housing, infrastructure and businesses damaged by Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee over the past two years. The majority of that money will be allocated to providing immediate relief in the wake of Sandy, with $838 million budgeted for housing programs and another $415 million for economic revitalization. “We’re asking communities to organize themselves and come up with their own reconstruction plan,” Cuomo said at a press conference in April. “This is one of these times where all the abstraction of government strips away and all the theory of government strips away. Government either works together, or it doesn’t work together.” The devastation of Sandy and subsequent complaints about the state’s emergency response infrastructure have reinvigorated state Sen. Steve Englebright’s push for Good Samaritan legislation to help protect architects who volunteer during an emergency from facing civil suits. According to Englebright, some 400 architects responded to calls for help in the wake
of the storm. When informed that the absence of legal protection left them economically vulnerable, many declined to participate. “Ordinarily an architect is involved in long-term thought processes such as planning and drawing,” Englebright said. “But in an emergency situation they are able—with buildings they may have designed—to give insight to the emergency workers, the personnel that work for the city, and to Department of Buildings. When you get hit with a lawsuit … it detracts from your ability to make a living, and it detracts from your ability to do things for society.” While the challenges posed by natural disasters have grown of late, another construction-related issue has been debated by lawmakers for years: the Scaffold Law. In the event that a construction worker falls and is injured, New York’s Labor Law 240 provides strong protections for that worker. But construction advocates see the law as a burden that drives up insurance prices and stifles development. “Someone could be dead drunk, extremely careless, they could do something blatantly illegal … and the contractor would still be liable for damages or any harm,” said Richard Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress. “We’re the only state that still has anything like this.” According to Anderson and other opponents of the law, the Scaffold Law has kept construction from moving at the pace needed to fix our state’s many bridges and roads, prompting state Sen. Patrick Gallivan to introduce legislation calling for the law’s repeal. “Rationally reforming the Scaffold Law to allow for comparative negligence in gravity-based injuries at the work site will level the playing field for New York contractors and reduce insurance costs for small businesses, farms, manufacturers, municipalities, school districts—and ultimately, taxpayers,” Gallivan said. “The potential benefits of this reform have been demonstrated in Illinois, where close to 50,000 new construction industry jobs were created following that state’s move to reform its Scaffold Law in 1995.” While the governor has launched a number of projects to fix up the state’s infrastructure, some lawmakers would like to do more. Two downstate lawmakers, Democratic Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas and Republican state Sen. Martin Golden, have introduced a bill that would establish an independent commission to organize and regulate the state’s infrastructure and make sure it is adequately maintained. The commission would be made up of eight members, including five appointed by the governor, one each from the head of the Assembly and the Senate, and one from the state comptroller. “The independent part is important, because we don’t want to get into a debate about strengthening one region over another,” Simotas said. With public safety a focus of the commission, the legislators hope to create a proactive governmental agency that will evaluate the life span of infrastructure as it is built and also take a thorough look at out-of-date public works that may cause problems in the near future. Along with bridges and roadways, waterways and levees would also come under scrutiny, in response to the destructive storms that have passed through the state over the last two years. “The infrastructure is aged,” Golden said. “Everybody says, ‘We’re gonna put so much money towards this and that,’ but there are no timelines. It’s no use waiting until a street caves in or a bridge falls down. Let’s map out a strategy.”
SOURCE: EXECUTIVE CHAMBER
By ADAM JANOS
www.cityandstateny.com | MAY 27, 2013
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made it a focus to rebuild the Tappan Zee Bridge since he took office. With the project now moving forward, he has used images of the bridge design to represent more metaphorical bridge-building during his governorship.
30 MAY 27, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
When you get hit with a lawsuit … it detracts from your ability to make a living, and it detracts from your ability to do things for society.” While the challenges posed by natural disasters have grown of late, another constructionrelated issue has been debated by lawmakers for years: the Scaffold Law. In the event that a construction worker falls and is injured, New York’s Labor Law 240 provides strong protections for that worker. But construction advocates see the law as a burden that drives up insurance prices and stifles development. “Someone could be dead drunk, extremely careless, they could do something blatantly illegal … and the contractor would still be liable for damages or any harm,” said Richard Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress. “We’re the only state that still has anything like this.” According to Anderson and other opponents of the law, the Scaffold Law has kept construction from moving at the pace needed to fix our state’s many bridges and roads, prompting state Sen. Patrick Gallivan to introduce legislation calling for the law’s repeal. “Rationally reforming the Scaffold Law to allow for comparative negligence in gravity-based injuries at the work site will level the playing field for New York contractors and reduce insurance costs for small businesses, farms, manufacturers, municipalities, school districts—and ultimately, taxpayers,” Gallivan said. “The potential benefits of this reform have been demonstrated in Illinois, where close to 50,000 new construction industry jobs were created following that state’s move to reform its Scaffold Law in 1995.” While the governor has launched a number of projects to fix up the state’s infrastructure, some lawmakers would like to do more. Two downstate lawmakers, Democratic Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas and Republican state Sen. Martin Golden, have introduced a bill that would establish an independent commission to organize and regulate the state’s infrastructure and make sure it is adequately maintained. The commission would be made up of eight members, including five appointed by the governor, one each from the head of the Assembly and the Senate, and one from the state comptroller. “The independent part is important, because we don’t want to get into a debate about strengthening one region over another,” Simotas said. With public safety a focus of the commission, the legislators hope to create a proactive governmental agency that will evaluate the life span of infrastructure as it is built and also take a thorough look at out-of-date public works that may cause problems in the near future. Along with bridges and roadways, waterways and levees would also come under scrutiny, in response to the destructive storms that have passed through the state over the last two years. “The infrastructure is aged,” Golden said. “Everybody says, ‘We’re gonna put so much money towards this and that,’ but there are no timelines. It’s no use waiting until a street caves in or a bridge falls down. Let’s map out a strategy.”
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www.cityandstateny.com | MAY 27, 2013
S E SS I O N CO U N T D OW N INFRASTRUCTURE
EXPANDING BROADBAND INFRASTRUCTURE By ADAM JANOS For communities that are off the grid in the mountains upstate, the lack of access to the Internet has become a quality of life issue that is leaving segments of the population farther and farther behind. Several Senate Democrats have aimed to address these large gaps in service, including state Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, whose Broadband Internet Access Act of 2013 would provide a government tax credit of 10 to 20 percent for private companies that expand service to underserved communities. According to Tkaczyk, adequate access to broadband would allow farmers to sell their wares more easily; tourist destinations to get on the map and attract urban visitors; educators in sparsely populated communities to teach at several sites simultaneously through “distance learning”; and doctors to provide basic healthcare to patients without costly and time-consuming hospital visits or house calls.
“I see the expansion of Internet access in rural areas as just as important as roads and bridges,” Tkaczyk said. “If businesses, schools and municipalities don’t have access to the Internet at a speed where they can get things done, they’re being left behind on the information superhighway.” The program’s hefty price tag ($400 million over four years) make it a challenge to pass with the budget already done, but the bill may spur a broader dialogue around the issue of Internet-access disparities throughout the state. Other legislation to address broadband includes a pair of bills introduced by state Sen. Kevin Parker. One would assess where the greatest needs for broadband exist and attempt to foster demand by providing computers, Internet access and basic computer literacy education in low-demand locations like senior centers and public housing. The other bill would create a statewide broadband authority to better provide services across the state and to bring government into competition for telecommunications against private networks. Similar authorities have been established in Virginia and Vermont.
EXPERT OPINION “Reform of the 240/241 Scaffold Law remains the No. 1 legislative priority for BTEA contractors. New York State is the only state in the nation that has this strict-liability rather than comparable-liability standard for construction safety. Insurance costs have increased anywhere from 200 to 400 percent since 2012 because of this law. It adds a minimum of 4 percent to insurance costs for construction projects, and that is a drag on growing the economic and job development initiatives of this state. On a $100 million project, that means $20 million in excess insurance premiums are necessary. For New York State taxpayers, reform would mean every district could build two to three new schools each year in their district with the money now being paid for insurance as a result
of this law. —Louis Coletti, President and CEO, Building Trades Employers’ Association of New York City “Local 46 is focused on ensuring that economic development agencies like New York City Economic Development Corporation operate transparently and create good jobs that strengthen our communities. City money and city land should never be used to drive down the wages and benefits of hardworking New Yorkers, which is exactly what New York City Economic Development Corporation is doing with the City Point Project in downtown Brooklyn. We are determined to work with our allies in city government to make this vision a reality and keep New York a middle class city.” —Terrence Moore, Local 46 “There were several public authorities that were exempted from the Public Authorities Reform Act when it was enacted several years ago— that’s the Port Authority and the New York City Housing Authority— and we have legislation to bring that accountability legislation to those entities of govern-
32 MAY 27, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
ment. We think it’s appropriate that their governing standards be modernized and updated. I’m also putting in new legislation to reregulate generation of electricity in New York State. My office has been investigating pricing practices in the wholesale electric industry and has determined that wholesalers charge 50 percent more if they were still regulated. And those charges run into the hundreds of millions of dollars for consumers.” —James Brennan, Chair, Assembly Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee “There are still important transportationrelated priorities left to address, especially strengthening Leandra’s Law. The state must close the unintended legal loophole in Leandra’s Law which is allowing far too many drunk drivers to escape using ignition interlocks as the law intended. Approximately 70 percent of offenders who are required to install an ignition interlock have not done so. That is unacceptable and is putting lives at risk. The Senate has passed legislation to close this unintended loophole; the Assembly must do the same. Additionally, New York State must strengthen its BWI and boating safety laws to protect families while they are out on the water. Alcohol is the leading contributor to fatal boating accidents nationwide, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. One in three alcohol related accidents in New York State in 2011 resulted in death, according to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. The state must also enact new measures to protect children from intoxicated school bus drivers, especially following several school bus crashes on Long Island which were caused by intoxicated bus drivers.” —Charles Fuschillo (pictured), Chair, State Senate Transportation Committee
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www.cityandstateny.com | MAY 27, 2013
S E SS I O N CO U N T D OW N HEALTHCARE
HIGH HOPES FOR HEALTHCARE REFORM Legislature grapples with Medicaid costs, disabilities, abortion and marijuana By AARON SHORT
ongress has been bickering over the Affordable Care Act’s enactment and federal healthcare spending while the New York City Council has debated paid sick leave and Bloomberg’s regulations of vices. So what does the state have to hash out? Well, hash, for one. The state Legislature currently is considering whether to legalize medical marijuana, expand abortion rights and restore funding cuts to the developmentally disabled. These social issues will dominate the Legislature’s healthcare agenda for the rest of session, but one of the biggest issues facing the state continues to be the rising costs of health insurance. A congressional committee found in February that New York overbilled the federal government $15 billion for developmentally disabled facilities, and asked for the money back. Then it asked for an audit of the state’s $54 billion in Medicaid spending. Compounding New York’s financial challenges in this area, Congress is looking to cut federal healthcare spending even more deeply—to the tune of $401 billion over the next decade—which will affect how much money will go to Medicaid beneficiaries and how much Medicare recipients will pay in premiums. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is leading an effort to reorganize municipal finances because of rising pension and healthcare costs. Cuomo’s proposed Financial Restructuring Board could result in consolidations, mergers and shared town services in some cases. The Legislature is expected to vote on Cuomo’s municipal plan by the end of session, but other healthcare costs are not going away.
WHAT GOT DONE • Medicaid Redesign savings • Long Island College Hospital stays open WHAT’S ON THE DOCKET • Expand abortion rights • Medical marijuana • Restore cuts to developmentally disabled 34 MAY 27, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
THE SESSION TO DATE In the next fiscal year the state’s total spending for Medicaid, which includes federal and local money, will be $57.6 billion, or about 6.7 percent of the budget—a number that has been rising in recent years. Cuomo has touted the work of his Medicaid Redesign Team, which he says will help save the state $17.1 billion over the next five years. But his team has had to tackle another spending problem that has proven to be more intractable—hospital closures. Cuomo has pleaded for federal funds to save four downstate hospitals from closing permanently, and he plans to use $10 billion of the $17 billion in expected Medicaid savings to renovate outdated health facilities. Long Island College Hospital was nearly shut down this spring before State University of New York trustees withdrew their closure plan, to the relief of many Brooklyn residents. “Now there’s a real opportunity for a collaborative process that engages the community and local leaders on LICH’s future,” state Sen. Daniel Squadron said. “We’ve been making our voices heard loud and clear: LICH is vital to Brooklyn. And it’s clear we’re being heard.”
of 10 planks of his Women’s Equality Agenda. Women’s rights advocates have rallied Democrats across the state to pass the platform this spring. Lawmakers have not yet submitted language detailing the specifics of the Women’s Equality Act, but state Sen. Liz Krueger said she expects a bill by early June. “Too often in Albany, progress on the big issues stalls out not because the votes aren’t there but because majority leaders—who should only have one vote each—are allowed to say no to bills ever receiving a vote,” Kruger said. “But on these fundamental issues of equality and fairness for women in New York State, we will not take no for an answer.” It remains unclear whether Senate leaders will allow the bill to come up for a vote. Senate Majority Co-Leader Dean Skelos has refused to introduce legislation that contains an abortion component, citing a recent case in which a Pennsylvania abortion provider was found guilty of murder. Senate Majority Co-Leader Jeff Klein and his allies in the Independent Democratic Conference said that the governor would be able to pass the 10-point plan, but he pointed to Democratic leader Andrea-Stewart Cousins’ past failure to marshal support for a women’s equality bill. Medical marijuana advocates will not have it any easier. State Sen. Diane Savino, a member of the IDC, and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, the chair of his chamber’s health committee, are pushing to legalize medical marijuana. “If the patient and physician agree that the patient’s severe debilitating or life-threatening condition should be treated with medical marijuana, the government should not stand in the way,” Gottfried said at a City Hall rally. “Thousands of New Yorkers have serious medical conditions that would benefit from medical use of marijuana. It is cruel to deny treatment to patients who are suffering or to turn them into criminals.” The legislation has passed the Assembly, and Savino believes she can deliver 38 votes in the Senate, including a number of Republican senators. But Skelos is not eager to bring the bill to the floor. Cuomo is also reluctant to sign any legalization law without thoroughly vetting the proposed distribution system. The obstacles remain even though a majority of New Yorkers, 61 percent, supports the use of medical marijuana, according to a 2012 Siena poll. “At this point, I do not support medical marijuana,” Cuomo said in April. “I understand the benefits. It’s the risks.”
UPHILL CLIMB The Legislature could take a stand on two of the most important social issues that energize the political left: abortion and marijuana. Cuomo has pushed for a proposal to allow doctors to perform abortions in the third trimester if a woman’s health is at risk, one
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Help ensure Americans have access to these affordable, life-saving medications. Join the fight for biosimilars. It’s the right thing to do.
© 2013 Express Scripts Holding Company. All Rights Reserved. 13-0429 The people shown are for illustrative purposes only and may not be actual members or healthcare providers.
www.cityandstateny.com | MAY 27, 2013
S E SS I O N CO U N T D OW N HEALTHCARE
EXPERT OPINION “Medical marijuana is certainly a key priority for the year, and I think it’s doable. We need to try to do something about access to capital investment to hospitals. That issue was put off during budget discussions, and it very much needs to be brought back together. I hope to bring my single-payer universal health coverage bill for a vote. That isn’t going to be enacted into law this year, but I think it’s time for the state Assembly to take a stand on it.” —Richard Gottfried (pictured), Chair, Assembly Health Committee “Express Scripts and our clients—the plan sponsors paying for pharmacy benefits for millions of New Yorkers—are aligned to make the use of prescription drugs safer and more affordable. We oppose any legislation that aims to do the opposite. As Gov. Andrew Cuomo has demonstrated, any legislative agenda has to control costs and protect taxpayer dollars, especially when everyday New Yorkers struggle to make ends meet. The rising cost of medicine creates a burden for the state’s budget, especially for Medicaid and the workers’ compensation system. Express Scripts is focused on
driving out waste, lowering costs and improving health outcomes. Plan sponsors must have unfettered access to proven cost-saving solutions that Express Scripts and other pharmacy benefit managers provide. We support legislative efforts that protect New Yorkers against the rising cost of healthcare.” —Jonah Houts, Vice President of Government Affairs, Express Scripts “This legislative session HCA is working to achieve policies that support the home care system under Medicaid Redesign, as services for thousands of chronically ill and medically frail New Yorkers transition to managed long-term care. These policies include urgently needed regulatory relief measures, which would support the functionality of home care providers within managed care networks and provide flexibility for managed care plans, ensuring continuity of care for patients. HCA also supports two other legislative
proposals that aim to assist patients, their providers and managed care plans in this transition. One proposal would bring home care providers and managed care plans together on a panel to discuss ways of measuring and reporting quality. Another proposal would include cost-effective home tele-health services under managed long-term care, allowing providers to continue these successful remotemonitoring technologies which are proven to enhance clinical outcomes.” —Joanne Cunningham, President, Home Care Association of New York State “Anybody who ever had a family member suffer from a debilitating disease learns very quickly the limitations of modern medicine at treating pain. Doctors and patients have documented that marijuana can offer very effective pain treatment where other medications have failed for many patients who suffer from other lifethreatening or debilitating conditions.” —Diane Savino, State Senator
Medicaid Redesign changed the field for NewYork’s long term care system. Today, let’s build on these changes, and assure the best possible care‐ continuity for thousands of chronically ill, disabled and frail‐elderly patients receiving care at home. This legislative session, HCA urges: • Regulatory realignment and improved quality measurement provisions to assist home care providers and managed long term care plans as they jointly work to provide quality services to enrollees. • Preservation of innovative and cost‐saving home telehealth services and the opportunity for Long Term Home Health Care Program providers to transition into a new managed care arena.
To learn more about these proposals, visit
34 MAY MAY27, 27,2013 2013| |www.cityandstateny.com www.cityandstateny.com 36
CITY& &STATE STATE CITY
SUPPORTERS Mayor Bloomberg Speaker Christine Quinn Public Advocate Bill de Blasio Comptroller John Liu Police Commissioner Ray Kelly COUNCILMEMBERS Ydanis Rodríguez G. Oliver Koppell Andy King James Vacca Fernando Cabrera Joel Rivera Helen Foster Maria del Carmen Arroyo Annabel Palma
Image courtesy Anna Marie Gerber
Andy King Peter Koo Julissa Ferreras Karen Koslowitz
Unless Albany allows New York City to test a speed camera program near our schools (A.4327/S.4459), there’s no telling how many crashes will continue claiming life and limb. Join these New York City public officials and tell Albany:
ALBANY, PASS THIS BILL BEFORE THE NEXT TRAGEDY.
Elizabeth Crowley Donovan Richards Stephen Levin Diana Reyna Letitia James Albert Vann Erik Martin Dilan Sara M. Gonzalez Brad Lander Mathieu Eugene Darlene Mealy Charles Barron Vincent J. Gentile SUPPORTERS Chin David G. Margaret Greenfield Rosie Mendez
Garodnick JumaaneDaniel Williams Jessica Lappin
Gale Brewer Lewis Fidler
Mark-Viverito DomenicMelissa M. Recchia Inez Dickens
Michael Chaim Nelson Deborah Rose Image courtesy Navid Baraty
FOR MORE INFO, VISIT TRANSALT.ORG www.cityandstateny.com | MAY 27, 2013
S E SS I O N CO U N T D OW N EDUCATION
SESSION’S OUT Legislators grapple with merit pay, immigration funding and teacher evaluations By AARON SHORT
he relationship between school aid and teacher testing has dominated the education debate in Albany for much of the year. The state Legislature increased the state’s education spending in next year’s budget by $889 million and reached an agreement guaranteeing that schools implement permanent teacher evaluation systems. The budget was chock-full of programs tied to state funding, including bar exams for teachers, full-day prekindergarten programs, community hubs in high-need school districts and state university projects that spur economic revitalization. But in recent weeks legislative leaders have been pushing for several additional initiatives, including funds for undocumented immigrants seeking a college degree and a master teacher program that rewards excellent teachers in the fields of math and science. And state education leaders are ramping up the pressure on New York City, which already lost $260 million in state aid and must reach its agreement with its teachers’ union on evaluations by June 1 or face a system imposed by the governor. THE BUDGET The state increased its spending on education by 4.4 percent from the previous year, or about $300 per student, with a focus on distributing aid to high-need school districts. The governor’s budget supported a number of programs in public schools that create a “community school” hub to provide social and health services as well as full-day prekindergarten in poorer neighborhoods, and efforts to improve college access for
high school students. And the state’s public universities, SUNY and CUNY, received $55 million each, to be given out competitively, for projects that link higher education innovations to regional economic revitalization. Education advocates praised the increase in funding, but some said it was not enough to stave off likely cuts to educational programs and prevent teacher layoffs in many districts. “In this regard, this budget continues the downward spiral in educational opportunity that Albany has forced on local schools,” Billy Easton, the executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, said in a statement when the budget was first proposed. “New York’s students cannot stand yet another education budget that produces more and more classroom cuts. This budget does not come close to getting us back on track with the statewide Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement that promised funding so that all students receive a ‘sound, basic education.’ ” But the budget agreement was not just about giving away money. Legislative leaders set parameters for a permanent teacher evaluation system by continuing to link state funding to testing. And both chambers agreed to guarantee that every school district has a permanent teacher and administration evaluation system in place by June 1. “This agreement ensures that every school district in New York has a permanent teacher evaluation system,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement in March. “By guaranteeing that all our public schools have strong evaluations in place, we are putting the needs of students first and transforming our public education
WHAT GOT DONE • Increased education funding for various programs • Permanent teacher evaluation plans WHAT’S ON THE DOCKET • Financial aid for undocumented immigrants • Master teacher program • New York City teacher evaluation agreement 38 MAY 27, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
Richard Parsons (right), the chairman of the New NY Education Reform Commission, presented a preliminary action plan to the governor in January.
ONE VOICE UNITED R ally TogeTheR Educators, parents, students, community
June 8th • noon • Empire State Plaza • Albany End the over-reliance on expensive corporate-developed tests!
n Rethink the use of high stakes assessments and the negative impact on students and entire school community. Call for a moratorium on high stakes consequences for testing until the state can get it right! n These tests put too much stress on students and reduce real learning time. n Sensible and meaningful assessments are needed that align with instruction and accurately measure student progress.
Demand fair and equitable funding of our schools!
n Restore the programs that are being eliminated across the state and which research shows improve academic performance, especially in communities in need, including pre-kindergarten programs, pre- and after-school programs, art, music, foreign languages, advanced placement, etc.
Pass the School Violence Prevention Act!
n Every school needs to be safe, secure and free of environmental or other hazards to nurture learning.
Restore local control of our public schools! Fix the tax cap!
n We need to restore our democratic principle of majority rule and local control in educational decision-making. n Our parents, teachers and local communities know better than Albany does!
Invest in public higher education!
n Make higher education available and affordable for all students! n Pass the DREAM Act; renew the opportunity for all students to pursue higher education! n Save SUNY Downstate! New York State public teaching hospitals provide quality community care and avenues for low-income students to become doctors and other health care professionals. Richard C. Iannuzzi, President Andrew Pallotta, Executive Vice President Maria Neira, Vice President Kathleen M. Donahue, Vice President Lee Cutler, Secretary-Treasurer
Representing more than 600,000 professionals in education and health care. 800 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham, NY 12110-2455 n 518-213-6000 / 800-342-9810 n www.nysut.org n Affiliated with AFT / NEA / AFL-CIO CITY&STATE
www.cityandstateny.com | MAY 27, 2013
Culture of Testing Creates Havoc By ErnEsT A. LogAn
ecently, I attended the TED Talks on education at BAM. Hosted by John Legend, the gathering included Sir Ken Robinson, Geoffrey Canada and Bill Gates. I was having a good time, but I felt the shadow of the Atlanta cheating scandal that had the media screeching about the arrest of Superintendent Beverly Hall. So when Mr. Gates, Sir Robinson and Mr. Canada began talking about the over-emphasis on testing that has invaded this country, I paid attention. Geoffrey warned that tests had never been meant to be used for punishment; even Mr. Gates said there’s too much emphasis on tests. What I was thinking was we should go “back to the future” – to when kids took standardized tests with no preparation, forgot about them the next day and didn’t notice that their teachers were helping them overcome the weaknesses revealed in their wrong answers.
tlanta isn’t a one-off. In DC, we have hearings on cheating during the reign of terror of Superintendent Michele Rhee who fired principals on videotape but was lionized in the movie Waiting for Superman. Everyone becomes desperate. NYC students were just tested on material that has barely made it into the classroom but is part of the new Common Core. And Amplify has won a contract to develop formative assessments for the Common Core, which will also be used in evaluations. The owner of Amplify is that exemplar of righteousness, Rupert Murdoch, the press baron whose editors are being tried for hacking the telephone line of the future King of England. This is nuts, folks! That the culture of testing is becoming the culture of cheating is widely recognized. A coalition of NYC parents refused to let their children test in April. Testing
40 MAY 27, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
wasn’t a culture until it began to be used for educator evaluations. In places like DC and Atlanta, where educators were threatened with firing if students didn’t achieve gains overnight, some cheating was probably inevitable: immoral but inevitable. In rare cases, educators might turn into white-collar criminals. When elected officials push for more testing, they should question their motives. But the kids are the biggest losers. They lose out on humanizing subjects that aren’t on the tests. They also learn that the consequences of getting the wrong answer have little to do with learning the right one.
• • •
agreed with Geoffrey Canada when he said that standardized testing isn’t helping. He said teachers and students don’t need the results in June when school is ending. Let’s take it further: the system should be revamped so that every student who enters a classroom in September, and again at mid-year, be given diagnostic tests that are scored quickly so the results can be used for teaching them. Recently, the Texas House of Representatives – where George W. Bush kicked off test-based culture – voted to reduce by twothirds the number of standardized tests that students are required to take. That same George W. Bush brought us the No Child Left Behind boondoggle. It seems only fair if his home state now leads the way out. A lot of states could fall in behind Texas and demand a counter- revolution against this madness.
Ernest Logan is the President of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, Local 1: AFSA, AFL-CIO.
S E S S I O N CO U N T D OW N EDUCATION system for future generations to come.” So far, 687 out of 691 school districts have implemented a system, but New York City remains a notable outlier thanks to continued disagreements between Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the United Federation for Teachers. LOOKING AHEAD Educational policies are not among the governor’s top agenda items for the remainder of the session, but legislators hope to get a few initiatives passed. The most controversial bill involving education is the DREAM Act, which aims to provide college aid to undocumented immigrant students. “Immigration status is an unjustifiable barrier to denying these hardworking students the dream of a college education,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, hours before the Assembly passed the bill. “By allowing thousands of students to pursue a college education they previously could not afford, the DREAM Act would have a positive economic impact on our state, as demand for a higher skilled, college educated workforce continues to increase.” Cuomo told reporters that he supports the DREAM Act, but said the legislation has not been a topic of conversation among legislative leaders. And the state Senate, which left the bill out during the final budget negotiations in March, does not appear eager to take it up again. The governor is pushing a less controversial program involving merit pay. Under the governor’s master teacher program, 250 math and science teachers who make a commitment to mentor other teachers will receive $15,000 annually over four years starting in the fall of 2013. “We want the best possible teachers in every New York classroom educating our children,” Cuomo said in a statement. “As part of the state’s work to transform our education system and put students first, we are committed to investing in great teachers to educate our students and create a highly trained workforce to drive our future economy.” Legislators will also debate restoring funding for the developmentally disabled, including some special education programs, in the coming weeks. And the Legislature could also eliminate stand-alone field tests, which testing companies use to try out sample questions on public school students. New York City Council members are already lobbying state education leaders to stop running the tests. “Stand-alone field testing is wrongfully pulling our children out of a learning environment and treating them like a testing company’s guinea pigs,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn said. “The state needs to stop wasting our students’ valuable learning time and put an end to stand-alone field testing immediately.”
EXPERT OPINION “NYSUT is supporting legislative proposals to curb abuse in high-stakes testing, particularly for young children, and to provide accountability and transparency for state and local testing in terms of cost, time and accuracy. The union is also working with the Central Brooklyn community and faith leaders to defend the vital public health education and safety-net mission of the SUNY Downstate Medical Hospital. Finally, NYSUT is working to secure enactment of the New York State Safe Patient Handling, which will significantly reduce workplace injuries to healthcare professionals and their patients. It will also cut injury-related costs, while increasing healthcare services.” —Andrew Pallotta (pictured), Executive Vice President, NYSUT
EDUCATION S E SS I O N
CO U N T D OW N Gov. Andrew Cuomo focused on education reforms during his first cabinet meeting of 2013, saying that schools were a top priority for him from “Day 1.”
Transforming Schools: The Scaffolded Apprenticeship Model (SAM Citywide) at Baruch’s School of Public Affairs SAM Citywide provides teachers and administrators with the skills and aptitudes to improve school performance. The participants’ schools are the subject of study, as action research links theory and practice in this outcomebased program. Proven ideas on school improvement are scaffolded to shape school work explicitly at first and then internalized as habits of mind. Baruch College has affordable tuition, excellent facilities, and the authority to grant School Building Leader (SBL) “One of our primary priorities for the balance of the session is to ensure that the SUNY Health Science centers, which would include the hospitals, are included in the state’s commitment to maintenance of effort for SUNY.” —Deborah Glick, Chair, Assembly Higher Education Committee
certification upon completion of SAM Citywide.
For more information, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
www.cityandstateny.com | MAY 27, 2013
S E SS I O N CO U N T D OW N ENERGY
POLITICS OF POWER C
WHAT GOT DONE • NEW ENERGY CZAR • INCREASED PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION OVERSIGHT
hanging course in the energy industry can take a long time—and there’s not a lot of time left to make changes during this legislative session. Still, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has laid out an ambitious energy and environmental agenda this year, including one particularly large task he wants to complete before the end of the session: restructuring the Long Island Power Authority, the embattled public utility that provides electricity to Long Island and a small part of New York City. “LIPA has been a problem for a very long period of time,” Cuomo said in a press conference unveiling his restructuring plan for the utility earlier this month. “It was on full display during Superstorm Sandy. But that was only displaying what most of us knew in the first place. And I hope one of the lessons is—as we build back but also build back better—one of the profound lessons is LIPA is broken and LIPA has to go away, and we need a new and better way to provide utility services on Long Island.” The governor’s proposal would maintain the existing dual public-private structure, but it would scale back LIPA and turn over almost all of its duties to its private contractor. Among the changes would be a rate freeze for several years, refinancing of a portion of the utility’s massive debt at lower rates and making LIPA subject to state regulatory oversight. The governor initially announced in his State of the State address in January that he wanted to simply privatize the public authority, but the proposal was met with protest from lawmakers and others on Long Island who were concerned about the impact such a plan would have on customers’ rates. “When the governor started talking some months ago about changing LIPA, and he was talking about privatizing it completely, there were many of us, including me, who said that municipalization is the way to go,” said Long Island Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, referring to a potentially cheaper restructuring option that would eliminate the private contractor entirely. “We’re ending up with something that is neither of those, although it heavily weighs toward the private end but leaves LIPA alive as a public entity.” Sweeney said he understands the governor’s view on municipalization, and that some sort of compromise would have to be reached. “You have to make a decision at some point whether you
• MORE FUNDING FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION FUND WHAT’S ON THE DOCKET • LIPA RESTRUCTURING • SOLAR JOBS ACT • HYDROFRACKING MORATORIUM 42 MAY 27, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
State Sen. George Maziarz discussed energy issues with NY AREA’s Jerry Kremer and others at City & State’s “State of Our State” conference.
want to stand and fight on that one—which will probably lead to no action at all—or recognizing that there are more hurricane seasons approaching and we need to do something to act,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking at now, something that is neither municipalization nor the governor’s original privatization plan.” While the LIPA issue only came to a head in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, another major piece of legislation on the table this session has been in the works for years: the Solar Jobs Act. Aiming to build on his NY-SUN initiative, which will invest $800 million in solar power development through 2015, the governor called on lawmakers this year to pass legislation to extend the program through 2023. Advocates say that long-term government investment is needed to spur significant growth in the sector, but it has been held up by questions about cost. State Sen. George Maziarz, who chairs the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, noted that his house has already passed a version of the bill this session. “It puts the governor’s initiative in legislation, guarantees $146 million each year for the next ten years,” Maziarz said at City & State’s “State of Our State” conference this month. “It gives businesses that want to locate here in New York a tax credit to do so. I think it’s a great piece of legislation and a huge step forward.” Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, the new chair of the Assembly Energy Committee, said that the solar bill has been around a long time and that she was hopeful it would reach the finish line this year. “I’ve inherited the end of it—I hope to get that done this year,” she said at the City & State conference. “The Senate’s passed a version of it, and the governor’s got a version of it, so we’d like to have a meeting of the minds and take that off the table and move on next year.” One of the most controversial energy and environmental issues in recent years has been hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, a method of drilling for natural gas that is under review by the Department of Environmental Conservation. While the decision on whether to allow hydrofracking is ultimately up to a state agency, some lawmakers are pushing for a moratorium, and activists are targeting the Independent Democratic Conference in the Senate to get the measure to the floor for a vote. Whether or not the effort is successful, Maziarz has said that he already considers hydrofracking to be dead in the state, especially after a recent state appellate court ruling upholding the rights of municipalities to ban drilling. “I think hydrofracking—realistically—hydrofracking is dead in the state of New York,” Maziarz said at the “State of Our State” event. “That battle has been lost by the people who are in favor. I think the actors and actresses who make millions of dollars, and live part-time, a very limited amount of time in New York, have won that battle.” Other less high-profile issues on the environmental front that are before lawmakers this year include a measure to ban toxins in children’s products, a global-warming and pollution-control bill and legislation to keep mercury out of landfills. “The major things I would say would be water quality issues and toxins in children’s products, which involves, actually, several pieces of legislation,” Sweeney said. “We’ve passed most of the legislation involved on those two issues, and we’re hoping that the Senate will follow suit. We’ve had some discussions with them, and it isn’t clear where this is going to end up in the Senate. So we’re just going to keep working for the remaining weeks.”
PHOTO: SHANNON DECELLE
By JON LENTZ
ENERGY S E S S I O N
EXPERT OPINION “The governor is the only one who has put forward a clear and comprehensive model to create a new utility structure on Long Island that improves performance, stabilizes rates and creates real oversight over the utility for the first time.” —Richard Kauffman, Chairman, Energy and Finance for New York “I think the governor is clearly struggling with LIPA and what to do with it. I can tell you an even bigger mistake would be to have upstate ratepayers and people in Westchester or Niagara Falls be paying through NYPA—or any other way to pull LIPA away from the brink.” —George Maziarz, Chair, State Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee “At this point I think it’s better than 50-50 [that LIPA legislation is passed], but we’re still going through his bill, figuring out where we want to be on this. It’s still a work in progress. I think everyone would agree there’s still a ways to go on this one, and a number of issues that could potentially be changed. And that’s what we’ll be looking at in the weeks remaining. There’s a desire by both the Legislature and the governor to do something before the end of session, recognizing that there are hurricane seasons approaching. We want to have a utility in place
that is prepared for that, and also the possibility of rate stability in the future, too, which is a normal issue for Long Islanders.” —Robert Sweeney, Chair, Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee “Across the country and in New York, the Nature Conservancy is focused on the role of natural systems in providing disaster risk reduction. Among other things, in addition to serving on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2100 Commission after Superstorm Sandy, we have been working to help the public, government officials, conservation partners and other stakeholders be involved in enacting and implementing policies that integrate future extreme weather risk into the planning and permitting process, by providing sound science in a useful, accessible format. An important first step New York State can take to ensure that people and infrastructure are out of harm’s way is the enactment of the Communities Risk Reduction Act, sponsored by Assemblyman Robert Sweeney and Senator Charles Fuschillo. This bill incorporates consideration of future sea level rise and extreme weather impacts into a suite of key state-funded and -permitted programs, making certain that long-term infrastructure projects can withstand the test of time.” —Jessica Ottney Mahar, Director of Government Rela-
CO U N T D OW N
tions, the Nature Conservancy in New York “The governor’s initiative on restructuring LIPA, and the implications of that, and the rate freezes, and how do you deal with the indebtedness of the utility are very important. The other issue is: What type of solar program is the state going to develop? I think those two issues, for us, are really important, and we’re spending a lot of time studying the bill. The issue of serving 9 million people, and how do you deal with the rates people pay, can impact ratepayers in other parts of the state.” —Gavin Donohue, President and CEO, Independent Power Producers of New York “There’s been this insistence [on] refus[ing] to make LIPA a real utility, and the latest version just perpetuates that. LIPA employs an outside, for-profit contractor to carry out most of its operations, and has since day 1. This is totally different than the structure that 2,000 other utilities throughout the country follow. They function as full-service municipal utilities responsible for operations. LIPA has been through three iterations, trying to improve it and deal with the problems. This latest, fourth iteration the governor has proposed is not an outright privatization. It’s a camouflage privatization to try to retain some form of LIPA to have tax-exempt financing and some of the benefits of public power. I don’t think that will work very well. Having gone through this and dealt with the IRS on privatizations for municipal utilities, the IRS just won’t buy the fact that a private entity can benefit from tax-exempt financing.” —Matthew Cordaro, LIPA trustee
www.cityandstateny.com | MAY 27, 2013
PERSPECTIVES ALEXIS GRENELL
PLAYING THE VICTIM CARD
oretta Lynch, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, is a career prosecutor first appointed by President Bill Clinton, and is now serving her second stint in office under President Barack Obama. She made a name for herself in the 1990s by busting Brookhaven Town officials on the take, and last year by putting the final nail in Pedro Espada’s coffin by securing a guilty plea for tax fraud (of all things). She is also responsible for the latest indictment against state Sen. John Sampson and the revelation that disgraced former state Sen. Shirley Huntley was secretly taping seven of her fellow elected officials. Espada’s crimes were myriad, but he compounded them with false claims of bias. While stealing shamelessly from the neediest people in his Bronx district, he claimed to be the target of a racially motivated witch hunt. Although the voters ultimately ousted him in favor of a candidate who was both honest and Puerto Rican, Espada’s appalling abuse of identity politics cost New Yorkers more than the tangible sum of several million dollars. The clouds of conspiracy are gathering again, this time over Southeast Queens, where state Sen. James Sanders Jr., who defeated Huntley, recently held a public forum entitled “Attack on Black Leaders: Corruption or Conspiracy?” The indictments against Malcolm Smith and John Sampson, and the guilty plea from Huntley, should offend all honest people, regardless of race. All three senators allegedly put their offices up for sale with varying acts of unique sleaze between them. And unlike Espada, whose crimes were obvious although the evidence
MINORITIES SHOULD SEEK ANSWERS, NOT EXCUSES, FOR CORRUPTION
olitical corruption is an emotionally and racially charged subject in communities of color. A friend who is an Assembly staffer texted that my last column, “What’s in the Water,” brought a tear to her eye. She felt the pain of a community let down once again. Another friend emailed that the column was “very powerful.” He then asked, “Once said, where do you go from here?” A week later Queens state Sen. James Sanders, who ousted the mendacious Shirley Huntley from office last year, invited me to participate in a community forum, “Attack on Black Leaders: Corruption or Conspiracy?” Sanders wanted to host an “intellectual” discussion about the rash of indictments involving black lawmakers. He wanted to address the “conversation that goes on at everybody’s kitchen table.” Days before his forum, Huntley was revealed to have secretly recorded seven of her black and Hispanic colleagues in a bid to gain leniency from prosecutors. (In a final venomous accusation, she asserted that “suitcases full of cash” regularly change hands in Albany.) I cast doubt on the existence of a racial bias or prosecutorial conspiracy in the recent rash of investigations and arrests involving black and Hispanic lawmakers. New York City Comptroller John Liu, who claims he has been unfairly hounded by the FBI, feeds this feeling when he says that “powerful people and rich corporations” don’t want to see him as mayor. That sentiment invariably draws loud applause in the minority community. Public corruption, however, is equal-opportunity and color-blind. Federal 44 MAY 27, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
was not, in these cases there is audio. However, rather than demanding accountability from their colleagues, Sanders and others prefer to hide behind accusations of racism, despite the fact that Loretta Lynch is black and her counterpart in the Southern District is South Asian. These false claims are not only a distraction but damaging to innocent people who deserve public servants who live up to the privilege of their office. The same is true for bogus assertions of sexism. In 2011 the embattled chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, Cathie Black, was forced to step down after only 95 days in office. Thanks to emails revealed this month through a long-suppressed FOIL request, the public can see how throughout Black’s short tenure the Bloomberg administration tried to characterize the criticisms of her as mere gender bias. In fact, Ms. Black earned the venom of parents and newspapers alike—not because she was a woman but because she was an outof-touch publishing executive without a shred of experience in education prior to her appointment. Still, the Bloomberg administration claimed she was being treated differently from the previous chancellor, Joel Klein, who also lacked the necessary credentials but escaped the same vitriol due to white male privilege. That explanation was as insulting to women who face actual sexism as it was untrue. When Joel Klein was nominated in 2002 his similar lack of experience was mitigated by the fact that
he was the product of working class parents and the New York City public school system. As such, he was a significantly more palatable choice than Black, who neither attended nor sent her children to public schools, and who displayed open contempt for her critics. Nevertheless, the administration trotted out a letter signed by token female celebrities in an attempt to circle the feminist wagons, praising Black as both deeply qualified and a credit to her sex. It was a cheap stunt that failed miserably. False claims of gender or racial bias are not only intellectually dishonest but also make it harder for credible cases to be taken seriously. Maybe that’s why black leaders like Assemblyman Karim Camara and state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins have distanced themselves from Sanders’ wholly unsubstantiated and unproductive conspiracy theories. And maybe it’s the same reason feminist trailblazers like Anna Quindlen and Liz Holtzman declined to sign the letter in support of Cathie Black. No one is entitled to represent voters or earn a taxpayer-funded salary. These are in fact privileges, the reward for which is not money or unscrutinized power but rather the opportunity to shape society. Anyone who fails to understand this is unqualified. Period.
prosecutors go after corruption wherever they find it. I believe that a federal probe into a real estate developer was the catalyst that led to the wiretap of state Sen. John Sampson. Sometimes when you pull a random thread on a cheap garment, the entire garment unravels. The only conspiracy that exists is among the dunces who justify their larceny as business as usual or as a means of simply getting “paid.” Corrupt politicians tend to conspire with other like-minded individuals of their tribe, be it ethnic-based (blacks or Jews) or geographic (Queens). The fact that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, as well as U.S. Attorneys Preet Bharara and Loretta Lynch, are people of color militates against these conspiratorial fantasies. Concerns about the portrayal of Albany corruption has led community leaders to ask if the media is colluding in the “biased” coverage of minority lawmakers accused of wrongdoing. One Albany watcher observed that the Legislative Correspondents Association has been largely devoid of black or Hispanic journalists since the departures of Errol Cockfield (Newsday) and Erin Billups (NY1). He believes that reporters of color can often check the biases of their white colleagues. While I agree that the absence of black and Hispanic reporters is troubling, so is the absence of the Spanish-language and blackowned media in condemning minority elected officials. Too often they act as cheerleaders instead of news organizations, propping up minority officeholders who should instead be held to account. Too often, critical articles about those deserving of them only come after the
mainstream media have broken a story. The defense of the minority community should include rearguard actions against those lawmakers who would betray or harm the interests of their own. Community policing should begin at home. As I wrote last month, voters must echo my friend Pete Canale’s constant refrain, “Are you staying honest?” A zero tolerance policy is required, too. To her credit, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins demonstrated that approach when she promptly banned Sampson from her conference as soon as the allegations against him came to light. She also exiled him to a seat on the fringes of the Senate chamber. The bad actors will be prosecuted and/or turned out of office when detected. Am I happy that so many ex-lawmakers of color (many from the Bronx) have proved venal and corrupt? No. But my loyalty lies with the constituents whom they have disappointed, let down and, in some instances, from whom they have stolen. Let us not forget that more often than not, it is none other than the members of the minority community who are the victims of the crimes of their elected officials. To imprison those who have wronged these communities is not an affront to them but a service. Race will always be a factor in America, but we should not let our ongoing struggle with this important concern serve as an excuse not to demand more of ourselves, our children and those whom we elect to foster and exemplify a more just and honest government.
Alexis Grenell is a Democratic communications strategist based in New York. She handles nonprofit and political clients.
Former Assemblyman Michael Benjamin represented the Bronx for eight years.
CAPITOL The Capitol Pressroom’s host, Susan Arbetter, recaps recent highlights of her one-hour public radio show broadcast live from the State Capitol. Arbetter is the news and public affairs director for WCNY in Syracuse.
Giving the Finger Lakes a Hand It was only around noon, and I had already tried four wines from Rock Stream’s “dry flight”: the Riesling, a pinot noir, something called “dry Niagara” and—my favorite—another red made from a blend of rare grapes that winery owner Dr. Mark Karasz called DeChaunac. It was a big, buttery Burgundy-type wine that would pair nicely with porterhouse steaks prepared by my husband, Bill, the Grilled Meat Whisperer. I’m a substantial woman, but by the last glass I was channeling Niles Crane: “It’s fruity, jammy, round and plummy.” Wine is not to be trifled with here. State Sen. Michael Nozzolio recently published a column in a few local papers touting the economic boost the area is seeing from the growing wine and tourism industry. “It’s … become a driving force in our local economy,” Nozzolio wrote. “According to a study by Oxford Economics, in addition to creating over 50,000 jobs in the Finger Lakes, the industry has a $2.7 billion economic impact on our region.” Karasz, a vineyard owner and chemist who was pouring me wine on this fine day, said business is good. In fact, he’s happy with the boost in trade he’s seeing from the shale gas boom across the
Joseph Campbell of Gas Free Seneca
border in Pennsylvania. “I see people in here from all over the country now,” he told me. When I asked how he knew they were connected to the gas industry, he said, “I ask ’em!” While state regulators continue to assess shale gas drilling, other supportive industries are moving into the state almost unnoticed. One of those industries is the storage of LPG, or liquefied petroleum gas. One company, Kansas City, Mo.-based Inergy Midstream, recently acquired US Salt. According to the Associated Press, US Salt, located outside of Watkins Glen, “is one of five major solution mined salt manufacturers in the United States.” Solution salt mining has been a staple of the upstate economy for years. But what does salt have to do with gas? According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, “The solution mining method has also been used and is planned for future use to create underground caverns for storing natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas.” Sure enough, Inergy Midstream has plans to expand its existing natural gas storage business in New York. It has applied to the DEC for permit applications to repurpose US Salt’s now-empty salt caverns under Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen for natural gas and natural gas liquids storage. Inergy’s application is currently under review by the DEC, which denied my emailed request for an interview: “DEC has not yet finished the SEQR process, nor made any final decision concerning the Finger Lakes LPG Storage, LLC underground LPG storage permit application. At this time, it is unknown when a final decision will be made.” Two of the salt caverns are slated to hold 1.5 million barrels of pressurized propane. One will hold 600,000 barrels of pressurized liquid butane. Inergy has also applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permission to use two additional caverns for natural gas storage. Inergy’s aboveground operation can be seen from the Watkins Glen waterfront on Seneca Lake. But objections to
Seneca La k plant in the e House, with the Ine rgy backgroun d
Inergy’s plans aren’t about the view shed. “What if one of those caverns collapses?” asked Joseph Campbell, the founder of Gas Free Seneca, a group fighting Inergy. “What could it do to the region’s wine and tourism industry? Or to Seneca Lake, which provides drinking water to 100,000 people?” Michael Dineen is a member of Gas Free Seneca and owner of the 63-acre Bluebird organic farm in Seneca County. Back in March when he heard about Inergy’s plans, he and about 40 other people blocked the entrance to the Seneca Lake compressor station, which Inergy’s trucks use to access the facility. Twelve people were arrested for trespassing. Three, including Dineen and activist Dr. Sandra Steingraber, refused to pay the fine, opting to spend what ended up being eight days in jail. Dineen was held at the Schuyler County Jail in Watkins Glen. When asked why he felt it was necessary to make such a statement, he said he doesn’t trust the DEC. “They’re in cahoots with the industry,” he said. While there is no direct evidence supporting that conclusion, there are many unanswered questions about the DEC’s decision-making. Why, for example, is the DEC allowing Inergy to keep its research into the structural integrity of the salt caverns near Seneca Lake “a trade secret”? According to investigative journalist Peter Mantius, who wrote a scathing exposé this past January entitled “Inergy Seeks Approval for Gas Storage in Once Deemed Unusable Salt Caverns,” at least one of the caverns is not stable. “One cavern was plugged and abandoned 10 years ago after a consulting engineer from Louisiana concluded that its roof had collapsed in a minor earthquake. He deemed the rubble-filled cavity ‘unusable’ for storage. It is now scheduled to hold 600,000 barrels of liquid butane.” Mantius writes for the DC Bureau, an arm of the Public Education Center, “a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) charitable organization staffed by awardwinning investigative reporters.” It’s not surprising that one of the
caverns collapsed. The region around the Finger Lakes has a history of instability. On March 12, 1994, an earthquake centered near Cuylerville caused the Retsof Salt Mine—at the time the largest salt mine in North America and the second largest in the world—to collapse. According to the U.S. Geological Survey: “This collapse began a series of events that would eventually lead to the further collapse and complete flooding of the mine, large declines in ground-water levels, degradation of potable groundwater supplies, land subsidence, release of natural gases … to the atmosphere, and other detrimental effects on the cultural resources and infrastructure in this part of the Genesee Valley.” (William M. Kappel, Richard M. Yager and Todd S. Miller) In response to public concern, Inergy is quick to point out that it has supporters in the community as well—and that gas storage in old salt caverns is common these days. Also, Inergy is Schuyler County’s largest taxpayer, which means a lot in this part of the world. Inergy is also also trying to be a good neighbor: While the company recently asked for, and won, a lowered tax assessment on its Seneca Lake facility, it agreed to spread out the cuts over three years so that the community doesn’t feel the full impact of the $7 million dollar hit all at once.
It was just after my fourth taste of that bountiful red at Rock Stream that I happened to glance at my email. This was in my in-box: STATEMENT FROM GOVERNOR ANDREW M. CUOMO ON EARTHQUAKE FELT IN PARTS OF NEW YORK STATE “The State Office of Emergency Management continues to monitor effects of the earthquake that occurred this morning near Ottawa, Canada, and was felt throughout parts of New York State.” I didn’t feel a thing. But then again, Finger Lakes wine is truly exceptional. www.cityandstateny.com | MAY 27, 2013
# W I N N E R SA N D LO S E R S
WINNERS & LOSERS
GET YOUR COMMENT IN THE PAPER. TWEET US @CITYANDSTATENY
Just when you thought Albany couldn’t get any more disgusting, Vito Lopez’s sexual harassment report came out. It eviscerated Lopez’s behavior toward staffers and tainted Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. The slimy details made us so uncomfortable that we’ll take a shower while you see which winners and losers topped our list. Go to cityandstateny.com each week to vote.
WEEK OF MAY 13, 2013
WEEK OF MAY 6, 2013
WINNERS THOMPSON 41% BREWER 19% LYNCH 17% ABDUS-SALAAM 15% PALADINO 8% Sheila Abdus-Salaam: First African-American woman on state’s highest court Gale Brewer: Endorsements, paid sick leave passes Loretta Lynch: Another sheriff in town
COMEBACK KID Carl Paladino: He’s baaaack! After losing his 2010 gubernatorial bid, Paladino won a seat on the Buffalo Board of Education. Paladino ran with the intention of “destroying” the nine-member board, with which he has long been at odds. Count on Carl to stir up controversy with his antics, having already suggested firing the entire leadership of the school board and proposing boarding schools in Buffalo to improve test scores.
Bill Thompson: The mayoral candidate secured the support of Bronx Borough President Ruben Díaz Jr. and Rep. Jose Serrano— giving Thompson some solid clout in the Hispanic community—and Assemblymen Karim Camara and Denny Farrell, solidifying his base in the black community. Throw in the endorsement of former Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch and the previously announced support of Merryl Tisch, and Thompson is flexing some serious muscle.
YOUR CHOICE SENATE DEMOCRATS 35%
SILVER 12% SAMPSON 29% HUNTLEY 14% LHOTA 10%
Shirley Huntley: Wore a wire, but getting no leniency John Sampson: Allegedly stole almost half a million dollars Sheldon Silver: Vito Lopez response criticized again
LHO BLOW Joe Lhota: Referring to Port Authority officers as “nothing more than mall cops” elicited a firestorm of negative publicity for the GOP mayoral candidate, prompting an apology. As a “lawand-order” candidate, Lhota should have known better. His lack of a filter has endeared him to some voters, but has also gotten him in trouble. He’ll need to learn to muzzle himself if he wants to win.
46 MAY 27, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
Senate Democrats: A former Senate Dem wore a wire and lured half a dozen of her then colleagues into her home in a failed bid to cooperate with the authorities. Two senators she recorded are facing charges, and most of the others are still under federal investigation. The Democratic Conference could soon be spending a lot more time in close quarters with one another.
WINNERS THOMPSON 53%
IZZO 2% HALBRITTER 23% Ralph Izzo: More LIPA business for PSEG Danny Kedem: Weiner’s campaign manager Charles Schumer: Obama likes his media shield bill
Bill Thompson: Thompson built on his momentum by rolling out more big-name endorsements and reporting a haul of $600,000 in the latest filing period—the highest of any candidate. The backing of Rev. Floyd Flake and former Sen. Al D’Amato proved his appeal beyond his base as more than a “minority” candidate.
PEACE TREATY Ray Halbritter: The Oneida Nation’s representative extolled the catchall agreement between his people, the state and two county governments—even likening it to the tribe’s alliance with the colonies during the American Revolution—and it wasn’t all hyperbole. The deal resolves previously intractable disputes over cigarette prices, property taxes and Indian land rights. Plus the Oneidas get exclusive casino rights in Central New York, even if gambling legislation in the works doesn’t pass. Jackpot!
YOUR CHOICE LOPEZ 48%
SILVER 31% MANGANO 4%
ALVAREZ 1% HYNES 16%
Pedro Alvarez: Plagiarizes campaign website Charles Hynes: Convictions under scrutiny Ed Mangano: Subpoenaed over Sandy contracts
VITO’D Sheldon Silver: The Assembly Speaker admitted a mistake in his handling of the Vito Lopez scandal, but few people are letting him off that easily. Critics called for Silver to step down as Speaker, or at least hold a public leadership vote. Democratic Assembly members are sticking with the eternal Speaker, but the taint of Lopez has been a hard one for Shelly to scrub off.
Vito Lopez: The former assemblyman’s megalomania was on full display when a state ethics panel released a report with all the lurid details: Lopez allegedly asking frightened female staff members to massage his hands, neck and armpits repeatedly, scratching one employee’s inner thigh with his fingernail after he tried to grope her crotch, giving another employee pinkeye and standing outside yet another’s hotel room expecting her to invite him in.
B AC K & F O R T H
FREEDOM OF SPEECH A Q&A WITH ALFONSE D’AMATO
lfonse D’Amato served as New York’s junior senator for three terms, beginning in 1981. A former town supervisor of Hempstead, Long Island, D’Amato rose to become one of the country’s most influential Republicans, chairing the Senate Banking Committee, helming the National Republican Senatorial Committee and playing kingmaker to a generation of state GOP leaders, including George Pataki. Since his 1999 defeat by Charles Schumer, “Senator Pothole” has distanced himself from his reputation as a conservative firebrand, and not unlike the late Ed Koch, with whom he partnered for many years as “Wise Guy” political commentators on NY1’s Inside City Hall, D’Amato has become an icon of New York’s storied political history. City & State Editor Morgan Pehme spoke with D’Amato prior to his public criticism of Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and her campaign’s subsequent retort. The following is an edited transcript.
City & State: You played a major role in electing Gov. George Pataki, the last Republican to serve statewide in New York. What do you think it would take to elect another Republican to statewide office? Alfonse D’Amato: A miracle. In order to win today, where you have a registration edge of three million more Democrats than Republicans, you’d have to have a badly flawed Democratic candidate and a Republican candidate who had tremendous economic support—lots of dollars behind him or her—in order to overcome that advantage. C&S: Nobody would doubt your conservative bona fides, and yet it seems like in recent years on a number of occasions you have bristled at some of the Republican Party’s positions. Has the GOP become more extreme on the national level? AD: Absolutely. There’s no doubt about it. Conservatives like Peter King are treated like they’re renegade liberals within the Republican establishment down in Washington. You can’t be more conservative than Peter King and be rational, and yet while he’s considered maybe extreme in New York—and he’s certainly not, he’s a great congressman, he calls them as he sees them and he’s not a political hack— but these jackasses in Washington almost treat him like a pariah. It’s wrong! They’re going too far. Gov. Christie—I have not been his greatest supporter for many years, but I am now. He meets the president after there is an incredible catastrophe. Tens of thousands of people’s lives destroyed. He meets the President of the United States and the right wing goes crazy, they disavow him. What was he supposed to do? You mean to tell me the Republican governor shouldn’t meet the Democratic president? He’s the president! He’s not a Democrat at that moment. … What a bunch of jackasses! You want to criticize a governor for doing that? You make us all look stupid. What’s public service about? It’s about serving the public, not some craziness—some political philosophy that stops at common sense.
C&S: Is it true that there is a partisan impasse in the Senate that is more severe than when you were in office? AD: True… It’s a problem of the two extremes. You’ve got the left wing, a bunch of lunatic fanatics that want to churn up discord, and then you got the right wing playing into the business by saying you shouldn’t even meet the president when he comes to your state after there’s been a disaster. You got the right wing saying, “Don’t have gun checks,” in terms of a person’s background. Of course you should have a gun check. [The right wing says,] “Oh, no! They’re going to have your name on a national register!” They don’t have to have your name on a national register. We’re saying do a gun check with respect to a person, whether they have a mental deficiency, whether they’re a criminal. Why not? Is that going to solve, by the way, the problems of people using guns in a manner which they shouldn’t be, to make holdups, to kill people? No! … But if you can stop 1 percent, 2 percent of the horrific things that take place, is it worthwhile? Of course it is. So we’ve got the two extremes, the right-wing kookies and the left-wing nuts, and they have too much power in their respective political parties. By the way, I’m not running for office again. That’s why I can say this! C&S: You’ve raised a lot of money for Bill Thompson— AD: Absolutely. You know why? Because he’s the most moderate and the most centrist of all the Democrats. He’s a centrist. He’s not antibusiness. He understands that you have to encourage business, that taking positions that are hostile to business is not good for the city and the state. It doesn’t create jobs and increase opportunities for not just wealthy people but for the entire community. When you look at the Democratic field, you say, “Who’s the best?” He is. C&S: Have any of the Republican candidates won you over? AD: Look, I like Joe Lhota. Joe Lhota has been a friend. If he were to get elected, he’d be a good mayor. John Catsimatidis is a very close friend of mine. He’s terrific. He’s the kind of person who would take on this job not to make money but because he would try to do a good job for the people of this city. The fact is, though, that it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for a Republican to win, and Bill Thompson is the best in the field of Democrats, and that’s why I’m supporting him. C&S: Talk about your consulting work at Park Strategies. AD: I love advocating on behalf of causes and people that I believe in. We have a great professional staff: former Congressman Vito Fossella, my former chief of staff, a former Speaker of the Assembly, Mel Miller. We are very bipartisan, and we fight for things we believe in. … I think our major thing is not so much lobbying but giving advice—strategic advice—to our clients how to handle situations, because many times the biggest corporations in the world lack that incisiveness to see how should we advance our case, because they’re used to people coming in and kowtowing to them, and they’re not used to having the go forward and make the case for why they should be considered. The biggest companies! And that’s why we represent a number of biggest. We don’t even lobby for them, but we give them strategic advice as to how best to sell their product, how best to get heard, how best to get legislation, tax legislation that will treat them fairly, because they’re not getting treated fairly, and so it is a wonderful opportunity to use my governmental experience in the private sector. … It’s fun! I love it! I get to say what I feel like, ... and what’s better than that? To read the full text of this interview, including D’Amato’s take on Sens. Gillibrand and Schumer, check out cityandstateny.com.
www.cityandstateny.com | MAY 27, 2013
N EW Y ORK S TATE T RIAL L AWYERS A SSOCIATION Protecting New Yorkers Since 1953
March 3, 2013
Many New Yorkers’ lives have been destroyed by medical malpractice, and then…they are victimized a second time by an absurd state law that prevents them from getting justice in the courts.
Victims of medical negligence don’t deserve to lose their rights. New York’s statute of limitations governing medical malpractice is one of the most unjust in the country: 2½ years from the date of the negligent act, even if the victim is unaware it has taken place. Under current law, the victims of a misread test—such as a mammogram, PAP smear or prostate test—or a botched surgical procedure often face fatal consequences. Uncaught or misdiagnosed, a curable disease becomes a symptomfree killer. Treatment is foregone. When the symptoms do appear, the disease may be so advanced that treatment is futile.
The law, however, says no one can be held responsible and victims lose their access to justice. Only a handful of states (AR, ID, ME, MN, SD) are like New York—lacking some rule that says that the clock starts running when the wrongful action is discovered, either specifically to medical negligence or generally to all cases. RIGHT THIS WRONG - SUPPORT THE DATE OF DISCOVERY LAW (A.1056 - WEINSTEIN / S.744 - FUSCHILLO).
It’s Time for a Change. A message from the New York State Trial Lawyers Association Michael E. Jaffe, President 132 Nassau Street New York, NY 10038 Tel: 212-349-5890 www.nystla.org
© 2013 NYSTLA
City & State highlights remaining items for this year's legislors in Albany in our Session Countdown feature.